St. Augustine on Faith Without Love

Jun 3rd, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

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

Reformed Professor R. Scott Clark in response to Pope Benedict: “That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg.”

St. Augustine: “Now what shall I say of love? Without it, faith profits nothing;” Enchiridion 8

If faith without love profits nothing, then how does it justify? i.e. How does it profit salvation?

Discuss (charitably so that we know your faith profits something!).

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  1. Tim,

    Great little post. Faith profits nothing if it is mere intellectual assent, even the demons have that kind of faith. Rather, faith is obedience as Paul makes clear in Romans 1:5 and 16:26 (I think vs 26). Faith is to be formed by love (Galatians 5).

  2. And before we get accused of not understanding the Reformed faith – let’s lay it out there. We know that the Reformed believe in a distinction between living faith (formed by love) and dead faith (without love) and that the former justifies and the latter doesn’t.

    The problem with their doctrine is that the difference between *living* faith and *dead* faith is not the faith itself (or else we’d call that faith something different!) the difference is whether or not it is formed by love. Just as the difference between a round stone and a square stone is not the matter (stone) but the form (shape) so too is the difference between living faith and dead faith the form (love) not the matter (faith or intellectual assent).

    Analogy:
    Assume we had a round hole (gateway to heaven). We need to drop one of the stones into it (this represents justification). The matter of the stone represents faith and the form represents either charity or lack of it. Since the hole is round, only the round stone will fit. (Only living faith will justify). The square stone (dead faith) cannot fit. (Dead faith cannot justify – James 2:24)

    By analogy the Reformed would say that it’s the matter of the stone considered apart from its form that allows the stone to fit through the hole. That is faith alone (only the stone’s matter) is what allows it to pass through the hole (be justified). But this is false because the matter of the square stone is the same as the round stone. The difference is in *the form*.

    Likewise dead faith does not justify but living faith does. Now the faith is the same in both, but the form is different. One is formed by charity (and is a round stone) but the other is not formed by charity (and is a square stone).

  3. I also find St. Paul’s words compelling: “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, then I am nothing.” Benedict’s distinction above seems to me to be a restatement of this principle in the context of Protestant objections.

  4. Thanks Daniel.

    Also, to finish my analogy – it is not only the matter that passes through the whole. The stone (both form and matter) passes. Likewise, it is not only faith that justifies but faith formed by love.

    Nor is it only the matter that permits the passing. The matter does permit the passing (or else there would be nothing to pass) but it is precisely the roundness of the stone, that is, the form, that permits the passing. Likewise, it is not only the faith part of living faith that permits justification, but also the living part – the love.

    Faith (alone) likewise does not merely lead to the form of charity. First, a dead thing does not produce a living thing. Life comes from life. The life of faith is the gift of charity which is gratuitously infused in the believer simultaneously with faith. Secondly, a form is not owing to its matter. Says St. Thomas, “The form causes matter to be,” and “a cause is naturally prior to the effect; but not [necessarily] in order of time.” Form is actual and matter is inherently potential. Potentiality is directed towards act, and justification is an act. A fixed number of bricks may be a useless pile or a house, but it is not a house unless it has the form of a house. In the same way, faith (intellectual assent), considered as matter, might be either useless (dead), or justifying (living). The faith (as potentiality) is directed towards its act by its form.

    Of course, all this is analogical. Faith is not actually matter as a stone is.

  5. Tim,

    That should be Pope Benedict XVI. You have XI. =)

    David

  6. Oops. Thanks!

  7. Hmm… It’s difficult for me to to really know how to respond to Professor Clark’s quote without seeing it in some kind of wider surrounding context. Of course, as one of the “formerly Reformed” (well, formerly Reformed Baptist, which many don’t consider to be “Reformed” at all!), I know that for Reformed Christians, it is faith alone– trust alone– in Christ that justifies the sinner before God, and that the works which are evidence *of* that faith are just that– evidence– and that they, themselves, do not justify the sinner before God in any way.

    However, even *for* the Reformed, mental assent alone does *not* justify. In order for the faith to justify, it must be true, living faith, which is, again, evidenced by works…. so in that light, I’m not sure why Professor Clark would find Pope Benedict XVI’s statement to be contra Reformed theology. The main preaching pastor of the Reformed Baptist church, where I was a member, was always very strong in telling us that if one’s claimed “faith* does not at least *eventually* show itself through one’s works, then that faith is not true, Biblical, justifying faith… and another, (it would seem to me) perfectly reasonable way to say that would be, if one’s faith is not formed by love, it does not justify, which is what Benedict is saying here.

    Now, it could be that if I were to sit down today with my former pastor, he would have strong objections to Benedict’s statement, and clarifications of his own statements about true, justifying faith resulting in works… but on the face of it, given what Reformed theologians (at least the ones whom I have read and talked with) teach about the great importance of works in the Christian’s life, I don’t see how my former pastor *or* Professor Clark could reasonably say that the “if” in the Pope’s statement is the all-important “difference between Rome and Wittenberg.” Perhaps they would say something about what they might see to be “hidden” in Benedict’s statement (such as, implications about mortal and venial sins).

  8. Christopher, if the *if* statement isn’t a point of separation between Catholics and Protestants, then the Protestants have no justification to remain in schism and should return to the Church.

    You said: “However, even *for* the Reformed, mental assent alone does *not* justify.”

    I would like to hear some Reformed respond to that. Faith is simply intellectual assent so to say that intellectual assent alone does not justify is to say that faith alone does not justify. I don’t know many Reformed who would agree with that. If they agree with it, then they shouldn’t be Reformed.

    As I said above, “We know that the Reformed believe in a distinction between living faith (formed by love) and dead faith (without love) and that the former justifies and the latter doesn’t.”

    According to Reformed theology, faith (*alone* considered apart from what makes it living) is what justifies. But if any Reformed want to correct me on this and say that they do *not* believe that faith alone justifies, my ears are open. (I would hope they’d also offer a reason why they remain in schism which justifies its own existence on that very doctrine).

  9. Also for more context on the R. Scott Clark quotation, see this post.

  10. As I understand it, the Reformed distinguish notitia (knowledge), assensus (assent) and fiducia (trust). They believe that assensus alone is the dead faith and that fiducia is the living faith that justifies because it produces good works. Yet it is not the actions but the fiducia that God judges; the fiducia “trusts” or “rests in and receives” the promise of the Gospel, i.e. alien imputed righteousness.

  11. Tim,

    Just a quick point of clarification. The Reformed conception of faith is not intellectual assent, but fiduciary faith. (Fiduciary faith is a novelty, something unknown before the sixteenth century.) From a Catholic point of view, fiduciary faith is a conflation of the theological virtues of faith and hope. That’s why fiduciary faith is ‘better’ than mere assent, because it includes (in a way) both virtues. But the essential component of living faith is agape, i.e. charity, as you pointed out. And fiduciary faith does not include agape. Reformed theology does not accept that living faith is faith-informed-by-agape. That’s why Reformed theology does not hold that justification depends on agape being present in the soul of the justified. To be sure, Calvinists believe that agape necessarily follows faith (or even simultaneously accompanies) faith. But, they do not believe that faith is made alive by agape. Dead faith, for a Calvinist, is no faith at all. Faith is defined as essentially fiduciary, hence for a Calvinist mere intellectual assent is not faith at all. That’s why they deny that the demons in James 2 had even dead faith. For the Calvinist, the demons in James 2 simply don’t have faith.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  12. If I remember correctly, Gordon Clark and John Ribbins denied this threefold distinction and said that there is really no difference between assensus and fiducia, and that the addition of the third thing is a “road to Rome” or something like that. This is why Clark was called a rationalist and why Robbins thought that R.C. Sproul was a Catholic apologist. The three-fold distinction does seem to be so close to what the Church is saying that I get tired of trying to understand how it’s different and end up thinking that much of this Reformation theology really is just quibbling about words, which Paul warned us against.

    Here’s a link to Robbins’ critiquing Sproul’s explanation of the the threefold division:

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=238

  13. Looks like Bryan also anticipated the “fiduciary” explanation. Thanks for the explanation of how that is distinguished from the Catholic view of faith formed by charity.

  14. Bryan and David – thanks for the clarifications and for bringing up the importance of speaking the same language. Here is St. Thomas’s summary of the patristic definition of faith:

    For when Augustine says (Tract. xl in Joan.: QQ. Evang. ii, qu. 39) that “faith is a virtue whereby we believe what we do not see,” and when Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv, 11) that “faith is an assent without research,” and when others say that “faith is that certainty of the mind about absent things which surpasses opinion but falls short of science,” these all amount to the same as the Apostle’s words: “Evidence of things that appear not”; and when Dionysius says (Div. Nom. vii) that “faith is the solid foundation of the believer, establishing him in the truth, and showing forth the truth in him,” comes to the same as “substance of things to be hoped for.” (Summa 2b.4.1)

    John Calvin’s definition:

    A steady and certain knowledge of the Divine benevolence toward us, which being founded upon the truth of the gratuitous promise in Christ is both revealed to our minds and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Inst. 3.2.7)

    WCF:

    But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. (WCF 14)

  15. Bryan (re. #11),

    I’m curious about the RC notion of “faith.” The Evangelical theologian/philosopher William Lane Craig frequently says: “Faith is not a way of knowing something. Faith is trust based on reasons.” By the first sentence he’s trying to deny that faith is an epistemic category at all, contra RC.

    Before my question about the RC view of faith, let me make sure I understand it. It seems that RCs often talk of “faith” as if it is a kind of “middle ground” between two epistemic polls: knowledge on the one end, and mere opinion on the other end. One holds a proposition “by faith” only if one both

    (1) can’t (or merely doesn’t?) know it, and

    (2) one has come to hold that position because someone in a position to know it’s truth-value has recommended it.

    Given Craig’s statements, I’ve been wondering lately about whether the RC view. It seems that we hold all sorts of beliefs “by faith” in the RC sense adduced above. For example, I don’t “know” the date on which I was born; I can’t remember it. I trust in the oral testimony of my parents (and others) and the written testimony of birth records etc. Similarly, I don’t “know” that there is a continent located at the south pole; I believe there is one there on the basis of testimony of various kinds. Wouldn’t the RC epistemology require me to say that I believe matters like my birth date and the location of Antarctica as a matter of “faith”?

    I guess my problem here stems from common understandings of “knowledge” in analytic philosophy. There, “knowledge” is taken to be (as you know) (a) justified, (b) true, (c) belief. I’m justified in believing all sorts of things on the basis of reliable testimony (e.g. my birth date etc.). With respect to religion, Christians (in general) believe many things on the basis of testimony (e.g. that God is a Trinity) and RCs (in particular) believe many additional things on the basis of testimony (e.g. the infallibility of the Church [with appropriate qualifiers]). But if we’re justified in those cases, and those beliefs are true, why call them something other than “knowledge”?

  16. Perhaps we might want to explore why love justifies. Is it not because God as Holy Trinity is love, and if his love inhabits our hearts and informs our actions, then that can only be because we participate in the Trinitarian life, and if we participate in the Trinitarian life, then surely we are justified … or something like that. :)

  17. Fr. Kimel, thank you for that point. That’s exactly where we need to go with this!

    I was also struck by something David said earlier. (Per Reformed soteriology): “Yet it is not the actions but the fiducia that God judges;” That’s the way we are accustomed to talking about God, but it’s too easy to forget that these terms we apply to God don’t apply in the same sense that they apply to us.

    Which part of faith does God judge? Well, wait a minute. Does God judge? Really? Like Judge Joe Brown? Does He judge in that way? We say God judges but we say that analogically. He doesn’t judge like we do because He does not know things by the means that we know them. God doesn’t “look” at a thing to see what it is. Seeing is the act of judging by light and color. And the need for sight presupposes ignorance. God has no need to see things because He already knows them. Likewise He has no need to make judgments about things. He doesn’t look at a thing and judge it, as if He were reacting to it. God does not react. ‘Judgment,’ as we usually mean it, is a reaction.

    It seems to me that the Reformed conception of salvation de fide depends on a reactionary conception of God’s judgment. It looks at an isolated aspect inhering in the salvation process and claims that “this is the basis” on which God judges us. That argument falls apart if it turns out that God doesn’t actually judge in a reactionary sense. According to the Reformed doctrine, its as if God gives us a gift and then looks at us to see if we have that gift and then re-acts accordingly. Well that won’t work.

    On the contrary, as you said, charity is the sine qua non of justification exactly because God is love and justification is nothing but participation in the life of the Trinity. That’s good stuff! Because of this infused charity, this gift of participation in the Divine Life, God is not a reactionary in any sense. He is not even reacting to His own act – there is no reaction taking place. He is simply acting.

    Ultimately, when we talk about God’s grace, we’re not referring to something different than His judgment. His grace *is* His judgment. The (perceived) difference is in us – in our state; not in Him.

    My two cents..

  18. Tim,

    I agree with you that the Reformed should not continue to be in schism. This is why I myself am in the process of arranging a meeting with a priest, so that I can, hopefully , sooner rather than later, be reconciled to the Catholic Church which I ignorantly (yet still sinfully, to some degree) left years ago.

    Bryan’s clarifications about the different “forms” of faith are helpful here. I have honestly never, ever heard any Reformed preacher or theologian say that mental assent alone justifies. As far as I understand it, in the historic Reformed view, living faith must involve genuine trust in Christ, not mere mental assent to a body of doctrines. Of course, genuine trust in Christ does *entail* assenting to a body of doctrines, but for the Reformed, trust doesn’t stop there. It goes on to “show itself,” in a sense, through good works done out of a truly transformed heart. However, in the Reformed view, these good works do not, in any way, justify.

    The more that I read and think about the Reformed and Catholic agreements and disagreements on these issues, I have to wonder if the deeper Reformed objection is not actually against the Catholic view of justification, per se, but more so the Catholic view of papal authority, and the teachings on mortal and venial sins and the potential for loss and “regaining” (or perhaps, restoration) of one’s salvation.

  19. Ryan, (re: #15)

    Good question. First let’s distinguish between natural knowledge, and supernatural faith. The bishops at the first Vatican Council taught the following:

    The Catholic Church has always held that there is a twofold order of knowledge, and that these two orders are distinguished from one another not only in their principle but in their object; in one we know by natural reason, in the other by Divine faith; the object of the one is truth attainable by natural reason, the object of the other is mysteries hidden in God, but which we have to believe and which can only be known to us by Divine revelation.” (Vatican Council, III.4)

    In the first order, the object can be known by the natural light of reason. This is what you know when you look around you. But the object of the second order is not knowable by the natural light of reason; it exceeds the reach or range of the natural light of reason. The object of this second order must therefore be supernatural revealed, so that we can know it. It is knowable not by the natural light alone, but by a supernatural light.

