A Response to Darrin Patrick on the Indicatives and the Imperatives

Dec 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Recently I was asked to explain how a Catholic would respond to the indicative-imperative theology explained briefly in the following video by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey, an emergent church with four campuses in the St. Louis area.

Here’s a transcript:

Matt: For those that are watching, and maybe those that are church-planting or they’re pastors and they are watching the broadcast, touch on this indicative vs. imperative, and needing the imperatives to flow out of the indicatives. You talk about that in the book; just elaborate on that, since you just mentioned it.

Darrin: The idea is that the imperative is what we do, and the indicative is what is true about God, and about how He relates to us. So in the Scripture, you can always take God’s commands back to who God is (the foundation of who God is), and how He relates to us. And so, for instance, in the Ten Commandments, as an example: Exodus 20. God gives Israel His commandments, but in Exodus 20:2 He says, “I’m the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” So, all the commands that He gives are based out of this indicative that “I’m the Lord; I’ve rescued you, so obey me, not in order to be saved, but I saved you, now you can obey me.” And I think that that’s probably a really good example of how this works. And so, you can do this with all of Scripture. You can trace back all the imperatives back to, if it is not in the context of the chapter or the book, its in the bigger picture that God says, “I will be your God; you will be my people, I will put my Spirit within you, I will cause you to obey.” All those kind of things come back to who God is and the reality that He is the one who motivates us, through His Spirit, to obey. And so it absolutely empowers us to do the right thing, and it causes us to rest in the gospel, and I love what Bunyan said, this is the charge against Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress. They said to Bunyan, Ok Bunyan, if you keep telling people that they are loved and accepted apart from their spiritual performance, they’re going to do whatever they want to do. And Bunyan replied, If I keep assuring them of God’s love for them in Christ apart from their performance, they’re going to do whatever He wants them to do. And I think that’s where this indicative/imperative thing comes in. So its not that we are, cheap grace, easy, it is, no, I go back to the reality that God has rescued me, that I was enslaved, that the bad news was really bad for me. He rescued me, now I get to obey Him. And I think that’s what that does to the human heart when you get this indicative/imperative.

There is a point of common ground here with Catholic doctrine. We agree that “We love because He first love us.” (1 John 4:19) That is, the agape that has been poured out into our hearts (Rom 5:5) by the Holy Spirit is itself a gift from God, who loved us first, and gave Himself for us. (Gal 2:20) It is not as though God first hates us, and we must do many things in order to get God to love us. Rather, God loved us so much, that He gave His only begotten Son for us. (John 3:16) And while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) While the devil roams the earth like a lion, seeking those whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8, Job 1:7), Christ is the Good Shepherd who has come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), not wishing that any perish (2 Pet 3:9), but desiring all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4). So it is true that because of the greatness of the gift God has given to us in sending His Son as an atonement for our sins, our response of obedience is motivated by gratitude and love.

But the indicative-imperative hermeneutical paradigm (IIHP) Darrin refers to above is fundamentally flawed, because of the theological assumptions it brings to the text of Scripture. It presupposes that in God’s redemptive plan, He left no room for us to participate in His salvific work. That is, intrinsic to the IIHP is the presupposition of a complete separation of the indicative and the imperative, such that because everything God has done falls under the indicative, therefore everything we do must fall under the imperative, and none of what we do falls under the indicative. But in truth, in God’s gracious plan, we are called to participate in Christ’s work of redemption, and thus participate in the indicative, not merely express gratitude at the level of imperatives, for what God has already fully accomplished. I will give examples below of six areas where the IIHP leads to error, but I should first point out that the depth of the error caused by the IIHP depends on how consistently a person applies it. The more a person insists on forcing everything into the IIHP, the more he errs in these six areas. Fortunately, many proponents of the IIHP are not consistent in their application of the IIHP. But they variously avoid the errors I discuss below only by arbitrarily failing to apply the IIHP, or by failing to realize the scope of its implications when applied consistently. As I will show below, because the IIHP has to fit everything into either the indicative or imperative categories, it has to place the application of Christ’s work to our lives in the indicative category, as though the application of Christ’s work to our lives is something Christ has already done, and in which we cannot participate or cooperate.

I. Suffering
As Christians our suffering is meaningful in this life because it is a participation in Christ’s sufferings, and therefore an opportunity for loving sacrifice for God, and growing in our union with God. But the IIHP makes all our suffering pointless; it makes persecution and martyrdom meaningless, because given the IIHP, Christ has already done everything required for our salvation, and therefore there is no need for us to suffer in sickness or in persecution or martyrdom. In this way the IIHP makes God into a moral monster who subjects His children to needless horrendous sufferings, even though everything necessary for their salvation has already been accomplished. See “A Catholic Reflection on the Meaning of Suffering.”

II. Evangelism
Because the IIHP does not allow any truth to be in both the indicative and the imperative categories, therefore, nothing in the imperative category has any indicative soteriological consequence. Our obligation to bring the gospel of Christ to the world, and our activity toward the fulfillment of that obligation, is therefore of no soteriological consequence, either for ourselves or for others. According to the IIHP, the imperative only flows from the indicative; the imperative can have no effect upon the indicative. Given the IIHP, God has already decreed, without any foresight of future faith or sin, to save some and pass over others. Whether we evangelize or not, the number and identity of the elect has been fixed and cannot be either increased or decreased. Given the IIHP, then whether one spends one’s whole life evangelizing the world, or never evangelizes a single person throughout one’s whole life, the number and identity of the elect remains the same. And this evacuates all urgency from the task of evangelism, precisely because it evacuates all soteriological meaningfulness from evangelistic activity. Just as in an atheistic worldview the implication that our present choices make no ultimate difference makes those choices meaningless, so in the IIHP paradigm, the implication that our present evangelistic choices make no ultimate difference makes these choices likewise meaningless.

Regarding our genuine participation in God’s salvific work, St. Thomas Aquinas writes:

“In this way God is helped by us; inasmuch as we execute His orders, according to 1 Corinthians 3:9: “We are God’s co-adjutors.” Nor is this on account of any defect in the power of God, but because He employs intermediary causes, in order that the beauty of order may be preserved in the universe; and also that He may communicate to creatures the dignity of causality [ut etiam creaturis dignitatem causalitatis communicet].” (Summa Theologica I Q.23 a.8 ad 2.)(my emphasis)

St. Thomas quotes St. Paul’s statement that [the Apostles] are God’s “co-adjutors.” In the Greek this reads: θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί. “For we are God’s co-workers.” St. Paul is speaking about the work of preaching the gospel and building up the Church through prayer, preaching, administering the sacraments, teaching and service. God entrusts this to men not because of any limitation on His part, but because in His goodness He wishes to bestow upon us the unfathomable dignity of being genuine causal agents not only in the order of nature, but also in the supernatural order, i.e. in the order of grace. For St. Thomas and the whole Catholic tradition, God graciously extends to creatures not only the gift of salvation, but also the gift of being genuine causal agents in the salvation of others, thereby freely and truly participating in Christ’s work of redeeming the world. St. Paul speaks of this when he says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the Church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col 1:24)

III. Sacraments
Because the IIHP places the application of Christ’s redemptive work under the indicative category, the IIHP makes the sacraments unnecessary. If baptism were regenerative, as the Church Fathers taught, it would not fit exclusively into the indicative or the imperative category. Therefore, given the IIHP, baptism cannot be regenerative. If the Eucharist were a means by which we receive the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross,1 then it would not be something we do only out of gratitude; our salvation would in some sense depend upon it, and thus it would not fit into only the indicative category. Thus given the IIHP, the sacraments are “means of grace” only in the sense that they are means by which we gain knowledge of what Christ has already done for us.

