Signs of Predestination – A Catholic Discusses Election

Dec 29th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

All the members of Called to Communion once earnestly believed the tenets of Calvinism before abjuring the errors of that system in exchange for the true Catholic Faith.

However, it would be wrong to suppose that Catholic deny predestination per se. Rather, the doctrine of predestination is upheld, albeit with a important qualifications.


Dominican Father Reginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange

As a Catholic, what is now more important to me is the “signs of predestination.” In other words “faith alone” is by no means a sign that one is among the elect of God. Rather, the Dominican Father Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange (d. 1964) observed this in his work Life Everlasting:

The Council of Trent has declared that we cannot have on earth certitude of our predestination without a special revelation. Aside from this special revelation no man can know if he will persevere in good works to the end. Nevertheless there are signs of predestination which give a kind of moral certitude that one will persevere. The Fathers, especially St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great, St. Bernard, St. Anselm, have enumerated certain of these signs, following the directions of Scripture.

Theologians enumerate eight signs of predestination.

  1. First, a good life;
  2. secondly, the testimony of a good conscience;
  3. thirdly, patience in adversities for love of God;
  4. fourthly, relish for the light and the Word of God;
  5. fifthly, mercy toward those who suffer;
  6. sixthly, love of enemies;
  7. seventhly, humility;
  8. eighthly, special devotion to the Blessed Virgin

(from R.M. Garrigou-Lagrange, in Life Everlasting, “The Number of the Elect”).

As a Catholic, then, belief in predestination is less of an academic exercise and more of an aid to the examination of my conscience. Do I patiently bear through difficulties? Do I maintain a love for the Word of God? Do I study it daily? Do I order my life to it? Do I love the poor and try to assist them? Am I praying and blessing for those who hate me?

The question is not, “Am I predestined?” because nobody can know this without a special revelation. Rather, the question is, “Do I resemble the character of the predestined? Am I a man of the beatitudes?”

As I discussed in the book The Catholic Perspective on Paul, Paul’s doctrine of predestination is this: “He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son: that he might be the Firstborn amongst many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

We are predestined to not merely be in Heaven, but to be conformed to the image of Christ. If we do not resemble the Eight Beatitudes of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount, we’re not being conformed to Christ. We’re not likely predestined.

In light of all this, the words of Saint Peter, that holy pontiff, make more sense:

Wherefore, brethren, labour the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time (2 Peter 1:10).

So follow the eight signs of predestination, but especially foster a deep filial love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the predestined one, the most perfectly saved person of human history and the most perfect created person of all creation – even greater than the angels. She is the Mother of Fair Love and she will guide you to the tender mercy of her Divine Son Jesus Christ – the mediator between God and men.

All the saints agree: A man cannot be saved without love and devotion for the Blessed Mother of Christ the King. To be “in Christ” is to be a child of God the Father and a child of Mary. Honor thy Father and thy Mother.

Tags: ,

145 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. However, it would be wrong to suppose that Catholic deny predestination per se. Rather, the doctrine of predestination is upheld, albeit with a important qualifications.

    IMHO it would be very useful to state explicitely that the Catholic doctrine of predestination is essentially different from the Calvinist. Quoting from the CCC:

    #605 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.” 412

    412 Council of Quiercy (853): DS 624; cf. 2 Cor 5:15; I Jn 2:2

    #1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; 618

    618 Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent (1547): DS 1567.

  2. Great post. Many people do not know that Jesus’ last command to humanity on the cross was, “Behold thy Mother” (John 19:27). The lines immediately following: “And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished…”

  3. Father Garrigou-Lagrange’s “Christian Perfection and Contemplation” has been of enormous help in my trying to learn to pray. And as a once-Calvinist I was powerfully moved to find in his writing a really coherent account of the sovereignty of grace in God’s relation to man – the truth of which some, at least, of Calvinist teaching about predestination is a partial, and at times distorted, account.

    I am currently reading “The Three Ages of the Interior Life” and look forward to reading his other books.

    jj

  4. Jesse,

    Where does this idea come from that “Behold the Mother” is a command to all humanity, and not a specific command to this disciple?

  5. If love and devotion to the Blessed Mother are required for salvation, then is there really hope for Protestants, the vast majority of whom have no devotion to her? Or can Protestants be saved if they are invincibly ignorant of these requirements?

  6. Good question, Ed. Most Protestants, and sadly many Catholics, are given no chance to form a relationship with their God given Spiritual Mother because they are not taught about her, at all, through no fault of their own and are often scared away by accusations of idolatry.

    Now that I have come to understand how God gave us a mother in Mary, I realize how very important it is for us in obedience to our Father to have a relationship with our Mother, it is a commandment! We cannot cast aside the gifts of our Lord and consider ourselves Christs followers.

  7. I have always thought that Limited Atonement was really the center of TULIP. (the acronym AND the system of doctrine.) To me it has always been the key to understanding “Predestination” or “Election” as the Reformed are more wont to say. It is also one doctrine that I continue to struggle to let go of. (well worn mental paths need some magisterial grass seed thrown on them!)

