Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?

Sep 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

One primary impediment to the reconciliation of Protestants and Catholics concerns the doctrine of justification. Protestants endorse justification by faith alone (sola fide), while the Council of Trent condemned justification by faith alone. (Session 6, Canon 9) The question I ask here is this: Is there any Biblical evidence for “justification by faith alone”?

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St Paul Enthroned with Saints and Angels (c. 1360)
Unknown Italian Master
Collezione Vittorio Cini, Venice

In order to answer that question, we need to understand what is meant by it. The Protestant claim that we are justified by faith alone means that on the part of humans, faith is the only thing necessary in order to be justified. As soon as we have faith, we are justified. With respect to what is needed within us for justification, faith is both the necessary and sufficient condition for justification.

The Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that faith is not the only thing necessary, on our part, in order to be justified.1 We also need love [agape] for God. If we believe the message about Christ, but do not have love [agape] for God, then we are not justified, because such faith is not a living faith. Only when accompanied by love for God is faith living faith, and hence justifying faith. The Council of Trent declared,

“For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 20) and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity. (Gal 5:6, 6:15)2

If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.3

Likewise, in November of 2008, Pope Benedict said,

“For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

In other words, in Catholic soteriology we are already justified by faith alone (i.e. without works) if that faith is accompanied by love for God.4 Without love for God, we cannot be in friendship with God, even though God loves us, because mutual love is necessary for friendship. And no one who is not a friend of God is justified before God.5

So when considering the relevant passages from Scripture, the pertinent questions are these: Do these passages teach that persons are justified prior to receiving love for God or through a faith devoid of love for God? Does any passage teach that justification precedes friendship with God? If no passage of Scripture teaches that we are justified prior to receiving love for God, then Scripture does not support the Protestant claim over the teaching of the Catholic Church.6

There are many passages in the Gospels in which we see that those who believe in Christ have eternal life. Here are a few:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life (John 5:24)

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life (John 6:40)

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. (John 11:25)

These passages do not support the Protestant position over the Catholic position (or vice versa), because they do not specify whether the sort of belief in question here is one that includes love for God, or not. So these are not evidence for either position.

There are also some relevant passages in Acts that speak of belief and salvation:

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. (Acts 10:43)

And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith (Acts 15:8-9)

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31)

Here again, the passages themselves do not tell us whether the type of believing referred to here is one that does or does not include love for God. If it is a type of belief that is conjoined with love for God, then it is a type of belief by which one ipso facto enters into friendship with God. But if it is a type of belief that does not include love for God, then friendship with God would only come later.

When we consider the letters to the Romans and Corinthians, we find the same thing:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16)

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith (Rom 3:21-25)

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.(Rom 3:28)

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. … But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom 4:3,5)

and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them (Rom 4:11)

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (Rom 4:16)

but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (Rom 4:24)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,(Rom. 5:1)

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; (Rom 9:30)

But what does it say? “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” –that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom 10:8-10)

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor 1:21)

Why is it that the Protestant and the Catholic can each sincerely affirm the truth of each of those verses? Because the Protestant believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is meaning “faith and not agape.” The Catholic, by contrast, believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is using the term here in a broader sense, such that the other two theological virtues (i.e. hope and agape) are included together with it. The verses themselves do not specify which sense of the term ‘faith’ is in use here, and hence do not answer the question, or show us who is right.

Someone could claim that Romans 4:5 shows that the justified person is simultaneously justified and ungodly, and hence simultaneously justified and devoid of agape. But the verse can be interpreted in either of two ways: either God justifies the ungodly such that at some moment they are simultaneously justified and ungodly, or God justifies the ungodly such that at no moment are they simultaneously justified and ungodly. The verse itself does not tell us which of these interpretations is correct, and so it provides no evidence that the faith by which we are justified is a faith devoid of agape.

But in chapter five St. Paul writes:

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:5)

Since the Holy Spirit has poured out love (agape) for God within our hearts, then the context of the other passages speaking of justification by faith (itself a gift imparted by the Holy Spirit) in the book of Romans should not be assumed to be speaking of faith devoid of agape.

St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is considered by some Protestants to be the most poignant biblical evidence in support of justification by faith alone. Here he writes:

[N]evertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Gal 2:16)

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Gal 3:2,5-6,8-9)

But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal 3:22)

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. (Gal 3:24)

Once again, however, both Catholics and Protestants can affirm these passages. These verses do not show us whether the faith St. Paul is referring to is devoid of agape or is conjoined with agape. But St. James helps us understand the condition of Abraham, when Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. St. James writes:

and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. (James 2:23)

Notice that Abraham was called “the friend of God.” Friendship with God entails the presence of love for God, as a I explained above, because friendship requires mutual love. So what James says here implies that the faith of Abraham by which it was reckoned to him as righteousness, was not a faith devoid of agape, but was a faith conjoined with agape.

In the fifth chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we find another key to understanding the relation of faith and agape, with regard to the justification he has been writing about in earlier parts of the letter. He writes:

For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. (Gal 5:5-6)

Notice that for St. Paul, we hope by faith. He is not saying that we are waiting for hope, but that by faith we are waiting for the object of our hope, i.e. that for which we are hoping.  This object is the putting away of all sin once and for all, in the life to come. St. Paul assumes that hope is present with faith. Faith without hope would be despair or fear. Moreover, notice that St. Paul assumes that love (agape) is present as well. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength or effect [τι ἰσχύει], but faith working through love [πίστις δι’ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη]. What has any strength or effect, is not circumcision, uncircumcision, or faith by itself, but faith working through agape. Here we see St. Paul not only assume the presence of the other two theological virtues (hope and agape) along with faith, but also show that faith is of no avail apart from agape. These two verses give us evidence that at least in the other parts of his letter to the Galatians, when he says that we are justified by faith, we should not assume that this means faith-but-neither-hope-nor-agape. Rather, we should assume that this means faith in conjunction with hope and agape.

When we come to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find the well-known verse:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Should we understand the term ‘faith’ [πίστεως] here as devoid of agape or conjoined with agape? This verse does not tell us. But at the end of his letter, St. Paul writes:

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith [ἀγάπη μετὰ πίστεως], from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 6:23)

Here again St. Paul shows us a relation between agape and faith. This conjunction of the two is evidence of their mutual soteriological relation in the mind of St. Paul. And this should give us pause, if we are tempted to assume that the faith referred to in Ephesians 2:8 is to be understood as devoid of agape. Similarly, St. Paul says in Ephesians 3:17:

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17)

Should we understand this faith by which Christ dwells in our hearts to be devoid of agape? No, because Jesus Himself said:

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23)

Jesus teaches us that He and the Father (and the Spirit) abide in us when we love Him. So St. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 3:17 that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith should be understood to be faith conjoined to agape, not a faith devoid of agape. So the evidence in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians leans toward conceiving of justifying faith as a faith conjoined to agape.

We may also consider St. Paul’s statement in his letter to the Philippians:

that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil 3:8-9)

What kind of faith should we understand this to be? The verse itself does not specify. But the context shows us that this is a faith deeply imbued with love. St. Paul is explaining what he has sacrificed, for the sake of Christ, so that on that Day (i.e. the Day of Judgment) he may be found in Christ, having the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. The faith of which St. Paul is speaking, is the faith of his entire Christian life, not merely a faith at some initial moment, subsequently followed by agape. We can see that because he is talking about the Judgment. He has done all these things, he is explaining, so that he may be found in Christ on that Day. But the sacrifices he has made for Christ demonstrate the presence of love for Christ, because greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) So the context implies that the faith St. Paul refers to here is a faith conjoined to love [agape] for Christ. One would have to take this passage out of its context in order to justify assuming that the faith of which he is speaking is devoid of agape.

When St. Peter speaks of salvation he says:

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Notice here St. Peter’s explicit reference to love for Christ, in the context of explaining that the outcome of our faith is the salvation of our souls. This is evidence that the faith in question is not faith devoid of agape, but faith conjoined with agape.

And in his first epistle St. John makes the connection between faith and agape even clearer:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. (1 John 5:3-4)

He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14)

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Should the overcoming faith in St. John’s epistle be understood as something devoid of agape? St. John makes that impossible. If the person who does not love, abides in death, then the person who has faith without agape, cannot be justified, for no one who abides in death is also justified. Likewise, if the person who does not have agape does not know God, then the person not having agape does not have justifying faith, because no one (among those having reached the age of reason) who does not know God can have justifying faith. Justifying faith must therefore be faith working through agape.

St. James writes:

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (James 2:5)

According to St. James, the promise is to those who love God. But to be justified is to receive the promise of the kingdom and the crown of life, on condition of perseverance. Therefore, we should understand the faith by which we are justified to be a faith conjoined with love for God.

So far we have not found any evidence that justifying faith is faith devoid of agape. At best we could point to the passages referring to justification by faith, and use an argument from silence to imply that if St. Paul (and the Holy Spirit) had wanted us to know that justification is by faith-and-agape, they would in no places have talked about “justification by faith.” That’s quite a weak argument.  We have seen good evidence so far that justifying faith is faith conjoined with agape. And there is still more evidence that this is the case. Jesus says:

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much (Luke 7:47)

Such a statement does not fit with the notion that justification is by a faith devoid of agape. It fits only with the notion that justifying faith is conjoined with agape.

St. Paul provides additional evidence that justifying faith cannot be a faith devoid of love for God. He writes:

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing [οὐθέν]. (1 Cor 13:2)

If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed (1 Cor 16:22)

The person having all faith, but lacking agape, is nothing. But the justified person is not nothing, because Christ dwells within him, and Christ is not nothing. Therefore, the person having all faith, but not having agape, is not justified. Likewise, says St. Paul, the person who has faith, but does not have love for God, is accursed. But a person cannot be both justified and accursed at the same time. Therefore, justifying faith must be a faith conjoined with love for God.

St. Paul teaches elsewhere that faith and agape are as one piece:

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thess 5:8)

Together, faith and agape form one piece of armor. This again implies that without agape, faith does not serve as a breastplate, i.e. does not protect our heart from destruction. And in three places in his epistles to St. Timothy, St. Paul connects faith and agape:

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim 1:5)

and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim 1:14)

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 1:13)

In no place does he say or imply that we are justified by a faith devoid of agape. Instead, he explains that the crown of righteousness is given to those who have loved [ἠγαπηκόσι] Christ’s appearing.

in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved [ἠγαπηκόσι] His appearing. (2 Tim 4:8)

Similarly, he teaches that those who did not receive this divine love, cannot be saved:

and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love [ἀγάπην] of the truth so as to be saved. (2 Thess 2:10)

This love of which St. Paul speaks is not the natural virtue of love, but the supernatural, divine love that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul is saying that agape is necessary for salvation. Hence, a person who has faith but does not have agape, is not yet in a state such that, if he were to die, he would obtain salvation. But anyone who dies in a justified state, obtains salvation. Therefore, receiving agape is necessary for justification.

Finally, there is the well-known passage in the book of James, where he teaches very explicitly that faith alone does not justify.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? … You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (James 2:21, 24-25)

In this chapter, James is showing that a faith that does not work, is a dead faith. And a dead faith does not justify. A living faith is one that works. But how does a living faith work? It works, as we saw earlier, only through love. (Gal 5:6) The life of faith, according to James, is lived in love for Christ. (James 1:12, 2:5) Hence a faith devoid of agape is a dead faith, which does not justify.

Louis Berkhof seems not to have imagined the possibility of the Catholic position when he writes:

If James actually meant to say in this section of his letter that Abraham and Rahab were justified with the justificatio peccatoris, on the basis of their good works, he would not only be in conflict with Paul, but would also be self-contradictory, for he explicitly says that Abraham was justified by faith.7

What Berkhof seems not to see is that agape is the connection between faith and works. That is why he thinks justification by works contradicts justification by faith. So he must impose on the text here two types of justification, one before God and by faith, the other before men and by works. But given the Catholic understanding of justification by a faith conjoined with agape, then there is no need for splitting justification into one before God and one before men. The initial act of turning away from sin (in repentance) and toward God (in faith informed by agape) is a small participation in the infinite righteousness of Christ. Every subsequent act of faith working through agape increases our participation in God’s righteousness. And that is how justification is both initial and yet increases; these increases in justification are also referred to as ‘being justified.’ And that is the sense in which Abraham and Rahab were justified by works, i.e. a faith working itself out through agape.

Conclusion

The question that I have examined here is whether there is Biblical evidence for the claim that we are justified by faith alone. When we unpack the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic positions on this subject, we find that this question rests on a deeper question, namely, whether there is any Biblical evidence that persons are justified prior to or apart from, love for God. My survey of the relevant passages in the New Testament has shown that there is no evidence that persons are justified prior to or apart from, love for God. Not only can all the passages teaching justification by faith be understood as referring to faith conjoined with agape, but as I have shown, there is a good evidence from Scripture that justifying faith should be understood as necessarily conjoined with agape in order to be justifying.

Even if the evidence were a 50-50 toss-up, not favoring one position over the other, the Catholic position would have the benefit of the doubt. That is because a schism cannot justifiably be created or maintained, on the basis of a hermeneutical coin-flip. The hermeneutical evidence would have to be strongly tilted in favor of the Protestant position, before one could (hypothetically) even begin to make a case for causing a schism from the Church or remaining in schism from the Church. But what I have shown here is that the evidence tilts in the direction of the Catholic position. And that has important implications for the reconciliation of Protestants with the Catholic Church.

  1. The Council of Trent’s condemnation of sola fide in Canon 9 of Session 6 is based  on the role of baptism as the sacrament through which we receive the grace of justification. Given that baptism has this role then it follows that we can and should prepare ourselves for baptism. But if justification comes entirely and completely through faith alone, as Protestantism maintains, then once we believe, we are already justified and so there is no place for us to prepare ourselves for our justification. []
  2. Session Six, Chapter 7 []
  3. Session Six, Canon XI []
  4. Here, for the sake of simplicity I am setting aside the role of baptism in justification. The grace that we receive from the Holy Spirit in baptism can precede the sacrament itself, as we know in the case of catechumens. This does not nullify or make superfluous the sacrament, because even for the one who has received such grace prior to his baptism, the sacrament of baptism nevertheless deepens his participation in the life of God and more firmly establishes grace and the theological virtues within him. []
  5. I’m not considering here the difference between the Protestant and Catholic conceptions of the nature of justification. I’m only considering the biblical evidence for the notion that faith does not need love for God, in order to justify the sinner. []
  6. One possible response here is that agape always is co-present with justifying faith, but that justification is nevertheless not dependent on the presence of agape. But if we agree that agape is always co-present with justifying faith, then there is no reason to hold imputation-but-not-infusion, and hence no reason to remain in schism over the issue. See my previous post on this general subject, titled “Justification: Divided over Charity.” []
  7. Systematic Theology, p. 521 []
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  1. Some constructive comments on your article:
    – I think it missed the heart of Sola Fide – which is essentially about what the Work of Christ was to accomplish (popularly termed “passive” and “active” obedience).

    – The article gave off the impression the issue was “faith working through love,” with the Reformed side denying this. That’s incorrect. The Reformed Confessions expressly say the faith that justifies is the type that works by love (they are seen as a ‘package deal’ in fact). The key distinction is the operations faith and love play. Take this example: You need a fork and spoon to eat dinner, but only the spoon is used to eat the soup while the fork is used to eat the salad. Likewise, in justification, Protestants see faith as the sole instrument necessary because it alone is what ‘takes hold’ of the “righteousness of Christ” at the moment of justification. Love is still right along side ‘genuine faith’, but it plays another (though just as important) role: Sanctification. (Protestants incorrectly separate justification and sanctification into two distinct successive phases)

    – The phrase “justifies the ungodly” in Romans 4:5 is best interpreted in light of situations where we see the ungodly justified, and 1 Cor 6:9-11 is a perfect example, as are passages like Acts 15:9; 26:18; etc.

    – The phrase “justifies the ungodly” poses terrible difficulties for Protestants, because they believe the term “justify” does not entail a transformation but instead a declaration. The problem is that 4:5 is now saying God says “you unrighteous man are righteous,” which is not only a contradiction/lie, the Reformed position repudiates that precise idea. In the Reformed position, God never declares an unrighteous thing to be righteous, that’s why the alien righteousness of Christ is imputed precisely so that God has actual grounds to declare the individual righteous. If the Reformed objects that “ungodly” is in regards to ‘moral righteousness’ (as opposed to ‘legal righteousness’), they must prove this exegetically (impossible to do) as well as why Paul is equivocating using ‘righteousness’ in two different senses.

    – As far as Romans 5:5 goes, the Reformed position considers Rom 5 to be speaking of Justification, rather than sanctification, thus they have some difficult explaining to do. This should be combined with Gal 3:2ff speaking of “receiving the Spirit” by faith, in a justification context, proving infused/transformation rather than imputed and legal justification.

    – I don’t think you took advantage of the context of Phil 3:8-9. Protestants frequently truncate the passage to verses 8f, considering it a justification passage (hence no transformation), despite the fact the passage flatly contradicts it in verses 10ff (and 3:3ff). It’s almost a given to not see 3:10f quoted when a Protestant points to 3:9.

    – You mentioned Eph 2:8 and chalked it up to either a draw or situation where the Catholic position is slightly in favor. Upon proper examination, Eph 2 is devastating to Sola Fide:
    http://catholicdefense.googlepages.com/eph2

    I believe the following points are where the tide has officially turned in this debate because they are solidly and often easily shown to disprove Sola Fide:

    NOWHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY:
    1) Christ received the punishment we deserved in the Penal Substitution sense.
    http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2009/01/penal-substitution-debate-negative.html

    2) Christ kept the Law in our place.
    http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2009/05/calvinists-who-deny-imputation-of.html

    3) Equate “righteousness of God” with the “righteousness of Christ.”
    (Further, “Righteousness of God [the Father]” is a moral quality, not a legal one, hence it cannot be earned by man [eg Adam] nor Christ as a creature)

    4) That good works are guaranteed to one who truly believes.
    (eg 2 Pt 1:9; Acts 8:13,21; Corinthians turning to sin; etc)

    5) A formal separation of justification and sanctification, and in that order. (eg Reformed assume Paul switches from justification in Rom 1-5 to “sanctification” in Romans 6-7 [sometimes 8], but that’s a weak argument when examined.)

    4) The Protestant notion of imputation hangs on isolating a few verses of Romans 4, as well as assuming a incorrect (not even rare) usage of “impute.”
    (Rom 4:4 is killer in that it uses ‘impute’ directly contrary to how the Protestant needs it used in 4:3 and 4:5)

    Once one understands the real issue at stake, and considers the above arguments, it’s all over. The Reformed side is more than sufficiently refuted….AND if Catholics can make these arguments front and center, Protestantism at it’s highest conservative levels will vanish in our lifetime.

  2. Excellent stuff, Bryan,

    I think I always kind of assumed that there must be a protestant version of the famous “Catholic” verse of James somewhere: “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” For example, a spot in the New Testament where someone says: “a man is justified by faith alone, and not by works.” Then the argument between Protestants and Catholics would make sense, because each side would have a definitive piece of evidence for its view. But I haven’t seen the words “faith alone” anywhere in the New Testament except for James’ verse: “a man is justified by faith alone, and not by works.” And as you have shown, the other verses that say things about faith without including the word “alone” could be interpreted in many ways, with the balance of the evidence emphasizing the connection with love.

    One caveat that doesn’t effect your argument. Do you agree with C.S. Lewis that the “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much” in Luke 7:47 could actually mean something like: “For this reason we can tell that her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much, in gratitude for all of the forgiveness that she has received.”?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  3. Bryan:

    Good post. I think this can go a long way to clearing the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The Decrees you quote from Trent while condemning a particular position on Justification really doesn’t condemn the position held by many Protestants. When the Canons and Decrees of Trent were stated, and even to this day, the classic Catholic definition of “Faith” has been “Faith is intellectual Assent moved by the Will”. So then the position Trent condemned was what Protestants call “Head Knowledge” which they also equally say is not “Saving Faith”. In other words merely acknowledging intellectually the Gospel is true does not and cannot save anyone. According to your post Bryan Catholics and many Protestants would be on the same page. Protestants would agree that genuine Faith would include “Agape”or Love as well as Hope, trust, and confidence in Jesus. For me, when I read those same Scriptures you cite the position is clear that Faith would INCLUDE Love for Jesus and what He did for us, I can’t understand or conceive of a real and genuine Faith ( the way Jesus and Paul frame Faith) not including Love (Agape)

  4. K. Doran,

    Thanks for your comments. St. Peter tells us that agape covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) We see something similar in Tobit 4:11 where he tells his son, “For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness”. And we find something similar in Sirach 3:30, which reads, “Water extinguishes a blazing fire: so almsgiving atones for sins.”

    St. Clement of Rome also repeats St. Peter’s teaching, saying,

    Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the love He bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls. (1 Clement, chapter 49)

    2 Clement also refers to this passage:

    Good, then, is alms as repentance from sin; better is fasting than prayer, and alms than both; “charity covers a multitude of sins,” and prayer out of a good conscience delivers from death. Blessed is every one that shall be found complete in these; for alms lightens the burden of sin. (2 Clem 16)

    St. Clement of Alexandria, writes,

    But learn the more excellent way, which Paul shows for salvation. “Love seeks not her own,” 1 Corinthians 13:5 but is diffused on the brother. About him she is fluttered, about him she is soberly insane. “Love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 “Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 “Vaunts not itself, is not puffed up; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Prophecies are done away, tongues cease, gifts of healing fail on the earth. But these three abide, Faith, Hope, Love. But the greatest of these is Love.” And rightly. For Faith departs when we are convinced by vision, by seeing God. And Hope vanishes when the things hoped for come. But Love comes to completion, and grows more when that which is perfect has been bestowed. If one introduces it into his soul, although he be born in sins, and has done many forbidden things, he is able, by increasing love, and adopting a pure repentance, to retrieve his mistakes. (Who is the Rich Man, 38)

    John Cassian writes:

    For after that grace of baptism which is common to all, and that most precious gift of martyrdom which is gained by being washed in blood, there are many fruits of penitence by which we can succeed in expiating our sins. For eternal salvation is not only promised to the bare fact of penitence, of which the blessed Apostle Peter says: “Repent and be converted that your sins may be forgiven;” and John the Baptist and the Lord Himself: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand:” but also by the affection of love is the weight of our sins overwhelmed: for “charity covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 In the same way also by the fruits of almsgiving a remedy is provided for our wounds, because “As water extinguishes fire, so does almsgiving extinguish sin.” Sirach 3:33 So also by the shedding of tears is gained the washing away of offences, for “Every night I will wash my bed: I will water my couch with tears.” Finally to show that they are not shed in vain, he adds: “Depart from me all you that work iniquity, for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping:” Moreover by means of confession of sins, their absolution is granted: for “I said: I will confess against myself my sin to the Lord: and You forgave the iniquity of my heart;” and again: “Declare your iniquities first, that you may be justified.” By afflicting the heart and body also is forgiveness of sins committed in like manner obtained, for he says: “Look on my humility and my labour, and forgive me all my sins;” and more especially by amendment of life: “Take away,” he says, “the evil of your thoughts from my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed: judge the orphan, defend the widow. And come, reason with Me, says the Lord: and though your sins were as scarlet, yet shall they be as white as snow, though they were red as crimson, they shall be as white as wool.” Sometimes too the pardon of our sins is obtained by the intercession of the saints, for “if a man knows his brother to sin a sin not unto death, he asks, and He will give to him his life, for him that sins not unto death;” and again: “Is any sick among you? Let him send for the Elders of the Church and they shall pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.” Sometimes too by the virtue of compassion and faith the stains of sin are removed, according to this passage: “By compassion and faith sins are purged away.” Proverbs 15:27 And often by the conversion and salvation of those who are saved by our warnings and preaching: “For he who converts a sinner from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:20 Moreover by pardon and forgiveness on our part we obtain pardon of our sins: “For if you forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your sins.” Matthew 6:14 You see then what great means of obtaining mercy the compassion of our Saviour has laid open to us, so that no one when longing for salvation need be crushed by despair, as he sees himself called to life by so many remedies. For if you plead that owing to weakness of the flesh you cannot get rid of your sins by fasting, and you cannot say: “My knees are weak from fasting, and my flesh is changed for oil; for I have eaten ashes for my bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,” then atone for them by profuse almsgiving. If you have nothing that you can give to the needy (although the claims of want and poverty exclude none from this office, since the two mites of the widow are ranked higher than the splendid gifts of the rich, and the Lord promises that He will give a reward for a cup of cold water), at least you can purge them away by amendment of life. But if you cannot secureperfection in goodness by the eradication of all your faults, you can show a pious anxiety for the good and salvation of another. But if you complain that you are not equal to this service, you can cover your sins by the affection of love. (Conference 20)

    St. Augustine, in his first homily on 1 John, writes:

    Not only the past, but haply if we have contracted any from this life; because a man, so long as he bears the flesh, cannot but have some at any rate light sins. But these which we call light, do not make light of. If you make light of them when you weigh them, be afraid when you count them. Many light make one huge sin: many drops fill the river; many grains make the lump. And what hope is there? Before all, confession: lest any think himself righteous, and, before the eyes of God who sees that which is, man, that was not and is, lift up the neck. Before all, then, confession; then, love: for of charity what is said? “Charity covers a multitude of sins.” Now let us see whether he commends charity in regard of the sins which subsequently overtake us: because charity alone extinguishes sins. Pride extinguishes charity: therefore humility strengthens charity; charity extinguishes sins.

    St. Augustine also writes:

    the Lord has power to be reconciled even to the rebaptized by means of the simple bond of unity and peace, and by this same compensating power of peace to mitigate His displeasure against those by whom they were rebaptized, and to pardon all the errors which they had committed while in error, on their offering the sacrifice of charity, which covers the multitude of sins. (On Baptism, Book II, chapter 14)

    Given these comments by the Fathers, I don’t think that Jesus is merely saying that by her love she has made it possible for us to know that her sins were already forgiven. That would be an epistemic construal of Jesus’ statement. Of course her love does show her forgiveness. But the question is whether Jesus was saying something more. When Aquinas speaks of justification, he shows that it involves four things:

    There are four things which are accounted to be necessary for the justification of the ungodly, viz. the infusion of grace, the movement of the free-will towards God by faith, the movement of the free-will towards sin, and the remission of sins. The reason for this is that, as stated above (Article 1), the justification of the ungodly is a movement whereby the soul is moved by God from a state of sin to a state of justice. Now in the movement whereby one thing is moved by another, three things are required: first, the motion of the mover; secondly, the movement of the moved; thirdly, the consummation of the movement, or the attainment of the end. On the part of the Divine motion, there is the infusion of grace; on the part of the free-will which is moved, there are two movements–of departure from the term “whence,” and of approach to the term “whereto”; but the consummation of the movement or the attainment of the end of the movement is implied in the remission of sins; for in this is the justification of the ungodly completed. (ST I-II Q. 113 a.6)

    Those four things are first, infusion of grace, then a movement of the will away from sin, third, a movement of the will toward God, and finally the remission of sins.

    Let’s consider that third component, “movement of the will toward God”. In article 4 of Question 113, Aquinas considers the following objection:

    It would seem that no movement of faith is required for the justification of the ungodly. For as a man is justified by faith, so also by other things, viz. by fear, of which it is written (Sirach 1:27): “The fear of the Lord driveth out sin, for he that is without fear cannot be justified”; and again by charity, according to Luke 7:47: “Many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much”; and again by humility, according to James 4:6: “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble”; and again by mercy, according to Proverbs 15:27: “By mercy and faith sins are purged away.” Hence the movement of faith is no more required for the justification of the ungodly, than the movements of the aforesaid virtues. (ST I-II Q.113 a.4 ad 1)

    In other words, according to the objection, it seems as though faith is not necessary for justification, because these other things also contribute to justification. But then notice Aquinas’ response to that objection:

    The movement of faith is not perfect unless it is quickened by charity; hence in the justification of the ungodly, a movement of charity is infused together with the movement of faith. Now free-will is moved to God by being subject to Him; hence an act of filial fear and an act of humility also concur. For it may happen that one and the same act of free-will springs from different virtues, when one commands and another is commanded, inasmuch as the act may be ordained to various ends. But the act of mercy counteracts sin either by way of satisfying for it, and thus it follows justification; or by way of preparation, inasmuch as the merciful obtain mercy; and thus it can either precede justification, or concur with the other virtues towards justification, inasmuch as mercy is included in the love of our neighbor.

    This movement of faith toward God, by which we receive forgiveness of sins and justification, is also a movement of charity. What follows this movement of faith+charity toward God, is forgiveness of sins. The woman’s turning away from sin and turning toward Christ in great love, is followed by the forgiveness of her sins. Notice in the quotation above how Aquinas explains the role of mercy in counteracting sin. If the acts of mercy precede justification, then they prepare the soul for justification. But if the acts of mercy follow justification, then they counteract sin by satisfying for it. In the case of the woman in Luke 7:47, it is also possible that her great contrition, and her act of great love and humility, in washing Jesus’ feet, also made satisfaction for her sins. Catholics believe that it is possible (however infrequent) in one act of contrition and turning to God in charity, if the charity is sufficiently great, to satisfy for all temporal punishment. By grace a person can go from a state of mortal sin, to a state of having no debt of eternal or temporal punishment, in one great act of contrition and charity. It wouldn’t surprise me if that occurred in the case of this woman (thought to be Mary Magdalene). By this great act of charity toward God, she made satisfaction (gave something to Christ that was more pleasing to Him than her sin was displeasing), and in that sense “covered a multitude of sins”. Of course her great charity would also “cover a multitude of sins” in the sense of preventing future sins, both in herself and in others. And if I remember correctly (someone correct me if I am wrong), it is believed according to the tradition that Mary Magdalene never committed a mortal sin the rest of her life. But my point is that Jesus’ statement could refer not only to her movement of charity toward God by which she received forgiveness of her sins, but also to a satisfaction of her sins through her act of charity. We don’t need to interpret this verse in the merely epistemic sense, as though Jesus is merely saying that her love has made it possible for us to know that her sins were already forgiven. I think there is good reason to think He is saying something more than that.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. Dear Brian,

    I think it is very helpful that you speak of agape as the necessity for salvation rather than works. Are you speaking primarily of a disposition of the heart towards God or love as an action? I found parts of the article unsettling because our love for God (in both actions and affections) is so inconsistent.

    I have been having a debate/conversatin recently with Dr. Waters at RTS Jackson and he was willing to admit to me that Rome does indeed teach that “Christ merited our justification.” The problem though, according to Dr. Waters, is that the work of Christ is not the sole instrument of final justificatin for Catholics. Where does this love for God that you speak of in your article come from? Is it exclusively the fruit of the cross?

    Thanks. Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  6. John,

    I agree with you. The Catholic distinguishes between dead faith and living faith, claiming that what makes faith to be living is the presence of agape. I wrote about that in more detail here. The Protestant claims that there is no such thing as dead faith. Mere intellectual assent, for the Protestant, is not dead faith; it is no faith at all. Faith, according to Protestants, includes within its essence fiducia, but (for Protestants) agape is something altogether different from fiducia. They deny that trust involves charity (i.e. agape) or friendship. Typically, Protestants think of charity as an action. Most would not describe faith, hope, and charity as *virtues*. Scott Clark is a case in point. Not seeing these as virtues is partly due to nominalism, anti-sacramentalism (since baptism is, according to the Catholic Church, when our participation in these becomes incorporated into us as a habit/disposition of our soul), and partly due to a solo scriptura approach to Church tradition.

    My argument has been that trust in another involves an implicit friendship. It is an act that not only demonstrates an intellectual recognition of goodness in the other, but is also a giving of oneself to the other. To trust another is, in a certain sense, to give oneself to another, because one is opening oneself to the other. But to give of oneself to another is an act of love. Hence love is inextricably bound up with trust. Moreover, to trust another is to desire some good in the other, i.e. the goodness of his being faithful with that with which one is entrusting him. But to desire some good in the other, is a form of love, called the “love of concupiscence” – I have written about that here. Love of concupiscence, however, is a selfish form of love. It would be unfitting that the love by which we are justified is a selfish form of love. Hence the love involved in trusting in Christ, as my post above sought to explain (from Scripture), must not be one of selfishness, but must be a complete giving over of oneself, for Christ’s sake, i.e. it must be agape. So, for these reasons, fiducia should be recognized to involve agape. And in that case, the disagreement concerning sola fide would largely be resolved, for the reasons I explained in the body of my post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  7. Jeremy,

    In speaking of agape (i.e. charity) I am speaking primarily of a disposition of the heart towards God. Agape within us is a participation in the very life of the God who is Agape. (1 John 4:8)

    An action is something that comes from me, but is not intrinsically part of my being (even though it remains part of my history). Many actions of a particular type, explains Aristotle, form a habit. A habit is part of my being in a way that an action is not. A habit is always with me, as part of my second nature, even while I am asleep. But an action is not always with me, and is not part of my second nature. So to have charity only in my actions, is not to be as deeply united to charity as to have charity also as a disposition of my heart, out of which all my actions flow. (Matt 15:19)

    I found parts of the article unsettling because our love for God (in both actions and affections) is so inconsistent.

    That effect (i.e. being unsettling) is understandable for precisely the reason you describe, i.e. conceiving of love for God as either an action or an affection, because these are transient. In baptism, we receive the virtue (i.e. the habit) of charity. It is infused into us as a virtue at that moment. Feelings may come and go, but charity is not primarily a feeling, because it is not primarily at the level of the sensitive appetite, but at the level of the rational appetite, i.e. the will (i.e. the heart). In our actions we do deviate from charity in many ways, but if in that action our heart retains its orientation of charity toward God, then these are only venial sins. That is precisely what distinguishes mortal from venial sins. (Yet, we should beware that many venial sins can lead to mortal sin.) The ‘unsettling’ you describe is probably because you are not distinguishing venial and mortal sin. In mortal sin, our heart turns away from God as our end, and we make ourself our end. Hence in one act of mortal sin, the virtue of charity is destroyed, and we cannot recover it without grace. But God freely offers grace, so that the virtue of charity can be immediately recovered by an act of “perfect contrition”, i.e. sorrow for our sins because it offends God, whom we should love above all things.

    That recovery of sanctifying grace after mortal sin, comes to us through the sacrament of penance, since we cannot be re-baptized. But we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) wait until we go to the sacrament of penance in order to receive the grace that comes from the sacrament of penance. That doesn’t mean that once we have made this act of contrition we should not then receive the sacrament of penance. On the contrary, just as the Catechumen who by faith receives the grace of baptism even prior to his baptism ought nevertheless to receive baptism (and receive an establishment/habituation in grace through it), so the penitent who has made a perfect act of contrition and received the grace of penance even prior to receiving the sacrament of penance must nevertheless receive the sacrament of penance as soon as he is able. (Peter, upon witnessing the Spirit having fallen on Cornelius and his family, did not then say “Skip baptism; they already have the Spirit.”)

    The problem though, according to Dr. Waters, is that the work of Christ is not the sole instrument of final justificatin for Catholics.

    Why exactly is that a problem? Why should grace destroy nature, and nullify the possibility of merit? See this comment in the previous thread, in which I showed that for St. Augustine and St. Thomas, the life lived in grace is a life in which God (not man!) is the co-operator.

    Where does this love for God that you speak of in your article come from? Is it exclusively the fruit of the cross?

    Yes. It comes from the heart of Christ, poured out for us on the Cross, and received by us through the grace (i.e. participation in the divine nature – 2 Pet 1:4) that is given to us in the sacraments. Faith, hope and charity are supernatural virtues that flow from sanctifying grace which we receive through the sacraments as the means Christ has established within His Body by which the members would receive grace. By the sacraments we are incorporated into the Body of Christ and nourished within it on the very life of God.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. Why is it that the Protestant and the Catholic can each sincerely affirm the truth of each of those verses? Because the Protestant believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is meaning “faith and not agape.” The Catholic, by contrast, believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is using the term here in a broader sense, such that the other two theological virtues (i.e. hope and agape) are included together with it. The verses themselves do not specify which sense of the term ‘faith’ is in use here, and hence do not answer the question, or show us who is right. Someone could claim that Romans 4:5 shows that the justified person is simultaneously justified and ungodly, and hence simultaneously justified and devoid of agape.

    Bryan,

    Maybe you are just guilty here of painting with too broad a brush and in reality you are only talking about some Evangelicals, but historic Protestantism does not believe what you say above. We cannot be “simultaneously justified and devoid of agape.” This is seen in the fact that we differentiate between fiducia and merely notitia or assensus. We say that only the former can justify.

    Also, note that Protestants historically hold that regeneration logically precedes justification which means that we cannot be justified by a faith devoid of love. If God has regnerated us and given us a new heart then our justification cannot be something devoid of love.

    But perhaps your critique is just of some Evangelicals?

  9. Andrew,

    In my post, I mentioned this statement made by Pope Benedict in November of 2008:

    “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.

    Responding to Pope Benedict’s statement, R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History & Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary wrote the following:

    That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg. Why? After all, Protestants affirm that faith alone is not opposed to charity (love) or sanctification. That’s certainly true, but the question here is whether […] Benedict means by “faith” what we mean by it and whether we’re talking about the same justification and the same role of faith? For us Protestants, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification. Is it so for Benedict? If so, he’s abandoned his own catechism and magisterial Roman dogma since 1547. That would be remarkable indeed!

    According to Clark, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification; charity plays no role in justification (that would be to abandon sola fide). But in the Catholic position, only a faith conjoined with charity is a justifying faith. So if Clark is wrong, then, given what he said, there is no real difference between “Rome and Wittenberg”, and Protestants should all come back to the Catholic Church. But, if Clark is right, then we can be and are justified by a “faith devoid of love”, because love is the *fruit* of justification, not something that must be conjoined to faith in order for that faith to be justifying.

    Do you think Clark does not represent historic Protestantism, and has fallen into Evangelicalism?

    Also, you may wish to look at footnote 6 of my post, in which I anticipated the objection you have raised.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Bryan,

    St. Augustine trumps C.S. Lewis. Well done.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  11. Andrew,

    “only the former [namely, fiducia] can justify”

    I just read in Berkhof’s ST that, according to Reformed dogmatics, only faith can justify, and that faith includes all three (notitia, assensus, fiducia; p. 503-505). Without knowledge of the one in whom you’re trusting, what good is the trusting? Did you just mean that the volitional element of faith (fiducia) is “the crowning element of faith” as Berkoff states (505)?

    Bryan,

    Thanks for the article. You mentioned that Paul could have been using the word “faith” to mean all three theological virtues. Does Catholic theology include “trusting” in faith or merely intellectual assent? Is the difference between “dead faith” and “living faith” simply the absence of formation in love (fides informis vs. fides formata)? I’m trying to understand where “trusting” comes into play in the Catholic conception.

    Pax,
    Barrett

  12. Nick,

    I appreciate your comments, but I think you’ve perhaps missed my intention in writing this. I purposefully chose not to deal with the work of Christ. I wanted to focus on the relation of charity to faith. You write:

    The article gave off the impression the issue was “faith working through love,” with the Reformed side denying this. That’s incorrect. The Reformed Confessions expressly say the faith that justifies is the type that works by love (they are seen as a ‘package deal’ in fact).

    See my reply to Andrew above. You’re glossing a subtle but extremely important distinction. Yes, the Reformed Confessions expressly say that the faith that justifies is the type that works by love. But what they mean is that justifying faith necessarily *produces* charity. They deny that only faith informed by charity justifies. Instead, they affirm that only the type of faith that is followed by charity justifies. If you don’t catch the significance of that difference, you’ll miss the point of my post. I agree with the rest of what you say in your comment, but it goes beyond the intended purpose of my post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  13. Barrett,

    Yes, I’m claiming that in many of these NT passages, ‘faith’ is a synecdoche for the triad of theological virtues, in that faith is the root of hope and charity. In Catholic theology the faith (objectively) consists of the truths revealed by God, and presented to us for belief by the Church. “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth ….” Nevertheless, as Aquinas says, these are that by which God is known; God is the true object of faith. (ST II-II Q.1 a.1) Subjectively, faith is the supernatural habit or virtue by which we assent in the intellect to those divinely revealed truths as moved by our will, which is itself moved by God’s grace. In Aquinas’ words, “faith is a habit of the mind, whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the intellect assent to what is non-apparent.” (ST II-II Q.4 a.1) The First Vatican Council says this about faith:

    1. Since human beings are totally dependent on God as their creator and lord, and created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are obliged to yield to God the revealer full submission of intellect and will by faith.

    2. This faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, the Catholic Church professes to be a supernatural virtue, by means of which, with the grace of God inspiring and assisting us, we believe to be true what He has revealed, not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived. (First Vatican Council 3.3.1-2)

    Faith has the certainty of a science, but, unlike a science, faith does not in this life “attain the perfection of clear sight”, because its object (i.e. God) remains unseen. So, the short answer :-) to your question is yes; faith, in Catholic theology is intellectual assent. So in Catholic theology faith, *in itself*, is not an act of trust. Trust involves all three theological virtues, and is one form or expression of the conjunction of these three virtues. We can see that by thinking about what is going on when a person says (sincerely) a sinner’s prayer. He’s not just assenting to revealed truths. He’s asking God to forgive him for sinning against God (that shows love for God), and entrusting his life to God (again, love), and expecting God to save him from hell and give him eternal life with Him. That shows hope and charity.

    Is the difference between “dead faith” and “living faith” simply the absence of formation in love (fides informis vs. fides formata)?

    Yes. In Summa Theologica II-II Q. 4 a.3 Aquinas argues that charity is the form of faith:

    As appears from what has been said above (I-II, 1, 3; I-II, 18, 6), voluntary acts take their species from their end which is the will’s object. Now that which gives a thing its species, is after the manner of a form in natural things. Wherefore the form of any voluntary act is, in a manner, the end to which that act is directed, both because it takes its species therefrom, and because the mode of an action should correspond proportionately to the end. Now it is evident from what has been said (1), that the act of faith is directed to the object of the will, i.e. the good, as to its end: and this good which is the end of faith, viz. the Divine Good, is the proper object of charity. Therefore charity is called the form of faith in so far as the act of faith is perfected and formed by charity.

    Then in the next article, he asks, “Whether lifeless faith can become living, or living faith, lifeless?” There he answers:

    We must therefore hold differently that living and lifeless faith are one and the same habit. The reason is that a habit is differentiated by that which directly pertains to that habit. Now since faith is a perfection of the intellect, that pertains directly to faith, which pertains to the intellect. Again, what pertains to the will, does not pertain directly to faith, so as to be able to differentiate the habit of faith. But the distinction of living from lifeless faith is in respect of something pertaining to the will, i.e. charity, and not in respect of something pertaining to the intellect. Therefore living and lifeless faith are not distinct habits.

    The Council of Trent similarly teaches:

    For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.

    For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity.

    This faith, conformably to Apostolic tradition, catechumens ask of the Church before the sacrament of baptism, when they ask for the faith that gives eternal life, which without hope and charity faith cannot give. (Session 6, chapter 7)

    I talked about that a bit more here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  14. Andrew,

    I think to be fair to the Church, it is very hard to try and figure out just what the Reformed mean about “faith alone”. As Bryan pointed out from Dr. Clark with his “if” makes all the difference. By that Clark means that Pope Benedict qualifies “faith alone”, which the Pope does, and I agree. But you, understandably, want to qualify “faith alone” as many others do, “we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith is alone.”

    The real question is, if we believe that faith alone must be qualified in some way to include charity or love (Clark appears not to agree), how can we justify being in schism?

  15. How does this compare to a Reformed perspective? When asked what is required from humans, they would not even say faith because even faith is impossible for lost humanity. In the eyes of a Calvinist, what is needed is a movement of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a man. When He imparts faith, with it comes everything that faith is by definition linked with – the fruits of the Spirit.

    What you write here is that faith and love are required for salvation. A Calvinist would say that all are impossible, you cannot just gain faith or even faith and love. You gain the entire package with the Spirit’s work in your heart, and then spend your life following hard after Christ.

    I discovered your website a couple of weeks ago and am a Protestant and a layperson, so I don’t speak with expertise, but I do have honest questions.

  16. Bryan: Yes, the Reformed Confessions expressly say that the faith that justifies is the type that works by love. But what they mean is that justifying faith necessarily *produces* charity. They deny that only faith informed by charity justifies. Instead, they affirm that only the type of faith that is followed by charity justifies. If you don’t catch the significance of that difference, you’ll miss the point of my post.

    Nick: Interesting, I didn’t realize this but it makes sense. I will be sure to read your post again.

    What you’re saying is that for Protestants:
    Faith —-> Justification & Charity

    Where as for Catholics:
    Faith & Charity —-> Justification

    What you’re arguing is that the Bible doesn’t show Charity as a byproduct of “Saving Faith,” but rather the heart and soul of it. That then fits in with the James 2 stuff about “faith without works is dead,” rather than “faith without works isn’t true faith in the first place.”

  17. Hello Kacie,

    Welcome to CTC. In both Reformed and Catholic theologies, faith is necessary for salvation. And in both theologies, faith cannot be had apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Both traditions agree that faith is a supernatural gift from the Holy Spirit. Calvinists and Catholics agree that faith and love are impossible to acquire apart from work of the Holy Spirit and apart from grace. In Reformed theology (for the most part), when faith is imparted then hope and charity always follow, and none of the three can ever be lost, since they are fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and He never leaves one to whom He has given faith.

    In Catholic theology, by contrast, while charity cannot remain if faith is lost, faith can remain if charity is lost. A person who retains faith but loses charity, would be a person who has unrepented mortal sin, other than apostasy or heresy. The sins of [formal] heresy or apostasy, however, destroy not only charity, but also faith.

    The point of my post is to show that “justification by faith alone”, where justifying faith is understood in a Protestant sense as not being in itself conjoined to / informed by agape, though agape necessarily follows from it, is not supported by the Biblical evidence. The Biblical evidence supports the Catholic understanding that only faith informed by charity is justifying faith. And, even if a reader is not persuaded by my argument, he or she might at least recognize that there is no more evidence in Scripture for the Protestant understanding than there is for the Catholic understanding. And in that case, for the reasons I explained in the conclusion of the post, the Catholic position gets the benefit of the doubt. This issue isn’t trivial, by the way; this issue is at the heart of the nearly 500 year divide between Protestants and Catholics. As R.C. Sproul wrote just the other day:

    At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy.

    But if Sproul is wrong, then as Scott Hahn once said:

    One of my most brilliant professors, a man named Dr. John Gerstner, had once said that if we’re wrong on sola fide, I’d be on my knees outside the Vatican in Rome tomorrow morning doing penance.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. Nick,

    Exactly.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Dear Bryan,

    Thanks for the thorough response. Your unequivocal “yes” to my question of whether or not the love of God required for salvation is completely the fruit of the cross clarified things for me. When John Kincaid pointed out in his interview that both Catholics and Protestants require some form of inherent righteousness for salvation (for the reformed we call it “regeneration”), it made the Catholic rejection of “faith alone” not only tenable, but biblical. Much love in Christ, Jeremy

  20. Bryan,

    Do you understand the distinction between fiducia and assesnsus and noititia? Do you know what the Reformed say about regeneration? If so, would you agree with me that if regeneration necessarily precedes justification and if we are saved through a true and living faith (fiducia) then it is impossible that we could be “simultaneously justified and devoid of agape?”

    I imagine that you are only quoting for me a little of what Clark likely wrote about the issue, but I don’t see anything in your quote from him to disagree with. He is not stating anything about being devoid of agape either explicitly or implicitly. He is speaking of the ground of our justification. And while I don’t know how much much history he deals with in the context of this particular quote, there is a distinct difference between Protestant and Catholic here. When Trent speaks of the “second plank of justification” and the attendant theologies of satisfaction and the treasury of merits and so on, we certainly do have issues.

    Your footnote #6 should not be a footnote, it should be in the body of the post.

  21. I think to be fair to the Church, it is very hard to try and figure out just what the Reformed mean about “faith alone”. As Bryan pointed out from Dr. Clark with his “if” makes all the difference. By that Clark means that Pope Benedict qualifies “faith alone”, which the Pope does, and I agree. But you, understandably, want to qualify “faith alone” as many others do, “we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith is alone.”

    Tom,

    Yes, it’s how we qualify that really structures our respective meanings. And I do think it is possible for RC’s like Benedict to speak of justification by faith alone as true in some sense. Catholics have been debating just in what sense faith relates to work and in what sense grace relates to free will long before there were any Protestants around.

    The real question is, if we believe that faith alone must be qualified in some way to include charity or love (Clark appears not to agree), how can we justify being in schism?

    And since we Reformed don’t see the possibility of being justified apart from a faith that springs from a regenerated heart then we don’t see faith as being separated from love. So we have to dig a little deeper….

  22. Andrew McCallum,

    One thing I’ve been wondering: what would an intelligent magisterial Protestant say that I would have gotten, in terms of my relationship with Jesus, if I had avoided the “error” of becoming a practicing Catholic and had instead joined, say, the OPC?

    From where this lapsed-but-returned cradle Catholic stands, there are just too many damn caveats to understand what you’re “selling,” so to speak. What were you offering me that I even rejected? I think I know what I have rejected in accepting the anathemas of Trent. I understand what I have rejected in the same manner, I believe, as Bryan has explained it above.

    But you seem unsatisfied with his explanation. Please tell me what you think I have rejected — not what ecclesiology I have rejected, but in layman’s terms what in my relationship with Jesus I have rejected. I’ll be up front and say that I feel like becoming a practicing Catholic has involved a process of accepting everything that could lead me to Jesus, and the more I move along this process, the more close I have been to Jesus. Can you explain in simple terms how you are offering me a surer path to Jesus, and how accepting your path entails a necessary rejection of the Catholic path?

    (I realize that ecclesiologically there is an avoidable choice to be made — a choice which I have found it easy to make because the choice is obvious. But I want an explanation of where you think the choice is in terms of relationship with Jesus, and why you think you know of a reliable path to Jesus that an honest Catholic can’t follow without rejecting Trent).

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  23. K. Doran,

    Excellent question to Andrew (I enjoy reading all your posts). I’m not yet Catholic, but my journey towards the Catholic Church coudl easily be summed up, “more and more of Jesus”. I’ve been in seven different Protestant denominations and I can assure you that there’s nothing being offered anywhere that is not being superabuntantly given in the sacramental life of the Church. More importantly though, the more Catholics I meet who are truly in love with Christ, the more excited I am to enter the Church.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

    I appreciate your insights, Jeremy

  24. Thanks Jeremy,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts too. I’ll be praying for you!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  25. Andrew,

    I am glad that you recognize that Pope Benedict and the Church can speak of justification by faith alone as true in some sense. Many others do not see it that way, so for that I rejoice because truth has triumphed over personal prejudices.

    I also rejoice that you do not see faith as separated from love but, if I may say, that faith works through love (Can I take it that you agree with this?). The question is, is your articulation the traditional Protestant understanding of Faith Alone? Scott Clark makes it very clear that the “provided if ” makes all the difference and he said that in reference to Pope Benedict’s, “Faith alone is true provided if …faith working through love.”

  26. Andrew,

    The issue does not ultimately depend whether agape is always co-present whenever faith is justifying. The issue is whether agape is only merely co-present when faith is justifying, and not constitutive of the necessary state of the soul for justification. My argument in this post is that the Biblical case for justification by [faith conjoined to agape] (fides formata) is just as strong if not stronger, than the Biblical case for justification by [faith not conjoined to agape] (fides informis). And if that thesis is correct, then it follows that the Catholic Church’s decision (at Trent) gets the benefit of the doubt over the private interpretive judgments of the early Protestants. If you wish to show my argument to be flawed, you would need to make a case showing that the Biblical evidence shows that justification is by [faith not conjoined to agape].

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  27. Tim T., picking up our conversation on your theological objections to the Reformed doctrine of justification.

    Touching on point #3 – different ways of being real – you mentioned that God’s sees things as the truly are in themselves. I think this notion will be the theological crux of our discussion. Speaking of crux (and moving to my point), did God see Jesus truly as he was when he was on the cross? That is, was Christ truly a sinner? How did the Father “make him to be sin”? The Holy Spirit says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Cor 5:21 (ESV). On your view, if God only sees things are they truly are in themselves, then Christ must, himself, have been a sinner, worth of guilt and punishment. That cannot be, ergo, God can “see” things after various fashions and is not limited as you asserted.

    FYI, the Reformed (or, more broadly, historic Protestants) assert that God *imputed* the sins of the elect to Christ, judged him as guilty of them, and punished him justly for those sins. When God imputes sin (or righteousness), he “sees” the recipient through what’s imputed and treats them accordingly.

    Tim, before we move on to critique the Reformed view (which I’m still happy to do), I need to understand how do you solve the problem of Christ’s “guiltiness” on the cross and still hold to tenet that God only sees things are they truly are in themselves.

    BTW, the source of my definition of justification is the Westminster Shorter Catechism # 33 – slightly modified – see http://www.reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html

    With cheerfulness on a Friday,
    Tim

  28. My argument in this post is that the Biblical case for justification by [faith conjoined to agape] (fides formata) is just as strong if not stronger, than the Biblical case for justification by [faith not conjoined to agape] (fides informis). And if that thesis is correct, then it follows that the Catholic Church’s decision (at Trent) gets the benefit of the doubt over the private interpretive judgments of the early Protestants. If you wish to show my argument to be flawed, you would need to make a case showing that the Biblical evidence shows that justification is by [faith not conjoined to agape].

    Bryan,

    I don’t think there is anything to prove yet because we haven’t agreed what the problem is yet. You have to agree on the point at issue and the definitions of the terms before you can move any further forward. The issue is not historically whether faith is co-joined to agape unless you are reading something into “co-joined” that I am not seeing. At the point of justification the individual has been regenerated. You know what the Reformed confessions say about regeneration I assume. The individual who has been regenerated has been given a heart of flesh made alive to the things of God and so on. I hope you recognize this kind of language. So if the individual has been made alive to God, etc in regeneration, and regeneration logically precedes justification, then he cannot be devoid of agape at the point of justification, right?

    However, saying that a renewed heart and love for God accompany (is co-joined to?) justification is very different from saying that the works that flow out of our regenerated/justified state are credited to us in God’s declaration of our being justified in His sight. I brought up the concept of satisfaction and the treasury of merits as examples of where we do differ. We hold that the works that flow out of love for God do not form the basis for, nor partly the basis for, our right standing before God. This stands in contrast to Trent’s statements about the “second plank of justification” and the theologies of satisfaction, etc. From the little except you posted I would guess that this is where I think Clark is focusing his thoughts.

  29. Tim P,

    did God see Jesus truly as he was when he was on the cross?

    Yes, God sees all things as they truly are. He is not deceived about anything.

    That is, was Christ truly a sinner?

    No, that’s blasphemous. Christ never sinned, nor could He become sinful or a sinner, nor could sin have any place in Him.

    How did the Father “make him to be sin”? The Holy Spirit says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Cor 5:21 (ESV).

    The meaning is that Christ became a sin offering, a sacrifice for sin. St. Augustine explains:

    The same Apostle says in another place, “He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” “Him who knew no sin:” Who is He who knew no sin, but He That said, “Behold the prince of the world comes, and shall find nothing in me? Him who knew no sin, made He sin for us;” even Christ Himself, who knew no sin, God made sin for us. What does this mean, Brethren? If it were said, “He made sin upon Him,” or, “He made Him to have sin;” it would seem intolerable; how do we tolerate what is said, “He made Him sin,” that Christ Himself should be sin? They who are acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old Testament recognise what I am saying. For it is not an expression once used, but repeatedly, very constantly, sacrifices for sins are called “sins.” A goat, for instance, was offered for sin, a ram, anything; the victim itself which was offered for sin was called “sin.” A sacrifice for sin then was called “sin;” so that in one place the Law says, “That the Priests are to lay their hands upon the sin.” “Him” then, “who knew no sin, He made sin for us;” that is, “He was made a sacrifice for sin.” (Sermon 84 on the New Testament)

    And elsewhere he writes:

    Accordingly the apostle says: “We beseech you in Christ’s stead, be reconciled unto God. For He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) God, therefore, to whom we are reconciled, has made Him to be sin for us—that is to say, a sacrifice by which our sins may be remitted; for by sins are designated the sacrifices for sins. And indeed He was sacrificed for our sins, the only one among men who had no sins, even as in those early times one was sought for among the flocks to prefigure the Faultless One who was to come to heal our offenses. (On the Grace of Christ and on Original Sin, Book II, chapter 37)

    And elsewhere he writes:

    And they, perchance not understanding this, and being blinded by the desire of misrepresentation, and ignorant of the number of ways in which the name of sin is accustomed to be used in the Holy Scriptures, declare that we affirm sin of Christ. Therefore we assert that Christ both had no sin—neither in soul nor in the body; and that, by taking upon Him flesh in the likeness of sinful flesh, in respect of sin He condemned sin. And this assertion, somewhat obscurely made by the apostle, is explained in two ways—either that the likenesses of things are accustomed to be called by the names of those things to which they are like, so that the apostle may be understood to have intended to call this likeness of sinful flesh by the name of “sin;” or else that the sacrifices for sins were under the law called “sins,” all which things were figures of the flesh of Christ, which is the true and only sacrifice for sins—not only for those which are all washed away in baptism, but also for those which afterwards creep in from the weakness of this life, on account of which the universal Church daily cries in prayer to God, “Forgive us our debts,” and they are forgiven us by means of that singular sacrifice for sins which the apostle, speaking according to the law, did not hesitate to call “sin.” Whence, moreover, is that much plainer passage of his, which is not uncertain by any twofold ambiguity, “We beseech you in Christ’s stead to be reconciled to God. He made Him to be sin for us, who had not known sin; that we might be the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) For the passage which I have above mentioned, “In respect of sin, He condemned sin,” because it was not said, “In respect of his sin,” may be understood by any one, as if He said that He condemned sin in respect of the sin of the Jews; because in respect of their sin who crucified Him, it happened that He shed His blood for the remission of sins. But this passage, where God is said to have made Christ Himself “sin,” who had not known sin, does not seem to me to be more fittingly understood than that Christ was made a sacrifice for sins, and on this account was called “sin.” (Against Two Books of the Pelagians, Bk III, chapter 16)

    And here I showed the contrast between R.C. Sproul and St. Augustine on the sense in which Christ bore the curse.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. One thing I’ve been wondering: what would an intelligent magisterial Protestant say that I would have gotten, in terms of my relationship with Jesus, if I had avoided the “error” of becoming a practicing Catholic and had instead joined, say, the OPC?

    K. Doran,

    If by “relationship with Christ” we are just speaking of personal salvation, I think I have to answer that question differently depending on the profession of the particular Catholic in view. I’ve read quite a bit of the material from folks like those here who to my mind are conservatives and Thomists. They understand the thomistic concept of God’s free grace. And if they really do understand this and they believe that Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient then they have an understanding of the saving work of Christ and Christ profits them much. But every Reformed and Evangelical church has lots of ex-Catholics. I’ve talked to many of them and the stories are often the same. They sit through innumerable masses and do all the things that faithful Catholics are supposed to do and yet they never come to understand nor care about God’s grace. For this sort of Catholic their faith did nothing or so they would say when they came out of Catholicism and joined a congregation such as one of those in the OPC. Of course there are innumerable Protestant churches where folks never hear the gospel and they might be better off in a Catholic congregation.

    I hope I’m getting at your question.

  31. If you wish to bring Protestants and Catholics together (or convince Protestants of the RC position) it’s critical that both sides are presented faithfully, especially the Protestant position if one is writing from an RC perspective. It get’s tiresome reading this debate where the same old statements are just bandied back and forth by both sides. But to cut to the chase, justification has a variety of meanings in the NT, but particularly 2 basic ones: to declare that one is righteous / not guilty (the opposite of condemnation, so Rom. 5:16, 18; 8:33-34); to show that one is righteous (James 2:24, Rom. 3:5 etc.).

    Simply observing this would help the discussion and stop the aimless quoting of texts out of context. The biggest problem for Trent is that it’s definition of justification (to make righteous as a process) is nowhere found in Scripture. In historical theology there’s no decent analysis of the word done after Augustine in the mediveal era. When one reads through Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, Thomas, Scotus, Giles of Rome, Hugolino of Orvieto, Gregory of Rimini, Capreolus, Biel, and the like, the meaning of the word justification is assumed and not proven from the biblical text. And thus when we get to the counter-reformation authors particularly Bellarmine, they appeal to common usage rather than do rigorous exegesis of the NT. This is the achilles heel of the RC position.

    (Of course the biggest problem for Trent [and Florence and Lateran IV] is not justification but Vatican II … but that’s another story).

  32. Andrew,

    The Catholic position is that we are justified by [faith conjoined to agape] (i.e. fides formata). The Protestant position is that we are justified by faith alone, even though such faith is always accompanied by agape. My argument in this post is that the Biblical case for justification by [faith conjoined to agape] (fides formata) is just as strong if not stronger, than the Biblical case for justification by faith alone, though this faith is always accompanied by agape. If my argument is a sound argument (or even if the Biblical evidence is a toss-up), then it follows that the Catholic Church’s decision at Trent gets the benefit of the doubt over the private interpretive judgments of the early Protestants. So, if you wish to show my argument to be flawed, you would need to make a case showing that the Biblical evidence overwhelmingly shows that (1) justification is by faith alone, even though this faith is always accompanied be agape, and that (2) justification is not by [faith conjoined to agape].

    The fact that it is even possible to make such an argument should be deeply troubling to you. If sola fide is the fundamental ground for separating and remaining separate from the Catholic Church, it should be a slam dunk case from Scripture that justification is not by [faith conjoined to agape]. There shouldn’t even be a 3% chance that justification is by [faith conjoined to agape]. There is no justification for causing or preserving a schism from the Church (since schism is a grave matter), on the basis of a high probability that one’s own interpretation is right, and the Church’s teaching is wrong. Protestantism needs a knock-down case from Scripture on this question, in order (hypothetically) to justify its separation from the Catholic Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  33. Marty,

    I agree that in order to bring Protestants and Catholics together, it is important to represent fairly both sides. It is also important not to beg the question (i.e. assume precisely what is in question). You seem to be saying that the declarative sense of justification in Scripture is not by infused righteousness. But that’s precisely what is in question between Protestants and Catholics. Similarly, you claim that James 2:24 is about showing that one is righteous. But that too begs the question, for the reason I explain toward the end of my post. Catholics see James referring to an increase in justification. Similarly, given that Abraham had already believed God in Gen 12, then when St. Paul refers (Rom 4:3) to Abraham believing God in Gen 15, this too must be referring to an increase in justification.

    The biggest problem for Trent is that it’s definition of justification (to make righteous as a process) is nowhere found in Scripture.

    Again, that begs the question, as I just showed. But, to back up, that’s not exactly how Trent defines justification. (As you said, it is important to represent fairly both sides.) According to Trent, justification is both a one time event (at baptism, or when repenting of mortal sin committed after baptism) and something that continues to increase as we grow in grace and abound in graced-works. We (Catholics) see both of those aspects of justification in Scripture.

    In historical theology there’s no decent analysis of the word done after Augustine in the mediveal era. When one reads through Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, Thomas, Scotus, Giles of Rome, Hugolino of Orvieto, Gregory of Rimini, Capreolus, Biel, and the like, the meaning of the word justification is assumed and not proven from the biblical text. And thus when we get to the counter-reformation authors particularly Bellarmine, they appeal to common usage rather than do rigorous exegesis of the NT. This is the achilles heel of the RC position.

    That you see it as an “achilles heel”, rather than as an expression of faith [by these figures] in Christ’s promise that the Spirit would guide the Church into all truth, again begs the question by expecting Catholics to adopt the perspective of ecclesial deism. Why should we do that? We do not see ourselves as in such a lofty position to correct all those who came before us, or to assume that the Body of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, misunderstood the meaning of justification for 1500 years. Instead, we let the Church teach us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. Bryan, how many conversations are you going to get wrapped up in?!?

