Bank Accounts and Justification

Aug 18th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Recently a friend reminded me of a common Protestant analogy regarding salvation and merit. The analogy is that sinners have a ‘bank account’ wherewith to ‘pay’ for their eternal salvation. The problem is that man cannot possibly have enough in this account to pay the ‘amount due.’ Faith in Christ is equivalent to having a blank check payable from Christ’s own account of merit. So in that analogy, God does not withdraw the ‘merit’ from the sinner’s account but from Christ’s account.

In referring to this analogy, my friend worded it differently than I’d ever heard. He said that in the Protestant view, Jesus makes a deposit into our “account.” I replied, “a Catholic could agree to that!”

In the traditional analogy, the ‘amount due’ is withdrawn from Christ’s account instead of the sinner. We can tweak the analogy. Surely it is not repugnant to say that Christ makes a deposit into our account and that the ‘amount due’ is truly withdrawn from our own account.

God will not forget where that merit came from. And grace is not cheapened by our participation. Miracles are actual: a sinner becomes righteous by the effects of Christ’s merit. Illusions are feigned miracles: a sinner putting on Christ as if he were righteous.

I think the analogy of Christ depositing His own merit into our account can work within Catholic soteriological framework. I would be interested in the Reformed reaction to such a realignment of the otherwise endeared analogy.

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  1. I like this & may have occasion to use it in Sundayschool.

  2. The way any garden-variety Reformed person (like me) would respond to this is by saying that there’s nothing particularly objectionable about the idea that it is WE who exercise faith in Christ and not him doing it for us, and that it is WE who follow him and do our best to obey.

    Where the objection would come in is over whether the things that (we all agree) WE do are meritorious or not. The Reformed would say that, since man is fallen, he cannot earn or merit salvation. “By grace you are saved through faith… not of works.” So if merit is needed for salvation, and if we cannot provide it, then it must come from someone else, namely Jesus.

  3. Rich Lusk has a take on this issue of imputation that I really appreciate. He says instead of thinking that Christ puts a very large deposit into our account to pay that debt… Rather, he simply signs us on to his account so that we are now joint owners of the account. What I like about this idea is that it places a greater emphasis on our union with Christ above that of the mechanics of imputation. Here is an article that discusses that idea: http://www.hornes.org/mark/2005/10/17/impute-means-ascribe-reckon-regard-attribute/

    What do you think about that Tim?

  4. Yes, JJS, hits the nail on the head about the disagreement. The disagreement is not over whether our works matter… but rather whether they are meritorious. Good and important distinction.

  5. “I think the analogy of Christ depositing His own merit into our account can work within Catholic soteriological framework.” This analogy DOES work, everyday, within Catholic soteriology- this is the logic of indulgences.

  6. Hey Matthew and Jason,

    As I read Tim’s analogy, when a Christian does some good work required by God, he is “withdrawing” something from his account; namely, the merit of Jesus Christ.

    So, if we do a work that has merit “in it,” so to speak (i.e., Christ’s merit), does that count as a meritorious work in any objectionable sense?

  7. This might be a more apt analogy for the RC view:

    As a result of the redemption worked by Jesus, there is an infinite pool of money available so that anybody, by filling in a form (faith and baptism), can have a savings account opened to his name with an initial balance on it.

    Sometimes the account remains with that initial balance through its whole lifetime (infants dying before use of reason).

    When somebody does a good work, he makes a deposit in the account. The money deposited ultimately comes from the infinite pool of money mentioned before (CCC #2008).

    When somebody commits a mortal sin, the account is frozen and no further deposits can be made. If the individual dies in that state, it is as if he had no account. When the individual makes an act of perfect contrition with the intent of going to confession when possible (or when he goes to confession with imperfect contrition), the account is unfrozen.

  8. JJS –

    if merit is needed for salvation, and if we cannot provide it, then it must come from someone else, namely Jesus.

    It seems to me that the question is: does merit come or is it accounted as having come? That appears to me to be the difference between our doctrines.

    Matthew T,

    I think the joint account analogy is compatible with Catholic soteriology and I appreciate the author’s argument that, as David Pell recently showed, imputation is not provable by surface level proof texts and linguistic arguments.

    But I think Horne is wrong about the joint account analogy being essentially the same as the forensic-alien righteousness-imputation. In a joint account, the assets become actually owned by both parties. This is the exact place where we part ways with the Reformed. According to Catholic soteriology, we have nothing but Christ’s merit, mediated through the Church, by which to merit salvation – yet we do actually acquire it by incorporation into His mystical body, the Church, His bride, the co-owner on His bank account of merit.

    The standard imputation model is incompatible with this because it declares that not only is the righteousness initially foreign, it remains foreign until after the salvation process is complete (i.e. after resurrection into heaven). Until the wife actually owns the assets, her husband or fiancée may pay her debts, but she does not actually have any money [merit] of her own.

    Lusk says: “there may be more than one way to conceive of the doctrine of justification in a manner that preserves its fully gracious and forensic character.”

    I think it is a mistake to conflate “gracious” with “forensic” as if salvation needed to be forensic if it would be gracious. According to Catholicism, grace surpasses mere forensics. It is a greater gift for a judge to grant actual innocence than for a judge to consider one as innocent on account of another. Likewise, it is a greater gift for a husband to grant his wife co-ownership of his account than for him to merely pay her debts. The former is gracious and in no sense forensic.

    The article goes on:

    For Calvin, the central motif of Pauline theology is not “imputation,” but union with Christ…. [Lusk]

    The writer goes on to quote Calvin, but anyone familiar with Calvin already knows this is true. [Horne]

    I’m not sure what’s meant here. Calvin was meticulously interested in a narrow idea of forensic imputation. Does Calvin spend more time on union with Christ than on forensic imputation? I guess so, but that doesn’t mean that Calvin would accept the joint-account analogy. I don’t think he would. In his commentaries, Calvin condemns the publican in Luke 18 saying:

    For this thanksgiving, which is presented exclusively in his own name, does not at all imply that he boasted of his own virtue, as if he had obtained righteousness from himself, or merited any thing by his own industry. On the contrary, he ascribes it to the grace of God that he is righteous.

    Calvin also, in that same passage, points out that the publican started his (rejected) prayer with, “God I thank thee.” For Calvin, it seems to me, that it does not suffice to say that we have received merit from Christ. The moment we say we have received, we err. We have not actually received the ability to merit nor any actual (infused) righteousness. We have not been added as co-owners of any treasury of merit, according to John Calvin. We have the benefits of Christ’s merit via a forensic imputation. That “alien righteousness” remains alien.

    But this is incompatible with the joint account analogy. When we married, my wife became the full co-owner of all of my assets. Unfortunately for her, that didn’t amount to a whole lot. But the point is that she did actually acquire it. Not so in the imputation model. If the Reformed are really ok with the joint account analogy – then it seems to me that they don’t have sufficient justification (no pun intended) for remaining in schism from Rome.

    If money is merit in the co-owner analogy, then saying “we cannot merit salvation” is like saying that my wife cannot pay for something because she was added as a co-owner of the account. But that is false. Therefore it seems to me that if you want to say that “we cannot merit salvation” then you have to give up the co-owner analogy because co-owners can merit.

  9. Johannes,

    Yes, the distinction we would have to make clear, in your analogy, is that the deposits also come from the same source as the initial balance. It could be compared to a father who opens an account for his child and deposits a large sum. Obviously the child did not have that money initially nor was he capable of providing it. Furthermore, as a young child, he is unable to actually produce enough work to actually earn any additional income. The mother is a co-owner of the father’s account. She has full access to his funds. She gives the child money to make additional deposits into his own account.

    Both the initial money, and the additional money originate from the father. But the child actually owns the money (it was given to him!) and he actually makes the deposits. This is comparable to the grace we receive through the ministry of the Church especially in the sacraments. Also, when we approach the Church to be received, the question is posed to us: “What do you seek from the Church?” and the correct answer is, “faith.”

  10. I think some distinctions need to be made when we’re talking about “merit.” The Reformed deny that strict merit can be accrued before God, as in, I perform some work that is so instrinsically awesome that God owes me a reward (I think you guys call this condign merit, but I could have my categories wrong).

    On the other hand, we agree that there is a kind of merit that can be gained by way of obeying God’s commands. We sometimes call this pactum (or covenant) merit. For example, if God says, “If you do X, I will give you Y,” and I do X, I can say that I have earned Y (not in any strict sense, but in a covenantal sense).

    Now when it comes to what qualifies one for eternal life, we would say that there is a strict merit that is needed, which Jesus by his perfect life and sacrificial death provides (we speak of this under the rubric of the imputation of active and passive obedience, which Federal Visionists like Lusk and Horne deny). But the child of God can and does experience the infusion of righteousness and grace, and he can and does become more and more conformed to the image of Christ throughout his life.

    And to be honest, you CTC guys often mischaracterize Reformed theology in such a way as to make it seem like we don’t believe in infusion or the need for holiness. I’ve pointed it out only to be argued with.

  11. JJS,

    You said: “(I think you guys call this condign merit, but I could have my categories wrong).”

    Yes that’s right.

    “Now when it comes to what qualifies one for eternal life, we would say that there is a strict merit that is needed”

    That is correct, but it doesn’t go far enough. There are two ways of speaking about merit – 1. Absolutely or universally and 2. Individually or in respect to a particular agent involved. If we speak according to type 1, everything without exception requires condign merit. Let me illustrate:

    Scenario: I owe the bank $10 but cannot pay it. My friend offers to pay it on my behalf if I’ll let him wear my lucky hat for the day.

    Was the debt paid off by condign merit? There are two ways of speaking about it:

    Type 1:
    Speaking absolutely, everything must be sufficiently merited; i.e. every effect must have a sufficient cause. There is no cheating hell, and in fact there is no cheating any debt. So although I did not actually merit the $10, it was actually merited by my friend. (The point of this is to show that all debts, whether pennies or eternal suffering, must be settled by condign merit.)

    Type 2:
    In respect to the agent, that is, to me, settlement of the debt was merited congruously (or if you prefer, by pactum). I offered my hat as requested, but this motion is not actually worth $10. I could not pay the debt by such a simple gesture.

    As long as we speak consistently according to one type or the other, we will find that there is no uniqueness in this respect to the debt of eternal punishment. Condign merit falls under commutative justice, and there can be no commutative justice between man and God, only distributive justice. So we agree with you that salvation cannot be obtained by condign merit considered in respect to the recipient agent [the sinner].

    And to be honest, you CTC guys often mischaracterize Reformed theology in such a way as to make it seem like we don’t believe in infusion or the need for holiness. I’ve pointed it out only to be argued with.

    If you think I’m mischaracterizing it here, please let me know.

  12. Tim ~

    I don’t think this analogy works at all. When we are looking at Reformed soteriology, it is not correct to say that an individual has -$1,000 in the bank, or say $0 or $50 with which to “pay” for their eternal salvation which costs $1,000,000. The problem is not chiefly that an individual is lacking the “funds” with which to complete the covenant of works and thus “achieve” salvation, but rather that an individual has £ 9,000 worth of punishment for his sin nature. Though the language “debt of sin” can be used, it is not a debt in a true sense as sin / sin nature is viewed not as a privation as it is in Catholic theology but rather a positive attribute. Even if the individual had enough $ to “pay” for their salvation according to the covenant of works structure they still have the £ worth of punishment which makes salvation impossible even if they would have enough $ aka “good works”.

    What happens in the Reformed systems is more properly that the ownership for the £ 9,000 is transferred to Jesus, though the £ account is not closed but remains open in the individuals name, the $ remains as it is for it isn’t worth anything being unable to fullfill the covenant of works and useless under the covenant of grace, and an individual’s name is added as a non-controlling non-voting secondary to Jesus’ account of руб. or divine approval, which allows the individual into the covenant of grace — got to have руб to be apart of it $ doesn’t work being the old outdated currency. The руб. account exists on paper, but the individual doesn’t actually have access to the руб. in it as their name is just on the account. The £ account is also still very much attached to the individual so that the individual remains justus et peccator. Obviously the whole imputed justification thing is just a legalistic slight of hand as it doesn’t change anything as the justified individual, as per WCF XVI.V, is still sin and error in all that he is and does, and it is only the Holy Spirit that can be said to be the one who does something good and worthwhile.

    I find that the Catholic version of the analogy also falls apart. The analogy makes merit and grace a created help to salvation or still external funds or energy like a battery that one can draw upon in order to achieve salvation. Grace is not so many mana points, to use another analogy. We don’t draw upon grace as a bank account. Rather grace is something that we participate in – it is the foundation movement and reward for all good actions. Essentially it is how we exist and act both in our natural state as well as how we exist and act in our supernatural destiny in a synergistic participation in the divine life of God. This is why the mystics will often describe hell as a place of frozen inactivity, because beyond the grace of existence, those in hell have no grace and no participation.

    This really is the difference between Catholic and Reformed and why the bank account analogy doesn’t work. For Reformed, grace is monergistic divine approval. They have salvation because they have an external stamp of approval that has nothing at all to do with them or their actions – it is completely alien. For the Catholic, grace is synergistic participation in the divine life of God. They have salvation because salvation is internal and external participation in God’s own life – their life and God’s have become coterminous – sort of a reverse hypostatic union.

  13. Nathan,

    The analogy does fall apart, as they all do, but it can still be useful. The Scriptures, for example, use several analogies for the atonement that fall apart. The Scriptures use “ransom” language, which analogy, as I’m sure you know, falls apart pretty quick. It also uses debt, punishment, satisfaction, etc. language. All of these analogies fall apart at different places for various reasons. The debt analogy falls apart simply because all monetary debts are calculated according to commutative justice and as stated above, there can be no commutative justice between God and man because of the infinite disparity. But that doesn’t mean the analogy doesn’t work at all.

    The analogy makes merit and grace a created help to salvation or still external funds or energy like a battery that one can draw upon in order to achieve salvation.

    The Church uses this language even in her liturgy, “look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church” (i.e. withdraw not on our individual righteousness but on the ‘treasury of merit’ which belongs to the Church). This language is proper to Catholic theology – even if only by analogy. Also, some theologians classify sanctifying grace under the category of ‘created grace.’

  14. BTW, thanks for the comments. Switching back and forth between dollars and pounds was confusing. I was wondering just how the exchange rate would affect our payment of sin debt.

  15. Tim,

    Let me add what I think is an important qualification to your claim that there is no commutative justice between God and man. Absolutely speaking, no man can make a debtor out of God, because every good thing we have comes from Him as a gift. It is all gift to begin with. That’s what you mean, I think, in saying that there can be no commutative justice between God and man. You might also be referring to the impossibility of our giving to God complete compensation for what we owe Him. But, the important qualification I wish to add is that man’s debt of obligation to God is one of commutative justice. Because God has given us everything we have, we therefore stand in a relation of obligation to Him, by way of commutative justice, even if we can never give back all that we have been given. It is a relation of unequals, to be sure, but a case of commutative justice (not legal or distributive justice). This is why religion is a virtue under justice. (See Summa Theologica II-II Q.81) That’s all true even apart from grace.

    But, then by the infusion of sanctifying grace, and thus by our participation in the divine operation oriented toward God as our supernatural end, we must believe, as Trent says,

    that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace (Council of Trent, Session 6, Decree 16)

    And canon 32 of that same session reads:

    If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.

    In both of those places the merit the Tridentine Fathers are talking about is condign merit, according to commutative justice. The key to understanding how our acts can be truly meritorious for salvation (i.e. eternal life) is found in the three word phrase “done in God.” Without grace, our acts can be more or less meritorious or demeritorious, not for heaven (which is supernatural) but for our degree of punishment and reward in a state of separation from God. Without grace, none of our acts would be “done in God,” and hence none of our acts could be meritorious for heaven, because of the infinite gap between what can be done in the power of our own finite nature as creatures, and God. But by the infusion of supernatural Life (not just a co-spatial indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but an actual infusion such that we are truly made partakers in the divine nature) Christ works in and through us, and our acts done out of agape are not just ordered to God as our Creator and natural end, but to God as our Father and supernatural end. That is, by infused grace our acts done out of agape take on a supernatural character, directed toward heaven as our supernatural end. And this is what explains Trent 6.16, what underlies those three words “done in God.” This is why St. Thomas explains that man in grace can merit eternal life condignly. (cf. Summa Theologica I-II Q. 114 a.3) This condign merit for heaven as our supernatural end is based on commutative justice, but made possible only by the infusion of divine grace. Without the infusion of grace, there could be no merit for eternal life. Even Christ Himself, without the infusion of grace, could not have merited eternal life in His human nature.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Thanks for the clarification Bryan. The reason I said there is no commutative justice between us and God is that since commutative justice does not belong to God but to us and since it implies reciprocity, I don’t think it is right to say there is commutative justice between us and God. I agree that we owe debt to God in the same commutative sense (though to an infinitely greater degree) as we would owe to another creature, but with the creature there is the reciprocity that inherently belongs to commutative justice. I.e. commutative justice is, properly speaking, a two way street, if I understand it correctly.

    I think that all fits with the co-ownership analogy, including everything you said. When someone co-owns a bank account, he truly owns it and truly pays whatever debt he uses it against. So, in respect to the payment of debt (merit), it is paid condignly. By grace (co-ownership of the account), the debt is paid condignly even in respect to the debtor since he truly owns the account.

    I did not clarify that above but should have.