But in truth, the sacraments are the divinely established means by which we receive not primarily knowledge, but the grace Christ merited for us on the cross — a true participation in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4).2 And therefore the sacraments, rightly understood, do not fit into the IIHP, because synergism of any sort does not fit into the IIHP. In the reception of the sacraments both God and man are acting: God by conferring grace through the sacrament, and man by administering, approaching and receiving the sacrament. The synergistic aspect of sacraments as means of grace (where grace is not just knowledge of what Christ has already done, but a participation in the divine life offered to us through Christ’s sacrifice) makes them incompatible with the IIHP. Hence in the IIHP, the sacraments are watered down to mere divine reminders of what God has already done. And given that notion of the sacraments, if one already knows what God has done, there is no reason to receive the Lord’s Supper weekly. One might do it quarterly, but even then one does it only because Christ has commanded it. There is no other reason to do it regularly, given the IIHP.

IV. Sanctification
What the IIHP does to the sacraments, it does to sanctification in general. There is no room for synergism in the IIHP; nothing soteriological hangs on what we choose to do or not do. Everything we do is in the imperative category, and therefore nothing we do or don’t do has any implications for the indicative category. So in the IIHP, sacraments, prayer and works done out of agape are not means of grace, by which we grow in sanctification. Sanctification is something God is monergistically doing in us, automatically. Insofar as we do anything in sanctification, it is only God working out in us the application of what Christ already did on the cross. We do not have to concern ourselves about doing anything to grow in sanctification. If we choose to do anything, such as pray, or do good works out of agape, we should do so only out gratitude for what Christ has already done for us, not as though our doing so plays any role [in the indicative category] toward our salvation. And so the IIHP reduces all imperatives to brute imperatives, by removing any soteriological reason for them, and thus reducing them to arbitrary divine stipulations. For any remaining imperatives regarding sanctification, the IIHP moves them over to the indicative category by claiming that we do not need to concern ourselves about them, since if we need to do something, God will cause us to do it. And that is how the IIHP construes verses that admonish believers to “work out [our] salvation in fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12)

Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21) If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments, and in return God the Father will love us more, and Christ will love us more, and disclose Himself to us. That is, the more we conform to Christ, the more we are loved by God. Two chapters later Jesus says, “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:27) Jesus is teaching that our degree of loving obedience to His commandments makes us an object of greater (or lesser) love by the Father. The IIHP tries to make sense of that by turning the order around, claiming that if God loves us more, then He will make us (freely) love Him more. In this way, the greater love we will enjoy from the Father based on our obedience, is what will bring about that obedience in the first place. And therefore, we don’t need to strive to keep His commandments, because nothing soteriological hangs on our striving. If we are going to love Him more, and then be loved more by Him, this will be only because He will make us do this. Ultimately, nothing on the imperative side can cross over to the indicative side. Wherever it may seem in Scripture that the imperative side affects the indicative side, the indicative side has already decreed and determined the imperative side. So therefore there is ultimately nothing on the imperative side that can change the indicative side. This is why within the IIHP it ultimately does not matter how grateful one is, or how much one is (or is not) motivated by gratitude to live a holy life. On the indicative side, Christ has already accomplished one’s salvation, and whatever remaining sanctification needs to be done will be instantaneously and painlessly accomplished by Christ at the moment of one’s death. So in the IIHP there is ultimately no need to strive for holiness now.

V. Judgment
The IIHP entails that what Christ has done has already fully determined what will happen to us on Judgment Day. The application of Christ’s completed work was fully applied to us at the moment we were monergistically regenerated, such that all our past, present, and future sins are all already forgiven.3 Nothing we can do can ‘unforgive’ any sin we might ever commit. In addition, Christ’s perfect obedience was irreversibly imputed to us at that moment. Hence, at the Judgment, according to the IIHP, God will not judge us according to our works, but according to Christ’s perfect obedience, which has been imputed to us. The justification God declares at the moment we are regenerated when we first come to faith, is a proleptic announcement of God’s verdict on the Day of Judgment. According to the IIHP, to be regenerated now, is already to have heard the verdict on Judgment Day. Thus according to the IIHP, our observance (or failure thereof) of the imperatives has no bearing on what will happen to us on the Day of Judgment, because the imperative cannot affect the indicative.

But this is not what the Scripture teaches. Jesus said, “And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36) Later in Matthew He says, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.” (Matthew 16:27) In Matthew chapter 25 Jesus separates the sheep from the goats on the basis of their works toward the needy. In Romans 2:6-8 St. Paul says that on the day of final judgment, God “will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. But to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” Later in Romans he writes, “For we shall stand before the judgment seat of God…. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10,12) In his first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul writes, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Cor 3:8) In the next chapter he writes, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor 4:5) We will be judged not on the basis of an extra nos imputation, but on the basis of our works and our hidden motives. In his second letter to the Corinthians St. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul writes:

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal 6:7-10)

St. Paul’s imperative is not based on Christ having already done everything, such that our obedience has no soteriological consequence; it is based in part on the coming Judgment. Hence he says:

“With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.” (Eph 6:8-9)

St. Peter teaches the same message: “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.” (1 Peter 1:17) The IIHP has no room for “fear” for Christians, because the imperatives have no affect on the indicatives, i.e. have no soteriological consequence. But the Apostle John, along with Jesus, St. Paul, and St. Peter, likewise teaches: “By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17) The more perfect our love for God (in imitation of Christ), the more confidence we may have on the day of Judgment. But in the IIHP, our confidence regarding the Day of Judgment is based entirely on what Christ has done for us, not on what we do in gratitude.

In the book of Revelation we find the same teaching regarding Judgment. Jesus, speaking to the Church at Thyatira, says, “And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the Churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Rev 2:23) Later John writes, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.” (Rev 20:12-13) The Bible ends with this same message, a message fitting for Advent:

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

Christ does not say that He comes to render to each man according to what He (i.e. Christ) has done, but according to what each man has done. In the Church Fathers, the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5, 16:26) brought about by the gospel of Jesus Christ is a love (i.e. agape) that has been infused into our heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5) and that fulfills the law (Rom 13:8,10, Gal 5:14, Jam 2:8). ( See “St. Augustine on Law and Grace.”)

VI. Apostasy
Because the IIHP entails that everything we do is on the imperative side, and therefore nothing we do or don’t do has any implications on the indicative side, therefore, according to the IIHP, we can never lose our salvation. But for fifteen hundred years (and to this day) the Catholic Church believed (and still believes) that justification can be lost. The Orthodox also have always believed that justification can be lost. There are many places in the Fathers where we see that justification can be lost. Here is one example from St. Augustine:

If, however, being already regenerate and justified, he relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say, ‘I have not received [grace],’ because of his own free choice he has lost the grace of God, that he had received.” (On Rebuke and Grace, chpt. 6:9)

But we can find the same teaching in the New Testament. Jesus tells us, “Anyone who does not remain in Me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” (John 15:6). And St. Paul says, “On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren. Or do you not know that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) In this context, he is talking to believers about their wronging each other, even to the point of taking each other to court. His statement would make no sense if it had no applicability to the Corinthian believers’ wrongdoing to each other. His exhortation to them to stop wronging each other, by reminding them of the destiny of those who commit [mortal] sin, presupposes that they too could, by their wrongdoing, lose their possession of the kingdom of God. That is, they could genuinely fail to enter into heaven.