    There is a kind of natural faith, at the first order, when we trust our friends and family about things we have not seen ourselves. Much of what we believe, we believe on testimony. Supernatural faith differs in that its object is God’s supernatural self-revelation, and for that reason the act of [supernatural] faith requires the internal aid of divine grace illuminating our intellect and moving our will. In other words, what differentiates supernatural faith from natural faith, is that the object of supernatural faith is supernatural and supernaturally revealed, whereas the object of natural faith is natural and naturally revealed.

    Supernatural faith, as you said, is in a way between knowledge and opinion, though with some important qualifications. St. Thomas writes:

    In this way faith is distinguished from all other things pertaining to the intellect. For when we describe it as “evidence,” we distinguish it from opinion, suspicion, and doubt, which do not make the intellect adhere to anything firmly; when we go on to say, “of things that appear not,” we distinguish it from science and understanding, the object of which is something apparent; and when we say that it is “the substance of things to be hoped for,” we distinguish the virtue of faith from faith commonly so called, which has no reference to the beatitude we hope for. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.4 a.1)

    Faith is not knowledge, because we do not now see for ourselves the object of faith. Faith ‘sees’ through a glass darkly, but then face to face at the Beatific Vision. When we see God face to face, there will be no more faith, just as there will be no more hope. Only love will abide. (1 Cor 13) Then we will know Him, as we are known. Knowledge see its object. But because faith does not see its object, therefore faith is not knowledge. Yet neither is faith mere opinion, because opinion is uncertain, while faith is more certain than knowledge:

    Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.” “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” (CCC 157)

    So faith is neither knowledge, nor opinion. The person who has faith does not see the object of his faith, as he sees (with his intellect) when he knows something. But faith is more certain than knowledge, on account of the perfect veracity of its divine source. Because faith is based on divine revelation, we believe on the authority of those to whom the revelation has been made, as St. Thomas explains:

    This doctrine is especially based upon arguments from authority, inasmuch as its principles are obtained by revelation: thus we ought to believe on the authority of those to whom the revelation has been made. Nor does this take away from the dignity of this doctrine, for although the argument from authority based on human reason is the weakest, yet the argument from authority based on divine revelation is the strongest. (Summa Theologica I Q.1 a.8 ad 2)

    That revelation was made to the Church. And hence we believe it on the authority of the Church, because the Church exercises divine authority, by divine authorization. I hope that helps answer your question.

    (Fr. Kimel, it is great to hear from you again! )

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  20. This may be off topic, but I see a major flaw in reformed theology when justification is called extrinsic righteousness alone ie, we are covered by Christ’s righteousness alone. God looks on us and sees His Son and not our sin inside. Thus, with this view, sin actually makes an entrance into heaven. It’s just that it’s covered by Christ’s righteousness. This is either very silly to say the least or reformed theology should have a more robust belief in purgatory than RC. IOW, it seems that no matter what view anyone takes on faith-as discussed here- a major issue is what actually happens to the sin that inheres in a man’s soul especially at death. Sanctification cannot be merely superfluous. No sin can enter heaven.

  21. On the contrary, as you said, charity is the sine qua non of justification exactly because God is love and justification is nothing but participation in the life of the Trinity. That’s good stuff!

    Thinking of it this way one can see why participation in the life of the church is so important. It is the closest analogy that we have in the physical world. If we run from that it is a very bad sign.

  22. Father Kimmel,

    I echo Bryan’s words! Be assured that Heaven knows the help your work on Pontifications did for me as I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church!

  23. Hey Tim,

    Very interesting quote. I was just reading the lead article for June on Reformation 21 which is also about St. Augustine. The author, James L. Harvey III, makes the same point about St. Augustine’s emphasis on supernatural love in the heart of the believer. The article is very positive on Augustine and ultimately points Reformed Pastors back to him as a model for the true purpose of preaching, which, Rev. Harvey says, “is to call the people of God to love God and neighbor”.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  24. Ryan and Bryan:

    Over time, I’ve become more and more convinced that the fundamental difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is over the nature of faith. I agree with Aquinas’ distinction between natural and supernatural faith, and his account of the latter both as a virtue and as a mode of assent. Vatican I gave magisterial authority to certain aspects of it, but did not take Newman’s contribution into account because he was considered something of a liberal in Rome at the time. The CCC incorporates Newman’s account without sacrificing Aquinas’.

    I also agree that Reformed approaches to the question of the nature of faith, and especially the distinction between dead and living faith, are motivated in good part by their doctrines of election and justification. But the status of such doctrines cannot itself be determined before establishing the proper relationship between faith, love, and authority. This is where the Reformed go badly wrong.

    Best,
    Mike

  25. Patrick,

    This may be off topic, but I see a major flaw in reformed theology when justification is called extrinsic righteousness alone ie, we are covered by Christ’s righteousness alone. God looks on us and sees His Son and not our sin inside. Thus, with this view, sin actually makes an entrance into heaven. It’s just that it’s covered by Christ’s righteousness. This is either very silly to say the least or reformed theology should have a more robust belief in purgatory than RC. IOW, it seems that no matter what view anyone takes on faith-as discussed here- a major issue is what actually happens to the sin that inheres in a man’s soul especially at death. Sanctification cannot be merely superfluous. No sin can enter heaven.

    Perhaps it may help having someone who is actually Reformed chime in here to dispel some misconceptions.

    The Reformed don’t believe that dead faith saves, nor do we believe that all that matters is having an extrinsic righteousness. What we believe and confess is that it is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is always accompanied by works done in love to God. However, it is not those works that justify, it is faith that justifies, as such.

    Further, we often distinguish between justification and salvation. Justification is the forensic and declarative part, but there’s a second aspect to salvation called sanctification, which is where our works come in. In sanctification, God’s righteousness is infused into us (yes, you heard that right), whereby we increase in holiness and godliness all our days. I’m not sure of your background (or that of many here), so for the sake of those lurking, please know that anyone who says that Reformed theology has no place for good works or the infusion of righteousness simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Francis Turretin asked, “Are works necessary for justification? We deny. Are works necessary for salvation? We affirm.”

    From what I can gather, we mean by “salvation” what Catholics mean by “justification,” which is why when one frames the question as “Do good works contribute to justification?”, the answer can only confuse until our terms are defined

  26. JJS,
    You said:

    From what I can gather, we mean by “salvation” what Catholics mean by “justification,” which is why when one frames the question as “Do good works contribute to justification?”, the answer can only confuse until our terms are defined.

    It would seem by this comment then that what I said applies. IOW, what the Reformed mean by Justification in no way can bring “Salvation” (ie, sanctification is needed for salvation. Which means good works are needed for salvation- Faith and Works together OR Faith working through Love) in and of itself – save a very robust belief in purgatory. Also, the distinction you made about justification – not needing sanctification to bring salvation – seems meaningless. What’s the point of even saying this?

  27. “From what I can gather, we mean by ‘salvation’ what Catholics mean by ‘justification,’ which is why when one frames the question as ‘Do good works contribute to justification?’, the answer can only confuse until our terms are defined.”

    My intellectual turn on justification occurred during a conversation with a parishioner in South Carolina. We were wrestling with justification and imputed righteousness. I suddenly said to her, “We need to think about what it means to be saved. Surely, to be saved means nothing less than to share in the unconditional and infinite love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We agreed that that is what we both wanted and that neither of us would be content with anything less than that. And we both agreed that participating in the Trinitarian life requires significant transformation of our lives: we truly must become a new creation.

    At this point, all the energy that I had previously been investing in the notion of imputational righteousness suddenly dissipated. I realized I didn’t want to be “accepted” as I was in my sin and egotism. That would not be salvation. I want to be delivered from my sin and egotism and made into a person capable of love and thus sharing in the community of the Holy Trinity. Hence it no longer makes sense to me to speak of justification apart from love. Justification is salvation, and salvation is incorporation into the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    As the regular members of this blog know, I do not find the scholastic approaches to justification, whether Catholic or Protestant, helpful. I am convinced that we must begin with theosis and union with Christ, and that if we do so, all our other concerns will find their proper place. I especially recommend Nicholas Cabasilas’s *Life in Christ*.

    The Reformed concept of imputational righteousness is an answer to a religious question that should never be asked.

  28. JJS,

    Thanks for chiming in.

    I was struck again upon reading your remark by the degree to which popular conceptions of reformed soteriology are often quite different from the official position, once all of the very many qualifications and astersisks and provisos and addenda are specifically laid out.

    Part of the reason there is a disparity is perhaps because not everyone feels like going and reading through, say, the WCF chapter 13. But I think, now, that that’s just part of it. The other reason (or an other reason) for this divergence emanates from what we might call the advertising of reformed theology, mixed together perhaps with a fairly widespread Protestant narrative concerning Luther’s[/the Protestant’s] breakthrough achievement of peace with God and an equally widespread Protestant polemics.

    We very frequently hear the charge (don’t we?) that the gospel of ‘romanism’ is no gospel at all. Doesn’t sound like good enough news. The reformed gospel (the real one) sounds so much better to desperate sinners, scared to death by the demands of the Law and introspective awareness of their own depravity. Whereas Rome says “Work!”, Geneva says “Rest!” Whereas Rome says “You’re still in the thick of it! There’s so much yet you must accomplish!” Geneva says “Accomplished and Applied!” And so on.

    You and I know I’m not making this up, and we both know I’m paraphrasing the real reformed guys, not silly internet people. And we could go on and fill out the narrative a bit more, giving more examples of the way in which the reformed gospel is compared against the romanist one, to the definite detriment of the latter. But then here’s the thing. As soon as a Catholic says, “Wait, what kind of view of salvation is this? It can’t all be done yet. There is something I must contribute, and unless I make this contribution — with the help of God’s grace, of course — why then, I won’t be able to stand before a holy God at all. I won’t get to go to heaven. I won’t be saved. All that stuff is right there in the Bible.” — as soon as the Catholic says this, the asterisks and qualifications and provisos begin to appear. And then — and here I’m trying just to be totally honest with you — it becomes at best obscure exactly what could justify all of the “Work vs. Rest” and “Our Gospel sounds so much better-newsish than yours” advertising.

    Is it possible that, in order to give the advertising the rhetorical punch and polemical effectiveness it doubtless possesses, some reformed people are perhaps perpetuating the soteriological misconceptions you stepped in to clear up? It would be a lot easier to make sense of the comparisons between reformed theology and Catholicism made above, if it really were true that salvation (according to the reformed) was just a matter of internally saying “I buy it” and then resting on your laurels. But of course that isn’t anything like the truth, as you’ve just pointed out. And I think if people were apprised of the distinction between justification and salvation, and then informed that in order to “be saved” and “go to heaven” they have to contribute a lot of (grace-wrought) works and they can’t stand before God until they became (with His help) entirely intrinsically perfect and unwaveringly upright of heart — in other words, if they were told that they have to do every darn thing Catholicism says they’ve got to do in order to “get to heaven” — if this were as “advertised” as the alien righteousness bit, nobody would be very clear about why the reformed gospel is supposed to be such better news to the weary. As it is, however, it seems to me that until someone does a double-take — perhaps after taking the advertising and polemical comparisons a bit to literally? — and raises suspicions of antinomianism, the provisos sort of stay tucked away, and so it’s understandable why people might suspect that reformed theology says about salvation more or less what Patrick (20) thought it did.

    Best,

    Neal

  29. Neal,

    Great post. I can say that in my years in the Reformed world, I never heard someone teach that works played no role in salvation. Works were always understood, it seems, especially in the Paul/James discussion, to be confirming that we had faith. Thus James is saying that works prove we have faith. These issues are beyond me, so let me just quote from the late John Gerstner, who wrote,

    “Romanists have always tried to hang antinomianism on Protestantism. They seem incapable even of understanding “justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone,” though that formula has been present since the Reformation.

    If this were a true charge it would be a fatal one. If Protestantism thought that a sinner could be saved without becoming godly, it would be an absolute, damning lie. His name is “Jesus” for He saves His people from their sins, not in them. And He saves His people not only from the guilt of sin but from its dominating power as well. If a believer is not changed, he is not a believer. No one can have Christ as Savior for one moment when he is not Lord as well. We can never say too often: “Justification is by faith alone, but NOT by the faith that is alone.” Justification is by a WORKING faith.”

    Yet, maybe I am not getting something, how does Pope Benedict’s words not correspond in some sense, when the Pope says, as Tim quoted, ““For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.” Why does Clark say, again as Tim again quoted, “That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg”? What am I missing? What am I not getting? The Pope says we can affirm justification by faith alone provided we recognize that faith is a faith working, formed by caritas (Galatians 5). Gerstner says working faith. Why does Clark not say, could not Clark say of Gerstner what he says of the Pope, “That conditional “but” makes all the difference in the world. That one little condition but is all the difference between Rome and Geneva and Wittenberg”?

  30. To All,

    My “what am I not getting, what am I missing” questions are not meant disrespectfully. We here at Called to Communion have been accused of not “getting Reformed theology” and that is why we left. I would love to see how Dr. Clark or a Dr. Horton (someone I personally studied under for a week in France 12 years ago and enjoyed great fellowship with, along with Dr. Rosenblatt, over great food, drinks and smokes) respond to how Pope Benedict’s statement is not compatible with Gerstners.

  31. Bryan (re. #19) & Mike (re. #24),

    Thanks for your responses. I want to make sure I understand the views you’ve presented. Are you saying:

    (1) the guiding distinction for the difference between ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ is the difference between nature and supernature

    (2) on the level of supernatural revelation, and considering ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ from perspective of epistemic certainty, faith is more certain than knowledge. This is true because the source of supernatural revelation is infallible.

    (3) on the level of nature alone, ‘knowledge’ is justified, true, belief. (Or perhaps this is mistaken. It seems to me that Aquinas, and many of the Scholastics in general, see knowledge as a kind of deep understanding of a proposition because one sees how that proposition derived deductively from self-evident first principles. So ‘knowledge’ on that view is a kind of super-justified, true, belief. It’s super-justified because the knowledge isn’t merely probable. It’s demonstrable.)

    As for (2), if I’ve understood you correctly, I suppose this is one reason (as Mike points out) that Protestants typically don’t discuss ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge in these terms. While the source of the revelation is infallible, and, therefore, the revelation itself is infallible, the interpretation of that revelation would have to be infallible to preserve the infalliblity of the revelation itself. But Protestants don’t admit of an infallible interpreter. Thoughts?