  17. Tim ~

    Thank you for writing back. I appreciate it greatly. I am being critical of your analogy because I really find that it muddies the waters and misses major distinctions between Reformed and Catholic on the subject of grace.

    What I am trying to get at is that the specific monetary bank account analogy that you gave falls apart because it doesn’t correlate well enough with either the Reformed view or the Catholic view. The original analogy correlates well enough with the Reformed system (but not the Catholic). Analogies are useful so long as they correlate with what they are trying to describe….the more they lack this correlation the less useful they are.

    For the Reformed view your analogy doesn’t correlate because it is not one monetary system but three. Merit from good works, which was possible under the covenant of works prior to the fall to “purchase salvation”, is its own monetary system, say Dollars. After the fall, humanity has gained a sin nature and constantly sins growing the individual’s monetary account of British Pounds (irony intentional aka punishment given as taking one’s “pound of flesh”). Fallen man’s condition under the covenant of works is impossible to purchase salvation, even if he had enough Dollars because he now has an account of Pounds, which doing any action only increases the value of. In the Cross, Jesus absorbs the value of the Pounds (the whole penal substitution) while the individual’s account remains open (individual remains simul justus et peccator). Jesus completes the covenant of works because he has enough Dollars to do so (but only enough Dollars for the elect alone). This allows the covenant of grace to be instituted where by the elect have access, but in name only, to Jesus new account of Russian Rubles given to Him by the Father for completing the covenant of works (communist irony intentional again with usage of Rubles – people theoretically own everything but in reality have nothing).

    Your friend’s different wording and your tweaking of the analogy collapses the whole double imputation and covenant of works / covenant of grace that is necessary for Reformed theology to function. You cannot go and say that “Christ makes a deposit into our account and that “amount due” is truly withdrawn from our own account” precisely because in the Reformed System Christ’s account alone pays the Dollar amount which completes the covenant of works, AND he absorbs the Pound amount for our sins AND only then does Christ gain the Rubles account by which to impute to us the covenant of grace (which is only divine approval and nothing more). The Cross is double imputation but it actually involves three things – Christ’s account of obedience which completes the covenant of works, the punishments for our sins which are imputed to Christ, the account of merit which is given to Christ by the Father for completing the covenant of works which allows Christ to open up to us the covenant of grace via imputation.

    Further what you are doing in your analogy is presuming that merit can be deposited and then drawn upon overlooks that in Reformed theology the merit of grace which Christ recieved from the Cross and which He imputes to us is only divine approval and not something which you can buy anything with precisely because the “divine approval” is already that which is desired to be bought and not the means by that which is desired is bought. If the merit is already imputed to the individual, it is not withdrawn as the amount due because the imputed merit, divine approval, is not payment by which one purchaces one’s hope but rather that which is hoped to be gained. Hence “once saved always saved” because having been imputed one has gained the reward an no longer needs to buy anything (and in doing so, as Josef Pieper noted, hope is obliterated).

    Thus my point of the analogy not being useful from a Reformed point of view.

    From a Catholic point of view it is also not useful because it is viewing grace as an alien external thing – say mana or midichlorians. Even if we understand sanctifying grace as “created grace” it is not this alien external thing which an individual draws upon. When we look at what is going on in infused justification, it more proper to speak not of some external aspect of Christ’s merits being transferred to us, but rather that we are being transferred and “infused” into Christ. When we look at the language of the Eucharist, it is not that when we eat that the Eucharist becoming part of us, but rather that we are becoming part of the Eucharist. We are becoming conformed to Christ, not Him being molded in us. What is offered on the Cross is Christ, but it is also those who have become “Eucharicised” – conformed to Christ – so that what is offered to the Father is both Christ and His Mystical Body. This is why Catholics, following after Augustine, say that while initial justification is unmerited, final salvation / heaven is merited because there is this synergistic co-operation that occurs. The Cross functions both as unmerited justification in the form of the bloody sacrifice but also in merited justification through the synergistic unbloody sacrifice – Christ gives Himself to us so that we can offer Him, with Him ourselves, through the Spirit, to the Father.

    The analogy doesn’t work within a Catholic soteriological framework because of the synergism involved in Catholic soteriology. It is important to remember that the “problem of sin” is really a secondary to eschatology. Man was created with a supernatural end, but his natural state can only lead to a natural end. It takes infused supernatural grace to move man beyond his natural end to his supernatural end of union with God. A more proper analogy is of a young child trying to hit a golf ball. He cannot do it, but if his father stands behind him, holds the club with him, and they swing in union, the ball can be hit. Adding sin into the mix makes things more complex but it is not that Christ deposits into our account so that we can pay, but rather Christ pays and we pay along with Him because we have been so conformed to Him and act in union with Him.

    You wrote

    The Church uses this language even in her liturgy, “look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church” (i.e. withdraw not on our individual righteousness but on the ‘treasury of merit’ which belongs to the Church)

    That strikes me as off. Faith isn’t the “treasury of merit” but rather knowledge gained by being in relationship with someone. What the prayer is saying is “Do not look at how we are failing to be in relationship with you, but rather look upon the relationship that You Yourself gave to the Church which still exists right now even though we sometimes don’t co-operate fully in it” It is simply echoing the Psalmist who pleads with God not to look upon Israel’s iniquities but instead to remember His covenant and fulfilled it. We know that the “faith of your Church” is not the “treasury of merit” precisely because the next part of the pray asks for God to grant to us that merit “and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will” – the merit of “faith” is peace and unity.

    It is not that Christ puts $50 into our account so that we can pay for our salvation. For the Reformed, it is that Christ paid for one’s salvation and gave the individual the merit of divine approval. The individual can have nothing to do with anything (divine monergism). For the Catholic it is that Christ has chosen us to participate in His own divine life. The original analogy holds for Reformed because the belief is that grace is simply “divine approval”. For the Catholic, grace is being conformed to Christ and living the divine life in a synergistic co-operative manner and thus the original analogy doesn’t hold because “eternal salvation” is not divine approval but is rather the supernatural life itself. For a Catholic, it is not about gaining a “blank cheque” but rather about gaining a new ontology and a new way of life — aka a “life in the Spirit”.

  18. Gentlemen:

    As for the analogy of sin as debt, and thus of grace as credit, please follow up the suggestion I make here: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/01/04/enjoying-treasures-in-heaven.

    Much as I stand by that, I don’t find it helpful to treat financial analogies as the most basic ones for understanding redemption. If our Christian vocation is to become “partakers of the divine nature,” as Bryan says and Nathan implies, then financial analogies can only be used for one aspect—though of course a very important one—of following that vocation. Failure to appreciate that causes us to put more weight on financial analogies in particular, and legal ones in general, than they can bear.

    Best,
    Mike

    Best,
    Mike

  19. Nathan,

    Your friend’s different wording and your tweaking of the analogy collapses the whole double imputation and covenant of works / covenant of grace that is necessary for Reformed theology to function.

    Yes, that’s what I was trying to imply.

    Further what you are doing in your analogy is presuming that merit can be deposited and then drawn upon overlooks that in Reformed theology

    I didn’t say that the tweak worked for Reformed theology. I think it doesn’t so it’s not “presuming” or “overlooking” anything about Reformed theology because it’s not purporting to be representative of Reformed theology.

    From a Catholic point of view it is also not useful because it is viewing grace as an alien external thing – say mana or midichlorians.

    Only in the sense of absolute origin. It does not absolutely originate with us. If what you were saying is true here, then St. Paul would be wrong in saying that “we received grace” (Rom 1:5) for whatever you receive is initially alien. You cannot receive something which you already have or which is already intrinsic to you. The righteousness is initially foreign to us (it belongs to and originates from Christ) but “we are made partakers of Christ” (Heb 3:14) through baptism and incorporation into His mystical body just as the money (merit) is initially foreign to the wife until after marriage at which time she receives co-ownership and it becomes actually owned by her (intrinsic to her).

    but rather that we are being transferred and “infused” into Christ.

    I agree that’s a better way to put it – hence my latching on to the co-ownership analogy rather than the deposit analogy.

    The analogy doesn’t work within a Catholic soteriological framework because of the synergism involved in Catholic soteriology.

    I’m a synergist and a Thomist and I think it works. It’s not an exhaustive analogy, it’s just one possible angle.

  20. Dr. L,

    I agree that these analogies, especially the initial reaction to his peculiar wording, would not be good baskets in which to place all our eggs. I’m not saying that I’ve summarized the atonement / merit / satisfaction reality here. Just offering a tweak on a strange wording and seeing where it leads.

    Let me re-assure everyone, in case anyone else got the wrong picture, that I’m a classical theist and synergist. God depositing something into our account by which we could pay our debts is no more repugnant to classical theism than are the Scriptures explaining God changing His mind, etc. Still less repugnant is the joint account analogy that Johannes initially suggested.

  21. Friends,

    In the way of an update: I regret that I haven’t been more active here as of late. (I have had some interesting, and hopefully productive, dialogues with Protestant friends on Facebook. Please pray for those.) The primary reason that I haven’t posted here lately is that I am facing a serious housing crisis and don’t even know where, or under what circumstances, I will be living within six weeks. I may or may not have internet access. Right now, I am primarily concerned with keeping a roof over my head. I just wanted to give an update, for people who might have been wondering where I have been lately. Please keep me in prayer. Thanks so much!

  22. Tim~

    Yes, that’s what I was trying to imply…..I didn’t say that the tweak worked for Reformed theology. I think it doesn’t ……

    Ok now I am confused. You created a tweaked analogy that doesn’t work for a Reformed individual, acknowledge that, and then wonder how a Reformed individual would react “to such a realignment of the otherwise endeared analogy”? How is dialogue promoted when you are using a tweaked Protestant analogy that you recognize won’t be accepted by a Reformed individual?

    Hence the very short of my reaction – a Reformed individual will say “This isn’t Reformed” and a Catholic will say “That is still Protestant”.

    Only in the sense of absolute origin. It does not absolutely originate with us. If what you were saying is true here, then St. Paul would be wrong in saying that “we received grace” (Rom 1:5) for whatever you receive is initially alien. You cannot receive something which you already have or which is already intrinsic to you. The righteousness is initially foreign to us (it belongs to and originates from Christ) but “we are made partakers of Christ” (Heb 3:14) through baptism and incorporation into His mystical body just as the money (merit) is initially foreign to the wife until after marriage at which time she receives co-ownership and it becomes actually owned by her (intrinsic to her).

    Grace isn’t money, it isn’t mana, it isn’t midichlorians. In your example the money of the wife is not intrinsic to her because it is not a part of her ontological being – it is still something that is alien and extrinsic to her – it is an external tool for her to utilize to accomplish her works (it is more of an Arminian view of things than anything). The woman still remains intrinsically as she always was – she just now has extrinsic access to more money. Simul justus et peccator?? In Romans, Paul is not discussing grace as something that we receive like money or mana – something that becomes “ours” which we draw upon (grace rather draws us). Rather it is part of a larger framework in which Paul speaks of that which is becoming within us or we are becoming into – namely Christ who we have been incorporated into and have put on. Grace is that participation in the divine life – it does not originate from us but part of the mystery is that it is not alien to us when we possess it (or more rightly are possessed by it). Grace is both the source of justification as well as the merit of justification.

    What you are doing is envisioning grace as a substance when it is a real accident. Speaking of sanctifying grace, Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma describes it as a hab tus infuses. Grace is the divine charity of God, a mode of being (as opposed to non-being), the life of God. As you said, we become partakers of Christ, not of His “money”/”mana”. I am not righteous because Christ won righteous for me and then He gives me that extrinsic righteousness, but rather because Christ has made me righteous – I have received from Him, His own self which makes me into a new man. It is me myself being truly righteous as a dependent co-operative synergistic effort with Christ, not Christ working so that I don’t have to or Christ working so that I can have an allowance.

    I find this analogy to be helpful. The Holy Spirit originates from the Father but spirates from the Father and the Son. Grace originates from God but I truly participate in it as an intrinsic part of who I am (becoming), which is a true and completed icon of Christ. Just as Christ is truly reflective of the Father so that all who sees Him sees the Father, as the Father’s natural Son, I am becoming truly reflective of Christ as Christ’s adopted brother and co-heir and co-worker. My status as adopted son of the Father is not a legal transfer of extrinsic titles and extrinsic wealth, but it is something much more internal and ontological – i have become, I am becoming, I shall become that which is not mine by nature but that which is mine by supernatural free gift.

    Another analogy that I find to be helpful. It is said that Mary conceived Christ in her heart before she conceived him in her womb. What Christ actually physically in her heart? No. What was in her heart was the divine life of Christ, His charity, His grace. This is why Mary is full of grace – not because she has access to this extrinsic “mana” or “bank account” but rather she has become infused and shares in the life of God so that, though we can say that the life originates from God, it truly is her own life too. As Christ shares Mary’s humanity, He gives her His life to share, even before He was conceived.

    Thus again, your tweaked analogy doesn’t correlate because it is viewing grace as an alien extrinsic substance that is transferred between Christ and myself. It doesn’t matter that you are using a co-ownership analogy grace is still extrinsic and not infused in your analogy.

  23. Tim, (re: #16)

    I agree that there are important differences in the relationship between God and humans on the one hand, and the relationships between humans. For example, justice is not a standard ‘above’ God to which God is subordinate, whereas in human-to-human exchanges, we are always subject to justice as something that stands ‘above’ us, as it were. I think what you’re emphasizing is that God cannot be made an absolute debtor by anyone, because no one can possibly give to God more than he or she has been given by God. All the good we have we have as gift, and we cannot give more than we have. That is what St. Paul is teaching in Romans 11:35 when he writes, “Who has [first] given a gift to Him, that he might be repaid?” That’s the sense in which reciprocity between God and men is not the same as the reciprocity between men. But as St. Thomas explains, by divine ordination God can make Himself a debtor to us:

    Hence man’s merit with God only exists on the presupposition of the Divine ordination, so that man obtains from God, as a reward of his operation, what God gave him the power of operation for, even as natural things by their proper movements and operations obtain that to which they were ordained by God; differently, indeed, since the rational creature moves itself to act by its free-will, hence its action has the character of merit, which is not so in other creatures. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.114 a.1)

    By choosing to create us as rational creatures and endow us with the power of free choice, God freely places Himself in a reciprocal relation with us, such that certain things are due to Him from us for what He has given us, and certain things are due to us from Him, for what we do to Him. If there were no reciprocity between God and men, then when God gives something good to us (e.g. our existence), we would owe to Him nothing in return. Such an implication would do away with the virtue of religion. It would also do away with the obligation of gratitude on our part for all the good gifts He gives us. Likewise, if there were no reciprocity between God and men, there could be no merit. Nothing we do out of love for God could merit any reward from God. And that consequence would not be compatible with Trent 6.16. Moreover, if there were no reciprocity between God and man, nothing we do against God could store up divine punishment from God. And without reward and punishment, there could be no Day of Judgment. So if there were no reciprocity between God and man, there would be no obligations either way, of worship, gratitude, obedience, and love of men toward God in reciprocity for the good God has given to us; and no punishments, merits or rewards from God to men in reciprocity for the good or evil we have given to God. The reason all these fall under commutative justice is that there is no fourth form of justice after commutative justice, distributive justice and legal justice. The relationship between God and men is a unique case, no doubt, because one party in the relationship is the source of all the good had by the other party, and is the Good Himself. But the justice pertaining to the relationship between God and men is not a fourth species of justice, but rather a unique case of commutative justice.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Christopher,

    Sorry to hear about your housing crisis. I own a real estate company here in Charlotte and also own a property management company with some vacant rentals. If you are in Charlotte and I can be of any help, please feel free to be in touch.

    matthew@group15realestate.com

    Peace.
    Matt

  25. Nathan,

    how a Reformed individual would react “to such a realignment of the otherwise endeared analogy”

    See above.

    a Reformed individual will say “This isn’t Reformed” and a Catholic will say “That is still Protestant”.

    I wouldn’t say that, as I explained above.

    Grace isn’t money, it isn’t mana, it isn’t midichlorians.

    I caught that the last time you said it. It’s an analogy. If it correlated perfectly, it wouldn’t be an analogy; it would just be the actual thing.

  26. Bryan,

    Maybe I’m misreading St. Thomas. What does he mean when he says that commutative justice does not belong to God? (Summa 1.21.1) I took him to be saying that justice does indeed belong to God, that is distributive justice but not commutative justice. I thought that the act of God making Himself a debtor to us, as it were, was an example of distributive rather than commutative justice?

  27. Tim,

    That section of the Summa is about the attributes of God. And that particular question is about whether there is justice “in” God [Videtur quod in Deo non sit iustitia …]. In his reply, St. Thomas says that the kind of justice that consists in mutual giving and receiving (which we call ‘commutative justice’) does not belong to God (or is not suited to God) [Et haec non competit Deo] because no one can first give to God so as to make God his debtor. In other words, God in His nature is not fittingly described as just (in the sense of commutative justice) because that would connote that God could be made a debtor. And simply speaking, God cannot be made a debtor, for the reasons already explained. But, by His free choice, God can enter into reciprocal relationship with creatures, and thus make Himself a debtor, in the way I explained in #23. So the fact that commutative justice does not “belong” to God by His very nature is fully compatible with there being a relationship of commutative justice between God and free creatures, through God’s freely entering into such a relationship.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. Ok got it. Thanks, that was a helpful clarification.