A few chapters later he says, “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27) The disqualification he speaks of that of failing to receive the “imperishable” prize of eternal life, i.e. salvation. (verse 25) He then goes on in chapter 10 to talk about the Israelites who were ‘baptized’ in the cloud, but then disobeyed God in the desert, and perished under God’s displeasure. They were idolaters, which as St. Paul showed in 1 Corinthians 6, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They were immoral and God killed 23,000 of them in one day. Then he says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12) The fall that he is talking about is falling from grace. The very warning would make no sense unless St. Paul believed it is truly possible to fall, just as did those Israelites. If we could not lose our salvation, then instead of warning them about taking heed lest they fall, St. Paul would be enjoining them not to worry, since they could not possibly fall.

In his letter to the Galatians he says, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:4) That verse makes no sense if it is impossible to be severed from Christ and to fall from grace. Later in that same chapter he writes, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:18-21). He is speaking to Christians. If Christians cannot lose their salvation, then there could be no warning about not inheriting the kingdom of God; it would make no sense. The warning is an actual warning, because it is truly possible, through committing the mortal sins he lists there, to lose one’s salvation, to be cut off from Christ, and to not inherit the kingdom of God. He gives these lists of mortal sins frequently: (Rom 1:28-32; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Eph 5:3-5; Col 3:5-8; 1 Tim 1:9-10; 2 Tim 3:2-5).

In the book of Hebrews we find the same doctrine about the real possibility of losing one’s salvation. “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.” (Heb 6:4-6) These enlightened persons have tasted the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit (through baptism, which was early in the Fathers called the sacrament of illumination/enlightenment), and then rejected Christ. But it would be impossible for them to fall away if they were never regenerated (and hence justified) in the first place. And yet they do fall away — the warning is not merely hypothetical. Such persons cannot be restored to repentance by baptism, because in baptism we are crucified with Christ (Rom 6), and Christ died only once. They can be restored only by the sacrament of penance.

Later in Hebrews the author writes about the apostasy of Christians, “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:26-31) The writer speaking as a Christian to Christians, says that if “we” sin deliberately [he’s speaking of mortal sin] after receiving the knowledge of the truth, we face the fearful prospect of judgment and a fury of fire. How do we know he is talking about justified people? Because he explicitly says that a man who “was sanctified” by “the blood of the covenant,” who then profanes this blood and outrages the Spirit of grace, will deserve much worse punishment than those (Israelites) who violated the law of Moses and died without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. Then he says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Under what condition is it fearful? Under this condition: when we who are sanctified by the blood of Christ, then sin deliberately [i.e. commit mortal sin]. Such a person forfeits all the benefits of the grace of the New Covenant, and, if he dies in that condition, is punished in the eternal fires of hell. Yes, that is something to fear. The Christian is not told not to fear this possibility because he can never lose his salvation. That would not make sense. Rather, the warning (about falling into the “fury of fire” [i.e. hell]) is precisely to Christians. The warning implies the real possibility of Christians losing their salvation.

These passages about apostasy do not fit into the IIHP, and those in the IIHP struggle to make sense of them. They try to preserve the IIHP by claiming that if a person falls away, he was never saved in the first place. In other words, in such cases the imperative side did not affect the indicative side, because there was never anything on the indicative side for such persons in the first place. Of course this implies for anyone else in the IIHP, that it might turn out that there is not anything on the indicative side for him as well. But in the IIHP, you’re not supposed to let that possibility concern you, because there is nothing you can do about it anyway, since the imperative cannot affect the indicative.

Conclusion
To be clear, I am not suggesting that Darrin falls into these six errors. I don’t know Darrin’s particular theology; here I am merely presenting the implications of the IIHP. Many IIHP advocates do not fall into all of these errors, but only because they do not consistently follow the IIHP. Insofar as they arbitrarily apply the IIHP to some areas, and arbitrarily do not apply it in others, their position is ad hoc. But when the IIHP is applied consistently, it leads to the theological errors described above. Because the IIHP presupposes monergism, it eliminates the meaningfulness from all our choices and actions after coming to faith, and thus entails temporal nihilism. This arises from conceiving of redemption not as restoring us to a period of probation during this earthly life, as God had given to Adam and Eve, but as a replacement plan in which God scraps His original plan, and decides to do it all for us, leaving us with nothing to do but to be grateful while waiting to die.4 But the consistent teaching of Scripture, the Church and the Church Fathers has been that Christ calls us to share in His sufferings (Rom 8:17), to become co-workers with Him, both in evangelism and in working out our salvation in fear and trembling, by means of the grace He merited for us now infused into our hearts through the sacraments, such that we love Him by keeping His commandments, and thus inheriting eternal life on the Day of Judgment. The gospel is one of participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, through baptism (Rom 6) and the Eucharist (John 6). When Jesus was asked what should be done to inherit eternal life, He asked the inquirer what the Law said, and the man stated the two great commandments. Then Jesus said, “You have answered correctly: Do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:28) That is, keep those two greatest commandments, and you will inherit eternal life. The IIHP has no room for any of this, because no “do this” can have any effect on the indicative. But that does not mean we should toss out Jesus’ words and the teaching of the Church Fathers in order to hold on to the IIHP; it means rather that the IIHP is a flawed and misleading paradigm.

  1. See “Eve, the Eucharist and the Bride of Christ.” []
  2. See comment #3 in the “Pelagian Westminster?” thread, where I explain the difference between the Protestant and Catholic conceptions of grace. []
  3. See Reformed Imputation and the Lord’s Prayer. []
  4. See comment #2 in the “Pelagian Westminster?” thread. []
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  1. An interesting passage to consider is Rev 14:6-7

    “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

    Is that an imperative or an indicative? Does the gospel demand or merely give here?

  2. Whew. This is all a bit too narrowly defined for me, but I like what you say about presupposing monergism. It is a presupposition, and it does seem to me that imperative-indicative is an attempt to defend the modern Protestant version of faith only, not a real reaction to Scripture. Gal. 6:7-10 is an excellent example that what Darrin Patrick said is not true. It is not always the “indicative” of our acceptance first, then the “imperative” of our obedience. Sometimes Scripture says very clearly that our obedience has everything to do with our acceptance. Rev. 3:4-5 is another excellent example.

    Thanks for taking the time.

  3. So, why do we need Christ? Why did God the Father need to send the Son, if we could just co-“work” everything out ourselves, it would have been utterly pointless.

    And with regards to baptism, why would Jesus need to be baptized??? He wouldn’t need to save and regenerate himself.

  4. Jameson (re: #3),

    You wrote:

    So, why do we need Christ? Why did God the Father need to send the Son, if we could just co-”work” everything out ourselves, it would have been utterly pointless.