    Augustine’s answer is fine, but it ends up skirting the issue I’m after. He seems to be interested in the simple terminology, and I’m pleased with his answer. The more pointed question is what does the terminology mean, not what are its roots. God made Christ sin and Christ was punished on the cross, even as the sacrifices of old were “made” sin and put to death. The whole ritual from the beginning smacks of imputation, not infusion. Was, say, the ram infused with the sins of the people and thus made sinful intrinsically? Of course not. He was constituted the sin-bearer, the sins (as it were) imputed to the animal. All this foreshadowed the great Sacrificial lamb, who bore the sins of his people, but not by infusion (which would be blasphemous). Now, if you’re going to reject imputation (and you have A LOT of biblical/exegetical/lexical data against you) you have to explain what the Spirit means by “made him to be sin for us.”

    Incidentally, for the background of this discussion, see Tim T’s and my discussion over on the Semi-Pelagian thread. I’m still looking for Tim’s answer to my query up in #27.

    Have a splendid day, Bryan!
    -Tim

  35. Tim p – Sorry I have to catch up on this thread. I see that Bryan answered your questinos in 27. I would have answered them the same way. We do not accept penal substitution. The fathers never taught this, and it is not philosophically or theologically sound. A whipping boy, even if divine, does not render true justice. In fact, it furthers injustice. The Ransom Theory of atonement is another one that, although unlike Penal Substitution, did enjoy some support in the early fathers, is incomplete at best and an error at worst. The Scriptures use ‘ransom’ language of course, but again we point to what I call the divine metaphor. (Please take a minute to skim that article as I’ve covered much of this in more detail there. It backs up a little bit to try and help us see where our real disagreement lies. I suspect we’ll find a lot of agreement there but some disagreement also.)

    The Catholic Church has not spoken authoritatively on any particular atonement theory. PS has long been rejected by notable theologians because of its lack of support in tradition and its philosophical problems touched on above and in the link. Your argument seems to be taking PS as a given and we need to back up to an earlier starting point because Catholics reject PS.

  36. Bryan and Tim Troutman

    I have read what you say about Penal Sub and I disagree, I asked a Priest who does apologetics about this and he said that a Catholic can hold to Penal Sub. I do hold to Pemnal Sub. If one reads the Biblical texts dealing with Sin Sacrifices in the OT and the New Testament references about Jesus “being made Sin” being the “Propitiation” for our Sins etc., if one reads these without any Philosophical presuppositions, which if you use Aristotle, Plato etc then one can see that Penal Sub is exactly what Scripture says about Jesus’s atonement. Col. 2:8: “Beware lest any man cheat you by Philosophy, and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ.” I will not yield on Penal Sub, It is what the Scriptures clearly say and I cannot and will not give up holding to it.

    I am not aware of any OFFICIAL Magisterial Church document or Infallible Teaching that CLEARLY says that a Catholic cannot hold to it or that it is an error or heresy.

  37. The Catholic position is that we are justified by [faith conjoined to agape] (i.e. fides formata). The Protestant position is that we are justified by faith alone, even though such faith is always accompanied by agape. My argument in this post is that the Biblical case for justification by [faith conjoined to agape] (fides formata) is just as strong if not stronger, than the Biblical case for justification by faith alone, though this faith is always accompanied by agape. If my argument is a sound argument

    Bryan,

    It’s not a question of whether your argument is sound. I’m just pointing out that you have not defined your argument well enough yet. I don’t know what you mean by the phrase “conjoined to agape.” This could easily be taken in more than one way and it could be used to describe the historic Protestant position as well as the Catholic position. Did you define the phrase and I did not see it? And you seem to be avoiding the discussion over Trent’s specific language. Trent hits the nail right on the head, but I can’t say the same for your “argument” above.

    And it is not helpful or meaningful to call the Protestant position a matter of “private judgment” while the Catholic position is not. The position that the RCC came to at Trent was just one set of a number of sets of theological opinions prevalent in the late Middle Ages. The statements of the Reformed Churches reflect another set of opinions prevalent in the late Middle Ages. Why should one set be labeled as the product of private judgment? And I would add that the Protestant confessions could hardly be said to be the product of private interpretation because the statements on justification are remarkably unified from one confession to another even though they were composed by different men in different times and different geographies.

  38. Tim P,

    St. Augustine is one of the greatest doctors of the Church; perhaps before accusing him of “skirting the issue” you might try a more charitable and humble approach to him. He is not merely interested “in the simple terminology”, because he was not so naive as to think that merely using different words, with the same meaning, avoided the problem he is addressing. It would be “intolerable”, he says, if St. Paul meant that “Christ Himself should be sin”. St. Augustine’s solution to this problem, if it were merely using different words with the same meaning, would leave the problem unsolved. His solution is that St. Paul means not that Christ became sin, but that Christ became a sacrifice for sin, i.e. a sin offering, that is, that by the gift (to the Father) of His holy passion and death, made in humble obedience and charity, Christ offered to the Father something more pleasing to the Father than all our sins were displeasing to Him, and by this great gift to the Father “merited justification for us” such that when we are united to Christ (actually incorporated into His Mystical Body) through baptism, then by the superabundant merit of Christ’s sacrifice we receive grace (i.e. are made partakers of the divine nature), and thus a cleansing of all our sins (by a renewal in the inner man), the canceling of our debt of punishment (because we are members of One who made superabundant satisfaction to the Father), and eternal life, the divine life in which we now live.

    The more pointed question is what does the terminology mean, not what are its roots.

    It is better not to presuppose that understanding the roots of a term cannot shed light on what the term means, as if we must choose between finding its meaning and examining its roots.

    The whole ritual from the beginning smacks of imputation, not infusion.

    “Smacks of” is not a sufficiently reliable method for determining the meaning of a passage, nor of justifying a schism.

    Was, say, the ram infused with the sins of the people and thus made sinful intrinsically? Of course not. He was constituted the sin-bearer, the sins (as it were) imputed to the animal.

    There was neither imputation nor infusion in the cases of the sacrificial animals, because they were mere types, and “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). When Noah offered a sacrifice to God after the Flood, we see:

    “And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man …

    Of course God (in His divine nature) does not have a nose or smell. This is anthropomorphic language. Why was God pleased? Because this was a gift given to Him, and because it foreshadowed the gift His Son would make to Him. But the poor, if they could not afford pigeons or larger animals, could make sin offerings with flour.

    “If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. (Lev 5:11)

    In that case the person’s sin was neither imputed nor infused into the flour. God was not punishing the flour for the person’s sins. Rather, the act of offering this possession to God (in figure, since all these are types of Christ’s sacrifice) pleased God, and made satisfaction for sin.

    All this foreshadowed the great Sacrificial lamb, who bore the sins of his people, but not by infusion (which would be blasphemous).

    The sin offerings of the OT did foreshadow the great Sacrificial lamb, who bore the sins of His people by suffering the curse of sin (not by being made sin itself, or being counted by God as having sinned). St. Augustine explains:

    Death comes upon man as the punishment of sin, and so is itself called sin; not that a man sins in dying, but because sin is the cause of his death. So the word tongue, which properly means the fleshy substance between the teeth and the palate, is applied in a secondary sense to the result of the tongue’s action. In this sense we speak of a Latin tongue and a Greek tongue. The word hand, too, means both the members of the body we use in working, and the writing which is done with the hand. In this sense we speak of writing as being proved to be the hand of a certain person, or of recognizing the hand of a friend. The writing is certainly not a member of the body, but the name hand is given to it because it is the hand that does it. So sin means both a bad action deserving punishment, and death the consequence of sin. Christ has no sin in the sense of deserving death, but He bore for our sakes sin in the sense of death as brought on human nature by sin. This is what hung on the tree; this is what was cursed by Moses. Thus was death condemned that its reign might cease, and cursed that it might be destroyed. By Christ’s taking our sin in this sense, its condemnation is our deliverance, while to remain in subjection to sin is to be condemned. (Contra Faustum, Bk XIV

    What it means that Christ bore our sin, explains St. Augustine, is that He bore the effects of sin (i.e. suffering and death). Man was not made to die; death is the result of the curse, on account of sin. But Christ, though He was sinless, endured the effects of sin, and in that sense bore our sin. He also bore our sin through His solidarity with sinful man (having become a man, and sharing in our human nature, and living among us in our fallen world), sorrowing in Himself for all the sins of men committed against His Father.

    Now, if you’re going to reject imputation (and you have A LOT of biblical/exegetical/lexical data against you) you have to explain what the Spirit means by “made him to be sin for us.”

    Catholics do not reject imputation; we explain it. When David speaks of God imputing iniquity in Psalm 32:2, we do not presuppose nominalism when understanding that. When God does not impute iniquity, that means that instead of simply damning us for our sin, God has mercy, and grants the grace of repentance such that his heart can be cleansed of deceit (second half of the same verse, Ps 32:2), and thus his former sins are ‘covered’, i.e. not damning. This is something angels cannot enjoy; they have no opportunity for repentance after sin. But God has mercifully given man an opportunity to repent, and as shown in Ps 51 be “washed thoroughly from [our] iniquity”, “cleansed from [our] sin”, being made true “in [our] innermost being” and “whiter than snow” in the deepest part of our soul. Non-imputation of sin does not mean simul justus et peccator, but that God has mercy, and cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

    In Romans 5:13, when St. Paul says:

    for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law

    He is referring to culpability. A person is culpable for an objective wrongdoing only if the person knows that it is wrong, or is culpable for not knowing that it is wrong. Just as we do not hold a child culpable for not sharing with a playmate, if the child has not yet been taught that being selfish is wrong, so from Adam until the Law was given through Moses, there was objective wrongdoing in the world (and culpability via natural law), but the peoples’ culpability was not in the likeness of the offense of Adam (Rom 5:14), who had directly received the divine command, nor was it like that of the Israelites, who had received divine laws from God at Mt. Sinai. So the imputation referred to here (in Rom 5:13) is not nominalistic or stipulative, but based on the actual degree of culpability of the persons involved, given what wrongs they did and what they knew about the wrongness of those actions.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  39. Tim T., I gotta say I’m impressed that you’re unwilling/unable to offer a succinct, clear explanation of exactly what Christ was doing on the cross. I though it was standard fare from the time of St. Anselm to hold to some sort of penal substitution/satisfaction. Anyway, the lack of explanation seems like a biggie to me and it raises a lot of questions, but I’ll let them go for now and return to our specific discussion.

    I’ll try a different way of entry into our discussion. Did God count Adam’s sin to you? How does original sin work? We were certainly not there in the garden, but God counts that sin to us: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom 5:12, 15). We died in Adam and we live in Christ. Tim, would you please offer me some clear explanation of this while keeping your specific notion that Gods “sees” things/people only as the are in themselves front and center in the explanation? No rush at all… I probably won’t be back here till Monday.

    With joy,
    Tim

  40. Thanks for the fraternal rebuke, Bryan, but I think it’s misplaced. Augustine is a great personal hero of mine, but he’s a man and *brace yourself* can skit an issue, just like you and me. To say that “made him sin for us” means “became a sacrifice” simply pushes the question back to the nature of the efficacy of the sacrifice. When I say the whole thing smacks of imputation, I mean that behind most aspects of the sacrificial systems stands imputation. Now, I understand assertion in not proof, but I want to uncover my thoughts alluded to above. The ram for the burn offering, for example, teaches imputation toward propitiation (cf. 1 Jn 2:2), while the scapegoat teaches imputation, but focuses on expiation or the removal of sin (Ps 103:12). The grain offering doesn’t teach about imputation; it doesn’t need to. That’s what I meant when I said the whole thing smacks of imputation. We’re not surprised to find that those who believe are counted righteous in Christ (Rom 4:22-24) and by Christ being made a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and that imputation stands behind both aspects.

    In any event, I need to focus my time here, as I’m trying to avoid the “shotgun” approach of dealing with 19 issues at one time and spend hours a day doing it.

    Good day.

  41. Dear Bryan,

    We discover the meaning of words (and phrases and sentences) from the context in which they’re used. That’s just a semantic fact, and this is the assumption from which the rest of my comments will flow. In short, the RC problem is it’s lack of attention to precise exegesis.

    You seem to be saying that the declarative sense of justification in Scripture is not by infused righteousness. But that’s precisely what is in question between Protestants and Catholics.

    Nope it’s not begging any question, it’s a lexical fact. Dikaioo doesn’t have the meaning of “make righteous” as Rome defines it. Nowhere. Read on.

    Similarly, you claim that James 2:24 is about showing that one is righteous. But that too begs the question, for the reason I explain toward the end of my post. Catholics see James referring to an increase in justification.

    Again, no, because in the context of the argument James is talking about how one “shows” (2:18) they have faith (i.e. show they are righteous, i.e. justify that they are righteous and have true faith), and that is by deeds. The RC idea of increasing justification is alien both to the context, and the meaning of the word justification.

    Similarly, given that Abraham had already believed God in Gen 12, then when St. Paul refers (Rom 4:3) to Abraham believing God in Gen 15, this too must be referring to an increase in justification.

    Why? Rom. 4:3 simply shows that the existence of faith shows the existence of a righteousness that allows Abraham to be in a relationship with God. Abraham has done a whole host of good works prior to Gen. 15:6, but that’s not what makes him righteous. There’s not one contextual hint that anywhere in the passage that Paul is talking about an increase of justification. It’s an alien concept read into the passage, not read out of it. The passage is all about what it means to be right with God (and in the covenant people of God), as both the near and wide context show.

    That you see it as an “achilles heel”, rather than as an expression of faith [by these figures] in Christ’s promise that the Spirit would guide the Church into all truth, again begs the question by expecting Catholics to adopt the perspective of ecclesial deism.

    Nope it’s not ecclesial deism, it’s ecclesial realism. Vatican II seems to suggest the Church got some things wrong for longer than 1500 years! Look at Lumen Gentium’s re-interpretation of “no salvation outside the church”. Both Lateran IV and Florence were clear that there was no salvation outside of the RC Church institution. Vatican II took a very different position.

    I certainly believe in the development of doctrine. The church has grown in its understanding of Scripture over the years; on many issues we see further than our predecessors because we’re standing on their shoulders. From growth in our understanding of koine Greek, exegesis, semantics, and linguistics, we can safely conclude that the medievals on justification were quite wrong.

    I wish RCs would read the Bible carefully. The promise to be led into all truth is said to the apostles and applied to just them (cf. esp. John 14:26).

    Why should we do that? We do not see ourselves as in such a lofty position to correct all those who came before us, or to assume that the Body of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, misunderstood the meaning of justification for 1500 years. Instead, we let the Church teach us.

    This is all rather idealistic to me. Look at the three converts from Protestantism to Catholicism: Scott Hahn, Bob Sungenis, and Gerry Matatics. They have three different views on the status of Vatican II, and all claim to have the right interpretation of “official” church documents. Whom do I follow? The teaching of the “Church” is a chimera.

    In speaking to Catholics I find as many positions on which “Church” statements are infallible as there are Catholics. Which one do I believe? The official documents are interpreted in a variety of ways, and (of course) we don’t know which documents are infallible to begin with.

    Every blessing in Christ,

    Marty.

  42. John,

    I have read what you say about Penal Sub and I disagree, I asked a Priest who does apologetics about this and he said that a Catholic can hold to Penal Sub.

    If by ‘penal substitution’ is meant that Christ bore our curse in the Anselmian sense, as I explained in a comment above, then Catholics can (and should) believe it. But Catholics cannot hold to “penal substitution” if by it one means that at the Cross, God the Father poured out His wrath (for our sins) on His Son. For example, a Catholic cannot accept what R.C. Sproul says here:

    Sproul says (6’28”) “the One who was pure was pure no more.” That implies that for Sproul, Christ became impure, with all the impurity that was incurred by each and every sin that all the elect ever committed and will commit. If Christ were impure, with the impurity of all such sins, that would entail that Christ in His human nature no longer participated in the divine nature (i.e. no longer had grace). But Christ, devoid of grace, could not merit anything; that would be Pelagianism. Then Sproul says (6’47”) that it was if the Father said to the Son, “God damn you”. But who is the “you” God the Father is damning? If it the second Person of the Trinity, then the error here is an implicit tri-theism, as though the Father can be separated from the Son, when in fact the Three Persons enjoy perfect, eternal and immutable beatitude with each other. But if the one being damned is not the second Person of the Trinity, then it must be a non-divine person, because a nature is not a ‘you’. And that is Nestorianism. But Catholics can accept neither tri-theism nor Nestorianism.

    In addition, the due penalty for [mortal] sin is eternal separation from God. But Christ did not (and cannot) be separated from God (since He is God). Not only that, but He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, not in hell. So, on the penal substitution model in which the Father pours out His wrath on His Son for our sins, it would follow that Christ did not endure the full penalty for these sins. That means that God either has to cancel the remaining debt of punishment for these sins (which makes Christ’s suffering pointless, since if He were going to cancel 99.99…% of the debt, why make His Son go through all this suffering?), or, that even the elect (who committed even one mortal sin during their lifetime) have to pay the remaining debt of punishment, by spending eternity in hell (i.e. no one is saved, which again, makes Christ’s suffering pointless).

    Moreover, a Catholic cannot believe that Christ died only for the predestined. It is “impious, blasphemous, contumelious, dishonoring to divine piety, and heretical” to believe that Christ died only for the predestined. (Cum occasione, 5) Nor may a Catholic believe that Christ died only for the elect and the faithful. (Errors of the Jansenists, condemned by Pope Alexander the VIII) We believe that Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (Trent Session 6, chapter 2) But if the nature of the atonement is such that God the Father poured out all His wrath for all human sin on Christ, then it follows that no one else can receive the wrath of God (for it was all poured out on Christ), and hence no one can go to hell, and (since there is no other place to go) that everyone is saved and goes to Heaven (i.e. universalism is true). But such an implication is incompatible with the condemnation by Pope Pius IX of the following proposition, “Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.” (Syllabus of Errors, 17). So for this reason, it logically follows that a Catholic cannot accept penal substitution understood in the sense of God pouring out His wrath on Christ for our sins.

    Furthermore, the Council of Trent teaches de fide that Christ, through His passion and death, merited reward from God. (Session 6, chapter 7) But one who is impure with all the sins of the whole world, and is punished with the punishment that is due for that sin, merits no reward, for his punishment is what is due to him. Christ can only merit reward for His suffering and death if He did not deserve His suffering and death. But only if He was not impure (i.e. only if He was sinless) would He not deserve His suffering and death. Hence, for that reason also, a Catholic cannot accept Sproul’s account of penal substitution.

    if one reads these without any Philosophical presuppositions, which if you use Aristotle, Plato etc then one can see that Penal Sub is exactly what Scripture says about Jesus’s atonement.

    The Catholic doesn’t seek to read Scripture in a presuppositionless manner, as if such a thing were even possible. Instead he tries to read and understand Scripture with the Church and through the eyes of the Church, i.e. through the tradition of the Fathers and the teachings of the Magisterium. To read Scripture with the mind of the Church is to read Scripture with the mind of Christ. To try to read Scripture apart from the Church, is to make oneself like the Ethiopian eunuch, who could not understand what he was reading, without the guidance of the Magisterium (in his case a deacon). (Acts 8:31)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. Andrew,

    When I refer to “faith conjoined to agape“, I’m talking about faith informed by agape, also referred to as fides formata. See comment #13 above. I explained the nature of the relation between faith and charity in fides formata in more detail in my post titled “Justification: Divided over Charity“. This is quite a different understanding of the relation of charity to justifying faith than the Protestant notion, as described by R. Scott Clark, that “For us Protestants, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification.”

    Given that this is the fundamental issue separating Protestants and Catholics, according to Clark, then in order to justify remaining separate from the Catholic Church, the Protestant needs a rock-solid, slam dunk case from Scripture showing that charity is only the “fruit and evidence of justification”, and not that by which faith is made justifying.

    Regarding the second paragraph (in comment #37) you wrote:

    And it is not helpful or meaningful to call the Protestant position a matter of “private judgment” while the Catholic position is not.

    Propositions do not become meaningless (or less than meaningful) simply because you disagree with them. Claiming such is the equivalent of an ad hominem, essentially accusing your interlocutor of writing gibberish, and hence being insane. I too could respond by claiming that everything you say is meaningless, and simply dismiss it that way, and we would be no closer to agreement. To resort to this is to use brute power, instead of rational dialogue, to resolve our disagreement. So claiming that one’s interlocutor’s claim is meaningless is not permitted here at CTC, because it goes against the rules of rational discourse. Nor are propositions rightly evaluated by whether they are “helpful” or not, especially when the “with respect to what” is omitted. It is a sophistical way of dismissing a claim without actually refuting it. Propositions are rightly evaluated by whether they are true or false. If you think my claim is false, then show it to be false, or at least show that there is good evidence that my claim is not true.

    The position that the RCC came to at Trent was just one set of a number of sets of theological opinions prevalent in the late Middle Ages.

    True. The same could be said for the conclusion of any Ecumenical Council. If the conclusion of an Ecumenical Council had to have been unanimously accepted by all parties *prior* to that Council in order for that conclusion to be binding and authoritative, then almost no decision of any Ecumenical Councils would be binding or authoritative, because almost all the Councils were called to resolve pre-existing theological disagreements. So the fact of there being differing theological opinions prior to Trent, which were then addressed by Trent, in no way lessens the authority of Trent’s decisions about those issues.

    The statements of the Reformed Churches reflect another set of opinions prevalent in the late Middle Ages. Why should one set be labeled as the product of private judgment?

    Because what you refer to as “Reformed Churches” were just the assembling together of dissident lay-Catholics (not having been sent or authorized by the Church’s authorities) who shared the same interpretation of Scripture arrived at by their own private judgment. When two or more people who have reached their theological position by private judgment come together, the fact of their coming together does not mean that their shared position was not reached by private judgment.

    And I would add that the Protestant confessions could hardly be said to be the product of private interpretation because the statements on justification are remarkably unified from one confession to another even though they were composed by different men in different times and different geographies.

    Nothing about “private judgment” precludes different sets of individuals from reaching the same conclusion. So the fact of different persons reaching the same interpretation by private judgment does not make it any less the result of private judgment. This is precisely why there are so many different Protestant denominations; people seek out those who share their own interpretation of Scripture. What makes it private judgment is that it was *not* done by those having the authority to do it, or to speak for the Church, as I showed in comments #15, 65, and 74 of this thread. It was done, rather, in the way that Nadab and Abihu acted in an unauthorized way (Lev 10), and the way Korah, On, Datham and Abiram (notice that they acted together) took authority to themselves (Num 16), saying, “for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourself above the assembly of the LORD?” They justified their behavior against the divinely established authority by charging Moses with “lording it over them”. (Num 16:13) Merely because a group of dissidents acts together, doesn’t make them “another Church”.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  44. Marty,

    We discover the meaning of words (and phrases and sentences) from the context in which they’re used. That’s just a semantic fact, and this is the assumption from which the rest of my comments will flow. In short, the RC problem is it’s lack of attention to precise exegesis.

    Again, this begs the question. (Bear with me; I’ll explain.) But the fact that you don’t recognize it as begging the question shows why this schism has endured for almost 500 years. The Church has never believed that *the* way Christians are to discover the meaning of the words of Scripture is from their context. Of course the Church has recognized that the context is an essential guide in interpreting and understanding Scripture. But the Church has never seen herself as having received a book that must then be interpreted. The Church has always seen herself as having already received the deposit of faith, from Christ, and from the Apostles themselves (in person), before receiving the written Word. Christ taught the meaning of the Old Testament to the Apostles, and they subsequently taught it to those whom they ordained to succeed them. They also taught the gospel (the entire deposit of the faith they had received from Christ) to their successors. The role of the Church’s magisterium was to preserve and explain what had been entrusted to them and explained to them by the Apostles, not to figure out the meaning of a book that, as it were, simply fell from Heaven. Your lexical prescription to discovering the meaning of Scripture reflects a mindset that is entirely foreign to the Church. It is if we are on the outside (of Scripture), trying to get in. Whereas, for the Catholic Church, she is already on the inside of Scripture, seeking to hand on and explain what she already knows, to the faithful. So your approach carries with it the presupposition that the meaning of Scripture was not entrusted to the successors of the Apostles, and that there is no Magisterium. Thus, your approach is not a *neutral* presupposition; it is a question-begging presupposition, because it presumes the falsity of Catholicism. As Pope Benedict (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) said:

    Finally, the exegete must realize that he, does not stand in some neutral area, above or outside history and the Church. Such a presumed immediacy regarding the purely historical can only lead to dead ends. The first presupposition of all exegesis is that it accepts the Bible as a book. In so doing, it has already chosen a place for itself which does not simply follow from the study of literature. It has identified this particular literature as the product of a coherent history, and this history as the proper space for coming to understanding. If it wishes to be theology, it must take a further step. It must recognize that the faith of the Church is that form of “sympathia” without which the Bible remains a closed book. It must come to acknowledge this faith as a hermeneutic, the space for understanding, which does not do dogmatic violence to the Bible, but precisely allows the solitary possibility for the Bible to be itself. (“Biblical Interpretation in Crisis”)

    And the Council of Trent decreed:

    Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published. (Session 4)

    And the First Vatican Council decreed:

    8. Now since the decree on the interpretation of Holy Scripture, profitably made by the Council of Trent, with the intention of constraining rash speculation, has been wrongly interpreted by some, we renew that decree and declare its meaning to be as follows: that in matters of faith and morals, belonging as they do to the establishing of Christian doctrine, that meaning of Holy Scripture must be held to be the true one, which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture.

    9. In consequence, it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers. (Session 3, Chapter 2)

    And at the Second Vatican Council the conciliar fathers likewise declared:

    But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

    It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. (Dei Verbum, Chapter II)

    Your lexical approach, by contrast, presupposes that the mind of Christ contained in the Scriptures is determined by matching it to the minds of those pagans contemporary to the writing of Scripture, as these words have been collected in lexicons. But the wisdom of God is greater than the wisdom of man, and the Word of God exceeds the words of men. Hence the meaning of the Word of God is not restricted to the meaning of the words of men. For example, just because pagans used the word dikaiow only in a forensic sense, it does not follow that when God (the Holy Spirit) uses this term in Scripture, it must be meant only in a forensic sense. Why should God’s justification of men be limited in its nature only to what pagans can do (i.e. merely declare righteous, without actually making righteous)? God is greater than man. Hence, this lexical approach carries with it not just anti-ecclesial presuppositions, but anti-theistic presuppositions, in the way I just explained in the example of justification. Call that hermeneutical naturalism. For Catholics, the interpretation of Scripture belongs to those whom Christ authorized, i.e. the Apostles and their successors. They have the mind of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ. The lexical approach that you advocate is fine when used under the guidance and auspices of holy Mother Church. Understanding the contemporary sense of terms as used by the human authors of Scripture can help us deepen our understanding of Scripture and its meaning. But when this method is used as though there is no holy Mother Church, it presupposes that Catholicism is false. So the three presuppositions you are bringing to the table, and by which you are begging the question are: (1) ecclesial deism, as I explained above, (2) hermeneutical naturalism, and (3) the falsity of Catholicism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. I’m pretty sure that Sproul’s doctrine of penal substitution gets no actual sin into Christ. His thinking is rooted in imputation, not infusion. I learned my doctrine of salvation at Sproul’s feet and figure that my current thoughts are pretty close his.

  46. Hi Bryan, et al
    I am a Reformed Protestant who has read the post and comments, attempting to follow along as best I can. If I may weigh in on a few items, as I see them.

    I understand the point of your post is from #32 that the Biblical case for justification by [faith conjoined to agape] (fides formata) is just as strong if not stronger, than the Biblical case for justification by faith alone, though this faith is always accompanied by agape. If my argument is a sound argument (or even if the Biblical evidence is a toss-up), then it follows that the Catholic Church’s decision at Trent gets the benefit of the doubt over the private interpretive judgments of the early Protestants.

    Further, Protestants have called you on the carpet on the body of your post, in #’s 8, 20-22, with good reasons- From you in #26, a further clarification -The issue is whether agape is only merely co-present when faith is justifying, and not constitutive of the necessary state of the soul for justification…If you wish to show my argument to be flawed, you would need to make a case showing that the Biblical evidence shows that justification is by [faith not conjoined to agape].

    However, speaking as a Protestant here-If the state of your soul does not include regeneration, which imparts saving faith with agape, and works forthcoming, you are not saved at all. There actually is no tenable Biblical argument in ‘faith alone’ that leads to a dead faith which then finds you justified before God. You are asking for something that does not exist biblically that I can see. Maybe you can correct me, perhaps- or show me where I misunderstand. i would always assume that when it is faith alone that justifies, it is saving faith!

    Paragraph 2 and 3 appear to be caricatures of the Protestant position, as I personally have never known a Protestant that believes that saving faith is devoid of agape, or works, period- as Ephesians 2:8-10 show that these works are prepared beforehand by God for us to do.

    You tackle the Protestant ‘biggies’ of Romans and Galatians and add-

    Because the Protestant believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is meaning “faith and not agape.” The Catholic, by contrast, believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is using the term here in a broader sense, such that the other two theological virtues (i.e. hope and agape) are included together with it.

    This claim is false, as has been pointed out, it is not mere faith, it is saving faith, which includes, as you show the Catholic does, hope and Agape. But in regards to justification, St. Paul is saying faith- and not works- justifies, as they are contrasted as being in antithesis 4:4-5

    4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.

    5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

    There are those who work, and need to work perfectly in the Law, and there are those who do not work, but believe in Him, and that is credited as righteousness. Now the Bible, as you have shown, is jam-packed with descriptions of the type of faith that one needs to have if one is saved. That then is the type of faith Paul would refer to in a positive sense at all times, so I am stuck then wondering why anybody would be able to read the NT and come away thinking what you seem to apply that Protestants do- that faith is sans agape. Faith is a gift, a grace, and it comes with the whole package when it comes at all. You either have it, or you don’t.

    Okay, thank you and God bless,
    Garret

  47. Garret, I’ll admit from the outset that I’ve not read this article (I’m reading two others and there’s only so much time!), but the Reformed doctrine of justification doesn’t have a problem with agape, ergoi, elpis or anything else present with faith in justification, in fact ordinarily speaking, they must be. Justification is not on account of accompanying graces, but it not without them.

    Westminster Confession of Faith 11:1-2:

    I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

    II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

    Just because love, works, and hope are *with* faith (even necessarily so), doesn’t mean that justification is on account of them or through them. You may want to brush up on your Reformed doctrine and be weary of understanding it though the lens of its enemies. As to Marty, from my brief reading of him, I think he’s thinking biblically.

    Have a great Lord’s Day!

  48. Bryan:

    When I asked the Priest about Penal Sub I asked it in the meaning that you seem to be against and the way that RC Sproul holds to it and he said that a Catholic may hold to that view. Tim Prussic also commented and I agree with both what RC Sproul stated in that video and what Tim Prussic says here as a follow-up:

    “I’m pretty sure that Sproul’s doctrine of penal substitution gets no actual sin into Christ. His thinking is rooted in imputation, not infusion. I learned my doctrine of salvation at Sproul’s feet and figure that my current thoughts are pretty close his.”

    Like I said earlier I hold to Penal Substitution the way Tim P and RC Sproul do and unless any Catholic can show me an OFFICIAL INFALLIBLE document or official Magisterial teaching of the Church that CLEARLY states that a Catholic cannot agree with or hold to Penal Substitution then I will continue to hold that view.

  49. Dear Bryan,

    Of course the Church has recognized that the context is an essential guide in interpreting and understanding Scripture. But the Church has never seen herself as having received a book that must then be interpreted. The Church has always seen herself as having already received the deposit of faith, from Christ, and from the Apostles themselves (in person), before receiving the written Word.

    With all due respect Bryan this is ridiculous. All words whether written or spoken have meaning in context. Whether they are written or orally delivered makes no difference when it comes to semantics. This is just basic linguistics.

    It’s obvious that Trent’s reading of justification from the Bible is wrong linguistically, but you are telling me to throw out how language works and blindly believe the “Church” (whatever that is). Indeed, I have to assume that words have meaning in context to understand your email.

    Yours with no question begging,

    Marty.

  50. Perhaps these bits from Francis Turretin will help clarify the Reformed perspective on the relation between faith, hope and love in justification:

    The question is not whether faith alone justifies to the exclusion either of the grace of God or the righteousness of Christ or the word and sacraments (by which the blessing of justification is presented and sealed to us on the part of God) which we maintain are necessarily required here; but only to the exclusion of every other virtue and habit on our part….

    According to Turretin, there is a sense in which “every other virtue and habit” are excluded from justification per sola fide. But notice that he immediately writes the following:

    The question is not whether solitary faith (i.e., separated from the other virtues) justifies (which we grant could not easily be the case, since it is not even true and living faith); but whether it “alone” (sola) concurs to the act of justification (which we assert); as the eye alone sees, but not when torn out of the body…. The coexistence of love in him who is justified is not denied; but its coefficiency or cooperation in justification is denied. The question is not whether the faith “which justifies” (quae justificat) works by love (for otherwise it would not be living but dead); rather the question is whether faith “by which it justifies” (qua justificat) or in the act itself of justification, is to be considered under such a relation (schesei) (which we deny).

    (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Sixteenth Topic, Eighth Question, V-VI.)

    The relevant distinction here can be cast in terms of the different modes of perseity, a per se relation being one in which a thing is know through itself rather than by inference. On the Catholic model, love belongs to justifying faith per se as a matter of definition. “Justifying faith is formed by love” is analogous to “Man is rational”. On the Reformed model, love belongs to justifying faith per se as a matter of material causality. “Love is always present with justifying faith” is analogous to “A living body is always present with the act of sight”. In the first case, “love” is an essential predicate of the subject justifying faith. In the second case, “love” is a proper accident of justifying faith.

    Obviously, both modes of perseity involve an intimate relation between faith and love. But it remains the case that in Reformed theology love is excluded from faith (sola fide) in the sense that, in the act of justification, faith is not considered in relation to love. What is hereby underscored is the fact that Catholic and Reformed Christians understand the formal cause of justification in very different ways. I submit that this is a big difference, and that the seemingly little difference over the per se relation of justifying faith and love is an essential point in the larger discussion.

  51. When I refer to “faith conjoined to agape“, I’m talking about faith informed by agape, also referred to as fides formata. See comment #13 above. I explained the nature of the relation between faith and charity in fides formata in more detail in my post titled “Justification: Divided over Charity“.

    Bryan,

    In this article you refer to above, after quoting Clark you say that “Clark suggests that the fundamental point of disagreement between Catholics and Protestants regarding justification is whether charity is or is not necessarily present with justifying faith as its form”
    But just as in your post here, this is not the main issue. Clark goes on to say quite clearly in his article that “We are not justified on the basis of anything in us or anything wrought in us.” This is the central issue. Can we say that our works are credited to us in justification or are we justified apart from our works? Your talk about whether or not charity accompanies justification does not state the distinction properly. And yes, we do have a very strong argument from Scripture that we are justified by faith apart from works for those who will hear it.

    Propositions do not become meaningless (or less than meaningful) simply because you disagree with them. Claiming such is the equivalent of an ad hominem, essentially accusing your interlocutor of writing gibberish, and hence being insane.

    Take a look at your Post #32. You throw out this statement about “private interpretive judgments of the early Protestants.” You just state this with no attempt at a proof as if it is obviously correct. But do you see that just stating something like this does not make it true? What if I just say in an argument that Catholics add unbiblical tradition to Scripture? Is this an argument just because I say it? Now maybe it’s true and maybe I’ve demonstrated it before, but if in a given discussion I just say it as if it is self-evidently true then I imagine you won’t be impressed, right? So you need to back up statements rather than just making unproven assertions which you know we disagree with. When you do this, Bryan, it is hurtful to the cause of dialogue. It’s not helpful to Protestant Catholic discussions. I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to either 1) prove your statements or 2) not make them.

    The same could be said for the conclusion of any Ecumenical Council. If the conclusion of an Ecumenical Council had to have been unanimously accepted by all parties *prior* to that Council in order for that conclusion to be binding and authoritative,

    If you are just going to assume that Trent is correct then the discussion is over. But obviously that is a point of distinction between us. Trent was all about Rome and expressed Rome’s will. Trent stands in stark contrast to the ecumenical councils of the Early Church where Rome had precious little involvement.

    because what you refer to as “Reformed Churches” were just the assembling together of dissident lay-Catholics (not having been sent or authorized by the Church’s authorities) who shared the same interpretation of Scripture arrived at by their own private judgment..

    This is hardly a correct assessment of the elders, bishops, and theologians of the Reformed Churches. Come on, “dissident lay-Catholics?” Both sides had their theologians and officers and both felt that the other side had chosen their officers incorrectly. Trying to discredit the leaders of the Reformed congregations that opposed Rome merely by sticking such labels on them is no sort of sound argument. And your charge that The Reformed convictions on Scripture were “arrived at by their own private judgment” is just another unproven statement. It makes no more sense than to say the Catholic theologians arrived at their convictions of Scripture by their own private judgment. All you are really stating is that the Reformers didn’t agree with Rome and your judgment is that Rome is correct.

  52. Tim P,

    In comment #45, you wrote:

    I’m pretty sure that Sproul’s doctrine of penal substitution gets no actual sin into Christ. His thinking is rooted in imputation, not infusion.

    This raises a very serious dilemma, as I pointed out here.

    That would either make the Father guilty of the greatest evil of all time (pouring out the punishment for all sin on an innocent man, knowing that he is innocent), or if Christ were really guilty and deserved all that punishment, then such suffering would be of no benefit to us.

    I recommend carefully reading the first five comments in that thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  53. With all due respect Bryan this is ridiculous.

    Manners, Marty. Why is it that “with all due respect” is almost invariably followed by something disrespectful?

    Bryan can obviously handle this comment himself, but since I am awake….

    (1) There is such a thing as “the root fallacy.” Picking up a lexicon and putting all the definitions in a row, corresponding to the words in the text, is not the same thing as exegesis.

    (2) Bryan’s point about the Church actually has hermeneutical implications. What kind of book is the Bible? By whom was it composed? What is different about reading and interpreting a book that is the word of God in some unique sense? Such literary and historical and theological questions must play into biblical exegesis lest we completely lose sight of reality (seen and unseen) and read these documents with a kind of reductive tunnel-vision, whether of the fundamentalist or naturalistic variety.

    (3) Specifically, Bryan’s comments about and citations of the Church’s perspective on the Bible help to establish what is, in reality, the context in which we must read the Bible if we are not to read it out of context, that is, in some artificially limited way.

    If it is the case that Our Lord established his Church in himself as his mystical Body, endowing her with the Holy Spirit of truth, thereby constituting her as the pillar and foundation of truth, then it clearly follows that any individual who interprets the Bible (and the Bible is a book about Jesus Christ, from beginning to end) in a manner contrary to the Body of Christ is actually misinterpreting the Bible. No one knows the things of Christ more fully than the Body of Christ, which has the mind of Christ.

    (4) Reading the Bible with the Church, submitting my own judgment to her judgment, is not exclusive of exegetical investigations. I submit to you that a thorough investigation of Sacred Scripture on the subject of God’s justification will not yield classical Reformed results. We have been seeing significantly different results come in for some time now. The picture that is emerging therefrom is in some ways quite harmonious with the Catholic view. So we are quite happy to challenge Protestant tradition on exegetical grounds.

  54. Garrett,

    First we need to understand carefully the difference between (1) justification by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone, and (2) justification by faith conjoined to agape, i.e. faith informed by agape. See Andrew Preslar’s comment #50, which clearly explains the difference.

    The argument of my post is that the evidence from Scripture supports the doctrine of justification by faith-conjoined-to-agape. Scripture does not support the “justification by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone” position over against the “justification by faith conjoined to agape” position. And since even a 50-50 toss-up between one’s own interpretation of Scripture and the decision of the Church is obviously not sufficient grounds to justify forming or remaining in schism, therefore, given the Scriptural evidence on this question, and given the Church’s teaching that justification is by faith informed by agape, this is not an issue for which schism can be justified.

    In order to justify forming or remaining in schism over this issue (if it were possible to justify schism at all), one would need to provide knock-down biblical evidence showing that the “justification by faith conjoined to agape” position is false.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  55. Dear Andrew,

    Feel free to call me on “manners” but I was not attacking Bryan only his position. The whole point of using the intro “with all due respect” is to show one respects the person but not their opinion. That’s just how it’s used in common parlance. I’m sorry if it’s caused offense, please accept my apologies.

    (1) There is such a thing as “the root fallacy.” Picking up a lexicon and putting all the definitions in a row, corresponding to the words in the text, is not the same thing as exegesis.

    I haven’t been talking about this.

    (2) Bryan’s point about the Church actually has hermeneutical implications. What kind of book is the Bible? By whom was it composed? What is different about reading and interpreting a book that is the word of God in some unique sense? Such literary and historical and theological questions must play into biblical exegesis lest we completely lose sight of reality (seen and unseen) and read these documents with a kind of reductive tunnel-vision, whether of the fundamentalist or naturalistic variety.

    Yes, it has hermeneutical implications, that’s precisely my point. But the hermeneutics of which Bryan spoke are unworkable (is that less offensive than ridiculous?).

    (3) Specifically, Bryan’s comments about and citations of the Church’s perspective on the Bible help to establish what is, in reality, the context in which we must read the Bible if we are not to read it out of context, that is, in some artificially limited way.

    If it is the case that Our Lord established his Church in himself as his mystical Body, endowing her with the Holy Spirit of truth, thereby constituting her as the pillar and foundation of truth, then it clearly follows that any who interprets the Bible (and the Bible is a book about Jesus Christ, from beginning to end) in a manner contrary to the Body of Christ is actually misinterpreting the Bible. No one knows the things of Christ more fully than the Body of Christ, which has the mind of Christ.

    Well, again I wish RCs would read the Bible carefully. The “mind of Christ” in 1 Cor. 2:16 is (in context) a reference to the apostles and their unique role in the church. It’s not a reference to some ongoing magisterium — itself a late idea; that’s alien to the context. The word of the apostles (who were led into all truth John 14:26, 16:13) stands above the church, and those who reject it can’t be in the church (1 Cor. 14:37, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:14 etc.).

    (4) Reading the Bible with the Church, submitting my own judgment to her judgment, is not exclusive of exegetical investigations. I submit to you that a thorough investigation of Sacred Scripture on the subject of God’s justification will not yield classical Reformed results. We have been seeing quite different results come in for some time now. The picture that is emerging therefrom is in some ways quite harmonious with the Catholic view. So we are quite happy to challenge Protestant tradition on exegetical grounds.

    Well as I’ve said to Bryan, I don’t know how to read the Bible with the RC Church, because there is no unanimity on what is infallible and what is not in the RCC. There are as many interpretations of church documents as there are Catholics. RCC teaching is a chimera, as Vatican II clearly showed.

    I’ve thrown down the gauntlet for RCs to show me one place in the NT where justification = “to make righteous” and as yet have only received replies about believing the “Church” (whatever that is).

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  56. Marty,

    I will stick with the numbering I gave in #53.

    (1) Nope it’s not begging any question, it’s a lexical fact. Dikaioo doesn’t have the meaning of “make righteous” as Rome defines it. Nowhere. Read on. (#41, emphasis added)

    This is why I brought up the root fallacy, although in this case “lexical fallacy” would have been more accurate. Given that you have made no exegetical arguments in any of your comments (though you have made several assertions), this “lexical fact” stands pretty much by itself. If we take the LXX into account, then the dik- word group (hence, the lexicon) takes on contours of meaning that are not easily reducible to the forensic alone. It is undeniable that St. Paul is working within some kind of covenant theology, and that this is rooted in the covenant promises made to Israel. The “righteousness of God” and “justification of the ungodly” are operative within this (biblical) covenant context. This fact alone does not prejudice the case against either the forensic or the ontological and transformative dimension of God’s creative speech (“justified”), nor are these categories mutually exclusive. In short, what “justification” means in its NT context is largely dependent upon what God is doing and who God is.

    If you have a case to make for a reductive reading of “justification / righteousness” then please do so.

    (2) Yes, it has hermeneutical implications, that’s precisely my point. But the hermeneutics of which Bryan spoke are unworkable (is that less offensive than ridiculous?).

    “Unworkable” is more polite than “ridiculous.” I think you knew that, though. But the claim is no less false. Reading the Bible with the Church actually works quite well, especially if one’s aims are to know truth, avoid schism and, in general, repudiate the modernistic idolatry of one’s own self.

    (3) Well, again I wish RCs would read the Bible carefully. The “mind of Christ” in 1 Cor. 2:16 is (in context) a reference to the apostles and their unique role in the church. It’s not a reference to some ongoing magisterium — itself a late idea; that’s alien to the context.

    Again, you are only making (supercilious) assertions. When Our Lord gave the Apostles the commission to teach the nations all things, claiming “lo, I am with you always, even to the ending of the age,” he does not seem to have envisioned a time at which the Church would cease to teach, nor he to be with her. The Apostles died, but the Apostolic Church lives on. This is the Body of Christ, which teaches per the command of Christ, guided by the promised Holy Spirit. Since you seem to think that the Body of Christ no longer has the mind of Christ, then you must believe that the Church has been decapitated. Catholics are persuaded otherwise. Therefore, we continue to read Sacred Scripture with the Church, submitting our opinions to her conclusions.

    (4) Well as I’ve said to Bryan, I don’t know how to read the Bible with the RC Church, because there is no unanimity on what is infallible and what is not in the RCC.

    It is true that there is not complete unanimity on the identity of all doctrines which have been infallibly taught. But that is not the same thing as no agreement. Virtually all Catholics recognize the same general councils (with some shades of opinion regarding the status of some parts of some medieval councils), believing that the dogmatic pronouncements of these councils have been infallibly made. Likewise, the ex cathedra dogmas concerning the Virgin Mary are universally recognized as infallible. Furthermore, the ordinary Magisterium of the Church through the ages has taught many things in an infallible way, and there is no question about the status of these doctrines, even though they have never been solemnly defined (e.g., the perpetual virginity of Mary).

    In any case, a teaching does not have to be solemnly defined as infallible, generally received as infallible, or even intended to be infallible before a member of the Catholic Church should submit to that teaching. And if we have been graced with even just one infallibly taught doctrine, it is one more than the Protestant churches have received.

    There are as many interpretations of church documents as there are Catholics. RCC teaching is a chimera, as Vatican II clearly showed.

    It is true that not all Catholics immediately understand the full significance of Magisterial teaching. There can be, and have been, various degrees of confusion about how to receive and apply the teaching of the Church. Vatican II is a case in point. Furthermore, some Catholics both understand and disagree with Magisterial teaching. For those in the first category, the Magisterium continues to teach. I assume that you have been in a classroom where a student, perhaps even yourself, did not at first understand the teacher’s instruction. What happened? Did everyone throw their hands up and say, “The teaching in this classroom is a chimera”? Probably not. Nor do we. As for disruptive and contradictory students: that is why there is such a thing as discipline.

    I’ve thrown down the gauntlet for RCs to show me one place in the NT where justification = “to make righteous” and as yet have only received replies about believing the “Church” (whatever that is).

    I would not describe what you have done here as “throwing down the gauntlet.” As for places in the NT where justification means to make righteous: I refer you to the many passages cited in Bryan’s article.

  57. Dear Andrew,

    You’ve drawn attention to my “manners” (of which I apologized) but in your response have:

    1. Accused me of wrong motives (something you could never know) [‘”Unworkable” is more polite than “ridiculous.” I think you knew that, though’].

    2. And you yourself have used language that could be construed as demeaning (“supercilious”).

    Either do what you want me to do, or just let it go.

    Now to your post.

    1. Show me one place in the NT where dikaioo unambiguously means “to make righteous”. I’ve argued in previous comments that it means either “to prove righteous” or “to declare righteous” (in a legal setting). The LXX background may or may not be useful–we can only tell once we examine the NT texts. Just show me one unambiguous text.

    2. When you draw attention to Christ’s words “I will be with you to the very end of the age” you read a whole host of ideas about church authority into it that simply isn’t there. Christ being “with” his people says nothing about authority of the church. It’s classic RC eisegesis. Moreover, Matt. verse has nothing to do with the texts I adduced about apostolic authority once for all.

    3. You can speak all you like about some teachings not being infallible but yet RCs being bound to them, but what infallible authority tells you this? That’s precisely the problem. The RC doctrine of infallibility (esp. Vatican I’s definition) is ambiguous and thus unworkable in reality. For example, who infallibly says which council is infallible? Until you have an infaalible statement defining which other church pronouncements are infallible, there is no such thing as the teaching of the “Church”.

    4. As for gauntlets go back and read my comments about the meanings of justification and interact with those. I’m not going to repeat myself in every post I make.

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  58. May I ask the extent to which the discoveries of the scrolls in the Judean Desert have helped / undermined the RCC case on the meaning of justification / rightousness esp with an eye to the NPP. The Reformed decry the NPP as leading to Rome and yet Wright’s understanding of justification / righteousness is forensic not transformative though the latter inevitably flows from the former.

  59. Dear Andrew M.,

    You write: “Trent was all about Rome and expressed Rome’s will. Trent stands in stark contrast to the ecumenical councils of the Early Church where Rome had precious little involvement.”

    You are completely wrong. Ephesus, Chalcedon, Nicea II, and Constantinople IV, anyone?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  60. Dear Marty,

    You said: “Well as I’ve said to Bryan, I don’t know how to read the Bible with the RC Church, because there is no unanimity on what is infallible and what is not in the RCC. There are as many interpretations of church documents as there are Catholics. RCC teaching is a chimera, as Vatican II clearly showed.”

    Don’t you think more reflection would lead you to assert, with less exaggeration, that many faithful Catholics have similar interpretations of most Church documents, and that this similarity tends to increase as the level of dogmatic authority of the document increases? Do you really believe that Catholic teaching is a “chimera”? The expression you’re looking for must be: “Catholic teaching can be difficult to pin down.”

    If your assertions prove anything, they prove too much. If our teaching is a mere “chimera,” then why are we having a discussion in which you occasionally presuppose that we are proclaiming a teaching about justification that is sufficiently clear for it to be false? Arguing with a chimera would presumably involve mere positive assertions on your part about what true teaching should be. But you have spent a little too much effort attacking Trent to make us believe that you really view Trent’s teaching as part of a Chimera. If Vatican II proves that we do not have a teaching on justification, why don’t you explain to this group of Catholics why that is the case? I am not intimidated by Vatican II, and I think we may know a little more about it than you do. Please tell us why Vatican II proves that my Church doesn’t have a teaching.

    Indeed, the accusation that your teaching is a mere chimera could be made more easily. If you refuse to admit that your Church’s teaching on, say, a moral issue, can’t be changed by a better interpretation of scripture, then in what sense can I put faith in any moral teaching of your personal branch of the Protestant schism? In another 50 years your Church, whatever it is, may start proclaiming to be good the very actions that it had previously proclaimed to be evil. If you are one of those Protestants whose Church is “you,” then the risk is even greater. It seems to have happened before in Protestant history. . .

    So why don’t you follow your own advice:

    “If you wish to bring Protestants and Catholics together (or convince Protestants of the RC position) it’s critical that both sides are presented faithfully, especially the Protestant position if one is writing from an RC perspective. It get’s tiresome reading this debate where the same old statements are just bandied back and forth by both sides.” Here you presuppose that there actually is an RC perspective, what I would call a C perspective. This is a better starting place for a useful discussion.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  61. John,

    In #48 you wrote:

    and unless any Catholic can show me an OFFICIAL INFALLIBLE document or official Magisterial teaching of the Church that CLEARLY states that a Catholic cannot agree with or hold to Penal Substitution then I will continue to hold that view.

    In #42 I showed from the Church’s authoritative documents that Sproul’s version of penal substitution, in which God the Father takes His wrath out on His Son, is incompatible with Church teaching. If you are looking for a Church document to use the term ‘penal substitution’ (in the R.C. Sproul sense), you probably won’t find it. But there are many false theological positions that are so outside the pale of orthodoxy that they have never needed to be explicitly condemned (because there was never a controversy within the Church concerning whether they were true); these are not condemned by name, but only at the level of their principles. And that is the case here, for the reasons I explained in #42. St. Anselm and St. Thomas both represent the Church’s position on the nature of the atonement; that is a doctrine of substitutionary atonement, but not one of *penal* [i.e. punishment] substitution. Sproul’s notion of God the Father pouring out His wrath on His Son, is not found in the Church Fathers or the Church Doctors. It is contrary to what the Church has taught and believed about the atonement. The Catholic approach to such questions is to subject oneself in humility to the mind and tradition of the Church, rather than to presume that one’s own interpretation (and that of those, such as Sproul, who are in schism from the Church) is superior to that of the Church through the ages as guided by the Holy Spirit.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  62. No doubt St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas are great theologians and doctors of the Church, you and I both agree that they are only two private theologians who venture their particular views. If one wants to push the idea that everything they wrote is somehow “infallible” and reflects the “mind of the Church” then you have some real problems IE St. Thomas Aquinas taught things about Marian dogma that a Catholic today cannot accept. This is the whole trouble with using Human Philosophy to explain things of God and what Scripture says, as Tertullian so excellently put it “What hath Jerusalem to do with Athens.” Again I will quote St. Paul:

    Col. 2:8: “Beware lest any man cheat you by Philosophy, and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ.”

    We as fallen Humans stumble at the scandal of the Cross. When St. Paul told the men of Athens about the the God who was Crucified they thought it was absurd foolishness and scandalous. We cannot sit in judgement of God and say that the way He chose to reconcile us to Him is “unjust”, “immoral”, and some how just plain “unfair”. The Lord tells us that His ways ways are not our ways. The Reformed are right, as creatures of God we must think God’s thoughts after Him by having the mind of Christ, not our fallen, wicked God-Hating Mind and attitude.

    Again, unless any Catholic can show me clear and unambiguous Infallible Magisterial Church documents that condemn Penal Substitution then I will continue to hold to that view. (BTW Yves Congar held that view as well, I will look it up later and post it here) .

  63. Dear K. Doran,

    Don’t you think more reflection would lead you to assert, with less exaggeration, that many faithful Catholics have similar interpretations of most Church documents, and that this similarity tends to increase as the level of dogmatic authority of the document increases?

    No. I think (for example) Trent is quite clear in its teachings on justification. Yes, some documents are clear. However, my point refers to “the level the level of dogmatic authority of the document”. That’s the problem. Infallibility of RC documents are a chimera. This is because infallibility has been defined defined so murkily (esp. at Vatican I), and hence there are a multitude of positions on it.

    Blessings,

    Marty.

  64. Marty,

    Re #57

    You’ve drawn attention to my “manners” (of which I apologized) but in your response have:

    1. Accused me of wrong motives (something you could never know) [‘”Unworkable” is more polite than “ridiculous.” I think you knew that, though’].

    2. And you yourself have used language that could be construed as demeaning (”supercilious”).

    I accused you of wrong motives? The first bit was a response to a direct question, in which you asked me if “unworkable” “is less offensive than ridiculous?” I answered your question, although it had every appearance of being rhetorical. I do not think that a rhetorical question necessarily proceeds from wrong motives, so your assertion is baseless.

    “Supercilious” is not demeaning, it is descriptive of this sentence: “I wish Roman Catholics would read the Bible more carefully.” Your wish is an expression of your assumption that Roman Catholics do not read the Bible carefully. You simply do not know whether everyone who comes to Catholic conclusions about the meaning of Scripture has been careless in so doing. It might be that some Roman Catholics have carefully considered the texts in their proper context and come to the conclusion that the classical Protestant doctrine of forensic justification to the exclusion of transformative righteousness is inadequate.

    Show me one place in the NT where dikaioo unambiguously means “to make righteous”.

    The transformative nature of justification is unambiguously presented in this place:

    4 but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7.

    Justification is predicated upon the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.

    Christ being “with” his people says nothing about authority of the church. It’s classic RC eisegesis.

    Really? Here is the passage:

    18* And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19* Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20* teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

    You do not see anything here about authority and teaching in relation to the promise of Christ’s abiding presence?

    The RC doctrine of infallibility (esp. Vatican I’s definition) is ambiguous and thus unworkable in reality.

    Here is the teaching of Vatican I on infallibility:

    The Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church. (citing the Council of Florence)

    This teaching is based squarely upon Matthew 16:16-19, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 22:31, John 21:15-17. It presupposes that the promises made to the Apostle Peter still apply in the Church. Our justification for this presupposition is that the Church has not been decapitated.

    Hence, the Council teaches:

    9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

    What is ambiguous about that?

    Since this definition was promulgated, one doctrine has been promulgated by the Pope with explicit recourse to the full infallibility of his office. That doctrine is universally recognized has having been infallibly taught. Therefore, the infallibility of Church teaching is no chimera, not even in the epistemic sense that you seem to be giving to that term.

    Since the Council, theologians have discussed and debated “the level of dogmatic authority” of other papal teachings. The Magisterium has offered guidance on this matter as well. That guidance is called teaching. It is true that various positions are allowed within certain parameters. But this does not negate the presence of those parameters.

    As I have said, when a teaching is not fully understood, we do not throw up our hands and cry “Chimera!” We continue to listen and learn, as the Church continues to teach.

    Until you have an infaalible statement defining which other church pronouncements are infallible, there is no such thing as the teaching of the “Church”.

    This is a non sequitur. Infallibility is not meant to replace the natural ability of all men to read and understand a text. If it were so designed, we would be involved in an infinite regress of infallible teaching explaining otherwise incomprehensible infallible teaching. E.g., An infallible list of infallible teachings would need to be verified as such by an infallible pronouncement about the infallibility of the infallible list. That is not how things work. Rather, infallibility is a gift of God in the living Church whereby doctrinal questions, whensoever they may arise, may be settled definitively, so to preserve the Church’s unity in truth and to encourage and assist the faithful.

  65. Here is another unambiguous presentation of justification as transformative:

    “And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)

    What is it that is reckoned as righteousness? His faith. Faith is a virtue inherent in the subject. The declaration of righteousness refers to this virtue, not to something extrinsic to the subject. Hence, the transformation of the subject from unrighteousness (not having faith) to righteousness (having faith) is part and parcel of justification.

  66. To Bryan RE Penal Substitution:

    I apologise earlier when I referred to Yves Congar and Penal Substitution, I meant Hans Urs Von Balthasar. I will quote from an essay about Von Balthsar’s view:

    In the Garden of Gethsemane is revealed the essence of Christ’s mission as Son—utter faithfulness to the Father that surrenders even to the obedience of the Cross, the will of the Father loved for it’s own sake. In the handing over of Jesus, however, we see a paradox. He is, on one hand, the principal actor, laying down His life freely. On the other hand, this self-giving entails that He be given over to others, to be handed over into the hands of sinners. Both of these “handings over” have their origin in the will of the Father who “did not spare His only Son but handed Him over for our sakes”—and so Jesus is handed over to the power of sin and death with nothing left but His faithful obedience.
    For Balthasar, the mission of Jesus is the Word of God’s loving mercy to a sinful world even in the face of the world’s rejection of His covenant. Yet it is also, at the very same time, the manifestation of the justice of God by which covenant breaking must be judged. Jesus is accused and condemned, but never seeks to defend Himself against these accusations, nor does he accuse those who condemn Him, manifesting, thereby, His self-surrender to human sin and to the wrath of God against it. Nevertheless, since He does not accuse, those for whom He bears accusation are pardoned, manifesting the love of God.
    Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is probably one of his most intriguing contributions since he interprets it as moving beyond the active self-surrender of Good Friday into the absolute helplessness of sin and the abandonment and lostness of death.
    In the Old Testament one of the greatest threats of God’s wrath was His threat of abandonment, to leave His people desolate, to be utterly rejected of God. It is this that Jesus experienced upon the Cross and in His descent into the lifeless passivity and God-forsakenness of the grave. By His free entrance into the helplessness of sin, Christ was reduced to what Balthasar calls a “cadaver-obedience” revealing and experience the full horror of sin. As Peter himself preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24; 32-33):
    [Jesus] being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; who God raised up, having abolished the birth pangs of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it…This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He pour out this which you now see and hear.
    We ought to pause and note the passivity that is expressed here. Christ experienced what God was doing through Him by His purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was truly dead and fully encompassed within and held by the pains of death and needed God to abolish them. He was freed from death by God, not simply by God’s whim, but because for God it was impossible that death should hold Christ. Christ Himself receives the Holy Spirit from the Father in order that He might pour out that Spirit. Balthasar writes:
    Jesus was truly dead, because he really became a man as we are, a son of Adam, and therefore, despite what one can sometimes read in certain theological works, he did not use the so-called “brief” time of his death for all manner of “activities” in the world beyond. In the same way that, upon earth, he was in solidarity with the living, so, in the tomb, he is in solidarity with the dead…Each human being lies in his own tomb. And with this condition Jesus is in complete solidarity.
    According to Balthasar, this death was also the experience, for a time, of utter God-forsakenness—that is hell. Hell, then, is a Christological concept which is defined in terms of Christ’s experience on the Cross. This is also the assurance that we never need fear rejection by the Father if we are in Christ, since Christ has experienced hell in our place.
    We can step back now and try to outline Balthasar’s broader soteriology.
    Balthasar seems to favor the category of “covenant” in his discussion of redemption and closely links that with the image of bridal union between God and man which is the goal of redemption in Christ. God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises is the well-spring of redemption, but also the cause of the dilemma. The difficulty is how can God remain faithful to His covenant promises to His bride—and God cannot deny Himself—when she remains unfaithful. The covenant-making God is a God of love who vows love to his bride, but the covenant itself is an establishment of order and justice which must be maintained and restored, and yet, the covenant-breaking bride is in no position to restore it.
    Of course, the solution is in Christ—but how are we precisely to understand what Christ has accomplished. Balthasar is aware of the various systems developed throughout Church history to give us that understanding, but He is wary of any attempts at a theological synthesis that sees itself as complete since human categories of thought cannot capture the full reality, but only illumine it from various perspectives.
    Balthasar lists five aspects of redemption that are prominent in Scripture of which one must not be emphasized at the expense of the others. Frist, there is the double-movement of Father and Son; the Father gives up the Son and the Son is willing to lay down His life. Second, there is the exchange of places between Jesus and the sinner (the admirabile commercium), so that the Son becomes sin that sinners might be sons. Third, there is freedom and deliverance from the power of darkness, from the devil, from the slavery of sin, from the elemental powers of the world. Fourth, there is also a freedom which is not merely a freedom from, but that opens unto the freedom of faithful obedience of life in God. Finally, there is the source of the divine drama of redemption found in God’s own love.

    Sorry about the long quote but this is put better than I could put it. Apparently there is room in Catholic Theology for the idea of Penal Substitution. I can find others, and I plan to. There are some who frame Penal Substitution in a way that is far from the Biblical model and make it sound crass and awful. Even when it is explained using sound and true Biblical exigesis it is a “hard teaching” and difficult to accept with our fallen Humanity that seeks itself rather than God and to think God’s thoughts after Him.

  67. Richard,

    Re #58

    Taylor Marshall, one of our very own here at CTC, has written about the relationship between contemporary critical exegesis of St. Paul and Catholic doctrine here. His book on the subject is coming out soon. Another member of CTC, John Kincaid, is writing his doctoral dissertation on modern Pauline scholarship and the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. So, what I am saying is that some among us are better equipped than I to answer your question. Taylor’s website is a good place to start.

    Here is a sample:

    Climax of the Covenant is great. What Saint Paul really said is a great little introduction that leads to the right questions.

    Jesus and the Victory of God is good but “over-eschatologizes” the Kingdom, which is an understandable tendency for Protestants since they don’t have a robust doctrine of the Church. If you combine this book with a healthy dose of preterism, you need a universal/catholic Church. This book led me to ask Catholic questions – which in turn led to Catholic answers.