  32. Jason, (re: #25)

    Your comment and Neal’s response raise a couple questions in my mind. The first one, is this: practically, is there any difference between the Catholic gospel and the [official] Reformed gospel? If yes, then why? But if no, then I don’t see why this is a schism-worthy disagreement. I mean, if justification were merely forensic/extrinsic, but always simultaneously accompanied by the infusion of agape, then that doesn’t really seem any different (in practice) from justification itself being the infusion of agape. That doesn’t seem schism-worthy to me.

    Yes, there are other differences here, whether justification comes to us through the sacrament of baptism, or not. And whether justification can be lost, or not. Those are very important, of course. But typically, when Reformed Christians refer to Rome “abandoning the gospel,” they are not referring to those two things. They are referring to the inclusion of works in justification, rather than justification “by faith alone.” But if justification is not salvation, then as I said in my first paragraph, the [official] Reformed gospel is in practice no different from the Catholic gospel, and in that case this doesn’t seem to be the schism-warranting issue that it is made out to be by many Reformed folks.

    The second question raised in my mind has to do with justification and Judgment Day. It seems to me that there is real difference here, between the Reformed and Catholic doctrines. Typically the Reformed view is presented as though our initial justification (at the moment we first have faith) is the final verdict pronounced proleptically, based on Christ’s merits, and not on anything we subsequently do. So, yes, sanctification is supposed to follow justification. But, really, what does it matter? I don’t need to work at sanctification, because the final verdict is already in. That’s the ‘freedom’ of the gospel. As Jerry Bridges writes:

    [N]ot only has the debt been fully paid, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Jesus paid the debt of all our sins: past, present, and future…. We don’t have to start all over again and try to keep the slate clean. There is no more slate. As Stephen Brown wrote, “God took our slate and He broke it in pieces and threw it away.” This is true not only for our justification, but for our Christian lives as well. God is not keeping score, granting or withholding blessings on the basis of our performance. The score has already been permanently settled by Christ. … If you are trusting to any degree in your own morality or religious attainments, or if you believe God will somehow recognize any of your good works as merit toward your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian. … When you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, God removes your record from the file. He doesn’t keep it there or daily add the long list of sins you continue to commit even as a Christian.” (Transforming Grace, pp 21, 34, 41)

    A bit later, he writes:

    Living by grace instead of by works means you are free from the performance treadmill. It means God has already given you an “A” when you deserved an “F,” He has already given you a full day’s pay even though you may have worked only one hour. It means you don’t have to perform certain spiritual disciplines to earn God’s approval. Jesus Christ has already done that for you. You are loved and accepted by God through the merits of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus.” (Transforming Grace, p. 73)

    Similarly Michael Horton writes:

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

    What seems to follow from all this is that if one trusts Jesus, one is going to heaven anyway no matter what one’s state of sanctification, especially because in Reformed theology there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin. And since Reformed theology does not have a doctrine of purgatory, remaining sanctification takes place instantly and painlessly (since Christ paid it all). When the elect die, God simply waves His ‘glorification wand’ over them, so to speak, and they are instantly, painlessly, perfectly and permanently sanctified. Since every person who trusts in Jesus is justified, and then perfectly and painlessly sanctified at the moment of death, there can be nothing at all to fear from Final Judgment, because there is nothing to lose and nothing to pay. Because of this guarantee that those who have faith will first face the glorification wand, there is no real reason (other than some ad hoc stipulation) to pursue sanctification. It is much easier and safer, lest by striving for holiness one gets drawn into thinking that pursuing sanctification somehow contributes to one’s salvation (and thereby falls into trusting in one’s own works for salvation) to let God take care of that mess with His glorification wand when we die.

    Here’s what I’m saying. The glorification wand in Reformed theology makes presently pursuing sanctification unnecessary (or only accidental) to attaining salvation. As long as we believe Christ died for us, and are trusting to get into heaven because of what He did for us, then we get into heaven. Period. Full Stop. That seems to be entailed by the conjunction of the Reformed notion that we are justified “by faith alone,” and that our justification is the final verdict pronounced proleptically, based on Christ’s merits. Our state of sanctification (at our moment of death) is not more or less pleasing to God on Judgment Day, not just because we’ve been run under the glorification wand, but simply because through the blood of Christ, God is just as pleased with us now as He can possibly be. What makes God the Father pleased with us now and then is that when He looks at us, we are covered by the righteousness of Christ. God is pleased by Christ’s perfect obedience, and that perfect obedience has been “credited to our account,” so that our own obedience / disobedience is not actually judged. Otherwise, during this life our standing with God is entirely based on what Christ did, but then, suddenly, on the Day of Judgment, our works suddenly having something to do with our standing before God. That wouldn’t make any sense, especially if now we know that’s going to happen. The Reformed conception of Judgment for the elect seems to reduce it to figuring out how many or how few jewels we get in our crown. And if at present we don’t want jewels in our crown (or any more jewels in our crown, as one person said to me), then we can simply rest in Christ’s finished work and come to God’s throne with no less confidence. As long as we trust in Christ, then our state of sanctification cannot keep us out of heaven; Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us once and for all. So in the Reformed view, Judgment Day ends up looking something like this:

    But, Greg Boyd (a Protestant) points out what this does to sanctification:

    I don’t agree with everything Greg says here, especially about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. But, it seems to me that what he is saying entails something very much like purgatory. If sanctification matters for salvation, then unless post-death sanctification is more painful than present-life sanctification, then for now we can just eat, drink and be merry, and let God’s glorification wand do it all at the moment of our death. Trusting in the glorification wand to do all my sanctfication for me, is a very different notion (both theologically and practically, in the life of everyday Joe Christian) from the Catholic conception of sanctification, and its place in salvation and the Judgment. My point/question is that here, on this point, it seems to me there is a real practical difference in terms of devotion and Christian living, between the Catholic and Reformed views, and this difference seems to follow from the [conceptual] separation of justification from sanctification, and from the proleptic nature of justification in Reformed theology, and from the Reformed denial of purgatory. What do you think about that?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  33. Patrick,

    It would seem by this comment then that what I said applies. IOW, what the Reformed mean by Justification in no way can bring “Salvation” (ie, sanctification is needed for salvation. Which means good works are needed for salvation- Faith and Works together OR Faith working through Love) in and of itself – save a very robust belief in purgatory. Also, the distinction you made about justification – not needing sanctification to bring salvation – seems meaningless. What’s the point of even saying this?

    We speak this way because this is how we read Scripture and how it speaks. “Justification,” for Paul, means a legal acquittal. “Salvation,” however, is obviously broader than the courtroom metaphor, including things like sanctification and adoption. Should we just eliminate the differences of meaning in all these words? No, we should endeavor to employ them the way Scripture does. Hence, we say that justification is a legal declaration that God makes about the sinner, but there’s more to the salvation of that sinner than merely this declaration.

    Hope that helps.

  34. Fr. Kimel,

    At this point, all the energy that I had previously been investing in the notion of imputational righteousness suddenly dissipated. I realized I didn’t want to be “accepted” as I was in my sin and egotism. That would not be salvation. I want to be delivered from my sin and egotism and made into a person capable of love and thus sharing in the community of the Holy Trinity.

    No disrespect intended, but it sounds to me like you did not understand the classical Protestant doctrine of justification in particular, or of soteriology more generally. No one who does would ever reject the Reformed view of justification because he didn’t want to be merely accepted as he was, but changed from within. It’s a false dilemma if there ever was one.

    Now, you’re free to reject Reformed justification for other reasons (like, say, you think it is unbiblical). But to reject it because it effects no inward change is just a misunderstanding of the position that could have been easily cleared up by simply reading our confessions or catechisms.

  35. Neal,

    Is it possible that, in order to give the advertising the rhetorical punch and polemical effectiveness it doubtless possesses, some reformed people are perhaps perpetuating the soteriological misconceptions you stepped in to clear up? It would be a lot easier to make sense of the comparisons between reformed theology and Catholicism made above, if it really were true that salvation (according to the reformed) was just a matter of internally saying “I buy it” and then resting on your laurels. But of course that isn’t anything like the truth, as you’ve just pointed out. And I think if people were apprised of the distinction between justification and salvation, and then informed that in order to “be saved” and “go to heaven” they have to contribute a lot of (grace-wrought) works and they can’t stand before God until they became (with His help) entirely intrinsically perfect and unwaveringly upright of heart — in other words, if they were told that they have to do every darn thing Catholicism says they’ve got to do in order to “get to heaven” — if this were as “advertised” as the alien righteousness bit, nobody would be very clear about why the reformed gospel is supposed to be such better news to the weary. As it is, however, it seems to me that until someone does a double-take — perhaps after taking the advertising and polemical comparisons a bit to literally? — and raises suspicions of antinomianism, the provisos sort of stay tucked away, and so it’s understandable why people might suspect that reformed theology says about salvation more or less what Patrick (20) thought it did.

    Well, I can’t answer for everyone who comes along and appoints himself a spokesman for Reformed theology (any more than you can when it comes to Catholicism). I realize that you said that you were paraphrasing the real theologians and not the Internet ones, but I guess I’d need something more specific to respond to than that.

    Speaking of the need for godliness, you may remember the Puritans (they were a bunch of uptight guys in funny hats back in the seventeenth century with weird facial hair). They had a LOT to say on the subject, you should check ‘em out!

    (That sarcasm was meant in good fun.)

    The reason why the Reformed believe their gospel is better than Rome’s (other than our belief that it is biblical and therefore wins automatically), is that our understanding of the relation between works and faith (as well as our understanding of faith itself) preserves the graciousness of grace better than other formulations do. If, for example, faith is something I can exercise from my own fallen nature, then faith is no different from a work, and I’m at best a semi-Pelagian. Or, if I can be adopted into God’s family but then disinherited, I am being treated worse than Angelina Jolie treats the twenty-three kids she’s adopted. Or to use another example, if I can partake of God’s nature through the new birth, but then somehow stop sharing it, then that destroys any analogy between human and divine nature and birth (I can’t take away my nature from my son or rescind his birth, but God can, spiritually, to me?). No, “he who began a work in you will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

    So we begin with the graciousness of grace, and then we seek to understand the difficult passages (you know, the ones you’re thinking of right now) in the light of that.

    Do we have all the answers? Of course not. But we feel that our soteriology answers more questions than not, and it preserves the graciousness of salvation (which we believe Catholicism undermines).

  36. Tom,

    Yet, maybe I am not getting something, how does Pope Benedict’s words not correspond in some sense, when the Pope says, as Tim quoted, ““For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.” Why does Clark say, again as Tim again quoted, “That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg”? What am I missing? What am I not getting? The Pope says we can affirm justification by faith alone provided we recognize that faith is a faith working, formed by caritas (Galatians 5). Gerstner says working faith. Why does Clark not say, could not Clark say of Gerstner what he says of the Pope, “That conditional “but” makes all the difference in the world. That one little condition but is all the difference between Rome and Geneva and Wittenberg”?

    There is a lot of debate and even division in our circles about whether it should be controversial to say that we are justified by a living faith or a faith formed by love. Many who are sympathetic to the Federal Vision would want to speak in this way, while those who are more strictly confessional and old school would want to urge caution.

    The issue is not really about whether we need good works or not (we all agree that we do). The issue is the nature of faith. Faith, by nature, is a receptive and non-contributory kind of thing, which is why Paul likens it to the ear: “Faith comes by hearing”; “The Word of faith”; “The hearing of faith,” etc. So, while it is true that faith works through love, it is not its working-through-love that makes it justifying. It is justifying because it receives and rests upon Jesus alone.

    Again, the reason for all the footnotes, qualifications, and asterisks (as Neal calls them)* is that we believe that we are bound by the language and teaching of Scripture to employ them.

    *You guys use loads of asterisks, too. When a Protestant tries to understand the principled difference between a development and an accretion, for example, or the nuances of extra ecclesiam nulla salus and how it has been applied down through the ages, he feels he has entered a labyrinth with no exit!

  37. JJS
    Thanks for responding.
    You said:
    ” No one who does would ever reject the Reformed view of justification because he didn’t want to be merely accepted as he was, but changed from within. It’s a false dilemma if there ever was one.”

    If this is true then the short answer is that there is no difference then (in this area anyway)in what the RCC taught then (and for 1500 years prior) and still does teach so this can not be the issue that divides us.

  38. Bryan,

    The premise I’m detecting in your post is that the only motivation a person can have for obedience is either fear of punishment or hope of reward. I may be wrongly pinning that on you, but your comments make it seem that way.

    You write:

    Since [in Reformed theology] every person who trusts in Jesus is justified, and then perfectly and painlessly sanctified at the moment of death, there can be nothing at all to fear from Final Judgment, because there is nothing to lose and nothing to pay. Because of this guarantee that those who have faith will first face the glorification wand, there is no real reason (other than some ad hoc stipulation) to pursue sanctification.

    But this is a premise that we do not hold, nor do we think Paul holds it. Let me use an example: If you were to lose your health, home, and family, and were living as a beggar on the street with no food and no means of escape, and someone graciously took you in and cared for you, clothed and fed you, adopted you into his family, and promised you an inheritance, would your response be, “I’d better be nice to this guy or he might hit me”? Of course not. Your faithfulness to him would be a matter of gratitude, not fear.

    This is how we understand our striving after holiness. Paul never instructs his readers in sanctification until he has first (and often in great detail) told them about what God has done for them in Christ. The imperative always follows the indicative, it never precedes it.

    So if one has truly come to know Christ and has been adopted into God;s family, he will want to display and exhibit gratitude to his Father in the form of obedience and love. But when this familial element is ignored and is replaced with a legal, tit-for-tat dynamic,* then sure, it will seem like Protestants have no real reason to be good. But we do.

    *Like how I suckerpunched you there by attributing the familial to us and the slavish to you? Bet you didn’t see THAT coming….

  39. I am sure that you all remember, and some of us went through the thick of, the intra-evangelical “Lordship Salvation” wars of the 1980s and early 1990s. No one wanted to align with the Arminians or the Romanists, but we could not agree just what, with respect to progressive sanctification, was entailed by justifying faith. Things came to a head, and the debate really came into focus, once certain evangelicals, such John MacArthur and John Gerstner, began to say some “Romish” things about the nature of justifying faith itself.

    These “strong Lordship” teachers were criticized (from both sides) for holding to a compromised or corrupt definition of justifying faith, i.e., a definition that included agape, or good works. Both seemed to go beyond the definition of “fiduciary faith” (which Bryan described above, #11) beloved of many Calvinists, as well as many Calvinist-leaning Dispensationists. And of course everyone, with a few notable exceptions on both sides (Zane Hodges for the Dispensationalists, Gordon Clark for the Reformed), included more than “assent” in their definition of faith.