    It makes sense to my mind that if Christ died for someone that they are saved. Period. That is the essense of Limited Atonement and though I repudiate it now in submission to the doctrine of the Church, I have trouble understanding sometimes how God could specifically die for someone and then His glorious death is not then efficacious for them. Of course I see much beauty in the Catholic doctrine, and I try to think about election in terms of sufficient/efficient grace now. (God gives sufficient grace to all, efficient grace only to some, but there is no election to damnation). This helps… but, is there any other orthodox ways of thinking about this issue? I figure this is the place to ask because you former TULIP guys know where I am coming from. An arminian/Baptist/typical evangelical would most likely not have much issue here, but I continue with “limited” success to try to burn a new paradigm into my brain. Any thoughts? (I prefer one liners and such, they stick in my brain better)

    By the way, devotion to Mary has not been an issue for me at all. Scripturally, theologically, or anything-elseically. Perhaps devotion to her is so sacred God reserves her for the Catholics and EO. Even with loads of scripture, history, and miracles Protestants are just blinded to her. It is truly weird.

    -David M.

  8. Taylor, you wrote:
    However, it would be wrong to suppose that Catholic deny predestination per se. Rather, the doctrine of predestination is upheld, albeit with a important qualifications.

    Arminians, RCs, and EOs, all must confess some kind of doctrine of Predestination, because the word is there in Scripture, along with the concepts of God’s Sovereignty and election. Ephesians 1:4-5; I Peter 1:1-2; Romans 8:28-34; Acts 2:22-23; Acts 4:27-28; Romans chapter 9, and many others.

    Is the Roman Catholic view of predestination the “foreknowledge of future faith and perseverance in some; and then God responds to future faith” ? Or is the Roman Catholic view the “chosen in the Chosen One” view? Or what?

    How do you get around the fact that foreknowledge is about knowing a person, not about knowing that they will have faith; (although God knows all things infallibly) ? “whom He foreknew” (Romans 8:29); “Before I formed in the womb, I knew you” (Jer. 1:5)

    As a Catholic, what is now more important to me is the “signs of predestination.” In other words “faith alone” is by no means a sign that one is among the elect of God.

    Taylor, you make it sound like “faith alone” is taught by Protestants as the only sign or evidence of Predestination. “Faith alone” historically refers to the only way in which someone is justified before God. Luther spoke of living faith and the results of true faith. Calvin and the Westminster Confession says, “we are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not stay alone”, that is, it results in good works, fruit, patience, perseverance, love – those seven things you mention in your article. Number 8, devotion to Mary, is no where in the Scriptures, so that one is wrong. In fact Devotion to Mary is nowhere mentioned in Scripture. So, it seems that you and the Dominican father that you quote do not believe in the material sufficiency view, but the partim partim view of Scripture and tradition. It seems that that really is the view of the RCC, that “God’s word” is found partly in Scripture and partly in tradition, and tradition according to Rome, is the ability of the church to bring out new doctrines and dogmas that did not exist in the Bible or the earliest centuries.

    So follow the eight signs of predestination, but especially foster a deep filial love for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    Where is that in Scripture that devotion to Mary is a sign of Predestination? And then, you make it even harder by the word “especially” as if it is more important that the other seven, yet the other seven are in Scripture, at least in principle.

    When Jesus gives His mother to the apostle John as the cross, sound exegesis shows that that this is historical narrative and Jesus is giving her specifically to John for John to take care of her. It seems like “adding to the word of God” to then say that Jesus is giving Mary to be the mother of all believers. Even if one wants to say that this shows that Mary is the spiritual mother of all believers, which is doesn’t; then Scripture is silent on prayers or praises or devotions to Mary. Praying in front of her picture or statue is wrong and looks like idolatry.

    What version of 2 Peter 1:10 are you using? “as long as you practice these things” – these things refers to the things in verses 5-9, and nothing there indicates any Marian devotion, so your argument is defeated.

    Also, if Peter was the “holy pontiff” or “Pope” or “bishop of Rome” or “bishop of bishops”, he failed to mention it in both of his letters. In I Peter 5:1 he calls himself “fellow – elder”; and in 2 Peter he says that the way he is diligent so that the believers will have a way to stir up their sincere minds in the truth by way of reminder is by his writing this second letter. (2 Peter 1:12-18; 3:1) If there was a such thing as a pope, then he would have mentioned it here, since he knows he is going to die and he is being diligent so that they will have a writing to read and meditate on after he is dead and gone.

  9. David Meyer wrote:
    I have always thought that Limited Atonement was really the center of TULIP. . . . It is also one doctrine that I continue to struggle to let go of. (well worn mental paths need some magisterial grass seed thrown on them!)

    David,
    Thanks for your honesty about having a hard time letting go of the Scriptural teaching of Christ’s, particular, powerful, effective Atonement. That is very interesting. Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 show that the people that Christ redeemed by His blood are “out of” (ek ) every tribe, and tongue, and people and nation. It is clear; and that helps us interpret I John 2:2 and I Cor. 5:14-15 properly.