    Also, the method Wright uses in The Resurrection of the Son of God could be used to demonstrate that the historical Church is the dogmatic Church.

    Once you start reading the New Testament with the new categories supplied by N.T. Wright, you begin looking for new answers. In my own experience, people who read Wright tend to become more liturgical and increasingly move to the margins of their denomination – OR – they begin to explore Catholicism and maybe eventually become Catholic. The latter is rare, but I expect that it will become more common. (link)

  68. Andrew said “Trent was all about Rome and expressed Rome’s will. Trent stands in stark contrast to the ecumenical councils of the Early Church where Rome had precious little involvement.”

    K. Doran responds You are completely wrong. Ephesus, Chalcedon, Nicea II, and Constantinople IV, anyone?

    K. Doran,

    First I would like to know why you did not include the first two councils in your list above. But let’s take Chalcedon as an example since this was the largest and most influential council on your list. There were several hundred bishops or presbyters present but just four delegates from Rome. The primacy of Peter was never mentioned. The involvement of Rome was quite small when compared with Trent which was all about Rome and the primacy of the Roman See. The discussions at Chalcedon were tributes to the counciliar spirit which pervaded Christendom at the time, but Trent was a tribute to the effectiveness of Rome in squashing anything that even smelt like conciliarism. There was a reform movement in the West known as Conciliarism that sprung up in the 14th and 15th centuries to try to bring back this ancient balance of power. The conciliarists showed up to Trent but their cause was lost – Rome was too powerful and was not about to relinquish the spiritual nor the political power she now possessed.

  69. Marty,

    In #49 you wrote:

    With all due respect Bryan this is ridiculous. All words whether written or spoken have meaning in context. Whether they are written or orally delivered makes no difference when it comes to semantics. This is just basic linguistics.

    I’m not concerned whether what I said seems ridiculous to you; I’m concerned whether what I said is true. (Even our Lord, who is Truth, was ridiculed.) And nothing you said shows anything I said not to be true. I agree with you that all words have meaning in context. But that is not the point that separates Protestants and Catholics. The point in question is whether the Apostles and their successors were entrusted with the deposit of faith and given interpretive authority in the Church. If so, then the meaning of Scripture is not merely a matter for the outsider to determine by lexical analysis, but first and foremost involves coming to Sacred Scripture within the bosom of holy Mother Church, as unveiled and unfolded to us by those to whom the deposit of faith was entrusted, and to whom interpretive authority was given. In that case, the merely lexical approach to Scripture fails to apprehend its true context, i.e. the life and liturgy of the Church. The context of Scripture is not merely within its pages, but is the living organism which is the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church. For that reason, Sacred Scripture can properly be understood only in and by the Church.

    It’s obvious that Trent’s reading of justification from the Bible is wrong linguistically,

    Claiming that Trent’s teaching on justification is wrong linguistically, simply begs the question. If by “wrong linguistically” you mean “is wrong from a perspective that considers only the meaning of terms according to lexicons consisting of meanings derived from pagan usages of these terms”, then you might be correct, but then the question is: Why should we care whether Trent’s teaching is “wrong linguistically”? But if you simply mean, “is false”, then the question is, “How do you know?” And if your answer to that question is: I know Trent’s teaching on justification is false, because it is “wrong linguistically”, then you’ve just moved in a circle.

    but you are telling me to throw out how language works and blindly believe the “Church” (whatever that is). Indeed, I have to assume that words have meaning in context to understand your email.

    I have not said or implied that anyone should “throw out how language works”. Nor have I claimed that anyone should blindly believe the Church. In order for us to have a productive conversation, try to avoid attributing to me claims I have not made. If you’re unsure, just ask. Yes we should believe the Church, not blindly, but with fides quaerens intellectum, i.e. faith seeking understanding. And yes, words have meaning in context. But, the lexical approach assumes that the context of the words of the books of the New Testament is identical to the context of the pagan world contemporary to the NT. That’s not a safe assumption, (nor does it avoid question-begging) because from the Catholic perspective the context of the NT is richer and more specified than that. The lexical approach leaves out this richer, thicker context. Let me explain.

    The Church is a family. If you were to come into my home, you would understand many things said in my family, but some things you wouldn’t get, because you wouldn’t have the inside-the-family point of view. That’s the richer context, the internal lived experience of my family. Likewise, since the Church is a family, there is an inside context that is richer and fuller than the outside context common to the pagans. This is the internal lived experience by those within the Church, those who knew these words before they were written, and shared the internal life in which those words were spoken and understood, and their meaning (as known from the inside) was handed down. So, that is why this lexical approach begs the question against the Catholic, by assuming that there is no inside-the-family perspective with respect to Scripture, which is the book of the Church family. In that respect, the lexical approach presupposes that there is no Church. And that presupposition is contrary to Scripture, which not only tells us that there is a Church, but reveals the divine promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  70. Bryan,
    I may or may not be making headway in my understanding here, let’s see. i believe we are looking at the synergism/monergism distinction You responded to me in #54

    I read #50 very carefully- these points are taken in consideration-

    But it remains the case that in Reformed theology love is excluded from faith (sola fide) in the sense that, in the act of justification, faith is not considered in relation to love.

    Saving faith is not something that the reformed believe comes from within oneself. Faith is a gift from God and comes with the package that includes love, charity, the fruits of the Spirit, etc. Before regeneration, you are dead in your sins per Eph. 2:1. This death excludes the ability outside of grace to seek the living god- you will not do so. The Turretin quote- “The coexistence of love in him who is justified is not denied; but its coefficiency or cooperation in justification is denied.” In the monergistic sense, the one way action of God is what saves- nothing from within yourself is added to God’s grace in order to justify yourself before God in anyway- it is HIS work in you. You bring nothing, it is grace, and grace alone in justification. This being the reformed position, that nothing is brought from you and added to grace (synergism), it seems self evident from that understanding to say that justification is not conjoined to…fill in the blank. If you will not have saving faith outside of God’s grace alone, faith alone, you have nothing, and all the agape you could muster from yourself will be meaningless in justification.

    So when you say- The argument of my post is that the evidence from Scripture supports the doctrine of justification by faith-conjoined-to-agape. Scripture does not support the “justification by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone” position over against the “justification by faith conjoined to agape” position.

    The agape that is conjoined is a product of what- the person, or of God? Am I right, is this a synergism/monergism distinction you are seeking? I can only assume you are talking about what the person brings (agape) to justify the person before God, versus what you would probably call the ‘legal fiction’ of Protestant justification by faith alone- one where the person brings nada, zip, zero.

    Am I hitting it, or missing, if so please advise.
    In His love-
    Garret

  71. Dear Andrew,

    I accused you of wrong motives? The first bit was a response to a direct question, in which you asked me if “unworkable” “is less offensive than ridiculous?” I answered your question, although it had every appearance of being rhetorical. I do not think that a rhetorical question necessarily proceeds from wrong motives, so your assertion is baseless.

    “Supercilious” is not demeaning, it is descriptive of this sentence: “I wish Roman Catholics would read the Bible more carefully.” Your wish is an expression of your assumption that Roman Catholics do not read the Bible carefully. You simply do not know whether everyone who comes to Catholic conclusions about the meaning of Scripture has been careless in so doing. It might be that some Roman Catholics have carefully considered the texts in their proper context and come to the conclusion that the classical Protestant doctrine of forensic justification to the exclusion of transformative righteousness is inadequate.

    This response tell me we’re not going to get anywhere in this discussion.

    The transformative nature of justification is unambiguously presented in this place:

    4 but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7.

    Justification is predicated upon the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.

    It doesn’t prove your point at all. What we have here is a number of pictures of what Christ has achieved in his cross work: salvation, regeneration, renewal, and justification. These are not all identical but describe the different perspectives of the Christ event. For example, justification can’t occur without regeneration but it’s not the same thing. Moreover the translation you cite doesn’t bring out the tense of “to justify”, which is something that has happened not an ongoing process, better translated “having been justified by his grace”.

    It’s clear from Rom. 5:16, 18 and Rom. 8:33-34 that justification for Paul (in soteriological contexts) is the polar opposite of condemnation (i.e. the law court metaphor). Hence, it must be the judges verdict of “not guilty” (the opposite of condemnation). This makes the RC very difficult to sustain.

    Really? Here is the passage:

    18* And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19* Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20* teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

    You do not see anything here about authority and teaching in relation to the promise of Christ’s abiding presence?

    Well if you read what’s written, Christ has been given all authority (in his resurrection ascension, Rom. 1:3-4). But there is nothing said about that authority being passed to the church for all time. The disciples are charged to teach what Christ taught them. But there is NO mention of some ongoing authority invested in the pope or bishops. It’s just a matter of reading what’s there, not reading INTO what’s there.

    The RC doctrine of infallibility (esp. Vatican I’s definition) is ambiguous and thus unworkable in reality.

    Here is the teaching of Vatican I on infallibility:

    The Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church. (citing the Council of Florence)

    This teaching is based squarely upon Matthew 16:16-19, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 22:31, John 21:15-17. It presupposes that the promises made to the Apostle Peter still apply in the Church. Our justification for this presupposition is that the Church has not been decapitated.

    Hence, the Council teaches:

    9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

    What is ambiguous about that?

    It’s quite simple really, it doesn’t explicitly define the conditions of EX CATHEDRA or “he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church”? The proof of the pudding is in the eating: there are a plethora of views about when the Pope is speaking infallibly. It hasn’t worked.

    Moreover, once one puts these sorts of conditions on infallibility, it is lost, because what’s to stop a later Pope saying “the previous conditions for infallibility are wrong, I’m now giving you what there right ones are”. Rome has basically made infallibility impossible.

    Secondly, Matt. 16:16-19, Luke 22:31, and John 21:15-17 says nothing about a succession of Popes let alone infallibility. One must read later alien ideas into the passage.

    Since this definition was promulgated, one doctrine has been promulgated by the Pope with explicit recourse to the full infallibility of his office. That doctrine is universally recognized has having been infallibly taught. Therefore, the infallibility of Church teaching is no chimera, not even in the epistemic sense that you seem to be giving to that term.

    That’s your own private interpretation of Vatican I, but there are a whole host of others. Who’s right? Unless we have an infallible statement about which statements are infallible, Papal infallibility is a chimera.

    Since the Council, theologians have discussed and debated “the level of dogmatic authority” of other papal teachings. The Magisterium has offered guidance on this matter as well. That guidance is called teaching. It is true that various positions are allowed within certain parameters. But this does not negate the presence of those parameters.

    The parameters haven’t been infallibly defined, so how can we know what they are. All you have is your opinion versus others.

    This is a non sequitur. Infallibility is not meant to replace the natural ability of all men to read and understand a text. If it were so designed, we would be involved in an infinite regress of infallible teaching explaining otherwise incomprehensible infallible teaching. E.g., An infallible list of infallible teachings would need to be verified as such by an infallible pronouncement about the infallibility of the infallible list. That is not how things work. Rather, infallibility is a gift of God in the living Church whereby doctrinal questions, whensoever they may arise, may be settled definitively, so to preserve the Church’s unity in truth and to encourage and assist the faithful.

    So then if we don’t start with an infallible set of truths, how can we proceed with any truth?

    Blessings,

    Marty.

  72. Dear Bryan,

    Thanks for your reply. I agree the church is a family and that Scripture is to be read and reflected upon in the context of the church. We just disagree on what the Church context is. But this is taking us away from our discussion on justification.

    I’ve challenged you to give me one verse where justification means “to make righteous” because I can’t find one. I find several other meanings in the NT, but not the one you propound.

    Moreover, I would want to challenge you and say that Trent should take the responsibility for schism because it shut the door to a right reading of Scripture on justification, esp. contrary to the appeals of Reginald Pole and co., and for reasons that were quite unjustified.

    God bless you brother,

    Marty.

  73. Marty,

    For example, justification can’t occur without regeneration but it’s not the same thing.

    As I pointed out in #50, the way that justification is related to regeneration, i.e., under what auspices faith is considered to be justifying, is at the heart of this great debate, although the matter seems to turn upon a philosophical nicety. You have simply asserted the Reformed opinion.

    In Titus 3.4-7, justification refers to regeneration in the sense that God declares that a person is righteous based upon the inward transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit in the person’s heart, whereby the righteousness of Christ is formed within that person. This interpretation is not dependent upon any particular rendering of the verb in verse 7. Likewise, in Romans 4:5 justification refers to faith, which is a quality inherent in the subject. Thus, as the Council of Trent clearly teaches, justification “is not only a 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 hope of life everlasting.”

    As to the rest, you might want to address whether the Church has been decapitated, or whether she yet has the mind of Christ. Also, understanding something is not predicated upon that thing being infallibly taught (hence, no infinite regress). This addresses your question about the identification of parameters. Finally, you have taken to repeating the “chimera” remark, although I have addressed the fallacy inherent in this claim several times already (#56, #64). You have not engaged these responses, which indicates that you are employing the phrase as something like a mantra. This does have an effect, but it is not that of persuasion.

  74. Dear Andrew,

    Thanks for the reply. Your reading of Titus 3:7 is unconvincing to me. It could be read the way you propose, but it also could be read several other ways just as easily (I think the Protestant reading is much easier). In other words this text doesn’t unambiguously prove your point. (I repeat Rom. 5:16, 18 and 8:33, 34 unambiguously define justification–are you ever going to interact with those?).

    A much easier reading is as follows. Justification in Titus 3:7 is “by his grace” (an instrumental dative, i.e. grace is not the basis but the instrument of justification). Here you make the assumption that grace = regeneration. However, (i) nowhere else in Scripture is this so, and (ii) in context Paul’s point is that salvation is by (instrumental) God’s “kindness” and “love” (v. 4) and “mercy” (v. 5) not by (instrument) “works of righteousness” (v. 5) (i.e. good works). In other words God’s grace (in this context) is akin to God’s kindness, love, and mercy.

    Salvation comes when God in his kindness (and grace!) regenerates a person’s heart so that by (instrumental) faith alone (although love is also present) a person is justified.

    I just can’t work out why RCs want to equate justification with regeneration and sanctification when it’s so clear they mean different things in the NT. They can’t be separated but they certainly aren’t identical. It’s not rocket science.

    As to the rest, you might want to address whether the Church has been decapitated, or whether she yet has the mind of Christ.

    Ok. I’ll repeat, Vatican II has caused all sorts of problems for the RCC, mainly because it made statements that contradict other church councils. As I said before, on the issue of no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican II is in plain contradiction to Lateran IV and Florence.

    Also, understanding something is not predicated upon that thing being infallibly taught (hence, no infinite regress). This addresses your question about the identification of parameters.

    Alas, it doesn’t. God’s word is infallible (in whatever form it comes to people). That’s the starting point for certain knowledge about God. The RCC can’t start there because its supreme authority (the Church) hasn’t clearly defined what’s infallible. Hence, the sea of opinion.

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  75. Andrew,

    In #51 you wrote:

    In this article you refer to above, after quoting Clark you say that “Clark suggests that the fundamental point of disagreement between Catholics and Protestants regarding justification is whether charity is or is not necessarily present with justifying faith as its form”
    But just as in your post here, this is not the main issue.

    No, that is exactly the issue I’m focusing on in this post. I’m not addressing (in this post) the role of works in justification, only the role of the supernatural virtue of charity in justification. The role of works is for a different post.

    Take a look at your Post #32. You throw out this statement about “private interpretive judgments of the early Protestants.” You just state this with no attempt at a proof as if it is obviously correct.

    Andrew, we’ve had this discussion before. None of the Protestants who started the first Protestant congregations were authorized to do so by their bishops. That is an objective fact. The Church would never have authorized people to start schisms from her. If you disagree, then please provide historical evidence/documentation showing that these first Protestants were authorized by the Church to start their own congregations, to ‘ordain’ their own pastors, to strip the altars, to stop celebrating the mass, write their own confessions, etc. They did all these things without the authorization of the Church, just as certain rogue Catholics today try to ordain women priests without the authorization of the Church.

    This is hardly a correct assessment of the elders, bishops, and theologians of the Reformed Churches. Come on, “dissident lay-Catholics?” Both sides had their theologians and officers and both felt that the other side had chosen their officers incorrectly.

    The bishops of the Church did not go with the Protestants when the Protestants left the Catholic Church. This is why Protestantism rejected apostolic succession and, for the most part, the distinction between bishop and priest (if they had had apostolic succession they would have appealed to it). Some priests did become Protestant, but they did so in disobedience to their bishops. Of course both sides had “theologians”, but ‘theologians’ do not have ecclesial authority, so that’s irrelevant. And the ‘officers’ had by the Protestants were mostly self-appointed or chosen and ‘authorized’ by these groups of lay Protestants; none were authorized to do what they did by their bishop. Luther’s advocacy of the “priesthood of all believers”, and his denial of Holy Orders and apostolic succession entailed that everyone had equal authority; ‘officers’ only had the authority granted to them by their congregations. Read Luther’s “That a Christian Congregation or Assembly has the Power to Judge All doctrine and to Call and Dismiss All Teachers, as proven by the Scriptures”, written in 1523, two years after being excommunicated. In that work you can see that Luther reduced Holy Orders to a mere ceremony that simply confirmed publicly what the congregation had done in choosing a pastor and entrusting him with the responsibility of expositing the Scripture. He writes:

    Because we are all priests of equal standing, no one must push himself forward and take it upon himself, without our consent and election, to do that for which we all have equal authority. For no one dare take upon himself what is common to all without the authority and consent of the community.

    By 1535 Luther had almost entirely rejected this position, because it was causing anarchy. So his method was to reject ecclesial authority (~1520) for just long enough to justify his own separation from the Church, and then, (1535) when significant disagreement arose within Lutheranism, to return to a hierarchical view of authority, wielding this authority himself over those who appealed to private judgment to do to him (and those Lutherans who agreed with him) what he had done to the Catholic Church. But it was too late; he had opened Pandora’s box by placing himself as the final interpretive authority, setting the precedent for everyone else to do the same.

    You seem to believe that the formation of Protestantism was a Church split involving one group of bishops staying, and another group of bishops leaving. But that’s inaccurate. It was a schism from the Church, not a dividing of the Church (since Christ cannot be divided – 1 Cor 1:13). Protestants followed Luther, who had been excommunicated, in leaving the Church, and starting their own sects. Those Protestants who left were mostly lay persons, not bishops, and none of those persons who left the Church had the permission of the Church to do so. In leaving the Church they followed their own private interpretation. The Catholics who didn’t leave, by contrast, followed their bishops.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  76. Dear Andrew M.,

    You said: “First I would like to know why you did not include the first two councils in your list above.”

    Relative to what we know about the later councils, I believe that we know little about the second council, and very little about the first council. Thus, people can argue from silence a large number of interpretations, which can only be properly assessed through careful consideration of context. Since your comment mentioned all councils before Trent, I thought we could be more efficient to consider ones of which we have more information.

    You said: ” But let’s take Chalcedon as an example since this was the largest and most influential council on your list. There were several hundred bishops or presbyters present but just four delegates from Rome.”

    The council was convened by the Empress Saint Pulcheria, who was anxious to restore the Empire to Roman Orthodoxy. She wrote that she had convened a council to be held “under the authority of the Pope, the overseer and guardian of the holy faith.” The Roman legates were the ecclesiastical presidents.

    You said: “The primacy of Peter was never mentioned. ”

    I have already mentioned the statement of the Empress who convened the council. I will now mention statements from the controversy leading up to the council and from the council itself:

    The controversy:

    Saint Peter Chrysologus: “but we exhort you. . . to attend obediently in all things to all that is written by the most blessed Pope of the city of Rome. For blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, grants the truth of the faith to those who ask him.”

    And again: “For we, for the love of peace and faith, cannot hear causes of faith without the consent of the Bishop of the city of Rome.”

    The council:

    the bishops cried in unison, after the reading Pope Saint Leo’s tome: “This is the faith of the Fathers. It is Peter who has spoken thus by Leo. We all believe so.”

    And again, regarding Dioscorus: “Wherefore, the most holy and most blessed Archbishop of great and elder Rome, by us and the present most holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and praiseworthy Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and base of the Catholic Church and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped him of the episcopal and of all sacerdotal dignity”

    You said: “The involvement of Rome was quite small when compared with Trent which was all about Rome and the primacy of the Roman See. The discussions at Chalcedon were tributes to the counciliar spirit which pervaded Christendom at the time. . .”

    Really? As Chapman explains: “The result in which later ages have rejoiced was produced by the energy of the Emperor in enforcing the uncontested supremacy of the Pope in matters of faith.” The council was convened by an Empress who intended to enforce Roman orthodoxy and thus convened the council under the authority of the Pope. The Pope’s legates presided. Under such circumstances, was there any more question that this council would unanimously proclaim Roman orthodoxy than that various councils held under Arian emperors would proclaim Arian beliefs?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  77. Marty,

    In #55 you wrote:

    Well, again I wish RCs would read the Bible carefully.

    We do, thank you. That’s why we read it with the Church, and not in an ecclesial vacuum.

    The “mind of Christ” in 1 Cor. 2:16 is (in context) a reference to the apostles and their unique role in the church.

    Your claim here begs the question, by presuming a Protestant rejection of apostolic succession. Apostolic succession did not come into the Church at some later point in time. Otherwise there would have been an uproar within the Church about it. Apostolic succession was practiced universally within the Church for 1500 years, and continues to be practiced to this day within the Catholic Church, and among the Orthodox.

    The word of the apostles (who were led into all truth John 14:26, 16:13) stands above the church, and those who reject it can’t be in the church (1 Cor. 14:37, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:14 etc.).

    The question is who determines authoritatively what is the “word of the apostles”. Just anyone, or those whom the Apostles themselves ordained and authorized to speak for them, i.e. in their name, just as Christ authorized the Apostles to speak for Him, i.e. in His name? From the Catholic point of view, only those with apostolic authorization may give the definitive determination of what is “the word of the apostles”. From the Protestant point of view, there is not and never has been (and never can be this side of heaven) a definitive determination of what is “the word of the apostles”. Protestantism’s rejection of apostolic succession entails that no one has apostolic authorization to make such definitive determinations for the Church, and hence every doctrine is still up in the air; even the canon is still up in the air. Every claim about the deposit of faith is uncertain. Every claim about the content of the gospel is uncertain. Catholics, by contrast, are not stuck in such epistemic murkiness. We have a definitive canon and definitive, infallible and irrevocable doctrines.

    I don’t know how to read the Bible with the RC Church, because there is no unanimity on what is infallible and what is not in the RCC.

    The reason you do not know how to read the Bible with the Church is precisely because your criterion for what counts as guidance from the Church is determined by “unanimity on what is infallible”. But the Church is not a democracy, nor is the authority of her teachings determined by counting noses. Nor has the Church ever told us that the way to find her guidance is by finding “unanimity on what is infallible”. If you’re looking at the Catholic Church through Protestant lenses, then of course you’ll be confused. There are objective criteria for what is infallible and what is not. If you want to learn them, just ask.

    I’ve thrown down the gauntlet for RCs to show me one place in the NT where justification = “to make righteous” and as yet have only received replies about believing the “Church” (whatever that is).

    Your gauntlet challenge presupposes a lexical approach to Scripture, which, as I have already showed in comment #69, begs the question by presupposing that there is no Church. If we’re to make progress in reconciling Protestants with the Catholic Church, we have to step back, so to speak, to the place where we’re not begging the question. And that point is the first century Church, because we believe that apostolic succession was already practiced then. And if it was practiced in the first century, then the Catholic (or Orthodox) position follows, as does what I have been saying about reading Scripture in and with the Church, rather than in an ecclesial vacuum, with only a lexicon in hand.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  78. John,

    Regarding #62 and #66, you have not refuted any of the arguments I provided in #42, or the dilemma I raised in #52. Instead, you have criticized philosophy. And you have implied that all those who deny that on the Cross God the Father poured out His wrath on His beloved Son, are doing so simply because they are stumbling at the “scandal of the Cross”, and because they have a “wicked God-Hating Mind and attitude”. Those are ad hominems, and they are not permitted here at CTC; see the posting guidelines.

    Regarding the nature of the atonement you reject St. Anselm and St. Thomas as “only two private theologians who venture their particular views”, advocating instead the late twentieth-century theologian von Balthasar. The Catholic position on a theological issue is not rightly determined by seeing whether or not a person was excommunicated for holding it. To see where and how von Balthasar went wrong on this issue, see Pitstick’s book Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  79. Garrett,

    I’m finally responding to your comment #70. There you wrote:

    Saving faith is not something that the reformed believe comes from within oneself. Faith is a gift from God and comes with the package that includes love, charity, the fruits of the Spirit, etc. Before regeneration, you are dead in your sins per Eph. 2:1. This death excludes the ability outside of grace to seek the living god- you will not do so.

    Everything you say here is also the Catholic position.

    The Turretin quote- “The coexistence of love in him who is justified is not denied; but its coefficiency or cooperation in justification is denied.” In the monergistic sense, the one way action of God is what saves- nothing from within yourself is added to God’s grace in order to justify yourself before God in anyway- it is HIS work in you. You bring nothing, it is grace, and grace alone in justification. This being the reformed position, that nothing is brought from you and added to grace (synergism), it seems self evident from that understanding to say that justification is not conjoined to…fill in the blank. If you will not have saving faith outside of God’s grace alone, faith alone, you have nothing, and all the agape you could muster from yourself will be meaningless in justification.

    This paragraph is a red herring. The point in question in my post is not whether we co-operate in justification. That’s a very important question, but for a different thread. The point in question in this post is whether we are justified by a faith informed by agape or justified by a faith not informed by agape. Both faith and agape are supernatural gifts, not something we can muster up ourselves.

    The agape that is conjoined is a product of what- the person, or of God?

    Agape is a gift of God, the fruit of sanctifying grace infused into us by the Holy Spirit.

    I can only assume you are talking about what the person brings (agape) to justify the person before God, …

    No, that’s not what I’m talking about. Remember, “Faith is a gift from God and comes with the package that includes love, charity, the fruits of the Spirit, etc. ” Agape comes with the package, as you put it, as a gift from God.

    I appreciate your congenial approach. This way of dialoguing is potentially fruitful for understanding and resolving the Protestant-Catholic schism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  80. Marty: I just can’t work out why RCs want to equate justification with regeneration and sanctification when it’s so clear they mean different things in the NT. They can’t be separated but they certainly aren’t identical. It’s not rocket science.

    OK. Then let’s keep it simple:

    (1) We have addressed the relation of justification and regeneration already. (a) The passages I have cited, among others, indicate that justification refers to the inward change wrought in the individual by God. It is not only a legal declaration. (b) God is not a liar. He does not declare that a man is righteous without regard to any real sense in which the man is, in fact, by grace, righteous. Thus, the Protestant view is not commensurate with the divine nature. (c) Therefore, this declaration (“justified”) does not prescind from the righteousness that is inherent in the individual by regeneration (pace Turretin). Titus 3:4-7, Romans 4:5 and Romans 5:17-19, to cite a few examples, are evidence of the essential, per se relation between justification and inward transformation.

    The words “justification” and “regeneration” are not identical. (Is that what you meant by this not being rocket science?) The question at hand is how the concepts are related. Your construal of this relation in #74 presupposes one particular kind of relation. (e.g. “Salvation comes when God in his kindness (and grace!) regenerates a person’s heart so that by (instrumental) faith alone (although love is also present) a person is justified.”) This, which you admit is not a necessary construal of the textual data, is not a sufficient interpretation either, because it renders justification a legal fiction, which is incommensurate with God’s nature, and it is contrary to 1,500 years of unanimous teaching in the Body of Christ, whose head is Christ, which therefore has the mind of Christ.

    (2) Has the Church been decapitated?

    (3) Marty: God’s word is infallible (in whatever form it comes to people). That’s the starting point for certain knowledge about God. The RCC can’t start there because its supreme authority (the Church) hasn’t clearly defined what’s infallible.

    How do you know this? According to your own principles, you would have to be infallible in making this claim before it counts as knowledge. But you are not infallible. Hence, on your own principles, you do not know that God’s word is infallible, nor can you understand (on your epistemic principles) a word that is written in that which you non-infallibly interpret after non-infallibly declaring it to be the word of God (on the basis of your own non-infallible authority, apparently).

  81. Andrew,

    Re #67 – Thanks for point that out.

  82. Marty,

    In #72 you wrote:

    I’ve challenged you to give me one verse where justification means “to make righteous” because I can’t find one. I find several other meanings in the NT, but not the one you propound.

    Here are three examples:

    Romans 3:24, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

    Romans 3:28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law”

    Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    If you wish to appeal to a lexicon to prove that the meaning of dikaiow is merely forensic in these three verses, then see comment #69 where I show why the lexical approach begs the question.

    Here’s an argument that we are truly made righteous (not merely declared righteous) at regeneration.

    (1) Love for God fulfills the whole law. Jesus says, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:40), and St. Paul writes, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:14)

    (2) He who loves God and neighbor is righteous; for God abides in him, and he abides in God. “The one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7) “If we love one another, God abides in us” (1 John 4:12) “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

    (3) At regeneration the Holy Spirit pours out agape into our hearts. “[T]he love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom 5:5)

    (4) Therefore, at regeneration, we are not just declared righteous; we are made righteous, because agape has been poured out into our hearts, and whoever has agape is righteous. [From (1), (2), and (3)]

    Moreover, I would want to challenge you and say that Trent should take the responsibility for schism because it shut the door to a right reading of Scripture on justification, esp. contrary to the appeals of Reginald Pole and co., and for reasons that were quite unjustified.

    Claiming that Trent’s teaching on justification is false simply begs the question (i.e. assumes precisely what is in question). Arians could blame the Council of Nicea (AD 325) for the subsequent schism of Arians from the Church, because the Council of Nicea “shut the door to a right reading of Scripture on” the deity of Christ. Similarly, Nestorians could blame the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus for the subsequent Nestorian schism, because Ephesus “shut the door to a right reading of Scripture on” the Person and nature of Christ. And so on. Every group, throughout the history of the Church, whose position was declared heretical by an ecumenical council, could blame the council for the resulting schism. But, in actuality, the true blame for the separation of the Arians from the Church after Nicea was not the Council of Nicea, but the stubbornness and pride of the Arians who insisted on holding on to their own interpretation of Scripture, rather than submit to the Church’s Ecumenical Council. Likewise, the true blame for the separation of the Nestorians from the Church after Ephesus was the stubbornness and pride of the Nestorians who insisted on their own interpretation of Scripture rather than submit to the Church’s Ecumenical Council. So, how do you know that the true blame for the Protestant schism after Trent does not likewise in this case rest with the Protestants who insisted on holding to their own interpretation of Scripture and refused to submit to the Nineteenth Ecumenical Council?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  83. Bryan

    Sorry, I did not mean to imply that any poster here has that attitude towards God, but rather to reflect what St.Paul says that the “natural Man” who is unspiritual cannot and will not understand God’s way. Again I apologise if my remarks offended anyone, it was not my intent.

    Again you line up Anselm and Acquinas, and I respond that other Catholic theologians like Von Balthasar see that the Scriptures teach Penal Substitution, which shows that a Catholic can hold to it and be within the pale of Catholic orthodoxy. If I am not mistaken Von Balthasar was not censured by Rome for his views, not only that he was admired by both Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI, not only that, I believe that Pope John Paul II offered him a Cardinal’s Hat. This was after Von Balthasar had written and taught his views on the Atonement. I hardly think that the Pope would have offered a Cardinal’s hat to someone whose views are heterodox and beyond the pale of orthodox Catholic teaching.

  84. John W,

    In #83, you wrote:

    … which shows that a Catholic can hold to it and be within the pale of Catholic orthodoxy

    That’s not a justified inference. As I said in #78, “The Catholic position on a theological issue is not rightly determined by seeing whether or not a person was excommunicated for holding it.” I can point you to many heretofore un-excommunicated Catholic scholars holding heterodox positions, just as I can point you to many heretofore un-excommunicated Catholic politicians who support pro-abortion legislation. That doesn’t mean that supporting abortion is “within the pale of orthodoxy”. The patience and gentleness of the Church with regard to such persons must never be misinterpreted by the faithful as an endorsement of their errors. HUvB was brilliant in many respects, but on this issue, Pope John Paul II opposed him, as Pitstick points out. Pope John Paul II, in the Catholic Catechism (CCC 615-17) taught that it is by Christ’s loving obedience to the Father even in the midst of suffering, not by being punished by the Father, that Christ merited our justification. And in CCC 631-637 Pope John Paul II directly contradicted HUvB’s position regarding what Christ did in His descent into hell. Pope John Paul II opposed HUvB’s position again in Novo Millenio Inuente (2000), where he wrote:

    Jesus’ cry on the Cross, dear Brothers and Sisters, is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all. At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, “abandoned” by the Father, he “abandons” himself into the hands of the Father. His eyes remain fixed on the Father. Precisely because of the knowledge and experience of the Father which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness he sees clearly the gravity of sin and suffers because of it. He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him, can understand completely what it means to resist the Father’s love by sin. More than an experience of physical pain, his Passion is an agonizing suffering of the soul. Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment. The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union. (Novo Millenio Inuente, 26)

    We see clearly here that John Paul II affirms that Christ retains His profound unity with the Father on the cross and in death. He does not lose hope. (But those without grace, and in hell, have no hope.) So He could not have been separated from the grace and vision of His Father who is Love. (1 John 4:8, 16)

    You are correct that John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger, praised HUvB’s work and contribution to the Church. This is one thing that Catholics have always been good at: we take the good (and praise it), and reject the bad. We don’t dismiss something entirely, because there is some bad in it. And it is the same with her theologians. The Church is able to praise a theologian for the good that he contributes to our understanding of theology, without implying that everything he said is within the pale of orthodoxy. One need only think of the example of Origen, or even Aquinas. The fundamentalist temptation is to assume that if the Church praises a theologian, then everything he said is within the pale of orthodoxy, and if the Church condemns a heretic, then everything he said was outside the pale of orthodoxy. Both of those assumptions fall prey to an over-simplified either-or type of thinking that has always been rejected by the Church.

    My arguments in #42 and #52 still stand unchallenged and unrefuted. Here’s another. I recently wrote about the Catholic understanding of our participation in Christ’s suffering, in “A Catholic Reflection on the Meaning of Suffering“. The Catechism speaks of it in CCC 618. But, if Christ’s sufferings were an outpouring of the wrath of God the Father, then our present participation in Christ’s sufferings would be a participation in receiving the wrath of God. Are you prepared to embrace that implication, since you (still retaining your Reformed theology) want to believe in the finished [penal substitutionary] work of Christ? In other words, are you prepared to believe that God the Father is still angry with you, having some more wrath He needs to get out of His system on account of your sins? Or do you toss out the Catholic understanding of our sufferings being a participation in Christ’s sufferings, because this Catholic doctrine on suffering doesn’t fit with your Reformed theology of Christ’s atonement?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  85. Dear Andrew M.,

    You said: “They understand the thomistic concept of God’s free grace. And if they really do understand this and they believe that Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient then they have an understanding of the saving work of Christ and Christ profits them much.”

    So if I believe that God’s free grace has been the the center and hope of my life then what is so terrible about me being Catholic? I learned about God’s grace and his saving work on the cross through the Catholic Church — through her saints, through her teachers, through my friends. His grace has been communicated to me in her mysteries. What did I lose by becoming a practicing Catholic? What did I lose when I got down on my knees and confessed twenty years of sin and have lived a different life ever since, with the crucified and risen Jesus by my side and within me every day? At least from what you have said so far, I lost nothing.

    But I know what I gained. I gained those mysteries. I gained those saints, and teachers and friends. They’re with me when I wake up every morning to my screaming children, and they’re with me when I read the Bible every night before I go to bed. You could have them too. But you could have them to the same degree only by becoming Catholic.

    Isn’t the choice easy? What do you have to lose, but a little bit of pride in your current way of life and a few of the more stubborn of your current friends? What do you have to gain, except more grace?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

    p.s. Out of curiosity, what Protestant histories of the early Church have you been reading? I do recommend once again the work of Dom John Chapman, freely available on the web on google books: “The first eight general councils and papal infallibility.” He was a great patristics scholar, he wrote late enough to respond to many of the more devious arguments brought up by Anglicans and others in the late nineteenth century, and his works are short and well-organized. If you want to find out why we Catholics believe so strongly that the first eight councils were not spectacularly conciliar, and why they did involve the Popes to sometimes decisive degrees, then reading short but well-written Catholic accounts (full of good primary-source quotations and context) is a good place to start. I get the feeling that some of the people who have written the books that you have read on early Church history have not been entirely honest with you.

  86. Gents,

    I skipped down to the bottom, so this may have been said already, but here is Calvin on the idea that it is a faith-formed-by-love that justifies:

    “When [the Papists] attempt to refute our doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, they take this line of argument. If the faith which justifies us be that ‘which worketh by love,’ then faith alone does not justify. I answer… it is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification…. We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration [which for Calvin would have included sanctification] ; but when the question comes to be in what manner we are justified, we then set aside all works…. When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle [‘alone’]” (commentary on Galatians 5:6).

  87. Dear Bryan,

    Re: #77

    We do, thank you. That’s why we read it with the Church, and not in an ecclesial vacuum.

    Assertion without proof. I know you know this. I’m far from convinced.

    Your claim here begs the question, by presuming a Protestant rejection of apostolic succession. Apostolic succession did not come into the Church at some later point in time. Otherwise there would have been an uproar within the Church about it. Apostolic succession was practiced universally within the Church for 1500 years, and continues to be practiced to this day within the Catholic Church, and among the Orthodox.

    Assertion without proof. I know you think this. For me the historical evidence is against RCism big time.

    From the Catholic point of view, only those with apostolic authorization may give the definitive determination of what is “the word of the apostles”.

    Good in theory, bad in practice. Greatly idealistic, not very realistic. As I keep saying the mechanism for the RC Church’s official teaching is effectively muddled, particularly since Vatican II. There are a sea of conflicting opinions in the RCC over what is authoritative and what is not–not just different opinions over certain doctrines, but different opinions of what is binding.

    There are objective criteria for what is infallible and what is not. If you want to learn them, just ask.

    I get different answers depending in who I ask. Are you the magisterium?

    Your gauntlet challenge presupposes a lexical approach to Scripture, which, as I have already showed in comment #69, begs the question by presupposing that there is no Church.

    My approach to Scripture is the standard approach to language generally. Meaning is determined by context. If you want to reject that, then, well, I won’t be able to make sense of your blog posts because you’ve given up a fundamental rule of language. If you think the Church rejects that, then, well, no body will be able to make sense of any of her statements.

    Blessings,

    Marty.

  88. Jason,

    Re #86,

    Thanks for the Calvin quotation. I cited Turretin to the same effect in #50, followed by an analysis of how this is different from the Catholic view. In #80, I pointed out what are possibly some flaws in the classical Reformed position.

    The distinction introduced in this matter by the Reformed seems to be superfluous. The presence of Christ’s righteousness in the soul accounts for the referent of justification without any need for recourse to legal fiction (simul iustus et peccator) and the theological difficulties attendant upon that construction. The Catholic view also accounts for the strictures upon “works” found in St. Paul’s writings. It is the righteousness of Christ, truly received by grace through (living) faith, that is the formal cause of justification. There is no question, in Catholic theology, of being justified by one’s own righteousness. The Catholic case with respect to Christian works (which are part and parcel of Christ’s righteousness inherent in the soul) is further bolstered by, dare I say, a careful consideration of the countless scriptures in which those who do good works, i.e., those who love, are reckoned just/righteous. Bryan makes this point quite convincingly (and succinctly) in #82.

  89. A syllogism of quotations:

    (1) “There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism, because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.” – St. Augustine

    (2) “[I]f we’re wrong on sola fide, I’d be on my knees outside the Vatican in Rome tomorrow morning doing penance.” – Dr. John Gerstner

    (3) “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.” – Pope Benedict XVI

    (4) “That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg.” – R. Scott Clark

    (5) “[W]e contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification. … When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle [‘alone’]”. – John Calvin

    (6) “For faith, unless hope and love be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.” – Council of Trent

    (7) Unless there is an undeniable case from Scripture that the faith that justifies is not a faith-informed-by-love, the Church’s decision at the Council of Trent should be accepted.

    (8) There is no good evidence in Scripture that the faith that justifies is not a faith-informed-by-love.

    Conclusion: We invite you, our separated brothers and sisters, to come back to holy Mother Church from which Protestants separated almost 500 years ago. It is time for a joyful family reconciliation. We long for you to be at the Lord’s table with us, in full communion in the household of God. Let’s defeat this schism that has separated us for so many generations, and let’s show to the world the unity Christ wants all His disciples to have. Doing our part in love to heal this schism, is a gift that we in this generation and in this century can give to Christ.

    EPIC :120 English from Catholics Come Home on Vimeo.

  90. Tim P – Sorry for the delayed response. Back home now.

    Tim T., I gotta say I’m impressed that you’re unwilling/unable to offer a succinct, clear explanation of exactly what Christ was doing on the cross.

    What’s impressive about that? What I said was “The Catholic Church has not spoken authoritatively on any particular atonement theory.” That may actually be an overstatement, I only mean to say that the Church has not pronounced a particular model of atonement as infallibly correct. I did not say I was unable or unwilling to offer an explanation although it is true that I will refrain from doing that here since that’s not what we’re talking about. We were talking about sola fide, you used Penal Substitution in support of it and spoke of it as a given, I showed you reasons why we reject it. So the point at hand is not to decide which atonement theory is best, but to show that we cannot use PS as common ground in our discussion on Sola Fide.

    Did God count Adam’s sin to you? How does original sin work?

    I don’t understand OS as an imputed sin wherein I’m actually innocent but because of another man’s sin I am guilty. I believe that the Catholic line of thought would hold that OS is a privation of justice (of which I am actually born guilty of – i.e. I’m not born innocent with another man’s sin imputed to me). So this is fully consistent with my insistence that God sees all things as they truly are and is not deceived, even by Himself which is an impossibility.

  91. Andrew M,

    If the heart of the one having justifying faith is never devoid of agape, i.e. there is never a time when a person has justifying faith but does not have agape [see your comments #21 and #28], and if whoever has agape is a righteous man and a friend of God [see #82], then simul iustus et peccator (at the same time just and sinful) cannot be true without distinguishing between mortal and venial sin. But Protestantism affirms simul iustus et peccator while denying the distinction between mortal and venial sin. Therefore, it follows logically that either

    (1) There is a time when a person has justifying faith and is justified but does not have agape; whenever a person is simul iustus et peccator, he has justifying faith and is justified but does not have agape (i.e. a person can simultaneously hate God and yet still be justified, such that if he died at that moment, he would nevertheless go to heaven),

    or

    (2) not everyone who has agape is a righteous man and a friend of God, (i.e. a person can truly love God with the supernatural love by which God loves Himself, and yet even at that same moment be in a state of not having justification, such that, if he were to die at that moment, he would spend eternity in hell separated from God)

    or

    (3) Protestant theology is inconsistent with itself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  92. Andrew,

    I read your response to K. Doran. regarding what he’s missing by not leaving the Catholic Church and joining a reformed or evangelical Church. I think this is a huge question. What is offered outside of the Catholic Church which is not offered more fully inside?

    Last Thursday you wrote, “But every Reformed and Evangelical church has lots of ex-Catholics. I’ve talked to many of them and the stories are often the same. They sit through innumerable masses and do all the things that faithful Catholics are supposed to do and yet they never come to understand nor care about God’s grace.” But then you wrote something strange (strange based on your previous comments) You wrote; “Of course there are innumerable Protestant churches where folks never hear the gospel and they might be better off in a Catholic congregation.” If you think the content of the gospel required for saving faith is present (or can be present) in the Catholic, then why not convert to Rome and join the battle for a purer Church which loudly and clearly proclaims the gospel?

    I have to tell you, on a personal level, that I was shocked when I realized that the very things I disliked about the Catholic Church were the same things that the Catholic Church itself is fighting against. I didn’t like that it seemed Pelagian, but then I met with a Priest who had the exact same criticism of the lay Catholic (Fr. Martin, St. Andrew’s by the Bay parish). I didn’t like that laymen seemed ignorant of Scripture, but then I came to see how much is being done to increase Scripture knowledge among the laity. The Catholic Church isn’t going anywhere. In contrast, some people think the PCUSA will not even exist in 50 years. Why continue to kick against the goads? To use Gamaliel’s argument, if the Catholic Church is not from God then it will disapear. However, it is from God, then there is nothing we can do to stop it and we better be sure we want to spend our life fighting against it.

    Peace, Jeremy

    – Jeremy

  93. Jeremy,

    That makes a lot of sense. If one can be Catholic without being damned ipso facto, then I don’t see any reason to remain in schism, since schism is such a heinous thing. It is more consistent for a Protestant to say that Rome has no gospel at all than to say that one could theoretically be as close or closer to Christ in a Catholic parish than in some Protestant congregations.

  94. By the way, who is Gamaliel and where does he say that? I’m asking because that makes a lot of sense, too. The Catholic Church has been around since the beginning, but almost all of the Protestant sects of the 15th and 16th centuries have lapsed into some kind of ancient heresy or disappeared altogether. The only ones that haven’t have been forced to continue to divide more and more in order to maintain their view of orthodoxy. Protestantism looks like a chicken with its head cut off, or an organ/limb removed from a body. Life, or what looks like life, will continue for some time, but without being attached to the life-source death is inevitable.

  95. Hey David,

    Gamaliel was a well respected Jewish Pharisee who made a speech before the Sanhedrin in Acts 5 concerning what to do with the Christians. Here is his argument;

    33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” Acts 5:33-39

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  96. David,

    You make a great point. In fact, I can’t think of a single Protestant denomination that emerged from the Reformation of the 16th century that hasn’t embraced unquestionable heresy (denial of Christ’s deity, denial of Scripture’s infallibility, acceptance of gay marriage, pro-choice…things that aren’t even debatable). Peace, Jeremy

  97. Bryan:

    Penal Substitution does not say “Jesus was punished by the Father” as if poor Jesus was “forced” to take the wrath of God like some sort of divine punching bag or God the Father cannot love us unless “someone” (Jesus) is punished to placate His cosmic “hissy fit” at our sins before He can or will love us. It was because the Holy and Blessed Trinity loved us that Jesus did what He did, the Father out love for us sent the Son, who out of love for us was willing to come and die for us, to take the Justice and punishment we justly deserve in our stead and as our substitute for our sins. Instead of you or I suffering God’s Justice, punishment, and wrath for sin Jesus as our Head and Representative took your place and my place on the Cross and died the death we deserve. On the Wood of the Tree of the Cross God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, every sin and filthy act against God that has been and ever will be committed was laid upon Him “Surely He has borne our iniquity and carried our guilt”. By doing this Jesus Propitiated God’s wrath against sin and in our stead and in our place suffered and died for our sins.

    This is what I believe and see as the clear teaching of Scripture about the Atonement. So according to the Church is this heresy? Again I ask is there any Infallible and clear Magisterial Church teaching or documents that say what I believe about the Atonement is heresy? If not then I am free to believe it.

    Perhaps I was a little hasty in returning to the Catholic Church. This is a dealbreaker for me, if the Church says one cannot believe and hold to penal Substitution then perhaps I would be better off going back to the Anglican Church in North America.

  98. Tim T. (#90)

    Thanks for your patience, Tim. I was trying to access the issue of God seeing things only as they are by addressing other theological topics where similar things occur. In that I clearly didn’t get the traction I’d hoped for, so we’ll just dive right in. Boiled down, your stated theological opposition to the Reformed doctrine of justification (RDJ) consisted of two points: 1) God only sees things as they actually are; the RDJ doesn’t allow for God to see actual righteousness in the one to be justified for it’s not there; therefore, the RDJ is false. I tried to put that syllogistically but failed; hopefully it still provides some clarity. 2) Justification itself requires an intrinsic change either in God or the one being justified; God cannot change; therefore, the change much be in the one justified. The RDJ doesn’t allow for change in the one justified (as the basis for justification), so the RDJ is false. Please let me know if I’ve misrepresented you in any way.

    So, then, #1 – the RDJ does, indeed, give God a basis for declaring a sinner just – the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to the sinner. This is how God is both just and the Justifier of the one who believes. Were he to issue a bare pardon to a sinner apart from Christ’s death, there would be injustice with that pardon. Were he to declare a sinner just/righteous apart from Christ’s perfect obedience, there would be injustice with that declaration. Thus, based upon the active and passive obedience of Christ imputed to the believing sinner, God pardons their sin and accepts and declares them as just. All this is received by the sinner through faith and quite apart from any works on his part. No inherent anything for us to crack up about ourselves: “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:27-8). Again: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (Rom 4:5-6). In justification, God makes provision through his Son to view sinners as righteous. He sees that perfect righteousness of Christ in the sinner because he has counted (imputed) it to him. That’s the basis God’s given himself to see a sinner as righteous. Thus, God sees the justified sinner as he’s set himself up through Christ to see him. God is the just Justifier.

    This is a far cry from a partial righteousness that inheres in the sinner as a basis for justification, no? How can God pronounce righteous that which is not, you ask? I turn the question on you: since justification is clearly shown to be a current standing of a sinner before God (that is, one IS justified, not that one merely will be justified), one what perfect inherent righteousness does God base this declaration? Are you, Tim, perfect in righteousness? I know I’m not. Can you really stand, Tim, before the tribunal of the most high and argue your inherent righteousness? Our God is a consuming fire. We need a perfect righteousness, which is Christ’s alone (the one inherent in him, not us) received by those who work not, but believe in the One that justifies the UNGODLY. You either have to be perfectly righteous in yourself or ungodly and believing in Christ to be justified. Tim, take your pick how you want God to see you: in your own inherent righteousness or in Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to you.

    #2 – Justification is not a personal, intrinsic change, it’s a change of standing before God. God’s revealed that he views creation in categories, the most simple of them: righteous and wicked. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. Righteousness he rewards and blesses; wickedness he punishes and curses… and all that eternally and unchangeably so. Now, when a man is justified, he’s moved from one category to the other – from wicked to righteous in God’s sight. Thus, no change (so far as justification specifically is concerned) is necessary either in God or the man. However, as mentioned above by JJS (quoting Calvin in #86) and Andrew (quoting Turretin in #50), there are real, intrinsic changes that logically precede justification (definitive sanctification) and follow justification (progressive sanctification). The former is an ontological change in the man by which he’s given a new nature, faith and repentance. So, there is an intrinsic change in the one justified, but that change is distinguished quite clearly from justification, which is not an intrinsic change in the justified one, but a change in his standing before God based upon the finished work of Christ imputed to him and received by faith alone.

  99. John W,

    I recommend that you do a thorough study of the Catholic doctrine of faith.

    Tim P,

    Your conception of imputation is nominalistic. My question is about your nominalistic conception of imputation. So here’s my question: What is the difference between God seeing things not as they actually are, and imputation? In other words, if imputation were identical to God seeing things not as they actually are, what would be different about imputation?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  100. David (#94) – you’re being unfair and (I think) disrespectful. Do you think that the Roman communion has been jolly well orthodox from soup to nuts? Are there not those in the Roman communion who’ve embraced all the things Jeremy (#96) mentions and far more? If the Roman communion has had to excommunicate those who’ve deviated from orthodoxy, doesn’t that really amount to the same a division – at least in some respects? I’d contend that the official Roman positions are heterodox (according to the Scriptures) at numerous points, some vital to Christianity (according to the Scriptures). If you’re going to point your finger at Protestantism and call it all messed up and crazy (a fair accusation, by the way), then at least be honest in your assessment of Rome.

    As to your contention in #93, Protestants don’t believe they’re schismatic, they believe the Roman communion branched off into damnable heresy, so it is the schismatic body. To be a classical Protestant (according to classical Protestants) is to be faithful to the church; to be a faithful Roman Catholic is to have abandoned the Christian church. The Bible doesn’t teach a “Sacramental union” of the church the way Rome does, it teaches a spiritual unity in the head of the Church, Christ, meted out through administration word and sacrament by the visible church (not to be confused with an earthly hierarchy nowhere to be found in the Scriptures). Thus, from a classical Protestant point of view, to remain in Rome is unfaithful (2 Cor 6:17) and to hold to its official teachings is to be damned eternally. Please understand, I’m not now arguing that, nor am I saying any of that to be a jerk, but I’m just trying to counterbalance your unbalanced assertions above in #93.

    This blog appears to be a great place for conversation and learning between groups that don’t have too many conversations. Disrespectful comments might put the kibosh on that, which’d be a shame.

    Happily,
    Tim

  101. Bryan, thanks for the questions.

    The difference between God simply declaring something to be that is not – e.g., that a sinner is in fact righteous without basis – and the RDJ is that God provides a basis for declaring the sinner righteous. That basis is not found IN the sinner (God seeing things are they “actually” are), but the basis is found in Christ’s prefect righteousness imputed to the sinner (God seeing things as he’s set himself up to see them). We avoid nominalism (if I’ve understood you) in that justification isn’t mere word play, it’s a judicial declaration based upon a perfect righteousness accounted to a sinner. Further, what God declares regarding a sinner, he’ll also necessarily brings to pass IN the sinner. That is, if he declares a sinner just based upon Christ, he also eventually makes that sinner just.

    May I ask you a question, Bryan? On what basis does (not will, but does) God declare you righteous?

  102. Tim P,

    I’ll answer your question first, and then I’ll follow up my question. You asked me:

    On what basis does (not will, but does) God declare you righteous?

    Catholics (and Orthodox) believe that God declares only what it is true. In baptism, the Holy Spirit actually makes us righteous, by infusing sanctifying grace into us, and thereby turning our hearts back to God in faith, hope, and charity (and all the other infused virtues). That’s the whole point of Christ coming, to turn our hearts back to the Father. Through His passion and death He merited grace for us. So we are declared righteous by God because through the grace we receive through the sacrament of baptism (and the other sacraments) we are immediately and truly made righteous. We are not just counted as if righteous while remaining actually unrighteous. We are counted righteous because we are actually and truly and immediately made righteous, our hearts are washed clean of the stain in the soul which is the privation of divine life, and we are filled with charity and the Holy Spirit. Whoever loves God with agape which is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), is a friend of God [see #82], and is truly righteous. This is the real gospel; we are really made righteous, not just covered over and called righteous while remaining actually filthy inside. This is why we believe that simul iustus et peccator, without a distinction between mortal and venial sin, is an imitation gospel. It promises everything like the real thing, but only gives you the appearances, like a knock-off Rolex.

    Ok, back to my question to you.

    The difference between God simply declaring something to be that is not – e.g., that a sinner is in fact righteous without basis – and the RDJ is that God provides a basis for declaring the sinner righteous. That basis is not found IN the sinner (God seeing things are they “actually” are), but the basis is found in Christ’s prefect righteousness imputed to the sinner (God seeing things as he’s set himself up to see them).

    I didn’t word my question with sufficient specificity. The fact that three parties are involved (Father, Son, and sinner), instead of only two parties (Father, sinner) does not answer my question. So, let me try again.

    If imputation were identical to God seeing things not as they actually are [i.e. not seeing Christ as actually and truly righteous, and not seeing me as actually and truly sinful], what would be different about imputation?

    I don’t see any answer to that question in your reply.

    In other words, if at imputation nothing actually were transferred from Christ to me, and from me to Christ, but rather, God merely no longer saw things as they actually are, i.e. He stopped seeing Christ as righteous and me guilty, and started seeing Christ guilty and me righteous, even though in actuality nothing in reality had changed, what exactly would be different?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  103. Dear John W.,

    Hold your horses, buddy. We’re praying for you. God wants you to be in the bosom of his Church, which has existed from the time of the apostles down to the present day. He wants you to be friends with his Communion of Saints.

    Always remember that one thousand difficulties do not equal one doubt. You’ve got to pray to God that he will help you find a good spiritual director. If you email me, and tell me your geographic location, I might be able to help you find one: KBDh02@yahoo.com

    Don’t get all riled up about stuff that, to be honest, you probably don’t really understand. That statement may sound condescending to you, but it is the best spiritual advice I can possibly give you right now. Be honest about your own limitations. Be humble.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  104. Bryan, now I think I’ve understood your question. I’ll give it a think and double back with you tomorrow. As to your answer of my question: You’re perfectly righteous right now, as you sit there reading this post? If so, does your wife think so? (If you’re not married, please substitute best friend, coworker, boss, professor, etc.) If you say that you’re justified on the basis of infused righteousness and nobody who knows you sees that perfect righteousness, then it looks like you bought the sweat-shop Louis Vuitton. I tell everyone that I’m not perfect, but God will complete the work he’s begun… they believe me.

    Thanks for the conversation, Bryan. I’ll get back to you on your question.

  105. the RDJ does, indeed, give God a basis for declaring a sinner just

    I never argued that God doesn’t have a reason for deceiving Himself (seeing thing as X when in reality it is Y), I argued that God cannot do such a thing by its own terms. I.e. God necessarily sees things as they truly are. You seem to have re-typed my argument fairly, but then go on to argue things like this that make me think that I wasn’t clear enough in my explanation.

    No inherent anything for us to crack up about ourselves:

    The Reformed interpret “works” to mean “anything other than faith” which is not how Paul uses the word nor is it a helpful definition because its an entirely arbitrary distinction between faith and other things. On the boasting part, if we must deny ourselves any real part in salvation in order to avoid boasting, then we must deny ourselves real faith also. One can boast of having faith as easily as having love. In fact, according to the RDJ, faith actually would be something to boast about and not so with love. Love does not justify but faith does, according to them. So

    1. Why is it that the Reformed think that we could boast about works if they justified us (according to the definition of RDJ) but not faith? (If works mean “works of the law” or even general works of righteousness wherein we earn our way into heaven, then it makes sense how we could not boast of the former but could of the latter. But as we have already discussed, this is not the Catholic doctrine.)

    Tim, take your pick how you want God to see you: in your own inherent righteousness or in Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to you.

    If these were the options, I’d be on your side. But the dilemma is false. There is a third option which the Church has taught explicitly since the days of St. Augustine and that is infusion. The Reformers departed from this as shown by Protestant scholar, Alister McGrath:

    it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly faithful to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, where the Reformers departed from it,” and later, “The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification – as opposed to its mode – must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum.1

    Luther erected a specific understanding of justification that departs significantly from Augustine at two points of major importance-the notion of justifying righteousness as alien (rather than inherent) to the believer, and a tendency to treat justification as involving two notionally distinct elements. This late trend eventually led to the development of forensic notions of justification in the writing of Melanchthon and others.2

    So 2. why should I trust the novel doctrine of the Reformers over the longstanding doctrine of St. Augustine, those who went before him, and all of Christendom after him? (It becomes especially difficult to see why I should do this when we also consider the philosophical problems it has which I’ve already pointed out.)

    but that change is distinguished quite clearly from justification,

    How, where, and by what authority? Those in succession from the apostles say otherwise, and have always done so, again, why should I trust this new doctrine?

    I think it will be helpful to answer Bryan’s question also. As for your comments to David:

    If the Roman communion has had to excommunicate those who’ve deviated from orthodoxy, doesn’t that really amount to the same a division

    It only amounts to a division if we presuppose Protestant ecclesiology (that is, that there is no visible principle of unity). But the Scriptures speak of the Church as a body. And a body is not divided when dead members are removed from it. If I cut my hair, I do not divide my body. Likewise, pruning dead branches from a tree do not divide the tree. It removes the dead member from the living body. Exactly so with the Church. Our podcast episode 2 talks about unity.

    I’d contend that the official Roman positions are heterodox (according to the Scriptures) at numerous points,

    Protestants don’t believe they’re schismatic, they believe the Roman communion branched off into damnable heresy

    Arius and every heretic or schismatic who has ever lived would say the same things. (I’m not calling you a heretic). But what principled reason can you offer to demonstrate why your reading of the Scriptures is better than Arius’s or any schismatic?

    The Bible doesn’t teach a “Sacramental union” of the church the way Rome does, it teaches a spiritual unity in the head of the Church, Christ, meted out through administration word and sacrament by the visible church (not to be confused with an earthly hierarchy nowhere to be found in the Scriptures)

    This statement begs the question. If you disagree in the visible unity of the Church, you should respond to the Visible Church article. We can’t handle every issue here on this thread and if you are assuming things (like invisible church, imputed righteousness, penal substitution) we cannot have progressive dialogue because we disagree with all of these things. We need to start at a place where we agree and then progress.

  106. Tim P,

    Re: #103, you’re right that other people ought to see the love of Christ in our lives, and the keeping of the commandments. If they don’t, then we’re deceiving ourselves if we claim to love God and to be righteous by His grace. This is why it is good for every Christian to do an examination of conscience daily, especially in relation to the commandments and the virtues. And we should make frequent use of the sacrament of penance, and the Eucharist, by which we receive the life of God. But, I suspect that you are evaluating the Catholic position from a Protestant point of view, i.e. without an understanding of the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and the metaphysical basis for the distinction between them. So, from that Protestant point of view, even the slightest sin demands eternal damnation. Hence, from the Protestant point of view, it looks absolutely arrogant and self-deceived for anyone to claim that we are actually now righteous. But in Catholic doctrine sin divides into mortal and venial sin. I explained the basis of the distinction between mortal and venial sin in “Aquinas and Trent: Part 5.” It is difficult to overestimate the importance of understanding that distinction, in coming to reconcile Protestants and Catholics.

    Strictly speaking we will not be perfectly righteous (i.e. righteous in every respect) until heaven, when even concupiscence will be done away and we will in no way deviate from perfect obedience. But in this present life even the righteous man sins venially every day. Yet the righteous man does not sin mortally; if he does, he is no longer righteous, until he repents. By “does not sin mortally” I mean that the righteous man does not with full knowledge and deliberate consent commit a grave sin. He does not do that, because he loves God, and seeks to live a life that pleases and glorifies God. That presence of the love of God (agape) in his heart, on account of the presence of grace within his soul, is the reason why he is rightly said to be righteous, even though he sins venially.

    The more we grow in grace and love for God, the more we become aware of our sins. But at the same time, we do find faith, hope, and love within ourselves, and we rest firmly on Christ’s promises to give us grace through the sacraments that He has established in His Church, so that we may live without falling into mortal sin, and so that we may grow daily in our love for Him and obedience to Him.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  107. John W. I’ve taken the time to read each and every post in this thread and have been following your plight carefully. As an individual who came (from Protestantism) to the Church at the age of 30, I can relate well to your concern that the Church doesn’t tread upon what you see as the most sacred ground of the sufficient work of Christ. Let me just offer this brief thought:
    As a Catholic you can unequivocally affirm the fact that Christ is your Messiah and Lord 100% and if you can do anything it’s a direct result of His sufficient work on the Cross…

    And if you can affirm that, it seems to me that the specifics of just how His work is applied are little more that philosophical details (albeit important ones that deserve your continued attention!)
    Thanks for your sincerity, John, and your commitment to Our Lord!!!
    herbert

  108. Tim P,

    Following up my question in #102, here’s R.C. Sproul on imputation:

    Sproul says:

    Before God, once the sin has been imputed to [Christ] … in the sight of God, God looks at Christ and … sees a mass of sinfulness, because the sin of [the elect] has been transferred to Jesus. … The sin is transferred, or imputed, to Jesus. … The righteousness of Christ is transferred to us, to our account. So that God, when He declares me just, is not lying.

    Incidentally, Rome has trouble with this. Rome calls this concept, the Protestant concept, a legal fiction. And they recoil from it because they sense that in the Protestant view of imputation, that somehow, this concept casts a shadow on the integrity of God because God is now declaring people just who are not just. The response of the Reformers was, if the imputation were fictional, then when God declared us just, then when God declared us just, it would be a legal fiction. It would be a lie. And that would be a blemish on the character of God. But the point of the gospel is that the imputation is real, that God really laid my sins on Christ. And not only that, God really transferred the righteousness of Christ to me, and that there is a real union for those who are in Christ.