    Throughout the debate, there were two, largely rhetorical, trump cards continually being played by the disputants: “antinomian” and “Romanist.” Everyone was sure that they were neither. I am not sure what unabashed antinomians actually teach, or even if there are any. But it is certain that there are many actual Romanists (although everyone but a handful of petulant theologues refers to us as “Catholics”). When the “Lordship” proponents turned from debating with their fellow evangelicals over nature of the Gospel, in order to debate with Catholics concerning the same, interesting inconsistencies would crop up. I think that this is what Neal was pointing out above (#28), and it is what I was pointing out, with special reference to John Gerstner, in this post. (Be sure to check out this comment.)

    At the end of the day, I was convinced by both sides of the Lordship debate: The strong Lordship advocates were correct to insist that justifying faith essentially includes agape, while their opponents, both Dispensationalist and classical Reformed (following John Calvin), were correct in their analysis that faith and agape are different virtues. Furthermore, I was convinced by the non-Lordship Dispensationalist argument to the effect that Calvinism and Catholicism both require works for final salvation, its just that the Catholics are more consistent and up-front about their fundamental soteriology.

    I think that it is generally conceded that the Lordship camp triumphed over their foes in intra-evangelical war over the Gospel. Although, it should be noted that pockets of “free grace” resistance still remain, and the more strident advocates of Lordship Salvation seem to have receded from prominence among the Reformed. Most folks just sort of grew tired of fighting, finding sufficient grounds for mutual tolerance. Nice.

    By the way, I agree with Fr. Kimel, whom I make bold to paraphrase: Salvation, in all its aspects, amounts to our mutual participation in the life of the Holy Trinity. Also, along the same line, there is something more than a couple of pennies to Tim’s “two cents” (#17), especially towards the end, although to think it through will certainly put some serious strain on the old noggin’. Those who accuse Thomism of rationalism, or contrast his thought with spiritual contemplation, are dead wrong. I can’t explain it very well, but reading Thomas’ theology proper (ST, First Part) fills me with joy that surpasses understanding.

  40. “No disrespect intended, but it sounds to me like you did not understand the classical Protestant doctrine of justification in particular, or of soteriology more generally. No one who does would ever reject the Reformed view of justification because he didn’t want to be merely accepted as he was, but changed from within. It’s a false dilemma if there ever was one. Now, you’re free to reject Reformed justification for other reasons (like, say, you think it is unbiblical). But to reject it because it effects no inward change is just a misunderstanding of the position that could have been easily cleared up by simply reading our confessions or catechisms.”

    Now whether I have a decent grasp of the Reformation construals of justification I will have to let others judge. I have read voluminously on the subject over the past three decades. Judge for yourself:

    http://pontifications.wordpress.com/justification/

    http://pontifications.wordpress.com/justification-ii/

    The real question is, What problem (spiritual, theological, homiletical, pastoral) does imputational righteousness intend to solve? Clearly we aren’t just debating theological formulae and trying to figure out who has the superior or more biblical or more patristic or more whatever ordo salutis–that would not account for the energy and passion we invest in the justification debate.

    So what really animates the Reformed on justification? It’s by no means clear, at least to me. Lutherans are much easier to figure out. For Lutherans, it’s all about giving unconditional forgiveness through Word and Sacrament. The entire Lutheran system is structured to short-circuit any and every introspective turn to the self: listen to the gospel, taste the gospel, believe the gospel. The whole point of the imputation of righteousness is to place the responsibility for personal salvation completely on God. What problem does the Lutheran construal of justification solve? The problem of divine wrath and condemnation. By faith we may enjoy assurance of salvation in the present moment. Lutherans must insist that saving faith is not formed by love because the whole point of the sola fide is to direct attention away from self to Christ and his promises.

    But the Reformed system is different, as Luther immediately recognized in his debates with Zwingli. The Reformed can recite the same justification by faith words that the Lutherans recite, yet they function differently for the Reformed. Certainly the history of Reformed spirituality demonstrates that the question of assurance can be as acute, if not more acute, in Reformed circles as in Lutheran circles. What problem does the Reformed construal (and perhaps I should say “construals”) solve? Divine wrath and condemnation, yes. Assurance of salvation, yes–but more specifically assurance that one has been eternally and unconditionally predestined to salvation. If Philip Cary is correct, Calvin was the first theologian to teach that Christian believers can have confident assurance that they are numbered among the elect: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2215011/Why-Luther-is-not-quite-Protestant-by-Phillip-Cary. (I’ve been told that Bucer anticipated Calvin on this point.)

    The classical Reformed construal of justification is haunted and driven by the predestinating decrees of the Almighty. The Reformed maintain the Lutheran sola fide, but it functions differently within Reformed preaching and the spiritual life. For the Reformed, the sola gratia is simply the proclamation that out of the massa damnata God has eternally chosen some for salvation, whom he will bring to conversion, faith, and holiness by his irresistible grace. Election is unconditional, yet the gospel can only be proclaimed in a conditional mode, given that the preacher does not know which, if any, of his hearers have been predestined to eternal life. This does not mean that assurance is impossible, but it must be achieved by a different route, namely, by reflecting upon one’s life and discipleship.

    But what happens when the classical Reformed doctrine of predestination ceases to be proclaimed from the Reformed pulpit, either because the Reformed preacher has been influenced by Barth or because he has become a closet Arminian? What purpose does the sola fide then serve?

  41. I’ve been working my way through St. Thomas More’s “Dialogue Concerning Heresies”, and among the (many) points he blasts Luther on, this is one of the largest: That “faith alone” excludes the essential role charity plays in salvation. I’m not a Luther scholar, so I’m really not sure how Luther himself would have or did respond to such claims. To be honest, though, it seems like most of the Protestant/Catholic disagreements in this area involve a number of definitional ambiguities (particularly over whether “salvation” is the one instant where a person shifts status from non-Christian to Christian [which is the way Protestants often talk] or an ongoing process [which is more often the way Catholics and Eastern Orthodox talk.]) From what I can tell of Lutheran doctrine -> Protestant doctrine, they seem to argue that at that one instant, it is “faith alone” which saves (regardless of past or future works). But if salvation is clarified to be meant in that broader sense, most everyone that I’ve read is onboard with including charity/love as a key aspect of salvation. In other words, once you can nail down the definitions, there often isn’t as much disagreement as one would otherwise see. :-)

    That, or maybe you Catholics just wised up and started agreeing with us Protestants who were right all along anyways. *dodges rotten vegetables tossed onstage* ;-)

    ~Benjamin

  42. Thanks, Jason, for the response.

    I suppose I disagree that Catholic teaching undermines the graciousness of the Gospel/of God. You well know there’s a pluarlity of views a Catholic can adopt (I do not recognize the pelagian position you describe as an option) on the metaphysics, and perhaps you’d find some schools of thought more palatable than others. As to the eternal security of the person who has at any time been justified (and I was actually thinking of this as a possible reason for believing that the reformed version of the gospel is cooler), I’m not sure this exemplifies more grace than a comparable Lutheran or Catholic view. I can see why it might look like that prima facie, though, just as I can see why, prima facie, God would seem to be even more gracious if He never “passed over” or left anyone in their sin, or if a universalist-cum-inclusivist theory were right, or if you didn’t even have to believe anything to “get saved,” say. That would seem to exemplify a maximal degree of divine grace. But assuming such positions aren’t right, and assuming that God is, nevertheless, perfectly gracious, it seems to me I shouldn’t assign much evidential weight to what appears to me, prima facie, to exemplify more grace, but should infer instead that my initial assessments about degrees of divine grace can sometimes go awry. That’s what I think about the eternal security thesis, too. But in any case, it seems to me that it isn’t eternal security specifically that’s supposed to make the reformed take on how justification and sanctification (and faith and works) relate so much better sounding to everyone. It’s supposed to be, in effect, that Catholicism tells you you’ve got to work your way into heaven and make yourself perfect and maybe even find a way to pay back God for all the rotten things you have done, whereas the reformed story says that Jesus did everything already and God loves us very much. That’s the sort of “broad-brush” way of parsing things that many find appealing, and I don’t see that it has any grounding in reality.

    In general, I’m quite suspicious of what I have called the “advertising” for the reformed point of view, especially as a means of influencing peoples’ comparison of Catholicism and reformed thought. The allegedly massive rift on the questions of faith, justification, sanctification, grace, synergism and the like, which is supposed to sustain a kind of yawning gulf between Geneva (where people rest and are generally at peace) and Rome (where people toil and freak out), diminishes considerably when the specter of antinomianism or cheap grace arises. That was my main point.

    I should mention straightaway that I haven’t seen you do this. The advertising, I mean. I didn’t specify who I was paraphrasing from because I figured you would have run into it in Horton and Clark et al., but no matter.

    There’s more to say here but I’ve got to run some errands and make dinner for the kiddos.

    Neal

    PS — Bryan, yes, intresting point about purgatory. Maybe the idea that God has a glorification wand (I’ve always called it a sanctifying ray) whereby He instantly and unilaterally perfects you at the point of death is part of what is supposed to make reformed thought more attractive.

  43. Father Kimmel,

    You make a great point about the Lutherans. I remember reading a four views book on sanctification (if I remember) with Gerhard Forde and Sinclair Ferguson being two of the contributors. The money quote I remember is when Forde in his opening rebuttal of Ferguson wrote of, “this dense Puritan fog” that hangs over his essay. The Lutherans are much easier to figure out what they are saying. I wonder, like you, if so much of the problem with the Reformed conception of things like Justification and Sacraments is due to the fact that for the Reformed what is most important to protect is the doctrine of election, the predestinating decrees of God, as you wrote.. Better minds than mine can answer that.

    Jason,

    I agree that there is much division in the Reformed camp on how to articulate these matters. But where I quibble is to pin it on the FV crowd. Gerstner, God rest his soul, though he died before these matters heated up, would probably not be friendly to the FV. As you know he was Sproul’s mentor, along with many others, who are adamantly opposed to the FV. I was in Chicago at a PCRT in 1996 when Gerstner died. I can remember Sproul, in a way only he could do it with his voice, said, “Lord, the charioteer of Israel has fallen.” My quote was from Gerstner who said “working faith.” I still am not sure how what he said is different from what Pope Benedict said, yet, will Dr. Clark say the same thing of Gerstner that he said of the Pope? My thoughts are, if not, why not?

    Andrew,

    Yes, that whole Lordship debate was interesting. Zane Hodges, God rest his soul, in his book Absolutely Free, went so far as to say, if I remember correctly, that if one accepted Christ and then later in life rejected Him, he would still be saved. Horton edited a book on the controversy.

  44. Tom,

    I am not so sure you are right about Gerstner. He was a preparationalist and wasn’t necessarily on the same page with everything of the more Neo-Reformed of today. I distinctly recall him being in town and going on the White Horse Inn show speaking about Preparationalism and Horton nearly had a coronary on air (given his more Lutheran views of sanctification-there isn’t any). That show was never made available for purchase and never saw the light of day.

  45. Perry,

    Very interesting. This notion is prevalent amongst the Puritans, of which Gerstner definitely identified much of his theology with.

  46. Our Gospel today was Jesus saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Most of the commandments are action-oriented.

    We are good friends with a Baptist couple who believe in “once saved, always saved.” I once asked the husband if a young woman I knew, who had done an “altar call” at age 8, would go to heaven if she died immediately while engaged in serious sin. At the time, the young woman was wildly promiscuous, abused alcohol and drugs, lied, stole, you name it…God was nowhere in her life. The Baptist husband told me he believed she was just fine and would go to heaven as quickly as Mother Teresa. That stunned me, to realize that he believed we are justified by nothing more than a one-time verbal acknowledgment of Christ as our Redeemer. After that, nothing else matters. You can torture and murder children and you’ll go to heaven without any temporal or spiritual consequences. They did believe that a person who lived in sin after confession their faith in Christ was “cheapening” the grace of salvation, but other than scandal to others, there were no actual consequences to offending God.

    The idea that we can be justified by faith alone is something some people will buy as a theology, but I guarantee they would balk if treated to this kind of “love” in real life. Love is action, not a feeling or thought. People know that words mean nothing if they are not backed up by action. Jesus was clear about this. He said that we would keep his commandments if we love him. Conversely, if we do not keep his commandments, we don’t love him. And God is the consummate gentleman; he’s not going to force himself on anyone. If you don’t love him, he’s not going to force you to be with him in heaven. It’s not even a matter of punishment, per se. It’s a matter of God respecting our free will. And even our abuse of free will.

  47. Jesus also said that “love covers a multitude of sins.” I think love justifies because love is the essential essence of God. To the extent that we love, we become more like God, and that increasing holiness brings us closer to being capable of being in his all-holy presence in heaven.

    I see it as being like parenting my children. When they do something that is loving, though they may love imperfectly, they are growing in holiness. And as a parent, I adore them and so I’m pleased they are trying so I’m willing to be wholly generous toward them. God could easily have made it so that the only chance we get to purify ourselves and learn to be perfectly loving is in this lifetime. But he is so generous that he is willing to accept our imperfect love here as justification for salvation. I don’t think we can ever truly justify the gift of salvation, but in his mercy, God is willing to take our meager attempts.

  48. Jason, (re: #38)

    Sorry for the delay; we were celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi (here are a couple photos), and I didn’t get home until after midnight, so I wasn’t able to reply until just now.

    In my previous comment I wasn’t assuming or suggesting that the only motivation a person can have for obedience is either fear of punishment or hope of reward, as though love for God has no role in obedience. Rather, for a Catholic, God Himself is both the object of our love, and the reward for which we hope. Perfect love casts out [servile] fear, but it does not cast out hope during this present life. Because God Himself is our reward, the notion that we must choose between motivation by hope of reward or motivation by love is a false dilemma. Our present labor of love not only gives greater glory to God but also gives us a greater share in God as the object of our love in the life to come. Christ said, “He that loves Me, shall be loved of My Father; and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21) The reward for loving Christ is a greater share in the love of God, and the divine self-disclosure (i.e. “manifest Myself to him”) that Jesus calls “eternal life.” (“And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” – John 17:3) Eternal life is in this way the reward for charity.

    So our love for God is not indifferent with respect to ourselves, as though it has nothing to do with our own self-fulfillment. Our love for God is neither altruism nor egoism. At the deepest level, there is always a self-referring and self-fulfilling aspect to our love for God and others, precisely because in these acts, we are pursuing God whom we most deeply desire. There’s no getting behind our deepest desire, and acting independently of it. There is always an appetitive dimension to every human act, even our love for God. The writer of Hebrews says that to please God, we must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Heb 11:6) That is, we cannot please Him if we do not believe He rewards those who seek Him. The reward is the Christian hope; this is what we desire, the reward of seeing God face-to-face.