    Without that, then you are left with an atonement where Christ died for every individual, but only makes them savable, and does not actually save them. A universal atonement for all individuals does not turn the wrath of God away from anybody. How can it be a saving, powerful, effective atonement? It is up to the person then by the moral power of his own will to chose Christ, which seems like Pelagianism or at least semi-Pelagianism, even if the RCC denies them officially.

    “magisterial grass seed” are thorns and thistles that choke out the word of God. The reason why it is so hard to get rid of, is because it is Scriptural and Scripture is more powerful and over all the RCC additions to the word of God. This desire for extra things to crowd out the word of God really speaks volumes, and shows that you have to go outside of Scripture in order to “convince yourself” of the RCC doctrines.

  10. David,

    It might help you to contemplate the truth that the Church affirms both predestination and free will. God does not save me against my will, and He does not coerce me, either.

    Also, see 1 John 2:2.

    Also, even St Augustine, darling of the Reformed set, affirmed that the punishment of the wicked (and the reward of the righteous) is unjust apart from free will. See here, for example (if I may be so bold as to link my own blog).

    Fred

    (was that short enough?) :-)

  11. David M.,

    I understand where you are coming from. One of the joys of being Catholic is being able to take a breather from being the arbiter and discoverer of all truth and simply sit and learn. This process, especially for those of us who have many deeply ingrained notions regarding important theological categories from our former ecclesial communities, will obviously take some time, but it’s truly a delight.

    I’ve found it helpful, in distinguishing the orthodox teachings re: the atonement from the Reformed doctrines, to reflect upon the nature of “sacrifice” in the Bible. Questions about Limited Atonement will still trip us up if we continue to think about salvation in terms of balancing bank accounts and penal substitution. I have yet to arrive at a mature understanding of these things, but reflecting on the story of Abraham responding to God’s command that he sacrifice Isaac has been really helpful in getting me started. Obtaining a better understanding of the nature of sacrifice will help us better understand what Christ did on the cross, which, in turn, should help better explain why doctrines like Limited Atonement are wrong.

  12. David M,

    I recommend the following lecture by Larry Feingold titled “Sacrifice and Priesthood in the Old and New Testaments.” It helps clarify the nature of sacrifice, and thus the nature of Christ’s sacrifice.

    (Download the mp3 here.)

    I also discussed this subject indirectly in my post titled “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  13. David Meyer-
    Though the topic you’ve raised isn’t the direct focus of this interview, in it I believe you’ll find that Fr. Sebastian Walshe speaks to the heart of some of your seeking…

  14. David Meyer: It makes sense to my mind that if Christ died for someone that they are saved. Period.

    What an interesting comment. I say that because this makes no sense to me! I chalk that up to the fact that I was not raised as a Calvinist, but as a Catholic. Let my try to explain.

    As a Catholic I was taught that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, not just for the sins of the “elect”:

    Jesus Christ the righteous … is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2

    The gospel that is to be preached to the world is that Jesus died for your sins – not Jesus died for your sins if you are lucky enought to be one of the “elect”. To say that Jesus died for your sins, is to say that Jesus loves you unconditionally – i.e. there is no condition whatsoever that you must meet before God will love you, God loves you if you are repentant or if you are unrepentant; God loves you if you are wallowing in the filth of sin, or wearing the white robe of righteousness. God loves you just as you are.

    Salvation, however, is NOT unconditional. To be saved as an adult, I must accept God’s love. If I am damned, it won’t be because God doesn’t love me, it will be because I don’t love God. I will be damned if I die preferring the darkness to the light.

    For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. … And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light… John 3:17-19

    CCC 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. …

    Hope this helps!

  15. I have listened to the entire lecture by Larry Feingold. I don’t know anything else about him, but he seems to be a qualified man to speak on the subject. Much of the talk I enjoyed. Much of it I and most Christians can agree with. The background on sacrifices, natural law, OT, the efficacy of the means of grace according to God’s promises, is all very fine.

    However, he does not from this many body of the talk repudiate Luther’s view, nor show that the eucharist is not now only a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not blood. He does not bring in scripture passages that deal with how the word “priest” is used in the NT, or what Christ and Paul say about the Lord’s supper. Our Lord is abundantly clear that the supper is a Promise, a Testament, not a sacrifice. Look at the words scripture itself uses, and teaching it teaches.

    But Luther gets dragged in here, as a red herring to obfuscate that the RC teaching here is not scripturally underpinned or takes away from Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice, robbing him of his glory, thereby.

    Luther did not abolish the Eucharist or the mass, only the abuse of it (have a look at the confessions). Also it is wrong to say that Luther taught that Christ suffered in hell. Again, have a look at the confessions. Feingold calls him in one breath an innovator and heretic, but then alleges teachings he did not hold, and does not explore the false teachings which he deplored. There is no fairness in this. Feingold sounds like a man who should know better. And Cross would also know better, I would expect. The never-ending demands on man’s conscience by requiring repeated masses, ceremonies, sufficient contrition (who can know when he has sufficient contrition?), payments–all never-ending or enough and all for merit and the power of the pope–this is what is being deplored. The right use of the Eucharist is not.