    What Sproul does not explain here is the difference between “fictional imputation” and “real imputation”. Unless something is changed in the believer and in Christ, then nothing differentiates “fictional imputation” from “real imputation.” And in that case, the “response of the Reformers” fails. But as soon as we start talking about real changes in the believer and Christ, then we’re no longer avoiding infusion (of Christ’s righteousness into the believer) and of actual sin into Christ (see comment #52). So the dilemma for Sproul is that either there is infusion (in which case separation from Rome is unjustified) or there is not infusion, in which case nothing differentiates “real imputation” from “fictional imputation.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  109. Tim (#105): the Reformed oppose faith and works in justification because the Bible does. These categories aren’t difficult. The category of works includes all that men can do to move toward God (moral and ceremonial included), which is categorically opposed to what God’s done in Christ, which is received through faith (which God gives). You must see that those two things are consistently opposed – both of the passages (indeed, all of Romans 3-4) clearly oppose any human effort to be justified with the divine work of justification through faith.

    As to God’s seeing – the Scripture is full of God representing one thing by another. It’s a waste of time to detail this, so I’ll just mention the priesthood. A priest (thinking of OT priests) represents the whole of the people to God. Is he REALLY the whole of the people? Of course not, but God has constituted his relations such that he views the people in this one officer, or as you irreverently put it, God deceives himself. I should sooner think that you and I have deceived ourselves! In any event, what I”ve tried to offer you in my post above is biblical evidence that God sees us “in Christ” (a Pauline refrain) and that our justification is a judicial divine pronouncement based not upon who we truly are in ourselves (as, say, a co-worker might find us) but as we truly are in Christ, with his perfect righteousness imputed to us. I was arguing against your notion of divine “seeing” by showing that the Scripture doesn’t limit God’s sight as you seem to do.

    As to inherent or infused righteousness, I’m using the terms interchangeably, which may be incorrect and have caused confusion. Infused righteousness is that which is imparted by God to a person and which is in him, no? Imputed righteousness is that which is counted by God to a person and is not in him. Thus, infused righteousness is inherent. If this is correct, I have a question for you. Is there a distinction between the righteousness that God imparts/infuses into you and your own righteousness (the right works, words, thoughts of your own doing)?

    One thing that comes up in your response (which is fundamental) is this notion that the Catholic tradition is somehow monolithic and univocal, but it’s manifestly not so. Sic et non. How do you deal with the wide variety of opinions found among churchmen and councils on any given topic? What you consequently treat as “new doctrine” is indeed the old doctrine clearly found in the writings of the actual Apostles and Prophets. The inspired and inerrant standard is “Thus says Yahweh,” and what you call new doctrine is found clearly there in the ancient standard. The notion that justification is something other than a divine judicial pronouncement of pardon and a declaration of righteousness is foreign to the inspired standard and it is, therefore, the new doctrine. Also, it’s a wild departure from the Scripture to suppose that the widely variegated tradition is as authoritative as the Apostles and Prophets. Aquinas, Anselm, Francis, Augustine, Athanasius, and Clement of Rome (for example) are all good and helpful men, no doubt. I love them and count them my brothers. When you say the Reformation departed from these men in areas, that’s not a problem, as they departed from each other as well. Their writings, while helpful and good on one hand, but misleading and mistaken on the other, are not finally authoritative. How could the be? How could you know who’s correct and who’s mistaken and on which issues? I think it’s clear that the Christian tradition is our guide to the Scripture, but that the Scripture is the final authority over that guide.

    Have a great day, Tim!

  110. Bryan, thanks a ton for #106 – very helpful for me. My job here is primarily to learn, not to teach. I’d do better to spend more time reading and less time writing.

    As to your question, I’ll watch the Sproul dealy and get back to you. I’m still thinking about it. I have to say that your question is a hard one for me to understand.

    As to legal fictions, who defines justice? Let God be true and every man a liar.

    Again, I appreciate the dialogue and will continue it tonight or tomorrow.

    With love,
    Tim

  111. Tim (#105): the Reformed oppose faith and works in justification because the Bible does. These categories aren’t difficult. The category of works includes all that men can do to move toward God (moral and ceremonial included), which is categorically opposed to what God’s done in Christ, which is received through faith (which God gives). You must see that those two things are consistently opposed – both of the passages (indeed, all of Romans 3-4) clearly oppose any human effort to be justified with the divine work of justification through faith.

    Faith itself is a thing that men can do to move towards God so no these things are not consistently opposed. Faith is not opposed to love or to any virtue. So the Reformed distinction is not at all clear.

    what I”ve tried to offer you in my post above is biblical evidence that God sees us “in Christ” (a Pauline refrain) and that our justification is a judicial divine pronouncement based not upon who we truly are in ourselves

    But you haven’t offered that. You’ve simply stated the Reformed position and have not dealt with the philosophical problems I showed that it has.

    I was arguing against your notion of divine “seeing” by showing that the Scripture doesn’t limit God’s sight as you seem to do.

    No where have I limited God’s sight. On the contrary, I said that God sees all things as they truly are and cannot be deceived. This is the furthest possible stance from “limiting God’s sight” so your statement is false.

    Is there a distinction between the righteousness that God imparts/infuses into you and your own righteousness (the right works, words, thoughts of your own doing)?

    Yes. One is not infused with his own righteousness. God is the source of all righteousness as you already know.

    but it’s manifestly not so

    If it’s manifest then you’ll have no problem demonstrating it.

    How do you deal with the wide variety of opinions found among churchmen and councils on any given topic?

    Varied opinions of the laity or even the clergy or even the bishops in no way detract from the Church having a single authoritative voice. If I join the PCA again tomorrow and decide to believe that Christ was a mere human, that would not mean the PCA is divided on Christ’s divinity. You have not demonstrated your point which you claimed was manifest.

    When you say the Reformation departed from these men in areas, that’s not a problem, as they departed from each other as well.

    But earlier you said that the teaching was clear from Scripture. How is it that everyone but a fraction of schismatics 1500 years after Christ missed the clear teaching and that most of the great theologians now still reject it?

    Most of what you’ve been writing is simply asserting what you learned in seminary. It appeared at first that you were going to interact with my arguments but it seems that its a more difficult task than anticipated so you’ve reverted to assertion. I know what the Reformed teach and what they believe. I used to believe it myself. I have good reasons for rejecting it and I’ve given you some of them. I hope we can find a way to progress in this dialogue as it seems to have taken a turn for the worse.

  112. Tim, I mostly feel the same way as you. I feel that you’ve done a fine job of asserting all sort of wonderful Catholic doctrines, but haven’t interacted with my arguments. (I certainly have asserted some things, but I have constructed arguments for others, usually from the Bible.) When I argue from Scripture, you simply appeal to the “church’s” interpretation and condescendingly shrug at mine. I think we’ve found interaction more difficult than expected as our basic authorities are not the same. Maybe this can be overcome.

    As I mentioned to Bryan, I’m mostly here to learn, and I have learned a great deal. I’m sure that I can learn a great deal from you, Tim, so maybe we could refocus. The conversations broaden out so quickly and I can only keep so many plates spinning and do it well. How’s this: Would you please tell me what you mean by God can only see thing as they truly are? At first, I thought you were framing your understanding of God’s knowledge so as to exclude justification based upon imputed righteousness by definition. With your addition that he cannot be deceived, it makes me think that maybe I missed what you were after in the first place.

    Have a wonderful evening, Tim.

    -Tim

  113. Bryan, thanks for that old footage of the *thin* Sproul! I think Sproul’s answer is that if there were no union with Christ, the imputational transactions would be fiction (that is, not real). Since we are really united to Christ by faith, the imputations are real. You set up the situation thus: ‘Unless something is changed in the believer and in Christ, then nothing differentiates “fictional imputation” from “real imputation.”‘ This treats the spiritual union believers have with Christ as if it’s nothing or not real. This negates being “in Christ” as Paul repeats so often as the reality on which imputation is founded. You set up a false dichotomy: “It’s either a change in the believer” you might say, “or it’s fiction.” No, there’s a third way – real spiritual union with Christ unto forensic justification received by faith alone.

    So, your question: “What is the difference between God seeing things not as they actually are, and imputation?” Sola-fide justification via imputation differs from God seeing things not as they actually are because God orders reality to account for what he’s done. God’s not just throwing something out there that has no basis in reality. It’s just a reality that Rome’s been unwilling to accept.

    Thanks for answering my question on the basis of justification in your view (#102). You wrote: “We are counted righteous because we are actually and truly and immediately made righteous, our hearts are washed clean of the stain in the soul which is the privation of divine life, and we are filled with charity and the Holy Spirit.” So, are you actually and truly *perfectly* righteous in such a way that if God declared you just he would be basing the judgment upon your actual person?

    Finally (a new question), what’s the difference between merit and righteousness in Catholic doctrine? Are they different different words getting at the same idea?

    Happily,
    Tim

  114. Tim P,

    Let me save the “what’s the difference between merit and righteousness” question for a separate thread on merit.

    So, are you actually and truly *perfectly* righteous in such a way that if God declared you just he would be basing the judgment upon your actual person?

    Yes. There is no hiding behind Christ now, just as there is no hiding behind Christ on the Day of Judgment. We were actually made righteous, receiving in our souls a participation in the divine nature, and living according to a supernatural charity that flows from this participation. We have the life of God within us, as the principle by which we now live. And by this infusion of divine life, we are in our souls truly righteous, having agape within us, by which we love God and our neighbor for God’s sake. God’s declaration, through His promise to act by His Spirit through the sacraments He has established, effects what He speaks. When He baptizes, we come out of the water without any sin. When we come out of the confessional, we come out without any sin. We come out having received grace within our soul, a participation in the very life of God.

    I think Sproul’s answer is that if there were no union with Christ, the imputational transactions would be fiction (that is, not real). Since we are really united to Christ by faith, the imputations are real. You set up the situation thus: ‘Unless something is changed in the believer and in Christ, then nothing differentiates “fictional imputation” from “real imputation.”‘ This treats the spiritual union believers have with Christ as if it’s nothing or not real. This negates being “in Christ” as Paul repeats so often as the reality on which imputation is founded. You set up a false dichotomy: “It’s either a change in the believer” you might say, “or it’s fiction.” No, there’s a third way – real spiritual union with Christ unto forensic justification received by faith alone.

    This answer only shifts the nominalistic problem to a different term, and thus only pushes the question back. If “union with Christ” were identical to God seeing things not as they actually are [i.e. not seeing Christ as other than me, and not seeing me as other than Christ] what would be different about it? In other words, if at the moment we were “united with Christ” nothing actually changed in me or in Christ, but rather, God merely no longer saw things as they actually are, i.e. He stopped seeing Christ as other than me, and stopped seeing me as other than Christ, even though in actuality nothing in reality had changed, what exactly would be different?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  115. Tim P,

    Here’s an example that, from a Catholic point of view, is a deeply flawed conception of Final Judgment:

    “Union with Christ”, in this view, amounts to a certain pre-arranged deal in which Christ steps in for you at the Judgment Seat, and takes your place. (In this way, grace does not build on nature but displaces nature, making nature irrelevant.) Jesus essentially does what cheating students do during an exam. He takes the test for you. God the Father looks at you as if you were Jesus, even though you are not, and looks at Jesus as if He were you, even though He is not. In the nominalistic imputation model, the gospel turns into a cosmic loophole, because there is no point in Christ taking your place before the Judge (who is Christ). We already know that Christ is perfect. And we know that you are not Christ. (Otherwise, you yourself could ‘step on the scale’, and satisfy the requirement for heaven.) So what is really going on (in this theology) is that Christians are bypassing the Final Judgment. The more honest approach is just to say, “All Christians don’t have to go through Judgment; you simply go on in.” (Again, in such a case, grace would destroy nature.) So union with Christ, in this view, amounts to a pre-arranged deal regarding how God is going to treat us; it does not need to posit any change within the individual, ever. If during this present life God can treat sinful people as though they are righteous, and at the Judgment He can treat sinful people as though they are righteous, then He can do so for eternity. Therefore, given this notion, people in heaven don’t need to be righteous; God could, in principle, eternally keep treating them as though they are Jesus, while they remain sinful. Union with Christ is thus a kind of divine self-deception in which God agrees to treat the elect as if they were Christ, even though they are not righteous. This is still, nonetheless, legal fiction. For this reason, merely replacing the term ‘imputation’ with the term ‘union with Christ’, so long as both are conceived of nominalistically, don’t solve the problem. It just puts a different label on it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  116. Bryan

    Thanks for posting that video. So good to see a video that shows Biblical truth. The last guy approached the “judgement” with humility and no confidence in his “merits” ie “Good Works”( though his file was double everyone else’s put together and then some) trusting solely in Christ and His merits and Grace.

  117. So if we had neither Romans nor Galatians, I wonder if we’d have this utter breakdown of communication between people who’d otherwise be in full communion with each other through Christ within His Church. Out of all those pages in the Bible, these 2 books have managed to create division in the Body that would please Screwtape himself.

    It seems to me that we run the risk of clinging to our particular philosophical traditions moreso than we cling to Christ.

    It seems that, for the Reformed, it’s not enough for Catholics to say that it’s ONLY because of Christ that we can even hope for Heaven… it’s apparently necessary that we have to agree with the philosophical traditions of the Reformation, in particular, the precise means by which Christ’s work is applied to each believer, before we can be counted as brothers. Are we dividing His Body for the sake of our traditions, our fallible interpretations of Scripture? Just how, I wonder, does Sproul’s model of imputation (#108) jive with Christ’s words concerning our Judgment in Matthew 25??? or the video in post #115 for that matter?

    And when McGrath, who’s certainly considered one of the best and brightest that modern Protestantism has to offer, refers to sola fide justification as a “theological novum” of the Reformation era, and a Catholic simply repeats what he’s said, how is it that the Catholic is subsequently charged with having a false assessment of history, #109, (when it wasn’t even his assessment in the 1st place, but rather that of a well-respected Protestant scholar?!?!). thanks.

  118. Tim P –

    but haven’t interacted with my arguments.

    Please give me an example of an argument that you’ve made that I’ve not interacted with.

    When I argue from Scripture, you simply appeal to the “church’s” interpretation and condescendingly shrug at mine.

    Please show me an instance where I have been condescending. I’m sorry if I ever came across that way, but I do not believe that I have. So it will help me to improve myself if you can point it out to me; because as it stands I don’t believe you.

    I think we’ve found interaction more difficult than expected as our basic authorities are not the same.

    But our basic authority is the same: God. The difference is in how we believe that He’s revealed Himself. I believe that He revealed Himself through Christ who founded a visible Church and through the Scriptures, and you believe only in the infallible authority of the Scriptures.

    The conversations broaden out so quickly and I can only keep so many plates spinning and do it well.

    I understand.

    Would you please tell me what you mean by God can only see thing as they truly are?

    I explained this when I first mentioned it; God does not “see” at all. When we know a thing, we learn of it through seeing, we acquire data and then recursively process that data. But that is not how God knows things. God knows by a self-knowledge. He knows creation and all that is in it or all that could be precisely because He knows Himself. If I’m leaving something out or you have a particular question about it, please let me know but this is what I mean when I say God sees all things as they are.

    Luther’s image of snow covering a dung hill to describe imputation, which is indeed what imputation is since it does not involve an intrinsic change, brilliantly shows how imputation cannot be work given the above truth about God’s means of knowledge. Because God cannot see snow when He “looks” at a dung hill because He does not “look” at a dung hill. He knows the dung hill perfectly by His own self knowledge and nothing can cloud that knowledge or confuse it. So a man might look at a snow covered dung hill and think that it is a pure hill of snow, but God cannot think that.

  119. Herbert, good points. When I brought up the quote from McGrath though, Tim P didn’t say I lost my grasp on history, he said – to hell with history (in not so many words). What happens is that most Reformed take the “theological novum” of Martin Luther and company to be the actual gospel itself and therefore a non-negotiable. Since they are so entrenched in this belief, no amount of data could persuade them otherwise. Tim P said:

    Aquinas, Anselm, Francis, Augustine, Athanasius, and Clement of Rome (for example) are all good and helpful men, no doubt. I love them and count them my brothers. When you say the Reformation departed from these men in areas, that’s not a problem

    Tim P – I hope that it can cause you to hesitate if only for a moment that you’re so confident of what an excommunicated man believed that you’re willing to reject the unanimous teaching of Christianity from the beginning. Clement of Rome was ordained by the apostle Peter. Who was Luther ordained by?

  120. Dear Tim T,

    As a Protestant, I view the theological novum of sola fide just like many other doctrines that have developed over time. Take the Trinity, it several hundred years to find the right formulations that made the best sense of Scripture. Moreover, sola gratia was a theological novum developed by Augustine in his debate with Pelagianism. Sola fide is simply another one of these that was particularly helped along because of (i) other doctrines that had developed and (ii) the recovery of the original languages due to the humanists.

    The Church has always consciously professed and believed “salvation by Christ alone” (the saving gospel), 1 Tim. 1:15. The doctrines that arise from and ultimately safeguard “Christ alone” are “grace alone” (developed under Augustine) and “faith alone” (developed under Luther).

    The reason I’m willing to trust an excommunicated Monk is because his doctrine matches Scripture. I’m unwilling to follow Trent because (it consciously ignored Reginald Pole et. al.) and didn’t. Ordination doesn’t guarantee truth (as Church History testifies continually), fidelity to Scripture (IMHO) does.

    Appealing to Clement of Rome’s nearness to the apostles doesn’t work for me. During the period of the NT churches were sliding into apostasy, just think of Galatia, Corinth, etc. Moreover, 2 of the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3 were close to apostasy, if not in it. In Acts 20:29-30 Paul told the Ephesian elders that after his departure false teachers would come from without and arise from within. 2 Tim. 3:1-9 says that in the time after Christ false teachers will arise and permeate the institution of the church. It’s not the institution (and ordination) that safeguards truth, it is fidelity to the apostolic deposit (as found in Scripture).

    God bless,

    Marty.

  121. Marty, that’s fair (that Sola Fide might be a genuine development) except for a few things:

    1. It looks nothing like any of the other developments (per Newman’s work) i.e. it has no precedent, it has none of the ‘seven notes of a true development’ etc…

    2. Unlike the “theological novum” of sola gratia which is explicitly taught in Scripture, it is explicitly condemned in Scripture (James 2:24)

    The reason I’m willing to trust an excommunicated Monk is because his doctrine matches Scripture.

    What you mean is that it matches your interpretation of Scripture. But how trustworthy is your interpretation of Scripture if you read James 2:24 which says “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone” and come out thinking “We are justified by faith alone”?

    Arius’s followers followed him because they thought his teaching matched Scripture. Again, the same could be said of any heretic and his followers. But we have a safeguard against such errors: the Church. Sometimes the Church might not seem to line up with our personal view of Scripture – but guess which one needs to change…

  122. Dear Tim T,

    Yes I understand that it doesn’t follow Newman. But, I don’t find Newman’s 7 criteria convincing, rather they’re arbitrary. He doesn’t set out to prove them but rather assumes them. Moreover, he sees the papacy as a development itself, which makes his whole argument fall because the mechanism by which a development is judged (the papacy) is a development itself. Thus, what mechanism does one have to judge whether the papacy is a legitimate development?

    What you mean is that it matches your interpretation of Scripture.

    Yes, I kinda knew you’d give this classic RC response. However, RCs have exactly the same problem with their official documents. Look at Bob Sungenis, Scott Hahn, and Gerry Matatics who all have a different understanding of the status of Vatican II, and they all appeal to official documents. RCs have to privately “interpret” words (in official documents) just as much as Protestants.

    Secondly, and more importantly, as for James 2:24, it’s never been a worry to Protestants and is in fact presents more of a problem for Catholics. “Justification” has several meanings in Scripture. The two important ones are (i) “to declare one righteous” (so Paul in Rom. 5:16, 18, 8:33-34 where it is linguistically the polar opposite of “condemnation”); and (ii) “to show one is righteous” (Luke 10:29; 16:15) (which is how we tend to use it in English), and this is how James uses the word. The context of James’ argument demands this usage, “show me you faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (2:18). The context is not about being made more righteous–that is an alien idea. Hence, a translation of James 2:24 could be, “you see a person shows they are righteous (or truly Christian) by what he does and not by faith (in context: belief) alone”. The great problem for RCism: there is no explicit usage of “justification” to mean “to make righteous” in the NT. Bryan’s attempt to show some usage doesn’t work,

    Trent turned back the clock when it came to justification IMHO, just like going back before Nicea or Chalcedon.

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  123. John,

    Every falsehood comes wrapped in many truths, because otherwise it would be rejected outright. You are right that the last man’s humility (in the video, #115) is precisely the attitude we are to have. That’s not the problem with the theology expressed in the video. The theological problem with the video is its nominalistic construal of the gospel, and its misunderstanding of the relation of grace to nature. The theology expressed in the video undermines the very reason for humility at the Judgment. If it doesn’t matter what you have done, whether good or bad, and you know that Jesus is going to “take your place” at the Judgment, then there is no reason at all for humility. A more accurate portrayal of this theology’s implications would have that last man yelling, from the back of the line, “Let’s cut the red tape, and let the Christians in already.”

    St. Matthew tells us that Jesus said:

    “For the Son of man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done.” (Matt 16:27)

    In Romans, St. Paul teaches that on the Day of Final Judgment:

    “He will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. But to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 2:6-8)

    And in his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes:

    “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

    And St. Peter tells us:

    “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.” (1 Peter 1:17)

    And in the book of Revelation we see this:

    Jesus, speaking to the church at Thyatira, says, “And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Rev 2:23)

    And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.” (Rev 20:12-13)

    “[L]et the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Rev 22:11-12)

    This belief in the coming Judgment is part of the Faith of the Church, because we say it in the Creed. “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” This article of faith is dogma. To deny it is heresy. There are many sects that teach that one can avoid the Judgment (just as the man in the video never steps on the scale, and his eternal destiny has nothing to do with what the scale would read if he were to step on it); and for obvious reason that’s attractive to many people, and lures them away from the truth that Christ Himself taught to the Apostles, that He is coming to Judge each of us, according to our works. It is easy to construct a message that itches our ears, but we must hold on to the truth, to what Christ Himself revealed to the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  124. Marty,

    Yes I understand that it doesn’t follow Newman. But, I don’t find Newman’s 7 criteria convincing, rather they’re arbitrary.

    If you’ve read Newman and are unconvinced, then I doubt I can convince you that there are reliable criteria for discerning true developments from false ones. But his notes are arbitrary? That strains credibility. What is arbitrary about, for example, the idea that a true development should have precedent or that it should follow logically upon the deposit of faith, or that it should be conservative of truths already in the deposit of faith? None of those seem arbitrary to me at all.

    Moreover, he sees the papacy as a development itself,

    He does not see the entire papacy as a development. He sees the modern form of the papacy as developmental. He, like all Catholics, insists that St. Peter and his successors had a headship role from the very moment that he was handed the keys and told that the Church would be built on him. The Petrine role as a safeguard of development is only a problem, as you imply, if it was wholly a development and there was a time where it didn’t exist. This is not the case.

    Look at Bob Sungenis, Scott Hahn, and Gerry Matatics who all have a different understanding of the status of Vatican II, and they all appeal to official documents. RCs have to privately “interpret” words (in official documents) just as much as Protestants.

    A dissenter does not make a clear message ambiguous. We know what the living voice of the Church says regarding the status of V2. It’s not open to discussion. But if the fact that there are dissenters from the Magisterium proves that Reason + Scripture + Magisterium is not epistemologically better than Scripture + Reason, then the fact that there are dissenters from Scripture would prove that Scripture + Reason is not better than Reason alone. And the fact that there are people who dissent from plain reason would prove that we all just need to be complete skeptics. This is a faulty line of argument and is not helpful in arriving at the truth. The practical fact is that a living, authoritative interpretive body is better than a book alone for epistemic certainty. But regardless of whether we think is better or not, Christ Himself gave the apostles the authority to bind or loose and He built His Church on Peter.

    “Justification” has several meanings in Scripture.

    I agree. But where in Scripture does it show that we are justified by faith alone (in the sense that you mean it)?

    Trent turned back the clock when it came to justification IMHO, just like going back before Nicea or Chalcedon.

    And in the humble opinion of Arius, Nicaea turned back the clock. But I don’t see what’s humble about judging a Church council by the standard of one’s own interpretation of Scripture. If you say Trent wasn’t a Church council, then you only say that you are judging what the Church itself is based on your interpretation of Scripture which is even less humble.

    I don’t mean to accuse you of a real lack of humility, please don’t misunderstand. But this is the difference between the Catholic mindset and the Protestant one in that the former judges one’s own beliefs by the authority of the Church and the latter judges the authority of the Church by one’s own beliefs.

  125. Marty, Could you possibly provide me with a couple internet links that would share a bit more about the differing views held by Hahn and Sungenis concerning Vatican II? I didn’t realize the two men were at odds. And as for Gerry Matatics- he’s a sedevacantist, refusing to place himself under Catholic authority. He’s simply not in full communion with Rome. Philosophically, he finds the case for Catholicism convincing, however, which means that on this thread he’d be arguing against the PCA (which he left).

  126. John,

    I hope you were only kidding in your approval of the video of the final judgment. That being said, if you were serious, this demonstrates the great difficulty of dialoging with the those who hold to sola fide. When challenged that sola fide leads to antinomianism the response is “we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone” but when Pope Benedict and others affirm that faith alone is true provided we understand it to be faith working through love, we are told by Reformed scholars (R.S. Clark) that is not what the Protestant Reformers meant by faith alone.

    I find that video actually to impugn the character and generosity of God, His goodness and love, His desire to see people do good works with humility. It reduces the Gospel to a “get out jail free” card.

  127. Tom:

    You sound just like the Judaisers when they accusesd Paul of being an “antinomian” St. St. Paul responded to the critics of his message of Justification by Faith (alone, without “works”) by the free Grace of God alone by saying “Should we sin so that Grace may abound? May it never be”.

  128. Dear John W,

    There are many good features of the video in question:

    (1) People who aren’t humble get into trouble at the judgment.

    (2) The person who makes it into heaven is humble.

    (3) The person who makes it into heaven can do so in spite of the fact that he has committed many sins.

    (4) Jesus is the reason that the person who has committed many sins can get into heaven, while the people who don’t know Jesus but have shorter files cannot.

    But the problem with the video is that it doesn’t show that the humble person has repented. If the humble guy had repented before he died (or at the moment of death), then when he — himself — got on the scale, God would say: “hey, your true repentance removed the sins that had been preventing agape from getting into your soul. Now that you’ve repented, the sins can’t stop agape from getting in any more. So I’m in you and you are in me. Now let’s make sure that we remove anything else that needs to be removed, and then let’s go to Paradise together.”

    If you imagine the video as having such an ending after the credits roll, so to speak, then the video is fine. But since the end the video before that happens, we are left to believe that the humble guy at the end wasn’t so humble after all: he never asked God to forgive him, and never accepted God’s forgiveness.

    I leave you with one question: you are assuming that the guy get’s cleaned up at some point before he enters Heaven, right? If not, then how could Heaven be happy for him (or for anybody who has to deal with him, for that matter)? And if God does ask him to clean up, isn’t that the same thing as saying that he has repented, agape has entered his soul, and even any tendency for venial sins has been removed? In other words, isn’t the natural ending that we would all assume must occur after the credits roll the only ending that makes sense? This is the Catholic ending.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  129. Bryan

    I can post Scripture that says not the opposite with the Scripture you posted but rather backs up the fact that those who have “a true and lively faith in Christ” have passed from death into life eternal, that they are saved and will be saved at the last day. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. “Having been justified by faith we have peace with God”, this is not a temporary truce between two opposing sides, but rather a state of being, that those who are in Christ have true peace and have been reconciled with God for all time, look up the meaning of “Peace” (shalom” in the the Pauline context). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.

    As to your comment:

    “The theology expressed in the video undermines the very reason for humility at the Judgment. If it doesn’t matter what you have done, whether good or bad, and you know that Jesus is going to “take your place” at the Judgment, then there is no reason at all for humility.”

    Let me quote from a Reformed source:
    “Another kind of Antinomianism begins from the point that God does not see the sin in believers, because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them. From this they draw the false conclusion that their behaviour makes no difference, provided they keep on believing. But 1st John 1:8-2:1 and 3:4-10 point in a different direction. It is not possible to be in Christ and at the same time to embrace sin as a way of life”.

    Bryan I don’t know how old you are or what your “life experiences” are but I am 50 and have seen a lot, more than most. I grew up in an area or region that is about 85% Catholic and if you want to talk about “sinning” and being a “good Catholic” pull up a Chair. In my 25 years of being a “Protesatnt” of the Reformed tradition I never knew one that held to the Reformed views Justification by Faith Alone by Grace alone and the doctrine of Imputation who willingly and crasslly lived a life of sin and profligacy, not one of them was an “Antinomian”, they tried to live holy lives that dis His will and lived a life of obedience to Jesu, did they sin? yes But the difference was they didn’t wallow in it and say “It doesn’t matter, I’m ‘covered by the Blood of Christ”, they sincerely repented and amended their lives, but then 99% of the time the “sin” they repented of wasn’t what would be called “Mortal Sin”.

    The Catholics on the other hand went to Confession on Saturday, Mass on Sunday and on Thurs, Fri, etc be sleeping with some cute female or guy they “picked up”, and/or would drink themselves senseless, do drugs recreationally etc. go to Confession on Saturday again, Mass on Sunday, and the following week do the same as the week before.

    You would think that the Reformed Protestants would be the ones who were living the sinful life and the Catholics would be living the holy lives but it was just the opposite, the Reformed Protestants with their alleged “nominalist” views, Justification by Faith Alone by Grace Alone, Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness would be the ones living Holy lives and being Sanctified by the Holy Spirit and the Catholics with the “Grace building on Nature” and the Catholic view of “Infused Righteousness” by Grace were the ones living sinful lives of wallowing in sin.

    The Catholics on this forum and in most WEB forums do not reflect the views or actual lifestyles of most Cradle Catholics. From my 10 years experience on the Internet most Catholics who post in WEB forums, and the “most Catholic” if you will are actually converts from conservative, orthodox Protestant denominations who already had a vibrant lively faith in Christ to begin with. Of those former Protestants who have converted half or more have come from the Reformed Tradition, at least in seems so from my experiences on the Internet.

    As a side note maybe I am not ready to be a Catholic, there is just too much I can’t agree with that the Church teaches even though there is much I do agree with. I find it ironic that “liberal Catholics” who say Genesis is a myth and not literally true and that Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch are tolerated but Catholics who wish to hold to Evangelical Christian views are not welcome. again maybe I was to hasty to come back to the Catholic Church, I will have to pray and think about it.

  130. John W,

    I can appreciate your frustrations with the Catholic Church and sympathies with the Reformed faith. I also concur that the average conservative Reformed Christian is a much better follower of Christ than your average Catholic. But that is because, by repeated schism, the Reformed communion has become more of a country club for saints than a hospital for sinners. Tertullian and the Montanists, by schism, branched off into a morally elitist sect that looked down their noses at the “carnal” Catholics. Tertullian may have lived a better life than most Catholics, but he was wrong to be in schism. True reform is needed but it happens from within, not from without. That’s why the Catholic Church needs people like you! Reform cannot happen from outside the Church as shown by the falsely so-called “Reformation.”

    Take another example – one man, in whose footsteps St. Augustine originally followed, lived an impeccable life (as far as we can tell) and was brutally martyred by crucifixion, later was flayed and had his skin stuffed and hung for all to see. That man was Mani – the founder of Manichaeism. In fact, most of the Gnostics and even some pagans lived lives that would put most Christians, Reformed or Catholic, to shame. I don’t deny that we shall know them by their fruit, but one of the fruits you shall know them by is their fidelity to the Bride of Christ. That is why true reformers like St. Thomas More would much sooner die than to rend the Body of Christ.

    Sometimes we cannot understand a certain doctrine, and it may even seem to be false. But if it comes from the mouth of the Church, the right thing to do is to accept it in humility. It’s painful? Of course, or else everyone would be Catholic. Suppose there was a Church that taught infallibly, would you agree with everything she taught already (meaning that you had already arrived at all her teachings without her) or would there be some things you didn’t quite agree with but had to submit to her judgment in humility?

    I find it ironic that “liberal Catholics” who say Genesis is a myth and not literally true and that Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch are tolerated but Catholics who wish to hold to Evangelical Christian views are not welcome.

    Everyone who abides by our posting guidelines is welcome here.

  131. John,
    You may not know any who have taken justification by faith alone and used it to justify a profligate lifestyle, and that is true of my own experience as well. The sin of presumption is clearly rebutted over a gracious salvation by Paul himself in Romans 6:1.

    However, the converse to the sin of presumption is the sin of despair. Considering that sin, I know many believers who found themselves in sin after an experience of grace, and on those occasions, despair led them to question the validity of the entire system which supposedly leads to salvation and forgiveness of all sins past, present, and future. There have been many friends of mine who no longer profess faith because of such repeated failure and lack of progress-they cannot make sense out of a spiritual life which is supposed to be never questioned, never worked out. Granted, many good Protestants (Reformed and non-Reformed alike) grasp this truth through an emphasis on sanctification as essential, but my point is that a logical conclusion of the one time imputation of justifying righteousness could be that things are “as good as they get” on this earth. If only they would pray the Lord’s Prayer as they were instructed to do so, and really beg God to forgive them their trespasses, as they forgive those who trespass against them.

    May He do so in all of our lives!

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  132. Dear John W,

    What are you afraid of? Are you afraid to ask God to forgive you for your sins? Are you afraid that he won’t forgive you if you ask him to (all you need is a fear of Hell and a firm desire to not sin anymore, you don’t need to be superman to get your sins forgiven)? Are you afraid you won’t be willing to accept his forgiveness?

    If you ask God to forgive you, and you accept his forgiveness, then you’re OK, John. Jesus won’t leave you, and you will not be left out of Heaven on account of any of your sins. In what way does the Catholic view prevent you from having Jesus at the center of your life? In what way does the Catholic view prevent you from asking for forgiveness? In what way does it prevent you from accepting God’s forgiveness?

    What is so surprising about believing that those who have the authority to forgive sins really and truly forgive them? What is so surprising about believing that once your sins are forgiven, you’re not in the same state of sin that you were in before you asked for the sins to be forgiven? Isn’t it simple? Isn’t that just the definition of forgiveness? Why must the forgiveness that Christ imparts to us during our earthly live be a process that necessarily leaves us completely unchanged after receiving it? What is so bad about saying that receiving forgiveness changes us, and allows agape into our soul? This cradle Catholic certainly noticed a big change after he started going to confession.

    And finally, how does any of that leave out the salvific work of Christ?

    The passion of Christ acts in the sacrament of penance.

    And, you will find, if you have faith, that the sacrament of penance makes it more difficult for you to sin again, not less.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  133. Tim T., at the risk of spreading out the discussion (again), I will answer your personal question by directing you to the comments you’ve made since you asked how some of your comments take a condescending tone. It appears common for you to handle a scriptural argument by dismissing it by way of association. “Well, you’re linked up with an excommunicated monk, but I have the unanimous testimony of all the faithful on my side. You’re just like Arius – you have your text.” Tim, that gets pretty thin pretty quickly. I don’t supposed you guys went to the trouble of constructing this blog so you could tell yourselves your right and feel good about it. I suppose you constructed it as an apologetic tool for guys just like me. If that supposition is correct, it might guide the way you interact.

    Back to my narrow point: God seeing. The terms seeing, sight, see and the like are very often used to mean “understand” or “know”. Further, the analogy of snow over pooey is simply that – it’s a visual illustration. By the way, I totally agree that God doesn’t know discursively, but by a single, eternal act of intuitional self-knowledge. The problem is that we have a REAL hard time understanding (seeing, if you will) that kind of knowledge and cannot speak in terms of it. Thus, we almost invariably speak of God by way of analogy. Thus, refuting the analogy because it doesn’t comport with stricter language regarding God don’t jive.

    Let me re-raise one specific and hear what you have to say about it. In the OT, the priest represents the people before God. How does this representation work? Specifically, how does that representation work with your notion of divine knowledge?

  134. Tim P. –

    I’m sorry for coming across condescending, I should be more careful with my wording. Maybe we can come back to those particular points later because I think they are valid, but in the interest of not spreading the discussion out anymore I’ll move on.

    I agree with everything you said about our limitation in language and understanding regarding God and His mode of knowledge. If the dunghill analogy is not an accurate analogy of imputation, then how else can you explain it that fits in with things we know about God? We need an explanation that works and the dung hill explanation doesn’t.

    In the OT, the priest represents the people before God. How does this representation work?

    The priest acts on behalf of the people, as far as I understand it, as a servant might act on behalf of his master.

  135. Didn’t finish the thought… I don’t think that is in conflict with my understanding of God’s knowledge. How do you understand the action of the priest and how is it in (apparent) conflict with God’s knowledge?

  136. Tim T.

    My issue is that I do understand the Catholic Doctrines I have issues with. Its not like I read or hear them and say “I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t sound right”, no I do understand them and I disagree because the Bible tells me otherwise and the facts of History tell me that they are questionable if not untrue. I am not the only one who says this, I have read quite a few Catholic historians, theologians, and Biblical scholars who remain Catholic who say the same thing.

    If you say the Church needs people like me, who love the Lord Jesus and who seek to live a life of obedience to Him and to faithfully follow Him then that is excellent and good. But the Church will also have accept us when we disagree with some Dogmas we just can’t accept because neither the Scriptures or history agree with them. I don’t want to derail this thread with the exact Dogmas I simply cannot nor probably ever will accept.

  137. K Doran

    I have no problem asking God’s forgiveness for my sins. I have assurance based on what St. John wrote that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse from all unrighteousness, Amen. I know Jesus will not leave me for I have His promise that all that the Father has given Him will not be lost or cast out. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and will not lose any that the Father has given Him and He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.

    What I don’t agree with is that even though my sin is forgiven and the guilt taken away I still have to “Expiate (atone)” for my sins and have to be tortured with agony in Purgatory that is far worse than the worse physical and mental pain on earth. I remember as a CCD student the CCD teacher reading from some Saints “revelation” that one minute in Purgatory is more painful that the worse physical and mental pain of a hundred lifetimes on Earth. I thought of this when I was in college when Evangelical Christians there witnessed to me. I “converted” to Christ and began to earnestly study the Bible, what I saw there was a merciful God of love who accepts and forgives those who put their whole Faith, Trust, Love and Hope in His only Begotten Son Jesus as the One who loved us so much that He died to Propitiate the anger of God the Father for our sins, that on the Cross He died the death I deserve as my sin-bearing substitute in my place and stead. That God can now forgive me based on what Jesus did for me. God the Father forgives me and casts my sin as far as east is from west and remembers them no more. He doesn’t require “double indemnity” for my sins IE Jesus dying for them and then later requiring skin for skin Expiation for them from me by torturing me in “Purgatory” to make “Satisfaction” for them. To me a God who does this is not a loving Father but a sadistic monster,

  138. John,

    It is sad to see you describe God the way you did. Be assured of my prayers for you.

  139. Tim T. (#134-5) – I think the priest is more than a mere servant acting on behalf of the people. A man delivering a letter is a servant, but he’s not constituted as a representative. The priest is a public figure in whom the people is represented to God. When he acts on their behalf, it’s as if they’re acting. When he speaks on their behalf, it’s as if they’d spoken. This notion of representation is common throughout the Bible and serves to show that you’re conception of God’s knowledge is more limited than God’s expressed conception of his own knowledge. If God only sees that priest as the man he is actually and in himself, we don’t a real representation – we have (to borrow and modify) a sacerdotal fiction. However, God’s constituted the priesthood such that, in their public office, discharging their public duties, they do indeed represent those whom he’s appointed them to represent.

    So, indeed, God knows things truly, which includes what he’s has constituted them to be, and not necessarily ONLY as they are in themselves.

  140. John W., I don’t think you end well (#137). I agree with you right up till the end of that post. What if God decided to save a people through purging their sins for millions of years? I think that would be infinitely gracious, would it not? That means of salvation is not the one spoken of in the Bible, but relative to the infinite guilt of sin, what’s a few million years of torture? Sounds silly (maybe), but I’m being serious. Praise God that Jesus Christ bore the wrath for our sin on the cross! Soli deo gloria!

  141. Sometimes a servant acts in place of a master. The master sends the servant into the marketplace and the servant conducts business just as if the master were there doing it but he does it on behalf of the master. Another example would be in the Robber Council (otherwise ecumenical by all standards) where the papal legates, against the rest of the bishops, contradicted the findings, which were heretical, acting on behalf of the pope as if the pope were the one doing it. I think the role of a priest is something similar. This does not mean that God sees the people instead of the priest any more than it means that the blacksmith sees the master instead of the servant.

    This notion of representation is common throughout the Bible and serves to show that you’re conception of God’s knowledge is more limited than God’s expressed conception of his own knowledge.

    Again, I have not limited God’s sight and this accusation is getting old. To see truly and reliably is not a limitation. To have the possibility of seeing something as one thing when in reality it is another, on the contrary, is a limitation of sight. I haven’t charged you with limiting God’s sight, but if one of us is doing it, it’s not me.

    We’re leaving some loose ends though. Lets back up. Here’s how the conversation has gone so far:

    Tim P: God looks at the just and sees Christ instead of the sinner.

    Tim T: But God cannot be deceived, He always sees things as they truly are.

    Tim P: Scripture uses anthropomorphic language and so-forth. Dung hill, God’s sight, etc.. are all analogies.

    Which is equivalent to:

    Joe: God could not have prevented 9-11; it was outside His providence.

    Bob: But God can do all things which are possible and He is sovereign per divine revelation.

    Joe: Scripture uses anthropomorphic language and so-forth. Passages about God being “strong” and so forth are analogies.

    In both cases, an objection based on known truths about God is raised and then side-stepped. I’m sure Bob agrees that Scripture uses anthropomorphic language and that passages showing God as “strong” are analogical in some sense.. But Joe hasn’t shown how his belief is compatible with the known truth that Bob raised. Likewise, you haven’t shown how imputation is compatible with the known truth that God always sees things as they are. If you have a way that God can see Christ instead of us that still maintains His perfect omniscience, what is it? What is the analogy that works for it if the snow covered dung hill doesn’t?

  142. Tim T., you said, “You haven’t shown how imputation is compatible with the known truth that God always sees things as they are.” I’ve been working on how we understand the assertion “God always sees things as they are.” As I’ve mentioned (which has irritated you), I think your conception is limiting and that’s what I’ve been after.

    When the priest offers sacrifice for the people, can it be said that the people truly offered it? The priest offered it, but he is constituted by God to represent the people. Thus, the people (or a person among the people) is “truly” seen as having offered that sacrifice. This reality is not something a fellow would encounter, but it is true none-the-less. You seem to want to limit the “truth” of what’s understood to reality as we encounter it. I want to include in that “truth” reality as God constitutes and orders it.

    BTW, I don’t think I’ve offered the snow on pooey analogy, though I am willing to explore it. I think, as an analogy, it has significant biblical merit.

  143. Tim P:

    I think your conception is limiting and that’s what I’ve been after.

    Seeing in truth is not a limitation. I can’t budge on that point. We could say God is “limited” to the truth, but that would be a bad use of the word “limit.”

    You seem to want to limit the “truth” of what’s understood to reality as we encounter it. I want to include in that “truth” reality as God constitutes and orders it.

    This is the crux of our disagreement. By God “ordering” and “constituting” something, it becomes so. That is, if God were to “order” and “constitute” us as righteous, we would actually be righteous, not pretend righteous, not snow covered dung hill, not simul iustus et peccator. God cannot make a square circle but if God says “this [square] is a circle” then the thing becomes a circle by His very words. God’s words do not describe reality as it is. Reality, as it is, describes God’s words.

    So it does not make sense to say: ordinarily, a thing is seen as it truly is but God orders reality to where He sees it as something else because God cannot do that because it is false by its own terms. God cannot constitute reality in such a way that a square is a circle because it is a self contradiction. God can make a circle into a square but not without making the lines straight and adding four corners. Same with us sinners.

  144. Dear Tim T,

    If you’ve read Newman and are unconvinced, then I doubt I can convince you that there are reliable criteria for discerning true developments from false ones. But his notes are arbitrary? That strains credibility. What is arbitrary about, for example, the idea that a true development should have precedent or that it should follow logically upon the deposit of faith, or that it should be conservative of truths already in the deposit of faith? None of those seem arbitrary to me at all.

    Newman’s understanding of development itself was a theological novum and to justify it he produces 7 criteria but upon what authority? Did he submit his 7 criteria to those criteria? Because if he did they would fail. That’s been the classic criticism of Newman ever since he write his work. The work was a great disappointment to me.

    You fail to appreciate that Protestants have a different understanding of the development of doctrine. It is about the church getting new insight into the meaning of Scripture. And it particularly occurs in controversy. Hence, believers go back to Scripture and see things they hadn’t seen before. Thus, developments can always be tested by Scripture itself. The problem with some RC developments especially something like the assumption of Mary, is that they appear ex nihilo (and from a later vantage point appear to have precedent) and cannot be tested objectively. Hence, RCs are forced to believed in Mary’s assumption with no historical or biblical evidence. Just believe the church.

    He, like all Catholics, insists that St. Peter and his successors had a headship role from the very moment that he was handed the keys and told that the Church would be built on him.

    But headship and being final arbiter of faith matters are very different things. It still stands that the Pope as the one as the ultimate judge of doctrinal development was not there from the beginning. Hence the ultimate judge of doctrinal development was a development!

    The papacy is always going to be a dificulty for Protestants because Church History is so clearly against it. It’s so clear that Gregory VII developed wholly new ideas about the papacy that just simply weren’t in existence prior to him. Indeed, he built them on documents that had been forged! Hardly a credible development.

    A dissenter does not make a clear message ambiguous. We know what the living voice of the Church says regarding the status of V2.

    Who is the “we”. They just happen to be people who agree with your private interpretation of the documents about V2. The RCs I know have many different views about the status of V2, and they all appeal to “official documents”. Call Matatics a sedevacantist if you like, but he builds his arguments on official church documents. In other words, you’re engaging in your own private interpretation when you speak of “dissenters”.

    This is a faulty line of argument and is not helpful in arriving at the truth. The practical fact is that a living, authoritative interpretive body is better than a book alone for epistemic certainty.

    Well you’re free to believe that. But it does little to convince me. Particularly when Eastern Orthodoxy, Mormonism, and JWs make exactly the same assertion. They are all institutions that claim a true authority to interpret Scripture. Ultimately, we all have to make our own private judgment about who is right.

    I agree. But where in Scripture does it show that we are justified by faith alone (in the sense that you mean it)?

    Rom. 3:21-31, 4:1-6; Gal. 2:15-21, 3:114. These passages all pit works against faith in one’s justification. In other words believers are not justified by works but for works. But, again, RCs can’t point to one place that vindicates their meaning of the word “justification”. That’s very telling for an institution that claims such control over people’s lives.

    Then of course there’s Eph. 2:8-10 which teaches clearly we’re saved not by works but for works. i.e. works are the fruit not the root of salvation. The RC interpretation that reads “works” as only those prior to conversion reads too much into in the word “works”. RCism too often reads prior constructs into Scripture, rather than read the meaning out of the Scripture.

    But I don’t see what’s humble about judging a Church council by the standard of one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    O please. One has to test the RCC to see if it’s true at some point! Once you are convinced it is (by your own private interpretation) then you submit to it. So you can’t escape your own private interpretation at some point. I according to my own private judgment believe the RCC is quite wrong. Moreover, there’s a whole tradition from Luther onwards that rejects Trent for the same reasons. It’s not just me alone.

    You can’t continually appeal to Protestants to submit to Rome unless you provide good arguments that show Rome can be trusted.

    But this is the difference between the Catholic mindset and the Protestant one in that the former judges one’s own beliefs by the authority of the Church and the latter judges the authority of the Church by one’s own beliefs.

    Well you’ve misunderstood Protestantism. We test beliefs by the words of Scripture. You have to test by the words of the RC magisterium. There’s no difference ultimately. The RC faith comes to you in words of official documents (which you privately interpret and judge some to be dissenters by your own private interpretation); the Protestant faith comes to us in the words of Scripture (the untarnished original deposit of faith).

    Blessings,

    Marty.

  145. Tim P,

    I hope that when you get a chance, you will answer my question in the last paragraph of #114. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  146. Recently I read some words from Peter Kreeft which seem very appropriate at this time. Though I’ve not been much of a participant in this conversation, I have certainly been an invested witness to it all. And I humbly ask you all, Protestant and Catholic alike, to say a prayer for unity and revisit his words here:
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/toward-reuniting.htm

  147. Marty,

    You didn’t answer my question: “What is arbitrary about, for example, the idea that a true development should have precedent or that it should follow logically upon the deposit of faith, or that it should be conservative of truths already in the deposit of faith?”

    We need to keep this discussion pointed. Also , watch the rhetoric: “o please” is not conducive to charitable discussion.

  148. Dear Tim T,

    I appreciate your desire to want to keep the discussion pointed. However, there are a lot of points and questions I’ve made that you’re not answering, questions particularly focused on the topic of the post: justification by faith alone. Why have you made Newman the “pointed part of the discussion”? I would’ve thought there were lots of “pointed parts” to the discussion, not least the fact that the RC understanding of the word “justification” can’t be found in the NT.

    I thought I’d answered your question re Newman, so I’ll try and explain again. Newman’s criteria are arbitrary because his fundamental notion of development is arbitrary. Hence, for example, the criterion “that development should have a precedent” is arbitrary. Why? Why can’t a new development suddenly arise from a new insight into Scripture that no-one has seen before? He’s begged the question. Moreover, where did he get his new understanding of development from? And by what authority? If it’s a development why didn’t he submit it to his 7 criteria? That’s all quite arbitrary to me. It’s a this point that many rejected Newman’s thesis.

    I’m sorry if “O Please” caused offense. However, please try to see it from my perspective as well; I found it quite patronising to be brushed aside with the retort along the lines of: “it’s your private interpretation you need to believe the magisterium”. RCs seem to say this whenever they get backed into a corner. If it seems to me that Scripture and the magisterium contradict, show me that it doesn’t.

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  149. Marty,

    I don’t see it as a valuable use of either of our time to go back and forth on all these points. If we are to have this conversation not turn into a ping pong match of accusations, then I think we need to try and hone in on our real differences. Not saying I’m not also guilty of “spreading the conversation out” to borrow language from Tim P, but the last post showed me that the two of us are a long ways off in our thinking. I’m sure you’ve been in enough discussions to know how these things turn out. Let’s find what we agree on and then move from there.

    The reason I honed in on Newman is because in replying to the “theological novum” charge you, fairly I think, claimed that Sola Fide was a theological novum, but only in the way doctrines like the Trinity were and thus appealed to some version of Development of Doctrine (even if not what Catholics mean by the phrase). So I appealed to Newman’s criteria saying that SF doesn’t meet them. You said those criteria were arbitrary. This is, in my mind, the main line of discussion. I asked what was arbitrary about them. I think they are excellent criteria for judging true developments.

    Newman’s theory of DOD would fail all uniquely Protestant developments and pass all RCC developments so I can see how you can’t accept it. But that fact alone can’t be used to determine its truth. So I think this is a good area to hone in on. If you disagree and would like to focus on another specific area instead, just let me know.

    I found it quite patronising to be brushed aside with the retort along the lines of: “it’s your private interpretation you need to believe the magisterium”.

    I’ll try to watch my wording. But I’m making a valid point there. “O please” is not a valid point so these two are not on even ground. If Christ founded a magisterium, then you do need to submit to it.

  150. Newman’s seven notes are not exhaustive in totality and certainly not exhaustive individually. So:

    Why can’t a new development suddenly arise from a new insight into Scripture that no-one has seen before?

    It can and has but what we know of true developments is that they don’t appear without precedent (or name one that does and my point will be disproven). Even the revelation of Christ, take the sermon on the mount as a “theological novum.” It was not without precedent, particularly in the DC books. The Trinity was not without precedent. We can go down the list of developments we both agree on and see that they were all with some precedent.

    If it’s a development why didn’t he submit it to his 7 criteria?

    Newman’s theory would pass his own criteria. For precedent, you can see St. Vincent of Lerins. Conservative action on the past – his theory does not destroy any truth already known. etc…

  151. Dear Tim T,

    I’ll try to watch my wording. But I’m making a valid point there. “O please” is not a valid point so these two are not on even ground. If Christ founded a magisterium, then you do need to submit to it.

    I’m gobsmacked that you’ve come out and said this, in light of what I said in the last post. The very thing I appealed for you not to do in order to help discussion, you went ahead and did. I think it’s time to terminate this discussion.

    May the Lord richly bless you,

    Marty.

  152. Marty,

    I’m not going to be told which points I can make and which I can’t. That’s not how conversations work, especially not charitable dialogues in a mutual pursuit of the truth. Adding emotional phrases like “O please” etc… is something entirely different. This isn’t “gobsmacking” stuff, it’s pretty standard.

  153. Herbert – thanks for the link. I love Peter Kreeft!

  154. Tim T. (#143) – Excellent. I think we’re getting somewhere. Squares cannot be circles by definition. Squares and circles, however, are not people in that they’re not moral, living beings that can be united to God the Son; thus, at the most important point, your analogy doesn’t touch down. I’m not arguing that God’s merely calls something what it in fact is not. I’m arguing that God unites a sinner by faith to his incarnate, dead, risen, and enthroned Son and, based upon the work of his Son on that sinner’s behalf, declares him pardoned and righteous. The righteousness imputed to the sinner is real and is really imputed. The sin imputed to Christ is real sin and really imputed. Neither the righteousness nor the sin must inhere in the one to whom they’re imputed to be real. Thus, God can truly see a man as both just and a sinner. Just as united to Christ but a sinner in himself – for now. No contradiction as just and sinful are used in two different senses.

    Also, Tim, you still have not adequately answered the issue of priestly representation. The servant representing the master in the marketplace is one thing, a priest offering sacrifice for sins of the people is another. Certainly there are points of similarity between the two. However, it’s the sacerdotal aspect that’s different and worth focusing in on. The priest offers sacrifice for the people, God smells the smoke and is placated (all, of course, as a type of the great Sacrifice). God, as it were, sees through the smoke of that one man’s offering and is propitious toward the people. They didn’t offer it personally, but in another, who (in his public office) was constituted by God for just this purpose. This set up is *true*, but not empirically / physically verifiable – the way things are simply in themselves. Has God merely shown us a sacerdotal fiction or has he constituted things to work this way? If the OT priest can represent the people in placating God, how much more the Son of God, with whom we’re united by faith?

    Joyfully (Friday helps),
    Tim

  155. Tim P

    Squares and circles, however, are not people in that they’re not moral, living beings that can be united to God the Son; thus, at the most important point, your analogy doesn’t touch down.

    This assumes the opposite of what I’m arguing, although admittedly I haven’t done a great job of verbalizing it. I’m saying that a sinner having friendship with God is not possible by definition in the same way that a circle cannot be a square. To say that righteousness is imputed to him undermines what it means to be a friend of God. If a sinner can be a friend of God, then friendship with God does not entail holiness but I think that it does. Darkness cannot have communion with Light even if veiled or has light imputed to it. But if it had light infused in it, then it would no longer be darkness and could have communion with light.

    The righteousness imputed to the sinner is real and is really imputed.

    I’m not saying that a false imputation takes place, I’m saying that imputation by its definition is not a real transformation of a person.

    Also, Tim, you still have not adequately answered the issue of priestly representation.

    That may be so, but I don’t know what else to say about it. I haven’t thought much about the issue before now so I don’t have strong thoughts on it. That idea exists in Catholic thought as well though, Christ making satisfaction for the human race by His sacrifice even though we weren’t actually the ones making the sacrifice, the Christian priest acting in persona Christi, etc… so I don’t have a problem with one acting on behalf of another in such a way that there is a sense in which the other is truly present in and or receives some merit from the action. We receive the merit of Christ’s sacrifice even though we were not the ones who did it. But that doesn’t mean we can remain in sin and be justified because to be justified by its definition means to be free from sin. Light has no communion with darkness.

  156. Bryan, thanks for directing me back to #114 – I missed it!

    Okay, as to my distinction: The ground of God’s justification of sinful men is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them – the double transaction Sproul mentions in your video clip. Those transactions occur within the context of union, which includes actual change in the sinner (definitive sanctification). Forensic justification is based upon imputation which occurs within the context of union. In other words, God’s no just taking something and calling it something else willy-nilly. He’s made a context of real spiritual union and real imputation of real righteousness and sinfulness in which this occurs. Thus, the charge of nominalism (just changing the name of a thing) doesn’t stick. Also, see my explanation to Tim above in #154.

    One issue in particular comes to mind with what you’ve written above regarding the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification (RCDJ, if you will). You said that when one emerges for baptism or from the confessional, one emerges purified from all sin. Okay, so the sin’s gone, but doesn’t usually stay gone, right? So the judicial pronouncement of justification (I assume you agree that it’s a judicial pronouncement) comes and goes as one falls into mortal sin and then again comes to the sacraments, right? Those questions are mostly for my sake.

    Further, and more critically, does baptism and confession not only remove sin but also make one perfectly righteous (two distinct things)? Are you a perfect, absolutely righteous man when you step out of the confessional? If not, then how is the RCDJ any more based on actuality than the RDJ? I contend that God justifies me based upon the absolute perfect righteousness of Christ, which is squeaky clean perfect. Are you just as perfect *in yourself* as Jesus Christ, Bryan? Are you willing to assert that? If not, then the many of your arguments against RDJ fall to the ground, because without perfect righteousness there is no justification.

    In the grace of Christ,
    Tim

  157. Tim P, (Re: #156)

    My question in #102 was this:

    In other words, if at imputation nothing actually were transferred from Christ to me, and from me to Christ, but rather, God merely no longer saw things as they actually are, i.e. He stopped seeing Christ as righteous and me guilty, and started seeing Christ guilty and me righteous, even though in actuality nothing in reality had changed, what exactly would be different?

    Your answer, in #113 was this:

    if there were no union with Christ, the imputational transactions would be fiction (that is, not real). Since we are really united to Christ by faith, the imputations are real. You set up the situation thus: ‘Unless something is changed in the believer and in Christ, then nothing differentiates “fictional imputation” from “real imputation.”‘ This treats the spiritual union believers have with Christ as if it’s nothing or not real. This negates being “in Christ” as Paul repeats so often as the reality on which imputation is founded. You set up a false dichotomy: “It’s either a change in the believer” you might say, “or it’s fiction.” No, there’s a third way – real spiritual union with Christ unto forensic justification received by faith alone.

    But, as I explained in #114, that only shifts the nominalistic problem from one term (i.e. imputation), to another (i.e. union with Christ). So (in #114) I asked:

    This answer only shifts the nominalistic problem to a different term, and thus only pushes the question back. If “union with Christ” were identical to God seeing things not as they actually are [i.e. not seeing Christ as other than me, and not seeing me as other than Christ] what would be different about it? In other words, if at the moment we were “united with Christ” nothing actually changed in me or in Christ, but rather, God merely no longer saw things as they actually are, i.e. He stopped seeing Christ as other than me, and stopped seeing me as other than Christ, even though in actuality nothing in reality had changed, what exactly would be different?

    Your reply to this question (the question I asked in #114) is this (from #156):

    The ground of God’s justification of sinful men is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them – the double transaction Sproul mentions in your video clip. Those transactions occur within the context of union, which includes actual change in the sinner (definitive sanctification). Forensic justification is based upon imputation which occurs within the context of union. In other words, God’s no just taking something and calling it something else willy-nilly. He’s made a context of real spiritual union and real imputation of real righteousness and sinfulness in which this occurs. Thus, the charge of nominalism (just changing the name of a thing) doesn’t stick.

    Notice how your reply (in #156) doesn’t actually answer the question I asked in #114. In other words, it doesn’t show what would be different if at the moment of union with Christ nothing actually changed in me or in Christ, but rather, God merely no longer saw things as they actually are, i.e. He stopped seeing Christ as other than me, and stopped seeing me as other than Christ, even though in actuality nothing in reality had changed. I’m wanting to know what exactly you mean by “union with Christ”, and how “union with Christ” is not merely nominalistic. If your conception of ‘union’ is merely nominalistic, then you can see how explaining why imputation is not nominalistic, by claiming that imputation involves union with Christ, isn’t going to work. (It becomes, from my point of view, an exercise in whac-a-mole, as you cover one nominalistic concept by appealing to another.)

    You said that when one emerges for baptism or from the confessional, one emerges purified from all sin. Okay, so the sin’s gone, but doesn’t usually stay gone, right?

    Yes, we do commit venial sins. But, after our baptism, we can and should avoid mortal sin for the rest of our lives. And, some people do this. This is what it meant in the early Church to keep our baptismal garment white, until death or Christ returned, whichever came first. And this is why penance for mortal sin was such a big deal. This is one of the reasons Tertullian and the Cathari actually left the Church (although some were reconciled to the Church).

    So the judicial pronouncement of justification (I assume you agree that it’s a judicial pronouncement) comes and goes as one falls into mortal sin and then again comes to the sacraments, right? .

    It is not fundamentally a pronouncement; it is a state of our soul, whether it has sanctifying grace or it does not. And yes, that leaves upon committing mortal sin, but returns upon repentance.

    Further, and more critically, does baptism and confession not only remove sin but also make one perfectly righteous (two distinct things)?

    Given the relevant with-respect-to-whatness, yes. Concupiscence in our lower appetites is allowed to remain in us by Christ, in order to give us opportunity for merit, through battling it and overcoming it.

    Are you a perfect, absolutely righteous man when you step out of the confessional?

    Again, given the relevant with-respect-to-whatness, yes. A human being not only has rational powers, but also sensitive (animal) powers. Righteousness (or being rightly ordered) must be present in each power in the soul, though in different respects, to be perfect in an unqualified sense. (That would entail the absence of concupiscence.) But the kind of righteousness necessary for us to be friends with God, need only be in the will, not also in the lower powers. Hence, the with-respect-to-whatness in my answer.

    Are you just as perfect *in yourself* as Jesus Christ, Bryan?

    Yes. I have His Spirit in me, a participation in His divine nature infused into the very essence of my soul. If you don’t have that, then you cannot get into Heaven. Only those who have grace within them, and the supernatural charity (and hence divine righteousness – see comment #82) that intrinsically accompanies grace, can enter into Heaven. Your question shows that what you have is nominalistic imputation, a legal fiction. You’re trying to have it both ways. You want union, but pull back in dismay and disbelief at the idea of real union (of the sort I’m describing). But then you want to deny that your nominalistic ‘union’ is not real. You can’t have it both ways, and by the end of this conversation, hopefully I will have shown you that. You’ll have to choose between legal fiction, and real union (in which grace is more than merely divine favor).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  158. Bryan, sorry for the whack-a-mole routine. I was actually trying to avoid it, but think I made it worse by trying. The issue you keep driving at (and I think I understand your question, though honestly every time I read it my mind is confounded) is whether some “real” change has occurred in justification. By real you mean a change either in God/Christ or in the man justified. The answer is no. The “change” in justification is category in which God views the man. However, God does provide a “real” context for judicial pronouncement of justification which is union with Christ and imputation.

    As to your last paragraph, I agree that no one gets into heaven without being perfectly righteous. Getting into heaven is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about justification. You readily admit that you’re *not* perfectly righteous, in that you yet have concupiscence. But you turn around and speak of yourself as being as perfectly righteous as Christ *in yourself* – this is a problem. Either justification is partial and you can, like me, deal with your sinfulness and fight against it, or it’s entire and you are perfectly righteous – you don’t get both. Partial righteousness is not perfect righteousness. Would you really stand before the Holy One of Israel, the judge of the whole earth and plead a partial righteousness? Partial justification is not justification at all. All or nothing, baby.