  29. Tim~

    I am not arguing about the perfection of your analogy, I am arguing that your analogy is not actually analogous and as such cannot work within a Catholic soteriological framework. You haven’t addressed my point that you are treating grace in your analogy as an external extrinsic imputed thing.

    Bryan Cross has a good point in is #23 – the relationship of grace between God and Man is a reciprocal relationship. I am a debtor to God AND God is a debtor to me, even as God is the source summit and end of all that I do, I owe, and is owed to me. What I actually owe to God is my own personal participation in His life as a sum total of what my life is. That becomes only possible by being incorporated into a synergistic theosis, where by both the cause of my participation and the merit of my participation is God’s own life infused into me.

    B16’s Deus Caritas Est speaks of how in charity we owe to God and God owes to us. Josef Pieper in his work LOVE greatly criticizes the view that we are strictly debtors to God and He owes us not love nor are we to desire to be loved (the debt of eros).

    When we look at your analogy, you are saying that Christ puts $10 into our account so that we can pay our $10 bill to the Father. This is not a synergistic analogy. First of all the $10 is extrinsic to the individual – the individual remains as he was just with more money. Secondly it is not a true synergistic act. The individual is paying God with Christ’s $10. The Father doesn’t want Christ’s extrinsic $10, He wants the individual’s intrinsic life. Thirdly, even though this money of Christ is in the individual’s account, it is an imputed transference.

    Tying this in with what Bryan said we can create a new analogy that actually is congruent. In regards to grace salvation and merit it is analogous to receiving a kiss from one’s lover. The kiss infuses the lover’s love into me and creates in me something new, love for my lover who now becomes my beloved, which I desire to return to my beloved as my own kiss. It also creates in me the desire to receive the reward from my beloved for my kiss, which is yet another kiss from my lover. The lover’s kiss indebts us to each other in a synergistic free willed exchange of love. This is why it is said that “It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward—grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.” Augustine ON GRACE AND FREE WILL Ch 20.

    God bless,

    Nathan

  30. Nathan,

    Jesus used a payment of debt analogy in Matt 18 / Luke 7.

  31. Tim~

    I don’t have issues with all debt analogies. The debit analogies in Matt 18 and Luke 7 are not congruent to your analogy – it is comparing apples to oranges.

    In your analogy, $10 is transferred from Christ to the individual so that the individual can pay his debt.

    In Matt 18 there is no transference going on between the King and the servant. In the first instance, the King simply forgives the debt. In the second instance, the King makes the servant pay the whole debt himself by exacting it in the form of servitude in a debtor’s prison. The wealth of the King (comparable to the grace/merit of Christ) does not factor into the discussion and the parable is not about justification/grace but rather about receiving mercy for charity or justice for judgment (Mat 18:35).

    In Luke 7 there is no transference going on between the creditor and the debtors. The creditor simply forgives the large debt of one and the small debt of another. The point is that the one with the large debt forgiven will be more endeared to the creditor (Luke 7:43).

    In both of these cases Jesus is talking about how tsedakah creates tsedaka. If charity is given, it creates a state of charity (justice). In Matt 18 it is the charity of the individual that brings about the state of charity between the individual and the king. In Luke 7 it is the reverse, the charity of the creditor brings about the state of charity in the debtor towards the creditor.

    In either case, the king and the creditor are not transferring (or imputing) anything to the servant/debtor. No one is paying the king/creditor back nor is the king/creditor paying himself back through a roundabout transference to the debtor then withdrawing the same amount. It is strictly a forgiveness and a zeroing out of debt without repayment or restitution. In your debt analogy there is repayment/restitution and as such you are comparing apples to oranges, and Jesus’ analogies here cannot be used to support your analogy.

    God bless.

    Nathan

  32. Nathan,

    My point wasn’t that my analogous and Jesus are the same or similar so I’m not comparing apples to oranges because I’m not comparing. The point is that all analogies break down at some point. Jesus’s analogy doesn’t work as a complete model for synergism either but for a different reason. In His analogy, the king simply forgives the debt without it actually being paid. According to the reasoning you’ve been using, that makes His analogy incongruous with the reality of justification because in the Catholic view of justification, God doesn’t simply pretend like our sin didn’t happen but that is what the king did in the analogy.

    I’m not sure what you think I’m defending but I’m starting to wonder if you think that I think this analogy is a new way to starting thinking about justification? or a catechetical tool? or something? If so, you’ve misunderstood my intent. If not, and you just want to point out that my analogy doesn’t adequately explain justification – then point noted. I’m just saying I’m in good company.

  33. Tim~

    Originally I was under the assumption that you wrote your piece about a tweaked analogy that you thought would be useful for Catholics and Reformed to talk about grace/justification/merit on the same page – as in an analogy that could at a basic level be agreed upon by both Catholics and Reformed.

    You later stated that you thought that the analogy was not applicable to Reformed thought, which was the first point of my second post. We are agreed upon that your tweaked analogy doesn’t fly for Reformed.

    Currently now I think you are defending the catholicity of your tweaked analogy. My point is not that your tweaked analogy “doesn’t adequately explain justification” but rather that your tweaked Protestant analogy is still in fact Protestant. It is still Protestant not because of what it is lacking but rather because of what it contains. It is sort of congruent to Protestant thought but incongruent to Catholic thought.

    Yes incomplete analogies are fine. I am not saying that your analogy is incomplete though, I am saying that it is incongruent – you are trying to put a square Protestant analogy into a round Catholic hole.

    God bless,

    Nathan

  34. Nathan

    Ok I think our thought is converging. I agree with every thing you said about justification and what it entails for Catholicism. About whether the analogy is trying to fit a square Protestant justification into a round Catholic hole, I can probably agree to that as well but – anyway- we’re just quibbling at this point.

  35. Tim~

    Ya probably time to shake hands and go to our respective corners. A unified analogy for Catholic / Reformed is something that I am deeply invested in. I have spent two years working on it and have never succeeded even minorly – hence my picking up and hammering on some of the finer points of your analogy. My failure cost me the love of my life (who is Reformed) but that is a long story.

    Part of the problem I think is that Arminianism can be said to be an attempt to correct the Reformed system and find a unified analogy between the Reformed and the previous (Catholic) soteriology. However Reformed theology and its analogies became heavily defended against the Arminian soteriology that I think it is next to impossible to now succeed as ever slight modification is met with resistance. Case in point being Federal Vision / New Perspectives on Paul which is a modern attempt to find a unified analogy between Reformed and earlier (Catholic) soteriology and which has been met by fierce resistance.

    Is there a way I could send you an article? I think you would find it useful (its roundaboutly related to our discussion).

    PAX CHRISTI TIBI

    Nathan

  36. Nathan thanks for the background that helps me understand where you’re coming from better. Sure, I’ll shoot you an email.

  37. Matthew,

    Thanks so much for your kind offer. I’m in Albuquerque, NM, but if I ever make it out to Charlotte, I’ll get in touch. :-) Blessings to you!

  38. Nathan;

    The problem is not chiefly that an individual is lacking the “funds” with which to complete the covenant of works and thus “achieve” salvation, but rather that an individual has £ 9,000 worth of punishment for his sin nature.

    What exactly is a ‘sin nature’? It cannot mean that the human essence was changed in the fall, for all substantial change entails the destruction of the thing that had the essence. If a log is burnt, we end up with ashes. But strictly speaking, we cannot say that the log has now become ashes. What we must say is that the log has ceased to exist, and we have ended up with a bunch of ashes. When a dog dies, we have not strictly speaking ended up with a dead dog. We have enden up with a corpse.

    So, given this; what do you mean by ‘sin nature’?

    What happens in the Reformed systems is more properly that the ownership for the £ 9,000 is transferred to Jesus, though the £ account is not closed but remains open in the individuals name, the $ remains as it is for it isn’t worth anything being unable to fullfill the covenant of works and useless under the covenant of grace, and an individual’s name is added as a non-controlling non-voting secondary to Jesus’ account of руб. or divine approval, which allows the individual into the covenant of grace — got to have руб to be apart of it $ doesn’t work being the old outdated currency.

    So what you are saying is one of two things: either (1) the £ 9,000 is imputed to Christ, which essentially means that God uses a lie to save us. For an excellent take on this I recommend reading this fictitious dialogue; “An Exercise in Blasphemy.” Or (2) the £ 9,000 is infused onto Christ, which essentially means that Christ really and absolutely became damned for our sins. The former is absurd, and goes against the very nature of God. The latter likewise, as Christ as God could not be sinful, something which is also clearly contradicted in Scripture. “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1Cor 12:3. RSV)

    And could you perhaps elaborate on the ‘the covenant of works’ vs. ‘covenant of grace’? I have yet to see any justification for it.

  39. Kjetil Kringlebotten ~

    Just to be clear and in case you missed it, I am not Reformed.

    In Reformed Theology the “sin nature” is the entirety of the nature of man post fall extending to all his constitutive parts and faculties so that man, by his very nature, is inclined, attracted towards evil, and does evil in all his actions so that no part can be deemed as a whole to be “good”. The sin nature is a result of a declaration of God , the removal of His divine approval (aka grace), and the placing of man under the curses of the covenant of works, a covenant that, post fall, had become unachievable by man and could now be achieved only by Christ alone. The change from “pre fallen man” to “fallen man” is not strictly ontological, unless we consider “grace” pre-fall to be a constitutive part of man’s nature which is removed. As grace is strictly “divine approval” in Reformed theology, its removal by God does not actually change the ontological nature of man. I would argue that the shift is actually a nominalist shift due to the declarative nature of God’s sovereignty in Reformed Theology which views God as issuing declarative decrees which bring about reality.


    Not sure I get your analogies. Strictly speaking, burning a log is really rapid oxidization of the fibrous materials at a high temperature which results in a dehydration of the material and chemical reactions which produce the compounds which we find in “ash”. I would disagree with you and not say that the “log” has ceased to exist. Both the mater and the energy of the log still retain the presence within space-time and that which the “log” was has not ceased by has simply become something else. If what you said was true then, likewise you could say that every person ceases to exist after so many years and a new person takes their place – for the human body is constantly re-creating itself as cells die off. The skin replaces itself every seven years. The physicality of who I am now is not that of who I was when I was 5. Yet I am still the one who was 5. The one who was 5 has not ceased to exist but rather has taken in food and water and oxygen to this new body which is me. That which was taken in has been transformed to become who I am today, who I was then has fallen away to dust, and yet there has been no cessation in me rather only transformation of stuff that was not me into me and transformation of stuff that was me into stuff that is not me.

    It doesn’t matter to much as Reformed theology is not really ontological and personally I think that the whole Reformed view on the shift in man’s nature from pre fall to post fall and then the shift that occurs for the elect after death is a bit convoluted and I don’t pretend to fully understand it other than to say that “sin nature” is a condition of man that is utter and total and its presence stems from the declaration of God that it be that way as part of the curses that resulted post fall.

    Reformed theology finds “infused justification” to be heretical and speaks strictly of “imputed justification”. Thus with that in mind, Classical Reformed Theology does in fact teach that Christ was really and absolutely damned and truly experienced the fullness of the wrath of the Father and the depths of hell, whether that be on the cross or after he died is not settled in Reformed theology. This is still taught in Modern Reformed Theology and Piper being an example of a Reformed individual who teaches this view.
    —-

    In Reformed Theology there is an overarching covenant called the “covenant of redemption” which is God’s declaration to create man and bring man to spend eternity in heaven under God’s sovereignty. The covenant of redemption is split into two phases, the covenant of grace and the covenant of works. When Adam was created, he declared by God to be bound under the covenant of works whereby he could achieve heaven through his works. Adam trespassed, broke the covenant of works, and fell under the curses associated with the covenant of works. This resulted in the entirety of the human race being bound to a fallen condition, whereby they constantly sin and suffer the curses of the covenant of works. The Son incarnates as Christ and as God-man is able to complete the covenant of works. Christ on the cross completes the covenant of works and imputes all of the elect’s punishments to himself. The Father rewards the Son for completing the covenant of works by opening up the covenant of grace to him. Christ in turn then imputes what he has won to the elect as the covenant of grace, which the elect, only the elect participate in through only imputation of grace. This participation is mandatory and is wholly independent of any action of the elect so that elect cannot choose to enter it or leave it – their membership in it is strictly something that they have been declared to have imputed unto them from all eternity.

  40. The problem (from the Catholic point of view) basically is the inexplicable Protestant dichotomy: if it’s God, it couldn’t , just couldn’t be man. For Protestants, there simply is no possibility that it could be God AND man.

    This looking at things with blinders is what causes Protestants to fail to see that “merit” is simply God crowning his own works, for, indeed, no act of fear, no act of hope, no act of faith, no act of love is EVER possible without God’s grace preceding it.

    If Protestants would only give the Catholic teaching on grace a modicum of attention if not careful study, perhaps they’d change their minds.

  41. Abraham~

    It is not exactly that simple – I wish it were. A Protestant doesn’t have a problem with the idea of God simply crowning His own works as the definition of merit. That is not a foreign idea. The problem lies in with the Catholic notion that the work that is crowned is a co-operative effort between man and God — that is the aspect that is anathema. When we look at the Reformed WCF, in the section on works (XVI), it cleary states that in the work of a regenerate man, the aspect of what we call “good” about the work is strictly the result of the Holy Spirit – it is His activity alone, and the activity that man does is always considered to be “defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgment” or in other words the action is still sinful.

    I would also say that Protestant theology, especially Reformed theology, doesn’t care too much for the idea of infused grace — the WCF does in fact speak out directly against the idea of salvation as a infused transformative event. At the nuts and bolts level the Reformed idea is that we are saved by the declaration of God and not by God recreating/transforming/renewing the human person at the ontological level. It is an issue of ontology and the “problem of universals”. At the core, the rejection of imputed grace is the same reason why the Eucharistic transubstantiation is rejected – simply because the Protestant metaphysics rejects ontological change as possible and instead rests its notion of change upon God’s attitude towards things and His declarations regarding things. For the Catholic, God interacts with the world at an ontolocigal substantial level. For the Reformed God interacts with the world at a verbal level through decrees (this is why preaching and scripture is so important because it is giving voice to the decrees of God which lets people know why they are sinners and under the curse and lets the elect know why they have been decreed to be saved).

    The reason why it cannot be “God and man” as you said is due to the Aristotelian dicotomy in Protestantism — Aristotles idea that the supernatural and natural spheres cannot and do not have any interaction with each other. Grace for the Reformed then becomes simply God’s approval rather than the infused transformative charity of God – His life which we are blessed to co-operative in. God approves of us or disapproves of us – gives us laws and curses. God acts, and we sin. God is always apart and alone, never truly with us — “immanuel”. Hense also the underlying reason for the rejection of the more charasmatic elements in Christianity by Reformed circles because the Holy Spirit simply doesn’t work that way — from the WCF that Holy Spirit is chiefly present in the world through the reading of the decrees of God — the scriptures — the vocalization of the word makes the Spirit present — “faith comes by hearing” and all that.

  42. oops typo

    in the above

    At the core, the rejection of imputed grace is the same reason why the Eucharistic transubstantiation is rejected

    should read

    At the core, the rejection of INFUSED grace is the same reason why the Eucharistic transubstantiation is rejected

  43. Nathan B:

    The reason why it cannot be “God and man” as you said is due to the Aristotelian dicotomy in Protestantism — Aristotles idea that the supernatural and natural spheres cannot and do not have any interaction with each other.

    Although I’m sympathetic to your main thesis, I must say that the above statement is inaccurate. Since Aristotle did not distinguish between the natural and the supernatural at all, he could not have said or meant that the two spheres do not interact.

    Best,
    Mike

  44. Going off of Michael’s post…I’m certainly no philosopher, but to call Protestantism Aristotelian certainly sounds wrong to me. I’ve heard that Protestant theology is influenced by nominalism, which, as far as I know, is the exact opposite of Aristotelianism. And if Thomism is the “official” philosophical school of the Catholic Church, and Thomas was heavily influenced by Aristotle, how could Protestantism be charged with Aristotelian dichotomies?

  45. Michael~

    Whereas Plato saw an exchange of information between the supernatural (the sphere of the forms) and natural spheres through typological interaction, Aristotle rejected the exchange of information between the supernatural and natural spheres and also denied the existence of the forms instead placing the “universal” within the nature of the being instead of an external supernatural form/idea as Plato did. I think this is why you are saying that Aristotle doesn’t distinguish between the supernatural and the natural. However I would say that within Aristotle the supernatural and natural orders still exists (though of course the supernatural is not populated by the Forms) as he still has a place for the “unmoved mover”, and “final cause” of all which draws all towards its end, or the Aristotelian God. What is key though is that these realms of existence are wholly segregated. Man cannot know anything about the supernatural, and it is wrong for man to think that there can be friendship towards the god for the god cannot return man’s love and we cannot be in any case said to love the god. The god, while being the unmoved mover, knows only itself and does not have any knowledge of what is actually transpiring in the created order and thus does not interact with mankind, save for being mankind’s final cause. This is what I mean when I say “ Aristotle’s idea that the supernatural and natural spheres cannot and do not have any interaction with each other”. Aristotle doesn’t believe in Plato’s Forms but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t distinguish between the spheres for he clearly has the concept of a supernatural god who is not creation but who is segregated off from the natural order and does not have interaction with it.