    I can bring in all the necessary quotes of scripture and the confessions, if anyone cares to hear them.

  16. Yesterday, I attempted to make a comment but it did not appear here, perhaps it was not sent or received properly so here it is once more:

    I have listened to the entire lecture by Larry Feingold. I don’t know anything else about him, but he seems to be a qualified man to speak on the subject. Much of the talk I enjoyed. Much of it I and most Christians can agree with. The background on sacrifices, natural law, OT, the efficacy of the means of grace according to God’s promises, is all very fine.

    However, he does not from this many body of the talk repudiate Luther’s view, nor show that the eucharist is not now only a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not blood. He does not bring in scripture passages that deal with how the word “priest” is used in the NT, or what Christ and Paul say about the Lord’s supper. Our Lord is abundantly clear that the supper is a Promise, a Testament, not a sacrifice. Look at the words scripture itself uses, and teaching it teaches.

    But Luther gets dragged in here, as a red herring to obfuscate that the RC teaching here is not scripturally underpinned or takes away from Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice, robbing him of his glory, thereby.

    Luther did not abolish the Eucharist or the mass, only the abuse of it (have a look at the confessions). Also it is wrong to say that Luther taught that Christ suffered in hell. Again, have a look at the confessions. Feingold calls him in one breath an innovator and heretic, but then alleges teachings he did not hold, and does not explore the false teachings which he deplored. There is no fairness in this. Feingold sounds like a man who should know better. And Cross would also know better, I would expect. The never-ending demands on man’s conscience by requiring repeated masses, ceremonies, sufficient contrition (who can know when he has sufficient contrition?), payments–all never-ending or enough and all for merit and the power of the pope–this is what is being deplored. The right use of the Eucharist is not.

    I can bring in all the necessary quotes of scripture and the confessions, if anyone cares to hear them.

  17. Just to follow up with what Luther and Lutherans do confess regarding Christ’s descent into hell, without having to change the words or the Apostle’s Creed to “limbo of the just” (not scriptural, just in case someone does not know that.)

    Luther’s response to the conundrum is the proper one, to stick with the creed, to not teach things not contained in the scriptures (apostolic witness), to be faithful to what has been revealed and not speculate on what has not been revealed and then make the teaching binding on consciences. This is what the confession is:

    “Even in the Ancient Christian teachers of the Church, as well as among some of our teachers, different explanations of the article about Christ’s descent to hell are found. Therefore, we abide in the simplicity of our christian faith. Dr. Luther has pointed us to this in a sermon about Christ’s descent to hell, which he delivered in the castle at Torgau in the year 1533. In the Creed we confess, “I believe… in Jesus Christ. His only Son, our Lord, who… was crucified died and was buried. He descended into hell.” In this Confession Christ’s burial and descent to hell are distinguished as different articles. We simply believe that the entire person (God and man) descended into hell after the burial, conquered the devil, destroyed hell’s power, and took from the devil all his might. We should not, however, trouble ourselves with high and difficult thoughts about how this happened. With our reason and our five senses this article can be understood as little as the preceding one about how Christ is placed at the right hand of God’s almighty power and majesty. We are simply to believe it and cling to the Word. So we hold to the substance and consolation that neither hell nor the devil can take captive or injure us and all who believe in Christ.” Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. Article IX.

  18. Ken, Bridgette, Herbet and Mateo – Sorry for delay in getting comments approved. Usually the author of a post is the one to moderate comments and when that person is out of pocket for whatever reason and because we get a lot of comments every day some might get lost in the shuffle.

  19. Brigette,
    There are many talks by Professor Feingold concerning the Eucharist. Some of which may touch on your worries:

    From his series “AHC Lecture Series #1: Themes of Salvation History”
    Biblical Typology: Jewish Feasts and Their Fulfillment in Christ
    http://hebrewca.ipower.com/SoundFiles/S1L07TypologyFulfillment.mp3
    This talk concerns how the Eucharist is a sacrifice and the connections between the Passover. It draws many connections between the Jewish feasts and how the Eucharist also works.

    From his series “AHC Lecture Series #2: Spring 2008: Themes of Faith”
    The Eucharist: The One Sacrifice of the New Covenant
    http://hebrewca.ipower.com/SoundFiles/S2L07EucharistOneSacrifice.mp3
    This is the series that immediately follows the one that Bryan posted above: “Sacrifice and Priesthood in the Old and New Testaments.” This lecture more fully discusses the sacrifice of Christ present in the Eucharist (some mentioning of St. Paul is done here too).