    As to my having it both ways, you say, “You want union, but pull back in dismay and disbelief at the idea of real union (of the sort I’m describing).” I recoil utterly at the notion that a Christian should call himself perfectly righteous *in himself*. That “union” is utterly foreign to the Bible. The union being in Christ, being united to him by faith, growing up into a perfectly righteous person (achieved only in the resurrection) is what the Bible speaks of. My “legal fiction” fits into a biblical notion of union. Your “righteousness schizophrenia” does not.

    Have a great weekend. I doubt I’ll be around till Monday.
    -Tim

  159. Tim P (Re: #158),

    The issue you keep driving at (and I think I understand your question, though honestly every time I read it my mind is confounded) is whether some “real” change has occurred in justification. By real you mean a change either in God/Christ or in the man justified. The answer is no.

    If there is no change in man, and no change in Christ, then there is nothing to differentiate “fictional imputation” from “real imputation.” And if you reply, “No, real imputation involves union with Christ, while ‘fictional imputation’ does not involve union with Christ”, then I’ll ask you what is the difference between real union with Christ and fictional union with Christ. And if, in your theology, nothing differentiates real union from fictional union, then the “legal fiction” charge Sproul explains in the video (#108) stands. You can’t conceal nominalistic imputation by hiding it behind nominalistic union.

    The “change” in justification is category in which God views the man.

    That claim creates the following dilemma. Here’s the first horn of the dilemma. If God already [prior to justification] saw man truthfully, and there is no change in man or Christ, then the only direction for God to go (epistemically) is away from the truth. So the new perspective by which God views man must therefore be less truthful than the one He already had. In other words, God engages in a kind of self-deception.

    Here’s the other horn of the dilemma. If you think the new view is more truthful, and there is no change in man or Christ, then it follows that God was deceived about man until He acquired the new view, and was enlightened. That’s a form of process theology. So, the nominalistic view of justification entails either that God engages in self-deception, or God was deceived but then experienced enlightenment.

    However, God does provide a “real” context for judicial pronouncement of justification which is union with Christ and imputation.

    Since, as you stated earlier, there is no difference in man, and no difference in Christ, and since therefore there is no difference between fictional imputation and real imputation, and between fictional union and real union, therefore this so-called “real context” of which you speak can consist only of a change of perspective in God. Therefore, God simply makes this judicial pronouncement from the point of a new perspective. But the new perspective is either more truthful, in which case God was previously deceived, or the new perspective is less truthful, in which God engages in self-deception.

    But you turn around and speak of yourself as being as perfectly righteous as Christ *in yourself* – this is a problem. Either justification is partial and you can, like me, deal with your sinfulness and fight against it, or it’s entire and you are perfectly righteous – you don’t get both.

    That is a false dichotomy. That’s because, as I already explained, justification applies both to the will, and to the lower appetites. So a person can be truly and completely justified in his will (because he has charity), while remaining not truly and completely justified in his lower appetites (because he has concupiscence). To avoid this false dichotomy, you need to know the anthropology underlying what it means to be righteous.

    I recoil utterly at the notion that a Christian should call himself perfectly righteous *in himself*.

    Well, “in himself” can be said in different ways, and I want to make sure you didn’t misunderstand me. I did not mean it in a Pelagian sense, i.e. apart from grace. I meant it in a Catholic sense, i.e. by our true participation in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). That’s what we (Catholics) mean by grace, i.e. participation in the divine nature. If Christ is joined to me, and I am joined to Him, literally incorporated into His Body, such that my life is now a supernatural life (i.e. God’s life), and my supernatural soul is the Holy Spirit, then it would be blasphemous for a Christian in a state of grace to deny that he is perfectly righteous in himself, both because the Christian’s righteousness is Christ’s righteous, and because it is truly the Christian’s by infusion. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20)

    That “union” is utterly foreign to the Bible. The union being in Christ, being united to him by faith, growing up into a perfectly righteous person (achieved only in the resurrection) is what the Bible speaks of. My “legal fiction” fits into a biblical notion of union. Your “righteousness schizophrenia” does not.

    Without actually providing the texts of Scripture, your claims here are mere assertions. But at least you’re now admitting that your position is legal fiction. You’ve made the first step, which is to stop denying that your position reduces to legal fiction. Now we can make progress. :-)

    P.S. My whac-a-mole thing was just razzing you. Enjoy your weekend!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  160. Dear Tim P,

    I’m not going to be told which points I can make and which I can’t. That’s not how conversations work, especially not charitable dialogues in a mutual pursuit of the truth. Adding emotional phrases like “O please” etc… is something entirely different. This isn’t “gobsmacking” stuff, it’s pretty standard.

    Dear brother if you really think this response is “charitable” (no hint whatsoever that you may’ve been patronising) and in “the pursuit of truth” (you’ve persistantly missed the reason for my objection but put words into my mouth) I guess there’s nothing more I can say. I’m outta here.

    God bless you richly,

    Marty.

  161. Dear Tim P,

    In case you’re about to leave, can you tell me whether this summary is correct in your view before you go?

    (1) Catholics claim that imputation (as Protestants describe it) is a legal fiction, in that God must be either confused or dishonest at some point in time.

    (2) Protestants respond that imputation is not a legal fiction, because imputation involves real union with Christ.

    (3) Catholics respond that if this “real union with Christ” doesn’t involve a change in either Christ or us, then real union is indistinguishable from fake union, bringing us back to the charge that imputation is a legal fiction.

    (4) Protestants respond that this Catholic charge is false. (What is the argument here?)

    (5) Furthermore, Protestants claim that in any case there are also logical problems with the Catholic case itself (I know the Catholic responses to this claim, so I don’t need to ask you about step (5)).

    If this summary is correct, then can you enlighten me on step (4)? Namely, why is the Catholic charge in step (3) false?

    My second question is: if God’s goal is to save us, then why does anyone care very much how much righteousness he puts into us at any given point in time, from our earthly life through our various experiences in the afterlife? Surely He can do many things in this regard without being dishonest or confused. If He wants to free our will from sin after the sacrament of penance, and leave concupiscence there until death, then what is so bad with that? And if he wants to say that we are, in a certain sense, justified after the sacrament of penance (and baptism, etc) — even though we still have concupiscence until our hour of death — then why shouldn’t He be able to handle us that way? Is it just that you think that this Catholic conception is against your interpretation of scripture, or is it that you think this Catholic conception is illogical or self-contradictory?

    I’ll say off the bat that if this is just about an interpretation of scripture, then you have much more confidence in your interpretive powers than I do. I would rather listen to the Church Fathers than either myself, Martin Luther, or John Calvin (since, among other reasons, all three of us are/were too sinful in comparison with the Church Fathers who disagreed with us). But if the Church Fathers made a logical error, then please enlighten me. Is the Catholic conception self-contradictory or does it give its followers a tendency to do evil?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  162. Tim and Bryan, thank you gentlemen a great deal for your interactions. I’m currently under conviction that I’m using a good deal of time unwisely. Blogging is right on top of the list. That said, you won’t see me around here much. If, however, either of you are in the Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia area, please drop a line. I’d love to take either of you out for a beer. My email should be accessible to you, as it’s linked to all my posts.

    God bless you men,
    Tim Prussic

  163. Tim P – I’ve enjoyed it, and if I’m ever up that way, I’ll take you up on the offer. And if you ever decide to ignore your conviction, if only temporarily, I hope your moment of weakness will bring you back here to stop in and say hello.

  164. Tim P,

    Blogging is one thing; the pursuit of theological truth by dialoguing electronically with informed persons holding the Catholic faith, is quite another. The former may be imprudent; but the latter is a noble and worthwhile activity, all other things being equal.

    :-)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  165. Bryan,
    I came here at your suggestion, because I was commenting on the issue of “Faith alone” at the discussion on Canon, Sola Scriptura entitled, ” Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture”.

    I don’t know of any Protestant who would say one can have true faith and not also love for Christ at the same time. True Faith produces love for Christ, because of His love for us. We would never say, “we are justified by a faith that is devoid of love”; that just does not make sense.

    All who are justified are also changed and sanctified and are growing in their love for the Lord, but it is based on His love for us first.

    “the love of Christ controls (moves, motivates, constrains) us . . . 2 Cor. 5:14

    “We love, because He first loved us.” I John 4:19

    Justification by faith alone does not contradict Romans 5:5 -” . . . the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

    Even Catholic Nick agrees with me here at the first comment box: (I disagree with most of the other things he writes, but he gets it right on this.)

    -“The article gave off the impression the issue was “faith working through love,” with the Reformed side denying this. That’s incorrect. The Reformed Confessions expressly say the faith that justifies is the type that works by love (they are seen as a ‘package deal’ in fact). The key distinction is the operations faith and love play. Take this example: You need a fork and spoon to eat dinner, but only the spoon is used to eat the soup while the fork is used to eat the salad. Likewise, in justification, Protestants see faith as the sole instrument necessary because it alone is what ‘takes hold’ of the “righteousness of Christ” at the moment of justification. Love is still right along side ‘genuine faith’, but it plays another (though just as important) role: Sanctification.”

  166. Ken, (re: #165)

    Before you comment on this post, you need to read the comments. (Yeah, I know there’s a lot of them.) The objection you raise has already been dealt with in the comments.

    Also, sixteen [critical] comments in a twenty-four hour period is a bit much. Keep in mind that you are a guest here, a welcome guest, but a guest nonetheless. We all have day jobs and families, and we can’t respond to sixteen critical comments a day from one person. So please show us the courtesy of limiting your [critical] comments to a more reasonable number per day, just as you would, no doubt, if you were a guest at our dinner table with many other guests present as well.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  167. Bryan,
    The article quotes the Holy Father,

    “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

    “In other words, in Catholic soteriology we are already justified by faith alone (i.e. without works) if that faith is accompanied by love for God.4 Without love for God, we cannot be in friendship with God, even though God loves us, because mutual love is necessary for friendship. And no one who is not a friend of God is justified before God.5″

    Do you think that the Holy Father was saying the equivalent of what you followed with. Could we or should we (Catholics) understand this to be an example of the Holy Father affirming that one can be justified by faith alone without works? Would this faith itself be enough to justify so long as it included agape. Does this mean that faith alone (with agape, and hope?) can justify, without works?

    Peter Kreeft, in Catholic Christianity, said something similar. He said that we are justified by faith alone (he called it will-faith or heart-faith alone- which I suppose might be the equivalent of faith with agape or something like that). He also said that this faith will necessarily produce good works. I understand Kreeft to be saying that one can be justified by faith alone, even BEFORE one has done any good works or done any works (are they the same?). Do you think this is correct?

    Would the dying thief on the cross next to Our Lord be an example of someone justified by faith alone without works? I have heard some say that his admonishing the other sinner, confessing the innocence of Jesus, and admitting his own sin would count as works- do you think this is right?

  168. Sorry, the post I just put here is misleading about what the Holy Father said.

    The only part where the article quoted the Holy Father was where the Holy Father said, “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

    The quoted paragraph following that is a paragraph written by Bryan, not the Holy Father. Again, only that one sentence was written by the Holy Father, the rest was written by Bryan and not by the Holy Father.

  169. I said agape where I meant to say Charity. I don’t know why I did that.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  170. Mark, (re: #167)

    You wrote:

    Do you think that the Holy Father was saying the equivalent of what you followed with. Could we or should we (Catholics) understand this to be an example of the Holy Father affirming that one can be justified by faith alone without works? Would this faith itself be enough to justify so long as it included agape. Does this mean that faith alone (with agape, and hope?) can justify, without works?

    I explain this in St. Clement’s Soteriology. Agape is a virtue, from which works of agape flow. A baby is justified at baptism, before he has ever done a work of agape. That is because at baptism, he receives sanctifying grace and infused agape, and is thereby made a friend of God.

    Those who have reached the age of reason either choose to love God above all else, or choose to love some creature more than God. The former is an act of love for God. Even the thief on the cross did this. A person who says he has faith, but does not love God through his actions, is deceiving himself, as James explains. Agape as a virtue in the soul is, for those who have reached the age of reason, necessarily expressed in actions, or else it is expunged from the soul by mortal sin.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    UPDATE: December, 2011: I discuss this in more detail here.

  171. In “Sola Fide and Gateway Drugs,” Peter Leithart writes:

    Why can’t he say this: We are justified by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and also the Spirit inscribes the law on our hearts so that we reap everlasting life? Or, following Richard Gaffin, why can’t we say that God’s reckoning us righteous and the Spirit’s work of putting the law in our hearts are both fruits of the reality of union with Christ? Why can’t we say: The “external and alien righteousness” by which we are justified is Jesus Christ Himself, the Righteous One, to whom are are united by faith? And then why can’t we say: Jesus Christ the Righteous is no inert resident of my heart, but active and powerful by His Spirit?

    Because in Scripture God only counts us righteous if we are, by His doing, actually righteous. There are not two ways of being righteous before God: the declaration way, and the actually becoming righteous way. Only those who are actually righteous in their hearts are righteous before God. Legal righteousness before God is the verdict of Truth Who does not lie and is not deceived. Legal righteousness before the God who is Truth depends therefore upon the soul actually being righteous, precisely by the presence of the supernatural gift of infused agape, which fulfills the law, immediately, by its very presence as a supernatural virtue in the soul. This is why Catholics have no doubt concerning the salvation of their baptized infants who die in infancy, even though they died having not done a single good work. At their baptism the Holy Spirit instantly poured out into their hearts (Rom 5:5) sanctifying grace and agape, which ipso facto, by its very presence, fulfilled the law, prior to any good work flowing from it. To have agape in one’s heart is to have the law written on one’s heart, and thus to be actually and truly righteous. So there is no such thing as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as something other than what is made true of a person by the infusion of agape. God does not look fundamentally at accounts; He looks fundamentally at hearts. And that’s what is problematic with Leithart’s proposed alternative; he proposes a legal declaration of righteousness by God that is not based on, but only followed by, an actual making righteous in the heart.

    The immediate objection, from the Reformed perspective, is the experience of sin in the life of the believer, and therefore the apparent falsehood of the notion that the baptized believer has been made truly righteous. But the Catholic theological framework includes other distinctions that dissolve the force of that objection. One is the distinction between sin and concupiscence. According to the Catholic Church concupiscence is not sin, because sin requires a consent of the will. See section V in “Aquinas and Trent: Part 7.” A movement of the lower appetites toward that which is contrary to God’s perfect law of love, is not sin, unless the will consents to it.

    Second, the Catholic Church distinguishes between mortal sin and venial sin, and that distinction is crucial for understanding how a person can be actually and truly righteous (because of the presence of agape in his heart) while daily committing venial sin. See “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction between Mortal and Venial Sin.” Without that distinction, one faces among other problems the difficulty of explaining how, given a one time forgiveness of all our sins, we must still in good faith ask God daily to forgive us our trespasses: see “Reformed Imputation and the Lord’s Prayer.”

  172. Bryan,
    What is the difference between the Catholic view of the infusion of agape and the Reformed notion of regeneration, as in regeneration precedes faith? My understanding is that the Catholic tradition does not teach that regeneration precedes faith, but that actual grace precedes justification and draws one to the reception of sanctifying grace. So I see that difference. I’m wondering what the difference is in terms of what takes place in the soul of the new Christian. I assume the Reformed tradition must make some distinction between regeneration and righteousness, whereas the Catholic tradition does not?
    Thanks,
    Mark

  173. MarkS, (re: #172)

    Great question. In Catholic teaching, the unbaptized adult first receives faith by hearing, as moved by actual grace. Yet this is a supernatural act of faith, not yet the supernatural virtue of faith. The catechumen receives sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and agape at baptism. By the extra-ordinary operation of the Holy Spirit, the catechumen could receive these prior to baptism, yet even then still through that sacrament, by way of anticipation. So in Catholic doctrine regeneration ordinarily takes place at baptism, though extraordinarily can occur prior to baptism. This is why the Church has always maintained hope for the salvation of catechumens who die before receiving baptism.

    Reformed theology teaches that regeneration precedes faith in the order of causation, not in time. And insofar as regeneration includes an instant initial sanctification, there is common ground here, between Reformed theology and Catholic doctrine. The difference, however, is that ordinarily in Reformed theology this initial sanctification that takes place at regeneration is not treated as sufficient to make one at that moment perfectly righteous and justified. And that is in part because Reformed theology does not distinguish between mortal and venial sin, and does not treat concupiscence as not sinful. That’s because Reformed theology does not recognize infused agape as, by its very presence as a supernatural virtue of the will, the fulfillment of the law. Fulfillment of the law, from the Reformed perspective, is conceived as fulfillment to the letter of the externally written law, even in the lower appetites. (Contrast that with the Catholic doctrine as presented by St. Augustine.) So sanctification in Reformed theology is treated as always imperfect in this life, and therefore as always falling short of the perfect righteousness demanded by God’s law. Sanctification is therefore, in Reformed theology, never the basis for our justification; otherwise, according to that perspective, no one would be saved. And therefore in Reformed theology the initial immediate sanctification that takes place in regeneration is incapable of being the basis for our justification. Thus even though in Reformed theology justification is always necessarily accompanied by initial sanctification and followed by progressive sanctification, nevertheless, salvation depends entirely on justification, conceived as an initial and irrevocable external accounting swap by which on Judgment Day Christ will, by looking at our account, judge us to be truly and perfectly “righteous.”

    I hope that answers your question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  174. Peter Leithart, in “Regeneration & Calling” (possibly a follow-up post to the post discussed in comment #171) quotes from Michael Horton regarding the relation of regeneration and infusion, writing:

    Scripture indicates that we ‘have been born again … through the living and abiding word of God’ (1 Pe 1:23). ‘Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures’ (Jas 1:18). … ‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all,’ yet he immediately adds, ‘The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life’ (v. 63, emphasis added).

    “If this is the case, why do we need an immediately infused habitus to intervene between these mediated events? Does such an adaptation of this medieval category save us from synergism only to open the door again to a dualism between God’s person and Word? According to the above-cited passages, the Spirit implants the seed of his Word, not a principle or habit distinct from that Word. At no point in the ordo salutis, then, is there an infusion of a silent principle rather than a vocal, lively, and active speech. In attributing all efficacy to the Spirit’s power, Scripture nevertheless represents this as occurring through the Word of God that is ‘at work’ in its recipients (1 Th 2:13; cf. 1 Co 2:4–5; 2 Co 4:13; Eph 1:17; Gal 3:2; 1 Th 1:4; Tit 3:4)—specifically, that message of the gospel, which is ‘the power of God for salvation’ (Ro 1:16; 10:17; 1 Th 1:5).

    Leithart then adds:

    I would only add that the view that regeneration is an “immediately infused habitus” looks like a throwback to medieval soteriological categories that the Reformation was trying to escape.

    Regarding the alleged “dualism between God’s person and Word,” I recently wrote:

    And Scripture itself is not God. The words of Scripture are God breathed, but they are not God Himself. The Second Person of the Trinity is not the Bible. Otherwise, since God cannot exist without the Logos, God could not exist without the words of the Bible. And in that case God could not have chosen not to create this world, or to have created some other world. And that would rob God of His freedom to not create this world, and in that way turn Him into the Neo-Platonic One who must necessarily emanate what he emanates. So if Scripture is infallible (or more properly ‘inerrant’), then it undermines the authority of God who spoke it, since God and Scripture are not the same being. Now, you could add another qualifier to your list of exceptions: “except when it is Scripture,” but again, that’s ad hoc.

    See also comment #104 in the “Calvin on Self-Authentication” thread, in which I address the same problem, and provide a video demonstrating an example of the error, and comment #32 of the “Short Video on the Identification of the Apostolic Faith” where I respond to the same claim.

    But setting aside the conflation of God’s intrinsic and necessary Word (the Logos), and God’s extrinsic and contingent word as found in Scripture, let’s consider Horton’s claims carefully. First Horton claims that we don’t need any infused habit, because we have the Word within us. But in what sense is the Word “within us”? The Logos by His divine nature is omnipresent, and thus within everything by His power. And yet not all people (and things) are ipso facto righteous. Nor does merely being spatially within us constitute in actual change in us from unrighteousness to righteousness. So the way God is within believers must also be in some other sense than in the ‘omnipresent’ sense. Yet for Horton, any ontological union is fusion, and must therefore be rejected. Grace, for Horton and Clark, is nothing more than divine favor (see comment #3 in “Pelagian Westminster?”) As I wrote in comment #54 in “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End,”

    “Reformed theology presently has no middle position between mere covenantal [i.e. extrinsic] union, and a fusion that obliterates the Creator-creature distinction. The solution is precisely the Church’s teaching that grace is not mere divine favor, but also God’s gift of granting us a participation in the divine nature.”

    (In that post, see footnote #14 on Michael Horton’s notion of fusion.) Because of his rejection of participation, union is no different (in terms of being an inherent change in us) from legal fiction, because if I’m not ontologically joined to Christ, then it does not matter whether Christ is “outside” me or “inside” me the way magnets are in the stomach of a dog who ate them, or even whether Christ is me the way Descartes’s ‘mind’ was ‘in’ His mechanical body as a deus ex machina; I am still unrighteous.

    The Reformed rejection of participation makes the union between Christ and the believer only extrinsic (even if internal), and therefore leaves the believer intrinsically unrighteous. That’s why we need an infused habitus. What makes us truly righteous before God is not words in us; that would be salvation by knowledge, which is a kind of gnosticism. What makes us truly righteous is having not just within us, but as second nature (see comment #7 above), the agape that ipso facto fulfills the law, as I explained in comment #171 above. All the law (and thus all the words of the law) are summed up in, and contained within, agape, and agape cannot be reduced to words. That’s precisely why the external law was impotent to save, because agape cannot ultimately be reduced to words.

    Next, Horton claims that Scripture speaks of God planting the seed of His Word, “not a principle of habit distinct from that Word. At no point in the ordo salutis, then, is there an infusion of a silent principle rather than a vocal, lively, and active speech.” It is true that Scripture speaks of being born again through the living and abiding word of God. Those passages are talking about the good news of the gospel, since faith comes by (and is built up by) hearing the word of God. But when Horton says that Scripture doesn’t speak of infusion, he is incorrect, even though the term ‘infusion’ is not used in Scripture. The Holy Spirit pouring out agape into our hearts (Rom 5:5) is just what infusion is. This is what it means to have the law written on our hearts, and to be circumcised in heart, to be a new creation.

    Horton wants what is in us to be only the Word of God and the Spirit of God, without infused virtues. However, see comment #12 in “St. Thomas Aquinas on Penance,” in which I explain how St. Thomas shows that agape must be a virtue, and cannot be merely the indwelling Spirit. See also comment #39 in “Imputation and Infusion: A Reply to R.C. Sproul Jr.”

    As for “throwback to medieval soteriological categories,” perhaps this is just one more way in which Leithart has not quite worked out of his theology the “chronological snobbery” of both modernism and humanism. And, as can be seen in St. Thomas’s account of charity, the notion that agape is not a virtue was itself a position proposed and defended by certain scholastics. So embracing such a position is not escaping from a medieval position, but returning to one, while denying that one is doing so, and therefore making one susceptible to repeating the same mistakes made by those scholastics who denied that agape is an infused virtue. Rather than dismissing positions or categories because they are “medieval,” (as if that ipso facto falsifies them), it seems to me that a better response is to evaluate them according to the evidence and argumentation for and against them, as in fact the Scholastics did.

  175. In the Ligonier video below, R.C. Sproul teaches on imputation, just as he did in the video in comment #108, and my reply is the same as that given in comment #108 and in the comments following that comment, including what I said in reply to Leithart in comment #171 above:

    What Does “Simul Justus et Peccator” Mean? from Ligonier on Vimeo.

    Sproul’s position entails that what is “in our account” can be different from what is “in our heart.” But in actuality, because God is the Truth, what is “in our account” must be the truth about what is in our heart, because “our account” is not something separated from us, like a bank account, but is precisely God’s heart-penetrating judgment concerning what is in our heart. The gospel is not a covering of sin, but the removal of sin. That’s why Sproul’s ‘gospel’ is a false gospel, because it denies the full truth concerning Christ’s redemptive work, namely, that He came not that we would be forgiven of sin while left in sin (simul justus et peccator), but be both forgiven and freed from sin. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rom 6:17-18)

  176. Hey Bryan,

    In your post you discuss the relationship between faith as fiduia, notitia, and assensus, but you do not dwell on it for a significant amount of time. I find that this actually may get at the very heart of the discussion because if faith is NOT fiducia, then what we Protestants confess “Faith alone” encounters numerous difficulties. On the other hand, if faith IS fiducia, then this lends credibility to the Reformed doctrine. I’m not entirely sure what it would mean for the Catholic doctrine if faith is fiducia, but I think that it would at least qualify what you mean when you speak of faith working through love.

    You could reference this article by David VanDrunen for example: http://wscal.edu/resource-center/resource/the-nature-of-justifying-faith

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and time.

  177. RefProt, (re: #176)

    Thanks for this comment. I brought this up in comment #6 above. So the question is this: Does fiducia include agape within itself or not? If fiducia does include agape within itself, then the next step toward Reformed-Catholic reconciliation is recognizing that the presence of agape fulfills the law, as I explained in #171, and in the body of the post, and as St. Augustine says over and over (see “St. Augustine on Law and Grace“) . At that point, we’re just a hair’s-breadth away from agreement regarding justification, and definitely not in a ‘schism-worthy’ situation, all other things being equal. The whole Augustinian-Thomistic (and Tridentine) way of thinking about justification opens up for Protestants at that point.

    If, on the other hand, fiducia does not include agape within itself, then I don’t see the significance (vis-a-vis Protestant-Catholic reconciliation) of drawing the distinction between faith as fiducia, notitia, and assensus. But, perhaps I’m missing something. Help me out. What difference (relevant to Catholic – Protestant reconciliation) do you think the distinction between faith as fiducia, notitia, or assensus makes?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  178. RefProt,

    Here’s another relevant question, related to your comment. Are there any passages in Scripture that definitively exclude agape from justifying faith? I read the VanDrunen article, and I don’t see in it any evidence that tips the scales in the Protestant direction, in terms of showing from Scripture that justifying faith is only notitia, assensus, and fiducia but not also agape, though necessarily followed by agape. Where are the verses showing that justifying faith is (a) notitia, assensus, and fiducia but not also agape, though necessarily followed by works of agape, and not (b) notitia, assensus, and fiducia informed by agape, and necessarily followed by works of agape?

    It seems to me, for reasons you can see if you read the post above, that this is a crucial question for resolving the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics regarding justification. In my opinion, in order to be a Protestant, and justify (sorry) separating from (or remaining separated from) the Catholic Church, I would at least need definitive, knock-down evidence in Scripture that justifying faith is (a) and not (b). But I don’t see any such evidence in Scripture. That’s the point of the post. All the justification passages in Scripture can be interpreted as well within, if not better within, the Catholic paradigm according to which justifying faith is fides formata (i.e. faith informed by agape).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  179. Oh, Yes! Most emphatically Yes! In Christ alone, no?

    On Sproul & Saving Faith (& the tri-partite definition of the latter):
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/The%20Trinity%20Review%2000238%20Review265RCSproulonFaith.pdf

    (Hint: Faith & trust & believing are synonyms! It consists of understanding & assent.)

  180. Hugh (re:#179),

    Out of curiosity, did you read this article? If so, I’d be interested in how you would answer Bryan’s examination of Scripture(s) therein.

  181. No, Mr Lake, I had not; so please allow me to quote it & comment as I read it.

    The Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that faith is not the only thing necessary, on our part, in order to be justified. [NB: …if justification comes entirely and completely through faith alone, as Protestantism maintains, then once we believe, we are already justified and so there is no place for us to prepare ourselves for our justification.] We also need love [agape] for God. If we believe the message about Christ, but do not have love [agape] for God, then we are not justified, because such faith is not a living faith. Only when accompanied by love for God is faith living faith, and hence justifying faith.

    Certainly true: living faith comes with love to God & others. Gal. 5:23f tell not of fruits, but of fruit, of the Holy Spirit. They are inseparable: Love, joy, peace, patience, faith, etc. But what justifies is Christ’s work alone, received by faith alone, given us by God’s grace alone. Love never justifies, though it is partner with the rest of the Spirit’s fruit. You folks confuse effect for cause.

    True faith is always & necessarily accompanied by love, et. al. God’s love is poured into our hearts upon regeneration ~ Rom. 5:4f. But, there is no later “adding” of love to faith.

    The dead faith spoken of by James [2:19] is barely monotheistic, and easily demonic. The faith that justifies is ever accompanied by good works, per Eph. 2:10.

    As cited by Dr Cross from the Council: “…If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.”

    We certainly affirm that God’s grace (his mercy & love) is “only” his favor in the sense that there need be and can be nothing else necessary as the first cause to the salvation of wretched men & women. See Eph. 2:1-9. We love him because he first loved us, as saith St John.

    Further, by taking away our sins, and imputing to us Christ’s righteousness, God has essentially –& utterly of his grace– saved us from the wrath to come. We are in complete opposition to Trent VI:II as quoted here.

    But then we are told:

    In other words, in Catholic soteriology we are already justified by faith alone (i.e. without works) if that faith is accompanied by love for God. Without love for God, we cannot be in friendship with God, even though God loves us, because mutual love is necessary for friendship. And no one who is not a friend of God is justified before God.

    We agree that faith and love come as a package (w/ self-control, peace, kindness, et. al.) But Dr Cross is contradictory. First, he has justification by faith alone (i.e. w/o works), but then, no, that faith must be accompanied by love. Which is it, alone or in company with agape? (He’s almost sounding Protestant!)

    Again, we affirm that love, gentleness, kindness, et. al. necessarily come with true, God-given faith. We agree that God gives it all. We disagree that we add our own love to God (Spirit-aided or not) to make our faith justifying.

    Thank you. More as I am able…

    Hugh

  182. My Roman numbering is off! It should read above:

    “We are in complete opposition to Trent VI:XI as quoted here.”

    This bit: “…If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.”

    That’s just what we saith! :)

    Also, I erred re: Dr Cross’s point in the last quote given in my post #181.

    We are NOT agreed that faith & love, &c. come as package. He is not contradictory there. I misread him. My apologies.

    Our (Prots’) position: We are already justified by faith alone (i.e. without works) AND [not “if”] that faith is ALWAYS accompanied by love for God.

  183. Hugh –

    The dead faith spoken of by James [2:19] is barely monotheistic, and easily demonic. The faith that justifies is ever accompanied by good works, per Eph. 2:10.

    Protestant friends of mine (many of whom might best be considered “neo-reformed”) use similar words to explain the letter of James. Works, for them, are things that flow out of our faith. A person who has been saved by faith, they say, will produce good works as a sign of their faith in Christ’s salvific work.

    But isn’t that infusion? I just don’t see how an extra nos imputation can account for good works done by a Christian – in the commonly held protestant understanding. Unless there is a change of heart and some infusion of Christ’s righteousness it seems like good works would still be impossible after receiving Christs righteousness through an extra nos imputation.

    You might use the word imputation, but what you actually believe concerning James understanding of faith and works seems to be infusion. You, sir, sound Catholic.

  184. Hugh (re:#181 and #182),

    Thank you for your reply, brother. (To be clear, my Catholic Christian faith enjoins that I recognize you as my brother in Christ, and I am happy to do so, even as I recognize that some Reformed Protestants cannot, in good conscience, reciprocate. The latter was once my own conviction, but that has obviously changed.)

    You wrote:

    Certainly true: living faith comes with love to God & others. Gal. 5:23f tell not of fruits, but of fruit, of the Holy Spirit. They are inseparable: Love, joy, peace, patience, faith, etc. But what justifies is Christ’s work alone, received by faith alone, given us by God’s grace alone. Love never justifies, though it is partner with the rest of the Spirit’s fruit. You folks confuse effect for cause.

    You understand Catholics to be “confus(ing) effect for cause” on the issue of love’s role in justification. How familiar are you with the Biblical-exegetical thinking of the early Church Fathers, circa the 2nd through the 6th centuries A.D.? Apparently, if the Protestant Reformation was/is correct on justification, all of the early Church Fathers confused the effect for the cause, and this disturbing exegetical misunderstanding persisted, in fact, from the 2nd century until the 1500s (with Luther and the Reformation). This is quite a long time for God to have allowed virtually all of historically documented Christianity to have been in the dark about the proper Biblical understanding of justification. Would this not be a form of what has been described, here at CTC, as “ecclesial deism”?

    Here is some (beginning) evidence of what the early Christians (after the deaths of the first apostles) believed about justification and salvation: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/salvation/

    Dr. Ligon Duncan is considered by many serious Reformed Protestants to be well-informed about the early Church Fathers, and this would seem to make sense, given that Church History *was* his area of doctoral study. In light of our discussion here, I commend to you Bryan’s article on Dr. Duncan, the early Fathers, and whether or not they “knew the (Protestant) Gospel”: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/07/ligon-duncans-did-the-fathers-know-the-gospel/

  185. Father Bryan (re:#183),

    I won’t presume to speak for Hugh’s view on this matter of works and extra nos imputation. However, speaking for myself, by the time that I returned to the Catholic Church, I had been a committed, involved member of two different “neo-Reformed” congregations (respectively, Reformed Baptist, and, later, a “non-denominational Calvinistic” ecclesial community). In both of these congregations, we affirmed what we believed the Bible to affirm– that one who is justified by faith alone in Christ alone *will* produce good works in his/her life, by God’s grace, *and* that these works do not justify, but rather serve as evidence, before man, that one *has* been justified.

    As to seeming “infusion” in Calvinist theology, Calvinists generally believe that at the moment one is regenerated (brought from spiritual death to life by God), the orientation of one’s heart *toward* God is changed from that of utter hatred and rebellion to love and submission, resulting in faith– the faith itself being due to God’s grace, while also being a, shall we say, “free but inevitable” choice on one’s part, given that one now sees God as so incredibly worthy of worship that one finds Him “irresistible”– thus, the “I” of the TULIP, irresistible grace. Calvinists still maintain, though, that the love that God brings about in one’s heart, in regeneration, has nothing to do with one’s justification– even though, *without* that love for God, one would not ever profess the living faith in Him, which, in the Calvinist schemata, justifies oneself before Him.

    Sound confusing? :-) As I write this out, articulating and reflecting on my former Calvinist beliefs, I see that there is clearly a problem here. One would not ever profess saving, justifying faith without having *first* received the eyes to see and ears to hear the Gospel of Christ, *and* without having first had one’s heart transformed so as to love God– but that love plays *no* role at all in one’s justification before God. Works of love for God and neighbor can “justify” (provide evidence of) one’s faith before man, but they play no role at all in one’s justification before God. Only the faith alone (in Christ alone) justifies one before God.

    That is the Calvinist position on justification– and, as one who used to hold it, I have to say, with genuine, abiding love and respect for my Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ, such a position is simply not part of the apostolic deposit of faith, taught by Jesus and the apostles, in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and handed down by them and their successors, to the present day, in the Catholic Church. The Calvinist position on justification is not *even* internally consistent– because regeneration, and love for God, actually *precede* the faith in Him which supposedly *alone* justifies. If grace-enabled, grace-empowered love for God precedes justifying faith in Him, and if that love for Him is any cause at all of one’s professing justifying faith in Him, then the Calvinist position on justification cannot logically be said to be so different from the Catholic position that the former is supposedly “the Biblical Gospel,” while the latter supposedly is a different, damning, “false Gospel.”

  186. Why was Stellman’s post pulled down?

  187. Dear Bryan (#183),

    We are infused if you will, or, filled/ baptized by the Holy Spirit, Who brings all love, joy, etc. (Gal. 5:23f).

    But that “internal” work of the Holy Spirit and the good works flowing therefrom are not what justify.

    Jesus’ work, death, & resurrection are imputed to the believer. These are what justify.

    In believing the gospel promises, we receive Christ and eternal life. Faith is the instrument by which we receive justification – the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    Justification is through faith alone, but not because of our believing. Neither our works nor our faith are meritorious (earning us eternal life), that’s all of Christ alone.

  188. Chris @ 184: Thanks. Will read ECF and listen to Ligon with interest. Of course you remember that our side takes “Fathers,” Post-Acts 15 Councils, and papal decrees as fallible, not authoritative.

    @185:

    As to seeming “infusion” in Calvinist theology, Calvinists generally believe that at the moment one is regenerated (brought from spiritual death to life by God), the orientation of one’s heart *toward* God is changed from that of utter hatred and rebellion to love and submission, resulting in faith– the faith itself being due to God’s grace, while also being a, shall we say, “free but inevitable” choice on one’s part, given that one now sees God as so incredibly worthy of worship that one finds Him “irresistible”– thus, the “I” of the TULIP, irresistible grace. Calvinists still maintain, though, that the love that God brings about in one’s heart, in regeneration, has nothing to do with one’s justification– even though, *without* that love for God, one would not ever profess the living faith in Him, which, in the Calvinist schemata, justifies oneself before Him.

    Sound confusing? :-) As I write this out, articulating and reflecting on my former Calvinist beliefs, I see that there is clearly a problem here. One would not ever profess saving, justifying faith without having *first* received the eyes to see and ears to hear the Gospel of Christ, *and* without having first had one’s heart transformed so as to love God– but that love plays *no* role at all in one’s justification before God. Works of love for God and neighbor can “justify” (provide evidence of) one’s faith before man, but they play no role at all in one’s justification before God. Only the faith alone (in Christ alone) justifies one before God.

    Pretty fair summation. Thou wert not far from the kingdom of God!

    As for our supposed confusion:

    If grace-enabled, grace-empowered love for God precedes justifying faith in Him, and if that love for Him is any cause at all of one’s professing justifying faith in Him, then the Calvinist position on justification cannot logically be said to be so different from the Catholic position that the former is supposedly “the Biblical Gospel,” while the latter supposedly is a different, damning, “false Gospel.”.

    Love for God is given with faith, as I have said. Galatians 5:23f have a fruit package that is indivisible. Faith accompanies love with peace, joy, kindness, etc. Neither precedes the other.

  189. Chris @184 –

    Here is some (beginning) evidence of what the early Christians (after the deaths of the first apostles) believed about justification and salvation: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/salvation/

    Just beginning there. The title of the page is “Salvation.” But these patristic soundbites are not speaking of justification, but of rewards.

    For example, Augustine speaks of “our meriting to live happily in eternity.” Is this justification for eternal life, or happiness-improving rewards merited for works done post-justification? He says further, “who is able to live righteously and do good works unless he has been justified by faith?” Indeed. By faith alone? :)

    The final six there ~ Cyril, Jerome, Augs, Prosper, Sechnall, & Orange II ~ all speak to Protestants of meriting certain rewards in glory, not meriting glory.

    {If we’re off-topic, I’m available at hughmc5 AT hotmail DOT com}

  190. Hugh –

    Before I respond, I must ask for further explanation on this sentence: “Justification is through faith alone, but not because of our believing. Neither our works nor our faith are meritorious (earning us eternal life), that’s all of Christ alone.”

    I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean by through faith, here. The distinction between the two is not obvious to me.

  191. For Christopher Lake (re: 185):

    The Calvinist position on justification is not *even* internally consistent– because regeneration, and love for God, actually *precede* the faith in Him which supposedly *alone* justifies. If grace-enabled, grace-empowered love for God precedes justifying faith in Him, and if that love for Him is any cause at all of one’s professing justifying faith in Him, then the Calvinist position on justification cannot logically be said to be so different from the Catholic position that the former is supposedly “the Biblical Gospel,” while the latter supposedly is a different, damning, “false Gospel.”

    Christopher – I think your explanation of the Reformed system is not too bad overall, but I would like to qualify the statement you make above. We believe that regeneration logically precedes justification. It’s not a temporal matter – we do not believe that there are people who are walking around who are regenerated but not justified. But on the other hand we do truly affirm that we are saved by a faith which is formed in love so that there are not people who have been justified that are still enemies of God. So we say that regeneration logically precedes justification because it makes no sense to speak of someone who has been justified before we speak of the act of God changing their hearts.

    You and Fr. Bryan say that our theology sounds like infusion. Perhaps this is because we affirm a justifying faith that is accompanied by love for God. We say that it is certainly true that we are not saved by a dead faith, but it is equally true that we are justified apart from the works which accompanies this faith. Both are biblical truths. The close association of faith and works does not imply causation. This is the Catholic exegetical facility IMO.

    I do understand how what are saying could be confused for infusion. To avoid this confusion on another loop I was encouraging Jason Stellman to begin with the very clear and unambiguous statements of Trent on justification. Trent speaks of us loosing our justification and then being able to recover it by sacramental (and other) works. I suggested that in Trent there is a much clearer distinction than what we find voiced by many Catholic apologists today. It’s just not helpful in my mind to say that Catholics hold that we are justified by a faith formed by love while Protestants don’t. In fact, it’s just downright false. Now curiously Jason would have none of this, which made me think that he is still not sure where he is at wrt justification. But Jason did not tell me why he would not take up my challenge so I really don’t know for sure.

    Cheers for now….

  192. Hugh (re:#188 and #189),

    Thank you for the replies, brother. You wrote, regarding my articulation of the Calvinist view of justification by faith alone, with works being seen only as “evidence before man” of that justification:

    Pretty fair summation. Thou wert not far from the kingdom of God!

    Thank you– I think. :-)

    In #188, you also wrote:

    Love for God is given with faith, as I have said. Galatians 5:23f have a fruit package that is indivisible. Faith accompanies love with peace, joy, kindness, etc. Neither precedes the other.

    As articulated above, you do not believe that Scripture teaches that one’s being given love for God (by God) precedes one’s putting one’s faith in Him for eternal salvation.

    Hugh, I have a couple of honest questions here– would you have put your faith (alone) in Christ (alone) for your eternal salvation, without having *first* been given love for God, by God? How does *anyone* put one’s faith in Christ alone, if one does not yet love Christ?

    You say that Galatians 5:23f teaches us that:

    Faith accompanies love with peace, joy, kindness, etc. Neither precedes the other.

    Let’s consider this carefully together. Isn’t grace-wrought, grace-enabled, grace-empowered love for God the *reason* that sinners put their faith in Christ for alone their salvation? I would never have in trusted Christ if I had not loved Him (by God’s grace) first– because *He* loved *me* first! I do, indeed, affirm that truth! :-) It is the teaching of the Catholic Church in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As a Catholic, I do hold to the teaching of Galatians 5, and to the inerrancy of the Scriptures, period– but not to the *Reformed interpretation* of the Bible’s teaching on justification by faith alone.

    When St. Paul writes, in Galatians, chapter 3, of the Christian’s justification apart from works, he is not affirming the Protestant understanding of such, but rather, he is affirming, for both Jewish and Gentile Christians, the absolute centrality of faith in Christ *over and above* circumcision and other “works of the law” which, at the time, divided Jewish and Gentile Christians. A careful examination of Galatians, chapter 5, clearly shows the “Jewish Christian/Gentile Christian” conflict, in that local church, which was/is the context for Paul’s writing about “the law” and “works”:

    1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine; and he who is troubling you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the stumbling block of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves! 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/galatians/5.html)

    Moreover, if in the letter to the Galatians, St. Paul had meant to deny the role, in justification, of *all* works, then would the Holy Spirit have inspired St. James to write, so very clearly, that man is justified *not* by faith alone, and that faith apart from works is *useless* (James 2:14-24)? I am well aware of the Reformed exegesis of James 2, but in light of the aforementioned “Jewish-Gentile conflict” context(s) of Galatians 3 and 5, the Reformed exegesis of James 2:14-24 seems, to me, to be more a form of Reformed eisegesis that looks beyond what James actually says, so as to fit his words into a Reformed paradigm.

    As polemical as I may sound here, I genuinely do not mean the above words in a disrespectful way to my Reformed brothers and sisters– especially given that for years, *I myself* strongly held to the Reformed exegesis on James 2. (!) However, in light of now having studied the Bible from “both sides of the Tiber,” and also having studied it, attempting to not give any preference to *either* side, the Catholic exegetical understanding of both Galatians and James on justification by faith (but not “faith alone”) seems more faithful to the actual Biblical texts *in* their contexts.

    I am conscious of the CTC rule (and thank you sincerely for reminding me of it) that we not go off-topic here. Perhaps my earlier link to the early Church Fathers on salvation was, in fact, too broad. I will be try to be careful, therefore, to stay on the topics of “Sola Fide” and justification.

    Recently, Bryan Cross posted a piece here on the Biblical, exegetical understanding of St. Irenaeus on justification. If you are not aware of him (and you may well be aware, but just in case, in a friendly spirit of looking at Biblical exegesis on this issue!), St. Irenaeus is one of the earliest Church Fathers, having completed his most well-known opus, “Against Heresies,” (to which serious, committed, scholarly Protestants often refer) in the late 180s. Any serious, thoughtful Christian should at least take a look at the Biblical exegesis on Irenaeus on justification, especially given that he *was* such an early exegete in the life of the Church– well before, in fact, the formal canonization of the New Testament itself: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/

    In #189, you wrote:

    …these patristic soundbites are not speaking of justification, but of rewards.

    For example, Augustine speaks of “our meriting to live happily in eternity.” Is this justification for eternal life, or happiness-improving rewards merited for works done post-justification? He says further, “who is able to live righteously and do good works unless he has been justified by faith?” Indeed. By faith alone? :)

    St. Auustine did not hold to what *Reformed Protestants believe* the Bible to teach on “justification by faith alone.” He believed that, indeed, Christians are justified by faith, as the Catholic Church teaches. He also believed that infants are justified in baptism, and that this is the normative beginning of the Christian life– as the Catholic Church teaches. He also believed the existence of, and many (perhaps most?) Christians’ need for, Purgatory, before going to spend eternity in Heaven with God– as the Catholic Church teaches. (This is clear from his work, “The City of God.) St. Augustine’s understanding of the Bible’s teaching on “Sola Fide” is incompatible with the Protestant Reformed understanding of “Sola Fide” and “the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ.”

    Some Reformed Protestant scholars and preachers like to say that the Protestant Reformation was the triumph of Augustine’s theology of grace over his theology of the Church. However, a careful reading of St. Augustine’s many, many passages on grace, justification, faith, works, and Purgatory (*and* ecclesiology) show that he would not have approved of the Reformation on the matter of justification by faith alone (*or* on ecclesiology). Not to get too far afield of the topic of this thread, but if one actually looks (in more than a highly selective way) into St. Augustine’s writings, he simply cannot be accurately understood to affirm the Reformed understanding of “Sola Fide.”

    Hugh, I just want to say, in conclusion, for this comment, that I encourage you to please take your time in perusing the links that I’ve provided, both in this comment and in earlier ones. Don’t feel that you need to reply quickly– it’s more important to me that you actually have the needed time to carefully, prayerfully consider what I provide here, both in what I write, myself, and in what I provide from others. Pax Christi, brother. I also really need to attend better to my graduate studies, which also take time. :-)

  193. Andrew M. (re#:191),

    Thank you for the response, brother. I do affirm, very much, that the Reformed position on justification is that the faith which justifies *is* a faith formed by love for God and neighbor. This was my own position as a Calvinist, and I would never want to caricature the Reformed position on justification, now that I am a Catholic “revert.” Caricatures are never right or fair, period. I know you would agree.

    As Hugh also affirms in #188 and #189 though, it is *also* the Reformed position that it is *still* faith alone (in Christ alone) which justifies us before God. (The historic Reformed understanding being that our love for Him does not play *any* justifying role for us before Him, in terms of actually being made right with Him.)

    As to your statement about regeneration logically preceding justification, without it being so much a “temporal matter,” I think that is how I would have articulated my position (as I understood it to be the Bible’s teaching) when I was a “Reformed Baptist.” For more on the question of love’s role in justification, and other matters, see my lengthy reply to Hugh in #192.

    Please do note my last sentence in that comment though– if you reply, it will likely take me some time, at this point, to respond (a few days or more). :-) Thanks for the interaction, brother!

  194. Hugh and all,

    Sorry for all of the typos in #192! I hope that what I wrote was still intelligible! :-) Off to read now! Lord willing, I’ll be back in a few days!

  195. Andrew McCallum and Hugh –

    I admit that I don’t understand your theological perspective very well and because of that, I might not be seeing things clearly so feel free to correct this. This thread catches me at an opportune time because I will be preaching on these issues this very weekend (and once again, CTC is distracting me from my homily preparation!).

    Anyways, I just have a difficult time believing that reformed people are all that confident in sola fide. How can they be? Here is what an actual apostle had to say about justification:

    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. (James 2:14-18)

    Its at this point when my friends will say that we are still justified by faith alone, but that James’ intention was simply to show that good works are evidence of a saving faith. Ok. That can fit, but James – the apostle – goes on:

    You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:18-26)

    Did you catch that? It said, “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” It really is that clear and there is no getting around it. I know that there is not a reformed Christian alive who can look at that verse and not be strongly challenged by it. It says, plainly and clearly that justification is not by faith alone and nobody can seriously deny that. They just can’t. Not only does he say it plainly, but he drives the point home saying that Rahab was justified by works and gives an example of said works. (!)

    There just isn’t any way around the obvious implications that we are not justified by faith alone, and I think every commentor here knows it, including the reformed.

  196. It seems to me that there are two distinct positions amongst Protestants regarding the relation between faith and charity:

    1) The position – very rare in actuality, in my experience – that says, with Luther, if I have faith, then I am saved no matter what I do. I can sin constantly, hate God, hate my brother. Nevertheless, if I faith – and for Luther, this was not, strictly speaking, faith in Christ Himself, but faith that He has forgiven my sins – “faith in faith,” as it were – then I am saved.

    2) The commonest position – the one that for my 20 years as a Calvinist I was taught and believed – that, indeed, I am justified by faith alone. My faith is the empty hand that receives God’s gift. My works are the evidence that God has given me that faith. And – here, it seems to me, is the position that deprives the word ‘faith’ of any content – true will infallibly result in my being thankful to God, loving Him, trying to serve Him.

    The stinger there is that word ‘true.’ I have heard so many times that I can’t count them people refer to someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem like he is living right, saying that the person “is probably not a Christian” – or has not got true faith.

    I recall, when I was on my way to being a Catholic, thinking that the two positions – Reformed (in sense 2 above) – are phaenomenologically identical. In both cases the person must exhibit both faith and works – charity – to be saved. The Reformed say he is not saved because of his works – but he is certainly not saved without them.

    Thus ‘faith’ for the sense-2 Christian simply means, I think, ‘faith-working-through-love.’

    The differences are almost terminological.

    jj

  197. Father Bryan (re:#195),

    As I wrote in #185, I don’t presume to speak for Hugh or for Andrew on this matter. In my reply to you there, I tried to explain the Reformed view on justification and works, from my understanding, as one of the formerly “neo-Reformed” (Calvinist Baptist) and a Catholic “revert.” Perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently clear though. I’ll try again.

    Reformed Christians generally believe that in Romans and Galatians, St. Paul is speaking of our justification before God– our objectively being made right with Him, which the Reformed believe is by “faith alone” and without having anything to do with our works. It’s important to note that, in the Reformed understanding, this “justification by faith alone” also includes the *perfect righteousness of Christ* being “imputed” to us (again, in the Reformed understanding, *not* my understanding as a Catholic revert!).

    By contrast, in St. James’s letter, Reformed Christians believe that he is referring to “justification” (providing evidence of) our faith before men– which *does* involve works.

    The Reformed simply believe that two very different types of justification are being referred to in 1). Romans and Galatians, and then in 2.) St. James. Again, in the Reformed view, the first type of justification is by faith alone, while the second involves works. I can understand how, as a cradle Catholic, there doesn’t seem, to you, to be any true exegetical distinction between the two. When I was a Protestant, I thought that there *was* an exegetical distinction. It was *the* main reason that I believed that the Catholic Church held to “another gospel” than the Biblical Gospel. When very careful study of the Bible convinced me otherwise, that was a big step, for me, towards returning to the Catholic Church.

    I empathize with you on being distracted in your homily preparation! :-) As evidenced by the fact that I’m commenting here again, I’m struggling in the same way with my Catholic graduate class on Mary! Pray for me, Father; I will pray for you! Pax! :-)

  198. Christopher –

    By contrast, in St. James’s letter, Reformed Christians believe that he is referring to “justification” (providing evidence of) our faith before men– which *does* involve works.

    That sentence was very helpful to help me understand the reformed view. Thanks for the clarification. Now that I know a distinction like that exists in reformed theology I will hopefully be able to understand both the reformed perspective and our catholic perspective a bit better.

  199. I’d also refer us back to Dr Cross’ quote from #173:

    …in Reformed theology justification is always necessarily accompanied by initial sanctification* and followed by progressive sanctification, nevertheless, salvation depends entirely on justification, conceived as an initial and irrevocable external accounting swap by which on Judgment Day Christ will, by looking at our account, judge us to be truly and perfectly “righteous.”

    * While we term this definitive or positional santification (per 1 Cor 1:30, 6:11, Heb. 10:10), this is the right idea.

    Both our camps see a necessary growing in grace of those who do persevere to the end. Thus the rarity (hopefully) of position #1 as outlined by JohnThayerJensen in #196! There ARE some out there, though!

    JJ has it right in #2. Or had it right, before poping.

  200. Christopher – I did not think you were creating caricatures of our position. I just thought I might add something which could help to resolve the confusion you spoke of. But maybe I was not being so helpful….

    The historic Reformed understanding being that our love for Him does not play *any* justifying role for us before Him, in terms of actually being made right with Him.

    Well yes, if we mean that once we are justified as Paul speaks of being justified apart from works then there is nothing to be added onto our justification because it is a past event and Christ’s merits suffice. But if we mean that works don’t have any role in demonstrating our faith to be real and that works and faith do not work hand in hand with faith then I would say no, we are not saying that. It is my observation that the entire book of James speaks to the issue of living holy life before God. James is wisdom literature, rather than being a treatise on the mechanics of justification. We are told about what the nature of faith is in James, specifically that is accompanied by works if it is true, rather than being instructed on what works do and don’t do in propitiating the Father’s wrath. This last topic is definitely a topic that Paul takes up but I do not see that James does.

    So Fr. Bryan, I guess I’m starting to answer your question about James here. I will admit that what the Reformed say is it is not straightforward and obvious if we are just looking at James. But I would say that for the Catholic there must be a similar sort of response as he reads from Romans and Galatians on the role of faith and works. But admittedly no easy resolution.

    I do think that if you are speaking on justification from a Catholic standpoint that it is important to mention Trent’s discussion of (among other things) receiving the grace of justification via the sacraments after justification has been weakened or lost. So where do we find that the Scriptures speak of such a connection between justification and seven sacraments, or any sacraments? My guess is that the Catholic theologian does not go to the Scriptures for such a proof but instead goes to the annals of Catholic tradition and what is believed to be the oral tradition handed down from the Apostles. And if I’m correct here then it would seem to me that the Catholic position is that Scripture cannot solve the matter over the nature of justification and the role of works, sacramental or otherwise.

    I really like the Tridentine statements on matters like justification and sacraments because they state the differences between Catholic and Protestant so clearly.

  201. Hugh (#199)

    JJ has it right in #2. Or had it right, before poping.

    I take it, from your tense, that you think I am wrong when I believe the two positions – my #2 above and the Catholic view – come to the same thing phaenomenologically?

    jj

  202. Bryan @ 190 –
    > Before I respond, I must ask for further explanation on this sentence: “Justification is through faith alone, but not because of our believing. Neither our works nor our faith are meritorious (earning us eternal life), that’s all of Christ alone.”
    > I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean by through faith, here. The distinction between the two is not obvious to me.

    By through we mean that believing/ faith/ trust (God’s gift, of course) is that vehicle/ instrument by which or through which God’s justification is received.

    The ever-serviceable Westminster Confession:

    CHAP. XI. – Of Justification.*
    1. Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
    2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.
    3. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
    4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
    5. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.
    6. The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.
    * Not infallible by any stretch, and here w/o its usual prooftexts…

  203. JJ (#201),
    I meant that you had it right when you held to position #2 (from #196).
    Hugh

  204. Father Bryan (re:#198),

    I’m happy that I could be of help! The more that I continue to study the Bible, the more I am convinced that there is not nearly as much difference between a rigorous Reformed view of justification (which *entails* sanctification and perseverance, although, in the Reformed view, they do not justify us before God) and the Catholic view of the *entire life* of the Christian past the age of reason, trusting in Christ and “working out (his/her) salvation in fear and trembling,” in love for God, and a heathy, Biblical *awe for, and proper respect of* of Him.

    The Reformed view has this trust in, love and awe for, and proper respect of God too. Of course, in the Reformed view, a “true Christian” (one who has truly been justified) can never lose his/her salvation– but as I was taught the Reformed view, at least, one who continues on in a *general pattern* of disobedience, while claiming to have saved and justified by God, may well have never been saved and justified at all.

    The paradigmatic breakdown of the two– Catholic Christianity and rigorous Reformed Christianity looks, in everyday life, somewhat like this: Both Catholics and the Reformed obey God (hopefully, though probably not always) out of love for God. Catholic Christians have (or should have) a serious intention to obey God and to avoid sin, especially mortal sin. In mortal sin (or “sin that leads to death,” in some Protestant translations of 1 John 5:16-17), Catholics understand that we can lose our justification:

    16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/1-john/passage.aspx?q=1-john+5:16-17)

    Reformed Christians also obey God (hopefully though probably not always) out of love for God. In their view, if they are “true Christians,” if they have truly been justified, they don’t have to worry about *losing* that justification. However, if they easily, cavalierly carry on in a general pattern of disobedience to God, in their lives, they may very well have *deceived* themselves about ever *truly* having put their “faith (alone) in Christ (alone)” at all– which deception would mean, that they are *not* saved and are (in the Reformed view) currently Hell-bound while *thinking* they are right with God (i.e. justified).

    Pretty sobering, isn’t it? It is, *if* the Reformed person takes the possibility of salvific “self-deception” seriously– and there is *one* of the rubs of Reformed Christianity. In my experience, different Reformed ecclesial communities teach much more, or much less, vigorous views on the possibility of salvific “self-deception” among Christians. Some Reformed communities seriously teach and stress that possibility, and they advise periodic, serious self-examination (of conscience) for the Christian, so as to “make your calling and election sure.” Other Reformed communities also teach the possibility of self-deception of salvific self-deception, but at least in my experience, they do not stress periodic, serious examination of conscience as much, instead exhorting their members to *not* actually “look at themselves” so much, but rather to “look to the Cross” for both the grace and strength to obey Christ, and for the peace to “rest in Christ’s perfect righteousness,” which has supposedly been imputed to them– thereby actually advocating more of an historic Lutheran view of sanctification than an historic Reformed one. For the Reformed people here, as a former Calvinist, I do know that Reformed theology, proper, teaches *both* self-examination *and* looking to the Cross, but I am merely stating, for Father Bryan, that some Reformed communities have a much stronger emphasis on self-examination than others. Again, that has been my experience.

    One of the *other* rubs of Reformed Christianity is that there is no distinction between venial and mortal sin– and thus, no real way, in my view (outside of what appears, to me, to be Reformed exegetical speculation) to *actually explain* what St. John is *referring to* in 1 John 5:16-17. Many Protestants believe that St. John is only referring to the “unforgivable sin” here– but if it were me, I would not want to possibly hang my eternal salvation on an exegetical speculation, even if I believed that I had been granted the “perfect imputed righteousness of Christ.” After all, even in the Reformed view, I could have possibly deceived myself about *that*!

    About that graduate class– it’s going to be a *looong* night here! Mary, pray for me!

  205. Andrew M. (re:#200),

    Hopefully somewhat briefly here– you wrote, in response to my earlier comment:

    Well yes, if we mean that once we are justified as Paul speaks of being justified apart from works then there is nothing to be added onto our justification because it is a past event and Christ’s merits suffice. But if we mean that works don’t have any role in demonstrating our faith to be real and that works and faith do not work hand in hand with faith then I would say no, we are not saying that. It is my observation that the entire book of James speaks to the issue of living holy life before God. James is wisdom literature, rather than being a treatise on the mechanics of justification.

    In light of what you wrote above– I try very, very hard to articulate Reformed thinking here accurately, even as its “distinctives” are no longer mine. I hope that I have never written anything which you or anyone else on CTC has read would imply that I believe the Reformed hold that “works don’t have any role in demonstrating our faith to be real and that works and faith do not work hand in hand with faith.”

    I hope that I have been very clear, over the last two and a half years, that “historic Reformed Christianity” does hold that one’s truly having been justified entails one’s truly being sanctified– which entails good works, even as, in the Reformed view, the works themselves play no role in our justification before God.

    It is that latter contention, though, that seems so Biblically problematic to me as a Catholic, in light of these very clear words from Jesus about a judgment, very much involving works– a judgment which, in terms of the actual words in the parable, is for *Heaven or Hell*, rather than simply being about whether or not we have provided evidence, *through* our works, that we were “justified by faith alone”:

    31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/matthew/passage.aspx?q=matthew+25:31-46)

    Well, so much for no more replies from me for a few days… but I truly cannot write here again until I am thoroughly caught up with my formal academic reading and writing. Let’s hear it for deadlines! -)

  206. Hugh, Christopher, and Andrew –

    Thank you all. This is good food for thought as I enter into the busier part of my week. Hearing the reformed doctrine is helping me understand the Catholic doctrine a bit better than I do, so I appreciate everyone’s contributions.

  207. hugh (#(203)

    I meant that you had it right when you held to position #2 (from #196).

    Yes, I understood that, but what I was saying was that, practically speaking, my #2 is not different – again, practically speaking – from the Catholic position.

    jj

  208. JJ,

    With all due respect – no to this: …practically speaking, my #2 is not different – again, practically speaking – from the Catholic position. You said:

    2) The commonest position – the one that for my 20 years as a Calvinist I was taught and believed – that, indeed, I am justified by faith alone. My faith is the empty hand that receives God’s gift. My works are the evidence that God has given me that faith. And – here, it seems to me, is the position that deprives the word ‘faith’ of any content – true will infallibly result in my being thankful to God, loving Him, trying to serve Him.

    The stinger there is that word ‘true.’ I have heard so many times that I can’t count them people refer to someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem like he is living right, saying that the person “is probably not a Christian” – or has not got true faith.

    I recall, when I was on my way to being a Catholic, thinking that the two positions – Reformed (in sense 2 above) – are phaenomenologically identical. In both cases the person must exhibit both faith and works – charity – to be saved. The Reformed say he is not saved because of his works – but he is certainly not saved without them.

    Stinger or zinger, these are neither phenomenologically or practically identical – in fact, they are antithetical; that’s why there was a Reformation, and why Calvinists left Rome.

    Justification by faith alone (often, JBFA) is a non-negotiable of Reformed Protestantism (Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.) but is anathema in your new church’s system of doctrine.

    To say that one is first justified/ saved (JBFA) and then does good works versus saying one is saved by doing good works mingled with his faith, is to be in two different religions altogether, speaking practically or phenomenologically.

  209. Hugh (#208)

    …these are neither phenomenologically or practically identical …

    To say that one is first justified/ saved (JBFA) and then does good works versus saying one is saved by doing good works mingled with his faith, is to be in two different religions altogether, speaking practically or phenomenologically.

    Perhaps I am not being clear about what I mean by saying ‘practically speaking’ or ‘phaenomenologically.’ I mean that in my experience as a Christian, is there any way I can tell the difference? I must confess that my feeling (and that ‘feeling’ is what I mean by ‘experience’) about how and why God forgives my sins isn’t different now, during the 18 years I have been a Catholic, than it was during the 25 years I was a Protestant.

    To be sure, my understanding has changed – although I question the ‘antithetical’ in your comment – but, still, I think I know much more clearly – and much less self-contradictorily – why God forgives my sin, and when I read the Bible and encounter so very much that seems to imply that it has something to do with my obedience – then I think my understanding is much more correct.

    But I don’t seem to me to have any different experience. In particular, I do not, for a moment, have what some Protestants seem to think Catholics should have, an anxious feeling of “have I done enough? Are my works going to pass muster?” Both as a Protestant and as a Catholic, I cast myself entirely on God’s mercy in Christ and based on His infinite sacrifice.