    We need Christ because heaven is a supernatural end, and we cannot attain to a supernatural end by our own efforts; by our own nature, apart from grace, we can attain only a natural end. For any creature, heaven is necessarily a supernatural gift, not a gift of nature, such as rationality is to humans, or sight is to cats. Only for God Himself is heaven natural. The notion that without grace, we can attain to heaven, is the heresy of Pelagianism. (See “Pelagian Westminster?.”) But the contrary error is the notion that we can neither cooperate in the reception of grace, nor, once in a state of grace [i.e. participating in the life of God], merit an increase of grace and our supernatural end. Both errors are condemned in the anathemas of the Sixth Session of the Nineteenth Ecumenical Council (i.e. the Council of Trent).

    Some people falsely assume that because without grace nothing we can do can be meritorious with respect to heaven, therefore there is no merit (toward heaven) possible for those in a state of grace. But that assumption conflates nature and grace. What is of nature is ordered to a natural end, but what is of grace is ordered to a supernatural end. Since heaven is a supernatural end, therefore while merit toward heaven is impossible without grace, merit toward heaven is possible while in a state of grace, precisely because grace is ordered toward heaven, i.e. to the inner life of the Triune God.

    And with regards to baptism, why would Jesus need to be baptized??? He wouldn’t need to save and regenerate himself.

    Of course Jesus did not need to be baptized for His own regeneration. He never needed to be regenerated because He was never without grace, i.e. without the life of God. At the first moment of His conception He was already full of grace. Christ was baptized by John the Baptist as an example for us, and to cleanse the waters for our regeneration through baptism. St. Thomas Aquinas explains:

    It was fitting for Christ to be baptized. First, because, as Ambrose says on Luke 3:21: “Our Lord was baptized because He wished, not to be cleansed, but to cleanse the waters, that, being purified by the flesh of Christ that knew no sin, they might have the virtue of baptism”; and, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth.), “that He might bequeath the sanctified waters to those who were to be baptized afterwards.” Secondly, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth.), “although Christ was not a sinner, yet did He take a sinful nature and ‘the likeness of sinful flesh.’ Wherefore, though He needed not baptism for His own sake, yet carnal nature in others had need thereof.” And, as Gregory Nazianzen says (Orat. xxxix) “Christ was baptized that He might plunge the old Adam entirely in the water.” Thirdly, He wished to be baptized, as Augustine says in a sermon on the Epiphany (cxxxvi), “because He wished to do what He had commanded all to do.” And this is what He means by saying: “So it becometh us to fulfil all justice” (Matthew 3:15). For, as Ambrose says (on Luke 3:21), “this is justice, to do first thyself that which thou wishest another to do, and so encourage others by thy example.” (Summa Theologica III Q.39 a.1 co.)

    I hope that answers your question. A blessed Christmas to you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. I would add that the Christ’s baptism at John’s hands could also be viewed as a kind of anointing; marking the start of Jesus’ official/public ministry (as Christ).

  6. Jameson,

    I would add to the fundamental point made by Bryan that the fall into sin wounds even the natural powers of man and makes the natural love of God above all things impossible. So there are two problems after the fall: our nature is corrupted, so that that which would be elevated to the supernatural end needs God’s healing; and the end itself is supernatural, such that even healed nature could not attain it by its own natural powers apart from God’s grace. Cooperation with God’s grace presupposes nature, but nature is not sufficient for attaining the blessedness of the vision of God. Salvation is far above what man can will (John 1:13). Yet as God lifts man up to Himself through the saving work of Jesus, this does not make nature’s principle redundant, nullify it, or obviate it. In the case of man, this means that his faculty of free-will (reason and will) is operative in salvation.

    Pax,
    Barrett

  7. […] (som går forbi det reint grammatiske), og at desse aldri skal blandast saman. Eg kom over dette i ein artikkel på den katolske bloggen Called to Communion, forfatta av Bryan […]

  8. There may be problems with the way the “indicative-imperative” is described above, but the “indicative-imperative” is frequently found in scripture ( for example Romans 6, “you have died with Christ in baptism (indicative), therefore do not let sin reign etc (imperative) as well as Catholic tradition, for example Lumen Gentium 40 “The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. (indicative) Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. (imperative).”

  9. Hello John,

    Thanks very much for your comment. I agree that the “indicative-imperative” conjunction is found frequently both in Scripture and in the Catholic tradition. I’m talking here (in this post) about a specific indicative-imperative paradigm that is incompatible with the Catholic faith, for the reasons explained in the post. Darrin Patrick is drawing his indicative-imperative hermeneutical paradigm from Bryan Chapell, under whom I also studied at Covenant Seminary. So I’m quite familiar with this particular paradigm. (In the first video on this page, Darrin explains that he is getting this notion from Bryan Chapell.) It is what some Reformed folks refer to as a quasi-Lutheran idea, because it divides everything into law and gospel. (Bryan Chapell is himself drawing from Ridderbos, among others.) Unlike the Catholic understanding of the indicative-imperative relation, in this quasi-Lutheran notion, nothing in the imperative category can affect anything in the indicative category. Bryan Chapell says “The imperative is based on the indicative and the order is not reversible. You obey because you are a child of God, not the other way around.” Chapell is right, of course, to recognize the falsity of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. But he mistakenly reasons from that to the conclusion that nothing in the imperative category can affect anything in the indicative category. Hence this paradigm presupposes soteriological monergism, whereas the Catholic tradition teaches that we can freely respond to [operative] grace, and in so doing we participate in the life and work of Christ, and thereby grow in sanctifying grace and agape — or, by our sinful choices, we may fail to grow in grace and may fall away from grace altogether.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. It was very intense and intriguing for me to hear my beloved friend and “pastor” present such a logical, beautiful and truthful response to what my old pastor had to say.

    Thank you, Bryan. Now that I have more time here with Taylor, I am enjoying getting caught up on your thoughtful writing. Never stop.

    In the peace of Christ,

    Tara

  11. […] [8] For more on this, read this excellent article from Bryan Cross on the blog Called to Communion. […]

  12. Brian correctly notes “the contrary error is the notion that we can neither cooperate in the reception of grace, nor, once in a state of grace [i.e. participating in the life of God], merit an increase of grace and our supernatural end.”

    While in the grace of God we can always grow in our relationship and walk with God. Do we not implicitly acknowledge this all the time when we say in colloquial terms, ‘he/she has grown in their walk with God’ or ‘he really feels he understands God better’ or ‘I feel I have grown in my relationship with God’.

    The question to be asked is how or by what manner is this growth achieved? How does one grow in their relationship of God? How can one grow in grace?

    Two scripture passages come to mind when discussing this question:

    “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” (2 Peter 3:17-18)

    “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)

    Peter warns his followers to grow in grace and knowledge of Our Lord. Paul states in Corinthians that we move from ‘glory to glory’ by ‘beholding’ or ‘contemplating’ Our Lord. Both verses establish the fact the soul does grow in grace and glory. While on earth we are never in a fixed state of glory or graced salvation which, correct me if I’m wrong, seems to be more of John Calvin’s position. More like a static position of grace compared to a dynamic and ongoing movement towards God. Please correct me if I oversimplify.

    If we can agree that the soul does in fact grow in grace and glory, the question is how does this growth occur. The Catholic position is that freewill cooperates with grace. When we say merit, we mean that the soul advances towards God and becomes more Godlike. As we imitate and follow the Lord, we take on more and more Godlike attributes (holiness, wisdom, compassion, love, justice) to become the adopted sons and daughters of God. So a person becomes wiser, holier, more compassionate, more just if they get closer to Christ. And this occurs by sacramental participation, prayer, and charitable actions in the Catholic faith.