    David ~

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/03/influence-of-william-of-ockham-and.html this is a good article on Aristotelianism and Nominalism. It argues that Nominalism not the exact opposite of Aristotelianism.

    Protestantism is many things. If we look specifically at Luther and Calvin, what we notice is a rejection of the Christianized Aristotle aka thomistic scholasticism. Thomism corrects many of the flaws within Aristotle chiefly the dichotomy . Protestantism, in rejecting scholasticism revives the flaws in Aristotle and the further compounded flaws in nominalism. I didn’t say that Protestantism is Aristotelian rather that the Aristotelian dichotomy re-appeared within Protestantism. What I mean by the dichotomy is both the rejection of forms/ideas as well as the hard separation between the natural and supernatural spheres – which especially plays itself out in Protestantism through the separation between faith and reason and 1.) inability of man to come to knowledge of God through reason 2.) the inability of God to interact with man by changing man (infused justification).

    When we look at Reformed theology and ask the question “how does man interact with God” the answer is that man doesn’t really. Salvation is an imputed event. The action of a redeemed man, in as far as it is an action of man, is still sinful. God “interacts” with man via decrees in a monergistic way (this is not interaction because there is no communicating of persons). Grace is strictly divine approval. Scripture is the only source of knowledge about God. Man is elected to salvation/damnation independently of anything other than an eternal decree of God. And so on.

    Thus we can see the Aristotelian dichotomy in the Reformed system. Granted it is not as strict as Aristotle. There is a reason why the Enlightenment and Deism sprung forth from Protestantism – they are simply a further strengthening of the Aristotelian dichotomy. Very generally we can observe the strengthening: Catholicism – man interacts synergistically with God. Calvin/Lutheran Protestantism – man doesn’t interact with God God monergistically “acts” on man. Enlightenment — man doesn’t interact with God and God doesn’t interact with man but it is best to act as if there was a god. Post Enlightenment – man doesn’t interact with God and God doesn’t interact with man and it is best to act as if there was not a god (which goes beyong Aristotle).

  46. Nathan:

    Aristotle doesn’t believe in Plato’s Forms but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t distinguish between the spheres for he clearly has the concept of a supernatural god who is not creation but who is segregated off from the natural order and does not have interaction with it.

    You confused me at first because, in discussing ancient philosophy, you’re using the terms ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ differently from how they are traditionally used in Catholic theology. As best I can tell, you’re using ‘natural’ for ‘the observable world’ and ‘supernatural’ for that which is above and beyond the observable world. That usage is quite in keeping with that of today’s “naturalists,” but it only intersects tangentially with that of Catholic theology.

    In the latter, the ‘natural’ is whatever is created considered apart from its elevation by God to union with God by grace. The ‘supernatural’ is whatever constitutes or derives from such elevation. The former is not limited to the observable world, and the latter by definition interacts with it, at least through us. I don’t know any theologically educated Protestant who would deny that; they just disagree with Catholicism and Orthodoxy about how the supernatural interacts with the natural. So, for the sake of clarity, I suggest you abandon your usage and adopt the theologically more traditional one.

    Best,
    Mike

  47. Nathan, okay, I’m able to follow your reasoning. Thank you.

  48. Thank you again, Nathan and Mike. Am I getting an education here! I’m surprised that, somehow, I could follow your arguments. Thank you.

  49. Michael ~

    Yes I can see how you are using “natural” and “supernatural” to refer to final ends of created things and not as an adjective/noun to describe the essence of the thing.

    You are right; I am using “natural sphere” as an interchangeable with “corporeal sphere” and “supernatural sphere” as an interchangeable with “spiritual sphere”. Whether it is a flaw in the educational system or not, I find it to be a common place in both my graduate and undergraduate.

    I will be more careful in the future about my word usage. Thanks. I appreciate it.

    But lets return to my thesis that the Aristotelian dichotomy exists within the Classical Lutheran / Calvinistic forms of Protestantism such that there does not actually exist a “real” interaction between the spiritual and the corporeal spheres. It is not a complete dichotomy for it is still accepted that God reveals Himself through scripture (but chiefly through hearing/preaching and not actual contact with His person) but it does in fact lead to the complete dichotomy of the Enlightenment. Does monergism provide for actual interaction between the spiritual and the natural spheres? I would argue that it does not for when we look at the “how” of interaction, we find that there is no real interaction going on (justification is a legal fiction, salvation is a preexisting eternal degree, reason and faith are opposed, the activity of regenerated man insofar as it is an act of man remains as before and is still sin, grace is strictly divine approval, sacraments do not infuse or change the individual, etc. etc.).

    When you look at what Reformed theology rejects at a core level about Catholicism, it is that in Catholic theology God interacts with man at an ontological level and it is in fact a true and real interaction — for an interaction is by definition two way and synergistic. My hypothesis is that reason why Luther/Calvin were monergistic is because of the Aristotelian dichotomy that exists as a presupposition with in the systems. In order to re-read Paul as Luther / Calvin did it has to start somewhere, and both being well versed in Aristotle, both being highly interested in scrubbing the scholastic modifications from classical thought, and both were highly critical of the “superfluous” synergistic sacramental system of the Church, they pivoted Paul into a more pure Aristotelian dichotomy. Granted Luther disliked Aristotle but Aristotle is Luther’s primary philosophical training (and here I am only speaking of a specific concept not the totality of Aristotle’s concepts) and Calvin’s is not hostile like Luther and his Institutes is influenced by Aristotelian concepts. What is Luther’s “ah ha!” moment? It is the moment he considers that he does not co-operate with God in terms of his salvation – that he is “snow covered dung” – it is the shift to the Aristotelian dichotomy.

    Protestantism, Enlightenment, Post-Enlightenment, Modernism, all revolve around this Aristotelian dichotomy and are natural philosophical developments from each other. If man doesn’t interact with God, then it is true that God doesn’t interact with man, then it is true that it is best to act as if God doesn’t exist, then, as the spiritual has been rejected, the dichotomy is between the interior man and the external world and man doesn’t objectively interact with the external world and we have Kant and from there it is only a few short steps to the atheistic progressivism of modern society.

  50. Abraham~

    You are very welcome. It is as you say very difficult to get a protestant to take off their blinders. Lots of converts speak of “authority” as the reason for their conversion. That is the central focus in Marc Ayers’ talk http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/08/episode-14-from-presuppositional-pca-to-rome/ But what is more important, and I don’t hear it talked about at length much in conversion stories, is the shift from monergism to synergism which comes about by the rejection of the Aristotelian dichotomy. The authority question is only important if one is already presuming that the spiritual and corporeal spheres interact at an ontological level and the authority question simply resolves the precise how of the interaction not the fact of such interaction. Often the shift is implicit for reality really is interaction and as such people naturally are attracted to those positions and by shear gravitational force of the nature of existence fall into such thought patters on their own– you really have to educate people out of synergism into a Aristotelian dichotomy. You need to educate people that faith and reason are opposed, there is not a synergistic interaction between the spheres, and that the fundamentals of belief cannot be found through reason and experience — if you notice what is said is taught by both Reformed and Atheists – same core system different conclusions.

  51. Nathan:

    As I now understand you, you’re using the phrase ‘the Aristotelian dichotomy’ to mean the idea that the “corporeal” and “non-corporeal” spheres do not “interact” at the “ontological” level. Your primary illustration of that is Reformation monergism, which you present as the root of other intellectual evils such as “Enlightenment, Post-Enlightenment, Modernism…” I understand what you’re getting at. But much as I appreciate your acceptance of my previous criticism, I still think your usage is misleading.

    More than any other Catholic thinkers, Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas integrated Aristotelian ideas into Catholic theology. They showed that, although Aristotle was not a Christian, his ideas could be fruitfully adapted, baptized as it were, to address theological issues. But that effort did not yield or imply what you’re calling “the Aristotelian dichotomy.” They were synergists, not monergists. So how was it that brilliant men such as Luther and Calvin a few centuries later, whose philosophical formation was largely Aristotelian, became monergists? They were not monergists because they were Aristotelian, to whatever extent they were Aristotelian. They were monergists for two reasons, which have nothing to do with Aristotelianism.

    The first is that, like many late-medieval scholastics, they were nominalists in epistemology and voluntarists in metaphysics. Neither of those philosophical stances were Aristotelian. In theology, their combination made plausible the ideas of merely forensic justifiction and, more generally, monergism about how nature and grace interrelate. The second reason is that the Reformers were giving voice to a kind of despair that many ordinary Christians have always felt: i.e., that the Christian life doesn’t seem to have any real, transformative effect on people. Most remain sinners no matter what they do or don’t do about spiritual matters. If that’s so, then it just makes more sense to a lot of people to say that our salvation consists merely in God’s decreeing it, not in our being changed ontically by God so as to merit it. Monergism, and all that goes with it in Protestant theology, is an appealing explanation of why so few people seem to make much spiritual progress.

    Best,
    Mike

  52. Abraham V. Llera: Thank you again, Nathan and Mike. Am I getting an education here! I’m surprised that, somehow, I could follow your arguments. Thank you.

    If I may, I would like to add my thanks too, for the exact same reason.

    Nathan B: A unified analogy for Catholic / Reformed is something that I am deeply invested in. I have spent two years working on it and have never succeeded even minorly … Part of the problem I think is that Arminianism can be said to be an attempt to correct the Reformed system and find a unified analogy between the Reformed and the previous (Catholic) soteriology. However Reformed theology and its analogies became heavily defended against the Arminian soteriology that I think it is next to impossible to now succeed as ever slight modification is met with resistance.

    … Reformed theology, doesn’t care too much for the idea of infused grace — the WCF does in fact speak out directly against the idea of salvation as a infused transformative event. At the nuts and bolts level the Reformed idea is that we are saved by the declaration of God and not by God recreating/transforming/renewing the human person at the ontological level. … At the core, the rejection of [infused] grace is the same reason why the Eucharistic transubstantiation is rejected – simply because the Protestant metaphysics rejects ontological change as possible and instead rests its notion of change upon God’s attitude towards things and His declarations regarding things.

    Nathan, that helps me better understand why it is so difficult to come up with a “unified analogy for Catholic / Reformed” understanding of salvation. Both Calvinists and Catholics would agree that we are saved by grace alone, and both Calvinists and Catholics use analogies to explain how we are saved by grace alone. The Calvinist and Catholic analogies may seem compatible, but that compatibility only exists if one ignores the fact that “grace”, “salvation”, and “merit” can mean very different things to Calvinists and Catholics.

    Regarding Tim’s analogies that are the topic of this thread, i.e. – “Recently a friend reminded me of a common Protestant analogy regarding salvation and merit. The analogy is that sinners have a ‘bank account’ wherewith to ‘pay’ for their eternal salvation.”

    I think that the analogy between “merit” and the “bank accounts” that pay the price for eternal salvation may be misleading if we assume that a Protestant definition of merit is identical to a Catholic definition of merit. It seems to me, that in the Protestant analogy of merit and bank accounts, that the Protestant may be using the term “merit” to mean something quite different than a Catholic understanding of merit.

    Catholic theology makes a distinction between merit and satisfaction, and I am not sure that distinction is clear in the analogy that Tim has given.

    SATISFACTION. The expiation of wrongdoing … (Etym. Latin satisfacere: satis, sufficient, enough + facere, to do, make.)

    MERIT. Divine reward for the practice of virtue. It is Catholic doctrine that by his good works a person in the state of grace really acquires a claim to supernatural reward from God. …

    Certain conditions must be present to make supernatural merit possible. The meritorious work must be morally good, that is, in accordance with the moral law in its object, intent, and circumstances. It must be done freely, without any external coercion or internal necessity. It must be supernatural, that is, aroused and accompanied by actual grace, and proceeding from a supernatural motive. The person must be a wayfarer, here on earth, since no one can merit after death. …

    The object of supernatural merit is an increase of sanctifying grace, eternal life (if the person dies in divine friendship), and an increase of heavenly glory. (Etym. Latin merces, hire, pay, reward.)

    Modern Catholic Dictionary
    by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

    Copyright © 1999 by Inter Mirifica

    http://www.therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

    SATISFACTION– The expiation of wrongdoing … (Etym. Latin satisfacere: satis, sufficient, enough + facere, to do, make.)”

    MERIT – Divine reward for the practice of virtue. … (Etym. Latin merces, hire, pay, reward.)”

    In a typical Protestant analogy of “merit” and the “bank accounts” that pay the price for the sinner’s salvation, an act of faith by the sinner brings the merits of Christ into the “bank account” of the sinner. To wit:

    “Faith in Christ is equivalent to having a blank check payable from Christ’s own account of merit.”

    But this analogy doesn’t work for me, because while saving faith is indeed a supernatural virtue, saving faith is not the same thing as the supernatural virtue of charity. One gains merit by doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy (i.e. practicing supernatural charity), and not by having faith that Christ’s death on the cross made satisfaction for the eternal punishment due the sins of the world.

  53. Michael

    Didn’t Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas remained synergists because they did not allow Aristotelian metaphysics to triumph the previous metaphysics? When we are talking about “baptizing Aristotle” what exactly are we meaning? What we are meaning is that Aristotle is being brought into line with the Christian Neo-Platonism of the Church Fathers and early medieval scholasticism. What they develop is not a pure Aristotelian metaphysics but rather an “inculturation” and a correcting of the flaws of Aristotle. In the pure forms of the philosophies is it not fair to say that Plato is synergistic and Aristotle is monergistic, especially when we look the created world interacts with the uncreated?

    I would not say that nominalism has nothing to do with Aristotelianism for many underlying presuppositions are built upon Aristotelianism and are not simply anthesises.

    I think though you are proving my point in what you wrote

    kind of despair that many ordinary Christians have always felt: i.e., that the Christian life doesn’t seem to have any real, transformative effect on people. Most remain sinners no matter what they do or don’t do about spiritual matters. If that’s so, then it just makes more sense to a lot of people to say that our salvation consists merely in God’s decreeing it

    What you wrote is already assuming a Aristotelian dichotomy. What is this despair that you speak of other than the assumption that God is not interactive in the individual’s life? It is already looking out at the data of life and assuming that God is not interacting synergistically (neo-platonically or thomistically) with the world. In order for the interpretation of the data and its explanation it to “make sense”, the dichotomy is already presumed and accepted. Synergism says that people still sin because they are not co-operating and people don’t progress because progress is synergistic and one cannot force theosis as God is a person and His action in theosis is not dictated by the individual’s will. Granted that there is probably a better way to phrase that using medieval language, but the presumption of the dichotomy must be accepted prior to the conclusion. The idea that salvation consists merely in God’s decreeing makes sense strictly if one does not believe that God is interacting with the world synergistically but only in some form of the Aristotelian dichotomy.

    “Why do people not progress in the spiritual life?” is a different question from “Why do people still commit evil?” A person may not sin and yet not progress in the spiritual life. Only if we assume the dichotomy do we conflate the questions and conclude that person who is not progressing is sinning (and even we would say, as the Reformers did, that a person who is progressing is still sinning) because we have presumed that synergistic interaction with God is impossible due to the dichotomy.

    From a synergistic point of view it makes sense that those who are embroiled within a monergistic faith system find that the evidence of their lives is that the (monergistic) Christian life doesn’t seem to have a real transformative effect on people where most remain sinners precisely because by not living synergistically in communion with the Christ one does not in fact progress or find themselves becoming detached from sin. If rejects running the race, one should not be surprised when one finds oneself not finishing the race but remaining where one stopped. It should also not be surprising because that is what is expected from a monergistic Christian life — that people won’t become non-sinners and people won’t have a synergistic life with God and wont undergo theosis because such things are rejected as heretical by the system. Synergism says that if you try to live that way, that is what you will get. Monergism says that no matter how you live that is what you get. Thus it is not surprising at all that the experience of modernistic Christians is that “the Christian life doesn’t seem to have any real, transformative effect on people. Most remain sinners no matter what they do or don’t do about spiritual matters”.

    God bless!

  54. Mateo~

    Thank you kindly. :-)

    One of the things that strikes me as surprising is that often Protestant definitions for things are not simply alternative definitions where there is actual relationship and development from the Catholic definitions but rather they are completely different and do not have correlation. A good example that I found shocking was that what Catholics refere to as “Natural Revelation” is at least in scope referred to by Reformed as “General Revelation” (ast least as far as I was taught by a seminary student at RTS). I know of no reason for the redifinition.

    Well technically its justified by grace alone that Catholics and Reformed agree about but a Catholic says “saved by grace through faith which worketh in love” which is rejected by the Reformed. To be justified is to be saved for the Reformed but that is not so for the Catholic. As Augustine teaches our justification is dependent upon grace alone but our salvation is dependent also upon our living a life of charity. I think it is a key point and shouldn’t be overlooked. I have heard professors at RTS acknowledge that Presbyteranism is often loveless and struggles with charity. Thus there is a real need to discuss the meaning of charity in ecumenical discussions — probably even more so than discussing “grace” and “merit” for those are often theoretical discussions but the subject of charity is tangible and something that is an acknowledged need within Reformed circles.

    Yes I agree with you on the point about there being a distinction between merit and satisfaction.

    In a typical Protestant analogy of “merit” and the “bank accounts” that pay the price for the sinner’s salvation, an act of faith by the sinner brings the merits of Christ into the “bank account” of the sinner.