    So … I agree with you that, in terms of the understanding of the two, they are very different. What I am trying to find out is whether there is any difference in practice – in the experience of the normal Christian’s life.

    jj

  210. jj @209,

    But I don’t seem to me to have any different experience. In particular, I do not, for a moment, have what some Protestants seem to think Catholics should have, an anxious feeling of “have I done enough? Are my works going to pass muster?” Both as a Protestant and as a Catholic, I cast myself entirely on God’s mercy in Christ and based on His infinite sacrifice.

    So … I agree with you that, in terms of the understanding of the two, they are very different. What I am trying to find out is whether there is any difference in practice – in the experience of the normal Christian’s life.

    For Rome’s side, consult your priest or bishop, of course.
    For our side, I recommend The Pearl of Christian Comfort by Peter (Petrus) Dathenus, from Reformation Heritage Books. {Hint: He & I will tell you to look to Christ.}
    The two religions are night and day different!

  211. Hugh (#210)

    For Rome’s side, consult your priest or bishop, of course.
    For our side, I recommend The Pearl of Christian Comfort by Peter (Petrus) Dathenus, from Reformation Heritage Books. {Hint: He & I will tell you to look to Christ.}
    The two religions are night and day different!

    I must not be communicating. I do not suggest the two are not different – I am, after all, a Catholic convert. What I am saying is that from the point of view of the believer and how he feels forgiven, I do not see that they are. Petrus Dathenus will tell me to look to Christ – which is exactly – and exclusively – what I do.

    It is the experience that – for me, at least – is not different. I think the Catholic explanation for that experience makes sense. I do not think the Reformed does. Nonetheless, what I am saying is not whether the two religions are different in how they understand the experience of forgiveness – of course they are – and, of course, I think the Catholic superior. But – do you not agree?? – that the experience is the same? If not, how do the two differ? And why don’t I feel that they differ?

    jj

  212. Hugh (re:#21o),

    I hadn’t even planned to be here right now, but due to a malfunction on my electric-powered wheelchair, I’m going to be missing my class on Mariology this morning, so here I am! Isn’t it interesting how God works? :-) (You might be hoping that God would use this to slowly lure me away from “Marian idolatry,” and, in a *sense*, I’m fine with that, given the Catholic Church herself teaches against all forms of idolatry! :-) Anyway, I digress! (We can discuss Mary and the Church, at length, on other, more related threads if you wish.)

    You wrote to John Thayer Jensen, in reference to Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism:

    The two religions are night and day different!

    Hugh, I tell you, in all seriousness, that for years, I agreed with you here. However, it was, largely, very careful study of Scripture itself– particularly, what Jesus, St. Paul, and St. James have to say about works, and their role in truly being “right with God” (right *before* Him, in a justifying sense), which convinced me that the Bible does not teach “Sola Fide”– and, moreover, that the Catholic Church teaches what the Bible teaches on justification.

    For example, we have the parable of the sheep and the goats, in which Christ clearly tells us that our judgment for *eternity*– for *Heaven or Hell*– will be based, at least partially, on our works. Let’s look at the parable:

    31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Works are very clearly involved in the *eternal* judgment in this passage. This is so much the case that, if so many passages from Christ and the apostles did not clearly say *otherwise*, one might think that our eternal judgment is going to be based *solely* on works, rather than on faith– but, obviously, by comparing Scripture with Scripture, we see that faith in Christ is of supreme importance in our eternal destiny. Does this necessarily mean that the Bible teaches Sola Fide though?

    Looking at the above passage, Christ does *not*say that this eternal judgment will only be so that we can “show,” evidentially, before man (or so that we can reveal to ourselves), whether or not we were truly “justified by faith alone.” He also does not say that this judgment will only be about determining what sort of “rewards” we will, or will not, receive in Heaven.

    Christ is so clear here about the role of our works in actually being right *before God*. St. James is clear too in chapter 2. St. Paul is also clear about faith and works *both* being involved in justification– *when* his statements about faith and works of the law are read in the context of their *entire passages*. (At #192, I go into the question of St. Paul and faith and works, in more detail, in my reply to you there.)

    In addition, St. Paul is emphatic about the role of our perseverance in faith *and* works, in determining whether or not we *will* be saved– not simply as a matter of evidentially showing that we *were/are* “justified by faith alone.”

    I know well the Reformed doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints.” I understand what the doctrine teaches. I held to it myself as a Calvinist. In retrospect though, in light of the many New Testament statements from Jesus, and His original apostles (including St. Paul) on the *eternal* importance of works, the Reformed understanding of perseverance as being *evidence of* justification, rather than playing a *role in* justification, does not appear to hold up against the Biblical evidence.

    Again, the Bible tells us that those who endure to the end *will be* saved– not simply that those who endure to the end do so because they were “justified by faith alone in Christ alone.” (I strongly affirm the importance of grace-enabled, grace-given faith in Christ alone.)

    One last thought for this comment– when you say that Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism are, supposedly, two “different religions,” and you imply that the former leads to Hell, while the latter leads to Heaven, one implication of your statement(s) is that both St. Augustine, and the great early defender of the Trinity, St. Athanasius, might well be in Hell. When both men are read at length, in more than just isolated quotes (such quotes being the way that the early Fathers are often used in Protestant polemical works against Catholicism), they affirm Catholic teaching on numerous, very serious points. Are you comfortable with implying that St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, and all “consistent Catholics” throughout history, up to the present day, have held to a false, damning gospel?

    As you do, I would hope, Catholics affirm every statement in the Nicene Creed. Can people who affirm the Nicene Creed, in more than just the sense of “intellectual, notional assent,” truly be termed “non-Christians”?

  213. jj @211: Thank you for your patience!

    I must not be communicating. Or I am misreading you…

    I do not suggest the two are not different – I am, after all, a Catholic convert. What I am saying is that from the point of view of the believer and how he feels forgiven, I do not see that they are. And later: It is the experience that – for me, at least – is not different… But – do you not agree?? – that the experience is the same?

    Feelings, nothing more than feelings? OK, so we all feel the same when we feel forgiven. That may be. You feel the same today as one confirmed in the Church of Rome, as you did when you thought you were forgiven as a non-Catholic? OK.

    Petrus Dathenus will tell me to look to Christ – which is exactly – and exclusively – what I do.

    You know our two theologies well enough that I cannot agree here. Your religious system has “bridges” to Christ that we consider barriers, and we believe that a devout Catholic is NOT looking exclusively to Christ. Debating sola fide, we Protestants argue that your system actually pulls one away from Christ, exclusive.

    Your church has many aids purportedly to help one “look to Christ” – such as the intercession of the Virgin (some go far beyond even this!), the efficacy of rightly-received sacraments (7 for you, 2 for us), effectual priestly absolution, and more. But is one thus trusting Christ alone (there’s that word again!), or Christ plus church-mediated sacramental grace, or Mary-mediated grace, or whatever? Again, being sola scripturalists, we don’t find warrant for such “grace aids.” (You don’t claim only a biblical warrant either, since Rome has a broader authority than the 66 Bible books. E.g., councils, Apocrypha, et. al.)

    In another thread here, infusion (over & against imputation) is lauded by Dr Cross and others. In that debate too, sola fide is denied by Rome. So, where we Prots find comfort and assurance (believing on Christ alone), your school anathematizes. Plus, we’d argue that looking to one’s infusion is not a looking exclusively to Christ, but a looking to one’s infused righteousness and subsequent pious deeds.

    So, between one’s supposed spiritual state and one’s good works, one can have a temporary sense (feeling) of being forgiven. From Catholic Answers’ “Assurance of Salvation?” web page: One can be confident of one’s present salvation. This is one of the chief reasons why God gave us the sacraments—to provide visible assurances that he is invisibly providing us with his grace. And, Likewise, by looking at the course of one’s life in grace and the resolution of one’s heart to keep following God, one can also have an assurance of future salvation.

    Hugh

  214. Hugh (#213)

    Feelings, nothing more than feelings? OK, so we all feel the same when we feel forgiven. That may be. You feel the same today as one confirmed in the Church of Rome, as you did when you thought you were forgiven as a non-Catholic? OK.

    Of course not nothing more than feelings! I want to be forgiven, regardless of how I feel. I had thought that Protestants thought – certainly I thought, when I was a Protestant – that Catholics must of necessity feel different about their relationship to Christ – anxious, have I done enough, that sort of thing? I do think it is a barrier for some who are thinking of becoming Catholics. You seem to think something of the sort with questions like “…is one thus trusting Christ alone (there’s that word again!), or Christ plus church-mediated sacramental grace, or Mary-mediated grace, or whatever…?” Of course I think it is Christ alone, just as I think it is Christ alone when I ask you to pray for me. It is not Christ-plus-Hugh’s-prayers, as though your prayers added something that Christ could not give. It is Christ-alone-and-He-loves-to-work-through-the-prayers of His children.

    Storm in a teapot, I think. Let it be calm!

    jj

  215. Hugh, (213) I think I would agree with you. There is a difference .

    Feingold in his lecture (which I believe Bryan or someone referred to in the comment section—hmm, it may have been on another posting–it was called The desire to see God and man’s supernatural end) gives a description of the Church in his Q and A section. I think it is an accurate description of what the Bible teaches on the Church. Christ did not leave us here on earth by ourselves or only with the Holy Spirit and the Bible. He established a church . Some of the things that Feingold mentions (I am giving partial quotes)–is that the Church Christ has instituted to be the place of sharing in God’s life. The whole church is His body by which we come to share in His life. The whole church is endowed, as it were, with these veins and arteries in which that supernatural life flows. So it is a participation in the life of God which we will share in more perfectly in heaven and that will be the perfection of the church. ………In heaven there will be a full participation with the veils taken away [referring to the end of I Cor 13 : 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. “] When perfection in heaven comes for the church there will b no more sacramental veils.

    So as Catholics we see the church in a much deeper way—as the body of Christ in which we are incorporated. This is a church which Christ has authorized to forgive sins—this is stated in Scripture. The Eucharist is described in Scripture. The Catholic church derives these views of the church from Scripture and as Christopher has stated this includes the teaching the church has on the relationship of works and faith. So you call the church a barrier , it would seem. No way—the focus is on life—the fullness we have in Christ and his provisions for us. God uses means and has authorized means . Coming to the Catholic church after 40 years in the reformed faith has been like coming from the shadows to the reality. …from a shadow version of the Lord’s Supper to the reality of what Christ said the Eucharist was…..from the lack of true confession and dealing with my sin to seeing it in a fuller way and dealing with my sin in a more fuller confession and repentance and replacement of my sin with the seeking of its virtue. This, I believe is a bit off topic—I was responding to your comment in number 213.

    I would say this relates to the faith/works subject in that if Christ has authorized a Church, with authorized teachers gifted by the Holy Spirit then this Church can give us a proper understanding of this subject. Protestants tend to reinterpret all those passages that Christopher gives and that Bryan has referred to—Christ did not leave us with only me, my Bible and the Spirit. He did establish a Church.

  216. With all due respect, jj.

    For your church, it’s not Scripture alone, it’s not faith alone, it’s not grace alone. Nor is it Christ alone.

    Our religions are fundamentally different: Our Scriptures differ, our defintions of faith, grace, and even Jesus himself differ! We have different authorities, gospels, and even Christs. (Because of our differences over the intent & efficacy of the work of Christ.)

  217. Chris – Sorry your chair is down, but glad you missed Mary class!
    Hughmc5 AT hotmail DOT com

  218. Hugh (re:#216),

    The Catholic Church does teach that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. We do not hold to “justification by faith alone,” as it is contradicted by apostolic and Biblical teaching. We do hold, though, to salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.

    *All* of the graces in the Church, including the graces of regeneration, conversion, and perseverance, are due to Christ. Even the love of His mother *for us* is due to *Him*!

    Catholics believe that Mary is the “most saved” Christian who ever lived. In our understanding, she was saved by God before she was ever born– saved from the stain of original sin– but she was still *saved* by *the Savior*, her own son, Our Lord, the Incarnation, Jesus Christ. Mary bore, gave birth to, and raised the incarnate Christ who saved her. This is the reason, ultimately for Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-48:

    46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/luke/passage.aspx?q=luke+1:46-49)

    I know, of course, that you believe the Immaculate Conception of Mary to be unBiblical nonsense, but the Bible itself affirms *both* that not all apostolic truth was written down originally, *and* that we are to follow the orally handed down teachings (in Sacred Tradition) and the written teachings (in Sacred Scripture). See 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Scripture *and* Tradition. St. Athanasius both ardently defended the Trinity *and* venerated Mary– and Scripture itself contains much more truth about Mary than Protestants are often taught by their pastors/elders. You have to study serious Catholic Biblical exegesis to *learn* about that Biblical Marian truth though. In my experience, Reformed pastors don’t tend to know much about it.

    I realize that I’m getting “off-topic” here, so I’ll get back on-topic. As one who has been on both sides of the Tiber, I now believe that it is actually “Sola Fide” which is an unBiblical “tradition of men,” rather than anything which is officially taught by the Catholic Church. For some reasons and arguments as to why I think this is so, see my #192 and #212, both written as replies to you.

    Speaking of making arguments, looking over your #216, I feel compelled to note something that I have noted previously. With all respect, Hugh, you often make assertions here (at CTC) without actually making any sort of serious arguments *for* those assertions. I make assertions– we all do– but making constant assertions without any sort of backing arguments is simply not helpful, in terms of having a productive discussion of differences.

    Honest questions, Hugh– are you *interested* in having a productive discussion of Catholic-Reformed differences here? Do you care to substantively *engage* any of the arguments made on this site by Catholics? I hope that you are interested in that sort of discussion, and that sort of engagement, but respectfully, thus far, I have not seen much evidence to that end.

  219. Christopher (re 205),

    First let me say that I believe you are truly striving to represent the Reformed position well. I may have said something which made you doubt this. Sorry about this if I did, I don’t doubt at all your sincere desire to represent the Reformed position correctly.

    You have challenged Hugh and I with the passage from Matthew 25. You do not delve into the specific exegesis of the text but it seems you leave this up to us. I think you are pointing us to the very first word in verse 35, which is “for.” This preposition connects the declaration to those on Jesus’ right hand, that they will inherit the kingdom of God, with the fact that they served faithfully in His kingdom on earth. Is this what you are focusing on? Is there anything else in the passage? I’m just trying to understand before I answer back to you. I would agree that there is a connection between 1) the declaration that we will enter God’s kingdom and 2) the fact that we have been obedient in this world. The question then is how the two are connected. I don’t think the answer is obvious.

    I was just musing on your Mariology class – this must be a wonderful class to teach in terms of the availability of images to illustrate the material! I love to use classic art when I teach and I cannot think of class where there would be a greater depth of materials in the public domain to draw from than one on the theology of Mary. Anyway, sorry you had to miss the class and I hope you were able to get your wheelchair mended.

    Cheers for now….

  220. Hugh (re:#217),

    Respectfully, if you want to have a discussion on whether (or how, in your Reformed view) the Bible teaches “Sola Fide,” I ask that we please have that discussion here. That is the point of Bryan’s post on the subject. I look forward to your reply to my comment #192, addressed to you, on the subject.

  221. Andrew (re:#219),

    Thank you for the reply, brother. You are correct that the “for” in verse 35 of Matthew 25:31-46 is *part* of the reason that I believe the passage militates against the Reformed doctrine of Sola Fide, but that is definitely not the only reason. I’m sorry for not explaining this more fully in my last comment to you. I did try to explain more of my thinking about the passage to Hugh in #212 (if you haven’t read that comment, it might be of help), but I see now that l should have given more specific exegetical detail. Thank you for your patience with me. Looking at the passage again:

    31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/matthew/passage.aspx?q=matthew+25:31-46)

    There is the “for” of verse 35, which you mentioned. This word seems to draw an explicit connection between one’s works and one’s *eternal destiny* in Heaven or in Hell– and not merely an “evidentiary” connection which shows that one was always “justified by faith alone.”

    In this vein, the word, “for,” in verse 35, seems to say that the “blessed of my Father,” who are mentioned in verse 34, are going to “inherit the kingdom prepared for (them) by my Father” at least partially *because of* their works. Again, justification by “faith alone” is nowhere even *implied* by Christ in this passage.

    I have witnessed some Reformed Christians speculating that this passage is merely about receiving “rewards in Heaven,” not about eternal salvation itself. However, verse 46 contradicts that assertion by speaking of “eternal punishment” and “eternal life.”

    Verse 45 speaks of a clearly determinative factor here, in terms of whether or not one goes on to eternal punishment or eternal life. That factor is *what one does*. The Lord’s words are clear in verse 45, and just as clear, really, throughout the entire passage. Works play a determinative role in our eternal destiny.

    Of course, in light of the many *other* words of Our Lord, throughout the rest of the New Testament, and in light of the writings of St. Paul and of the other apostles, we know that works are far the *only* determinative factor in one’s eternal destiny. To be saved, one must place his/her faith in Christ (and Christ alone!). In so many passages in the NT, our Lord and His apostles are very clear about the need for faith in Him, if one wishes to be saved and to have eternal life with God.

    In terms of justification by *faith alone* though, Mathew 25:31-46and James 2:14-24 provide very strong evidence against such a notion. We cannot “work our way to Heaven,” but these passages also argue strongly against the Protestant notion of doing good works while “resting in the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ.” To quote St. Paul from another part of the NT, we must “work out our salvation in fear and trembling”– a reality that seems very much at odds with doing good works out of our “resting in the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ.”

    Last thoughts for this comment. Briefly back to Matthew 25:31-46, some Reformed exegetes say that words “blessed of my Father” in verse 34 indicate that those who are going to Heaven are going, *not even partially* because of their works, but simply because they had had faith alone in Christ alone, by virtue of having been chosen and predestine *to* have that faith, and that, again, the works merely serve as “evidence” of that faith– but nothing in Christ’s actual words *here* would seem to lead one to such a conclusion. Often, at least in my reading, Reformed exegetes seem to be *drawing* that conclusion more from their interpretations of St. Paul’s letters than from the words of Christ. In retrospect, I do believe, now, that when I was a Calvinist, I was reading many of Jesus’s words about works and salvation in light of what I understood St. Paul to teach on justification. As a Catholic, I try to be *very* careful to always read St. Paul’s teaching in the epistles in light of *Jesus’s* teaching in the Gospels, rather than the opposite. Thank you for the continuing conversation, brother.

  222. Andrew,

    P.S. to #221, where I wrote:

    Of course, in light of the many *other* words of Our Lord, throughout the rest of the New Testament, and in light of the writings of St. Paul and of the other apostles, we know that works are far the *only* determinative factor in one’s eternal destiny.

    Obviously, I left out a word there. I meant to write that “…works are *far from* the *only* determinative factor in one’s eternal destiny.” For any other typos in #221, mea culpa! :-)

  223. Hugh (re: my #220 to you),

    Mea culpa! I have written replies to you, not only at #192, but *also* at #212, on the subject of “Sola Fide.” As I wrote in #220 though, if we are going to have a discussion on Sola Fide, I ask that we please do so here, as that is the topic of this thread (and as I can only keep up with so many lengthy conversations in various places). I look forward to your reply to #192 and #212, as you have the opportunity to reply. Thank you for the conversation, brother (says this Catholic non-apostate)! :-)

  224. I think we are a bit off topic. Bryan’s post was about:

    The Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that faith is not the only thing necessary, on our part, in order to be justified.1 We also need love [agape] for God. If we believe the message about Christ, but do not have love [agape] for God, then we are not justified, because such faith is not a living faith.

    and the

    deeper question, namely, whether there is any Biblical evidence that persons are justified prior to or apart from, love for God

    ;-) Kim

  225. Dear Chris & Kim,

    I agree with your sentiments, but I have wanted (perhaps erroneously) to address questions put to me by Mr Jensen. I apologize for any posts found distracting or offensive. Offending anyone has not been my goal. *

    I have posted my email address to carry on conversations off site, and do so once again.

    Hugh McCann
    hughmc5 AT hotmail

    * Chris, @220 – Re: #217. Equally respectfully, I was responding to your personal information given in #212. I will refrain from any personal comments. My time is as precious as yours no doubt is, and I will not much longer bother any of you here. D.v., I will reply asap to your comments (re: #192), as well as others put to me here on the Bible teaching “Sola Fide.”

  226. Kim (re:#224) and Hugh (re:#225),

    Kim, I agree that the conversation here has gotten off-topic here at times, and for the times when I have been a part of that, I apologize. With #192 and #212 (to Hugh) and #221 (to Andrew), I hope that I stayed on-topic. In #218 (to Hugh), I was trying to answer something that he wrote about the Catholic Church not holding to “Christ alone.” Sorry for the “Marian side-track” there. I was trying to say to Hugh that veneration of Mary is not opposed to trusting in Christ alone for one’s salvation. You’re right though– it was off-topic, and I apologize.

    Hugh, you haven’t offended me with any personal comments about my life. I’m not offended at all, brother! :-) What is problematic, though, in terms of the discussions here, is your simply making assertions, such as that Reformed Protestantism are two different religions, different as day and night, but then *not* making any actual arguments with *evidence for* those assertions. We all make assertions, but if the assertions are to be of any actual *help* to anybody, at least sometimes, they need to be accompanied by evidence. That is what I hoped to accomplish with #192 and #212 (addressed to you) and #221 (addressed to Andrew).

    I look forward to our continuing conversation on justification by faith alone, and the Biblical evidence for and against this Protestant teaching.

  227. Hugh and Chris,

    Hey guys, no one had to apologize! I love reading the discussion and find it all helpful. I think there must be another post at C2C that deals with the subject you are discussing and therefore you could continue it there. Let me know if you find it and if you continue your discussion!

    Kim

  228. Dear Kim @ 215 & 224 –
    Your apologetic for the RCC in 215 seems off-topic (and we don’t want to go THERE, do we?!),
    and 224’s quotes were addressed in my post # 181.
    Thank you.
    Hugh

  229. Christopher (221),

    Sorry for taking two days to get back to you. Concerning Matt 25, Catholics and Protestants have innumerable discussions about such passages. We are told all over Scripture that only those who obey Christ will inherit His kingdom. Catholics like to take these kinds of verses as if they are speaking explicitly to the matter of the basis by which we are justified (Pauline sense of the term) before God. But is this passage really about the specifics of our justification (as for instance the first half of Roman focuses on) or is it an admonition to be faithful, irrespective of the basis on which God declares us holy? Catholics see correlation and they assume causation. Paul in Romans targets his comments with the explicit purpose of explaining the means and basis of our justification. Are you sure that is what Matthew is doing here?

    Let me put it a different way. If we assume for the moment that the Reformed conception of justification apart from works is correct, could Matthew still make the same comments that he does in 31-46? I would like to make the case that he still could. That is, the word “for” could speak to the evidence that we have been faithful without speaking to the question of the basis upon which we are justified.

    I feel it’s better to go to the passages which are clearly speaking to the means and manner of our justification than ones where it is unclear that the specifics of justification are in view.

  230. Andrew (re:#229),

    Thanks for your reply, brother. No problem about taking two days to get back to me– that’s a short time, as far as I’m concerned! :-)

    I must admit that I’m a bit confused about your reply though. In #219, you implied that I had not yet done any substantive exegesis of Matthew 25:31-46. Taking this to heart, in response to you, in #221, I did some genuine exegetical examination of the passage– going into much more detail than simply the nature of the word “for” in verse 35. Seemingly in response to my exegesis, you wrote, in #229:

    Catholics like to take these kinds of verses as if they are speaking explicitly to the matter of the basis by which we are justified (Pauline sense of the term) before God. But is this passage really about the specifics of our justification (as for instance the first half of Roman focuses on) or is it an admonition to be faithful, irrespective of the basis on which God declares us holy? Catholics see correlation and they assume causation. Paul in Romans targets his comments with the explicit purpose of explaining the means and basis of our justification. Are you sure that is what Matthew is doing here?

    Respectfully, brother, somewhat in the same vein as you wrote to me in #219, I don’t see any substantive *exegetical response* here to the exegesis of Matthew 25:31-46 that I did in #221. You mention the word “for” again and speculate that it “could speak to the evidence that we have been faithful without speaking to the question of the basis upon which we are justified.” However, you don’t actually make an exegetical case for that speculation– at least not in the way that I tried to make an exegetical case, for you, in #221, that the parable of the sheep and the goats *is* actually about how we are justified before God (in part, that is– the passage doesn’t mention faith in Christ, and that faith *is* very much necessary for justification).

    Again, you make some assertions, and ask questions, here, without doing any exegesis:

    Catholics like to take these kinds of verses as if they are speaking explicitly to the matter of the basis by which we are justified (Pauline sense of the term) before God. But is this passage really about the specifics of our justification (as for instance the first half of Roman focuses on) or is it an admonition to be faithful, irrespective of the basis on which God declares us holy? Catholics see correlation and they assume causation. Paul in Romans targets his comments with the explicit purpose of explaining the means and basis of our justification. Are you sure that is what Matthew is doing here?

    Catholics speak of Matthew 25:31-46, in terms of justification before God, because we believe that the passage, itself, actually speaks to justification before God, and *not* to the Reformed conception that those who are permanently, irrevocably justified before God will, by definition, do the good works described in the passage. For why we believe that the passage is about justification before God, please see the entirety of #221 again.

    You assert that St. Paul in Romans has “the explicit purpose of explaining the means and basis of our justification.” Actually, I agree with you here that that is *part* of his purpose in Romans. I simply disagree with you that, when he speaks of being justified apart from works, he is referring to *any and all* good works, period.

    Why do I believe that St. Paul does not teach, in Romans, the Reformed conception of justification by faith alone? I believe this for three Biblical reasons, and one extra-Biblical (but *not* anti-Biblical) reason:

    1. Because of the simple fact that I do not see Jesus, anywhere in the Gospels, teaching the Reformed view of justification by “faith alone” (justification before God, not man). Rather, I see Him clearly teaching, in Matthew 25:31-46, and in many other passages, that our rightness and righteousness before God, and whether or not we go to Heaven or Hell, are based on *both* our faith in Him *and* our works done out of that faith.

    3.) Because of deeper exegetical examination of the *entire books of* Romans and Galatians– even deeper than I did when I was a Calvinist, and I really loved reading Romans and Galatians then, and still do now! :-)

    3. Because of the *clear words* of James 2:14-24 that faith alone, apart from works, is *not* sufficient for one to be justified before God– clear words, that is, when read without Reformed presuppositions. Saying that faith alone, apart from works, does not justify man before God is not equivalent to saying that that works *alone* justify, or even that works *primarily* justify. It is simply saying that works are a very serious and very basic way in which we show *love* for God, and if our lives are very seriously lacking in basic love for God, then we cannot rightly claim to be in friendship with Him. If we cannot rightly claim to be in friendship *with* Him, then we cannot rightly claim to be justified *before* Him:

    14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/james/passage.aspx?q=james+2:14-24)

    And, finally, the fourth reason that I do not believe the Bible teaches the Reformed view of justification by faith alone, a reason that is extra-Biblical, strictly speaking, but *not* anti-Biblical:

    4. Because when I read the early Church Fathers, outside of Reformed *excerpts* of their writings, which I have found to often be taken out of context, I do not see the ECF’s teaching, exegetically, from Scripture, the Reformed view of justification by faith alone.

    As I’ve written before, the exegetical and historical testimony of the early Fathers helped me greatly, in terms of convincing me that Catholic Church represents historic, apostolic, Biblical Christianity– and that, by comparison, the theological distinctives of the Reformers are seriously exegetically mistaken on some serious points. However, it was re-reading *the Bible itself*, in a serious attempt to read *without* either Reformed or Catholic presuppositions, that convinced me the Bible does not teach the Reformed view of justification by faith alone.

  231. Andrew,

    P.S. Tying up loose ends from #230 and from earlier comments in our conversation:

    Thank you for your well wishes, regarding the status of my wheelchair. As I type, I’m waiting for a repairman to visit my apartment to hopefully resolve the issue. I appreciate the kind thoughts.

    Briefly, regarding my class on Mariology, thus far, somewhat surprisingly to me, there has not been any use of actual images in the class. The focus has mainly been on Scriptural backing for Marian teaching, papal encyclicals (in which one can find some of that Scriptural backing), Catholic theologians’ thinking on the relationship between Mary and Catholic ecclesiology (such as in the Vatican II document, “Lumen Gentium”). No images, thus far– though of course, as a Catholic, I wouldn’t mind them at all! :-)

    Last, in #230, my second, numbered reason, for my understanding of the Biblical teaching on justification, obviously should have *that* number (2), and not 3. Number 3 is already numbered as such.

    Sorry for any confusion. This conversation is already challenging enough without my typos! Mea culpa! Speaking of which, I’m going to rest my hands from typing now. Thanks again for the continuing conversation, brother.

  232. Your church has many aids purportedly to help one “look to Christ” – such as the intercession of the Virgin (some go far beyond even this!), the efficacy of rightly-received sacraments (7 for you, 2 for us), effectual priestly absolution, and more. But is one thus trusting Christ alone (there’s that word again!), or Christ plus church-mediated sacramental grace, or Mary-mediated grace, or whatever? Again, being sola scripturalists, we don’t find warrant for such “grace aids.”

    You mean like “whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; whose sins you retain, they are retained?” Nope, no Scriptural warrant there. We trust in these sacraments because Christ instituted them, so yes, that is trusting in “Christ alone.” Had He not instituted these aids and His Church, then there would be no reason to trust in them.

    In fact, this could be turned right around on the Reformed – if you don’t trust the Church Christ founded, are you really trusting in Christ at all? Or are you trusting in Christ + my own powers of discernment, intelligence, really good reading comprehension – or even more directly, Me + Christ?

    The problem is, you really do look to “grace aids,” you just don’t know that you do. Have you personally, actually really seem Christ Himself in the flesh – you directly, I mean, with absolutely no mediator? Has He physically popped down in front of you ala Paul on the Road to Damascus? If not, then your first mediators have been Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul and James. But even before them, your mediators including the original twelve (where not duplicated above), and Mary, without whom Christ would not have been as we know Him (He obviously could have come a different way, but Mary is the way He actually came – we are not discussing alternative histories here). All of these are aids to help you look to Christ. But wait, there’s more! You also look to Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and a host of other “aids”. So you may “think” you have no mediator or aids to “look to Christ,” but in fact, you do.

  233. A Reformed-minded person COULD look to Calvin, say, as an aid to grace, but then that person would be looking for grace in the wrong place!

    One BIG difference between us, c matt @ 232, is that rather than claiming that grace is necessarily mediated through officially recognized secondary or tertiary sources (as your communion dogmatically does), we insist on Christ “mediated” – if you will – through faith alone in scripture alone. (And, no, we do not trust the church you claim Christ founded.)

    No one and nothing can serve as mediator between God and man, but the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (on that we’re all agreed in principle), but further, we Prots insist that he is received not through his mother, any other saints, baptism, masses, prayers, our own or others’ piety or any other mediatorial person or thing.

  234. Hugh (#233),

    rather than claiming that grace is necessarily mediated through officially recognized secondary or tertiary sources (as your communion dogmatically does),

    Actually no. The Catholic Church has always and does now teach that the sacraments of the Church are the ordinary means by which grace flows. God is not limited by them. Else the unbaptised could have no posibility of salvation, which is something the Catholic Church has always rejected.

    Also, when I was Reformed, I seem to remember the sacraments being referred to as “means of grace” quite frequently. That didnt seem to take anything away from Christ’s work at all in my mind, and I am guessing it doesnt in yours either.

    You say “No one and nothing can serve as mediator between God and man” just after you named for us the mediator in your own situation:

    Christ “mediated” – if you will – through faith alone in scripture alone.

    So if Christ is mediated through faith, and you must have faith (whether monergistic or not is not the point here), then you are a mediator between God and man (you) in your scenario. If, as you say, Christ is mediated through your faith, then you are a mediator.

  235. Oh, Hugh I forgot to mention that the most recent post speaks to this perfectly:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/09/lawrence-feingold-why-do-we-need-sacraments/

  236. David @ 234,

    Faith is not something we do (else, it would be a work). It is a gift of God that tells us we are loved and saved in & through Christ alone. We are not auto-mediatorial, and your last sentence is silly. Come on, now. You misquoted me by poorly editing my sentence. I wrote: No one and nothing can serve as mediator between God and man, but the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ…

    Since you dislike my using the word “mediated” with regard to Christ and our faith, I’ll simply affirm that we apprehend/ receive him by faith alone, thus receiving all his saving benefits.

    I realize that you reject our understanding of the faith once delivered, but I am at this site to better understand Rome’s arguments and interact with you all. (Who knows, maybe you guys will induce me to cross the Tiber?) But misrepresenting what I say isn’t helpful. I honestly don’t want to do that with your side’s position, nor should you do it with ours. Thank you.

  237. And David,

    When I write: “…rather than claiming that grace is necessarily mediated through officially recognized secondary or tertiary sources (as your communion dogmatically does)…”, I was not saying that Rome says that grace is ONLY mediated through church-approved channels, but that those channels DO necessarily bring grace, acc. to you church.

    This is not contradicted by your point that, “The Catholic Church has always and does now teach that the sacraments of the Church are the ordinary means by which grace flows. God is not limited by them. Else the unbaptised could have no posibility [sic] of salvation, which is something the Catholic Church has always rejected.”

    Thank you.

  238. Hugh (233) and David (234),

    Yes, the reformed do believe in the means of grace. Berkof has a large section on it . I have an old book and it starts on page 604 in my book. Here is one of the things he states (pg 604-5 in my book):

    The Church may be represented as the great means of grace which Christ, working through the Holy Spirit, uses for the gathering of the elect, the edification of the saints, and the building up of His spiritual body………………………..Strictly speaking , only the Word and the sacraments can be regarded as means of grace, that is, as objective channels which Christ has instituted in the Church, and to which He ordinarily binds Himself in the communication of grace. Of course these may never be dissociated from Christ, nor from the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit, nor from the Church which is the appointed organ for the distribution of the blessings of divine grace. They are in themselves quite ineffective and are productive of spiritual results only through the efficacious operation of the Holy Spirit.

    Kim

  239. Chris: Answering bits of three of yours, above.

    From #192 ~ Hugh, …would you have put your faith (alone) in Christ (alone) for your eternal salvation, without having *first* been given love for God, by God? How does *anyone* put one’s faith in Christ alone, if one does not yet love Christ?
    >>Agreed ~ W/o God having first (eternally) loved me, and then given me love for him as part & parcel of the Holy Ghost given us (see Gal. 5:23f), I’d neither love him or believe his gospel.<<

    Again, I say that Galatians 5:23f teaches us that ,"Faith accompanies love with peace, joy, kindness, etc. Neither precedes the other."

    You said, Let’s consider this carefully together. Isn’t grace-wrought, grace-enabled, grace-empowered love for God the *reason* that sinners put their faith in Christ for alone their salvation?
    >>No. Spirit-wrought faith is the *reason* sinners trust Christ. Faith is infallibly deposited in the elect in due time. Terms such as “grace-enabled” or “-empowered” are dubious; we know that for you these “grace-helpers” help (1) one exercise his free will to believe [God forces no one, no?], (2) enable you to do good works that contribute to one’s justification [synergism], and (3) energize the sacraments [ex opera operato?]. None of these figure in our justification nor are they the reason one believes. You *call* it grace, but it means other than it does in Reformed Protestantism.<<

    You said, Moreover, if in the letter to the Galatians, St. Paul had meant to deny the role, in justification, of *all* works, then would the Holy Spirit have inspired St. James to write, so very clearly, that man is justified *not* by faith alone, and that faith apart from works is *useless* (James 2:14-24)? I am well aware of the Reformed exegesis of James 2, but in light of the aforementioned “Jewish-Gentile conflict” context(s) of Galatians 3 and 5, the Reformed exegesis of James 2:14-24 seems, to me, to be more a form of Reformed eisegesis that looks beyond what James actually says, so as to fit his words into a Reformed paradigm.
    >>Then James would be conflicting with Paul’s Romans. Such would be the case were James speaking of justification before God.<<

    You said, Any serious, thoughtful Christian should at least take a look at the Biblical exegesis on Irenaeus on justification, especially given that he *was* such an early exegete in the life of the Church– well before, in fact, the formal canonization of the New Testament itself…
    >>Thanks. Haven’t read Athanasius in over 12 years! But to me, he’s no more authoritative than you, Augustine, Bryan C., or Uncle Fultie.<<

    You said, …St. Augustine did not hold to what *Reformed Protestants believe* the Bible to teach on “justification by faith alone.” But that he taught
    …justified by faith, as the Catholic Church teaches.
    …infants are justified in baptism… as the Catholic Church teaches.
    …Purgatory… as the Catholic Church teaches…
    St. Augustine’s understanding of the Bible’s teaching on “Sola Fide” is incompatible with the Protestant Reformed understanding of “Sola Fide” and “the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ.”

    >>OK, OK, Uncle! I’ll take your word for this. I’m too ignorant of St Augs to do otherwise. But he carries no more weight for me than do you, Chrysostom, or Jason S.<<

    _______________________
    Re: #212 ~ …the parable of the sheep and the goats, in which Christ clearly tells us that our judgment for *eternity*– for *Heaven or Hell*– will be based, at least partially, on our works… {MATTHEW 25:31-45} Works are very clearly involved in the *eternal* judgment in this passage… Christ does *not*say that this eternal judgment will only be so that we can “show,” evidentially, before man (or so that we can reveal to ourselves), whether or not we were truly “justified by faith alone.” He also does not say that this judgment will only be about determining what sort of “rewards” we will, or will not, receive in Heaven.
    >>Christ is again calling for holy perfection: Total and complete perfect adherence to the law of God (incl. love for one’s neighbor borne out in deeds of kindness) – not b/c someone could ever keep *all* such *all* the time, but in order to drive his hearers to despair of their self-righteousness (once they feel the rigors of the law), come to the cross, and cry out to God through faith in Christ.<<

    In addition, St. Paul is emphatic about the role of our perseverance in faith *and* works, in determining whether or not we *will* be saved– not simply as a matter of evidentially showing that we *were/are* “justified by faith alone.”
    >>I disagree, Please prove this from the Scriptures. Paul’s use of works is definitely not to justify us (as Romans 3-4, etc. make clear).<<

    …you say that Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism are, supposedly, two “different religions,” and you imply that the former leads to Hell… Are you comfortable with implying that St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, and all “consistent Catholics” throughout history, up to the present day, have held to a false, damning gospel?
    >>If St Aug. or Ath. was saved, it was by grace alone through faith alone in the work of Christ alone, sans mediated church “grace,” sans their own works. If they failed to believe this gospel of Romans and Galatians, then their eternal fate is dubious. We cannot know for certain, of course. God knows. I am not comfortable passing judgment on Augs, Ath, Chrys, or any of them for the simple fact that I have not read them to any great degree. But neither can I ever affirm that they held to a Tridentine view of things.<<

    _______________________
    And from #218 …The Catholic Church does teach that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. We do not hold to “justification by faith alone,” as it is contradicted by apostolic and Biblical teaching. We do hold, though, to salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.
    >>To reiterate and expand on my post #216 (to which you took exception):
    For your church, it’s not Scripture alone (not the 66 Protestant Bible books – it’s also the authoritative corpus of papal, apocryphal, & conciliar materials),
    it’s not faith alone (one needs meritorious infused righteousness),
    it’s not grace alone (grace is not God’s loving disposition toward his elect only, it is his enabling us to do good works).
    Nor is it Christ alone (there are many mediators to whom we are to pray for help in time of need).
    Our religions are fundamentally different: Our Scriptures differ, our defintions of faith, grace, and even Jesus himself (b/c of our differing views of his atonement) differ! We have different authorities, gospels, and even Christs. (Because of our differences over the intent & efficacy of the work of Christ.)<<

    …are you *interested* in having a productive discussion of Catholic-Reformed differences here?
    >>Not much longer. I see that we argue from opposing, non-overlapping positions, given our different bases for proof of our arguments. <<

  240. Perhaps this is my “old-fashioned” Southern sense of manners, with which I was raised, speaking here, but I am reluctant to engage at length Hugh’s reply to me in #239, given that he has permanently left the site. I could give many exegetical answers to his reply. Actually, I already did so, really, in #192 and #212.

    In replying to those two comments though, unfortunately, I do not see how Hugh engaged with me on a basis of Biblical exegesis. There are many *assertions* about what Scripture teaches in #239 but little actual exegesis of Scripture. In #192 and #212, I had sincerely wanted to draw Hugh into a serious exegetical discussion of justification by faith alone and imputed righteousness. Perhaps, one day, he will return to this thread, or another one here, and we can have that careful discussion. Either way, I wish him the very best in Christ (and I mean that), from a brother in Christ, to a brother in Christ.

  241. Chris

    As a Christian and a fellow southerner, I commend you for taking the high road in 240. Picking up on the conversation, I have a couple of questions:

    1. Firstly… Speaking only of our faith in Christ, does that faith come from our human free will or is it a gift from God? Specifically, would we be able to have faith without God’s intervention?

    2. Secondly… Speaking now only of agape love for God, does that agape love come from our human free will or is it a gift from God? Specifically, would we be able to love God… to seek Him without God’s intervention?

    3. Finally… To complete the Scriptural trilogy, is there any hope for our justification outside of the saving grace that is Christ? Is our hope for salvation in Christ alone, or is there something more?

    Thanks,
    Curt

  242. I am a Reformed Protestant currently sorting through the claims of the Catholic Church. I have found that many are compelling, especially when it comes to authority and salvation.

    I understand that in the New Covenant, for the Catholic, justification is a process that involves the infusion of faith hope and charity and having charity presupposes the other two which fulfills the law. If this is the case, can someone explain then how individuals in the Old Covenant were justified? Was this infusion of agape available to them somehow? I guess I am trying to see the whole picture here. Was it faith+agape in the OC as well? Thanks.

  243. Brett,

    Short answer: Yes!

    And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

    –Deuteronomy 30:5-6

    [Update] Also, see St. Thomas (ST, I-II, 107, 1) on the relation of the old law to the new law:

    …there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law.

    Andrew

  244. Brett, (re: #242)

    You wrote:

    I understand that in the New Covenant, for the Catholic, justification is a process …

    In addition to what Andrew said, it might be worthwhile to clarify the Catholic understanding of justification in light of your phrase “justification is a process.” In Catholic doctrine, the term ‘justification’ can refer both to an instant event, and a process. The instant event is the translation from a state of sin to a state of grace, which takes place at baptism or in the sacrament of penance in the case of mortal sins committed after baptism. The process of justification, on the other hand, is subsequent to that instantaneous event. For those persons already in a state of grace, the growth in grace that takes place through the sacraments, prayer, and good works done in grace, is the process of increasing in the justice already received, and this too is a kind of justification. But the process cannot take place without the instantaneous event taking place first.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  245. Brett

    As a Reformed guy, I would agree with Andrew’s short answer in #243, but would urge you to consider Andrew and Bryan’s comments carefully. The concept of Sola Fide simply means (short version) that God give us faith for salvation and He is the one who saves us … we cannot add to what He has already done in terms of salvation through the faith He gives us. The Reformer does not reject agape love as it is given to us by God, and as we reflect it in the world. We simply believe that our actions of agape love do not impact our salvation. Notice in the first verse quoted… “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” We live (presumably eternally) because of what God has done (circumcise our heart)… and because He has done this, we are enabled to love the Lord with all our heart, and thus we have the gift of eternal life. This follows in the second verse Andrew quotes. It also follows in verses like Romans Galation 3:6 … “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” The capitals letters refer to a quote of Genesis 15:6 from the OT scripture. Thus, even in the Old Testament, it is faith that saves. Our agape works are outward signs of what God has already done within.

    Just my humble thoughts.

    Curt

  246. Curt –

    I’m not protestant and have never been (officially) a protestant, but I don’t think this statement tells the full story: “The concept of Sola Fide simply means (short version) that God give us faith for salvation and He is the one who saves us … we cannot add to what He has already done in terms of salvation through the faith He gives us.” The disagreement between Catholics and Protestants isn’t the Fide part. It’s the Sola part. We Catholics reject the Sola part because (1) it can’t be deduced by reason alone and it therefore needs to be revealed and (2) it hasn’t been divinely revealed.

    While we cannot “add” to what Jesus has done, Catholics believe we can be participants in this – right to believing that our own suffering has a redemptive value when united to the cross of Christ.

  247. Curt,

    You wrote:

    He has done this, we are enabled to love the Lord with all our heart, and thus we have the gift of eternal life.

    I cannot imagine a better summary of the Catholic position on receiving the gift of eternal life [so long as being “enabled” to love is not opposed to actual, inherent agage]! The pattern marked out in Deuteronomy 30:6 is also the pattern that St. Paul identifies in Romans 2:7 and 6:22 (which we have discussed before):

    Who will render to every man according to his works. To them indeed who, according to patience in good works, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life….

    But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting.

    The problem for your position is that these verses are not compatible with your claim that “our actions of agape love do not impact our salvation.” Neither is this claim of yours compatible with all of Deuteronomy 30:6, wherein life is predicated upon loving God with all of one’s heart and soul, not merely the potential to love God with all of one’s heart and soul.

    Andrew

  248. Curt (re: #245),

    Thus, even in the Old Testament, it is faith that saves. Our agape works are outward signs of what God has already done within.

    As I explained in the article at the top of this page, Catholic teaching agrees with the claim that “in the Old Testament, it is faith that saves.” That’s not the point of disagreement between Protestants and the Catholic Church. The point of disagreement is whether the faith that saves is faith-informed-by-agape, or faith-not-informed-by-agape. According to Catholic doctrine, Abraham was saved by “living faith,” i.e. faith-informed-by-agape. The agape visible in his actions (e.g. his willingness to sacrifice his son) is not merely an outward sign of faith alone within him, but is the visible manifestation of living faith within him, that is, faith-informed-by-the-divine-gift-of-agape. It is this living faith within Abraham that God reckoned as righteousness, because that’s just what righteousness truly is, agape that in itself already fulfills the law, as explained in “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  249. Andrew

    Of course, Romans 2 is discussing the ingrafting of the Greeks into the faith of the Jews, specifically that under the law, the Jews are judged by their deeds. Paul concludes Romans 2 with: “28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” Thus, it is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit that makes one chosen… not the outward circumcision… and we are found acceptable by God because of what the Spirit has done… not by “the letter” ie, not by the law.

    Regarding Romans 6:22, using the more literal NASB: “22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” … If we look at the obvious cause and effect relationship outlined in this verse, we see that the cause is this: we are “freed from sin and enslaved to God” … this was by a unilateral action of God. The effect: “you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” So the benefit of God’s unilateral action is that we receive a benefit (or good thing) … and what is the result? Sanctification… and thus the outcome … eternal life. So the scrunched-back-together version is: God freed us from our sin and enslaved us to Himself. We are then the fortunate beneficiaries of a sanctified life and eternal life.

    Curt

  250. Curt, your first paragraph above is beautifully stated, and what is more, fits nicely with Deuteronomy 30:6, which St. Paul clearly had in mind. The second paragraph is fine, except that you seem to miss the causal connection between sanctification and eternal life. If that connection is not clear enough from Romans 6:22 (though it is for me), at least Romans 2 should leave no room for doubt. But at the very least I am glad that we can agree that our good works (a sanctified life) are very much a part of salvation.

  251. Andrew and Curt,

    That causal connection between sanctification and salvation, which I agree is in view in both Rom 6.22 and in Rom 2, is also stated with great beauty and succinctness in 2 Thess 2.13: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

    John

  252. Andrew

    I would concur wholeheartedly that there is a causal connection between sanctification and eternal life, but would postulate that your position does not go far enough up the causal ladder. That is, our sanctification is caused by the Spirit working in us, and thus the cause is what God does within, and thus eternal life is a gift that becomes operative through our works as caused by God. Thus we cannot claim reward based on our works, for “there is none righteous not even one… there is none who seeks for God” (Rom 3:10-11). Even our good works are a gift from God!

    Curt

  253. Bryan

    I would agree with what you say… but see it differently, if that is possible. Your position of faith plus agape is not the issue per se. But you seem to imply that agape is man derived, or at least in part attributable to man’s inner goodness in some way, and this is where I would disagree. The agape that proceeds from man is solely God derived, and thus man cannot claim any “self-righteousness” nor any eternal benefit from his acts of agape. You seem to concur when you say, “faith-informed-by-the-divine-gift-of-agape”. Thus it is 100% God acting in and through us that leads to acts of agape. Abraham was chosen by God… pure and simple… And he acted the way he acted because of “faith-informed-by-the-divine-gift-of-agape”, God’s gift to Abraham.

    Curt

  254. John

    Just briefly, if… “God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” then who is the cause? Is it not God and God alone? Yes He operates through faith and sanctification, but neither of these is initiated by us… for He chose us from the beginning… or can we unchoose what God has chosen?

    Curt

  255. Curt, (re: #253)

    You wrote:

    But you seem to imply that agape is man derived, or at least in part attributable to man’s inner goodness in some way, and this is where I would disagree.

    I disagree with that notion too. Agape is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). It is not something derived from man; it is a supernatural gift from God. When it is poured out into our hearts, it transforms our hearts. But it is not derived from us. So here, at least, I agree with you.

    The agape that proceeds from man is solely God derived, and thus man cannot claim any “self-righteousness” nor any eternal benefit from his acts of agape.

    Here again I agree with the “solely God derived” part. But we need to disambiguate the “self-righteousness” part. If we are speaking of the origin of this righteousness, then it does not come from us, but from God, as just explained. But if “self-righteousness” is meant to imply that the self is not made righteous by this gift of infused agape, then I do not agree. The infusion of agape truly makes us internally righteous, in the way I explain at the link in #248.

    Regarding the possibility of obtaining any eternal benefit from our acts done in agape, Scripture is replete with the fact that we will be rewarded for what we do in agape, even something as small as giving a cup of cold water in His Name. The reward He gives is not trinkets or ribbons or medals. The reward He gives is the object of greatest love: a greater share in Himself. But He is eternal life. Thus our reward for deeds done in agape is eternal life, nothing less.

    You seem to concur when you say, “faith-informed-by-the-divine-gift-of-agape”. Thus it is 100% God acting in and through us that leads to acts of agape.

    God takes the initiative, yes. But, that does not make us into the equivalent of puppets or automatons, possessed and manipulated by God, the way (presumably) demon-possessed persons are manipulated by the demons that possess them. When the Trinity indwells us, and infuses us with agape, the movement toward God by which we live in love toward God and neighbor, comes from God, but it is, at the same time, truly we who act in and with that love. Otherwise, grace would destroy nature, if we were turned into mere puppets in God’s hands. God makes us righteous, and the truth of that statement entails that this righteousness is both God’s (because it comes from Him), and ours, because it was truly infused into us. That’s the good news of the gospel.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  256. Bryan

    Yous said “God makes us righteous,”… and you speak of “internally righteous”. What does that mean? If I am 100% internally righteous, would not my deeds be 100% externally righteous as well? I am one person.

    Curt

  257. Curt, (re: #256)

    When I say that God makes us righteous internally, I mean that He infuses into us sanctifying grace and agape. Sanctifying grace and agape are distinct in us, because our human essence is distinct from our will, which is a power of our soul. Sanctifying grace is that supernatural gift by which our nature is made to participate in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), and agape is that supernatural gift by which our will is granted to participate in the divine nature, by sharing in the supernatural love by which God loves Himself. In God, however, there is no such corresponding distinction between sanctifying grace and agape, because He is simple; His nature is Agape.

    One of the weaknesses of our own time, due primarily to the success of modern science, is the tendency to attempt to quantify everything (and also overlook what cannot be quantified). Agape is something we either have or we do not. It is impossible to have some portion or part of agape, because agapehas no parts. This is why it is impossible to have 80% agape, or 30% agape, etc. A person either has agape or he does not. But the presence of agape within us does not entail that we cannot sin. So yes, you are one person, but you have a free will, and can freely choose between good and evil. The presence of agape within you in this present life does not remove from you the ability to choose evil. Sinning mortally, however, drives sanctifying grace and agape and the indwelling Trinity from the soul. Through repentance and the turning of the will back to God in contrition, in response to the work of the Holy Spirit, a person can receive again the gifts of sanctifying grace, agape, and the indwelling of the Trinity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

  258. Bryan

    Thanks for hanging with me. I’m struggling a bit with the concept of our human essence or nature being separate from our free will … on several levels. First, Scripture tells us that in the unsaved state, we are slaves to sin. In this state, we have no power over sin and death. Slavery and free will, in my view, are mutually exclusive concepts. Yes a slave may have a free will, but it is trumped by a greater power. Further, in our saved state, we are slaves to Christ and again, the concept of free will seems at odds. We know from Scripture that our natural will is unrighteous (resulted from original sin). This is changed through sanctifying grace, which I would call the the infusion of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit acts on and changes our heart from a natural desire to sin to a supernatural desire to do the works of Christ. Thus, what God has chosen to redeem He has also sealed with the Holy Spirit….

    Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

    The only requirement of me is to believe… everything else is God’s grace acting in me. Again from Scripture…

    Titus 3:3-7 “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

    So it seem that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” a process controlled by God. This doesn’t seem to jive with free will voluntarily responding with or against the infused agape, a process controlled by me. In the former concept, God forgives our sins (past, present, future) and then redeems our lives for His purposes through the Holy Spirit. In the latter concept, God forgives our past sins, but leaves us on the hook for present and future sins. That doesn’t seem congruous with the Titus verse (among many others).

    Curt

  259. Bryan

    Further thoughts… It seems to me that your fundamental premise in this article is based on a false dichotomy, something like this: Protestants believe in justification by faith alone, therefore they must believe that the indwelling of the love of God is not part of their salvation experience. The “therefore” in this statement is an obvious non sequitur. Without over generalizing, most protestant denoms of which I am aware believe that we are justified by faith alone AND that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit to do works of righteousness. The Holy Spirit is a gift just as forgiveness and justification are gifts. Acts of love will be evident in the Christian’s life because the Holy Spirit working in that person just as God promised. And so, of course, on the other side, faith without works is dead (ie, doesn’t really exist). Just as sin was an active power in our unsaved state, how much more is the Holy Spirit an active power in our saved state?

    Your article continues to expand this non sequitur to the point of , in my humble opinion, absurdity with statements like this: “When we unpack the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic positions on this subject, we find that this question rests on a deeper question, namely, whether there is any Biblical evidence that persons are justified prior to or apart from, love for God.” That isn’t the dispute at all. No Protestant I know would argue that we are justified apart from the love of God. Any false pretext like this would be easy prey in Scripture.

    It seems to me the justification dispute starts with the RC concept of agape juxtaposed with the Protestant concept of the Holy Spirit. From what I read herein, the RC sees agape and the Holy Spirit as two separate things where the Protestant views the Holy Spirit as the operative agent of God’s love (ie, one thing acting in a person’s life as opposed to two). Further, the Protestant sees the process as “justification by grace, then sanctification by grace, resulting in good works” as compared to the RC view of “justification through grace and sanctification and good works”. Thus, the Protestant sees our salvation as complete on the Cross, while the RC sees our salvation as beginning on the Cross and completed by my good works. If these understandings are true, then I think we have a starting point to compare the means of justification.

    Love in Christ
    Curt

  260. Curt, (re: #258)

    You wrote:

    First, Scripture tells us that in the unsaved state, we are slaves to sin. In this state, we have no power over sin and death. Slavery and free will, in my view, are mutually exclusive concepts. Yes a slave may have a free will, but it is trumped by a greater power. Further, in our saved state, we are slaves to Christ and again, the concept of free will seems at odds. We know from Scripture that our natural will is unrighteous (resulted from original sin).

    Instead of speaking of Scripture in general, I think it would be more helpful in each case to point to the actual texts of Scripture.

    From a Catholic point of view, when St. Paul speaks of the unregenerate as “slaves to sin,” he does not mean that every act they choose is a sin, but that without grace they cannot ultimately avoid committing mortal sin. In this sense they are not free to avoid sin, but are carried along by their own lusts from sin to sin. Conversely, being a slave to righteousness does not mean that one cannot but obey, as though one cannot sin, and has lost the ability to sin. Rather, it means that through love (agape) we now can resist all mortal sin, and are carried by love from righteousness to righteousness, leading to our sanctification. We are compelled by the agape in which there is true freedom, so that although we retain the power to sin, yet in our hearts we desire to please the Lord. In that sense we are not free to sin. Sin is contrary to the agape poured out into our hearts.

    All this has to do with our relation to the supernatural, not the natural. In the state of sin, our will is not capable of giving agape to God. Yet our natural freedom remains intact. We can still choose between chocolate and vanilla, or between good and evil (e.g. virtue and vice). But we cannot choose to live in love for God, with the work of grace in our hearts. I recommend listening to minutes 44′ through 51′ of Lawrence Feingold’s lecture on freedom of the will.

    I agree that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, but it does not follow from Eph 1:13-14 or Titus 3:3-7 that “the only requirement of me is to believe.” For justification (to a state of grace) we must also repent, and be baptized. And for sanctification we must take up our cross daily.

    You wrote:

    So it seem that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” a process controlled by God. This doesn’t seem to jive with free will voluntarily responding with or against the infused agape, a process controlled by me.

    St. Paul is referring in that passage (Titus 3:3-7) to regeneration through baptism. (See “The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration.”) We freely choose, with the aid of grace, to come to baptism (unless we were baptized as infants). So it “jives” fine. Grace moves us to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to repentance and baptism; we freely respond. And in baptism God infuses sanctifying grace and agape within us.

    You wrote:

    In the former concept, God forgives our sins (past, present, future) and then redeems our lives for His purposes through the Holy Spirit. In the latter concept, God forgives our past sins, but leaves us on the hook for present and future sins. That doesn’t seem congruous with the Titus verse (among many others).

    Nothing in the Titus passage (or any other NT passage) teaches that God has already forgiven anyone’s future sins.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  261. Curt (re: #259)

    You wrote:

    Further thoughts… It seems to me that your fundamental premise in this article is based on a false dichotomy, something like this: Protestants believe in justification by faith alone, therefore they must believe that the indwelling of the love of God is not part of their salvation experience.

    Just to be clear, no premise in my argument is or presupposes that for Protestants “the indwelling of the love of God is not part of their salvation experience.”

    Next you wrote:

    Without over generalizing, most protestant denoms of which I am aware believe that we are justified by faith alone AND that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit to do works of righteousness. The Holy Spirit is a gift just as forgiveness and justification are gifts. Acts of love will be evident in the Christian’s life because the Holy Spirit working in that person just as God promised. And so, of course, on the other side, faith without works is dead (ie, doesn’t really exist). Just as sin was an active power in our unsaved state, how much more is the Holy Spirit an active power in our saved state?

    I agree with all this.

    Next you wrote:

    Your article continues to expand this non sequitur to the point of , in my humble opinion, absurdity with statements like this: “When we unpack the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic positions on this subject, we find that this question rests on a deeper question, namely, whether there is any Biblical evidence that persons are justified prior to or apart from, love for God.” That isn’t the dispute at all. No Protestant I know would argue that we are justified apart from the love of God. Any false pretext like this would be easy prey in Scripture.

    The “apart from” does not here mean that agape is not present, but that agape is not what makes faith alive, and is not what makes faith to be justifying faith.

    You wrote:

    From what I read herein, the RC sees agape and the Holy Spirit as two separate things where the Protestant views the Holy Spirit as the operative agent of God’s love (ie, one thing acting in a person’s life as opposed to two).

    See my discussion of St. Thomas’s answer to that position, in comment #12 of the “St. Thomas Aquinas on Penance” thread.

    Finally you wrote:

    Further, the Protestant sees the process as “justification by grace, then sanctification by grace, resulting in good works” as compared to the RC view of “justification through grace and sanctification and good works”. Thus, the Protestant sees our salvation as complete on the Cross, while the RC sees our salvation as beginning on the Cross and completed by my good works. If these understandings are true, then I think we have a starting point to compare the means of justification.

    The important qualifier to your description is that once we are in a state of grace, our acts done in love through the agape within us are not soteriologically equivalent to acts done in a state of mortal sin. Yes, in Catholicism our acts of love done in a state of grace are rewarded by a greater share in sanctifying grace and agape, and thus a greater righteousness (i.e. an increase in the justice we received at baptism). But it wouldn’t be accurate to reduce acts done in agape to works done by persons in a state of mortal sin, by lumping them together as “good works.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  262. Bryan

    What do you mean when you say, “I agree that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit,”?

    Curt

  263. Curt, (re: #262),

    Since you had referred to Ephesians 1:13, I had in mind what St. Thomas says in his commentary on that verse concerning the seal of the Holy Spirit.

    Concerning the blessing of justification he mentions that you were signed with the Holy Spirit who was given to you. Concerning this [Spirit] three things are said; he is a sign, the spirit of the promise, and the pledge of our inheritance.

    He is a sign inasmuch as through him charity is infused into our hearts, thereby distinguishing us from those who are not the children of God. Relating to this be says you were signed, set apart from Satan’s fold. “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God; whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Just as men brand a mark on their own herds to differentiate them from others, so the Lord willed to seal his own flock, his people, with a spiritual sign. The Lord had the Jews as his own people in the Old Testament. “And you, my flocks, the flocks of my pastures are men” (Ez. 34:31 ). “And we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:7). This flock was fed on the earthly pastures of material teachings and temporal goods: “If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good things of the land” (Is. 1:19). The Lord, therefore, differentiated and set them apart from others by means of the bodily sign of circumcision. “And my covenant shall be in your flesh” (Gen. 17:13); before this it says, “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, that it may be for a sign of the covenant between me and you” (Gen. 17:11).

    In the New Testament the flock he had is the Christian people: “You have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25). “My sheep hear my voice; and I know them; and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). This flock is fed on the pastures of spiritual doctrine and spiritual favors; hence the Lord differentiated it from others by a spiritual sign. This is the Holy Spirit through whom those who are of Christ are distinguished from the others who do not belong to him. But since the Holy Spirit is love, he is given to someone when that person is made a lover of God and neighbor. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Therefore, the distinctive sign is charity which comes from the Holy Spirit: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (Jn. 13:35). The Holy Spirit is he by whom we are signed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  264. Hey Bryan,

    I wanted to respond (Nearly 6 months later…Sorry about the delay) to your comments in #177 & 178 but before I do that I want to lay out my understanding of the Roman definition of faith.

    Rome conceives of formed and unformed faith. “Formed faith” is that faith which is informed (or we may say infused with) love. Unformed faith, while legitimately faith is not sufficient for justification because it is not informed by love (cf. James 2).

    In your article referenced in footnote 6 you explain how Aquinas draws the distinction between the will and the intellect and how faith is directed to the divine good AND the truth. Because faith is directed to the divine good it is perfected by agape (let me know if I’m understanding this properly) even though properly speaking the act of faith itself is part of the intellect.

    Thus Aquinas can argue that with regard to the intellect formed and unformed faith are the same habits but they differ in that formed faith (that is faith working through love) unites the purpose of faith, namely, truth and the Divine good while unformed faith does not wed truth and the Divine good. In other words, formed and unformed faith are the same with regard to the intellect but distinct with respect to the direction of their will.

    Given this understanding of faith, one can see that at its essence faith is notitia and assensus. It is knowledge of the “Divine mysteries” and it is even assent to their truth. The one thing that it does not appear that faith is in the Roman system is “fiducia,” or resting and trusting in another.

    For the Reformed, true faith (or we may say living faith) is that faith which rests and trusts in the provision of God. While there is an intellectual capacity to faith (notitia and assensus) what characterizes faith is resting in the work of God as opposed to our work. The article which I linked to Dr. VanDrunen addresses how various passages in Scripture seem to speak of faith as resting in God’s actions of salvation and despairing of our own work (Eph 2:8-9). For the position that you have described faith is that specific act by which our intellect perceives the Divine mysteries. If I perceived faith in this way, then I too would argue that faith alone could not save, but I believe that Scripture teaches that faith is extraspective, looking outside of myself to another.