    The preceding growth does not occur without freewill. A Christian must make an active choice to pray, keep the Sabbath, do charity, and love. God does not force me out of bed to do these things. All merit or growth in the life of Christ involves choice. Though freewill is animated by grace when one is in a state of grace, it is never forced upon the human being. Nobody is forced to obtain salvation or rendered in a state by which they can never betray or fall from God. Afterall, if the greatest angel of heaven can reject God while seeing him, so can I a mere human being. Only in the next life will I be unable to betray God and leave Christ behind.

  13. Hi again, Hugh.

    So – as I understand you – your reading of Matthew is mostly an inference from your understanding of Pauline theology?

    With respect to the actual text of Matthew – your main line of evidence is that Christ’s demands are just too weighty to be taken seriously. Is this correct?

    So do you think that when Christ preached the sermon on the Mount, he intended for people to infer directly that he could not be serious about these moral demands?

    Or, did he intend for them to try first to follow his commands, only to collapse in moral exhaustion – finally to find relief in the preaching of Paul (or other subsequent iteration of the Christian faith)?

    Thanks,
    David

  14. First, David, we don’t play Paul off Matthew or Jesus. All are equally inspired. But in reading them all we note the progression from the incarnation to crucifixion, resurrection & Pentecost. Post-resurrection, things have changed. The covenant’s been ratified. As the lamp passed between the cut animals, Abe took a nap. Similarly, in Christ alone is our Rest (Heb. 4:10), our Peace (Eph. 2:14).

    No, David, my main argument is that Christ’s demands are just too weighty to be taken as achievable with a li’l baptismal grace, a smattering of priestly absolution, with a dash of devotional do-it-yourself religion! He is and was extremely serious about his high moral demands. We claim he demanded perfection (Matt. 5:48). Does your system deny this?

    Nicely put, “he intend[ed] for them [as well as us] to try first to follow his commands, only to collapse in moral exhaustion – finally to find relief in the [gospel – his finished work recorded at the end of each of the four gospels, reiterated in Acts and in the] preaching of Paul!” Amen!

    Paul’s gospel is not a mixture of God’s grace + your effort (however Spirit-enhanced!). It is all of grace.

    So, we’d say, But the Roman Catholic hermeneutical paradigm (RCHP) is fundamentally flawed, because of the theological assumptions it brings to the text of Scripture. It presupposes that in God’s redemptive plan, He left room for us to participate in His salvific work. That is, intrinsic to the RCHP is the presupposition of a complete integration of the indicative and the imperative, such that everything that both God and we do falls under both the indicative as well as the the imperative.

    But in truth, in God’s gracious plan, we are never called to participate in CHRIST’s work of redemption, or participate in HIS indicatives, but rather, we are mercifully allowed to begin to carry out his imperatives, to express our gratitude for the redemption that God has already fully accomplished in Christ alone!

  15. Hi Hugh,

    I think I understand your position:

    1) “my main argument is that Christ’s demands are just too weighty to be taken as achievable.”

    and,

    2) “he intend[ed] for them [as well as us] to try first to follow his commands, only to collapse in moral exhaustion – finally to find relief in the [gospel].”

    So, if I understand you correctly, when Christ preached the sermon on the mount, he wanted people to try to obey these precepts knowing that they would fail. That is, – he wanted people initially to presume their possibility, and then to learn through experience that the attempt is futile. Then, they would be psychologically prepared for the preaching of the apostles, who would offer free justification through faith alone.

    Do I understand you correctly?

    -David

  16. @Hugh (#14
    Somehow I must not be understanding, Hugh. It would seem to me that, inferrable from your understanding – that Christ does not intend us to follow His commands, but, rather, to cast ourselves completely on His free grace quite apart from works – that, having attempted, and failed, to be perfect, and having trusted Him, I can now just take it easy, not worry about my adultery, my unrighteous anger, my greed – just trust Christ and stop worrying – “take a nap” as you said Abraham did.

    Somehow that just doesn’t seem right to me. Probably I have misunderstood you.

    jj

  17. Hi David. Pretty much spot on. Though Jesus *did* give glimpses of the grace his work earned for us: Matthew 11:128-end. That glorious promise of rest and much of the midlands of John’s gospel also give us grace. But the sermon on the mount is all law.

    It’s the ‘Deck the Halls’ of the N.T., eh? ‘Follow law, law, law, law, law, law.’

  18. jj @16,

    Yes, I think you have misunderstood me. Christ does indeed intend for us to follow His commands, but not in order to help us secure a home in heaven. Contra Cross, it is not in order to participate in Christ’s work of redemption, and thus participate in the indicative, not merely express gratitude at the level of imperatives, for what God has already fully accomplished.

    But we are to cast ourselves completely on His free grace quite apart from our works – that, having attempted, and failed, to be perfect, and having trusted Him alone, we can now just “take it easy” (rest/ nap, justification-wise) and not worry about being damned for my adultery, my unrighteous anger, my greed, my worry, my covetousness, my idolatry, my cursing, my lying, my mountain of sin, original and actual – just trust Christ and stop worrying – “take a nap” as Abraham did. That is *exactly* how we receive the knowledge of the remission of our sins – resting in the finished work of Christ alone.

    Then, we go to work for him… (Eph. 2:10.)

    You then, jj, paint a caricature when you say we don’t need to “worry” about our sin.* Of course, with hearts regenerated and full of faith and love for our Savior, we want and to some degree actually achieve holiness in this life – all from our gratitude, NOT by “participating in Christ’s redemptive work” (apart from our simply receiving the saving benefits of the same).

    * One can argue (sorry, I know how y’all hate the “tu too” thing) that mafiosi who receive the sacrament of forgiveness after the requisite penance, need not worry about their sin, either. They can sin with impunity, and bank on their next confession, God’s universal love for all mankind, a maybe longer-than-usual stint in Purgatory, or last rites, as their “[gr]ace in the hole.” So, both systems can be abused, eh?

  19. Stated elsewhere, but pertinent to this thread, I had written this to which David Anders was responding in his post #13, above.
    Hugh

    Comparing all of the new testament texts helps me to my position. Paul was certainly writing to established churches (and to established ministers), post-resurrection, post-Pentecost. His writings have to be seen in these lights. Plus, as he repeatedly makes clear, things are not as they were before the covenant was ratified. Again, from Ephesians 4 & 5 (where he brilliantly weaves together imperatives with indicatives):

    But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

    Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”{IMP} for we are members of one another.{IND}

    “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
    Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.{IMP, IMP, IMP, IMP}

    Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.{IMP} And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God{IMP}, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.{IND}

    Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.{IMP}

    And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another{IMP}, even as God in Christ forgave you.{IND}

    Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love{IMP}, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.{IND}

    But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you{IMP}, as is fitting for saints{IND}; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting{IMP}, which are not fitting{IND}, but rather giving of thanks.{IMP}

    For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.{IND} Therefore do not be partakers with them.{IMP}

    For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.{IND} Walk as children of light{IMP} (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth){IND}, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.{IMP} And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.{IMP}

    For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.{IND} But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.{IND} Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, aArise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”{IMP}

    See then that you walk circumspectly{IMP}, not as fools but as wise{IND}, redeeming the time{IMP}, because the days are evil.{IND}

    Another key to this are the extremes that Christ gives in the sermon on the mount. He doesn’t give a soft-sell here. It’s all or nothing. He makes Moses look/ sound like apiker. All to drive his self-righteous hearers to either fury against him, or to despair of their pathetic state and thence to faith in him alone! 5:20, 48, etc.