    Well that is Luther not Calvin. Isn’t that fun? Not only are Catholic and Reformed’s definitions different so too are Lutheran’s and Calvin’s. For Luther, faith is primarily an act of trust made by the individual. In Reformed theology faith is primarily that which enables an individual to believe the Reformed faith. They are related for Reformed faith allows for one to trust, but it is not in fact the act of trust itself rather that which enables the individual to accept the Reformed theology. (I say enables so not as to confuse the idea with infused knowledge or infused faith)

    Mull this over for a bit

    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 XIV III

    If you dig into each and every part of the above, defining each part according to the WCF and not an external source, you can see how it is a circular argument. It is self re-enforcing and results in Reformed theology being immune to external verification — hence reason and external non-“biblical” evidence (tradition, the Church, non-Reformed scriptural exegesis, etc.) can all be a prior rejected because, not holding to the Reformed faith, they do not contain truth and are not products of individuals who had “saving faith”. It makes it very difficult to have a discussion with an individual that is fully entrenched with the belief that faith is that which enables a person to believe the Reformed faith, because coming to a “non-Reformed” conclusion it is very literally viewed by them and their surrounding friends and family as “loosing their faith”.

    In my personal experience with my friend, it was so difficult because they increasingly were convinced that if they changed their mind about even the smallest of Reformed positions that would be proof that they never had “saving faith” and thus were predestined to hell. To believe differently is to be predestined to hell. I have seen this viewpoint crop up in other areas of fundamentalist Protestantism.

    But this analogy doesn’t work for me, because while saving faith is indeed a supernatural virtue, saving faith is not the same thing as the supernatural virtue of charity. One gains merit by doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy (i.e. practicing supernatural charity), and not by having faith that Christ’s death on the cross made satisfaction for the eternal punishment due the sins of the world.

    Exactly. What I enjoy about Catholicism is that everything is about having an interactive relationship with God. That is what converted pagan Rome — that God actually cared about humanity and didn’t stand aloof but rather was intimately on their side as Emanuel. What is faith but the knowledge of God’s person gained by having a relationship with Him? What is charity but the giving of one, even unto his own very person, for the sake of another that the other might too share what the one has? What is merit other than the debt of charity — because I have loved am I not owed love? Agape and Eros as Deus Caratis Est speaks of. What is hell other than not having a relationship with God? What does Christ give? His own life. Why? To bridge that gulf between man and God which we created. Christ gives himself to us so that we might give ourselves back to God and in doing so receive God back in return. As scripture says, charity will be all in all in the end. Heaven will be an eternal giving and receiving of persons — a falling ever deeper into charity. It will be precisely our participation in the triune life of God — the eternal giving and receiving of love.

    What is the Reformed view of heaven? Not this. If they say this they acknowledge a synergistic relationship with God in heaven (and only possible in heaven) and in doing so prove my point that the whole mess is because of the Aristotelian dichotomy in Protestantism.

    If heaven is not synergistic and still monergistic that means that man still eternally remains seperate from God and never truly has interaction with Him.

  55. Nathan,

    Just going off the top of my head, being that it has been awhile since I have read Plato or Aristotle, it seems that the charge of a complete, or significant separation of the “forms” and the material world could be applied more to Plato’s philosophy as this was something Aristotle corrected. I do not see a connection between Nominalism and Aristotelian philosophy. All I am saying, and either you or Mike can correct me, how I understand Aristotle, using an example of his epistemology, is he taught that we only knew the eternal forms through “material interaction” and this was a correction to the previously understanding of how the eternal forms and the material world interacted, taught by Plato. This belief of his suggest a more “synergistic” understanding of the interaction between uncreated forms and created objects/individuals rather then a “monergistic” view.

  56. Jason~

    For Nominalism’s connectivity to Aristotelian principles see http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/03/influence-of-william-of-ockham-and.html

    Well… Aristotle denies “form theory” and places the “universal” in the nature of the material thing. What Aristotle views as the universal is not the same thing as Plato’s Forms though they both believe in the reality of universals.

    I do believe you are mistaken in the way that you are viewing the metaphysics of the systems. Platonic Form Theory is synergistic because it posits that the corporeal sphere has interaction with the spiritual sphere via the Forms. All things, including ideas and interactions, have a typological interaction and participation in the fundamental reality of the Forms which exist in the spiritual sphere. The good and the god have interaction in the corporeal world and the corporeal world has a typological participation in the spiritual sphere.

    The proof that Platonism is synergistic is seen in the Neo-Platonism of the Church Fathers which they use to speak about the synergistic nature of reality and their extensive use of typology.

    Now Aristotle’s view is not synergistic but monergistic precisely because he places the universal within the created sphere and further he teaches that the god does not have any interaction with (or even knowledge of) the created sphere other than being its final cause and the created sphere does not interact with the god. The god remains divinely sovereign over creation but remains aloof and unaffected by creation and does not interact with creation other than being its final cause. The final cause of creation is independent of the activity of creation and creation cannot interact with the god or the spiritual.

  57. Nathan B: I have heard professors at RTS acknowledge that Presbyteranism is often loveless and struggles with charity. Thus there is a real need to discuss the meaning of charity in ecumenical discussions — probably even more so than discussing “grace” and “merit” for those are often theoretical discussions but the subject of charity is tangible and something that is an acknowledged need within Reformed circles. …

    I certainly agree that we may need to discuss the meaning of charity in ecumenical discussions … but … I don’t believe that the Reformed and the Catholics have that different a definition of charity.

    On the other hand, when the Reformed folk talk about “grace” I can get quickly lost in the conversation because I was not brought up with a Reformed mindset. What does a cradle Calvinist even mean by the word “grace”? That can become a mystery to me. For example, you quoted this from the 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 XIV III”

    If the “covenant of grace” in the above passage of the WCF means that the believer enters into a covenantal relationship with God where the believer partakes of the divine nature of God, then the above passage isn’t that problematic for me. Certainly, the infused theological virtue of faith involves “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life.” The problem here it that I am reading into the WCF my Catholic understanding of grace, and that doesn’t help me understand what the WCF is actually saying. If I am not aware that the “covenant of grace” doesn’t mean what I think it means, I may conclude that what a Calvinist believes isn’t that different what a Catholic believes.

    Getting the meaning of “grace” precisely defined is where my attempts at communication with Calvinists have so often broken down. In conversations with Calvinists, at some point, I begin to realize that the Calvinist is using the term “grace” in ways that are totally alien to my understanding of grace. In past conversations with Calvinists, I have asked the Calvinist to define what he or she means by “grace” and I have never received a response to those requests. I would like to know if the average Calvinist is ever taught a definition of grace that goes beyond that of a divine legal act of that declares the chosen one to be not guilty of the eternal punishment due sin.

    When you were a seminary student at RTS did they teach you a theology of grace that made the distinctions that Catholics make in their theology of grace; i.e. the Catholic distinctions between uncreated grace, created grace, actual grace, habitual / sanctifying grace, operating grace, cooperating grace, charismatic grace, healing grace, prevenient grace, quickening and assisting grace, the grace of final perseverance, etc.?

    If Calvinists conceive of “grace” only in terms of a divine legalistic declaration that leaves them with an unchanged “sin nature”, then what am I to make of the following passage from the WCF?

    WCF, Chapter XVI – Of Good Works

    III. [The true believers] ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure …

    If I read the above and assume that “graces they have already received” are the infused graces received by the Sacraments of Initiation; and that “good works” that the believers are doing that please God are the supernatural works of charity that are performed by cooperating with actual grace – then this passage from the WCF is not that problematic for me. But I understand that those are bad assumptions to make.

    If I try to make sense of the passage of the WCF about Good Works that I quoted above, by substituting for the phrase “the graces they have already received” with the phrase “the divine legal act that makes them justified before God without changing their sin nature”, then this passage of the WCF reads like this:

    [The true believers] ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the divine legal act that makes them justified before God without changing their sin nature, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure …

    The above passage hardly make any sense at all, but it does seem to imply that the Calvinist would believe in a type of grace from God that the Catholic would call actual grace. That is, the chosen one that is justified by a divine legal act of imputed justification, is also wholly dependent upon something received from the Spirit of Christ that enables him to do the acts of charity that are pleasing to God.

    Nathan, do you think if it were explained to the average Calvinist the distinctions that the Catholic makes between actual grace and habitual grace, that the average Calvinist say that he believes in what Catholics call actual grace, but not in what Catholics call habitual grace?

    ACTUAL GRACE. Temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to heaven. Actual grace is therefore a transient divine assistance to enable man to obtain, retain, or grow in supernatural grace and the life of God.

    HABITUAL GRACE. Constant supernatural quality of the soul which sanctifies a person inherently and makes him or her just and pleasing to God. Also called sanctifying grace or justifying grace.

    Modern Catholic Dictionary
    by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

    http://www.therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

  58. Nathan B: In Reformed theology faith is primarily that which enables an individual to believe the Reformed faith. … In my personal experience with my friend, it was so difficult because they increasingly were convinced that if they changed their mind about even the smallest of Reformed positions that would be proof that they never had “saving faith” and thus were predestined to hell.

    A practicing Catholic would believe that grace is needed to believe what the Catholic Church teaches to be divinely revealed, and that “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith” (CCC 2089). Since the sin of heresy is potentially a mortal sin that can lead to eternal damnation, I don’t find the Calvinist way of thinking about faith to be that alien.

    What I find incomprehensible about Calvinism, is the Calvinist’s insistence that the only source of inerrant authority for the Christian is what is written in the Bible. This is because a careful reading of the Bible easily proves that there is nothing written in the Bible that explicitly makes any claim about the Bible being the ONLY authority that is inerrant for the Christian.

    If a Calvinist truly believed that the Bible is the ONLY authority that is inerrant for the Christian, then he or she should have no trouble at least considering a reasonable alternative interpretation to what it written in the Bible to a particular Calvinist interpretation. The fact that a Calvinist may fear eternal damnation for rejecting a reasonable alternative interpretation of the Bible is proof that the Calvinist doesn’t really believe that the Bible is the ONLY inerrant source of authority for the Christian. There is some other source of authority that has the Calvinist in its grasp, and it makes no sense at all for the Calvinist to accuse the Catholic of being “unbiblical” for believing in a source of authority that is other than that which is written in the Bible.

  59. Mateo,

    I agree with your #58 from a technical standpoint that we as Catholics can relate somewhat to the Calvinist penchant for upholding dogma, I think you miss Nathan’s point somewhat.

    1st- Nathan points out that for many Calvinists holding false doctrine is “proof that they never had “saving faith” and thus were predestined to hell. ” This is NOT the same as being a heretic from the Catholic Church. While a Heretic’s salvation is very much at risk, the Church prays for their salvation – and doesn’t consider them destined or predestined for damnation.

    2nd – Nathan specifically mentioned the “smallest of Reformed Positions”.” The Catholic Church has been remarkably restrained in not defining every aspect of the faith down to the smaller details and generally only declaring heresy in response to very serious circumstances.

    I see the Calvinist problem that Nathan is pointing out here a predictable result of the dubious relationship between all Protestants and Authority. Without a even a claim to actual authority and while denying that they personally have or are exercising authority, too many make judgments and statements as if they do have authority. Although they claim that is based on the Bible and / or the confession of their denomination.

  60. Mateo~

    A practicing Catholic would believe that grace is needed to believe what the Catholic Church teaches to be divinely revealed, and that “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith” (CCC 2089). Since the sin of heresy is potentially a mortal sin that can lead to eternal damnation, I don’t find the Calvinist way of thinking about faith to be that alien.

    Here is the difference:

    The way the Reformed epistemology is presented it is a quazi if not out right gnosticism. It is not possible to truly believe the Reformed faith unless one is of the predestined elect. Thus disbelief in Reformed theology is an indication that one has been predestined to hell, and there is nothing that one can do about that. This creates a tremendous amount of pressure for Reformed to stay Reformed and submit to the teachings even if they don’t quite believe it intellectually or in their heart because “faking it” is still enough assurance that one is of the elect. It should be absolutely no surprise that if one looks at a Presbyterian order of liturgy that there is a large amount of time spent on assuring the congregation that they are in fact amongst the elect.

    For the Catholic, epistemological knowledge of the nature of reality, the nature of God, and how we are to interact with others and Him is possible, in a limited sort of way and with difficulty due to our fallen nature, by those who are not believers. This is because various forms of grace are present in the lives of non-believers (in fact any action needs one form or another of grace to actually be done — this is why the mystics often depict hell as frozen inactivity). Lack of adherence to a particular dogma is not an indication of eternal damnation but rather an indication that an individual is out of synergistic communion with God. For the Catholic there is always a strong drive not to simply adhere but to deepened and explore the depths of the dogma’s of the Faith as faith is viewed as that knowledge gained by being in relationship to God whereas in Reformed faith is simply resting on the Reformed positions. For the Catholic faith implies a going deeper and a push for closer union with God, especially as we consider faith to be only temporary for eschatological it will give away to direct personal knowledge.

    What I find incomprehensible about Calvinism, is the Calvinist’s insistence that the only source of inerrant authority for the Christian is what is written in the Bible. This is because a careful reading of the Bible easily proves that there is nothing written in the Bible that explicitly makes any claim about the Bible being the ONLY authority that is inerrant for the Christian.

    That is because you are not amongst the elect and thus you do not see those passages that clearly say that scripture is the only source of inerrant authority. /snark

    Actually it is worse than that — scripture is viewed as the only inerrant and infallible source of epistemology.

    As a Reformed would say, I agree completely that things are rather incomprehensible, but that is because we are wanting to have things be comprehensible according to our human reason rather than trusting in God and resting upon the biblical principles from which we know the truth and our justification by Christ.

    It is all very circular, very self-reinforcing, and very insulated.

    There is some other source of authority that has the Calvinist in its grasp, and it makes no sense at all for the Calvinist to accuse the Catholic of being “unbiblical” for believing in a source of authority that is other than that which is written in the Bible.

    I agree. Reformed are at least giving philosophical infallibility to Calvin, their divines, and various luminaries. However it is equally important to remember that Presbyterians refere internally to themselves as the “Split Ps”. When push comes to shove the only interpretive authority is the individual himself. Hence the emphasis on being Bereans — which is to always double check what your pastor says against the scriptures and the Reformed confessions.

    This is a really good blog post by a PCA pastor and highly useful for apologetics http://www.creedcodecult.com/2009/06/complexities-of-confessionalism.html . I suggest that you read it and save it. Let me quote the pertinent passage.

    I admit, I can see Leithart’s point and can understand his frustration at being told “No, you must not echo Paul’s language since it contradicts [Reformed] theology.” But at the same time, is there not a place for being a team-player and being willing to employ terminology that tries to avoid confusing people unnecessarily?

    It is sort of obvious when you dig around in things that the term “biblical” is just a synonym for “Reformed” so that when Catholic are accused of not holding fast to the bible what is really meant is that we are not holding fast to the Reformed theology because too often what we are accused of doesn’t actually appear in scripture or is a rather tenuous shoehorned reading of out of context passages.

    But then again we are not of the elect so we don’t see it in the scriptures.

    Which brings me to a very interesting thing that I have noticed. For Reformed the non-elect cannot grasp the epistemological knowledge contained in scripture. This means that the spreading of the Gospel is not a going out in to the world to teach all people the epistemological content of scripture but it is rather simply “preaching” so that the elect might hear and join the covenantal community. As an analogy, spreading the Gospel is akin having a bunch of ferrous and non-ferrous rocks (the people of the world) and holding a magnet over it (preaching the scriptures) and the ferrous rocks glob on to the magnet (irrespirable grace ) and are now part of the community of the elect. The Gospel is for the elect alone (which separates them out) and it is the instrument by which the elect rule over the damned non-elect by imposing upon them the covenantal curses of the broken covenant of works (though not all Reformed go this far though Calvin did and it is the underpinnings of the Reconstructionist/Dominion movement in the United States). The spreading of the Gospel is not fundamentally the process of spreading divine tsedakah (charity) to the world and inviting all individuals into communion with Christ, it is rather the means of segregation and the imposing of divine laws and the blessings for the elect and curses for the non-elect.

  61. Nathan:

    Your first few comment on this thread I wasn’t quite seeing where you were coming from – but this last one – #60 ROCKS

    thanks for writing and posting that.

  62. GNW: I see the Calvinist problem that Nathan is pointing out here a predictable result of the dubious relationship between all Protestants and Authority. Without a even a claim to actual authority and while denying that they personally have or are exercising authority, too many make judgments and statements as if they do have authority.

    Nathan B: Reformed are at least giving philosophical infallibility to Calvin, their divines, and various luminaries.

    Agreed … The Protestant Authority Issue and the Academic Magisterium – Devin Rose goes to the heart of the problem when he asks this question on his blog:

    Do we have a living authority in Christ’s Church that we can follow and know that God is guiding, or do we have only an Academic Magisterium of scholars and theologians (like Luther, Calvin, and Wright)?

    What Was It Like To Be John Calvin (or Martin Luther)?

    Nathan B: However it is equally important to remember that Presbyterians refer internally to themselves as the “Split Ps”. When push comes to shove the only interpretive authority is the individual himself.

    Agreed. That is why there is no principled distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura:

    Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority

    Nathan B: Which brings me to a very interesting thing that I have noticed. For Reformed the non-elect cannot grasp the epistemological knowledge contained in scripture. This means that the spreading of the Gospel is not a going out in to the world to teach all people the epistemological content of scripture but it is rather simply “preaching” so that the elect might hear and join the covenantal community.