    From his series “AHC Lecture Series #5: Themes From the Early Church Fathers”
    Early Church Fathers on the Eucharist and the Liturgy
    http://hebrewca.ipower.com/SoundFiles/S5L10EarlyFathersonEucharistandLiturgy.mp3

    There’s certainly a lot that Professor Feingold talks about in his lecture series regarding the Eucharist. I myself am not too familiar with Lutheran beliefs regarding the sacrifice of the Mass (if memory serves me right, Lutherans deny there is a sacrifice going on in the Mass). Professor Feingold also has a talk concerning “Holy Saturday and the ‘Harrowing of Hell'” from his AHC Lecture Series #6: Themes of the Incarnation:
    http://hebrewca.ipower.com/SoundFiles/S6L07HolySaturdayandHarrowingofHell.mp3

    Sorry for all of the links! Perhaps it might help to consider the following Scriptures in addressing how Catholics believe that the Lord’s Supper is the same sacrifice of Calvary being offered apart from the actual Crucifixion.

    Hebrews 9:15-17
    15 And therefore he is the mediator of the new testament: that by means of his death for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where there is a testament the death of the testator must of necessity come in. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is as yet of no strength, whilst the testator lives.

    Here you see that St. Paul is stating that Christ initiated the New Testament by dying and that the New Testament was not instituted without the offering of Christ’s blood at His Crucifixion.

    Yet the Gospels and St. Paul write something curious concerning when Jesus instituted the New Testament:

    Luke 22:20
    20 In like manner, the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.

    Matthew 28:27-28
    27 And taking the chalice, he gave thanks and gave to them, saying: Drink all of this. 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.

    Mark 14:24
    24 And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many

    1 Corinthians 11:25
    25 In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

    For Catholics the way we make sense of these verses is to understand that Christ offered His Passion mystically (Jesus is God so He can do that) prior to His death in His Last Supper and therefore can institute the New Testament in blood under the appearance of wine (within the chalice at His Last Supper). This is one way in which Catholics understand that the Last Supper, the Eucharist, is the true sacrifice of Christ, being re-offered mystically.

  20. Ken Temple,
    Thanks for your comment.

    First off, there is alot of variety of opinion on this topic within Catholicism. I have heard Catholics that sound “arminian” to my ears, and I have heard some that sound per darn Cavinistic (with the exception of God electing to hell.) In fact, that seems to be the main (only?) exception. But to me there really is no “variety” on the topic. Why? Because the importance level of the doctrine IS A DOCTRINE in itself. The fact that the magisterium has left the topic open to certain different views means that perhaps it is not the “central” doctrine I thought it was. I am of the opinion that as the dwarfs of Moria dug too deep and awakened the Balrog, Calvinists are delving too deep into the hidden mind of God. If it is up to just me, I cannot tell how important the doctrine of predestination is. I need someone to tell me. You or any other man who self identifies as being a fallible interpreter of God’s word are low on my list of people to be influenced by to tell me what the doctrine is, and MORE IMPORTANTLY the doctrines importance level.

    You said:

    Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 show that the people that Christ redeemed by His blood are “out of” (ek ) every tribe, and tongue, and people and nation. It is clear; and that helps us interpret I John 2:2 and I Cor. 5:14-15 properly.

    Yeah, it seems clear to my mind as well. Methinks we think alike. Here is my problem (for almost the last year): When you say “it is clear; and that helps us interpret…” wait, wait, wait. Lets back up to the “clear” part of your exegesis. It is clear to you, it is clear to me, but it is not clear to a whole bunch of other godly men and women who strive to follow Christ. Is there only one meaning (or layers of non contradictory meanings) of the texts you cite? Yes. Absolutely. But when you say “it is clear” I have really absolutely no reason whatsoever to listen to you. No disrespect, but you saying those texts are clearly interpreted as “X” elicits a big ol’ yawn from me. For that matter ME thinking you are right elicits a yawn from me. I don’t trust myself either because my track record for nailing down the truth stinks.

    I once believed the Eucharist was mere bread. I was wrong. I believed the way to know you had the Holy Spirit was if you spoke in tongues. I was wrong. I believed in a pre-tribulation rapture. I was wrong. I believed contraception was a-ok. I was wrong. Theonomy? I was wrong. Believers baptism? I was wrong. Tobacco/alchohol use? I was wrong. Arminianism? I was wrong. Baptismal Regeneration? I was wrong.

    I could go on. But why? You understand what I mean, because I bet the same has happened to you. Time after time I found my “clear” benchmark passages weren’t so clear, and more clear ones began to trump them. Then *voila*, my opinion does a 180 turn on some “essential” doctrine. The switch to Calvinism is a great example of this that perhaps you can relate to (if you are not a cradle Calvinist). Depending on what Scripture interprets what Scripture, which one I found clear and which one not, I changed my entire paradigm. The Scripture became like a new book to me.

    In your comment you give some “clear” passages and then proceed to exegete and come to a conclusion. But who gave you this right? You are not my bishop. To Taylor you said “Where is that in Scripture…” Assuming that question to be a valid one for you to pose, and assuming someone need answer you. It is not valid, and they need not respond. Let me ask you this: Where is your paradigm of “where is that in scripture…” in scripture?