    For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

    …you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

  20. For anyone interested, I argued in the link below that applying this “first use of the law” hermeneutic to the teachings of Jesus is incorrect, and in one important case is actually made impossible by the words of the text:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/did-the-rich-young-ruler-hear-the-gospel/

  21. @Hugh (#18

    Yes, I think you have misunderstood me. Christ does indeed intend for us to follow His commands, but not in order to help us secure a home in heaven. Contra Cross, it is not in order to participate in Christ’s work of redemption, and thus participate in the indicative, not merely express gratitude at the level of imperatives, for what God has already fully accomplished.

    Hmm… Well, but I am still puzzled. If attempting to follow His commands is only going to lead me to despair, I don’t see why I should.

    But we are to cast ourselves completely on His free grace quite apart from our works – that, having attempted, and failed, to be perfect, and having trusted Him alone, we can now just “take it easy” (rest/ nap, justification-wise) and not worry about being damned for my adultery, my unrighteous anger, my greed, my worry, my covetousness, my idolatry, my cursing, my lying, my mountain of sin, original and actual – just trust Christ and stop worrying – “take a nap” as Abraham did. That is *exactly* how we receive the knowledge of the remission of our sins – resting in the finished work of Christ alone.

    Then, we go to work for him… (Eph. 2:10.)

    You then, jj, paint a caricature when you say we don’t need to “worry” about our sin.* Of course, with hearts regenerated and full of faith and love for our Savior, we want and to some degree actually achieve holiness in this life – all from our gratitude, NOT by “participating in Christ’s redemptive work” (apart from our simply receiving the saving benefits of the same).

    Well, is it a caricature? Should I, then, worry about my sin? I just don’t see why, if I understand you correctly – and you have said that I do not, but I don’t see why – I don’t see why I should worry – nor even why I should try to avoid sin.

    To be sure, some sin makes me unhappy, at least in the results. I drink too much, I get a hangover. OK, well, maybe I won’t drink too much. But … if I am not to worry about being damned for my adultery – and if I don’t seem to:

    …want and to some degree actually achieve holiness in this life…

    should I worry?

    Sorry to be so thick, but I really don’t understand. It sounds like pecca fortiter! to me – even if crede fortius.

    I find it impossible, simply on intuitive grounds, to think that I can just cast my cares on Jesus and then go on living in gross sin. Maybe my intuition is simply wrong – would you say so?

    jj

  22. JJ @ 21 –

    As to point one – his hearers were God’s people, people of the Book, people of the law, of the one true religion. Now they hear God incarnate “up” the requirements that they thought they’d been so good about obeying! They (and we) should despair of our abilities and turn to Christ. As Paul saw his lack of righteousness seeing the law say, “Do not covet.” He’d been a Pharisee’s Pharisee, but when the law got to the inner issue of the heart, he was undone. His answer? Even as a Christian, he saw Christ alone as his only hope. See Romans 7:22-8:4~

    I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    {NKJV}As for worry, it is a sin; Jesus prohibited it in Matthew 6:25, 31, 34. But the fear of the Lord is something else.

    It’s good that you hate the sin, not merely its physical consequences (like a hangover). But worrying that you have sinned your way out of grace isn’t going to help your cause. We agree that only Christ saves, but you’ll look to a sacramental ladder to reinstate you in good stead with God, while I’d tell you nay, look to Christ alone.

    As for sinning, who said anything about living in sin? 1st John refutes that.

    This is a silly, crude caricature: “…just cast my cares on Jesus and then go on living in gross sin.”

    If/ when you truly embrace Christ as he is revealed in the Bible, and believe on him alone, you *have* eternal life. {John 3:16, 36; 5:24} That life (Spirit) within you dreads sin, hates sin, will battle your flesh against sin. But sin you will until the day you die, and all too often lose the battles (Gal. 5:17). Don’t worry, trust Christ. Christ has conquered sin, and death, and hell!

    We put to death our members out of love for Christ, not from fear of hell.

  23. @hugh (#22
    Sigh – I suppose I will never understand how the Reformed position (if that is what you are presenting) can possibly make sense, except possibly as an esoteric in-crowd thing: “Your works play no part in you salvation, but if you are saved, you will work.” It still seems to me that if my works play no part in my salvation, then I can just trust Christ to save me and continue in sin – gross or otherwise.

    I recall, when I was – or thought I was! – Reformed, coming, early, to the conclusion that there was no difference, phaenomenologically, between the Reformed and Catholic view of the relation between works and faith:

    Catholic: living faith is faith working in love.
    Reformed: faith cannot be mixed with works – but if it doesn’t have works, it isn’t faith.

    Or something like that.

    jj

  24. A PS – in other words, whether Catholic or Reformed, the bottom line is that if you do not live a holy life, you will not see God – and this seems to me to correspond to the normal interpretation of the Scriptures:

    But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21:8)

    jj

  25. Or, Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. I Cor. 6:9-11, NKJV.

  26. @Hugh (#25
    Absolutely – so doesn’t this:

    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. I Cor. 6:9-11, NKJV.

    mean that if I, having been washed, sanctified, and justified, then return to my fornication, iodaltry, adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, or robbing, that I will then not inherit the kingdom of God??

    Or are you just saying that if I am truly saved – how that distinction between being saved and being truly saved used to give me the heebie-jeebies! – I will not return to those things? And that if I do, it will be proof that I was never saved at all and can look forward to nothing but everlasting fire?

    jj

  27. jj,

    You ask me many questions. Can you please tell me your take on 1 Cor. 6:9-11?

    Or are you just saying that if I am truly saved – how that distinction between being saved and being truly saved used to give me the heebie-jeebies! – I will not return to those things? And that if I do, it will be proof that I was never saved at all and can look forward to nothing but everlasting fire?

    This all begs the question, “What is saved?” Does Rome teach it as an opportunity that Christ made possible?

    We see it as a reality he secured for his people, a la Matt. 1:21.

  28. @Hugh (#27)

    You ask me many questions.

    Sorry, I didn’t think I was asking any question but one: is it not the case that if I trust in Jesus only for salvation, then I need not fear Hell no matter how much I sin?

    Can you please tell me your take on 1 Cor. 6:9-11?

    Why, just what it says: “…wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God…” Pretty simple.

    But then, as I said, I am likely not understanding something here. I think – but am not sure – that you would say that if I have been “…washed … sanctified … and justified…” then I am no longer a wrongdoer and will inherit the Kingdom. But the problem is that that seems to assume that I cannot turn aside from God – return, like a dog, to its own vomit, or like a pig to its wallowing in the mire.

    I take I Cor 6:9-11 to mean exactly what it says – and that if I die still justified, I will be in Heaven. But I don’t think it true that I can never turn aside. I have known too many who have been washed, sanctified, and justified, who have completely abandoned the faith.

    jj

  29. jj – then “saved” as in Eph. 2:5, 8 or 2 Tim. 2:9 or Titus 3:or to have “life” as in John’s gospel, all mean provisionally saved or given potential life.