    Have you ever seen this animated video? I think it sums up what you are saying:

    Calvinist Street Witnessing

    “Did you know that Jesus might love you … Here is the Good News – Jesus might have died for you …”

    appollos 6640 writes in response to the video: “How does a Calvinist share the “good news”? what CAN they say? Maybe something like this, “IF you accept the Words I share with you about Jesus dying for you, then God has given You FAITH, you CANT RESIST IT, you are part of the Elect and are predestined for Salvation. IF you do not, that’s because God does NOT want YOU, He WONT give you FAITH, and you are … are predestined for hell.”

    The Catholic can preach the Good News to the world – Jesus loves you and died for your sins. That I am sure about. It seems to me though, that the Calvinist can only preach to the world that Jesus might love you and might have died for your sins … but I admit that I could be wrong about that, and I wouldn’t mind being shown that I am wrong.

    Nathan B: The spreading of the Gospel is not fundamentally the process of spreading divine tsedakah (charity) to the world and inviting all individuals into communion with Christ, it is rather the means of segregation and the imposing of divine laws and the blessings for the elect and curses for the non-elect.

    Good point. One can see this consequences of this way of thinking among the Calvinist Afrikaners and their culture of apartheid in South Africa. From a religion that preaches that God created the majority of humanity for eternal damnation and only a few are among the elect, it doesn’t surprise me that an apartheid culture would manifest itself if given the chance.

    Nathan B: It is sort of obvious when you dig around in things that the term “biblical” is just a synonym for “Reformed” so that when Catholic are accused of not holding fast to the bible what is really meant is that we are not holding fast to the Reformed theology … we are not of the elect so we don’t see it in the scriptures …

    As a Reformed would say, I agree completely that things are rather incomprehensible, but that is because we are wanting to have things be comprehensible according to our human reason rather than trusting in God …

    I see this type of tautological reasoning running amok in Calvinism. Calvin used it to defend “this terrible decree” of the predestination of the damned: i.e. It might seem to our puny human way of reasoning that God is being unjust when He creates men predestined for damnation who have no hope of salvation, but God’s ways are not our ways, and when God creates someone for damnation it only seems to us to be unjust. The Bible teaches the predestination of the damned, and the bible teaches that God is all Holy and all Good; therefore, the creation of the damned is God acting in a good and holy manner.

    Any “terrible decree” can be defended in this manner.

    Nathan B, could you address my questions about what the average Calvinist is taught about the definition of grace, and if you were taught in the seminary about grace. I still don’t know what to think when a Calvinist uses the term “grace”. Would a Catholic have any common ground with a Calvinist understanding of grace?

  63. Mateo~ (at your 57)

    I don’t believe that the Reformed and the Catholics have that different a definition of charity.

    I do believe there is a difference but I don’t have my finger on it precisely and I am not sure if the Catholic idea of infused theological synergistic charity has a correlation in Reformed sanctification so I will not speak to that. I will though speak to this though for the Reformed charity

    1. Is not salvific. It does not cause justification nor is it necessary for justification.
    2. It is strictly a fruit of justification.
    3. It is not synergistic.

    What I mean about using it as a basis in ecumenical discussions is that charity is something that is tangible and that people need. People need to love and to experience the love of another person. It is a basic human drive. Granted it is an anthropological starting point and Reformed hate that, but it is there and needs addressing. The nature of why God is love and how He gives us charity (tsedakah) is important. Joseph Pieper wrote his book LOVE and Pope Benedict wrote Deus Caritas Est for specific reasons, namely that people are not encountering the God who is love. There is something real and tangible about receiving the love of another person, especially the charity of God. There is nothing at all tangible about receiving imputed justification — it doesn’t change anything.

    On the other hand, when the Reformed folk talk about “grace” I can get quickly lost in the conversation because I was not brought up with a Reformed mindset. What does a cradle Calvinist even mean by the word “grace”?

    For the Reformed, grace means strictly divine approval and nothing more. Though I would say that it is not uncommon for the average Reformed to use grace as something more along the Lutheran or Catholic lines. Just in your mind substitute “divine approval” every time you see a Reformed use the term grace and if it fits then they are being more or less exact in their theology and if it doesn’t then they are sliding into the Catholic understanding so press there and help them to slide more.

    If the “covenant of grace” in the above passage of the WCF means that the believer enters into a covenantal relationship with God …. The problem here it that I am reading into the WCF my Catholic understanding of grace, and that doesn’t help me understand what the WCF is actually saying. If I am not aware that the “covenant of grace” doesn’t mean what I think it means, I may conclude that what a Calvinist believes isn’t that different what a Catholic believes.

    You are exactly doing what you said, reading into the WCF your Catholic understanding of grace. The covenant of grace is strictly the imputation of the Father’s divine approval (grace) from Christ, which was achieved by completing the covenant of works on the cross, to the elect.

    Sometimes the WCF can read as if it was of two minds. This is because there was a controversy and not all of the divines were on the exact same page. Thus you can find compromises here and there between the positions. An instance of this can be seen that the WCF does not actually teach double positive predestination (that God actively creates some men for election and actively creates some men for damnation (put another way, the principle reason why some individuals go to hell is not their evil actions but rather God created them so He could send them to hell as a means of revealing His justice to creation).

    I would like to know if the average Calvinist is ever taught a definition of grace that goes beyond that of a divine legal act of that declares the chosen one to be not guilty of the eternal punishment due sin.

    Calvinist’s will use some of the Lutheran confessions and catechisms as part of their core texts. The Lutheran view of grace is not the same as the Reformed view of grace and does view grace as more than strictly divine approval. In addition Evangelicalism and its usage of the term muddies the waters. Add to this that the Reformed communities are a fractured mess because of disagreements over the nature and activity of grace. Thus your average Calvinist receives a mishmashed definition and it is why you probably never receive an answer when you asked a Reformed for what they mean by grace. Technically speaking though, grace is strictly divine approval and any amount of synergism with grace is not allowed nor is it allowed for grace to be a something which effects change rather than an attitude of God. (Here is where I would argue that the reason why grace is not a something which effects change is due to the Aristotelian dichotomy in Calvin because affecting change is a violation of Aristotle’s god being an unmoved mover just as it is a violation of Calvin’s principle of the sovereignty of God).

    When you were a seminary student at RTS did they…….

    I think you jumped to some conclusions. My friend went to RTS and I studied with them, did massive amounts of research, and listened in on lectures when I could.

    To answer your question though, Reformed don’t believe in “created” grace. It is strictly divine approval when we are dealing with it at formal theological level.

    WCF, Chapter XVI – Of Good Works…..

    What is key here in this section is it cleary states that in the work of a regenerate man, the aspect of what we call “good” about the work is strictly the result of the Holy Spirit – it is His activity alone, and the activity that man does is always considered to be “defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgment” or in other words the action is still sinful.

    This is how we are to understand [The true believers] ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. The goodness of a work done by a regenerated man has nothing to do at all with the activity of the man. This is one of the reasons why a good work is non-meritorous — because it is only the Holy Spirit that has done anything good. The second reason is because a good work is always a fruit of justification. Because an individual is divinely approved by the Father (has grace), the Holy Spirit brings about a good work by operating upon the individual so that the individual wills and does His good pleasure. However it is very clear that the component of the action that is man’s is not in fact good, rather it is still a mixture of sin and error in all its aspects.

    When we look at sanctification, there is not an actual ontological change in the nature of the regenerated man. Man always remains fully a sinner in his nature while on earth. Rather what is changing is the degree of submission to the an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure . Sanctification is not about an ontological change by which an individual undergoes theosis and enters into an ever increasing synergistic cooperation in the divine life of charity of God. Rather sanctification is about an increasing submission and obedience to the sovereign will of God so that in an action the will of the individual is under complete monergistic control. Now perhaps I am over emphasizing some aspects of Reformed theology and that is what makes the explanation so stark.

    Nathan, do you think if it were explained to the average Calvinist the distinctions that the Catholic makes between actual grace and habitual grace, that the average Calvinist say that he believes in what Catholics call actual grace, but not in what Catholics call habitual grace?

    No. Absolutely not. The actual influence of the Holy Spirit that the WCF speaks of is neither divine assistance, enabling of man to grow in synergism, nor a strengthening of the will. The WCF is clear that actual influence of the Holy Spirit is irresistible and wholly an external monergism. Actual grace is internal and synergistic.

    The problem with trying to get this to work is that synergism and monergism are exclusive principles — it is impossible to create a synthesis between them.

    Grace in the Catholic understanding is something that is the way that we participate in the life of God. It is co-operative interaction that is always voluntary and always requires the ascent of the human will. The divine assistance in Reformed understanding is the way that the Holy Spirit monergistically makes us do His sovereign will. There is no co-operation, no participation, just obediance of sonship.

    Let me put this another way — it is the problem of the freedom of the will. Catholicism understands that the will is free, even in the unregenerate where it is free but disordered, and becomes more free the more it is in synergism with God. In Reformed anthropology the human will is in utter bondage to sin — it can only will to do sin. Sanctification is thus the process where the will becomes monergistically controlled by the irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit and the individual stops resisting the easy yoke of Christ.

    Again I am highlighting certain areas of Reformed thought so I am sure that some Reformed individuals would quibble with me — but then again there is often great conflic within the history of Reformed history over these very issues.

  64. GNW Paul~

    Thank you kindly. I try and your support helps boost the spirits. AMGD and all that for what is important is not the occasional awesomeness of what I write but that people might know the utter simplicity that is the Catholic life — which is ever falling deeper into charity with Christ through the Spirit into communion with the Father. God has seen it fit to bestow upon us His own very life and give to us the unspeakable joy which was not ours by our creation or our nature but that which we have been called to participate in.

  65. Mateo~ At your 62

    Calvinist Street Witnessing

    LOL!!

    You can find Calvinists arguing over how and why one should preachthe Gospel, but when it comes down to it really what is the purpose of the “great commission” other than segregating those who have been predestined to accept the preaching from those who haven’t. One can be kind about it and approach each individual and share the Gospel in such a way that assumes that the individual might be of the elect, but in the end it is just a large scale process of segregation.

    One can see this consequences of this way of thinking among the Calvinist Afrikaners and their culture of apartheid in South Africa. From a religion that preaches that God created the majority of humanity for eternal damnation and only a few are among the elect, it doesn’t surprise me that an apartheid culture would manifest itself if given the chance.

    Great point there! Just consider how Calvin ran Geneva — he wasn’t called the Pope of Geneva for nothing. It is also worth noting that the Puritans didn’t come to America seeking to be freed from religious persecution — they came here because they couldn’t enforce their laws upon the “non-elect” and thought it intolerable that they should be governed by the “non-elect”. Here again may I point you to the Reconstructionist/Dominion movements within the United States where the end goal is for the US to be governed by “biblical laws” and ruled by the elect as a (Reformed) Christian nation.

    Tautological reasoning — Agreed completely. While it is true that the understanding that God’s ways are not our ways, that some things are above our understanding, and there is a need to submit to Christ and the Church as an act of obedience, what is true is that the fundamental basics for epistemology are knowable outside of biblical revelation. There is also the major point that for the Reformed the only fundamental check as to whether or not an individual should obey a specific exegesis of scripture is their own individual will (which is ironic because in Calvinism the will is wholly depraved and 100% of the time always chooses the sinful choice). For the Catholic, the Church, especially the teaching office of the bishopric, is one of the fundamental checks for it is Christ’s Mystical Body.

    Scripture speaks of the need to have at least two witnesses before something can be deemed to be true. When it comes to taking something on a matter of obedience of faith, Reformed only have scripture as everything else (creeds, confessions, exegesis) is supposedly derived from scripture. Catholics have several witnesses : reason, faith, scripture, tradition, the liturgy, the teaching office of the Church, etc. Everything is intertwined and supports each other as a unifed witness. The sureness of the Catholic Faith is that much more certain because there is a multitude of witnesses.

    for your last question see my post above where it is covered.

  66. Bryan Cross and Nathan B – What is the purpose of all this religious/doctrinal discussion? What is the truth? Who is the truth? Does religious doctrine and theological interpretation matter? Are you in right relationship with Jesus Christ and are you serving Him according to His will for you and according to His word? That is the only important topic to consider and discuss. I want to know what He is speaking to your heart. What is He teaching you? What is He asking you to do for Him? Are you seeking Him with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength? Knowing Him. Loving Him. Serving Him. Daily. Nothing else matters.
    This is what I know about you – You are men after God’s own heart. You were called by Him. Seek Him daily and seek to know His heart and to do His will for you each day. Serve Him faithfully each day where you are. Nothing more. Nothing less. Phil 1:3-6; 9-11.

  67. Dear Mary,

    I cannot speak for every person who has participated in this discussion, but the general purpose of our articles, posts, and discussions here, is to come to agreement about the truth concerning Jesus Christ, in order to be united as He prayed that His followers would be. He has called all His followers to unity in the faith He entrusted to His Apostles, as we see in John 17. This unity is a visible unity, because the world is able to see it, and to know that the Father has sent the Son. (John 17:23) The Apostle Paul, as you know, admonishes us that we all agree, that there be no schisms among us, and that we be united in the same mind. (1 Cor 1:10) Jesus founded a Church (Matt 16), and calls all men to enter it. In this Church there is “one faith” and “one baptism.” (Eph 4:5) What I did not understand, in my youth, is that the Church Christ founded is a visible Body, not an invisible entity. (See the article Tom and I wrote, titled, “Christ Founded a Visible Church.”) The Church Christ founded has a visible unity because not only does it have one and the same faith, but it also has the same sacraments, and the same government. The visible unity Christ refers to in John 17 is located in the Church He founded, because He established this unity in His Church. We cannot drum this unity up from ourselves; it is supernatural, and we are divinely enabled to participate in it by becoming incorporated into His Body, the Church.

    If we wish to locate in the present day the Church Christ founded (against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, and which shall endure until Christ returns), we locate the Church in the first century, and trace it forward through the centuries. First we see the leaders of the Church meet in council in Acts 15 around AD 50, and then again at Nicea in AD 325, and again in Constantinople in 381. There the leaders of the Church formulated the line in the Creed: “We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Those are the four marks of the Church. If you keep tracing that one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church forward through the centuries, you see that it is the Catholic Church of the present day, now having approximately 1.1 billion members and spread out all over the world. This is the Church that Christ founded, the Church entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom. This is the Church of which it remains true that “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16) In Christ’s Church we receive grace through the sacraments Christ has established as means by which we are renewed and nourished through the grace He merited by His perfect sacrifice.

    Does religious doctrine and theological truth matter? Yes, very much. Christ has called us to love Him, but we cannot love what we do not know. So it is important that we know Him rightly, in order to love Him rightly. Heresy always cuts us off from Christ, by hiding the truth about Christ to some degree.

    Am I in right relationship with Jesus? Yes. Christ has established means in His Church by which we may know that we are in right relation with Him. So, first, I am reconciled to Christ, by being reconciled with His Body, the Church. Jesus gave to His Apostles the authority to reconcile men to Himself: “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:23) And through this authority which He gave to His Apostles to forgive sins, I regularly confess my sins and receive absolution and reconciliation from a priest who, by way of apostolic succession, has that same apostolic authority to forgive sins. I also regularly receive Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and commune with Him in prayer.

    If we love Christ, we will love His Body, the Church (1 Cor 12). As an evangelical Protestant I learned to know and love Jesus, and for that I’m deeply grateful. But, the great error among the evangelical tradition is that Christ’s Church is something invisible. This is the idea that all denominations more or less belong to Christ’s Church, and all that matters is personally believing in Jesus with a sincere relationship with Him. This evangelical tradition is far removed, in many ways, from the belief and practice of the early Church, in large part because it disregards the Church and the sacraments Christ established in His Church. (Read Thomas Howard’s Evangelical is not Enough.) For example, Christ established the Eucharist, and yet evangelicals do not have the Eucharist, because their forefathers in the sixteenth century abandoned apostolic succession. (Pentecostal Pastor Alex Jones discovered this as well, as he explains here.) If we love Christ, we will seek out His Church, enter it, and lay down our lives for it. We will no longer wish to remain in schism from His Church, divided from her in doctrine, sacraments, or government. Likewise, if we love Christ, we will want to receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. If Christ is offering Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist, wouldn’t you walk miles to receive the gift of His Body and Blood that He offers to us in the Eucharist? (I know you would, health permitting.) So the love for Christ you have enjoined, is precisely that which impels us to seek out union with His Body (the Church) and serve it, and to seek out the Eucharist He gives to us, and receive it in love and gratitude.

    By the grace and providence of God, may these words shine a gentle light before you, and call you in humility and love and gratitude, back to the Church that Christ founded, that is, to the Catholic Church. Very few things would give me greater joy, than being in full communion with you in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  68. Mary S. (66) ~

    Thank you kindly. We can all do better and be ever increasingly conformed to Christ and it is important to always be reminded of that.

    Whereas dogmas do matter for the are the equivalent of learning about one’s spouse, and it is not as if we have faith in the dogmas but rather the dogmas propells us into the arms of our beloved Christ and not into a brick wall, do keep me in your prayers and I will keep you in mine.