    Of course in heaven there is no more hope, but neither is there despair, as St. Thomas explains:

    Now hope takes its species from its principal object, even as the other virtues do, … and its principal object is eternal happiness as being possible to obtain by the assistance of God …. Since then the arduous possible good cannot be an object of hope except in so far as it is something future, it follows that when happiness is no longer future, but present, it is incompatible with the virtue of hope. Consequently hope, like faith, is voided in heaven, and neither of them can be in the blessed. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.18 a.2)

    That does not mean that in heaven our desire for God is eliminated or destroyed; rather, it is entirely and perfectly satisfied. The bottom line is this: the Catholic tradition has never held that we must choose between seeking a reward from God, and loving God. And the reason is that God Himself is our reward, so the dichotomy breaks down.

    Concerning that quotation from Turretin which you mentioned in comment #25: “Are good works necessary for salvation? We affirm.” There he says that good works are necessary as

    the means and way for possessing salvation. … they should be considered necessary to the obtainment of it, so that no one can be saved without them.

    He does not mean that our good works contribute to salvation; he doesn’t believe that our good works contribute anything to our salvation. He means that good works necessarily follow justification, the way smoke necessarily follows fire. But the notion that good works do not contribute anything to our salvation, even though they necessarily follow justification, does not provide any incentive for striving after holiness and sanctification.

    Your response might be, “But of course we believe there is an incentive: love and gratitude.” The problem with that position, from my point of view, is that we ordinarily express love and gratitude in ways that we believe make some sort of a difference to the person we are loving and to whom we are grateful. So if when God looks at us He sees Christ, then it makes no difference before God how we live. He is not more or less pleased by our choices; He is already and permanently as pleased as He can possibly be with us, on account of Christ’s righteousness having been imputed to us (and all our sins having already been imputed to Him). This is what simul iustus et peccator implies:

    If we know that He will be no more or less pleased with our expression of gratitude and love toward Him, and that nothing we can do can please Him (or what is the same, that nothing we can do can displease Him), then it follows that He is no more pleased by a life spent pursuing holiness than He is with a simple “thank you.” In that case it is not better to spend one’s life pursuing holiness than not to do so, because it ultimately makes no difference whether one does so or not. It makes no difference to God (for the reason I just explained), and it makes no difference with respect to us at the Judgment, because all our sanctification issues will be taken care of instantly and painlessly by the ‘glorification wand’ (or ‘sanctification ray’) at the moment of death. Because the manner and degree to which we express our gratitude and love makes no difference to God and to us, there is for this reason no incentive to suffer or sacrifice to pursue holiness in this life.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. CTC

    Bryan and Mike,

    Following up on my #31, I was thinking more about the RC view of faith over the weekend. As I understand it, Aquinas (and the RCC?) maintain that when we die, and are with God, we no longer have “faith.” If my understanding of that is correct, this seems to be one of the biggest differences between Protestant conceptions of faith and RC conceptions of faith. For the former, faith is essentially trust. For the latter, faith is an epistemological category. So, under the Protestant conception, the dead in Christ continue to trust in God’s providence and goodness etc.; whereas, under the RC conception, the dead in Christ no longer have faith because they don’t need such an epistemic category anymore. Is that accurate, in your opinion?

    Also, just an additional point of clarification. Would you say that, for the RC, knowledge considered on the natural (as opposed to supernatural) plane is justified, true belief? Is so, I’m still not quite clear why the supernatural plane is so different. I’m sure you agree that we’re ‘justified’ in believing the content of supernatural revelation. And I’m also sure that you agree that content, properly understood, is true. So, again, draw the distinction between knowledge on the supernatural level and the natural level? I understand the point about some items of supernatural revelation being totally unknowable, even in principle, via natural reason alone. And I agree with that point. I’m confused why we don’t want to say that the standard definition (at least in analytic philosophy) of knowledge doesn’t apply in the case of supernaturally revealed truths.

  50. Ryan,

    In heaven we no longer have faith, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (Heb 11:1) Faith is “through a glass darkly.” But in heaven we will see face to face. (1 Cor 13:12) This is why in heaven there is no faith or hope, while love remains.

    Trust is an act in which one places oneself in a dependency relation on another, based on a belief about the other’s goodness and power. But trust per se does not presuppose love, or contain love within it. It contains within it a belief about the other person’s goodness and power. But that’s not the same thing as agape. I could trust a person that I also hate. Friendship requires goodwill, but it requires more than goodwill. Goodwill (i.e. benevolence) is insufficient for friendship, because for friendship the goodwill must not only be mutual, and mutually known, it must also be mutually reciprocated. Trust does not entail mutual reciprocity of goodwill. And because charity is friendship, and trust does not entail friendship, therefore trust does not entail charity.

    The demons trust God to keep His promises. That’s why they tremble, not out of uncertainty about whether He will keep His promises. That’s why Satan took God at His word about letting him afflict Job. Trust alone, without charity (i.e. agape), is not sufficient for salvation. Only those who die in a state of friendship with God (i.e. having sanctifying grace and charity) enter into eternal life. Of course the blessed in heaven trust God; but they also love God.

    As for your question about ‘knowledge,’ the Catholic Church was entrusted with the deposit of faith, so questions of science and philosophy belong to their own domains, and the Church does not offer positive teaching about their particular truths, except insofar as they belong to the deposit of faith. So it is not as though the Church has a doctrine about knowledge. There is a Catholic philosophical tradition, a tradition of philosophy that has developed within and under the guidance of the Church. MacIntyre writes about that in his God, Philosophy, Universities. Jacques Maritain wrote about it as well, as did Ralph McInerny. You might find the Catholic Encyclopedia article on ‘Knowledge‘ to be helpful.

    You seem to be asking why faith is not knowledge. Faith is not knowledge because now we cannot see God, even in principle, by any natural means. St. Thomas write:

    Faith implies assent of the intellect to that which is believed. Now the intellect assents to a thing in two ways. First, through being moved to assent by its very object, which is known either by itself (as in the case of first principles, which are held by the habit of understanding), or through something else already known (as in the case of conclusions which are held by the habit of science). Secondly the intellect assents to something, not through being sufficiently moved to this assent by its proper object, but through an act of choice, whereby it turns voluntarily to one side rather than to the other: and if this be accompanied by doubt or fear of the opposite side, there will be opinion, while, if there be certainty and no fear of the other side, there will be faith. Now those things are said to be seen which, of themselves, move the intellect or the senses to knowledge of them. Wherefore it is evident that neither faith nor opinion can be of things seen either by the senses or by the intellect. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.1 a.4)

    Faith, like opinion, is not knowledge, because the intellect is not moved to assent by its very object; the object of faith is not seen either with the intellect or with the senses. Faith requires a choice on the part of the will. And this is what makes the act of faith meritorious. Otherwise faith (and this present pilgrimage of faith) would have no purpose.

    In article five of that same question St. Thomas writes:

    All science is derived from self-evident and therefore “seen” principles; wherefore all objects of science must needs be, in a fashion, seen. Now as stated above (Article 4), it is impossible that one and the same thing should be believed and seen by the same person. Hence it is equally impossible for one and the same thing to be an object of science and of belief for the same person. It may happen, however, that a thing which is an object of vision or science for one, is believed by another: since we hope to see some day what we now believe about the Trinity, according to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face”: which vision the angels possess already; so that what we believe, they see. On like manner it may happen that what is an object of vision or scientific knowledge for one man, even in the state of a wayfarer, is, for another man, an object of faith, because he does not know it by demonstration. Nevertheless that which is proposed to be believed equally by all, is equally unknown by all as an object of science: such are the things which are of faith simply. Consequently faith and science are not about the same things. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.1 a.5)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  51. Jason (re: #33)

    You wrote:

    We speak this way because this is how we read Scripture and how it speaks. “Justification,” for Paul, means a legal acquittal. “Salvation,” however, is obviously broader than the courtroom metaphor, including things like sanctification and adoption. Should we just eliminate the differences of meaning in all these words? No, we should endeavor to employ them the way Scripture does. Hence, we say that justification is a legal declaration that God makes about the sinner, but there’s more to the salvation of that sinner than merely this declaration.

    Perhaps we can dig a little deeper, and find the reason why we diverge here. It seems to me that when you say “justification, for Paul, means a legal acquittal” this does not explain (or partially explain) the Catholic-Protestant disagreement about justification. That’s because Catholics can and do affirm that “justification, for Paul, means a legal acquittal.” So that shared belief doesn’t explain the disagreement about justification.

    There are different ways in which one can be legally acquitted. In a human court of law, the judge’s acquittal changes the defendant’s status under the law. The judge, being fallible and not omniscient, bases this judgment on the evidence available. The defendant may in fact be actually guilty (i.e. actually have committed the crime), but if the judge pronounces him innocent, then he is legally innocent even if actually (before God) guilty. The judge’s declaration of ‘innocent’ doesn’t make the guilty man innocent without qualification; it makes him ‘innocent in the eyes of the [human] law’. The judge’s judgment does not change whether he is actually guilty or actually innocent; it changes only his status in relation to the [human] law. So that’s one way to be legally acquitted. If God justifies us in this way, then justification per se does not change what we are internally (even if an internal change necessarily follows or accompanies); it only changes our relation to the divine law, while (in itself) leaving our internal state unchanged.

    But another way in which we could be legally acquitted is through God changing our internal state from that of enmity with God (and thus under divine law deserving of eternal separation from God), to a state of grace and adoption as sons of God, such that the legal acquittal is based on what we truly are inside (i.e. righteous). Therefore, because there are (at least) these two possible ways of God legally acquitting us, the superiority of the Protestant doctrine of justification over that of the Catholic doctrine of justification is not in the least supported by noting that justification, for Paul, means a legal acquittal, since both parties accept that claim. What is needed, to support the Protestant doctrine of justification over that of the Catholic doctrine of justification, is evidence that in Scripture, justification is not legal-acquittal-by-being-made-right-internally, but only a legal-acquittal-by-being-made-right-externally followed by (or accompanied by) a gradual movement internally toward being right internally.

    So even if we were limiting ourselves to the lexical method, what exegetical evidence would require the Protestant justification-as-being-made-right-externally construal of legal acquittal over the Catholic justification-as-legal-acquittal-by-being-made-right-internally construal of legal acquittal?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  52. Bryan,

    If we know that He will be no more or less pleased with our expression of gratitude and love toward Him, and that nothing we can do can please Him (or what is the same, that nothing we can do can displease Him), then it follows that He is no more pleased by a life spent pursuing holiness than He is with a simple “thank you.” In that case it is not better to spend one’s life pursuing holiness than not to do so, because it ultimately makes no difference whether one does so or not. It makes no difference to God (for the reason I just explained), and it makes no difference with respect to us at the Judgment, because all our sanctification issues will be taken care of instantly and painlessly by the ‘glorification wand’ (or ’sanctification ray’) at the moment of death. Because the manner and degree to which we express our gratitude and love makes no difference to God and to us, there is for this reason no incentive to suffer or sacrifice to pursue holiness in this life.

    I must say, I do not even come close to recognizing my own position is this caricature, nor do I think any Reformed person who knows the tradition would see this as anything but a strawman.

    We have to be careful about the so-called “logical consequences” of people’s belief systems. In my mind, there is no hope for dialogue as long as I tell you what the logical outcome of your theology is, and likewise, we’ll never get anywhere as long as you attribute to me what you consider to be the ramifications of my theology.

    How many times did I hear (in my Calvary Chapel days) that Calvinism makes evangelism unnecessary? And yet, lo and behold, I discovered that most of the greatest Protestant missionaries were Calvinists. Likewise, Catholic piety looks to us like little more than doing what you want, confessing to a priest, and then being told to say five Hail Marys and nine Our Fathers. Is that a fair characterization? I’m guessing you’ll say “no.” And I’ll further guess that all my arguments to convince you that that’s what your beliefs boil down to will be to no avail.

    So for my part, until there is an honest attempt to speak about Reformed theology on its own terms rather than simply telling me what my theology really amounts to, I just don’t see any point in dialoguing any further.

  53. “The problem with that position, from my point of view, is that we ordinarily express love and gratitude in ways that we believe make some sort of a difference to the person we are loving and to whom we are grateful. So if when God looks at us He sees Christ, then it makes no difference before God how we live. He is not more or less pleased by our choices; He is already and permanently as pleased as He can possibly be with us, on account of Christ’s righteousness having been imputed to us (and all our sins having already been imputed to Him).”

    Bryan, I was wondering if you might elaborate further on how how our actions (either good or bad) make a difference to God. I think that some clarification might help our Reformed friends to better understand the Catholic understanding of justification. And to make things even more interesting, let me throw the following spanner from Fr Herbert McCabe, no Thomistic slouch himself, into the works:

    “His love for us doesn’t depend on what we do or what we are like. He doesn’t care whether we are sinners or not. It makes no difference to him. He is just waiting to welcome us with joy and love. Sin doesn’t alter God’s attitude to us; it alters our attitude to him, so that we change him from the God who is simply love and nothing else, into this punitive ogre, this Satan. Sin matters enormously to us if we are sinners; it doesn’t matter at all to God. In a fairly literal sense he doesn’t give a damn about our sin. It is we who give the damns. We damn ourselves because we would rather justify ourselves, than be taken out of ourselves by the infinite love of God. … Never be deluded into thinking that if you have contrition, if you are sorry for your sins, God will come and forgive you–that he will be touched by your appeal, change his mind about you and forgive you. He is simply in love with you. What he does again and again is change your mind about him. That is why you are sorry. That is what your forgiveness is.” (*Faith Within Reason*, p. 157, 158)

  54. Fr. Kimel thanks. I think a lot of this confusion and talking past one another on the issue is due to using analogical language as if it were the proper way to describe God as He actually is. We properly describe Him according to Biblical language of course, but not to the exclusion of necessary truths. It’s ok for us to say “He is slow to anger” because that’s what the Scriptures say. But taken as an absolute description of God, that phrase implies that God eventually gets around to anger – it just takes Him a long time. It implies mutability. That’s not right.

    So we speak of Him judging because the Scriptures do. But if we think of Him judging as we do, then it leads to all kinds of errors. The Reformed position is that God gives us faith and then judges us based on that faith alone. If taken as an absolute description of what actually happens, this is as unintelligible as saying that God gets angry or reacts. The way we Catholics speak of God’s judgment is often unintelligible (taken in that sense) as well. But if we understand this language as analogical rather than absolute (describing God’s judgment is emphatically not like describing what happens at our local courthouse) then this manner of speaking does not necessarily lead to errors.