    Or where in Scripture does it say Christ has two wills? I will give you the profound answer: It doesn’t say it! At least not by the Protestant standard of needing it formally stated. It requires a ton of exegesis to get there. But you believe it. And if you don’t need it formally stated to believe it, then why ask others to show things formally stated in a mathematical way about the Blessed Mother. You (presumably) believe sola scriptura, yet it is nowhere laid out in scripture. The canon itself is nowhere in scripture even partially attempted to be stated. But you believe in your canon. You believe “Immanuel” in Isaiah refers to Christ, as do I. But you do not believe this because of exegesis, but the tradition of the Church. The passage itself needs interpreting by the proper authorities to become meaningful. Likewise the passages you refer to need interpreting to be meaningful. Arrogating that important task to yourself can only lead to error.

    I hope by this point in my long winded comment my point is beginning to be less muddied. WE NEED JESUS TO TELL US STUFF or we will mess it up bigtime. The scripture was not intended to be a systematic theology manual for individuals to argue about. It is the CHURCH’S book to interpret, and it is for us to OBEY Christ by obeying the ones He sent, (Luke 10:16) not by scattering in every direction chasing our own interpretations.

    If you went back in time with Bill and Ted and met Arius, what would you tell him?
    A) “You are interpreting the scripture wrong. Here is how it is correctly interpreted…”
    B) “OBEY the bishops dude! Submit to their interpretation!”

    To my mind the answer is obvious. Obeying Christ means obeying the ones He sent. Period.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  21. Typo:
    It is clear; and that helps us interpret I John 2:2 and I Cor. 5:14-15 properly.

    Should have been:
    It is clear; and that helps us interpret I John 2:2 and 2 Cor. 5:14-15 properly.

    Thanks Sean for letting us know why it took a few days. I am glad you guys accepted it. I sincerely appreciate that.

    David Meyer,
    Thanks for your response to my comments. I understand your main point (s). You and the Roman Catholic Church claim that only the bishops /magisterium/ Pope of the RCC (which are supposedly the result of an unbroken chain of apostolic succession through history up until today) can rightfully interpret Scripture. What you say is what many other former Evangelicals and former Reformed folks say.

    You quote Luke 10:16 – “Whoever listens to you listens to Me” – the “you” there are the disciples/apostles, not your bishops. The NT epistles and writings of the apostles tells us clearly. When we listen to the written Scripture, we are listening to them, and obeying Luke 10:16. It is we who work hard at understanding the Scriptures who obey Luke 10:16 more so than listening to traditions added on to the deposit several centuries later. So your whole argument falls.

    You wrote:

    Yeah, it seems clear to my mind as well. Methinks we think alike. Here is my problem (for almost the last year): When you say “it is clear; and that helps us interpret…” wait, wait, wait. Lets back up to the “clear” part of your exegesis. It is clear to you, it is clear to me, but it is not clear to a whole bunch of other godly men and women who strive to follow Christ. Is there only one meaning (or layers of non contradictory meanings) of the texts you cite? Yes. Absolutely. But when you say “it is clear” I have really absolutely no reason whatsoever to listen to you. No disrespect, but you saying those texts are clearly interpreted as “X” elicits a big ol’ yawn from me. For that matter ME thinking you are right elicits a yawn from me. I don’t trust myself either because my track record for nailing down the truth stinks.

    I am glad we find agreement in your first two sentences. The rest, I respectfully disagree with. I guess what it seems like you are saying is that no Christian can trust anyone else except their own bishop of their local church; and even that must be a Roman Catholic church, who agrees with the Pope and all its infallible claims. (in your case, your bishop or priest at the Roman Catholic Church at which you now go.) I understand what you are saying, and that is your belief; ok.

    Basically, you shut down all discussion by that. You have basically said, “they are a priori right, infallible, and so my mind is made up, so why should I listen to anyone else?” So why does Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 still bother you ? and to you, it still speaks of a powerful, effective, and purposeful atonement. The Scriptures are above the bishops; the bishops/presbyters must listen to the Scriptures, not the other way around.

    But what about all the “one another” verses in the Bible? What about Romans 15:14 that says we are “full of goodness and competent to counsel/admonish one another”? What about Colossians 3:16 that speaks of “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another” ?

    You say you have no reason to trust anything I say. Ok, then why have blog discussions? You shut down all discussion with that kind of approach.

    I also have no reason to trust what the Roman Catholic Church and her bishops and Pope says either, in infallible claims or traditions that it has added to the original deposit; and in those that issues that are unbiblical, like the addition of over-exalting Mary, and the PV, IC, Sinlessness, and BA, and co-Mediatrix, icons, statues of her and praying to her and saying prayers to her. Because the RCC has claimed it had the right to make those things doctrines, and claimed that they are apostolic tradition, when there is not a shred of evidence that the apostles taught any of that stuff, and in fact all of Marian devotional practices and doctrines and dogmas contradict Scripture, then that disqualifies your bishops and leaders and Pope of any right to be trusted. (the Marian devotions and practices and doctrines and dogmas contradict Matthew 1:25; I Timothy 2:5; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9; Romans 3:9-23; Mark 7:6-13; Matthew 15:1-20; Matthew 13:46ff; Mark 3:31-35; Mark 6:3; John 7:1-10, and many others.)