    Incredible as it sounds (but please, read the gospels), yes, trust only in Jesus for salvation, and then you need not fear Hell no matter how much you sin. No, you cannot turn aside, per John 10:26f ~ My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

    Your redemption is based 0% on your efforts.

    … that s/c Titus 3:5 ~ not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy HE SAVED US, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

    Just initial justification in baptism, right?

    *Groan*

  30. Hugh @17,

    Hello again, Hugh.
    Thanks for the clarification. I used to hold something similar, you know.
    Here are some of the reasons I don’t hold this now.

    1) For all my Protestant talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus,” I found that this hermeneutical perspective really made it difficult to relate to Christ personally. In essence, it assumes that Christ is a deceiver who intentionally misleads people into believing a false gospel in the hopes of inducing despair, and the “good news” is that Jesus didn’t mean what he said. Even if you also assume that his ultimate end is liberating, the theory does render the actual picture of Christ in the Gospels as remote from my actual experience of the Gospel. What I found, as a Protestant, was that I did not relate to the Jesus of the Gospels, but to the Jesus implied by a certain theory of the atonement – really more of an abstraction than a historical, flesh-and-blood reality. Because the flesh-and-blood Jesus wasn’t really all that appealing – on the terms of my hemeneutical theory.

    2) I really don’t think this view of Jesus makes sense of the text – except in the sense that any theory can be made to “work” by continually admitting exceptions and qualifications. However, there is one qualifying assumption that DOES make sense of the entire New Testament and all of subsequent Christian history:

    If you assume that Paul was actually talking about what he says he was talking about – namely, the Mosaic law and not morality per se – then all of a sudden the entire Bible coheres, and so does the first 1500 years of Christian history.

    Now, Luther objected to this reading of St. Paul, of course, because he viewed it as “bad news,” since he saw it through the lens of his late medieval, nominalist, devotional catholicism – tinged with his his own neurotic tendencies. But there is no necessity for that particular reading, either.

    God bless,

    David

  31. David @30,

    You’re making jumps here I’m just not following.

    (1) Where is the “good news” in the Sermon on the Mount after the beatitudes? From 5:13-7:29 it’s all commands & warnings. Are these “good news”?

    Or, *what* is the good news of that sermon?

    (2) How does “be perfect,” etc. mean something other than what he said?

    Do you not agree that Jesus was taking the law to a new height in his, “but I say to you…”?

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  32. @Hugh (#29

    then “saved” as in Eph. 2:5, 8 or 2 Tim. 2:9 or Titus 3:or to have “life” as in John’s gospel, all mean provisionally saved or given potential life.

    ‘Saved’ means having been given actual eternal life – the life of God. I have that life living in me now.

    No, you cannot turn aside, per John 10:26f ~ My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

    I don’t see how that passage means I cannot myself turn away. That no one can snatch me out of His hand does not, it seems to me, mean that I cannot myself turn away.

    Hugh, if the way you read the Gospel is correct, I really do not know what to do with the many that I know who were apparently in a deep personal relationship with Christ and then seemed permanently to have abandoned that – some of them dying in that state.

    Just initial justification in baptism, right?

    *Groan*

    Justification is justification. It has to start somewhere. Nothing in the fact that I can reject justification seems to me to justify the ‘groan.’ He will give me the grace I need to follow Him and to endure till the end. I have to make an actual choice to leave Him if I am to be lost.

    Your redemption is based 0% on your efforts.

    My redemption is based 100% on my efforts – and 100% on His grace. The two are so united that you cannot pass the least sliver of nominalism between them.

    jj

  33. Hi Hugh,

    I think we might be talking past each other. I”m not sure how your question relates to my last comment.
    But, if you are asking me what is “good” about the sermon on the mount (so that it might count as part of ‘the gospel) – then I would say something like this:

    Jesus’ whole public ministry is framed around the proclamation that “the kingdom of God has come.” To that end, many of his acts (and words) stand as a sort of New Covenant analog to some old covenant reality. Thus, the calling of the 12 figures the 12 tribes, the sermon on the mount recalls the giving of the law on sinai, the cleansing of the temple and the prophecy of the new temple . . . etc. With, preeminently, the sacrifice of himself as the New Passover Lamb – and the institution of the Lord’s Supper as “the cup of the new covenant in his blood” recalling the blood of the covenant that Moses sprinkled on the people. Even John the baptist participated in this typology/fulfillment by acting as s sort of new Joshua, leading the new covenant people into the new promised land – across the Jordan again – as it were, through baptism.

    But, the good news represented here is precisely the message that “God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones,” the new covenant reality is the one in which God writes his law on the heart, and on the mind – by the ministry of the spirit.

    So the sermon on the mount is not just upping the ante on legalism. It is rather the charter of the new covenant people – it depicts the reality of new covenant living in the power of the Spirit. And the message “Don’t care about what you eat or wear, for God cares for you more than for birds” is very much a message of Good news – and not just a moral exhortation. Certainly, that is how someone like St. Francis saw it.

    Am I gettting at your question?

    -David

  34. jj –

    ‘Saved’ means having been given actual eternal life – the life of God. I have that life living in me now.
    ~ And we of course see that as irrevocable. As in “never perish” in hell.*

    I don’t see how that passage means I cannot myself turn away. That no one can snatch me out of His hand does not, it seems to me, mean that I cannot myself turn away.
    ~ We take the “no one” to includes ourselves. No one. No, not one, not anyone, even ourselves. Like Romans 8:35ff.** But I understand that such talk is crude, arrogant, Prot presumption to you all.

    Hugh, if the way you read the Gospel is correct, I really do not know what to do with the many that I know who were apparently in a deep personal relationship with Christ and then seemed permanently to have abandoned that – some of them dying in that state.
    ~ Neither do I, of course, but it’s not our place to judge them or worry about them. “Apparently” they knew Christ, and later “seemed permanently” to have turned aside. That’s between them and God.

    Justification is justification. It has to start somewhere. Nothing in the fact that I can reject justification seems to me to justify the ‘groan.’
    ~ My groan is over the myth of ‘inital jutification,’ and the subsequent doctrines which we Prots take as falseshoods about maintaining justification –or recovering it– through good works. But you know the story.

    He will give me the grace I need to follow Him and to endure till the end. I have to make an actual choice to leave Him if I am to be lost.
    ~ Then choose to endure, man!

    My redemption is based 100% on my efforts – and 100% on His grace. The two are so united that you cannot pass the least sliver of nominalism between them.
    ~ 200%? Strange Roman arithmetic there!

    Thanks,
    Hugh

    * John 10:26f ~ My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall NEVER PERISH; neither shall ANYONE snatch them out of My hand.

    ** Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, NOR ANY OTHER CREATED THING, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  35. David @33,

    You said,Jesus’ whole public ministry is framed around the proclamation that “the kingdom of God has come.” To that end, many of his acts (and words) stand as a sort of New Covenant analog to some old covenant reality…
    > Fine, but where you see the work of Christ as an analog, I see it as antetype to the OT’s typology. Things changed drastically in the incarnation and b/c of Calvary.