    The differences in dogmas produce radically different ethics which effect how we lead our daily lives. For the Catholic, it matters very much so how we love each other for our salvation is dependent upon our love. For the Reformed, it doesn’t matter for salvation is strictly predicated upon the eternal decree of God. Those are radically different life styles. We talk about these things so that we may have one life style — Christ’s — and truly be one with our brothers.

  69. Nathan B: Thank you for your patience and your thoughtful responses to my question about how the average Calvinist might define “grace”.

    For the Reformed, grace means strictly divine approval and nothing more. Though I would say that it is not uncommon for the average Reformed to use grace as something more along the Lutheran or Catholic lines. Just in your mind substitute “divine approval” every time you see a Reformed use the term grace and if it fits then they are being more or less exact in their theology …

    The Lutheran view of grace is not the same as the Reformed view of grace and does view grace as more than strictly divine approval. In addition Evangelicalism and its usage of the term muddies the waters. Add to this that the Reformed communities are a fractured mess because of disagreements over the nature and activity of grace. Thus your average Calvinist receives a mishmashed definition and it is why you probably never receive an answer when you asked a Reformed for what they mean by grace. Technically speaking though, grace is strictly divine approval and any amount of synergism with grace is not allowed nor is it allowed for grace to be a something which effects change rather than an attitude of God.

    This answer really helps me. If a rigid Calvinist theology requires both a belief in strict Monergism, and a rejection of any form of Synergism, then it seems to me, that a rigid Monergistic spirituality would naturally lead to Quietism.

    This Rock Magazine, Heresy of the Month: Quietism

    The first proposition of [Miguel de Molinos] work, Dux Spiritualis, sums up the heresy: “Man must annihilate his powers and this is the inward way [via interna]; in fact, the desire to do anything actively is offensive to God and hence one must abandon oneself entirely to God and therefore remain as a lifeless body.” …

    “The Reformation doctrine of sola fides is a cousin to Quietism in that it rejects mankind’s reciprocal role (through obedience and good works) in the process of salvation.”

    In contemporary Reformed communities, does one ever encounter Quietism?

    Nathan, what do you make of the use of the word “infusion” in the following comment made by JJS in his post # 10 on this thread?

    Now when it comes to what qualifies one for eternal life, we would say that there is a strict merit that is needed, which Jesus by his perfect life and sacrificial death provides (we speak of this under the rubric of the imputation of active and passive obedience, which Federal Visionists like Lusk and Horne deny). But the child of God can and does experience the infusion of righteousness and grace, and he can and does become more and more conformed to the image of Christ throughout his life.

    And to be honest, you CTC guys often mischaracterize Reformed theology in such a way as to make it seem like we don’t believe in infusion or the need for holiness.

    I don’t expect you to speak for JJS, but I find it very interesting that JJS speaks about both the “imputation of active and passive obedience” and an accompanying “infusion of righteousnss and grace” that conforms the child of God to the image and likeness of Christ. The part about the “infusion of righteousness of grace” that conforms the believer into the image of Christ sounds so Catholic to me. But perhaps JJS is using the term “infusion” to mean something other than what that term would mean to me.

    Not to drift too far off the topic of Tim’s thread, I think that the This Rock quote from above is germane to a point being made by Tim’s first analogy:

    The analogy: Faith in Christ is equivalent to having a blank check payable from Christ’s own account of merit.

    From the This Rock article on Quietism: The Reformation doctrine of sola fides is a cousin to Quietism in that it rejects mankind’s reciprocal role (through obedience and good works) in the process of salvation.

    A person that adhered to a theology of strict Monergism could accept the analogy that Tim has given, as could a person that believed in the antinomian flavor of Once Saved, Always Saved. I would not argue with Tim when he says, “Miracles are actual: a sinner becomes righteous by the effects of Christ’s merit.”

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that the analogy is not that useful for me, because I think that different groups of people with irreconcilable differences in their soteriology could all claim that the analogy “works”.

  70. Mateo~ @69

    You are very welcome. I am trying my best to delineate what I have read, studied, heard, and experienced.

    This answer really helps me. If a rigid Calvinist theology requires both a belief in strict Monergism, and a rejection of any form of Synergism, then it seems to me, that a rigid Monergistic spirituality would naturally lead to Quietism.

    I find that depending on how one is looking at Protestantism one finds Quietism or Pelagianism as equal natural outcomes, though the latter is the predominant outcome that did occur (cf. the rise of nationalistic Protestantism, and the whole Protestant work ethic and rise of capitalism). However I would have to say that Reformed is not strictly Quietist as the will is not passive but more properly spoken of in terms of being subjected to God’s sovereign will. To my understanding the will is still active but under God’s sovereignty and irresistible enabling effect of the Holy Spirit, though to be sure in no way shape or form as an interactive cooperative synergism.

    In contemporary Reformed communities, does one ever encounter Quietism?

    Not in my experience. In Quietism, the individual “actively” seeks to make his will passive so that the Holy Spirit can work. For the Reformed, the enabling effect of the Holy Spirit is wholly sovereign — that is to say that the Holy Spirit either will or will not enable the individual to perform the good work and this enabling is wholly independent of any activity that the individual does (cannot be prepared for or prevented from happening) as it is still strictly tied in with the eternal decree of God as set down within the Covenant of Redemption. Remember that nothing that happens within spacetime has influence (positive or negative) upon the decrees of God given prior to creation. (you can see how Deism’s watchmaker god develops out of these principles)

    Nathan, what do you make of the use of the word “infusion” in the following comment made by JJS in his post # 10 on this thread?

    Yes I cannot speak for JJS. I don’t see how one can infuse grace as grace is only divine approval and it is doctrinal that the sacraments do not infuse grace. Lets go hunting for infused grace/righteousness.

    WCF XI.I is crystal clear that infused righteousness and infused grace in justification is to be rejected. It is also the only time the term, in any form, appears in the WCF.

    John Calvin’s Institutes twice speaks of infused energies as to how things are sustained in creation. Specifically derides the position of being “substantially righteous in God by an infused essence as well as quality” (Book III.XI.V) Complains about mixing (infusing) water with wine during the Lord’s Supper as a human invention that impairs the purity of the ordinances of God (Book IV.XVIII.XX)

    Not found in the Heidelberg Catechism though it states that

    Question 56. What believest thou concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
    Answer: That God,….but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ
    Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?
    Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

    We do though find the idea of infusion in the Canon of Dort

    VI

    [We Reject Those] Who teach that in the true conversion of man new qualities, dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into his will by God, and indeed that the faith [or believing] by which we first come to conversion and from which we receive the name “believers” is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be called a gift except in respect to the power of attaining faith.

    For these views contradict the Holy Scriptures, which testify that God does infuse or pour into our hearts the new qualities of faith, obedience, and the experiencing of his love: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring; The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us . They also conflict with the continuous practice of the Church, which prays with the prophet: Convert me, Lord, and I shall be converted.

    This is from 1618-19 and it is chiefly directed against the Armenians. The above does not speak of infused grace or righteousness rather only infused gifts and new qualities. The WCF is from 1646 and thus its language takes precedence when speaking of the rejection of infused grace / righteousness. It should also be noted that the WCF IX.I rejects the idea of imputed faith as heretical for it considers faith to be a strictly gift resulting from justification. The language used to describe what faith is does not strike me as being all together “infused” but rather it is something else.

    Thus I would have to say that I don’t find any justification for a Reformed individual to speak of infused grace or infused righteousness. The idea of infused gifts and new qualities I would have to ask what exactly do they mean by that. It is for sure that whatever thye are, they do not change the ontological quality of man’s nature from being a “sin nature”. What is key is that in all of a redeemed man’s parts he is stilled defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment. I would have to ask JJS then if these infused gifts and new qualities are created flawed and weak by God (implies possible true infusion) or if they remain alien to man’s nature (not true infusion).

    I would not argue with Tim when he says, “Miracles are actual: a sinner becomes righteous by the effects of Christ’s merit.”

    It really all depends on what one means. For a Reformed it is quite a miracle that the individual wretched sinner is imputed Christ’s righteousness. That is what is considered an actual miracle.

    I think though when it comes down to it, though I have not actually broached this in conversation, is that a Reformed individual would say that God could not have chosen to bring about salvation through infused righteousness and grace. A Catholic can say that God could have saved us according to imputed justification, but He didn’t (and if he did our eschatological end would have been different). The eschatological end result of imputed salvation is monergistic obedience of sonship. The eschatological end result of infused salvation is theosis and synergistic union with God. From a standpoint of all religious belief is pure made-up non-sense, theosis is “cooler” and the better pipe dream.

  71. “By the grace and providence of God, may these words shine a gentle light before you, and call you in humility and love and gratitude, back to the Church that Christ founded, that is, to the Catholic Church. Very few things would give me greater joy, than being in full communion with you in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded.” – Bryan

    It is sometimes hard to distinguish the creator from created things, especially when both are so wonderful. In this instance, the Creator being God and the created ‘thing’ being His church. And I apologize if this sounds too bold, but I feel like this distinction needs to be drawn between God and God’s church, and that they are not the same thing. My fear with Bryan, and a great deal of other Catholics (and certainly not all) is that they are worshiping created things rather than the Creator. Our ultimate goal should be to worship God and allow Him to work through us to reconcile the lost to Himself. To do that, our focus should be simply on a Cross and the Christ, not a building and traditions and rules.

    Truly I know many reading this disagree with it greatly. I don’t mean to insult the Church or refute its importance, but it is not God, and rather than trying so desperately to prove that it is the thing that the lost need to be reconciled, I believe we should all instead being laboring to reconcile the lost to Himself.

  72. Lastly,

    Luke 23:43
    And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

    As Christ illustrates to the thief on the cross, all you need is a simple faith in Him. Any attempt to add to that is to add to the Gospel which Christ gave His life for, and that is the true heresy. Sacraments do not achieve salvation. The Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on distributing salvation. Sacraments are one’s faith lived out, they are desired and pursued by one who has placed their faith in Him, and they remind one of that promise that Christ made for us, and draw us closer to Him. But let us not forget that the original cause of our salvation was a faith in Him.

  73. Bill~

    In all kindness, for I understand where you are coming from, but as there is a much larger and much more sovereign God than what you describe…

    I must ask what exactly do you mean by “worship”? It would seam to me that you in your attempt to focus us on Christ are in fact striking down everything that in fact focuses us on Christ and which He gave to the world that we might known Him and worship Him. How can true worship of Him be done apart from Him? No that is impossible. We are called to communion — drawn, gathered, called into His community, His Church, His Bride, His Mystical Body. The Church is built of living stones by Him.

    Might I also ask that when you worship Christ, do you worship His created humanity as well as His eternal divinity? I hope so. I am not saying that we worship the Church, I am just pointing out that esteme and honor due to created things is not against the will of God. Now the Church is Christ’s Mystical Body — the Church is Christ’s continued presence in the world — it does His will, speaks His word, spreads the Gospel, finds the lost, heals the sick, unites us together as God’s people, and gathers us to worship the Triune God with the Son through the Holy Spirit towards the Father. How is it possible to focus on Christ when one stands apart from His Mystical Body? How can an arm do the will of the head if it is cut off?

    You contradict yourself when you say that the sacraments do not achieve salvation but then go on to say [they] draw us closer to Him. If the sacraments draw us closer to Him, they they are achieving salvation for salvation in its fundamental sense is being close to Him and not apart from Him.

    You turn faith and the sacraments into human endeavors and the Church into a building with rules. The foundations of what you speak are human. A Reformed individual would jump all over you for saying that the original cause of our salvation was a faith in Him. for that is considered to be works salvation / Pelagianism for you have reduced the principle cause of justification to the human will and its choice to have a faith in Him.

    If we read the Gospels we find Christ preaching the imminence of the Kingdom. What has appeared in the rest of the New Testament is the Church.

    16. The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18). And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single “whole Christ”. This same inseparability is also expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-29; Rev 21:2,9).

    Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church”. Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church’s integrity — will never be lacking.

    20. From what has been stated above, some points follow that are necessary for theological reflection as it explores the relationship of the Church and the other religions to salvation.

    Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”. This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.

    The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”, since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God’s plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being. For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”; it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

  74. Nathan B: Thank you for such a detailed response, I really appreciate it.

    The quotes you gave raise more questions for me than they answer, and the problem is not you. It seems to me the root of the problem is that Calvinism is inconsistent in its claims about the efficacious effects of the grace that justifies man.

    You have made a good case that in a strict Calvinist conception of grace, that the grace that justifies man is merely an extrinisic divine legal decree (divine approval) whereupon God declares the justified man to be not guilty on account of the expiatory sacrifice of Christ on the Cross – e.g. you write: “grace is strictly divine approval and any amount of synergism with grace is not allowed nor is it allowed for grace to be a something which effects change rather than an attitude of God.”

    I used the word extrinsic above, because according to Calvinism, the fallen man is not intrinsically changed by grace – the justified man was totally depraved in his nature before he received “divine approval”, and he is totally depraved in his nature after he receives “divine approval”. To put it another way, a man’s nature is NOT changed when he is regenerated by grace. Nor is man’s nature changed by the sanctification that comes after he is justified by grace – e.g. “When we look at sanctification, there is not an actual ontological change in the nature of the regenerated man. Man always remains fully a sinner in his nature while on earth.”

    Some Christians that don’t accept the Calvinist view of justification say that the Calvinist conception of grace as “divine approval” is equivalent to a conception of grace as “legal fiction”. Which makes sense to me. Because according to Calvinism, grace is merely an omniscient God declaring the totally depraved man to be not guilty, and an omniscient God would know that the totally depraved man is intrinsically no different before he was justified by grace than after he was justified by grace. Within the Calvinist conception of “grace”, any concept that the justified man is intrinsically any different than the unjustified man would be a fiction.

    Within this legal fiction conceptualization of justification lies an inconsistency within the Calvinist framework, for you show “WCF IX.I rejects the idea of imputed faith as heretical for it considers faith to be a strictly gift resulting from justification.” If justification is wholly extrinsic to the justified man, faith cannot be a “gift resulting from justification”, since faith cannot be extrinsic to an individual. Faith can only be intrinsic to an individual.

    For a Calvinist to be consistent with the idea that grace is merely an extrinsic legal decree by God that leaves the man unchanged in his nature, when the Calvinist claims that man is justified by grace alone, he would also be making the claim that man is NOT justified by faith alone.

  75. Nathan, I made my last post before I saw your response to Bill.

    Re: Your point about Pelagianism and faith:

    Nathan B responds to Bill: A Reformed individual would jump all over you for saying that the original cause of our salvation was a faith in Him. for that is considered to be works salvation / Pelagianism for you have reduced the principle cause of justification to the human will and its choice to have a faith in Him. …

    Nathan B responds to mateo … For the Reformed, grace means strictly divine approval and nothing more … in your mind substitute “divine approval” every time you see a Reformed use the term grace and if it fits then they are being more or less exact in their theology.

    Nathan, it seems to me that I could also substitute “legal fiction” for “grace” to get the Calvinist understanding of Scriptures. Doing that would result in this version of Romans 11:5-6 …

    So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by legal fiction. But if it is by legal fiction, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise legal fiction would no longer be legal fiction.

    No nasty Pelaginanism in that reading of scriptures …

    ;-)

  76. Mateo~ (74)

    Thank you very much.

    Part of the problem is that I think that Calvinism on the whole is internally inconsistent, hence the same source can be in conflict with itself and the Reformed communities are often split along the inconsistancies. The other part of the problem is that you still want to read into Calvinism / Reformed the view that grace has an efficacious effect. It is more proper to say that grace is both the cause and the effect in Reformed theology. Grace is both the decree of divine approval and also the act of God approving man. It is not a change in the individual’s attitude/relationship towards God. On the surface it looks like it is a change in the attitude of God towards man — that God changes His attitude and mind implying that He is passable and changeable — but this would be an incorrect understanding of the Reformed system. Remember that predestination is a positive act and decree of God that exists prior to all creation and as such God’s attitude towards each individual man is always set and fixed by His divine decrees so that He always acts with curses towards those that were created for damnation and always acts with blessings towards those that were created for election even if they enter into the covenantal community and are “regenerated”/”forgiven” within time. But even here I am not being precise enough in my own language for God does not react to the actions of creation, we must put that out of our mind, rather God has simply decreed what shall be from all eternity and what we encounter here in the midsts of time only appears to be God reacting.

    Obviously on the whole decree business, one can go after Reformed theology with charges of fatalism, and charges that God was not free to create or not create as a Catholic could argue that the Reformed system necessitates the Covenant of Redemption (which is the whole ball of wax of creation, redemption, and eschatological end of man) be made from all eternity within the Godhead.

    Right. Synergism is not allowed within a strict Reformed system — you can view some synergism in Reformed who are not strict Reformed. Basically the various movements that have sought to bring back the system to something more in line with the historical faith. Federal Vision is a good example of a modern movement.

    Right. Calvinist’s don’t like being told that their view is a legal fiction precisely because they have an underlying belief that law is what determines right from wrong. You can see this clearly in how they treat Paul’s saying that there was no sin before the Law of Moses. The attitude that the law makes something right or wrong is fairly common and not limited to Reformed. Someone is moral if they scrupously follow the letter of the law. The nature of things and the actual action of a thing doesn’t really enter into the equation for such individuals all that really matters is the specific decrees of the law. It is never really questioned or considered if the law is just or unjust, the simple fact of it being law is enough. What we are trying to get across when we called the Reformed position a legal fiction is not that it is a fiction about the individual’s standing as a justified individual (for much of the Mosaic Law is legal justification) but rather primarily that it is a fiction that laws and decrees are what determine morality. After all that is the Pharisee position — that only legal justification and following the letter of the law is what determined moral standing with God. Jesus said no the law doesn’t determine morality but rather ontological synergistic communion with God determines morality (obviously not in those words). That is also the meaning behind Paul’s “the works of the law do not justify” in Roman. He is meaning that legal justification is is of no use if one is not ontologically just as well. Granted we would also argue that it is also a fiction that the individual is justified because justification is not being only in legal right relationship with God but also in ontological and moral right relationship with God.