    This provides a brief (and hurried) sketch of my belief that the distinctions between notitia, assensus, and fiducia are warranted.

    Would it be accurate to say that Rome allows for faith to be assensus and notitia while not fiducia?

    I think that coming to a mutual understanding of the essence of faith is essential for further communion and I’d love to hear more from you on this.

  265. Hi RefProt,

    I thought it might be of some use to point out St. Thomas’s teaching on hope. The way I read it, Thomas includes something of your concept of resting and trusting in his doctrine of hope which, in turn, he relates to faith:

    “The hope of which we speak now, attains God by leaning on His help in order to obtain the hoped for good.”

    “Now the object of hope is, in one way, eternal happiness, and in another way, the Divine assistance, as explained above (2; 6, ad 3): and both of these are proposed to us by faith, whereby we come to know that we are able to obtain eternal life, and that for this purpose the Divine assistance is ready for us, according to Hebrews 11:6: “He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him.” Therefore it is evident that faith precedes hope.”

    -David

  266. RefProt, (re: #264)

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with the first part of your comment, where you described the two positions. So that’s good. But, as David said in #265, I think the problem is related to the virtue of hope. I responded to a similar objection/question (to the one you are raising) in comment #13 above, where I claimed that in some cases St. Paul uses the term ‘faith’ as a synecdoche for the triad of theological virtues, because he is talking about living faith. But in other cases, he is speaking of faith proper, as when he distinguishes between faith and love. I also said the following (in #13):

    So in Catholic theology faith, *in itself*, is not an act of trust. Trust involves all three theological virtues, and is one form or expression of the conjunction of these three virtues. We can see that by thinking about what is going on when a person says (sincerely) a sinner’s prayer. He’s not just assenting to revealed truths. He’s asking God to forgive him for sinning against God (that shows love for God), and entrusting his life to God (again, love), and expecting God to save him from hell and give him eternal life with Him. That shows hope and charity.

    So let me clarify. If agape is internal to the Reformed concept of trust, then (from a Catholic point of view) the Reformed concept of trust can be understood as a synecdoche for the triad of theological virtues, even if the concept tends to emphasize hope more than love. In that case, we’re close, because in that case the disagreement (on what is justifying faith) is either merely semantic or merely a matter of emphasis, not a substantive difference. When we speak of trust in this way, we bring in the personal dimension — “I trust in you Christ as my Lord and Savior, who died on the cross for me, to save me from my sins, and bring me to eternal life.” Love may be implicit in this personal dimension of this conception of trust, even if theologically this trust is treated as not containing love. That’s because there may be an implicit connotation of friendship, and thus communion, within this response of personal trust in the One who loves me and gave Himself up for me. So in that case, the problem is just a failure to recognize that agape is intrinsic to the conception of trust in view, and its presence simply needs to be made explicit.

    On the other hand, if agape is not internal to this concept of trust, but only follows the presence of trust, or accompanies it, but does not make trust to be justifying, then see the last paragraph in comment #322 in the “Imputations and Paradigms” thread. In that case, from the Catholic point of view the Reformed concept of trust is actually a combination of faith and hope, even though Reformed persons distinguish trust from hope.

    As I see it, the thrust of your objection (drawing from DVD) is the following. In some places in Scripture, the term ‘faith’ seems to mean trust, not assent+love. But, here’s my response. If in these places St. Paul is using the term ‘faith’ as a synecdoche for the triad of theological virtues, then it is not surprising that in some places the role of hope is evident in faith of this sort. The triad wouldn’t be a triad if hope were not there. But the presence of hope [in the triad of virtues] does not mean the absence of agape. In my own opinion, the reason why the Reformed reaction to the claim that agapeless trust is assent+hope is something like, “No, by ‘trust’ I mean something stronger than assent+hope,” is because Reformed persons generally don’t have a grasp of the robust character of the Catholic doctrine of hope. Hope, in Catholic theology, is more than wish, or probabilistic expectation. The Catechism states:

    Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1817)

    As I see it, there’s nothing in Reformed agapeless trust that is not in assent+hope. The more clearly you grasp how robust is the Catholic conception of the virtue of hope, the more the idea that agapeless trust is assent+hope becomes plausible.

    Would it be accurate to say that Rome allows for faith to be assensus and notitia while not fiducia?

    Sure. The fiducia aspect is what you get when you add the virtue of hope to assent.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  267. Pope Francis in this week’s General Audience:

    “…We will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest. Of course, we must always keep in mind that we are justified, we are saved by grace, by an act of God’s gratuitous love which always precedes us; we alone can do nothing. Faith is first of all a gift that we have received. But to bear fruit, God’s grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves. We are asked to trust him, to match the gift of his love with a good life, with actions animated by faith and love.”

    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-christ-s-second-coming

  268. Bryan how does a Roman catholic interpret Romans 4:
    4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[a]

    4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

    7 “Blessed are those
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
    8 Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”[b]

    9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.”

    This seems to contradict Trent that says righteousness is infused instead of reckoned. Also Paul is clear that works cannot be added to faith in order to justify. But Trent says we need to prepare our selves for justification.

  269. Vincent, (re: #268)

    You asked:

    Bryan how does a Roman catholic interpret Romans 4:

    In this passage St. Paul is teaching that justification has always been by faith, and not by dead works. He is showing this by revealing that this was the case even for Abraham and David. God counted Abraham righteous on the basis of his faith, and this righteousness was a divine gift, because Abraham’s faith was a divine gift. The case of David too, demonstrates that forgiveness from God is not by works meriting forgiveness from God, but by divine mercy which effects repentance out of love for God, a love that belongs to living faith. This righteousness by living faith, says St. Paul, is not just for the Hebrews, but for all peoples of the world. It is catholic, because Abraham had it by faith before receiving the circumcision of the flesh that sets the Jewish people apart from the Gentiles.

    You wrote:

    This seems to contradict Trent that says righteousness is infused instead of reckoned.

    Trent never says that righteousness is infused *instead of reckoned.* See the paragraph that begins “First, Catholics believe in imputation” in comment #140 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread.

    You wrote:

    Also Paul is clear that works cannot be added to faith in order to justify. But Trent says we need to prepare our selves for justification.

    In this passage of Romans St. Paul is not talking about preparing for justification, but about what it is fundamentally that justifies: faith or works. And the answer is faith. And this living faith is a divine gift, which we receive through the sacrament of baptism, which St. Paul describes in Romans 6, as I have explained in the last section of “The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration.” St. Paul in no place says that for those who have attained the age of reason, repentance is not necessary for receiving the gift of faith in baptism. If you take ‘works’ to mean ‘any human action’ you will fall into monergism, and then even you are not the one believing, in ‘your’ act of justifying faith, but God is doing the believing for you. Rather, St. Paul is using the term ‘works’ in a qualified context, referring to that on the basis of which we are justified. We are not justified on the basis of works, but by faith, even though for those who have reached the age of reason, repentance and baptism are necessary for receiving the sacrament of baptism by which this divine gift of faith is implanted deeply within us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  270. Bryan the following comes from the Lutheran pastor Paul McCain’s website. He makes the following assertions regarding Trent:
    “The problem with Rome’s view of justification is that they view it as a process, whereby we cooperate with God’s grace in order to merit eternal life for ourselves, and even for others (that is a paraphrase of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches). They view grace as a sort of “substance” that God infuses into us that permits us to do those works that are necessary in order that we might earn more grace. The Bible describes grace as the loving and favorable disposition of God; in other words, grace is all about what God is doing and giving.

    We distinguish between the result of justification, which is the Christian life, and the work of God to save us. Rome mixes sanctification with justification. Why is this view troublesome? Because it teaches that something other than trust in Christ is necessary for or salvation. That “something other” is what we bring to the table. And the only thing we do bring to the table is our sin, not our good works. Our works are a response that God works in us, but not a contributing cause to our justification.

    The Roman Catholic Church is very careful to state that even this “something other” is made possibly only because God has given us the “initial” grace to desire more grace. But in practical reality, it is apparent that the Roman Catholic Church is finally throwing people back on relying on what they are doing, or can do, to merit eternal life. When we mix in our works in the picture of our salvation, the glory and merit of Christ always end up becoming obscured.

    But the Bible is clear that it is purely by grace, not by works, or else grace would just be a “help” for us to do the works that finally are what merit God’s forgiveness. In the Roman Catholic view, justification is a process by which we participate with God in achieving our salvation. The Biblical view is that justification is God’s declaration of our complete righteousness and total forgiveness, apart from any works. This gift is received by faith alone–apart from works (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8-9).

    The Roman Catholic Church continues to affirm the false doctrine that was made official church dogma during the 16th century Council of Trent. Here is one example: “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this trust alone by which we are justified, let him be condemned.”

    The newest edition of the Roman Catholic Catechism states: “We can merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed to attain eternal life.” According to Rome, grace is a spiritual power infused into man that makes it possible for him to do the good works that then merit forgiveness and eternal life. This view contradicts the Biblical doctrine of justification: A sinner is saved by God’s grace alone, for Christ’s sake alone, through faith alone. For Rome, faith is not that “receiving hand” which God gives us in order that we may hold on to Christ, but rather a virtue given to man that receives the initial grace that makes possible man’s ability to merit more grace, etc. by means of the works that merit grace. It is a subtle form of the old error of Pelagius.

    Luther once said, “We can not pin our hope on anything that we are, think, say or do . . nor can our satisfaction be uncertain, for it consists not of the dubious sinful works which we do, but of the sufferings and blood of the innocent Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

    These seem to be pretty hard indictments on Trent’s doctrine. How accurate is his portrayal? I did not know that a catholic can merit forgiveness of sins. I thought forgiveness came freely without merit.

  271. Vincent, (re: #270)

    I’ve put some comments below:

    The problem with Rome’s view of justification is that they view it as a process, whereby we cooperate with God’s grace in order to merit eternal life for ourselves, and even for others (that is a paraphrase of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches).

    Of course this claim conflates the distinction between justification-as-translation, and justification-as-increase, discussed and explained in “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.”

    They view grace as a sort of “substance” that God infuses into us that permits us to do those works that are necessary in order that we might earn more grace.

    No, grace is not a substance or a “sort of substance.” Sanctifying grace is a participation in the divine nature, as explained in “Lawrence Feingold on Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace.”

    The Bible describes grace as the loving and favorable disposition of God; in other words, grace is all about what God is doing and giving.

    Grace is God’s favor, but also the gifts He gives because of that favor, as St. Thomas explains in Summa Theologica I-II Q.110. See the three senses of the term ‘grace’ St. Thomas explains in the responseo of Article 1 of Q. 110.

    The author you cite writes:

    We distinguish between the result of justification, which is the Christian life, and the work of God to save us. Rome mixes sanctification with justification. Why is this view troublesome? Because it teaches that something other than trust in Christ is necessary for or salvation. That “something other” is what we bring to the table. And the only thing we do bring to the table is our sin, not our good works. Our works are a response that God works in us, but not a contributing cause to our justification.

    This conflates the distinction between justification-as-translation, and justification-as-increase, and thus sets up a straw man.

    The Roman Catholic Church is very careful to state that even this “something other” is made possibly only because God has given us the “initial” grace to desire more grace. But in practical reality, it is apparent that the Roman Catholic Church is finally throwing people back on relying on what they are doing, or can do, to merit eternal life. When we mix in our works in the picture of our salvation, the glory and merit of Christ always end up becoming obscured.

    This criticism presupposes that graced-works by the saints, done by participating in Christ working in them through the grace He merited for them, do not bring more glory to Christ than Christ doing everything entirely Himself. And that’s precisely one of the points in dispute between the Catholic and Protestant paradigms, as I explain in “The Gospel and the Paradox of Glory.”

    But the Bible is clear that it is purely by grace, not by works, or else grace would just be a “help” for us to do the works that finally are what merit God’s forgiveness.

    Not only does that conclusion not follow from that premise, but again McCain conflates the distinction between justification-as-translation, and justification-as-increase. We do not merit God’s forgiveness.

    In the Roman Catholic view, justification is a process by which we participate with God in achieving our salvation. The Biblical view is that justification is God’s declaration of our complete righteousness and total forgiveness, apart from any works.

    Again he conflates the distinction between justification-as-translation, and justification-as-increase.

    This gift is received by faith alone–apart from works (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8-9).

    Except Scripture never says it is received “by faith alone.” That’s one of the things shown in the post at the top of this page.

    The Roman Catholic Church continues to affirm the false doctrine that was made official church dogma during the 16th century Council of Trent. Here is one example: “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this trust alone by which we are justified, let him be condemned.”

    McCain *asserts* that this doctrine is false, but does not show that it is false. Justifying faith is not mere trust; it is living faith, which assents to what Christ has revealed, and is made alive by the infused supernatural virtue of agape poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

    The newest edition of the Roman Catholic Catechism states: “We can merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed to attain eternal life.”

    Here’s the full quotation: “No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.” (CCC 2027) So McCain misrepresents the Catholic position, by leaving out the qualifier at the beginning of the sentence. We cannot merit anything when we are not in a state of grace. But when we are in a state of grace, we can merit an increase in grace, as the Church Fathers taught, as I explained in “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers.”

    According to Rome, grace is a spiritual power infused into man that makes it possible for him to do the good works that then merit forgiveness and eternal life.

    Not forgiveness, unless he is speaking of venial sin, by those in a state of grace – in which case he is conflating the distinction between mortal and venial sin.

    This view contradicts the Biblical doctrine of justification: A sinner is saved by God’s grace alone, for Christ’s sake alone, through faith alone.

    Except the Bible never says that a sinner is “saved by God’s grace alone, for Christ’s sake alone, through faith alone.” Nor does McCain show where what the Catholic Church teaches “contradicts the Biblical doctrine of justification.” He merely asserts that it does.

    For Rome, faith is not that “receiving hand” which God gives us in order that we may hold on to Christ, but rather a virtue given to man that receives the initial grace that makes possible man’s ability to merit more grace, etc. by means of the works that merit grace. It is a subtle form of the old error of Pelagius.

    No, it is not. Pelagius denied the need for grace. The notion that any cooperation on the part of man is some form of Pelagianism simply begs the question by definitionally loading the notion of heresy into any position other than absolute monergism. Regarding the teaching of the Second Council of Orange that cooperation in salvation is not Pelagianism or Semipelagianism, see “Did the Council of Trent Contradict the Second Council of Orange?.”

    Luther once said, “We can not pin our hope on anything that we are, think, say or do . . nor can our satisfaction be uncertain, for it consists not of the dubious sinful works which we do, but of the sufferings and blood of the innocent Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

    Our hope is not in our own sanctification, but in what Christ has revealed awaits us. That is the object of our hope. But hope and faith are not the same thing, and it is important not to conflate faith and hope. See comment #266 above, and comment #322 in the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  272. Bryan

    It seems to me that this whole concept of “justification-as-translation” is a conundrum in it self. The word justify means “to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable”. To Catholics, justification is “a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior”. However, to be effectual, This “justification-as-translation” must be accompanied by good works. Therefore, justification-as-translation is not justification at all. In and of itself, one is not justified. It is the potential for justification. Am I right?

    Blessings
    Curt

  273. Curt, (re: #272)

    To Catholics, justification is “a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior”. However, to be effectual, This “justification-as-translation” must be accompanied by good works. Therefore, justification-as-translation is not justification at all. In and of itself, one is not justified. It is the potential for justification. Am I right?

    No. The problematic premise in your argument is “This “justification-as-translation” must be accompanied by good works. ” That premise is problematic because the term ‘accompanied’ is ambiguous. As you have used it, it could mean either a necessary constituent of justification-as-translation, or something that necessarily follows justification-as-translation. And your conclusion would follow only if it meant the former; but in Catholic doctrine, good works must accompany justification-as-translation only in the latter sense. And therefore your argument is not sound. Justification-as-translation is completed instantaneously, in baptism. One need not do anything subsequently to complete justification-as-translation. Baptized babies are not potentially justified until they reach the age of reason and do some number of good works. They are fully justified, at the moment of baptism. Their subsequent good deeds done out of charity justify them only in the justification-as-increase sense, not in the justification-as-translation sense.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  274. Bryan

    but in Catholic doctrine, good works must accompany justification-as-translation only in the latter sense. (ie good works are “something that necessarily follows justification-as-translation”

    And therein lies the conundrum. For adults, there really is no justification until “B” actually happens, thus “A” is not really justification. It is a prerequisite to justification, which only becomes actualized with the occurrence of “B”. Perhaps misnomer would be a better word than conundrum.

    Blessings
    Curt

  275. Curt, (re: #274)

    For adults, there really is no justification until “B” actually happens, thus “A” is not really justification.

    Nope. That’s not the Catholic doctrine. That’s a straw man.

    It is a prerequisite to justification, which only becomes actualized with the occurrence of “B”.

    Again, works done in charity are not a prerequisite to justification-as-translation. Justification is already ‘actualized’ at the moment of baptism.

    However, if you insist that if something must follow justification, then justification is only potential until the thing following is accomplished, then Reformed justification is only potential until sanctification is complete. But that’s only if you want to insist on going after the straw man of the Catholic doctrine.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  276. @Curt Russell (#272)

    The word justify means “to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable”.

    Does it only mean that? The first meaning in Liddell and Scott of δικαιόω is “to set right” – second meaning is “to hold or deem right; think fit” (and third meaning is “to do a man right or justice.”

    I had thought that δικαιόω could mean ‘to make just.’ Not sure your definition isn’t begging the question.

    jj

  277. Bryan

    It is not a straw man… Catholic doctrine insists on justification by grace plus works of righteousness, does it not? Is this not what justification-as-translation and justification-as-increase refer to?

    One is either justified, or they are not. We are either right with God or we are not. If God justifies someone, then they are justified. It is not I who insists that there is something called justification-as-increase, as if justification could be divided. We are justified by Christ… and it is finished. Sanctification is not a part of justification… it is the result of justification. So no, the Protestant does not see sanctification as a requirement of justification.

    Romans 3
    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

    We are justified apart from our own righteousness by faith in Christ who died for us.

    Blessings
    Curt

  278. jj

    I’ll accept either meaning of the word justify as you have proposed…

    1) to set right
    2) to hold or deem right; think fit

    So… if God has justified us…

    1) God has set us right, and/or
    2) God holds or deems us to be right; God thinks we are fit

    So I don’t think definition is going to make your case… to quote Paul from Romans 8…

    31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns?

    God justifies, and we are made right with Him through Christ. Who is the one who condemns?

    Blessings, Curt

  279. Hello Curt,

    Before I walked outside of the magisterial reformers understanding of justification, I had no reason to doubt that they had rightly interpreted St. Paul. However, when the Catholic understanding was presented, I had no way to know for sure if its view was correct either. I was put in the place of wanting to “have Jesus” as I had known Him and loved Him through the lens of the Reformers, but this new way of understanding justification upset my whole Christian worldview. I no longer had certitude about my standing before Christ, and this terrified me. I was made aware that I could sin in such a way that my relationship with God was jeapordized. I had never heard that before. I thought that God the Father would not look on my sins but on Jesus, who knew no sin but took-on my sin. I thought that a sinning man could die in the arms of a prostitute and as long as he trusted Christ and not in his own righteousness, he would go to heaven( even if his survivors might worry).

    If you were a neutral onlooker who were introduced to Christ without a representative of any denomination and had never heard of the Reformers interpretation, how would you know whose interpretation is correct? Do you believe that the bible alone would have led you to the Reformers interpretation when the Catholic view is, from a neutral standpoint, equally viable?

    Sorry to cut in, but I would like to know “how” you can be certain about the Reformers infallibility on matters of the most severe importance when they themselves admit that men have erred and do err.

    Susan

  280. Further, now that I adopt the Catholic view, I see that there is coherence to the doctrines of justification and sanctification. If I am justified by imputation and imputation is divorced from sanctification….being soley a statement about my standing before God…..but the fruit isn’t consistant with my proclamation, then I have real reason to doubt that I actually do have right standing before God. It is then conceivable that I have only intellectual belief.
    I’m pretty sure that when a Reformed person says that he must preach the gospel to himself because the gospel is not written on our hearts, what he is actually doing is remininding himself that if he confesses his sin, our merciful God is just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and it is this knowledge that soothes the conscience. For if I believe in sola fide yet I have no love that makes me stop sinning, then I will have reason to believe that I am not elect. As long as the doctrine of sanctification exists then growing or not growing, or falling away permentately,( you never know if your soul will be required this very night) is part of the equation. But as long as we hold fast to Christ and stop sinning…..which is the meaning of growing in righteousness…..then he will preserve us without sin and present is spotless before his glorious presence.

    In Christ Jesus,

    Susan

  281. @Curt Russell (#278

    I’ll accept either meaning of the word justify as you have proposed…

    1) to set right
    2) to hold or deem right; think fit

    So… if God has justified us…

    1) God has set us right, and/or
    2) God holds or deems us to be right; God thinks we are fit

    So I don’t think definition is going to make your case… to quote Paul from Romans 8…

    31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns?

    God justifies, and we are made right with Him through Christ. Who is the one who condemns?

    My point was that there if justification means ‘make right, set right,’ then that’s inconsistent with snow-covered dunghills and is consistent with infused agape.

    If it has this meaning, then, of course, Paul’s statement is quite comprehensible. If we are justified by God, then none will condemn us. Indeed, if justification means ‘make just,’ then it is also true that we are considered just (because we are) – it’s not a legal fiction. Paul in Romans is perfectly comprehensible in those terms – indeed, I would say that some, at least, of Romans is not really understandable on an unbiased reading or Romans – Romans 2:10, for example, which you would have to read as a hypothetical contra-factual statement, even though there is nothing in the passage to indicate that is Paul’s intent.

    So I think there is a big difference in the implications of the two possible meanings of ‘justify.’ I just wanted to point out that your statement that justification means ‘consider just’ isn’t necessarily right – and is, in fact, the second meaning given in Liddell and Scott.

    jj

  282. Susan (#280),

    That is one way (among certain others that also agree with Catholic teaching!) in which I do still agree with the teaching at my former “Reformed Baptist” church– if we are living lives of consistent, unrepentant sin in serious ways, then we have *great* reason to doubt that we are truly saved (the Catholic would say “in a state of grace”).

    Of course, Reformed Christians do not accept the concept of mortal sin and *losing* ones’ salvation. St. Paul is clear about it though, saying that those who knowingly, deliberately commit certain sins *will not* enter Heaven (without repentance and confession, that is!)– and he never says that they were “never truly Christians in the first place!” Brothers and sisters in Christ can fall away, even forever, from Him… No one can pluck us out of His hand, but we can certainly jump out, through mortal sin. Thanks be to God for the Sacrament of Penance/Confession! I know the need of it! John 20:19-23… (I would write more, but as long as I am in serious physical pain, such I have been in recent months, shorter comments are the way to go…kidney stones and surgery complications are not fun!)

  283. Hi Susan

    Thanks for jumping in! You ask some great questions. Let me see if I can provide a meaningful answer.

    If you were a neutral onlooker who were introduced to Christ without a representative of any denomination and had never heard of the Reformers interpretation, how would you know whose interpretation is correct? Do you believe that the bible alone would have led you to the Reformers interpretation when the Catholic view is, from a neutral standpoint, equally viable?

    So first of all, I don’t believe in the “neutral onlooker” concept of our introduction to Christ. I believe that it is always God who takes the first step in our relationship with the trinity. This flows from the Scripture in Romans 9… “8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” God comes to us in our sinful state, having already given His Son for our justification, “we shall be saved”. Conversely, the “neutral onlooker” view implies that we are somehow able to rationalize our faith with human knowledge and understanding. Yet I think we both agree, faith itself is a gift from God, and thus rises above human knowledge and understanding.

    Before I walked outside of the magisterial reformers understanding of justification, I had no reason to doubt that they had rightly interpreted St. Paul. However, when the Catholic understanding was presented, I had no way to know for sure if its view was correct either. I was put in the place of wanting to “have Jesus” as I had known Him and loved Him through the lens of the Reformers, but this new way of understanding justification upset my whole Christian worldview. I no longer had certitude about my standing before Christ, and this terrified me.

    This is unfortunate… as I believe the beauty of the gospel is that God wants us to be certain… and that certainty is based on His promise, not our weak attempts at righteousness. And, we can know this without interpreting Paul or Romans… Jesus Himself said, “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10) When we look at other world religions… Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism… all of these rely on self improvement / self righteousness. The are works-based religions. The beauty of the gospel… indeed, what sets it apart from the others is the confession that we cannot save ourselves, and the promise that, through Christ, it is God who saves us… while we were yet sinners!

    I thought that God the Father would not look on my sins but on Jesus, who knew no sin but took-on my sin. I thought that a sinning man could die in the arms of a prostitute and as long as he trusted Christ and not in his own righteousness, he would go to heaven( even if his survivors might worry).

    You mean, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus? … who is now in paradise with Jesus? I think your thinking was exactly right… based on the words of Jesus.

    Re: 280

    Further, now that I adopt the Catholic view, I see that there is coherence to the doctrines of justification and sanctification. If I am justified by imputation and imputation is divorced from sanctification….being soley a statement about my standing before God…..but the fruit isn’t consistant with my proclamation, then I have real reason to doubt that I actually do have right standing before God. It is then conceivable that I have only intellectual belief.

    I think your understanding of Reformed justification/sanctification may be a little off. The Reformed view would say that we are justified and then sanctified by God… there is no divorce between the two. God does both in the believer. Sanctification is not a process of me making myself more holy… it is rather the process of God making me more holy. The Reformed believer sees sanctification as the result of justification, not the cause. We would agree that, if the fruit is not evident, their is no reason to believe that justification has occurred or that there is real faith. So we have, for example, Philippians 2… “13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Not our “free will”, but God’s will working in us.

    I’m pretty sure that when a Reformed person says that he must preach the gospel to himself because the gospel is not written on our hearts, what he is actually doing is remininding himself that if he confesses his sin, our merciful God is just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and it is this knowledge that soothes the conscience.

    I’m not sure who says “that he must preach the gospel to himself because the gospel is not written on our hearts”, and thus I am not sure I understand your point here.

    For if I believe in sola fide yet I have no love that makes me stop sinning, then I will have reason to believe that I am not elect. As long as the doctrine of sanctification exists then growing or not growing, or falling away permentately,( you never know if your soul will be required this very night) is part of the equation. But as long as we hold fast to Christ and stop sinning…..which is the meaning of growing in righteousness…..then he will preserve us without sin and present is spotless before his glorious presence.

    Again, here, I think you are turning faith and belief into an intellectual exercise. I don’t believe in sola fide… I believe in Christ. That belief is not based on an intellectual exercise, it is a gift from God. Scripture reveals to the believer how God wants him/her to respond to the faith He gives us. It is not a proof-text, it is an operator’s manual. “Growing in righteousness” is a process by which God “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”. His will increases and our will decreases… and as we become more holy through His work in us, we bring glory to Him who is faithful.

    I hope I answered your questions… feel free to engage further!

    Blessings
    Curt

  284. jj (281)

    My point was that if justification means ‘make right, set right,’ then that’s inconsistent with snow-covered dunghills and is consistent with infused agape.

    I think this depends on how we are set right or made just. It seems to me that Scripture is clear about this: that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16 among many others). This embodies both God’s perfect justice and God’s perfect love. Our sin required punishment. Jesus took that punishment (thus the “fine” was paid and justice was served). We did not deserve that grace (thus His love is perfected through Christ toward us). That our “fine” was paid by Christ does not mean that we were not deserving of it (as “dunghills”)… it just means it has been forgiven.

    The continuing reference to Romans 2:10 by those of the Catholic persuasion in unpersuasive to me. In Romans 2, Paul is clearly setting up Romans 3. Yes, under the law, perfect living brings salvation. But the we roll on to Romans 2:12 … “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;” and then Romans 3:9 .. “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;” etc. In Romans 2, Paul is telling the Jews that they are no better that the Gentiles… Jews sin under the law; Gentiles sin outside of the law. But all are sinners… so you Jews out there need a savior just as much as the Gentiles.

    In my view, to say…

    Romans 2:10, for example, which you would have to read as a hypothetical contra-factual statement, even though there is nothing in the passage to indicate that is Paul’s intent.”

    is to take Romans 2 totally out of context. It would be similar to arguing that the apostolic succession was satanic because Jesus called Peter satan. Did Jesus make “a hypothetical contra-factual statement”?

    Blessings
    Curt

  285. @Curt Russell (#284)
    I quite understand the idea of imputed righteousness – but it still means that I am not righteous; Jesus is. So I don’t see how it could be consistent with the possible meaning of ‘justify’ meaning ‘make right.’ If the word means ‘consider right,’ then I can see it – my only – point was that I don’t think it must mean ‘consider right’ – which was how I read your original statement of its meaning.

    You have explained Romans 2:10 in the way I meant – as a hypothetical contra-factual statement – as Paul saying “everyone who does good will inherit glory and honour – but of course no one does good. The set of those who do good is empty.” Your argument is that, since Paul says all have sinned, it must mean there are none who do good. I think there is an excluded middle here.

    jj

  286. jj (285)

    I quite understand the idea of imputed righteousness – but it still means that I am not righteous; Jesus is. So I don’t see how it could be consistent with the possible meaning of ‘justify’ meaning ‘make right.’ If the word means ‘consider right,’ then I can see it – my only – point was that I don’t think it must mean ‘consider right’ – which was how I read your original statement of its meaning.

    I follow your thinking … and yes, I am not righteous, Jesus is. I do think it means considered right for the purposes of salvation. As to sanctification… God works in us to move us from unrighteousness to righteousness. This does not happen all at once, but over time.

    You have explained Romans 2:10 in the way I meant – as a hypothetical contra-factual statement – as Paul saying “everyone who does good will inherit glory and honour – but of course no one does good. The set of those who do good is empty.” Your argument is that, since Paul says all have sinned, it must mean there are none who do good. I think there is an excluded middle here.

    Yes, I agree with your first comment. As to Paul… if there is an excluded middle, then Paul did not consider himself a member thereof. Romans 7:19 … “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Thus, Paul was not righteous in a pure sense. Nonetheless, he goes on to explain in Romans 8 that … “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” This explains both the “what” and “how” of salvation. The new covenant has set us free from our failure under the old covenant.

    Blessings
    Curt

  287. Hi again Curt,

    Thank you for engaging with me.

    You said( I don’t know how to block quote):

    “I think your understanding of justification/sanctification may be a little off. The Reformed view would say that we are justified and then sanctified by God… there is no divorce between the two. God does both in the believer. Sanctification is not a process of me making myself more holy… it is rather the process of God making me more holy. The Reformed believer sees sanctification as the result of justification, not the cause”

    If God does both in the believer( as I believe He does) then He does something in actuality. You, and the Reformed founders, have made justification a fudiciary arrangement. Justification happens when a person is baptized.
    Curt, why would you believe that Catholics think they are sanctifying themselves? I know it is God making me holy. But I also understand that I have a freewill and can choose not to cooperate.
    I was Reformed for ten years and I understand the distinctions, however they are artificial distinctions in the Reformed scheme. If I am traveling along trusting in the forensic declaration concerning my soul but I am without a church to tell me definatively what sins I am doing that are detrimental to my eternal standing, then it isn’t helpful to *believe* in a legal arrangement. This is why it is legal fiction. If I tell you that you are free to leave your home and are not under house arrest, but you get zapped when you step across your threshhold, then *you* are not free. The law has said an untruth concerning your standing if it does not become you intrinsically. If I erroneously believe that I am in, even though I commited mortal sins, then you can scrap sanctification, because it isn’t happening. There would *actually* be a loss of sanctification in my soul, and I would be cut off from him forever if I died in that state.

    Why do you trust that the magisterial reformers are correct, when they could err on this subject? This is what I meant about lack of certitude…… It’s not that I doubt that Jesus wants to save me, it’s that I don’t know how I can trust mere men who can err on this matter, when there exists another older and equally plausible exegesis on the market……..assuming that it is equal, which my IP won’t allow me to do, otherwise I’d stay perpetually confused about whose interpretive authority to trust.
    Oh, and I get what you meant about not accepting that a person comes to faith on their own…..it being impossible since it is God who opens a person’s eyes( it would be Pelagian to believe that a sinner doesn’t need grace). What I meant is, say a person reads the bible and comes to a saving knowledge of God……as opposed to being proselytized by some denomination or sect. Then, from this neutral standpoint, how would a person select a soteriology?……… or more specifically,a teaching authority that had the only correct soteriology, since both can’t be true?

    Susan

  288. Curt( @283)

    Last night I thought about the ‘house arrest’ analogy I used. I don’t know that it is a good analogy or what a good analogy would be to try to demonstrate that justification is a change that takes place in a believer. You could come back and say, “ If the representative of the law says that I am not guilty and am no longer under house arrest, then by declaration of his authority I won’t get zapped”. So this wouldn’t be a successful analogy because it doesn’t draw the situation correctly. I need a better analogy but an analogy is just a picture of an idea, and if you are in the camp that believes that justification is imputation rather than infusion I fear that it will be difficult to draw you a picture of how imputation fails.
    For myself, I had to ask why I trusted that the Reformers understood justification to be forensic righteousness, when it wasn’t taught prior to them. The story is that Luther read “the righteous shall live by faith”( Rom 1:7), and uncovered what everyone else missed.

    “I hated that word, ‘the righteousness of God,’ by which I had been taught according to the custom and use of all teachers … [that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.”
    Notice that he goes against what he was formally taught? So he, a fallible man, meditates and studies, and has a *private* epiphany.

    If it this view of justification existed in a hidden way, being not publically taught, then I have to believe that God didn’t guide His Church with true Gospel. The gospel was lost until Luther, and this is the same kind of story that JW’s and Mormons try to pawn off. If the RC church wasn’t guarding and delivering the gospel for those 1500 prior the Reformation then ecclesial deism is what has been going on, and if that’s the case, there is no teacher’s edition by which to check our equally scholarly interpretations. Who adjudicates when our interpretations are at odds?

    Again, you are in the camp where imputation is taught. Imagine this “hypothetical” :) .
    A Reformed minister advises you, his parishioner and your life- long friend, who also happens to be the assistant pastor of your church , that…… ” it ‘s ok that you read the articles at the Called to Communion website, but be very careful of their tactics of dividing and conquering, and always, always compare what you read to what is written in scripture.” But your friend finds some pretty darn credible evidence that there are some Catholic doctrines that are true, and are beginning ( for him) to put Reformed doctrines on shaky ground. You read the articles that he has asked you to pay special attention to because they are the tough ones…..the ones that the Reformation schism is all about, but you are not convinced. However, you see that your childhood buddy is now questioning sola fide, so you and he have a meeting with your pastor and he hears of the assistant pastor’s questioning of one the Reformation’s chief solas, and scolds him for letting CTC disturb his peace, and you agree that your friend does seem agitated and confused, but it never occurs to you that your pastor has no way to know for sure that he or your friend should have confidence in Luther’s teaching. You’re not sure it is safe to trust Luther’s teaching, but you also don’t know if your friend isn’t right to question it. But you also feel that you are erring on the side of Christ to take Luther’s gospel as the gospel, and so you write-off your buddy as apostate based on Luther’s notion of the gospel. This whole scenario has become weird with people questioning what is simply evident from scripture( or so you thought and always asserted) but in the back of your mind you know that people can be deceived and you don’t consider yourself as immune to possible deception( you are sure people who are deceived don’t want to be), so you are also suspicious of your pastor’s (he is a disciple of Luther and Calvin after all and therefore not neutral) warnings that things have gotten out of hand since he first gave his consent that you read articles at “Called to Confusion”. Now you both are being encouraged to read Reformed books and not short Catholic web articles; you are warned to “stop drinking the Kool-Aid”. But, being told not to read makes you even more nervous ( and obstinate to authority…..bringing its own trouble) then wrestling with newfound arguments. Your investigation is put in stranglehold, and your best friend’s new conviction is also in stranglehold. There is no way to win this argument because there is nothing to measure it by. If you go outside the Reformed view, you have left the Reformed gospel, if you don’t accept Rome’s( and the EO’s) view you also don’t have the true gospel. You must choose between two equally powerful magisteriums.

    But you are here to tell us the Reformed view of justification. I hope that you will take into account that there is another view of justification/sanctification that is truly consistent within itself and not nominal in one case and ontological in another.
    http://www.newmanreader.org/works/justification/lecture2.html

    ~Susan

  289. Susan

    Thanks for your long explanation of your view. Of course, as a Reformed type, I am more persuaded by Scriptural argument and less persuaded by broad conceptualizations. Scripture is something we both hold in common and gives us a basis for rational discussion based on God’s revelation to us.

    If God does both in the believer( as I believe He does) then He does something in actuality. You, and the Reformed founders, have made justification a fudiciary arrangement. Justification happens when a person is baptized.

    So for example, this statement is refuted by Scripture. The thief on the cross was never baptized, yet Jesus states that he will be in heaven that very day. So justification happens when God says it happens. It was the faith of the thief that saved him. This is in keeping with Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Note, it does not say “For by baptism you are saved”. Baptism is a sign of the new covenant, just as circumcision was a sign of the old covenant. Baptism is not a hocus posus thing that we do to invoke justification upon ourselves.

    Curt, why would you believe that Catholics think they are sanctifying themselves? I know it is God making me holy. But I also understand that I have a freewill and can choose not to cooperate.

    Catholics believe in a merit system of sanctification. Merit means I have earned something through my actions. I have read over and over the attempts to redefine words… merit isn’t really merit… its really God working in me, but it is my free will. These are non-congruous concepts. I’m either saved by God, or I’m saved by my actions. If I could save myself through my actions, I would not need grace… but I can’t… so I do.

    For myself, I had to ask why I trusted that the Reformers understood justification to be forensic righteousness, when it wasn’t taught prior to them. The story is that Luther read “the righteous shall live by faith”( Rom 1:7), and uncovered what everyone else missed.

    Likewise, one might question apostolic succession through certain popes who were murders, rapists, fornicators and the like. At least the Reformers were attempting to follow God. The Roman Church went through centuries of political power and control, using “theology” to exercise control over people and rulers. What Luther noticed was that some of the teaching of the Roman Church did not align with Scripture. It was not just one thing, or a few things… he outlined his 95 theses which needed to be addressed. Luther did not want to leave the church, he wanted to reform it. Unfortunately, it did not want to be reformed. The council of Trent basically became the “no to everything” proclamation. Well, almost everything… they did decide to end the practice of extorting money from people through the “pay for your sins” program.

    There is no way to win this argument because there is nothing to measure it by. If you go outside the Reformed view, you have left the Reformed gospel, if you don’t accept Rome’s( and the EO’s) view you also don’t have the true gospel. You must choose between two equally powerful magisteriums.

    I would start with 2 Tim 3…

    14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    Scripture is our guide. All truth must align with Scripture. This is true for the Catholic and the Reformed. Scripture is our common denominator.

    Secondly, I would postulate that God is a lot less concerned with nuances in our theologies than we are. In Matthew 22, Jesus says…

    36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    This is what God apparently cares about the most. How do you know that the Reformation wasn’t God’s way of preserving the church… or causing the Roman church to come back to its theological roots? Maybe it was God’s way of increasing the number of those who follow Him. Maybe God wants both Catholics and Protestants in His church. You postulate an either / or scenario. Maybe God intended a both / and scenario.

    Newman says…

    Parallel with such texts is that in the Epistle to the Philippians, on which much might be said: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Salvation is here described, as justification elsewhere, not as coming direct from God upon us, but as coming to us through ourselves, through our sanctified wills and our religious doings; as wrought out for us by the power of God actively employed within us.

    This is the type of confusion that leads me toward a Reformed view. Newman just cannot decide whether it is God or man that saves us. Its God… but not directly… but through us… but not by our power… by our will… but only after it is sanctified by God… what a bunch of mumbo jumbo. It is either our will that chooses to perform good works, and thus deserves merit… or… it is God working in us to do His will, in which case, He deserves the glory. The Scripture Newman quoted suggests the latter.

    But you are here to tell us the Reformed view of justification. I hope that you will take into account that there is another view of justification/sanctification that is truly consistent within itself and not nominal in one case and ontological in another.

    I am here to seek the truth through debate. I come from a Reformed world view. I read the articles and comments posted here, provide alternate views, and listen to responses for new perspectives. So far, I have not been convinced that the Catholic view of justification/sanctification is “truly consistent within itself”. Is it grace or is it works… or both? A gift that comes with a price is not a gift. It is a purchase. Our salvation was bought and paid for by Jesus, and is freely given to us.

    Ephesians 1
    5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

    Blessings
    Curt

  290. Curt,

    I totally understand where you are coming from and the mechanics of each process of thought that you are having. Let me explain to you a bit of where the mechanics of Catholic thought are coming from.

    Justification and Reconciliation are closely related in Catholic theology. Of the very essence of man’s fall from God is this issue of alienation. Because of sin, we are alienated from God. Reconciliation (closely related to justification) is the process of undoing this alienation. There is no question that Romans 5:9-12 teaches that the “blood” of Jesus justifies and reconciles us to God. But the issue here is that we are not to understand Jesus’ “blood” reconciling us in such a way as to understand this as an exclusive removal of the guilt while the human person remains in the state of sin, the very thing which both inaugurated and maintained the alienation from God.

    Consider this verse in Paul “And you who were once alienated from God in your mind by wicked works, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22).

    The state of alienation is the state of sin, or more particularly the “practice of sin”. And notice the transition “yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death”. So we have the state of the practice of sin that is altered by Christ’s death. Reconciliation requires that we are removed from the state of alienation, the practice of sin, into the state of holiness and righteousness. And yes, the cross stands in the middle as the meritorious cause.

    So you have a perfect example of Paul teaching the catholic view in this verse in Colossians. You have a description of the prior state of sinfulness (alienation), you have the cross of our Lord as the meritorious cause of our salvation, and then you have the outcome which is our being brought into the state of holiness.

    What the reformed wish to say is that the human person is regenerated even before faith and so the human person is a new creature, already renewed and washed and sanctified, and then this regenerated person has “faith” (is given faith) which itself has no quality in itself but is merely the accepting of Christ’s righteousness, is the means of being justified, and not even the renewal itself.

    But the problem is here is that the reformed view is removing one of the causes to justification while still confessing it’s necessity. So we are justified by faith alone, yet the person who has faith is regenerated and this is why they do not live in sin. So you have removed renewal away from the cause to justification while escaping the inevitable conclusion that one can live in sin by saying that renewal happens anyway, despite justification having nothing to do with it.

    This is unnecessary. Titus 3:7 Paul fuses together renewal and regeneration into the effect of the justified state.

  291. Erick (290)

    Thanks for your insight! A few questions and thoughts…

    But the issue here is that we are not to understand Jesus’ “blood” reconciling us in such a way as to understand this as an exclusive removal of the guilt while the human person remains in the state of sin, the very thing which both inaugurated and maintained the alienation from God.

    So are you saying:
    1. That grace covers our past sins but not our present or future sins? or…
    2. That those who are saved by grace never sin going forward? or…
    3. Something else?

    If we read on in Colossians 2, Paul says…

    8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

    In Christ, we have been made complete… past tense. Reading on, we have this…

    13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

    … having forgiven us ALL our transgressions… cancelled out our debt… nailed to the cross… all past tense. It is finished.

    So when you say…

    You have a description of the prior state of sinfulness (alienation), you have the cross of our Lord as the meritorious cause of our salvation, and then you have the outcome which is our being brought into the state of holiness.

    I would say this is a perfect description of the Reformed view.

    What the reformed wish to say is that the human person is regenerated even before faith and so the human person is a new creature, already renewed and washed and sanctified, and then this regenerated person has “faith” (is given faith) which itself has no quality in itself but is merely the accepting of Christ’s righteousness, is the means of being justified, and not even the renewal itself.

    I don’t know any Reformed person who would agree with any part of this description, and thus your concluding paragraph does not represent an accurate depiction of Reformed justification/sanctification.

    Nonetheless, here is what we can both acknowledge from Scripture…

    Luke 18
    9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Romans 3
    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

    Romans 4
    3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
    7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
    And whose sins have been covered.
    8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

    Romans 5
    1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

    Romans 8
    8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

    Romans 9
    15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    Galations 2
    16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    You quoted Titus 3:7, saying “Paul fuses together renewal and regeneration into the effect of the justified state.”
    But you overlooked the preamble to verse 7…

    Titus 3
    3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    The “so that” in verse 7 is based on what God did in verse 5, notwithstanding our sinfulness in verse 3, and not based on our righteous deeds 5. Thus, though we are sinners, we are justified by grace through Christ not through works of righteousness, and we are now heirs of the kingdom. This is an excellent summation of the Reformed view.

    These verses taken together would provide a good backdrop for Reformed theology. Each of these show a different view of justification, but the unifying point is that God justifies us apart from our deeds. Since we are all sinners, that is good news indeed!

    Blessings
    Curt

  292. Curt,

    If you read Titus again, you will realize that the greek word “iva” between “through whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ” and “been justified”, you will see that there is a “cause” and “effect” relationship between the “washing of regeneration” and “renewing of the Holy Spirit” and “being justified”.

  293. Erick

    If you read Titus again, you will realize it says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy,”

    … no Greek required. :-)

    Curt

  294. Is regeneration our work?

  295. Erick

    Regeneration is an act of God … the “making new” of those to whom He gives grace. One could also postulate that full regeneration is a future state, based on Matthew 19:28.

    Blessings
    Curt

  296. Curt,

    And this “making new” is a proportionate cause to our “justification” (titus 3:7). Since we are “saved” (which is a synonym for justification) through the “washing of regeneration” and “renewing of the Holy Spirit” (which in the Pauline corpus is the putting away of the human of sin and the putting on of the new human), then these two miraculous heavenly gifts are also causes to our justification. Please not that all of this comes from the cross of our Lord. His blood buys us back to God, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The people of God live under a perpetual Pentecost, which brings human persons into communion with the resurrection 2nd Adam. Justification and Reconciliation involve the re-creation of the human person into the likeness of God, and the complete remission of sins comes out of this (See Colossians 2 on dying with Christ, rising with Christ, and the result of the forgiveness of trespasses).

  297. Erick

    I don’t know what you mean by “proportionate cause”. God is the one who justifies. God is the one who forgives. God is the one who washes and renews. God is the one who regenerates. God is the one who remembers our sin no more. God is the one who sanctifies. Absolutely… all of this comes from God’s grace through the cross of our Lord.

    Col 2
    13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us.

    Your argument is that all our transgressions have not been forgiven. The Scripture says they have… and that we are alive just as Christ is alive (that is, eternally).

    Titus 3
    5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy,

    You have referred to the Titus verse several times, and it clearly states that we are saved by God’s mercy, not our righteous deeds. Deeds are insufficient for salvation… but thanks be to God, His grace is sufficient.

    Romans 8:1
    “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

    Your argument is that there still is condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I do not agree.

    You postulate that salvation is “caused” proportionately by our deeds. The Scripture says we are saved by His mercy, not our deeds. This is not to say that our good deeds are not important or go unnoticed. I just think you have the cause and effect exactly backward. Sanctification is the result of salvation, not the cause of it.

    Romans 6
    22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

    Sanctification results from God’s saving grace. He saves us and then begins to work through us… all initiated by God. But the good works we do are the result of His will working, first to save us by the blood of Christ, then to sanctify us through the power of the Holy Spirit, all to His glory (not my “merit”).

    Blessings
    Curt

    Blessings
    Curt

  298. Curt,

    Romans 8 demonstrates that the removal of condemnation is a removal of the slavery to sin. The spirit renews the mind which was at enmity with God and was contributing to death (Romans 7), and thus for one to enjoy life eternal they must be made alive to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. To love God and neighbor is to have life within us, for He is love.

    So condemnation goes away because we have been renewed in our minds to live in holiness and righteousness. If this fails, we suffer death (Romans 8:13).

    To your point that once saved always saved, this boils down to the fact that God controls the will of man, and thrushes is essentially not choosing God but God is choosing himself through the person. This is dehumanizing, and also forces you to confess that the wicked likewise donor make free choices and arethus condemned not on the basis of their works but by Gods choice before they do anything. So you have a salvation totally apart from woks and a damnation totally apart from works.

  299. Erick

    Romans 8 demonstrates that the removal of condemnation is a removal of the slavery to sin. The spirit renews the mind which was at enmity with God and was contributing to death (Romans 7), and thus for one to enjoy life eternal they must be made alive to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. To love God and neighbor is to have life within us, for He is love.

    So condemnation goes away because we have been renewed in our minds to live in holiness and righteousness. If this fails, we suffer death (Romans 8:13).

    So then St Paul is condemned by your theology.

    Romans 7

    15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

    21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

    So says Paul about himself after he was saved by God. CONDEMNED by Erick! :-) Fortunately, Paul goes on with the good news of the gospel….

    Romans 7 continuing into Romans 8

    24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

    8
    1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    So there we have it. God sent Jesus as an offering for our sin so that the law might be fulfilled. Thus we are free from the death of sin.

    Romans 8:13 says “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Of course this is true. Those who are saved live by the Spirit and those who are not saved live by the flesh, with respective outcomes.

    Erick, I think you believe in a “let life happen” God… one who is wringing His hands, hoping we do the right thing. I believe that the God of Scripture is a “make life happen” God. He created all things including us. He loves us too much to let us fail in our own weakness. If we continue reading Romans 8 the rest of the way, we see the beauty of God’s love for us.

    14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

    God puts His Spirit in us. We are not enslaved to fear of death… we have been adopted by our Father who we can call Daddy. We are heirs to His riches.

    26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

    If God intercedes for us… what exactly does that mean? It means that He actually does something that cause us to do His will. He is not just hanging out hoping we do the right thing. He is actively engaged with us.

    28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

    God causes things to work together for our benefit. This means He is actively controlling the actions of people to achieve certain outcomes. So long free will. Those whom He predestined are preserved through glory.

    31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

    Satan is called the accuser. These glorious verses tell us that Satan cannot touch the believer. God justifies us and Satan cannot change that. Oh, we may sin, but God has already forgiven because it is His will to do so. No one can bring a charge against God’s elect.

    37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Amen to that! We conquer… not through our free will… but through Him who loves us. And nothing can change that!

    As to your last paragraph, please read Romans 9.

    Blessings
    Curt

  300. Curt,

    In Romans 8, you are interpreting the whole passage exactly opposite of what it means. We are freed from the law of sin and death! What is the law of sin and death? It is the condition of life that he just finished explaining in Romans 7. Why speak about being released from a certain condition right after describing a different condition than what the speaker says he is released from? When Paul says “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”, he then continues on in chapter 8 to speak precisely about this “deliverance”, and it is not a forensic judgment (merely) that makes up this deliverance, it is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. What does the Holy Spirit do for us? Does he merely give us the righteousness of Christ while we remain unjust in ourselves? No, but the very thing which was destroying us, namely, SIN, is destroyed in His sacrifice, so that we might be released from the bondage of sin, the PRACTICE of sin, and not just the PENALTY. Being delivered from the practice of sin is what Romans 8 speaks to, do you disagree?

    And with regard to Romans 9, you are reading too much literally into Paul. You are coming out with the conclusion that God has created certain people for damnation and certain people for salvation apart from any of their works. If this was true, then we are not truly “vessels of mercy” and the others are not truly “vessels of wrath”. The only way that we are “vessels of mercy” is because we have acted in a certain way before the mercy comes, and the same way for the “vessels of wrath”. These are precisely that because they deserve to be given the wrath of God (Romans 1). If you are trying to say that Paul believes in a God who throws people into the eternal destiny of hell without them actually doing anything which contributes to this, you defy his entire logic in Romans 1-3! If you then somehow postulate that God pre-ordains them to behave in that way, how do you escape the same mistake?

    What precisely are you condemning me for? Is it the fact that I believe that sanctified people can re-enter the life of sin and incur the penalty? Then your problem is also with Paul and the author to the Hebrews.

    Are you saying that if God justifies us on the basis of His own miraculous sanctifying of the inner man, that this means we are justified by our works? If so, please provide some exegesis of Titus 3:7.

    There it is clear that the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit contributes to our justification. How do you escape this? On what logical grounds? And please don’t say that the Spirit connects us to Christ who is our righteousness alone while we have none.

  301. Curt (#299),

    I hope you don’t mind if I briefly jump into your discussion with Erick here! :-) I noticed that in #299, you say that St. Paul is condemned by Erick’s theology, which posits that St. Paul could be condemned after he has been justified. Being a Reformed Christian, of course, you don’t agree that this could possibly happen. However, in 1 Corinthians 9:22-27, Paul himself seems to suggest that he can be “disqualified,” even eternally. If we carefully look at the context of the passage, he is talking becoming “all things to all men,” so that he might *save some*, through the preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard it. However, he also states that he must exercise self-control and subdue his body, lest after preaching to these other people, he himself is disqualified.

    I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    (Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/rsv/1-corinthians/passage.aspx?q=1-corinthians+9:22-27)

    Given that the context of the above passage is Paul’s hope and intent that other people would be *saved* through his preaching of the Gospel, the internal logic of this passage would seem to dictate that when he speaks of *he himself* possibly being “disqualified” after “preaching to others,” he is referring to being disqualified from *salvation*. If this is not the case, then why does the passage so clearly seem to indicate otherwise?

    I was always told by my Calvinist elders that I must read the less clear passages of Scripture in light of the more clear passages. However, actually doing so, consistently, led me to reject the Calvinistic doctrine that a “true Christian” cannot lose his/her salvation. The same St. Paul whom my Calvinist leaders often exegeted to explain their theology from the Bible actually argues *against* that theology, *when* he is read without Calvinist lenses.

  302. Hi Erick

    In Romans 8, you are interpreting the whole passage exactly opposite of what it means. We are freed from the law of sin and death! What is the law of sin and death? It is the condition of life that he just finished explaining in Romans 7. Why speak about being released from a certain condition right after describing a different condition than what the speaker says he is released from?

    Exactly! Under the new covenant, we are released from the law of sin and death. The condition Paul describes in Romans 7 is the condition that existed from the day of Adam’s sin. What was Adam’s sin? He disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17, 3:1-7). From that time forward, man was condemned to death by the law of God. That was the law of sin and death… further exemplified in Mosaic and Levitical law. Romans 7 tells us that the law shows us what we should do, but that we are incapable of doing it. Paul laments “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Now we assume that Paul is saved… yet he still speaks of struggles in the flesh, so he is apparently not made perfectly holy at this point.

    When Paul says “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”, he then continues on in chapter 8 to speak precisely about this “deliverance”, and it is not a forensic judgment (merely) that makes up this deliverance, it is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. What does the Holy Spirit do for us? Does he merely give us the righteousness of Christ while we remain unjust in ourselves? No, but the very thing which was destroying us, namely, SIN, is destroyed in His sacrifice, so that we might be released from the bondage of sin, the PRACTICE of sin, and not just the PENALTY. Being delivered from the practice of sin is what Romans 8 speaks to, do you disagree?

    It is much more than that. We are first and foremost delivered from the eternal penalty of sin as we see in the very first verse of Romans 8. This is God’s gift to us. And then God begins to work His will in our life to deliver us from the practice of sin. He does this by filling us with the Spirit, thus we walk in the Spirit. There is however an ongoing battle with our will, and verse 26 tells us that God helps us with that by interceding on our behalf according to His will. Verses 28-39 tell us that God will not let us fail.

    Where you are missing the mark is in thinking that we are still under the law of sin and death… that if, after God has saved us, we still commit a sin, we are condemned. But Paul clearly says there is no condemnation… because Jesus paid the penalty. God sets us on a path of becoming more holy, and that is what will happen… but not perfectly, as we are still human. But God is glorified by what we do right… while He remembers our sin no more. That is the good news! It would be bad news if we were still trying to earn our salvation by works.

    And with regard to Romans 9, you are reading too much literally into Paul. You are coming out with the conclusion that God has created certain people for damnation and certain people for salvation apart from any of their works. If this was true, then we are not truly “vessels of mercy” and the others are not truly “vessels of wrath”. The only way that we are “vessels of mercy” is because we have acted in a certain way before the mercy comes, and the same way for the “vessels of wrath”. These are precisely that because they deserve to be given the wrath of God (Romans 1). If you are trying to say that Paul believes in a God who throws people into the eternal destiny of hell without them actually doing anything which contributes to this, you defy his entire logic in Romans 1-3! If you then somehow postulate that God pre-ordains them to behave in that way, how do you escape the same mistake?

    You seem to forget… all are condemned by the sin of Adam. There is none righteous… not even one. So by God’s perfect justice, all are condemned to damnation. He did not create them that way, but that is the reality. You are also suffering from a woeful case of a human-centered perception of justice. Remember, it was God who said… “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It is His choice… He is God. Romans 1-3 establishes that under the law, all are condemned, for there is none righteous… Not the Jews who were keepers of the law, nor the Gentiles… none. Romans 4 and 5 show us that those who were saved before Christ were in fact saved by faith, not by works under the law. Romans 6 and 7 show us that we should still try to be obedient, recognizing that we will struggle to do so. Romans 8 is the gospel… that God has forgiven us through Christ and sends us the Spirit to help us live according to His will. Romans 9 tells us God is sovereign and saves whomever He chooses to accomplish His will. I don’t have to postulate anything… I just read the words of Romans 9. It says… “16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” No postulates… that’s what it says.

    What precisely are you condemning me for? Is it the fact that I believe that sanctified people can re-enter the life of sin and incur the penalty? Then your problem is also with Paul and the author to the Hebrews.

    Not condemning you at all… just challenging your thinking… particularly, the concept that salvation is dependent on our works of righteousness. Scripture teaches that God saves us and forgives our sins through Christ. Then He begins a work in us through the Spirit to help us become more holy. But the former is not dependent on the latter. The latter is a result of the former. Regarding Hebrews… first of all, many scholars of antiquity and most modern scholars do not believe Paul wrote Hebrews. Nonetheless, the author lays out a beautiful comparative between the old and new covenant to the Jews. He explains the sacrifices under the old covenant, and how Christ is the sacrifice under the new covenant … 9:28 “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” Catch that… “without reference to sin”. In subsequent chapters, we are encouraged in our faith, and encouraged to love one another. So we have the great trifecta… Hope in Christ, faith and love.

    Are you saying that if God justifies us on the basis of His own miraculous sanctifying of the inner man, that this means we are justified by our works? If so, please provide some exegesis of Titus 3:7.

    There it is clear that the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit contributes to our justification. How do you escape this? On what logical grounds? And please don’t say that the Spirit connects us to Christ who is our righteousness alone while we have none.

    I am saying God justifies us by forgiving our sins, paid for by Christ. It is finished. God sanctifies us by indwelling us with His Spirit, interceding in our life, working His will in us. This is exactly what Titus 3:7 says… “so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Grace is “unmerited divine assistance”. So, through unmerited divine assistance, God adopted us into His family and makes us heirs to eternal life. If you want more evidence, back up two… “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,”. Through the Holy Spirit, we are washed and renewed… not through our works. Our works are the result of salvation, not the cause.

    I hope this clarifies!

    Blessings
    Curt

  303. Hey Christopher

    Thanks for jumping in!

    I hope you don’t mind if I briefly jump into your discussion with Erick here! :-) I noticed that in #299, you say that St. Paul is condemned by Erick’s theology, which posits that St. Paul could be condemned after he has been justified. Being a Reformed Christian, of course, you don’t agree that this could possibly happen. However, in 1 Corinthians 9:22-27, Paul himself seems to suggest that he can be “disqualified,” even eternally. If we carefully look at the context of the passage, he is talking becoming “all things to all men,” so that he might *save some*, through the preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard it. However, he also states that he must exercise self-control and subdue his body, lest after preaching to these other people, he himself is disqualified.

    If you read I Corinthians 9 from the beginning, Paul is defending his Apostleship. He goes on to say that, in his ministry, he did not let cultural things stand in the way… this, in order to win more to Christ.

    19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

    Paul becomes all things to all people in order to be a winsome witness for Christ. This is where we get the saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans”. Verses 24-27 tell us that he disciplines himself in this way to win the race… that is, to bring people to Christ so that his ministry will not be disqualified on the basis of meaningless cultural differences. There is nothing in this verse that suggests “being disqualified, even eternally.” The imperishable wreath refers to the rewards we receive in heaven for our good works. I don’t see this reading as Calvinistic… it is just what Paul says. However, your reading of “being disqualified, even eternally” goes well beyond what Paul actually says, as viewed through a Roman Catholic lens.

    By the way, I did not posit that St Paul “could” be condemned under Erick’s stated theological position… I posited that St Paul would be condemned under Erick’s stated theological position. His argument was that, once God saves us, we must lead a holy life to maintain our salvation. Paul admitted struggling with sin after he was saved. Where then does that leave Paul? Hint: there is only one answer. :-)

    Good to hear from you!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  304. Curt (#303),

    Thank you for the reply! I completely agree with you that in 1 Corinthians 9, St. Paul is defending his Apostleship. I also agree you that it is in this context that he speaks of becoming “all things to all men,” culturally, so that he may preach the Gospel and, Lord willing, with few hindrances, see souls converted by God. I have no disagreement with your analysis thus far. When St. Paul speaks of preaching in 1 Corinthians 9, he is obviously referring to preaching to people who have not come to faith in Christ yet; otherwise, he would not be saying that he wishes to “save some” through his preaching of the Gospel. Again, you and I agree there.

    However, given that he *is* speaking of preaching to *unconverted* people, so that they may be *saved*, when he later, finally, says, “…lest after preaching to others, I myself might be disqualified,” the internal logic of the passage simply dictates that he is also speaking of the possibility of he, a converted and justified man, being “disqualified” from salvation– losing salvation.

    When he speaks of preaching to others here, it is obviously not in the context of preaching to *Christians* so that they might *gain rewards* in Heaven. He is preaching to non-Christians so that they may be saved. He then speaks of the possibility that “…lest after preaching to others, I myself might be disqualified.” The “preaching” is for the salvation of non-Christians; the being “disqualified” is also that of St. Paul possibly being “disqualified” from salvation. That is simply the logic of the passage– when it is not forced into a Calvinist paradigm.

    I didn’t want to reach that conclusion three years ago. I was a Calvinist! :-) I had so much invested in my embrace of that understanding of the Scriptures– my view of justification, my view of assurance, virtually my entire network of friends, and my hoped-for career (long in gestation) as a Reformed “Biblical counselor.” Ultimately though, I had to abandon Calvinism. Reading the “less clear” passages in light of the “clearer” passages (such as St. Paul’s clear words in 1 Corinthians 9:22-27) played a crucial role in bringing me to that point.

    Thanks for the continued discussion!

    Blessings to you,
    Christopher

  305. Erick

    One more thought on Romans 9. You said…

    You are coming out with the conclusion that God has created certain people for damnation and certain people for salvation apart from any of their works.

    Do you find this inconsistent with the nature of God as you know Him to be? Then consider this…

    Acts 2
    22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

    It was God’s predetermined plan for Jesus to be delivered over, to be nailed on a cross. Jesus, who knew no sin. Is there some injustice for men to be condemned when all are sinful?

    Blessings
    Curt

  306. Curt and Erick,

    Your discussion seems to have deviated significantly from the topic of the post above. So please take your discussion off-thread. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  307. Hey Christopher

    I guess you can believe that if you want. Your understanding is totally out of context with the entirety of I Corinthians, in which Paul is against legalism and division. Nowhere in the letter is he discussing the qualifications or disqualifications for salvation. Rather, he is discussing Jewish and Greek customs, making the case that these are unimportant to God. Let’s walk through…

    Chapter 1
    12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided?

    The Corinthians were aligning with particular teachers. Paul says “don’t do that”, concluding with “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

    Chapter 2
    16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

    Paul is saying that we do not follow the wisdom of men (Paul, Apollos, etc), but we follow Christ.