    But, the good news represented here is precisely the message that “God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones”…
    > But then, to leave those stones to fend for themselves, trying desperately to maintain their rockiness? Like jj here, who cannot be sure he’ll still be saved tomorrow.

    …the new covenant reality is the one in which God writes his law on the heart, and on the mind – by the ministry of the spirit.
    > Yes! :)

    > The gospel is in 1 Cor. 15:3f ~ that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
    God’s perfect work in Jesus Christ done on behalf of his people. Not what happens to them or within them, or that is done by them. It’s what God unilaterally accomplished for us completely in Christ Jesus.

    So the sermon on the mount is not just upping the ante on legalism. It is rather the charter of the new covenant people – it depicts the reality of new covenant living in the power of the Spirit. And the message “Don’t care about what you eat or wear, for God cares for you more than for birds” is very much a message of Good news – and not just a moral exhortation. Certainly, that is how someone like St. Francis saw it.
    > I can certainly agree with you. And even (here) with San Fran.

    Am I gettting at your question?
    ~ Yes! Thank you,
    ~Hugh

  36. jj @32,

    “My redemption is based 100% on my efforts – and 100% on His grace.”

    Yeouch! Then you’ve got A LOT of work to do!

  37. @Hugh (#34
    I think the fundamental issue is right here:

    My redemption is based 100% on my efforts – and 100% on His grace. The two are so united that you cannot pass the least sliver of nominalism between them.

    ~ 200%? Strange Roman arithmetic there!

    and (from #36

    “My redemption is based 100% on my efforts – and 100% on His grace.”

    Yeouch! Then you’ve got A LOT of work to do!

    I used to worry about the apparent implication of God’s absolute sovereignty – that it meant I was actually a robot – fated either to persevere to the end or not. I do not think that was the right way to look at it. I think it was putting God and me on a common level – if God did 100% than I must do 0%; if God did 95%, then I must do 5% – and so on.

    I had to ask myself what it would mean for God to ordain my salvation – considering that the Scriptures, in some places, put it on the basis of me believing, loving, etc – and in some places on the basis of God’s saving me by His powerful hand. And I concluded that what it would mean for God to ordain my own believing, loving, etc, was that I would actually believe, love, etc. My experience would be of my striving with all my might to love God – and precisely that striving would be God’s action – the same thing looked at either from my point of view or from God’s.

    Thus if God does 100% – and if my salvation means my believing, loving etc – then it is the case that I do 100%. It’s not 200%; it’s 100%.

    My sort of “life verse” (adopted by me a good 10 years before I ever thought of being a Catholic) is Philippians 2:12-13:

    …continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

    It is not either/or; it is both/and.

    What I find impossible to believe is that all of Jesus’s exhortations to holiness, to perfection, etc are a sort of reductio ad absurdum – as though He were telling us to try real hard – because ([insert maniacal laughter here]) – you’re going to fail!!!!

    I think I have to strive to do all those things – and I believe that He will enable me to do them. It is certainly a gradual process. For me, as for many, I suppose, there will be some cleansing after death – Purgatory. But I recall my Reformed minister asking me, when I told him I was going to have to become a Catholic, “So how are you going to be saved?” I thought for a moment, and replied, as I think was right, “By being perfectly holy, as He is holy.”

    That is His gift to us – that we do not need to accept continuing to live in our filth and unrighteousness. He implants the seed of righteousness in us and we – that is to say, He, by His Holy Spirit in us – see it grow until the whole inner man is cleansed.

    jj

  38. jj @37,

    None of us is a robot. That’s too animated. Paul calls us clay pots in Romans 9:21ff & 2 Cor. 4:7. Much more apt.

    As to your attempt here: “By being perfectly holy, as He is holy;” WOW! You’re a better man than I, Charlie Brown! I can say that I *am* perfectly holy, as Christ has died to not only take away all my sins, but to further robe me in his righteousness. Fresh sins I commit? Already expiated by the spotless Lamb of God, thank God, as the Book of Hebrews makes plain.

    That is His gift to us – that we do not need to accept continuing to live in our filth and unrighteousness. He implants the seed of righteousness in us and we – that is to say, He, by His Holy Spirit in us – see it grow until the whole inner man is cleansed.

    Well, you’d best back on your sacramental hamster-wheel, and get to running. What a miserable ‘hope.’ I obey, repent, confess, etc. b/c he’s won heaven for me: Him, 100% solus Christus.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  39. @Hugh (#38)

    Well, you’d best back on your sacramental hamster-wheel, and get to running.

    Here I don’t remotely follow you. I fear you have a grossly distorted idea of the Catholic spiritual life. I’m not on a hamster wheel. I am running a race:

    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

    The Sacraments are not something I do; they are something done in and for me. It is, indeed, solo gratia, solo Christo that I live.

    But this has long got off track. I had only wondered whether, with your view, it was not the case that I could just trust in Jesus, and then sin as much as I wanted without fear of Hell. I’m not sure you have given a clear answer to that.

    jj

  40. jj,

    To hopefully clarify.

    I had only wondered whether, with your view, it was not the case that I could just trust in Jesus, and then sin as much as I wanted without fear of Hell.

    Yes. And a born-again child of God is clothed in Christ’s righteousness, but also has a changed heart, so that, though his flesh leads him into sin (Romans 7), the Holy Spirit within leads him to increasing external righteousness. He increasingly hates sin, and so doesn’t so much want to.

    There is a war in his soul, and he often loses (Gal. 5:17) but in the end, perseveres not b/c he’s so experientially holy, but b/c Christ has covered ALL his unrighteousnesses, failings, mortal sins, venial sins, etc.

    Tell me please if I am unclear here.
    Thanks,
    Hugh

  41. @Hugh (#40)

    I had only wondered whether, with your view, it was not the case that I could just trust in Jesus, and then sin as much as I wanted without fear of Hell.

    Yes. And a born-again child of God is clothed in Christ’s righteousness, but also has a changed heart, so that, though his flesh leads him into sin (Romans 7), the Holy Spirit within leads him to increasing external righteousness. He increasingly hates sin, and so doesn’t so much want to.

    There is a war in his soul, and he often loses (Gal. 5:17) but in the end, perseveres not b/c he’s so experientially holy, but b/c Christ has covered ALL his unrighteousnesses, failings, mortal sins, venial sins, etc.

    Tell me please if I am unclear here.
    Thanks,
    Hugh

    No, clear enough, though there appears to be an assumption – that the person trusting in Jesus would in fact desire to persevere. What bothers me – and what used to fill me with consternation when I was a Protestant – is the fact that there were definitely times when I did not want to persevere – once when I threw the whole thing over. Now – thank God! – I did come back! But I have seen those who don’t. I had recourse, then, to the idea that they hadn’t really believed in Jesus. But they did seem to think they had. So it seemed to me – still seems to me – that one could honestly believe one had trusted Christ, but be self-deceived. In which case one’s certainty was no greater than the Catholic’s, of eventual perseverance.

    In my opinion – and in my experience in the 17 years I have been a Catholic – the Sacraments are powerful medicine helping me to want to persevere.

    But, yes, your answer is clear enough.

    And we have strayed from the indicative-vs-imperative thing :-) Perhaps should shut up about this other issue!

    jj

  42. jj,

    Amen – we have indeed meandered; but thanks!

    Hugh

    And now, back to our regularly-scheduled program: “The indicative-vs-imperative thing.”

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