    I would say that in the conflict between Javert (who is legally but not ontologically just) and Valjean (who is not legally just but becomes ontologically just) in the musical Les Miserables we can see the Reformed and Catholic positions regarding the freedom of the will, morality determined by decrees or ontology, and the possibility of ontological change playing themselves out in a “real life” example.

    If justification is wholly extrinsic to the justified man, faith cannot be a “gift resulting from justification”, since faith cannot be extrinsic to an individual. Faith can only be intrinsic to an individual

    Sure it can be extrinsic, especially if it is a completly different definition. If I push a slinky down the stairs I have extrinsically enabled it to move down the stairs. The slinky doesn’t change and it still only does slinky things but I have extrinsically enabled it to move according to my will in the set way that I wished for it to move, that is down the stairs. This can be analogous to the external nature of enabling faith which exists as a fruit of justification. For the Reformed, faith is not an activity of an individual but rather that which enables specific activates of the individual — which are for the Reformed accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. Lutheran’s view faith as an activity of an individual (an act of trust, thus making the Lutheran understanding of faith closer to the Catholic understanding of hope than the Catholic understanding of faith).

    Just for completeness, an incomplete analogy for infused faith would be me taking a wire and twisting it into a spring. I am changing the wire and infusing it with springy qualities. It is still a wire but it is now renewed and repurposed by my putting into it my own energy. The spring now exists as a synergism between its wire nature and the springy qualities infused into it.

    he would also be making the claim that man is NOT justified by faith alone.

    Reformed do not believe that an individual is justified by faith at all. I think that is where you are getting things tied up. From the sections on Justification and Faith in the WCF, faith is not to be understood as part of the justification process of the individual. The individual is strictly justified by the legal decree of divine approval (grace) which happened prior to creation and which the individual personally came under in the midst of time through his entrance into the covenant of grace. The Reformed are being consistent here for they, like you say, deny any sort of involvement in justification to faith. Faith exists solely as a resultant of justification.

  77. Addendum to my 75

    I need to correct some of the language in my last paragraph.

    In the WCF, faith in XVI.I is considered not to be the means of an individual’s justification so that justification is not the imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but rather justification is the imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God..

    In XVI.II Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification;

    Thus faith acts as a linkage between the individual and God’s divine approval as that which enables the individual to rest upon the Reformed faith.

    As such let me correct my final paragraph.

    Corrections in bold.

    Reformed do not believe that an individual’s act of faith, or having faith, is what justifies the individual. I think that is where you are getting things tied up. From the sections on Justification and Faith in the WCF, faith is not to be understood as part of the cause of God’s eternal election of the individual l. The individual is strictly justified by the legal decree of divine approval (grace) which happened prior to creation and which the individual personally came under in the midst of time through his entrance into the covenant of grace by the instrument of faith . The Reformed are being consistent here for they, like you say, deny any sort of involvement to the cause of justification to faith . Faith exists solely as a resultant instrument of justification.

  78. Bill, (re: #71)

    Of course no one should confuse the Creator and the creature, mistaking one for the other. To give to a mere creature the worship due to God, would be idolatry, a violation of the first commandment of the Decalogue. Nevertheless, the incarnation brings about the most profound and mysterious union of God and man, and this has certain ecclesiological implications that no Christian should ignore. In #73, Nathan brought up the humanity of Christ, which is what I too would bring up, in response to your most recent comment.

    If someone said to you, “I don’t worship Jesus’ physical body, because it is created; I worship only His divine nature,” I presume you would recognize that this person has not understood the depth and implication of the union of Christ’s divine and human natures, in His Person. St. Augustine says:

    He [Christ] walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he adores it; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord’s feet is adored; and not only do we not sin by adoring, we do sin by not adoring.

    St. Augustine is implicitly pointing out that we do not only adore His divine nature and His Person; we also rightly adore His flesh and blood, given to us in the Eucharist. That is, we worship His flesh and blood, because Christ’s physical body is divine, even though in another sense it is created, because the flesh He received from Mary was created. So how can His flesh and blood possibly be both created and yet divine, because God is uncreated? This is the mystery of the incarnation, that God became one with man, in the Person of Christ, by taking on human nature. In taking on human nature, the uncreated took on the created. His physical body is not eternal, because there was a time when it was not. But, in another sense His physical body is eternal, because by the incarnation, Who this physical body is, is eternal. Christ’s relation to His physical body is not one of possession, which is extrinsic, but one of subsistence, which is intrinsic. Because of this union of His Person and His human nature, to touch His physical body, is to touch the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. That’s not a contradiction, but it is a profound mystery that we cannot fully comprehend.

    What does this have to do with the Church? The Church is not Christ’s physical body, but the Church is Christ’s Mystical Body. Saul (who would become Paul) discovered this on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, when Jesus said to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4) Saul did not correct Jesus by explaining to Him that there is a Creator-creature distinction. Rather, Saul allowed Jesus’ statement to inform and illuminate his own understanding of the depth of union of Christ and His Mystical Body, as he explained later in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. There he explains that Christ is the Head of the Body, and we are the members of the Body. The Head is not a separate body from the members. The Head is a member of this very same Mystical Body of which we too are members, although of course the Head is the most important member. The Church is not a Body Christ has; the Church is the Body Christ is, just as a head doesn’t merely have a body, but is a member of a body.

    Is this Mystical Body of Christ divine or not divine? We in ourselves, as creatures, are not divine. But the Body of Christ is divine because Christ the Head of this Body is divine, and because the Soul of this Body is the Holy Spirit, who is divine. In this respect, even though we are naturally born from our mothers as mere creatures, yet through baptism and incorporation into Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, we immediately become, by an infused nature, true members of something divine, namely, the Body of Christ. Through this incorporation into the divine Mystical Body of Christ, who we are, is no longer ‘mere creature,’ but something infinitely greater, namely, “Member of the divine Mystical Body of Christ” animated not merely by a created soul but animated by the eternal Spirit of God, Who is uncreated, and who animates the whole Body of Christ, as a soul animates a body.

    This deep and intimate union between Christ and the Church, is shown to us in marriage as a type. In the context of speaking of marriage St. Paul (who had been Saul) tells us “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great sacrament [i.e. mystery], and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.” (Eph 5:31-32) He teaches here that Genesis 2:24 is speaking of Christ’s union with the Church, by way of a type. Christ and the Church are “one flesh.” Now if Christ is divine, and Christ is “one flesh” with the Church, then the Church is divine. Otherwise either they are not one flesh, but two, or the flesh Christ gives to this union is not divine, but merely human. But Christ’s flesh is divine, as I have shown above. And the Scripture makes it clear that Christ is “one flesh” with His Bride, the Church. And therefore the Church is, through this mystical union, divine. And this explains Matthew 25:31-45 as well.

    This profound union of the Son with the Church also explains the very well-known statement from St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in North Africa in the third century, in his work titled On the Unity of the Church, in which he wrote:

    Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.

    This requirement of union with the Church, for union with Christ, is not only by divine precept or stipulation. For example, there is an ontological union of the Father and the Son; they are one being. This is why Jesus said, “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” (John 15:23) Likewise, no one can love the Son and hate or reject His physical body, because they are one. To reject His physical body is to reject the One who that very body is. This was the error of the docetists and gnostics, whom the Apostle John warns against when telling us that those who deny that Jesus “has come in the flesh” are not from God. (1 John 4:2-3) So likewise, there is an ontological union of Christ and His Church; they are “one flesh.” Just as we cannot be united to God the Father while rejecting His Son who is one being with Him and just as we cannot love the Son while rejecting His physical body, so likewise we cannot be united to the Son while rejecting His Bride the Church. To despise the Church is to despise Christ who poured out His blood for His Church, and whose Body the Church is, He being the Head, whose Bride the Church is, He being the Groom.

    Of course we must not worship mere creatures. But, because of the union of Christ and His Church, the Church is no mere creature. To love Christ is to love His Church. To be reconciled to Christ we must be reconciled to His Church. To listen to Christ we must listen to His Church. If you wish to show love to Christ, lay down your life in sacrifice and life-long service for His Church. To marry the Church is to marry Christ. To please Christ, beautify and build up His Church. He who loves and serves the Church, for Christ’s sake, will in no wise be cast out, but will be honored by the Groom in the eternal Day of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  79. Mateo (75)

    <blockquote?Nathan, it seems to me that I could also substitute “legal fiction” for “grace” to get the Calvinist understanding of Scriptures. Doing that would result in this version of Romans 11:5-6 …

    So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by legal fiction. But if it is by legal fiction, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise legal fiction would no longer be legal fiction.

    I would suggest using the sovereign will of God instead of legal fiction so that is not a needless poking in the eye of a Reformed person (unless in your discussion the Reformed person needs some poking to shake them from their complancecy) and it still gets the point across that man is not involved in any way shape or form in his own salvation and it is strictly by God eternal decree that man is saved or damned.

    thus

    So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by the sovereign will of God. But if it is by the sovereign will of God, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise the sovereign will of God would no longer be the sovereign will of God.

  80. Hmm, I am not sure why Nathan thinks infusion is foreign to Calvinism. A few excerpts from Davenant’s Treatise on Justification (fully available at google books):

    “Let Becan close the host of calumniators; who in Enchir. de Justif. Calvin, cap. 2, ascribes this proposition to Calvin : That in justification the grace and righteousness are not infused, by which a man becomes renewed internally, and righteous and holy in himself; but that only the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him externally, whereby he is accounted righteous out of himself. Indeed the opinion of Calvin (and that the true one) is, that man is not justified by infused or inherent righteousness. But the calumny of Becan (which is palpably false) is, that God does not, when he justifies, according to Calvin, infuse inherent righteousness and renewing grace.

    You have heard what the Jesuits attribute to us; now hear what we really think about the renovation of justified persons.

    Calvin, (Inst. lib. 3. cap. 3.} says, Man is justified by faith alone, nor yet is real holiness separated from the gratuitous imputation of righteousness.

    Bucer, (Colloq. Ratisb. p. 317,) says, We preach with open mouth, that inherent righteousness is bestowed upon us, and infused into us by Christ our Lord, the new Adam and the heavenly regenerator, as original sin is-infused into us by the old Adam and our earthly generator.

    Melancthon, (Loc. de BonisOper. qu. 3,) says, that inchoate obedience and the righteousness of a good conscience must be in the regenerate, although sin still remain in them.

    Peter Martyr says, (Loc. com. Class 3, foe. 4, p. 574J— God in very deed begets righteousness in men, when by his Spirit he repairs and wholly renews them, restoring the powers of their mind, and freeing the human faculties in a great measure from their native ruin. And this righteousness is wrought within and adheres to our souls by the gracious act of God.

    Chemnitz, (Exam. Cone. Trident. de Justif. pp.\—8,) says, that Christ by his passion has merited for us, not only the remission of sins, but even this, that, on account of his merit, the Holy Spirit is given to us, that we may be renewed in the spirit of our minds. And a little after— We also teach that newness of life is begun in believers by the Holy Spirit, but we say, that we are not justified before God by our renewal.

    Whittaker, (Resp. ad 8m rationem Campiani,) says—It is plain that he who has nothing in himself but corruption is by no means regenerate; for the new man, which is created after God, must be renewed in righteousness and true holiness. Id. contra Duraeum : It is one thing to disparage all grace infused into Ms, which we by no means do; another to take away the merit of justification from this grace, which the Scripture most clearly does.

    And thus we have proved briefly, that a certain inherent righteousness, or holiness, is bestowed on all the justified. I come now to the other part of our proposition, which was,

    That all believers, or regenerate persons are, from this infused or inherent righteousness, called and esteemed righteous, and that by God himself;
    This it not a title without a reality; but God, who calls the regenerate righteous, sees in them that quality, or that gift of infused righteousness, which the Holy Spirit has poured into their hearts. As God therefore, calls and reckons those believers, upon whom he has bestowed faith, although it be imperfect; as he likewise accounts those wise, sober, humble, into whom he has poured these virtues, even though the opposite defects are not entirely removed ; so he calls and deems those righteous, to whom he has imparted the gift of new righteousness, although it be not yet perfect in all its parts. It is therefore agreeable to Scripture, that whosoever is regenerate should be called and esteemed righteous.”

    “Bellarmine therefore adds, that Christ is made unto us righteousness, inasmuch as he satisfied the Father for us, and bestowed upon us that satisfnction; and in this sense he admits that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, provided it be not denied, that there is besides in us inherent righteousness, to which in the just judgment of God, not punishment but glory is due. See how the force of truth has almost constrained Bellarmine to bow, though with unwilling neck, to the Protestant doctrine! But I reply : If Christ is made our righteousness, because he has satisfied God the Father for us, and has bestowed this satisfaction upon us, why may we not equally extend this imputed satisfaction of Christ to the righteousness of the law performed in our name, as we do to the curse of the law which he bore on our behalf ? For Christ in both ways satisfied the law, and each satisfaction is in its nature imputahle. But Bellarmine, notwithstanding this concession of his, is careful of its being denied that this inherent righteousness is in us. This has never been denied by us, and never will. But he wishes such a righteousness to be allowed to exist, for which by the just judgment of God, not punishment, but glory may be due. This too, in a sound sense, we grant. For punishment is not due to that righteousness which the Holy Spirit hath infused, but to unrighteousness or indwelling sin, which is found together with this righteousness, in every regenerate person. Not inherent righteousness then itself, but the defects and sins cleaving to it, cause the regenerate to deserve punishment and be unworthy of glory, if they are judged according to this their righteousness, and not according to the righteousness of Christ, mercifully bestowed upon and imputed to them.”

    Other Reformed writers:
    Hooker: “The righteousness wherewith we shall be clothed in the world to come is both perfect and inherent. That whereby here we are justified is perfect, but not inherent. That whereby we are sanctified is inherent, but not perfect.”
    Owen: “This inherent righteousness, taking it for that which is habitual and actual, is the same with our sanctification; neither is there any difference between them, only they are diverse names of the same thing. For our sanctification is the inherent renovation of our natures exerting and acting itself in newness of life, or obedience unto God in Christ and works of righteousness.”
    Calvin: “I believe I have already explained above, with sufficient care, how for men cursed under the law there remains, in faith, one sole means of recovering salvation. I believe I have also explained what faith itself is, and those benefits of God which it confers upon man, and the fruits it brings forth in him. Let us sum these up. Christ was given to us by God’s generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ’s blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by Christ’s spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.”
    and (shades of theosis)
    “…he then shews the excellency of the promises, that they make us partakers of the divine nature, than which nothing can be conceived better.
    For we must consider from whence it is that God raises us up to such a height of honor. We know how abject is the condition of our nature; that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things, the greatness of his grace cannot be sufficiently conceived by our minds. Therefore this consideration alone ought to be abundantly sufficient to make us to renounce the world and to carry us aloft to heaven. Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.”

  81. 80.Interlocutor

    I said what I said because Calvin denies infused justification and if you read any apologetical works by Calvinists they flat out deny infused justification.

    If you would kindly take the time to read Calvin’s Institues Book 3 Chapter 11

    http://www.reformed.org/books/institutes/books/book3/bk3ch11.html

    You will find that Calvin teaches only imputed justification. In Institutes 3.11.5 Calvin directly denies infused justification. Further the WCF specifically denies any sort of infusion to be understood as part of the process of justification.

    I think what you are doing is confusing infused justification with aspects of infusion involved in the Calvinistic concept of sanctification. Calvinists sometimes will use the language of infusion when talking about sanctification, though this language is neither fully the Catholic nor biblical understanding given that Calvinism rejects Augustine who taught that infused sanctification allows man to merit eternal life. Calvinism doesn’t view the Christian life as synergistic and thus its concepts of infusion are truncated and do not rise to the fullness of co-operation that infusion implies and scripture points towards.

    Let me address Whittaker, (spelled in modern English as William Whitaker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Whitaker_(theologian) ) . If we are paying attention to what he is writing in your quote, we will see that he is upholding imputed justification and denying the full sense of infused righteousness, while at the same time speaking of a “certain inherent righteousness, or holiness”. The question becomes then, does Whitaker think that justification consists?

    From your book that you were using we find Whitaker spelling it out:

    From which it is plain, by the same reasoning, that all the regenerated are rightly named and esteemed righteous from inherent righteousness, although as yet it is only begun and imperfect. I say righteous (justosj, not justified; because the word righteous (as we are now speaking concerning the righteous) denotes nothing else than one endowed by an infused habit or inherent quality of righteousness; but the word justified includes acquittal from all sin, and acceptance to life eternal ;* which, as we shall, when we come to our third question, endeavour to the best of our ability to demonstrate, is not founded nor grounded in this inherent righteousness.

    Here we see clearly that Whitaker directly denies infused justification. On this I rest my case that Calvinism knows nothing of infused justification.

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