    Chapter 3
    5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

    Paul continues the same thought, concluding with…

    21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

    Note, none of this has anything to do with qualifications for salvation. In Chapter 4, Paul apologizes for giving the Corinthians a hard time…

    14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

    In chapter 5, Paul criticizes the Jews for being judgmental against the Gentiles while sin exists within their own ranks.

    In Chapter 6, Paul admonishes the Jews to stop sinning. (Corinth was the “Las Vegas” of Biblical times)

    In Chapter 7, Paul outlines relations between men and women.

    Chapter 8… some things are ok to do, but be careful that they are not a stumbling block for the weak.

    Chapter 9… Paul continues this thought, being disciplined so as not to disqualify his preaching by offending someone with his actions.

    Paul continues in chapter 10, warning the Jews not to make an idol out of their religiosity. He says this…

    1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

    In other words, they followed all the rules, but God was not happy. Religiosity is not the path to God. But what is most important is this…

    31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

    In all of this, Paul is talking about customs and being a winsome witness. He is not talking about qualifications for salvation, which he covers in great detail in Romans. To lift one verse out and try to make it say something it does not say seems exegetically messy to me.

    By the way, this has nothing to do with Calvinism. It is just straight exegesis of the text. When the entire chapter text refers to his qualifications as an apostle, why would Paul suddenly discuss disqualification from salvation. That just makes no sense… particularly when he has not discussed qualifications for salvation anywhere in the letter. The obvious meaning is that he does not want to disqualify his teaching by alienating someone for the sake of custom. This follows from everything else he has just said.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  308. Bryan

    In your article on Sola Fide, you make the following comment:

    In order to answer that question, we need to understand what is meant by it. The Protestant claim that we are justified by faith alone means that on the part of humans, faith is the only thing necessary in order to be justified. As soon as we have faith, we are justified. With respect to what is needed within us for justification, faith is both the necessary and sufficient condition for justification.

    This is a gross simplification and mischaracterization of Reformed teaching. First of all, you make it sound like faith is something we muster within ourselves, and that justification simply results from our decision to belief.

    The Westminster Confession states

    Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

    So we are justified by the work of Christ on the cross and given faith to believe that He is our savior. Sola Fide is the belief that faith in God given salvation through Christ is sufficient for justification… that we can add nothing to what God has already done.

    You continued by saying:

    The Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that faith is not the only thing necessary, on our part, in order to be justified. We also need love [agape] for God. If we believe the message about Christ, but do not have love [agape] for God, then we are not justified, because such faith is not a living faith. Only when accompanied by love for God is faith living faith, and hence justifying faith.

    …as if this is unique to the Catholic position. The Westminster Confession follows the above statement with this…

    Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

    So there is no monopoly on love as a gift of grace. Therefore, the quote you provide from Pope Benedict

    “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

    seems to be in keeping with the Westminster confession.

    The entire balance of your position makes the assumption that Protestants are opposed to love as a component of God’s grace. As we have seen above, this is not true. What Protestants oppose is the concept that God’s grace must be supplemented with acts of love for effectual justification. The Catholic position requires good works for “merit” which must be added to God’s saving grace for justification and salvation to be complete. Conversely, the Protestant believes that God’s grace is sufficient for justification… that we can add nothing to what Christ has already done.

    Regarding good works, the Westminster Confession says…

    Good works are only such as God has commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.

    These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.
    Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

    In terms of activity of the believer, there is little difference between the Protestant and Catholic understanding of good works. The primary difference is in the effect of good works. The Catholic believes they contribute to justification, the Protestant does not. Nowhere is the Protestant position devoid of the love of God or a call to good works.

    When you get to your conclusion, you state…

    When we unpack the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic positions on this subject, we find that this question rests on a deeper question, namely, whether there is any Biblical evidence that persons are justified prior to or apart from, love for God.

    But that is not the question. That is a straw man. The distinction rests on whether justification is complete through the resurrection, or whether there is something we need to add to finish the process. We would agree that…

    as I have shown, there is a good evidence from Scripture that justifying faith should be understood as necessarily conjoined with agape

    but you did not, in my view, make the case for adding…

    in order to be justifying.

    Blessings
    Curt

  309. Hi, Curt,

    I know that you’ve had many people to respond to on various threads here, but I just wanted to make sure that you saw my reply to you at #304. If or when you have a chance, I’d be interested to hear your reply. Thanks!

    Blessings,
    Christopher

  310. Curt (re:#307),

    Thank you for your reply, brother. It must have been caught up in moderation somehow, because it didn’t show up in the thread until today, yet it’s dated May 26th! Strange! Anyway, I do thank you for the reply! :-)

    First, as I’ve written earlier, I agree with you that in 1 Corinthians 9, St. Paul is defending his Apostleship. I also agree with you that, throughout the letter of 1 Corinthians, he is dealing with issues of legalism and division. That is quite obvious from the text(s).

    However, I cannot agree that, 1 Corinthians 9:22-27, when he speaks of himself possibly being “disqualified.. after preaching to others,” he is only speaking of the public discrediting of his apostolic ministry, and not his actual salvation.

    Again, the context of the passage is that he is preaching the Gospel to *unconverted* people so that they may be *saved*, not simply so that (to make an analogy of sorts between St. Paul and them) they would, after conversion, continue to have public credibility to preach the Gospel to non-Christians, or so that they would, post-conversion, go on to have “rewards in Heaven” after their deaths. He wants them to be saved, and he is preaching to them with that end in mind.

    Moreover, when he speaks of running the race for the prize, the prize not simply “rewards in Heaven.” That would not fit the context of the passage. The prize is actually spending eternity with God through faith in Christ– a true, lived-out faith that bears fruit in good works (yes, I know that Calvinists also believe in living out one’s faith and bearing fruit too. Again, I used to be a Calvinist!). Therefore, it makes perfect logical sense, in the context of the passage, that when St. Paul speaks of the possibility of himself being “disqualified” after “preaching to others,” he is speaking of he, himself, possibly being disqualified from salvation. That is simply the context of his preaching in the passage– people either being saved or damned through that preaching. If he, himself is disqualified, after preaching the Gospel to others, they may still be saved, but he will not be. Serious business, and it is possible.

  311. Hey Christopher

    Yeah… my last post got caught up in moderation… I guess Bryan has a real life out there beyond the boards :-)

    He would like us to stick more closely to the Sola Fide discussion, so I think we will have to agree to disagree on I Cor 9. I do appreciate your views and your faith… and look forward to future discussions!

    Blessings
    Curt

  312. Curt (re:#311),

    I could be wrong about this, and if I am, I trust that Bryan will correct me, but I think that his admonition to go off-thread was referring to your and Erick’s recent trains of thought on this thread. As far as I can tell, he didn’t address you, me, and our conversation on 1 Corinthians 9, regarding whether or not St. Paul teaches the possibility of his being “disqualified” from salvation. Our conversation bears on the exact question that is the title of this article– “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?”

    If the Bible teaches Sola Fide, then it would seem to make no sense for St. Paul to say that he is “becoming all things to all men,” as part of his “preaching the gospel,” so that he will “share in its blessings.” Consider this question. What is the greatest blessing of the Gospel? Is it not loving union and fellowship with God, in this life and eternity?

    If St. Paul wants to share in the various blessings of the Gospel, and the greatest blessing is union and fellowship with God (in this life and eternity), and this is part of why he is preaching the Gospel to others (of course, he is concerned about their salvation too!!), *and* if he speaks of the possibility of his being “disqualified” after “preaching to others,” then how could he *not* be referring to the possibility of being disqualified from the blessing of union with God, in this life and eternity? (I apologize for the length and syntax of that sentence, but I can’t think of another way to write it!)

    As a former five-point Calvinist myself, I realize that the above reading of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 is not compatible with Reformed Christianity. However, St. Paul’s words seem fairly clear here, regarding Sola Fide, *if* one is not reading them from *firmly* within a Protestant Calvinist paradigm. St. James is even more emphatic in the 2nd chapter of his letter. Faith alone, without works, is useless and does not justify. If God wanted to make it clear to us that justification, including the assurance of a loving eternity with God, comes by “faith alone” in Christ’s Sacrifice, apart from any and all works, why did God inspire St. James to write that justification is not by “faith alone”– to the point of using those exact two words?

    Of course, I know well the Reformed explanation that James is only referring to works here as “evidence” of one’s faith before man– evidence that one has *already been irrevocably justified* by God, via faith alone in Christ alone. The problem is, this explanation flies in the face of so many passages in the Bible which make it clear that one’s eternal destination depends on both faith in Christ alone, *and* on the works which are done, by God’s grace, as a result of that faith.

    If St. Paul can be disqualified (from sharing in “the blessings of the Gospel,” including eternity with God), then any sinful Christian can potentially be disqualified through especially serious (i.e. mortal) sin, including me and you. Jesus is quite clear about our eternal judgment being partially based on works in Matthew 25:31-46. Just as with James 2:14-26, I have heard the parable of the sheep and the goats interpreted so as to fit within a Calvinist paradigm. It was/is exegetically torturous. Now, I certainly believed that interpretation of Matthew 25:31-46 at the time, but only because I had *already* mistakenly accepted a Calvinist reading of Romans 9, not because the words of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats are clear *at all* about justification being by “faith alone”– even faith in His atoning death for us.

    Please know that I write what I do here with Christian love for you, as one who held very firmly to Sola Fide for years. I was wrong. The Bible does not teach Sola Fide. It explicitly teaches otherwise, when read from outside a firmly held Calvinist paradigm. I’ve been there and back, brother. The Reformed understanding of Sola Fide might be a very comforting *version* of the Gospel, in some ways, but it’s just not the fullness of the Gospel that is taught in the Bible.

    Blessings to you in Christ alone (I do have faith in Christ alone; I just don’t hold to Sola Fide),
    Christopher

  313. Hey Christopher

    I’ll hang with you here… thanks for the response.

    If the Bible teaches Sola Fide, then it would seem to make no sense for St. Paul to say that he is “becoming all things to all men,” as part of his “preaching the gospel,” so that he will “share in its blessings.” Consider this question. What is the greatest blessing of the Gospel? Is it not loving union and fellowship with God, in this life and eternity?

    If St. Paul wants to share in the various blessings of the Gospel, and the greatest blessing is union and fellowship with God (in this life and eternity), and this is part of why he is preaching the Gospel to others (of course, he is concerned about their salvation too!!), *and* if he speaks of the possibility of his being “disqualified” after “preaching to others,” then how could he *not* be referring to the possibility of being disqualified from the blessing of union with God, in this life and eternity? (I apologize for the length and syntax of that sentence, but I can’t think of another way to write it!)

    I think you misunderstand Paul. Your logic is correct… unity and fellowship with God is the ultimate thing we are should desire. But listen to Paul in the beginning of Romans 9…

    1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

    Paul had a tremendous burden for the salvation and reconciliation of others. His ministry, which came from a direct encounter with Christ, was a burning passion deep within his soul. This Scripture shows us how deep… to the point that he would forfeit his own salvation if it would save Israel. His biggest concern in 1 Cor 9 is not letting anything… particularly religious customs… stand in the way of his ministry. So he aligns his ministry actions in such a way as to win the race… that is, to bring others to Christ… and not be disqualified on the basis of meaningless customs. This is what 1 Cor 9 is about in its entirety, and the last paragraph is a consistent conclusion to the concept.

    As a former five-point Calvinist myself, I realize that the above reading of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 is not compatible with Reformed Christianity.

    While it might seem otherwise, I’m not here to defend Calvin. I am a truth seeker. I find the end of 1 Cor 9 to be consistent with the balance of 1 Cor 9. I realize that Catholics try to read more into it, but I do not find that consistent with the rest of the passage. Paul is not discussing salvation in the chapter. He is discussing ministry and evangelism techniques.

    St. James is even more emphatic in the 2nd chapter of his letter. Faith alone, without works, is useless and does not justify. If God wanted to make it clear to us that justification, including the assurance of a loving eternity with God, comes by “faith alone” in Christ’s Sacrifice, apart from any and all works, why did God inspire St. James to write that justification is not by “faith alone”– to the point of using those exact two words?

    I have never proposed faith apart from any and all works in the way you describe. I fully acknowledge faith and works working together as James has propounded. Our justification comes from Christ. Our faith comes from Christ. And our good works come from Christ. Therefore, if we are saved by Christ, we will have faith in Christ and He will work in us to do God’s will. Thus faith without works is dead… ie, not possible.

    To answer your question, perhaps it is because God already had these Scriptures in mind:

    Romans 4
    1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

    7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
    And whose sins have been covered.
    8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

    Galatians 2
    15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

    Ephesians 2
    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    2 Tim 1
    8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

    Hebrews 6
    1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

    So these are a few of the verses which the RC concept of grace + works fly in the face of (to use your expression). So why did God include all of these verses if they contradict James?

    Regarding the sheep and goats in Matthew, could you please provide your understanding of these verses? Also the same with Romans 9.

    The Reformed understanding of Sola Fide might be a very comforting *version* of the Gospel, in some ways, but it’s just not the fullness of the Gospel that is taught in the Bible.

    Yes it is comforting… that’s why its called “good news”. That is the beauty of the gospel… that God did for us what we could not do ourselves. Bad news would be God leaving us to a works doctrine that was already proven to be impossible.

    Christopher, I appreciate your love and care for me, and it is mutual. As I said earlier, I am not here to defend Calvin… I am here seeking truth.

    Blessings
    Curt

  314. Hi, Curt (re:#313)

    Thanks for the continued discussion, brother! I’m just checking in to let you know that I have seen your reply to me, and I do plan to respond, but given the length of your comment, my reply will necessarily be a bit lengthy too, and I haven’t had the chance to very carefully think it through yet as I should.

    Also, I have seen just how many people with whom you are engaging here (it’s impressive!), and I’ve felt a bit bad about possibly adding one more reply (and a lengthy one at that) for you to reply to at this point! Therefore, in the spirit of Christian charity, I have also been “hanging back” a bit and waiting to reply until perhaps things become a bit less busy for you here. :-) However, I’ve realized that such a time may not come for a while, given your number of interlocutors here, so when I am able, I will simply reply and wait for your response when you are able.

    One other detail– my 40th birthday is on Friday, and friends have things planned for me over the next few days and the weekend, so I won’t be on CTC much until Sunday afternoon or Monday. Lord willing, I hope to write a carefully-considered, Scripturally-rooted response to your #313 by early next week. Have a blessed weekend, and thanks again for your thoughtful part in the discussion here, both with me and many other people! (This prelude to a reply was longer, in and of itself, than what I had originally intended, hehe!)

  315. Hey Christopher

    Happy Birthday! Take your time and enjoy your friends, brother… I’ll be around when the party is over. I sure wish I was 40 again! :-)

    Blessings
    Curt

  316. Curt,

    In #274, attempting to describe the Catholic doctrine of justification, you wrote:

    For adults, there really is no justification until “B” actually happens, thus “A” is not really justification.

    In #275, I replied,

    Nope. That’s not the Catholic doctrine. That’s a straw man.

    In #277 you responded:

    It is not a straw man…

    Actually, it is a straw man. But before I explain why, we need to establish a basic ground rule in ecumenical dialogue. Out of respect and charity, each person gets to define, articulate and specify what is his own position, such that no one ought knowingly to attribute to or impose upon another, a position his interlocutor denies is his own. The one holding a position has the say in determining what is his position. And this therefore requires on the part of each interlocutor a disposition and willingness to listen so as to allow his own conception of the other interlocutor’s position to be informed and shaped by the other interlocutor.

    So when you claim that in Catholicism there is no justification at baptism, because good works are required to follow, and I reply by pointing out to you that this is a straw man of the Catholic doctrine, and you reply by insisting that it is not a straw man, we are at an impasse until you abide by the basic ground rule I mentioned just above. To impose on Catholics your own conception of what the Catholic doctrine of justification must be, and refuse to allow your conception of the Catholic doctrine of justification to be informed by Catholics, is no longer to be engaged in dialogue, but rather the verbal form of brute force, or bullying. CTC, however, is a forum for dialogue.

    You wrote:

    Catholic doctrine insists on justification by grace plus works of righteousness, does it not? Is this not what justification-as-translation and justification-as-increase refer to?

    No, it is not. The role of works is not the same in justification-as-translation, and justification-as-increase. I’ve explained this both in the post and comments above, and here as well.

    You then wrote:

    One is either justified, or they are not. We are either right with God or we are not.

    That first statement is true of justification-as-translation, because of the truth of your second statement. But it does not entail that there is no such thing as justification-as-increase. The problem, it seems to me, is that you are imposing your [Protestant] conception of the meaning of the term ‘justification’ onto the Catholic paradigm, and thus begging the question (i.e. presupposing precisely what is in question between the two paradigms regarding the doctrine of justification).

    Lastly you wrote:

    It is not I who insists that there is something called justification-as-increase, as if justification could be divided. We are justified by Christ… and it is finished. Sanctification is not a part of justification… it is the result of justification. So no, the Protestant does not see sanctification as a requirement of justification.

    This is an example of imposing a concept from your own paradigm onto another paradigm, and then criticizing the second paradigm on the basis of the imposed concept, rather than on the other paradigm’s own terms. You’re insisting that there is no such thing as justification-as-increase, and doing so by presupposing that the meaning of the term ‘justification’ is the Reformed conception of the term’s meaning. That simply begs the question, by presupposing one paradigm in the evaluation of the other. And presupposing one paradigm in the evaluation of the other is not actually comparing the two paradigms. When used within an argument in ecumenical dialogue it implies that the person still sees the other paradigm’s claims only through his own paradigm, and thus has not yet begun the task of evaluating the two paradigms because he has not yet seen the other paradigm as another paradigm.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  317. Curt (re: #308)

    In my post, I had written:

    In order to answer that question, we need to understand what is meant by it. The Protestant claim that we are justified by faith alone means that on the part of humans, faith is the only thing necessary in order to be justified. As soon as we have faith, we are justified. With respect to what is needed within us for justification, faith is both the necessary and sufficient condition for justification.

    In #308 you responded with the following:

    This is a gross simplification and mischaracterization of Reformed teaching. First of all, you make it sound like faith is something we muster within ourselves, and that justification simply results from our decision to belief.

    I have no idea how from what I wrote you derived the conclusion that in Reformed theology faith is something “we muster within ourselves.” Nothing I wrote entails or suggests any such thing. Nor did I say or imply that in Reformed theology justification results simply “from our decision to belief [sic]”. No Reformed person would deny that as soon as a man has faith, he is justified. So there is no need to be disputatious about what I wrote. Rather than asking me what I meant by my terms, you’re imposing on my terms conceptions that are foreign to the sense in which I was using them. And that’s not charitable.

    Later in the post I wrote:

    The Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that faith is not the only thing necessary, on our part, in order to be justified. We also need love [agape] for God. If we believe the message about Christ, but do not have love [agape] for God, then we are not justified, because such faith is not a living faith. Only when accompanied by love for God is faith living faith, and hence justifying faith.

    To that you responded in #308:

    …as if this is unique to the Catholic position. The Westminster Confession follows the above statement with this…

    Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

    So there is no monopoly on love as a gift of grace.

    I never claimed that there was a [Catholic] monopoly on “love as a gift of grace.” So if you are suggesting that I did so, you are criticizing a straw man.

    Next you wrote:

    Therefore, the quote you provide from Pope Benedict

    “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

    seems to be in keeping with the Westminster confession.

    I’m glad you think so. But see the Clark post linked in the link in footnote 6.

    The entire balance of your position makes the assumption that Protestants are opposed to love as a component of God’s grace.

    I have never claimed that, nor do I believe that. You need to read my post more carefully.

    You wrote:

    The Catholic position requires good works for “merit” which must be added to God’s saving grace for justification and salvation to be complete.

    No, there’s the straw man again. See comment #316 above.

    You wrote:

    In terms of activity of the believer, there is little difference between the Protestant and Catholic understanding of good works. The primary difference is in the effect of good works. The Catholic believes they contribute to justification, the Protestant does not. Nowhere is the Protestant position devoid of the love of God or a call to good works.

    I agree. But that’s fully compatible with what I have said. The point of the post is about the biblical evidence regarding the difference between the Catholic and Protestant conceptions of what justifying faith is, namely, the distinction between justifying faith conceived as fides caritate formata, and justifying faith conceived as necessarily accompanied by (or followed by) but not informed by agape.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  318. Bryan

    Sorry if I misunderstood. The title of your discussion is Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide? As a Reformed Protestant, I will refrain from quoting all the verses which, I believe, support Sola Fide. Instead, I’ll quote one of the earliest Church Fathers who affirms these Scriptures… from Clement’s First Epistle written to the Corinthians…

    On justification by faith alone…

    Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him (Abraham). For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    Blessings
    Curt

  319. Bryan (regarding 317)

    I said

    The entire balance of your position makes the assumption that Protestants are opposed to love as a component of God’s grace.

    You responded…

    I have never claimed that, nor do I believe that. You need to read my post more carefully.

    Your thesis is based on two premises, and I will quote…

    The Protestant claim that we are justified by faith alone means that on the part of humans, faith is the only thing necessary in order to be justified. As soon as we have faith, we are justified. With respect to what is needed within us for justification, faith is both the necessary and sufficient condition for justification.

    The Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that faith is not the only thing necessary, on our part, in order to be justified.1 We also need love [agape] for God. If we believe the message about Christ, but do not have love [agape] for God, then we are not justified, because such faith is not a living faith.

    The balance of your argument poses the Protestant position as “faith devoid of agape”. In fact, you used this term nineteen times in your argument.

    You further inquire…

    Do these passages teach that persons are justified prior to receiving love for God or through a faith devoid of love for God?”

    Who said they did? No person I know believes in “faith devoid of love for God”. Are you not putting words in the mouth of the Protestant? Talk about a straw man!

    I did read your post carefully and it does make the assumption that Protestants are (somehow) opposed to love as a component of God’s grace. Not only does it make the assumption, it hammers it nineteen times.

    Blessings
    Curt

  320. Curt, (re: #318)

    You wrote:

    As a Reformed Protestant, I will refrain from quoting all the verses which, I believe, support Sola Fide.

    There is no need to refrain. But merely quoting verses won’t resolve or help resolve the disagreement, because Catholics too affirm the truth of all the verses you would quote. The disagreement is at the level of interpretation, and interpretative authority.

    Instead, I’ll quote one of the earliest Church Fathers who affirms these Scriptures… from Clement’s First Epistle written to the Corinthians…

    Catholics too affirm that quotation from St. Clement, as I explained in “St. Clement of Rome: Soteriology and Ecclesiology.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  321. Curt, (re: #319)

    You wrote:

    Who said they did? No person I know believes in “faith devoid of love for God”. Are you not putting words in the mouth of the Protestant? Talk about a straw man!

    As I said in #317, “see the Clark post linked in the link in footnote 6.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  322. Bryan (320)

    Yes… and I notice that in your article “St. Clement of Rome: Soteriology and Ecclesiology” when you discuss Clement’s soteriology, you spend one paragraph describing Clement’s “justification by faith alone” (my words) as “being transferred from the state of sin into which we are born as a result of the sin of the first Adam, to the state of grace and to the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ.” OK so far.

    From that point onward, you jump from what Clement actually said to the Catholic Church’s interpretation (of both Pauline and Clementine concepts of justification) of at Trent some 1500 years later. I would therefore suggest that your section title “II. St. Clement’s Soteriology” is not accurate. It is the modern Catholic interpretation of St. Clement’s soteriology as viewed through the lens of Trent. Clement never said that his meaning of “faith” inferred the “faith” you have defined as quoted in my first paragraph above. Nor did he say that agape contributed to justification. In fact, he says what many Protestants would say…

    “How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendour in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith in assurance, self-control in holiness!

    Clement defines our righteousness and self-control as “gifts of God”… not the cause of our justification, but rather the result of His grace.

    Blessings
    Curt

  323. Curt (re: #322)

    You wrote:

    From that point onward, you jump from what Clement actually said to the Catholic Church’s interpretation (of both Pauline and Clementine concepts of justification) of at Trent some 1500 years later.

    My point was that what St. Clement actually said is fully compatible with what Trent said. In order to make St. Clement out to contradict Trent, one has to presuppose a Protestant conception of the meaning of the term ‘faith’ onto St. Clement’s statement that you quoted.

    I would therefore suggest that your section title “II. St. Clement’s Soteriology” is not accurate.

    That’s fine, but suggestions are mere suggestions, not arguments. Anyone can suggest anything. Merely suggesting a claim does not show the truth of that claim. Remaining in the mode of mere suggestion is remaining in the mode of sophistry.

    Clement never said that his meaning of “faith” inferred the “faith” you have defined as quoted in my first paragraph above. Nor did he say that agape contributed to justification.

    True, but the argument from silence is a fallacy.

    In fact, he says what many Protestants would say…
    “How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendour in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith in assurance, self-control in holiness!

    And that is fully compatible with Catholic doctrine; so it is what any Catholic can say as well, and thus is not evidence either way for the Catholic or Protestant doctrines of justification.

    Clement defines our righteousness and self-control as “gifts of God”…

    Catholics agree.

    … not the cause of our justification,

    Again, the argument from silence is a fallacy.

    … but rather the result of His grace.

    And Catholics agree.

    In sum, nothing you have said here shows that St. Clement held a Protestant conception of justification. But if you want to discuss St. Clement’s understanding of justification, you should do so on that thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  324. Bryan (321)

    And in your linked article form footnote 6, you interpret Clark to mean this, and I quote…

    Clark suggests that the fundamental point of disagreement between Catholics and Protestants regarding justification is whether charity is or is not necessarily present with justifying faith as its form.

    But if we read what Clark actually said….

    “After all, Protestants affirm that faith alone is not opposed to charity (love) or sanctification. That’s certainly true, but the question here is whether the Benedict means by “faith” what we mean by it and whether we’re talking about the same justification and the same role of faith? For us Protestants, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification.”

    I don’t see how you conclude the former from the latter. Clark does not question “whether charity is or is not necessarily present with justifying faith” as you state, but rather questions whether charity is causal in justification as Catholic doctrine states.

    The stumbling word, in my humble opinion, is the word “opposed” as it is used by Pope Benedict…

    “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

    Protestants would not see “faith alone” as being “opposed” to faith in charity and love. Of course, that does not mean that Protestants see charity and love as causes of justification as Catholic doctrine teaches. Rather, the Protestant would see charity and love as gifts of the Spirit poured into the one whom God justifies through faith.

    Blessings
    Curt

  325. Curt (re: #324)

    You wrote:

    I don’t see how you conclude the former from the latter.

    As Clark explains, in the Protestant conceptions of justification and faith, charity is “the fruit and evidence of justification,” not that by which faith is made to be living, and thus made to be justifying. But in the Catholic conceptions of justification and faith, charity (i.e. agape) is that by which faith is made to be living, and thus made to be justifying. Faith alone (i.e. not informed by agape) is dead faith, and not justifying faith. In the Protestant conception, by contrast, faith alone justifies, but justifying faith is always accompanied and followed by charity. This is the difference I’m talking about throughout the post at the top of this page.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  326. Bryan (325)

    Yes I get the difference as you describe in 324. However, it seems to me that in your initial article above, you make the case of the Protestant one of “faith devoid of agape”, which is not altogether accurate. Faith devoid of agape would not be an accurate description of my Protestant belief, nor most Protestants I know. It would be more palatable and perhaps more accurate if you said the Protestant concept contemplates “saving faith devoid of a concept of saving agape”.

    It initially boils down, as you and others have said, to the definition of “faith” and the interpretation of agape. But it also seems to me that the Catholic position goes even further. Even if I, as a Protestant, were to say that I accept the concept of saving faith conjoined with saving agape, that philosophically would not be sufficient for salvation, if I understand you correctly. It is the works that are performed in agape that hold the saving “merit”. Is that correct?

    Blessings
    Curt

  327. In my searching I came across something that speaks to the heart of this discussion. It’s the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification. It’s on the Vatican’s website for anyone and I encourage everyone to read it. The entire document is uplifting. As I read it I felt that at long last the great wound the Christ’s bride has endured for more than 500 years now is finally getting a healing balm applied.

    Here is the opening paragraph:

    1.The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the “first and chief article”[1] and at the same time the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines.”[2] The doctrine of justification was particularly asserted and defended in its Reformation shape and special valuation over against the Roman Catholic Church and theology of that time, which in turn asserted and defended a doctrine of justification of a different character. From the Reformation perspective, justification was the crux of all the disputes. Doctrinal condemnations were put forward both in the Lutheran Confessions[3] and by the Roman Catholic Church’s Council of Trent. These condemnations are still valid today and thus have a church-dividing effect.

    I can feel the seriousness of the work in that opening paragraph. The subject is being treated with the weight it deserves. RCC and Lutheran positions are gentlly and succinctly explained in relation to each other’s understanding and the traditions of each are weighed jointly.

    Note the following paragraphs:

    JOINT DECLARATION
    ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION

    by the Lutheran World Federation
    and the Catholic Church

    Preamble

    1.The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the “first and chief article”[1] and at the same time the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines.”[2] The doctrine of justification was particularly asserted and defended in its Reformation shape and special valuation over against the Roman Catholic Church and theology of that time, which in turn asserted and defended a doctrine of justification of a different character. From the Reformation perspective, justification was the crux of all the disputes. Doctrinal condemnations were put forward both in the Lutheran Confessions[3] and by the Roman Catholic Church’s Council of Trent. These condemnations are still valid today and thus have a church-dividing effect.

    2.For the Lutheran tradition, the doctrine of justification has retained its special status. Consequently it has also from the beginning occupied an important place in the official Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue.

    3.Special attention should be drawn to the following reports: “The Gospel and the Church” (1972)[4] and “Church and Justification” (1994)[5] by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission, “Justification by Faith” (1983)[6] of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the USA and “The Condemnations of the Reformation Era – Do They Still Divide?” (1986)[7] by the Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic theologians in Germany. Some of these dialogue reports have been officially received by the churches. An important example of such reception is the binding response of the United Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Germany to the “Condemnations” study, made in 1994 at the highest possible level of ecclesiastical recognition together with the other churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany.[8]

    4.In their discussion of the doctrine of justification, all the dialogue reports as well as the responses show a high degree of agreement in their approaches and conclusions. The time has therefore come to take stock and to summarize the results of the dialogues on justification so that our churches may be informed about the overall results of this dialogue with the necessary accuracy and brevity, and thereby be enabled to make binding decisions.

    5.The present Joint Declaration has this intention: namely, to show that on the basis of their dialogue the subscribing Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church[9] are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ. It does not cover all that either church teaches about justification; it does encompass a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification and shows that the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.

    6.Our Declaration is not a new, independent presentation alongside the dialogue reports and documents to date, let alone a replacement of them. Rather, as the appendix of sources shows, it makes repeated reference to them and their arguments.

    7.Like the dialogues themselves, this Joint Declaration rests on the conviction that in overcoming the earlier controversial questions and doctrinal condemnations, the churches neither take the condemnations lightly nor do they disavow their own past. On the contrary, this Declaration is shaped by the conviction that in their respective histories our churches have come to new insights. Developments have taken place which not only make possible, but also require the churches to examine the divisive questions and condemnations and see them in a new light.

    1. Biblical Message of Justification

    8.Our common way of listening to the word of God in Scripture has led to such new insights. Together we hear the gospel that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). This good news is set forth in Holy Scripture in various ways. In the Old Testament we listen to God’s word about human sinfulness (Ps 51:1-5; Dan 9:5f; Eccl/Qo 8:9f; Ezra 9:6f) and human disobedience (Gen 3:1-19; Neh 9:16f,26) as well as of God’s “righteousness” (Isa 46:13; 51:5-8; 56:1 [cf. 53:11]; Jer 9:24) and “judgment” (Eccl/Qo 12:14; Ps 9:5f; 76:7-9).

    9.In the New Testament diverse treatments of “righteousness” and “justification” are found in the writings of Matthew (5:10; 6:33; 21:32), John (16:8-11), Hebrews (5:3; 10:37f), and James (2:14-26).[10] In Paul’s letters also, the gift of salvation is described in various ways, among others: “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1-13; cf. Rom 6:7), “reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:18-21; cf. Rom 5:11), “peace with God” (Rom 5:1), “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11,23), or “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 1:30; 2 Cor 1:1). Chief among these is the “justification” of sinful human beings by God’s grace through faith (Rom 3:23-25), which came into particular prominence in the Reformation period.

    10.Paul sets forth the gospel as the power of God for salvation of the person who has fallen under the power of sin, as the message that proclaims that “the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith” (Rom 1:16f) and that grants “justification” (Rom 3:21-31). He proclaims Christ as “our righteousness” (1 Cor 1:30), applying to the risen Lord what Jeremiah proclaimed about God himself (Jer 23:6). In Christ’s death and resurrection all dimensions of his saving work have their roots for he is “our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). All human beings are in need of God’s righteousness, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23; cf. Rom 1:18-3:20; 11:32; Gal 3:22). In Galatians (3:6) and Romans (4:3-9), Paul understands Abraham’s faith (Gen 15:6) as faith in the God who justifies the sinner (Rom 4:5) and calls upon the testimony of the Old Testament to undergird his gospel that this righteousness will be reckoned to all who, like Abraham, trust in God’s promise. “For the righteous will live by faith (Hab 2:4; cf. Gal 3:11; Rom 1:17). In Paul’s letters, God’s righteousness is also God’s power for those who have faith (Rom 1:16f; 2 Cor 5:21). In Christ he makes it our righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Justification becomes ours through Christ Jesus “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith” (Rom 3:25; see 3:21-28). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works” (Eph 2:8f).

    11.Justification is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Rom 3:23-25; Acts 13:39; Lk 18:14), liberation from the dominating power of sin and death (Rom 5:12-21) and from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10-14). It is acceptance into communion with God: already now, but then fully in God’s coming kingdom (Rom 5:1f). It unites with Christ and with his death and resurrection (Rom 6:5). It occurs in the reception of the Holy Spirit in baptism and incorporation into the one body (Rom 8:1f, 9f; I Cor 12:12f). All this is from God alone, for Christ’s sake, by grace, through faith in “the gospel of God’s Son” (Rom 1:1-3).

    12.The justified live by faith that comes from the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17) and is active through love (Gal 5:6), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22f). But since the justified are assailed from within and without by powers and desires (Rom 8:35-39; Gal 5:16-21) and fall into sin (1 Jn 1:8,10), they must constantly hear God’s promises anew, confess their sins (1 Jn 1:9), participate in Christ’s body and blood, and be exhorted to live righteously in accord with the will of God. That is why the Apostle says to the justified: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12f). But the good news remains: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), and in whom Christ lives (Gal 2:20). Christ’s “act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all” (Rom 5:18).

    2. The Doctrine of Justification as Ecumenical Problem

    13.Opposing interpretations and applications of the biblical message of justification were in the sixteenth century a principal cause of the division of the Western church and led as well to doctrinal condemnations. A common understanding of justification is therefore fundamental and indispensable to overcoming that division. By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today’s partner.

    3. The Common Understanding of Justification

    14.The Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church have together listened to the good news proclaimed in Holy Scripture. This common listening, together with the theological conversations of recent years, has led to a shared understanding of justification. This encompasses a consensus in the basic truths; the differing explications in particular statements are compatible with it.

    15.In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.[11]

    16.All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is itself God’s gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.

    17.We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God’s saving action in Christ: it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.

    18.Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be seen as internally related to each other. It is an indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ. When Lutherans emphasize the unique significance of this criterion, they do not deny the interrelation and significance of all truths of faith. When Catholics see themselves as bound by several criteria, they do not deny the special function of the message of justification. Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts. [cf. Sources for section 3].

    4.3 Justification by Faith and through Grace

    25.We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God’s gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.

    26.According to Lutheran understanding, God justifies sinners in faith alone (sola fide). In faith they place their trust wholly in their Creator and Redeemer and thus live in communion with him. God himself effects faith as he brings forth such trust by his creative word. Because God’s act is a new creation, it affects all dimensions of the person and leads to a life in hope and love. In the doctrine of “justification by faith alone,” a distinction but not a separation is made between justification itself and the renewal of one’s way of life that necessarily follows from justification and without which faith does not exist. Thereby the basis is indicated from which the renewal of life proceeds, for it comes forth from the love of God imparted to the person in justification. Justification and renewal are joined in Christ, who is present in faith.

    27.The Catholic understanding also sees faith as fundamental in justification. For without faith, no justification can take place. Persons are justified through baptism as hearers of the word and believers in it. The justification of sinners is forgiveness of sins and being made righteous by justifying grace, which makes us children of God. In justification the righteous receive from Christ faith, hope, and love and are thereby taken into communion with him.[14] This new personal relation to God is grounded totally on God’s graciousness and remains constantly dependent on the salvific and creative working of this gracious God, who remains true to himself, so that one can rely upon him. Thus justifying grace never becomes a human possession to which one could appeal over against God. While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying grace, this renewal in faith, hope, and love is always dependent on God’s unfathomable grace and contributes nothing to justification about which one could boast before God (Rom 3:27). [See Sources for section 4.3]

    41.Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: 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.

    For 4.2:Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous (paras. 22-24) (USA, nos. 98-101; LV:E 47ff; VELKD 84ff; cf. also the quotations for 4.3)

    – “By justification we are both declared and made righteous. Justification, therefore, is not a legal fiction. God, in justifying, effects what he promises; he forgives sin and makes us truly righteous” (USA, no. 156,5).

    – “Protestant theology does not overlook what Catholic doctrine stresses: the creative and renewing character of God’s love; nor does it maintain ..God’s impotence toward a sin which is ‘merely’ forgiven in justification but which is not truly abolished in its power to divide the sinner from God” (LV:E 49).

    – “The Lutheran doctrine has never understood the ‘crediting of Christ’s justification’ as without effect on the life of the faithful, because Christ’s word achieves what it promises. Accordingly the Lutheran doctrine understands grace as God’s favor, but nevertheless as effective power ..’for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation'” (VELKD 86,15-23).

    I only put portions of this Declaration here so as not to draw out this reply. It is a cause for joy brothers, it is like the first hints of dawn after a long dreary darkness where the soul has been beat down, but now starts to see the glimmer of hope. There is a sense of calm strength, peace and joy reading the entire document. I’d encourage everyone to read it, carry a copy with you and talk about it with friends.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

  328. Bryan (re: Original post),

    And in three places in his epistles to St. Timothy, St. Paul connects faith and agape

    Is there any specific reason you did not mention this 4th place?

    1 Timothy 2:15: Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

    Typically, 1 Timothy 2:10-15 is central (especially among the Reformed) in the discussion of the possibility of the ordination of women (for example: here. But, could a Catholic use the passage above as support of the agape paradigm? Not only are faith and love connected, but the curious phrase “saved through childbearing” brings to mind the importance of self-giving love. Women who bear children must love their children and give themselves to them. What do you think about this?

    I feel like a Reformed guy might respond that the verse is obscure and using it as evidence for the Catholic paradigm requires reading more into the text than is there. The objector might add: “justified” is not used and the text is pastoral about how things should be conducted in church (1 Timothy 3:14-15); it is clearly not a didactic passage on the doctrine of justification or salvation.

    I’m curious what you think and if it would be proper for a Catholic to use 1 Timothy 2:15 as evidence for the agape paradigm.

    Peace,
    John D.

  329. JohnD, (re: #328)

    I didn’t mention that passage here because I was not here attempting to construct a positive argument (or an exhaustive positive argument), but only a negative argument, and hence address only the passages that are most often used by Reformed Christians to support the sola fide thesis.

    This “saved through childbearing” came up recently on Stellman’s site (here). It is one of those passages that the Apostles wouldn’t have written had they been Reformed, because it doesn’t fit well with sola fide. But the verse makes perfect sense from a Catholic point of view. When I mentioned the verse at Stellman’s site, the Protestant response was that this would mean that unmarried or sterile women are damned. But that’s just to impose Protestant individualism on St. Paul, as though he must be giving a necessary condition for each individual woman’s salvation if the verse is not to be taken metaphorically. Salvation through self-giving love in accordance with one’s vocation is a part of Catholic teaching, and our vocation is one of service to others for the common good, whether as single, or as married. In the case of women called to marriage, this involves embracing openness to motherhood. St. Paul isn’t saying that childbearing replaces faith for such women. Rather, he is saying that in women called to marriage, the living faith by which we attain salvation involves embracing that procreative function in marriage, opening oneself to new life, motherhood, and all the self-giving responsibility that goes with that. That’s one way in which women of faith “work out their salvation.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  330. Bryan (re: #329),

    This “saved through childbearing” came up recently on Stellman’s site.

    Do you remember where? I enjoy Jason’s posts and the spirited debate in the comments, but it just gets so intense and the comments seem to grow exponentially so it’s hard to trek back and find stuff. But, if you happen to know the name of the post, I’d be interested in seeing the exchange.

    Salvation through self-giving love in accordance with one’s vocation is a part of Catholic teaching, and our vocation is one of service to others for the common good, whether as single, or as married. In the case of women called to marriage, this involves embracing openness to motherhood. St. Paul isn’t saying that childbearing replaces faith for such women. Rather, he is saying that in women called to marriage, the living faith by which we attain salvation involves embracing that procreative function in marriage, opening oneself to new life, motherhood, and all the self-giving responsibility that goes with that. That’s one way in which women of faith “work out their salvation.”

    That makes sense, and is a good [Catholic] explanation of “saved through child-bearing” which can sound odd at first glance.

    Could you comment on the pronouns and St. Paul’s reference to “Eve”, “the woman”, “she” and “they”? I think this provides another possible interpretation for the Reformed.

    1 Timothy 2:13-15: For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (ESV)

    Is it possible that the “she” who “will be saved through childbearing” is the Church (or Israel?) and that the “childbearing” refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior through whom all are saved? Perhaps that interpretation is strengthened since St. Paul refers to “they” in the very next sentence, which could mean the group of individuals that comprise the Church.

    Also, in Calvin’s commentary in the passage, he says:

    If this passage be tortured, as Papists are wont to do, to support the righteousness of works, the answer is easy. The Apostle does not argue here about the cause of salvation, and therefore we cannot and must not infer from these words what works deserve; but they only shew in what way God conducts us to salvation, to which he has appointed us through his grace.

    .

    If discussing the specifics of this text takes us beyond the scope of this post, then this can be my last comment.

    Peace,
    John D.

  331. Mr. Bryan Cross, nice article. R. Scott Clark recently wrote some articles under title: “What is True Faith” in “http://heidelblog.net/2013/11/what-is-true-faith-3/”

    Perhaps you should make some “comments” in his blog.

  332. Louis, (re: #331)

    I’d be glad to talk with Scott, but when he restarted his blog (in 2012) he instituted a new set of rules, one of which is that advocating Catholicism is not allowed there. (See, for example, comment #146 in the Dialogue with Michael Horton article.) So, my comments wouldn’t be allowed, because they would be advocating Catholicism. Perhaps you could summarize his argument.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  333. Bryan (re: origina article),

    …when he says that we are justified by faith, we should not assume that this means faith-but-neither-hope-nor-agape. Rather, we should assume that this means faith in conjunction with hope and agape.

    You are speaking of St. Paul’s letter in that section, but I’d like to pose a possible counter-example from St. Peter’s 2nd letter that seems to show living faith is not conjoined with agape.

    2 Peter 1:5-7:

    For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

    If Peter is exhorting Christians to supplement their faith with love, then wouldn’t that mean their faith is not necessarily conjoined to agape? Yet, it would seem that their faith is a real faith, since in the opening of his letter he makes it clear he is writing to those who have a faith “in equal standing with ours” where the ours is perhaps St. Peter and the other apostles.

    How would you reply to this argument?

    Peace,
    John D.

  334. JohnD (re: #333)

    If Peter is exhorting Christians to supplement their faith with love, then wouldn’t that mean their faith is not necessarily conjoined to agape?

    No, because agape as supernatural virtue is not identical to agape as expressed in actions, because habits are not actions. St. Peter is exhorting them to actions of agape, not exhorting them to acquire by their own effort a supernaturally infused virtue that isn’t already present within them. Through actions done in agape, they grow in agape as habit.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  335. Yesterday, Tim Challies, a Reformed pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and co-founder of Cruciform Press, published a post titled “The False Teachers: Pope Francis.” I’ve pasted below from the section that criticizes the Catholic Church, and interspersed my comments. He writes:

    For all we can commend about Pope Francis, the fact remains that he, as a son of the Roman Catholic Church and as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, remains committed to a false gospel that insists upon good works as a necessary condition for justification.

    This is a question-begging claim. It presupposes precisely what is in question.

    He is the head of a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    Again, this is a question-begging claim. It presupposes what is in question.

    Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul,

    This too is another question-begging claim. Tim is asserting that the gospel according to the Catholic Church is not the true gospel of Christ, but he [Tim] does not show this to be the case.

    and officially damns those who believe anything else: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining [of] the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

    (Sigh.) We’ve addressed this misunderstanding so many times. Here’s just one place, for example: the last paragraph of comment #53 in the Van Drunen thread.

    Tim writes:

    Roman Catholic doctrine states that justification is infused into a person through the sacrament of baptism.

    No, justification is not infused. Righteousness (as agape) is infused; and that infusion is justification. See “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig.”

    Tim continues:

    The Catholic Catechism explains: “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us.” However, this justification is not a judicial declaration by God, but the beginning of a lifelong process of conformity. It is insufficient to save a person without the addition of good works.

    Actually, that’s not true. According to Catholic doctrine, if a person dies at the moment after he is baptized, without committing any post-baptismal sin, he goes straight to heaven. And if after baptism a person never commits a mortal sin, then he also goes to heaven. He doesn’t have to make himself more righteous, or gain some additional righteousness, in order to get into heaven.

    This infusion of righteousness enables a person to do the good works that complete justification.

    That’s simply not true. Justification is already complete. But we can, after baptism, cooperate with grace and thereby grow in our justification, as I have explained in “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.”

    Those who have been granted justification eventually merit heaven on the basis of the good works enabled by that justification.

    It is not “eventually;” one act of charity, done in a state of grace, merits eternal life, because eternal life is God Himself, as I have explained in “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers.”

    Tim writes:

    Again, according to the Catechism, “We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ.” This is another gospel, a false gospel, that adds human merit as a necessary addition to the work of Christ.

    The claim that it is “another gospel” and a “false gospel” simply begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question.

    Francis also holds that Mary is mediatrix and co-redemptrix with her son Jesus, that Scripture is insufficient and must have the tradition of the church added to it, that even Christians who die may have to endure Purgatory,

    Correct. We are all co-redeemers with Mary, inasmuch as we participate in the work of Christ in bringing His redemption to the world. Yes, Scripture alone is insufficient, because Reformed theology rejects “solo scriptura” (except when it doesn’t, as in this case).

    Christ is sacrificed anew each time the Mass is celebrated,

    Not true. It is irresponsible that any Protestant leader would still criticize this straw man. The mass is a participation in the *one* and only Sacrifice of Christ; not another sacrifice of Christ. (See my discussion with Kevin Failoni, starting in comment #221 of the “Rome, Geneva, and the Incarnation’s Native Soil” thread.

    But no false teaching is more scandalous than his denial of justification by grace through faith alone.

    This begs the question, by presuming that faith alone (in the sense of the virtue of faith, without agape) is sufficient for justification. See the post at the top of this page.

    Good deeds done to promote a false gospel are the most despicable deeds of all.

    Perhaps, but Tim hasn’t established, but has only repeatedly *asserted* in question-begging fashion, that the Catholic doctrine on justification is a “false gospel.”

    Those within the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced salvation (and I sincerely believe there are those who have) have done so despite the church’s official teaching, not through it.

    This too is another question-begging claim. It presupposes that the Catholic doctrine is false.

    Even while Francis washes the feet of prisoners and kisses the faces of the deformed, he does so out of and toward this false gospel that leads not toward Christ, but directly away from him.

    Again, this claim presupposes that the Catholic doctrine is a “false gospel.”

    From the time of the Reformation Protestants have insisted that Roman Catholicism is a false church that promotes a false gospel.

    Merely “insisting” that x, does not demonstrate the truth of x. Anyone can table-pound.

    The Bible insists that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and apart from all human effort

    Except the Bible never says that, as I have shown in the post at the top of this page.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    Of course Catholics fully embrace this verse. What Tim is presuming here, in his interpretation of this verse, is that the faith St. Paul teaches is justifying is faith not informed by agape, but only faith that is followed by agape.

    While we can agree with Rome on the necessity of good works, we must insist along with the New Testament writers that such works are the fruit of justification, and have no part in the root of our justification.

    The Catholic Church agrees that works do not merit the justification by which we are translated from darkness unto light. No one can merit the grace received in baptism. Persons dead in their sins, and thus not having sanctifying grace, cannot merit at all, and thus cannot merit justification. So in claiming the impossibility of meriting the “root of our justification,” Tim is in agreement with the Catholic Church on this point.

    But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:4-8)

    The Catholic Church fully affirms and embraces that passage of Scripture, and it is fully compatible with the Catholic doctrine of justification.

    The gospel of Rome is not the gospel of the Bible and, therefore, must be resisted and rejected.

    Tim here begs the question in the protasis of his conditional, because he has only asserted, not demonstrated or established, that the “gospel of Rome is not the gospel of the Bible.”

    So Tim’s whole essay is merely a futile display of question-begging criticisms. I say ‘futile’ because all question-begging criticisms are futile. For this reason his essay does not move us one step closer to reconciliation, because it simply presumes what is in question rather than (a) accurately representing the Catholic position, and (b) seeking to find a way through common ground to show in a non-question-begging way, that there is something wrong with Catholic doctrine. Question-begging exercises are only “for the choir,” a kind of solipsistic sophistry that attempts to portray itself as speaking objectively while hiding from itself the radical paradigm-dependent nature of the stance from which it speaks.

  336. Tim Challies has followed up his previous article “The False Teachers: Pope Francis” (addressed in comment #335 above) with a new one titled “Anti-Catholic or Pro-Gospel?.” There he claims indirectly that six canons from the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent are contrary to Scripture. So let’s take a look at these canons one at a time.

    Tim first quotes Trent 6, Canon 9:

    If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. (Canon 9)

    To this he responds:

    I believe that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required and nothing else needs to be cooperated with, to obtain the grace of justification. Rome understands exactly what I believe here and rejects it. (Rom 3:20-28, Eph 2:8)

    Tim implies that there is a contradiction between Trent Session 6 Can. 9 and Scripture, namely (Rom 3:20-28, and Eph 2:8). But here’s why there is no contradiction. Trent Session 6 Canon 9 is condemning the notion that nothing at all is required on the part of the Catechumen to prepare to receive the grace of justification at baptism (on baptismal regeneration see here), that he need not repent of his sins or pray or love God or even resolve to seek baptism. In Romans 3:38, however, St. Paul is not speaking of what is required to prepare to receive the grace of justification in baptism, but rather of the impossibility of justification by works done apart from grace. Likewise, what Trent says about the necessity of preparing to receive the grace of justification in baptism is fully compatible with the truth St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, according to which saving faith is a gift from God and not from ourselves, and that saving faith is not merited by works. The Catholic Church affirms that faith is a gift from God, not from ourselves, and that faith is not merited by works. So both of those passages are fully compatible with what Canon 9 says.

    Then Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 12:

    If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema. (Canon 12)

    To this Tim responds:

    I believe this! I believe that justifying faith is confidence in God’s divine mercy which remits sin for the sake of Christ and on the basis of the work of Christ. It is this—faith—and nothing else that justifies us. (Rom 3:28, John 1:12)

    Here Tim implies that according to Rom 3:28 and John 1:12, justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy. Importantly there are two differences between Tim’s conception of what justifying faith is, and what the Catholic Church teaches justifying faith is. The first difference is in the conception of faith itself. For Tim, faith is merely confidence in divine mercy. But according to the Catholic Church, faith is not only “a personal adherence of man to God,” but also, at the same time and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.” (CCC 150) For this reason, one point of Canon 12 is to condemn the notion that justifying faith does not include assenting to the whole truth that God has revealed (e.g. assenting to the Creed), but is only trust in His mercy. The second difference between Tim’s conception of what justifying faith is, and what the Catholic Church teaches concerning justifying faith is that for Tim, justifying faith is not informed by agape, whereas according to the Catholic Church, faith that is not informed by agape is dead faith, and is therefore not justifying faith.

    So now the question is whether the two passages Tim cites support his conception of faith over that of the Catholic Church. When we turn to Romans 3:28, we find that it does not decide this question, i.e. which conception of faith (Tim’s or the Catholic Church’s) is the correct one. Romans 3:28 reads, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” That’s fully compatible with the Catholic conception of faith. So this verse does not support Tim’s position over against the Catholic teaching concerning what justifying faith is. Nor does John 1:12 decide the question. John 1:12 reads, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” This verse does not say whether believing in His Name merely means confidence in His mercy, or whether it includes assenting to the whole truth God has revealed, and is informed by agape. The verse simply does not answer the question; that’s not its purpose. So both of these verses to which Tim appeals here do not support Tim’s position over against the Catholic teaching concerning what justifying faith is. They leave the question unanswered. At the very least, nothing in these verses entails a contradiction with what Canon 12 says.

    Next Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 14:

    If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema. (Canon 14)

    To this he responds:

    This may require some nuance, because I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin; however, I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners. (Rom 5:1)

    The reason for Canon 14 is very similar to the reason for Canon 12. The Council was condemning (a) a conception of faith that did not include assent to the whole truth revealed by God and its being made alive by agape, (b) a conception of faith that made one’s own justificatory status the object of faith, (c) a conception of justification according to which a belief about one’s own justificatory status is the necessary and sufficient means by which justification is effected. When Tim replies by saying, “I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners,” he misunderstands this particular canon, because in this canon the conception of faith being condemned is the sort that has oneself as its object, i.e. one’s own justificatory status is the object of belief. This canon is not talking about “faith in Christ.” In support of his position Tim appeals to Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here again, however, this verse does not specify whether faith is what the Catholic Church says faith is, or whether it is faith that has one’s own justificatory status as its object. The verse simply doesn’t answer that question, because the purpose of the verse is not to define what faith is. So this verse does not support what this canon condemns. And given what Tim says in response to this canon, that is, given that he misinterprets it as referring to “faith in Christ,” he may actually agree with this canon.

    Next Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 24:

    If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Canon 24)

    To he replies:

    I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification. I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation. (Gal 3:1-3, Gal 5:1-3)

    Tim appeals to Galatians 3:1-3 and 5:1-3 as support for his denial that good works done in a state of grace both preserve and increase justification. So let’s look at these passages. Galatians 3:1-3 reads as follows:

    You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

    And Galatians 5:1-3 reads as follows:

    It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. (Gal 5:1-3)

    These verses are not about good works done out of agape in a state of grace, but about a return to the Old Covenant Law. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul was not condemning or even referring to growth in justification through good works done in a state of grace; he was condemning a return to the Old Covenant by Christians, because that was a rejection of the New Covenant and implicitly therefore a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah who established the New Covenant in which the requirement of those ceremonial laws is done away. St. Paul’s condemnation of the teaching of the Judaizers was not for believing that works done in agape (in accordance with the moral law under the New Covenant) increase our justification, but for believing that the keeping of the ceremonial law, and thus returning to the Old Covenant and the whole Jewish law is necessary for justification.

    The Judaizers were rejecting the New Covenant, in which we are justified by sanctifying grace and [living] faith in Christ, received through the sacrament of baptism instituted by Christ. But the Catholic Church affirms the New Covenant. In fact the Catholic Church is the New Israel, the Israel of the New Covenant. (cf. Gal 6:16) The Catholic Church teaches that we are justified by [living] faith in Christ, a faith that we receive as a gift from God, along with sanctifying grace, in the sacrament of baptism instituted by Christ. Tim’s assumption that St. Paul’s condemnation of the Judaizers’ doctrine applies to Catholic doctrine overlooks the role of the Covenants in the Galatian account. Tim seemingly thinks that St. Paul’s concern in his letter to the Galatians is simply excluding works of any sort from justification. It is true that St. Paul recognizes that works cannot justify. But St. Paul’s primary concern for the Galatian believers is that they remain within the New Covenant, and thus remain united to Christ. By adding the requirement of the ceremonial law they were returning to the Old Covenant, and thus nullifying the New Covenant and the sacrifice of Christ, the long-awaited Messiah and Savior. (cf. Gal 5:1ff) The Catholic Church rejects the permissibility of rejecting one’s baptism and returning to the Old Covenant for justification or salvation. From the Catholic point of view, adding the requirements of the ceremonial law would be nothing less than apostasy from the New Covenant established by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. So in this respect, the Catholic Church does not fall under St. Paul’s condemnation of the doctrine of the Judaizers. And likewise for this reason these verses do not support Tim’s position, or in any way oppose Canon 24.

    Then Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 30:

    If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. (Canon 30)

    In response he writes:

    I believe this precious truth and will fight to the death for it! I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed to such an extent that no debt remains to be discharged in this world or in purgatory before he can enter into heaven. (Rom 5:1, Col 2:13-14)

    This canon is condemning the notion that sinning after having been justified does not produce a debt of temporal punishment. I have explained the basis for the distinction between the eternal debt of punishment and the temporal debt of punishment in “St. Thomas Aquinas on Penance.” In referencing Rom 5:1 and Col 2:13-14 Tim is implying that Rom 5:1 and Col 2:13-14 support his position and oppose the Catholic teaching. Rom 5:1 again reads,

    Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    This verse is fully compatible with the Catholic position, because the debt of temporal punishment does not imply or entail not being at peace with God. The debt of temporal punishment is due to ‘horizontal’ (i.e. creature-to-creature) acts of injustice. We can be at peace with God while still owing a debt to fellow creatures. Hence this verse is fully compatible with the Catholic teaching. Colossians 2:13-14 reads:

    When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

    In these two verses the ‘debt’ in question is the debt of eternal punishment. St. Paul is not saying that the debt includes all debts Christians could owe to their fellow man. Otherwise Christians would never have to pay back loans to fellow humans, because the debt would already have been paid by Christ on the Cross. For this same reason, this verse is not referring to the debt of temporal punishment, and therefore does not oppose or contradict the Catholic teaching regarding the possibility of accruing a debt of temporal punishment after justification.

    What is the fundamental reason underlying the disagreement between Tim and the Catholic regarding the interpretation of the verses to which he has appealed in criticism of these five canons? I have laid that out in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    Finally Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 33:

    If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. (Canon 33)

    To that he responds:

    This is the heart of the issue, isn’t it? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, as laid out by the Council of Trent, and as systematized in the canons, does that very thing—it diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. It adds to Christ’s work. To add anything to Christ’s work is to destroy it altogether.

    Tim’s concern is that the doctrine that man participates in his salvation takes some glory away from God, and gives it to man. This concern is based on three implicit philosophical assumptions:

    (1) that God gets the most glory when God alone receives glory,

    (2) that glory is the sort of thing that is lost by the giver when the giver gives it to others,

    and

    (3), that the degree of glory is determined entirely by the degree of causality exercised, such that the greater the causality exercised, the greater the glory.

    But each of these three assumptions is not true. If (2) and (3) were true, then God would lose glory by creating creatures and giving them actual causal powers, since St. Paul tells us that creatures already have glory simply by the kind of nature that they have. (1 Cor 15:41) Moreover, if each of these three assumptions were true, then if God wished to maximize His glory, He would have either to avoid creating anything at all, or He would have to give only the illusion of causal powers to creatures, reserving all causality to Himself. This position is called occasionalism, and I have discussed it elsewhere.

    Let’s consider what St. Thomas Aquinas says about this. Regarding our genuine participation in God’s providential governance of the world, St. Thomas argues that it is more perfect for God to give causality to creatures than to make creatures but withhold causality from them. He writes:

    [T]here are certain intermediaries of God’s providence; for He governs things inferior by superior, not on account of any defect in His power, but by reason of the abundance of His goodness; so that the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures [ut dignitatem causalitatis etiam creaturis communicet].” (ST I Q.22 a.3)

    If God governed alone, things would be deprived of the perfection of causality [subtraheretur perfectio causalis a rebus]. (ST I Q.103 a.6 ad.2)

    Some have understood God to work in every agent in such a way that no created power has any effect in things, but that God alone is the ultimate cause of everything wrought; for instance, that it is not fire that gives heat, but God in the fire, and so forth. But this is impossible. First, because the order of cause and effect would be taken away from created things: and this would imply lack of power in the Creator: for it is due to the power of the cause, that it bestows active power on its effect. Secondly, because the active powers which are seen to exist in things, would be bestowed on things to no purpose, if these wrought nothing through them. Indeed, all things created would seem, in a way, to be purposeless, if they lacked an operation proper to them; since the purpose of everything is its operation. … We must therefore understand that God works in things in such a manner that things have their proper operation. (ST I Q.105 a.5)

    It takes a greater power to make a creature with actual causal powers than a virtual reality in which God is the only causal agent. Therefore, creating creatures that have actual causal powers gives God more glory than creating creatures that have no causal powers. Since natural causal activity on the part of creatures does not detract from God’s glory but further reveals His great power and thus enhances his glory, so also the causal activity of rational creatures in cooperation with grace does not detract from God’s glory, but likewise enhances it. Regarding our genuine participation in God’s salvific work, St. Thomas writes:

    In this way God is helped by us; inasmuch as we execute His orders, according to 1 Corinthians 3:9: “We are God’s co-adjutors.” Nor is this on account of any defect in the power of God, but because He employs intermediary causes, in order that the beauty of order may be preserved in the universe; and also that He may communicate to creatures the dignity of causality [ut etiam creaturis dignitatem causalitatis communicet]. (ST I Q.23 a.8 ad.2)

    Notice that St. Thomas quotes St. Paul’s statement that [the Apostles] are God’s “co-adjutors.” In the Greek this reads: θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί. “For we are God’s co-workers.” Of course St. Paul is speaking about the work of preaching the gospel and building up the Church through prayer and teaching and service. But, if man may be a co-worker with God in the salvation of others, then it would be ad hoc to claim that man may not in principle be a co-worker in his own salvation. St. Paul implies as much when he states explicitly to the Philippians that they should “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling” [μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε]. (Phil 2:12) St. Thomas continues:

    Now it is a greater perfection for a thing to be good in itself and also the cause of goodness in others, than only to be good in itself. Therefore God so governs things that He makes some of them to be causes of others in government; as a master, who not only imparts knowledge to his pupils, but gives also the faculty of teaching others. (ST I Q.103 a.6)

    All of this shows that it what is underlying Tim’s opposition to Canon 33 is a philosophical assumption that God receives more glory when God does it all Himself, and does not allow us to participate. But that’s not a safe assumption, and as St. Thomas shows, a good argument can be made for its opposite, namely, that God receives more glory when He does not do it all Himself, but instead allows His creatures to participate in His work, both on the level of nature, and on the level of grace.

    Finally Tim writes:

    As I read the canons of the Council of Trent I see a systematic explanation and thorough denial of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I see that Rome understands what I believe and declares it anathema. Of course it is her right to do this, but let’s not miss some important implications: Whatever else Rome teaches, she will not teach that we are justified solely by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. If she teaches a gospel that adds to the work of Christ, she teaches a false gospel, doesn’t she? And if Francis is the head of the organization that states this as official doctrine, if he is her chief defender and propagator, I must judge him a false teacher. What else could I do?

    The Catholic Church clearly does not teach what Tim believes, i.e. that we are justified by faith [as mere confidence in divine mercy, without assent in the whole revelation of God, and without agape] alone. Even the phrase faith “in Christ alone” presupposes a trust conception of faith, and does not necessarily include the “free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed,” e.g. does not include affirming the Creed. Otherwise “in Christ alone” would entail a denial of the Trinity. So even with phrases like “in Christ alone,” the disagreement is not a simple yes or no (affirmation or denial), but is rather a difference in paradigm, because the respective concepts of what justifying faith is are different. Even Tim’s claim that the