    I can agree with the Roman Catholic priest in the article on the first seven evidences that one is called and elcted ( 2 Peter 1:10), but I cannot on the eighth one. It (devotion to Mary) is just no where in the Scriptures, period.

    You wrote:

    I once believed the Eucharist was mere bread. I was wrong. I believed the way to know you had the Holy Spirit was if you spoke in tongues. I was wrong. I believed in a pre-tribulation rapture. I was wrong. I believed contraception was a-ok. I was wrong. Theonomy? I was wrong. Believers baptism? I was wrong. Tobacco/alchohol use? I was wrong. Arminianism? I was wrong. Baptismal Regeneration? I was wrong.

    I think you are probably now right on some of those changes, but wrong on some.

    How do you know for sure you were wrong about all of those things and how do you know you are right now? How do you know your mind is not tricking you into trusting all that the magisterium/pope says is dogma and true? How do you know for sure?

    I could go on. But why? You understand what I mean, because I bet the same has happened to you. Time after time I found my “clear” benchmark passages weren’t so clear, and more clear ones began to trump them. Then *voila*, my opinion does a 180 turn on some “essential” doctrine. The switch to Calvinism is a great example of this that perhaps you can relate to (if you are not a cradle Calvinist). Depending on what Scripture interprets what Scripture, which one I found clear and which one not, I changed my entire paradigm. The Scripture became like a new book to me.

    I understand what you are saying; especially since I was not a cradle Calvinist. My upbringing was in a liberal United Methodist Church. But we all can grow and change. The Lord saved me. The gospel is true. Jesus is true; He is the way the truth and the life; and He is the living voice of the written word, as you say to that affect, toward the end of your response. That is bad if we are not willing to change.

    You wrote:

    In your comment you give some “clear” passages and then proceed to exegete and come to a conclusion. But who gave you this right? You are not my bishop. To Taylor you said “Where is that in Scripture…” Assuming that question to be a valid one for you to pose, and assuming someone need answer you. It is not valid, and they need not respond. Let me ask you this: Where is your paradigm of “where is that in scripture…” in scripture?

    That is very authoritarian and dictatorial, kind of like the character Darth Vader, that you have chosen as your “avatar”/signature. To say, “you cannot ask a question”, and “we don’t need to respond” is the epitome of chutzpah and the arrogance of the problem of the 1870 infallible dogma and also the dogmatic anathematizing of the Protestant movement in the Council of Trent. You are saying, “Whatever we say goes; tough toenails; we are right; we are king and you are wrong.” Yuk ! That just proves to me how wrong the Roman Catholic Church is.

    The rest of your comments, I will take in my next post, if this one goes through. I just don’t want to make this one too long and cause you to yawn and be too bored. (smile)

    Seriously, I understand what you are saying about “not leaning on your own understanding” ( Proverbs 3:5-7). It sounds humble to take your stand the way you do; and the Protestant who thinks he can interpret Scripture and has the right to interpret Scripture and responsibility to interpret correctly (but not the right to do it wrongfully); sounds arrogant to you and others who have taken your path.

    May the Lord Jesus Christ guide us all in our endeavors. I hope you find true peace also.

  22. Hi David Meyer, continued from above
    you wrote:

    Or where in Scripture does it say Christ has two wills? I will give you the profound answer: It doesn’t say it! At least not by the Protestant standard of needing it formally stated. It requires a ton of exegesis to get there. But you believe it.

    But everyone who claims to be a Christian and has read the Bible, in some way, believes that, since God is all-powerful, and yet, He has allowed sin and evil to take place. When you pray, “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven”, you and all Christians are confessing that in some way God’s will is not being done right now on earth. Evil and sin abound. Yet, He also says, “He works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). The Reformed /Calvinistic answer and way to dealing with all the Scriptures is the one system that actually is honest with all of it, not avoiding any of it; and has come up with the most consistent answer.

    The Westminister Confession of Faith and London Baptist Confession of 1689 both assert that:

    God’s sovereign decrees

    1. Do NOT make God the author of sin (because God is holy and pure and without sin always; see Titus 1:2, James 1:13-14; Romans 9:14; I John 1:5; Hab. 1:13; Genesis 18:25; Isaiah 6; I Peter 1:15-16; Heb. 6:18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; Psalm 85:10; 89:14; 92:15)

    2. Do NOT do violence to the will of the creature – that is, there is no force or rape; rather God lovingly changes the will and heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 3:1-21; Ephesians 2:1-10; And God is continuing to change us in progressive sanctification and holiness, conforming us to His image (Romans 8:28-29) and He uses commands and exhortations as means of growing in this grace. Colossians 3:1-17; Romans chapters 6, 7, 8; Galatians 5:13-26) so that a person loves God and embraces Him – a true believer receives Jesus as Lord, the Deity of the Holy Spirit, The doctrine of the Trinitas Unitas, and the doctrines of the cross, the resurrection, etc. “My Sheep hear My voice” John 10:27-30

    The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 3, verse 1, “Of God’s Eternal Decree”

    “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]” (my emphasis)

    It does require a ton of exegesis and patience and willingness to work through all of the issue and humility to accept it; without giving up to “mystery” and “libertarian free will” and ignoring the hard passages like Romans 9. Yes, I can agree with you on that.

    more later

  23. Hi David, continuing on –

    I sincerely hope I don’t make you yawn . . .