    We run into error when we start building doctrines that depend on understanding this analogical language as if it were absolute. That is, when we start understanding God’s judgment as a *reaction* to something He *learns* by *seeing* us, then we think we have to concoct a doctrine that protects the doctrine of sola gratia. If salvation is a gift, then it can’t be a reaction to anything in *us* (so the Reformed reason). They are right so far. But they err when they deny there’s anything in us. The sentence is correct “Its not a reaction to anything in us” not because there’s nothing in us – but because its not a reaction!

    I should make a more organized blog post out of this.

  55. Jason, (re: #52)

    I’m not trying to advance a caricature. If you think my argument is mistaken, I’ll be glad to learn why. And if you think it is bunk, I’ll just wad it up and throw it in the trash. I very much hope to avoid criticizing a straw man. And I don’t want to quibble over things about which we might mostly agree. The more important things to discuss are the major ones that still separate Protestants and Catholics (e.g. justification).

    But, before I wad it up and throw it in the trash, here’s the reasoning behind it. The argument has two premises, either of which could be false. I’ve included some explanation, so that you see where I’m getting both premises. Here’s the first premise:

    (1) Nothing we can do can make God more or less pleased with us than He already is in Christ.

    The Heidelberg Catechism states, “Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.” And the Belgic Confession reads, “[W]e cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment.” And the WCF states that because our good works “are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, … they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.” (WCF XVI.5). And elsewhere, “[T]here is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation.” (WCF XV.4) So even the very best we can do in this life, even in a state of grace, deserves damnation, because it is stained and defiled with damnable sin. And if even the very best we can do in this life deserves the wrath of eternal damnation, then even the best we can do in this life cannot make God more pleased.

    I understand that the WCF says that God “is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere.” (WCF XVI.6) But since we are “defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body” (WCF VI.2), even our best sincerity is “stained with sin” and “worthy of punishment.” So we can’t show up on Judgment Day with a list of things we did with undefiled sincerity and pure hearts, as though these will please God. On the other hand, if we really can have undefiled sincerity and pure hearts in this life, then, this doesn’t seem compatible with simul iustus et peccator. The question is whether God being “pleased to accept and reward” something from us is a result of what we do, or is the state (on account of Christ) in which He accepts our sin-stained deeds. If the latter, then our sin-stained deeds don’t make God more pleased with us than He already is on account of Christ.

    The idea behind this premise is that we are accepted and loved by the Father entirely on account of Christ who perfectly pleases the Father, not because of anything we do. It is not as though our ‘good’ works make God love us a little more than He loved us on account of Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us. This is why Jerry Bridges writes, “You are loved and accepted by God through the merits of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus.”

    If you think that by our ‘good’ works we can make God more pleased with us than He already is on account of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, I would be surprised.

    The second premise of the argument is:

    (2) Nothing we can do now can make us more or less happy in the afterlife.

    The first reason for this premise is that whether or not we pursue sanctification in this life, any additionally required sanctification is instantly and painlessly procured at the moment of death. So, it is not as though (in Reformed theology) pursuing sanctification now lessens suffering in purgatory after death.

    The second reason for this premise is that (in my fallible understanding), Reformed theology denies that we can merit anything pertaining to heaven, not just getting to heaven but even rewards in heaven. Reformed theology affirms that some people will receive greater rewards in heaven than will others, but it won’t be a result of human merit, but only God rewarding His own gifts, giving to each in heaven according to the measure He gave to them on earth. And (contra semi-Pelagianism) we cannot by our free choices now drum up the divine giving of such gifts. Hence pursuing rewards in heaven is not something we can freely choose now, nor are there any presently available means of obtaining them. They are given by God freely as He chooses to distribute gifts in this present life according to His sovereign will. If we do greater works in this present life, it is only because He was working in us. But if we don’t do greater works in this present life, it is only because He chose not to give us those graces (grace being irresistible). If it really is in our power, now, to choose freely to do things that will bring about greater rewards in heaven, then that would be indistinguishable from a Catholic notion of [congruous] merit. And I’m basing this premise (in part) on the Reformed denial of post-justificatory merit. So given that there is no purgatory, and given that we cannot freely choose to do things that will bring about greater rewards in heaven, it would follow (it seems to me) that there is nothing we can do now to make ourselves more or less happy in heaven.

    I’d be less surprised if you rejected this premise, but perhaps you can at least see how I was getting there.

    Therefore, from (1) and (2):

    (3) There is no incentive to suffer or sacrifice to pursue holiness in this life.

    If you think this is a bad argument, or an unfair caricature, then, I’ll drop it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  56. Fr. Kimel,

    I agree that justification is a change in us, namely, a “translation from that state in which 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.” (Trent 6.4) Our actions, if evil, separate us from the life of God. And God has so ordained that what we do out of love for Him, in a state of grace, deepens our participation in His divine Life. What it means for a saint to be loved more by God is to receive from God a greater participation in God. And in this way the saint who grows in grace is loved more by God, not by any change in God, but by a change in himself, i.e. in his participation in the God who is Love.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  57. “I agree that justification is a change in us, namely, a “translation from that state in which 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.” (Trent 6.4) Our actions, if evil, separate us from the life of God. And God has so ordained that what we do out of love for Him, in a state of grace, deepens our participation in His divine Life. What it means for a saint to be loved more by God is to receive from God a greater participation in God. And in this way the saint who grows in grace is loved more by God, not by any change in God, but by a change in himself, i.e. in his participation in the God who is Love.”

    Well stated.

    Now I’d like to ask the Reformed participants in this discussion, to what do you object in the Catholic claim that through our grace-enabled works we grow into a deeper participation in the God who is Love? If the fear is that Catholics believe that our works somehow “persuade” God to be gracious, then this fear is groundless.

  58. Jason, (re: #25)

    I’m still reflecting on this thread, and one comment in particular grabbed my attention. You wrote:

    In sanctification, God’s righteousness is infused into us (yes, you heard that right), whereby we increase in holiness and godliness all our days.

    In Catholic doctrine, the infusion of grace and agape at the moment of justification instantly makes us truly righteous, even though disordered desires remain in our lower appetites (such disordered desires we call concupiscence). Sanctification includes growth in grace and agape, and also a mastering of those lower appetites. But, even in the first moment after justification, the person is truly righteous, because he is a friend of God, having agape infused into his heart by the Holy Spirit. (Rom 5:5) He is a friend of God who still has disordered desires in his lower appetites. Having these disordered lower desires does not ipso facto make him an enemy of God. If he were to die in that state (i.e. with sanctifying grace and agape in his heart), and stand before God at the Judgment, he would be judged worthy of heaven, because by the agape infused into his heart he is a friend of God.

    In Reformed doctrine, the infusion of God’s righteousness into the justified person does not make that person actually righteous (other than the perfect righteous he has by extrinsic imputation) until after he dies. In other words, at no point during the course of his earthly life after coming to faith is he actually righteous, except by imputation. Throughout his whole earthly life, simul iustus et peccator remains true of him, and the sin that remains in him is damnable (apart from the imputation of Christ’s righteousness). So during his earthly life the infusion of God’s righteousness into him makes him only partially righteous, but not yet fully righteous, and therefore not truly righteous. If he were to stand before God on Judgment Day, and be judged on the partial righteousness he had by divine infusion (and not on Christ’s imputed righteousness), he would have to be sent to hell, because even the smallest sin in him is damnable. But, at the moment of death, any deficiency in the infusion of divine righteousness is filled up by divine infusion, and so he stands before God on Judgment Day fully righteous (not just by imputation, but by infusion).

    So, assuming that those two paragraphs are correct, here’s the question I want to consider. Why, exactly, in Catholic doctrine does the infusion of God’s righteousness instantly make the person truly righteous, while in Protestant doctrine the infusion of God’s righteousness does not make the person truly righteous until after he dies? In Catholic doctrine, the person is instantly made righteous because he instantly acquires agape, and agape is righteousness. His having concupiscence means that his lower appetites are not perfectly ordered to his intellect and will, but he is truly righteous if he has agape. His lower appetites are not the measure of his friendship with God, but rather of his integrity (i.e. integration) as a unified being. It is less clear to me why in Protestant doctrine the infusion of God’s righteousness does not make the person truly righteous until after he dies. I think it is for two reasons. First, in Reformed theology, righteousness is measured by law-keeping. And since even the greatest saint falls short of God’s perfect law every day in thought, word and deed, no one is righteous, not even one. The verse in James is doing much of the work here, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10) (The Catholic understanding of that verse is that James is talking about mortal sin.) Second, in Reformed theology, concupiscence is sin. Disordered desires are themselves hateful in God’s sight, and thus sufficient (apart from extrinsic imputation of Christ’s righteousness) to damn a soul.

    Regarding the first reason, if agape fulfills the law (Rom 13:10, Gal 5:14), then it seems that there can be a distinction between sins that go against agape, and sins that fall short of agape but do not go against it. And the Church Fathers make this distinction. St. Augustine, for example, writes:

    For as, on the one hand, there are certain venial sins which do not hinder the righteous man from the attainment of eternal life, and which are unavoidable in this life, so, on the other hand, there are some good works which are of no avail to an ungodly man towards the attainment of everlasting life, although it would be very difficult to find the life of any very bad man whatever entirely without them. (On the Spirit and the Letter, 48)

    St. Thomas also distinguishes between mortal and venial sin by explaining that mortal sin destroys agape, which is the principle by which we are directed to heaven as our supernatural end. So if agape is lost, the person is no longer ordered toward heaven, but instead toward some creature (e.g. himself). And he cannot be restored to friendship with God except by the power of God, since agape is supernatural, and we cannot give ourselves what we do not have. Venial sins, by contrast, do not destroy agape, but are disordered in relation the the agape that remains present within the soul. (See Summa Theologica I-II Q.88 a.1)

    In Scripture we see that St. Peter says, “love covers the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) As long as agape remains in the soul (i.e. there is no mortal sin), venial sins are not damning. And St. John makes this distinction between mortal and venial quite explicit at the end of his first epistle. Even earlier in the epistle he says that no one who is born of God sins (1 John 3:9; 5:18), but at the same time he says that if we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves and making God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). Those four verses are reconciled with each other by the mortal/venial distinction St. John makes at the end of his letter. (1 John 5:16-17)

    My point here is that if we go ‘behind’ the law to see the role that agape is playing in the fulfillment of the law, then instead of making righteousness equivalent to fulfilling the letter, we can see righteousness as the fulfillment of the spirit, even when we fall short in the letter.

    Regarding the second point (i.e. whether concupiscence is sin), St. Augustine writes:

    Concupiscence, therefore, as the law of sin which remains in the members of this body of death, is born with infants. In baptized infants, it is deprived of guilt, is left for the struggle [of life], but pursues with no condemnation, such as die before the struggle. Unbaptized infants it implicates as guilty and as children of wrath, even if they die in infancy, draws into condemnation. In baptized adults, however, endowed with reason, whatever consent their mind gives to this concupiscence for the commission of sin is an act of their own will. After all sins have been blotted out [by baptism], and that guilt has been cancelled which by nature bound men in a conquered condition, it still remains—but not to hurt in any way those who yield no consent to it for unlawful deeds—until death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54) and, in that perfection of peace, nothing is left to be conquered. Such, however, as yield consent to it for the commission of unlawful deeds, it holds as guilty; and unless, through the medicine of repentance, and through works of mercy, by the intercession in our behalf of the heavenly High Priest, they be healed, it conducts us to the second death and utter condemnation. (On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk II, chapter 4)

    According to St. Augustine, concupiscence in the justified is not in itself sinful; rather it becomes sinful (in the sense of being the occasion of sin) if we consent to it. But if we resist it, then it is not sinful. That’s St. Thomas’s position as well (cf. Summa Theologica I-II Q.82). Elsewhere he writes, “[S]in considered in its essence is something proceeding from the will, for it is from this that it derives the character of guilt.” Since concupiscence is in the lower appetites, and not in the will, it is not in itself sinful. One has to consent to it voluntarily (i.e. willfully) in order for there to be actual sin (as opposed to a disposition toward sin). (Summa Theologica I-II Q.87 a.2) And the fifth session of the Council of Trent likewise taught that concupiscence itself is not sinful, as I explained here.

    It seems to me that if we can agree that agape fulfills the law, then this opens up the possibility for agreeing about the distinction between mortal and venial sin. And then, even if we do not agree that concupiscence is not itself sinful, the possibility that it is only a venial sin would allow us to agree that the person having agape is truly righteous (even apart from extrinsic imputation) and that in a qualified sense, simul iustus et peccator is true of the believer, because we all sin [venially] every day.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. Bryan (re. #58),

    Thanks for that very helpful post. A few thougths.

    1. re. the mortal v. venial distinction

    As a lifelong and current Protestant (though a waffling one), I’ve found the mortal v. venial distinction to be extremely helpful for two broad reasons. First, it has a lot of explanatory power (exegetically, philosophically, and theologically). Second, it does seem deeply rooted in Christian tradition. It seems to me, though, that most Protestants are committed to collapse the distinction (though, of course, they may not realize that commitment) on pain of internal inconsistency. The main reason, it seems to me, is the idea of justification by faith alone. If all your sins (past, present, and future) have been forgiven, then there just is no need for the mortal/venial distinction. I just can’t see how Protestants can simultaneously and consistently hold the views (1) that all their sins are forgiven (past, present, and future) and (2) that there is a distinction between categories of sin that depends on whether the sin causes the sinner to be set against God in such a way that the sinner loses salvation.

    This doesn’t reduce to whether one believes “once saved always saved.” Even those who reject that, in my experience, don’t think that you’ve lost your salvation because you committed a mortal sin. They tend to say that you’ve lost your salvation because you chose to give it up in the sense that you’ve decided not to be a Christian anymore (and become a Buddhist etc. or nothing at all).

    2. re. the reliance on agape

    You rely quite heavily on agape in your comment, and understandably so. But to ensure we understand your position, could be define what you mean by agape. I’ve always understood agape lexically. A good lexical definition I heard is that agape is: ‘other-directed, self-sacrificial, choose-based love.’ Here agape is being distinguished from storge (the love of affection or approval); philos (the love of friendship) and eros (the love of passion/sex). Would you agree with this understand of agape? It seems that you’ve got other things (additional things, not necessarily contrary things) in mind in your comment when you refer to agape.

  60. Ryan, (re: #59)

    Regarding the incompatibility of the mortal/venial distinction with believing that all one’s past, present and future sins have been forgiven, good point. Trying to hold the two together would imply either that there are no mortal sins, or that no person once justified person ever commits a mortal sin.

    Regarding agape, I sometimes forget that Protestants are generally coming at terms in Scripture by way of the lexicon, and without the aid of the tradition. (I wrote about that distinction here.) In the tradition, agape (or in the Latin, caritas, translated into English as ‘charity’) has a theologically rich meaning, and it is crucial to the Protestant-Catholic disagreement about justification. I recommend reading St. Thomas’s Summa Theologica II-II Q.23, and the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Love.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. In today’s gospel reading (Luke 7:36 – 8:3), we see this:

    47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
    48 And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
    49 Then those who were at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
    50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

    Here’s the question prompted by the reading: When Jesus says to the woman, “Your faith has saved you,” is He talking about her faith alone (i.e. in itself, apart from her love), or is He talking about a faith-informed-by-charity?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  62. Fr. Kimel (#27), you said:

    I realized I didn’t want to be “accepted” as I was in my sin and egotism. That would not be salvation. I want to be delivered from my sin and egotism and made into a person capable of love and thus sharing in the community of the Holy Trinity. Hence it no longer makes sense to me to speak of justification apart from love.

    You reminded me of something Origen wrote in his commentary on Romans:

    “It is my opinion, in fact, that even if someone could escape God’s judgment, he ought not desire to. For not to come to God’s judgment would mean not to come to correction, to the restoration of health and to that which heals.”

    Like you, I think I’ve lost the ability to think of Justification apart from love. Theosis is the end goal, but it starts now.

  63. Wonderful quotation from Origen. Thanks!

  64. Tim,

    This short post enlightens a lot all over the world.

    We profit SALVATION by grace through faith. Of course we have to work for that salvation, not lose it but obtain it everyday. This simply means we will not go sinning again and again. For FAITH without WORK is dead.

    Peter
    LN, Philippines

  65. I could not read every input in this thread, but I would like to leave a comment in hopes that someone will deal with it even if it was addressed earlier.
    I believe that the Reformed are saying faith alone justifies because we believe that adding “something” else would negate the propitiation of Christ. The RC seems to add in more things to their Christian life and worship that looks like it sends the Son of God to the periphery.
    We are convicted that we cannot possibly “do” as we should and so we fall completely on the merits of Christ. Christians know that we must have love and a Christian is convicted when they aren’t acting charitible, but when we fail to show love or have love in our hearts, should we despair that we will be left outside of Heaven? This is adding to faith because salvation is now conditional our being perfect, which of course, we aren’t. Faith and Love are tied together and if this is the only “work” Rome is speaking about, than why isn’t it a cinch to repair the schism? It must be that a Christian’s failings will, according to the RC, keep him from the beatific vision. We want to maintain that there is nothing between the Father, who will judge on the last day, and us but the full satifaction of Christ. You all know this. How do you answer?

  66. Faith and Love are tied together and if this is the only “work” Rome is speaking about, than why isn’t it a cinch to repair the schism? It must be that a Christian’s failings will, according to the RC, keep him from the beatific vision.

    Alicia, that is a non sequitur. It does not follow that if many Protestants refuse to return to the Catholic Church, it must mean that the Church teaches that our failings will keep us from Heaven.

    With that said, according to the Scriptures, there are most certainly things that we can do to keep us from Heaven. e.g. Adulterers, Idol Worshippers, Drunkards, etc. will not enter Heaven *precisely* because of their behavior. The fact is, when it comes to final judgment and deciding whether a person goes to heaven or hell, the overwhelming majority of the time, Scripture speaks of our actions as deciding where we will go (I’m sure you know this already). We have to balance that large number of passages with the very few passages mentioning faith as part of it, and we have to be guided by the Catholic Church to know the limitations of orthodox belief here. We can try to come up with our own ideas of how to interpret Scripture, as the first Protestants did, and if that’s enough for you, then I hope that works out for you. But for me, I cannot imagine that I will be able to debate theology with God. I cannot bring up the Westminster Confession of Faith before the Judgment Throne. I need to be taught the truth by someone who knows what it is. If the Catholic Church doesn’t know what it is, then no one does.

  67. Alicia writes: We are convicted that we cannot possibly “do” as we should and so we fall completely on the merits of Christ.

    Alicia, would please explain to me why you think that that Christians “cannot possibly ‘do’ as we should”?

    Christ has made it plain what standard of perfection he expects his disiples to meet:

    You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    Matthew 5:48

    No doubt, this is a high standard! But why would Christ give us this commandment if what he is commanding of us is impossible?

    Can we ever meet Christ’s standard of perfection out of our own effort, an effort that is unaided by the grace of God? No we can’t do that. Apart from Christ, we will never “do as we should”, but with God, all things are possible. That is the Good News, and to have saving faith is to believe that with God’s grace, we can meet Christ’s commandment to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” To deny that, is to reject the Gospel.

    “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

    “ … if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matt 17:20

    “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

    “Apart from me you can do nothing” – I think that is a good “life verse”.

    Alicia writes: Christians know that we must have love and a Christian is convicted when they aren’t acting charitable, but when we fail to show love or have love in our hearts, should we despair that we will be left outside of Heaven?

    Despair isn’t the proper response to the Good News, but it is also all right to admit that what Christ is asking of his disciples isn’t easy. To love perfectly as Jesus loves perfectly – why would that be easy for us? Still, that is what Christ commands of his disciples:

    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34

    Perfection consists in perfect charity, and if we fail to show charity, we should be honest with ourselves – admit where we have failed, make amends, and receive forgiveness for our failings through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we repent of our sin, and make a firm resolution to strive for perfection in charity, we will the receive the grace we need to accomplish that goal through the Sacraments of Christ’s church. God is on our side if we are struggling to be perfect in our charity! We should take comfort in that, and rest in the knowledge that God will give us the grace that is sufficient for our salvation. Perfection in charity is not something that is achieved overnight.

    “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. Matt 6:34

    “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    III. THE CONVERSION OF THE BAPTIZED

    1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.

    1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.

    Peace to you on your journey – God is on your side.

  68. Christopher . The “if ” of pope Benedict XVI makes all the difference , because our works are not just to ” show ” that we have true faith as the reformed claim , but our works are necessary for salvation , our works are the fruits which our Lord is demanding from us .
    I am going to quote saint Augustine,when he spoke of faith and works (unfortunatly i have to write in Latin) 14. 23. Iacobus autem tam vehementer infestus est eis qui sapiunt fidem sine operibus valere ad salutem, ut illos etiam daemonibus comparet, dicens: Tu credis quoniam unus est Deus: bene facis; et daemones credunt, et contremiscunt 57. Quid brevius, verius, vehementius dici potuit, cum et in Evangelio legamus hoc dixisse daemonia, cum Christum Filium Dei confiterentur, et ab illo corriperentur 58, quod in Petri confessione laudatum est? Quid proderit, ait Iacobus, fratres mei, si fidem dicat se quis habere, opera autem non habeat? Numquid poterit fides salvare eum? 59 Dicit etiam: Quia fides sine operibus mortua est 60. Quousque ergo falluntur, qui de fide mortua sibi vitam perpetuam pollicentur?
    Practically , saint Augustine is saying that a dead faith (faith without works ) does not save anyone, a faith which does not manifest itself in love does not save .
    So again , it`s not a question of true faith or false faith (as the reformed claim ) but a living faith (faith and works ) or a dead faith ( faith alone ) . To prove this , in first Cornthians chapter 13 , saint Paul speaks and says (if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing).
    As you can see , saint Paul did not speak of a false faith , but all the faith , complete faith but no love , it`s a dead faith .
    As you can see Christopher , this if makes all the difference .
    One more thing , i know that many reformed would say , but if you are a true believer , if you have ( as they say ) a true faith , then works will automatically follow… Not true . I can quote tens and tens of verses , but for now , it`s enough if you read John 15 . As you can see , it`s conditional . In fact if it were not conditional , then why all the warnings?
    God bless you …

  69. I don’t know if this tread is closed but if there’s someone out there, I wouldn’t mind some discussion on this topic.

    I assume the opening post refers to 1 Cor 13:2, but that seems be talking about the faith that works miracles. In 1 Corinthians 12:9, Paul seems to be talking about a special sort of faith, not the faith all Christians must have to be saved. That’s why his teaching here doesn’t contradict his earlier teaching that we are justified by faith. My concern here, is that Catholics say we can have true faith and still not be justified. But Christ said whoever believes in me will not perish.

    God be with you,
    Dan

  70. Hello Dan, (re: #69)

    My concern here, is that Catholics say we can have true faith and still not be justified. But Christ said whoever believes in me will not perish.

    Jesus also says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21) So the “belief” by which we are saved is not dead faith, but living faith. And what distinguishes dead faith from living faith is that the latter is faith informed by agape, as explained in the comments above, and in the comments of the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for the response. You said: Jesus also says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21) So the “belief” by which we are saved is not dead faith, but living faith.

    I agree with your conclusion about dead/living faith, but I don’t think it follows from Mt 7. Prophesying and performing miracles do not justify, so they were relying on the wrong thing to get them to heaven. Also, Christ called them evildoers, so they had neither works or faith.

    As for dead faith, above you said: “To be sure, Calvinists believe that agape necessarily follows faith (or even simultaneously accompanies) faith. But, they do not believe that faith is made alive by agape. Dead faith, for a Calvinist, is no faith at all. Faith is defined as essentially fiduciary, hence for a Calvinist mere intellectual assent is not faith at all. That’s why they deny that the demons in James 2 had even dead faith. For the Calvinist, the demons in James 2 simply don’t have faith.”

    I suppose the key issue here is the definition of dead faith. Protestants tend to think of it as historic faith, an assent without trust. Demons are monotheists and they know enough to be scared as James tells us, but they do not believe Christ died for their sins nor do they trust Him to save them. So it’s not quite true that they “simply don’t have faith”, but their faith is deficient.

    But my main question is how do Catholics understand Paul or Christ Himself when He promises believers will never perish? It seems you are saying believers sometimes to perish.

    God be with you,
    Dan

  72. Dan, (re: #71)

    I agree with your conclusion about dead/living faith, but I don’t think it follows from Mt 7. Prophesying and performing miracles do not justify, so they were relying on the wrong thing to get them to heaven. Also, Christ called them evildoers, so they had neither works or faith.

    My point was that merely believing that Christ is Lord is not sufficient for salvation. Something other than mere belief is necessary. On that point I assume we don’t disagree.

    I suppose the key issue here is the definition of dead faith. Protestants tend to think of it as historic faith, an assent without trust. Demons are monotheists and they know enough to be scared as James tells us, but they do not believe Christ died for their sins nor do they trust Him to save them. So it’s not quite true that they “simply don’t have faith”, but their faith is deficient.

    I agree that their faith is deficient. So the question comes down to what is deficient about their faith. Protestants claim that it lacks trust (fiducia). The Catholic Church claims that what makes faith to be dead is that it is not formed by agape. That disagreement is something we’ve discussed in some detail in “Justification and Living Faith” (and the embedded link), comment #266 in the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” thread, and comment #322 in the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread.

    But my main question is how do Catholics understand Paul or Christ Himself when He promises believers will never perish? It seems you are saying believers sometimes to perish.

    Believers can perish by committing mortal sin, and dying in mortal sin. One can thereby retain faith (i.e. assent), but without agape, and die in that condition, and thereby perish. Or, one can commit the mortal sin of apostasy, and lose not only hope and agape, but also faith, and die in that condition, and thereby perish.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Bryan,

    Thanks for the links. I read them and will comment on the post called “Justification and Living Faith”

    You said: “What distinguishes dead faith from living faith is that the former does not have life.”

    Dead implies more than just the absence of life – it implies the departure of life. Stones have no life, but they are not dead. From conception to death, the body has a soul, but upon death the soul departs. In the same way, faith is always accompanied by works and if the faith dies, works depart. Normally, life comes before death – unless we are talking about the resurrection (and I don’t think James is).

    You said: “So, necessarily, living faith is a composite of faith and that which makes faith living; otherwise, there would no such thing as dead faith.”

    If by “that which makes faith living” you simply meant life, I would have no objection to this. But it would also provide a way of answering this argument: “the position is self-contradictory, since [faith + life] is not “faith alone”. By faith alone, we mean living faith. You seem to be arguing against faith alone by saying it’s [*dead* faith + life], but that’s self-cancelling and we can just say faith alone.

    But you probably mean “works” by “that which makes faith living”, since you say love forms faith. Even dead bodies have a form and bodies cannot exist without a form. Likewise faith cannot exist without a form. More importantly, James does not say works brings faith to life even though he does say living faith always has works.

    Your position assumes that something outside of faith makes dead faith into living faith. But normally, death follows life, not the other way around. James says Abraham’s faith worked side by side with his deeds – both are there, alive and active. As James says, we show others we have faith by our works.

    Demons had good works before their fall. They used to believe that the Father is Lord and it’s better to serve Him than not. Now they don’t believe that anymore – their faith was once alive, but has died. Their evil works now demonstrate that their faith is now dead. What if it’s the object and scope of faith that distinguished dead and living faith? Again, demons do not believe it’s best to have Christ as their Lord and they do not have faith in His blood, even though they are monotheists.

    You ask: First, what is L? Second, what is your evidence that L does not at least contain or include charity? Third, is your evidence for (3) strong enough to warrant forming or perpetuating a schism from those who do not hold (3)?

    L is life. Living faith goes beyond monotheism to believe from the heart that Christ is our Lord and Savior.
    You ask: Second, what is your evidence that L does not at least contain or include charity?

    That would imply works salvation, which Paul denies. It also seems contrary to Christ’s promise to save believers.

    You ask: Third, is your evidence for (3) strong enough to warrant forming or perpetuating a schism from those who do not hold (3)?

    I’ll admit that Christ and Paul are more clear to me than James. I am afraid your view has pitted James against Christ and Paul, I am open to learn how you understand Christ’s promise that believers will never perish. If you actually deny Christ’s promise, then yes, schism from my side is in order. But as it stands, I’m not sure how you understand Christ’s words and the schism is coming from the other side (i.e. Trent anathematizes my views, not the other way around).

    God be with you,
    Dan

  74. Dan, (re: #73)

    Dead implies more than just the absence of life – it implies the departure of life. Stones have no life, but they are not dead. From conception to death, the body has a soul, but upon death the soul departs. In the same way, faith is always accompanied by works and if the faith dies, works depart. Normally, life comes before death – unless we are talking about the resurrection (and I don’t think James is).

    That line of reasoning assumes that the life/death terms must apply in every way. But, for example, all other living things (God excepting) are either substances or parts of substances. But living faith, you will agree, is neither a substance nor a part of a substance. So the living/dead analogy is an analogy with limitations, and we should therefore be careful with arguments that presuppose that it is not an analogy, or at least not an analogy with limitations. Moreover, nothing I’m saying regarding faith requires or entails that dead faith comes before living faith.

    If by “that which makes faith living” you simply meant life, I would have no objection to this. But it would also provide a way of answering this argument: “the position is self-contradictory, since [faith + life] is not “faith alone”. By faith alone, we mean living faith.

    If “faith alone” just were “living faith,” then dead faith would be impossible. Wherever there was faith, it would be living faith. And therefore there could be no such thing as dead faith.

    But you probably mean “works” by “that which makes faith living”, since you say love forms faith.

    No, this is a very common Protestant misunderstanding of the Catholic position. Agape is not first a work, though it results in works. Agape is a supernatural virtue infused into the soul by the Holy Spirit. I recommend reading the links first, before responding.

    Your position assumes that something outside of faith makes dead faith into living faith. But normally, death follows life, not the other way around.

    Even if it is true that among organisms, death follows life, and not the other way around, that does not refute the argument that if “faith alone” means “living faith,” then there can no such thing as dead faith, because wherever faith is, it will necessarily be living. But there is such a thing as dead faith. Therefore faith alone cannot be “living faith.”

    What if it’s the object and scope of faith that distinguished dead and living faith? Again, demons do not believe it’s best to have Christ as their Lord and they do not have faith in His blood, even though they are monotheists.

    First, how do you know that demons do not believe that it is best to have Christ as their Lord? Second, you imply that the problem with demons is fundamentally at the level of the intellect, and not at the level of the will. But that puts the blame (for their condition) on God, for failing to give them sufficient information. Same goes with Adam and Eve. It makes their sin the result of ignorance, and not the result of a free choice to go against what they knew to be right. Third, this position is a form of gnosticism, according to which the essential key to salvation is some bit of knowledge. In your example, what makes the angels to be in heaven with God is that the angels have this bit of knowledge, and what makes the demons to be in hell is that the demons do not have this bit of knowledge.

    L is life. Living faith goes beyond monotheism to believe from the heart that Christ is our Lord and Savior.

    Here you pull in two different factors. One is some proposition about Christ. And the other is “from the heart.” But some who believe Christ to be Lord (i.e. those who say “Lord, Lord, …”) are not saved, and thus do not have living faith. So it isn’t just that additional proposition (or any set of propositions) that makes faith to be living. Regarding “from the heart,” does this just mean “believing deeply” or with great certainty? If so, then those with faith only the size of a mustard seed are doomed. Yet Christ commends even those with faith the size of a mustard seed. (Mt 17:20, Lk 17:6) If, however, by “from the heart” you mean “with agape” then I agree that this is what makes faith living.

    That would imply works salvation, which Paul denies.

    First, here again you’re treating “charity” as fundamentally a work. But as I mentioned above, that’s not in essence what charity (i.e. agape) is, though it produces works of love. Second, your objection conflates works done without grace and agape, and works done through grace and agape. St. Paul condemns the former, but never the latter. Again, see the links I mentioned in my previous comment.

    It also seems contrary to Christ’s promise to save believers.

    Only if “save” can only mean “monergistic saving.” But then be prepared to concede that either sanctification is not part of salvation, or that you in no way cooperate in your sanctification. See comment #22 in the Tim Challies thread.

    I am afraid your view has pitted James against Christ and Paul, I am open to learn how you understand Christ’s promise that believers will never perish. If you actually deny Christ’s promise, then yes, schism from my side is in order. But as it stands, I’m not sure how you understand Christ’s words and the schism is coming from the other side (i.e. Trent anathematizes my views, not the other way around).

    I’m curious where, exactly, you think I may have “pitted James against Christ and Paul.” No, we don’t deny Christ’s promise. It would be presumptuous to assume that not accepting your interpretation of the passage is a denial of the promise. As for John 10:28, see comment #397 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread. If the Church condemns some heretical views, the persons holding such views cannot blame the Church for their own holding of positions that are condemned by the Church, because they have freely chosen to adhere to these beliefs, i.e. beliefs that are condemned by the Church. Or can the Arians justifiably blame the Church for the Arians being separated from the Church? Can the Sabellians and Nestorians and Eutychians and Eunomians rightly blame the Church for their being separated from the Church? No. Each such group is responsible for freely choosing to hold its condemned/heretical beliefs in defiance of the Church and the divine authority of her pronouncements, and thereby separating themselves from the Church rather than submitting to her.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. Bryan,

    You said: If “faith alone” just were “living faith,” then dead faith would be impossible. Wherever there was faith, it would be living faith. And therefore there could be no such thing as dead faith.

    That would follow if faith had one definition – but in scripture, faith has more than one usage. James says can *such* faith save him? I think our disagreement is not if faith has more than one sense, but rather what those senses are. Think of it as if you look up faith in dictionary; definition one would be living faith and definition two would be dead faith. Our disagreement here is on the description of dead faith. More specifically, is dead faith, true faith, a faith which once justified and without being lost, no longer justifies those who commit mortal sin. We reject that definition of dead faith but not any and all definitions of dead faith. But in faith alone, we mean definition one, living faith.

    You said: Agape is not first a work, though it results in works. Agape is a supernatural virtue infused into the soul by the Holy Spirit. I recommend reading the links first, before responding.
    I re-read the links and while they expand on hope they don’t seem to get into how love is a virtue without being a work. But don’t you view James as saying that works makes faith living? If not, that goes some distance towards reconciling our views on James.

    You asked: First, how do you know that demons do not believe that it is best to have Christ as their Lord? Second, you imply that the problem with demons is fundamentally at the level of the intellect, and not at the level of the will.

    The intellect is intimately connected with the will – I’m certainly not denying that or even that the will is essential in coming to faith. Some say the will follows the last dictates of reason; others say the will determines the last dictates of reason. I’m not sure I’m up to solving that question, but either way the intellect and will work hand in hand. So whether demon’s chose to believe something else was better than having Christ as their Lord or they do not choose to have Christ as Lord because they don’t think that’s best, either way, their not having Christ as Lord is evidence that they do not think it’s best to have Christ as Lord.

    So your choice (or your last dictate of reason):

    What if it’s the object and scope of what people choose to believe that distinguishes dead from living faith?

    Or

    What if it’s the object and scope of what people’s last dictate of reason, which determines their choice, that distinguishes dead from living faith?

    You said: But that puts the blame (for their condition) on God, for failing to give them sufficient information. Same goes with Adam and Eve. It makes their sin the result of ignorance, and not the result of a free choice to go against what they knew to be right.

    They should be blamed so long as they had enough information to be able not to fall. But I don’t think God had to give them so much information that falling away was impossible. It probably the case that those in heaven can no longer sin, due at least in part to their having so much information. But is it God’s fault that some don’t make it to heaven because He didn’t provide them all the information He could? I don’t think so, so long as He gave them enough information.

    Both ignorance and free choice contributed to the fall. But there must be some level of ignorance to be able to sin. People go against what they know to be morally right because they think there is something better than doing what is morally right. It’s not better; they are wrong about that.

    You said: But some who believe Christ to be Lord (i.e. those who say “Lord, Lord, …”) are not saved, and thus do not have living faith. So it isn’t just that additional proposition (or any set of propositions) that makes faith to be living.

    Saying Lord, Lord and believing in Christ are not the same thing – as I’ve argued above with regard to Matthew 7.

    You said: Regarding “from the heart,” does this just mean “believing deeply” or with great certainty?
    I think it means that faith (somehow) involves the will.

    You said: First, here again you’re treating “charity” as fundamentally a work…

    I took your 3 questions as an internal critique of Protestantism. We can argue which system is better, Catholicism or Protestantism, but my answers just go towards showing Protestantism is intersystementally consistent.

    You said: I’m curious where, exactly, you think I may have “pitted James against Christ and Paul.” .” No, we don’t deny Christ’s promise. It would be presumptuous to assume that not accepting your interpretation of the passage is a denial of the promise. As for John 10:28, see comment #397 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread.

    In John 3:16, Christ says believers will never perish. Above you said: “Believers can perish by committing mortal sin, and dying in mortal sin.” At least verbally, there’s a conflict, which is why I’ve asked what you think Christ means. In your comments on John 10:28, you state what you think Christ does not mean without discussing what you think He does mean.

    God be with you,
    Dan

  76. Dan, (re: #75)

    That would follow if faith had one definition …

    You’re shifting from the question of the real definition to the question of the nominal definition. I was talking about the real definition. You’re talking about the nominal definition.

    But don’t you view James as saying that works makes faith living?

    No. Otherwise no children could have living faith until they were able to do works, and thus until they reached the age of reason.

    their not having Christ as Lord is evidence that they do not think it’s best to have Christ as Lord.

    This presupposes precisely what is in question. It presupposes that all moral error is intellectual error. And that makes God responsible for failing to provide sufficient information to Adam and Eve, and the demons. If someone didn’t believe it best to have Christ as Lord, he would have no reason to follow Christ.

    They should be blamed so long as they had enough information to be able not to fall.

    That “enough information” would require at least knowing that it is best to serve Christ as Lord.

    It probably the case that those in heaven can no longer sin, due at least in part to their having so much information.

    Again, this is a form of gnosticism, according to which the essence of salvation is knowledge, in this case knowing some information.

    People go against what they know to be morally right because they think there is something better than doing what is morally right. It’s not better; they are wrong about that.

    If they most deeply believe something is better than what is called “morally right,” then they can’t be blamed for choosing what they most deeply believe to be better. For how can one be blamed for choosing what he most deeply believes to be better?

    Saying Lord, Lord and believing in Christ are not the same thing

    I agree. My point does not depend on them being the same thing.

    In John 3:16, Christ says believers will never perish. Above you said: “Believers can perish by committing mortal sin, and dying in mortal sin.” At least verbally, there’s a conflict, which is why I’ve asked what you think Christ means. In your comments on John 10:28, you state what you think Christ does not mean without discussing what you think He does mean.

    Christ is not saying that there is no such thing as apostasy, such that once a person believes, he is guaranteed to be in heaven forever. Rather, His promise for believers is for those who persevere in faith unto death, and thus for those who die in a state of grace, with living faith. Christ’s promise has to do with what happens at death.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. Bryan,

    Your last post gave me a lot to think about; especially our agreements that in John 3, Christ is talking about living faith and in James 2, that James is not saying works makes faith alive. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I did have a follow up question on the difference between living/dead faith.

    What puzzles me is Trent’s statement that faith can remain in the apostate. But you say Christ was talking about living faith in John 3, so for a while at least, the person must have had living faith and then their faith died. Could you please comment on how it could be that faith can both remain and undergo the change from life to death? Is the difference between living/dead faith external or internal to faith itself?

    Also, I wanted to follow up on your comment that children under the age of reason can have living faith. Children can believe as far as they understand, but they don’t seem to be able to understand all the bible says must be believed in order to be saved. Is it your position that the truths that need to be believed in order to be saved grow as the child’s understanding grows? Is there some minimum amount of truths the child must hold to in order to say they have living faith?

    God be with you,
    Dan

  78. Dan, (re: #77)

    What puzzles me is Trent’s statement that faith can remain in the apostate. But you say Christ was talking about living faith in John 3, so for a while at least, the person must have had living faith and then their faith died. Could you please comment on how it could be that faith can both remain and undergo the change from life to death?

    Living faith becomes dead faith when a person drives agape from his heart by mortal sin. Faith can remain, in such a case, because the person has not necessarily apostatized or fallen into heresy. That is, heresy and apostasy are not the only mortal sins. In such a case he has neither rejected some article of the faith, or rejected all the articles of faith. He still assents to all the articles of faith. And yet, having driven agape from his soul through mortal sin, he no longer loves God as Father above all other things, or his neighbors for God’s sake. So his faith is thus dead, and neither justifies nor saves him.

    Is the difference between living/dead faith external or internal to faith itself?

    The difference between a living body and a dead body is internal to the body itself. But ‘internality’ here does mean a different set of parts. It is not as though a living body has an extra organ that dead bodies all lack. What makes a body living is not an additional bodily part. Rather, what makes a body to be alive is a principle (i.e. the soul) that animates the whole body. Likewise, what makes faith alive is not an additional article of faith. Thus what makes faith living is not internal to faith in the sense of a difference in the composition or intellectual content of faith. But the agape that makes faith living is internal to faith in that it animates the whole body of faith, making it that for which we live, and by which we do all that we do.

    Also, I wanted to follow up on your comment that children under the age of reason can have living faith. Children can believe as far as they understand, but they don’t seem to be able to understand all the bible says must be believed in order to be saved. Is it your position that the truths that need to be believed in order to be saved grow as the child’s understanding grows? Is there some minimum amount of truths the child must hold to in order to say they have living faith?

    The supernatural virtue of faith is not the same as the articles of faith. The supernatural virtue of faith is a divinely infused disposition to believe whatever God has revealed, because of the authority of God who reveals it. The articles of faith are those propositions divinely revealed and taught by the Church, through which we believe God and believe in Him whom we cannot see. An infant receives the supernatural virtue of faith at baptism, but does not at that time assent to the articles of faith, because the infant has not yet attained the age of reason such that he can understand and assent to the articles of faith. The faith by which we are justified is the supernatural virtue of faith (made alive by the supernatural virtue of agape). This supernatural virtue of faith is not the same as the act by which we affirm the articles of faith. The act by which we affirm the articles of faith when we’ve reached the age of reason is an act of the will that flows from and strengthens the divinely infused disposition to believe whatever God has revealed, because of the authority of God who reveals it. But the act is not the virtue, and the virtue is not the articles.

    Your two questions (at the end of the paragraph just quoted) seem to presume that the act by which we affirm the articles just is the faith by which we are justified. And this would mean that children cannot be justified until they at least reach the age of reason, whereas the Catholic Church teaches differently. But your two questions hardly make sense in the Catholic paradigm, because in the Catholic paradigm, the actvirtue of faith, and it is the supernatural virtue of faith that we receive as a divine gift at baptism, and that (because accompanied by the supernatural virtue of agape) justifies us. So in the Catholic paradigm, the [baptized] child is already justified before he believes even one article of faith. And so long as the child (even into adulthood) retains the disposition to believe whatever God has revealed, because of the authority of God who reveals it, he retains the supernatural virtue of faith, no matter what the number of articles of faith he believes. Of course if he is presented with them all, then if he follows the supernatural virtue of faith, he will believe them all. If he at some point chooses to deny what he knows God has revealed, falling thereby either into heresy or apostasy, he thereby loses the supernatural virtue of faith, and necessarily therefore loses justification. If he knowingly denies even one article of the faith, and thereby falls into heresy, while continuing to believe all the other articles of the faith, he thereby loses the supernatural virtue of faith, and loses justification. (See St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church.”) So at no point in our lives (infancy to natural death) is our justification fundamentally based on the number of articles believed, but rather always on the presence of the disposition to believe whatever God has revealed, because of the authority of God who revealed it, so long as that disposition is made living and active by the supernatural virtue of agape.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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