    You wrote:
    And if you don’t need it formally stated to believe it, then why ask others to show things formally stated in a mathematical way about the Blessed Mother.

    You seem to have to word it that way in order to make it seem “cold” and “robotic” by using words like “formally” and “in a mathematical way”.

    You (presumably) believe sola scriptura, yet it is nowhere laid out in scripture.

    It doesn’t have to explicitly say it in the same words that you are demanding that it say; just as the word Trinity is not used in Scripture, but the concept and doctrine/teaching of the Trinity is there in Scripture; just as “same essence” ( homo-sousias) and “three persons” (three hypostasis/persona) are not used in Scripture. The concepts / ideas/ doctrines are there in content in different words.

    I think John Piper’s article on Athanasius is helpful on the issue of why “homo-sousias” was right, even though the exact words are not there. (same for Trinitas and three hypostasis) http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/biographies/contending-for-our-all

    The canon itself is nowhere in scripture even partially attempted to be stated. But you believe in your canon.

    All Christians believe in the NT canon laid out by Athanasius in his 39th festal letter. (367 AD) Origen appears to have affirmed the same NT canon in 250 AD. Most of the NT books (4 gospels, Acts, Paul’s epistles) are treated as Scripture by Tertullian and Irenaeus around 200 AD. Before then, there was no one who wrote enough to cover all the 27 books. You guys demand too much from a community that was under persecution and from a time when the codex book form was not even invented yet. Many scholars believe that it was Christians who invented the codex – book binding in the 3rd-4th Century. It is you who anachronistically demand a verse about the table of contents, when the fact is that each book / letter was an individual scroll written to an individual (Timothy, Titus, Philemon) or church or churches/community.

    Ignatius only wrote 7 letters, Clement 2 at most, Justin seems to only mention the OT and the gospels. Just because a writer did not come along earlier than Origen or Athanasius and “lay it all out” or just because another verse telling us the books is not at the end of Jude or Revelation or Hebrews, etc. does not mean that the canon was not already in existence by 70 AD or 96 AD. They were all written individually to different places; and so it took a while, since there was lots of persecution and with that, the Romans burned a lot of the manuscripts, it took a while for all the 27 NT books to be listed or collected together under one “book cover”. See this article on Origen listing the canon before Athanaisus: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/05/twenty-seven-book-new-testament-before.html

    You believe “Immanuel” in Isaiah refers to Christ, as do I. But you do not believe this because of exegesis, but the tradition of the Church.

    Not true, Matthew 1:18-25 interprets Isaiah 7:14; and Matthew 1:18-25 is God-breathed, so I can trust it, since it is God’s voice speaking. It is not tradition, it is Scripture.

  24. Hi David Meyer –
    Continuing on

    You wrote:
    If you went back in time with Bill and Ted and met Arius, what would you tell him?
    A) “You are interpreting the scripture wrong. Here is how it is correctly interpreted…”
    B) “OBEY the bishops dude! Submit to their interpretation!”

    Here are Athanasius’ own words about that specific issue; it sounds more like option A than B –
    “Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faiths sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.” (De Synodis, 6) (On the Councils, 6)

    by the way, who is “Bill and Ted” ??

  25. Ken.

    Thanks for coming by Called to Communion.

    I do want to point out the posting guidelines.

    Specifically where it says, “In addition, abide by the principle of parsimony. Keep your comments as short as possible.

    That isn’t just for you. We could all use a reminder.

  26. Sean,
    Thanks for that reminder.

    Yeah, I wish I could word these deep issues of debate of several centuries into a few sentences, but I confess I cannot.

    I will try to do better next time.

  27. Ken Temple (#23):
    Not to butt in on your discussion with David, but I can’t help noticing that your discussion of the canon doesn’t answer the question. According to sola Scriptura, it should make no difference whether we could cite a thousand Church Fathers writing identical lists of the New Testament. The New Testament does not provide a table of contents for itself, and so any listing by the Fathers is just the opinion of fallible men. It would seem that, according to your previous posts, you don’t think anyone after the Apostles had binding authority over the Church. So who had the authority to compile some early Christian writings into a codex, leaving others out, and call it Scripture in the first place? If nobody after the Apostles had that kind of authority, and we know that they did not do it themselves, then how do you know the list of books you have is authoritative?

  28. Steven, you see, everytime it is called a “Testament”; that’s just the point.

  29. Ken,
    While discussing with David Meyer I think you misunderstood what he meant when he said that something about saying Revelations 5:9 and Revelations 7:9 is clear. I do not think it is that David thinks there is something that he cannot accept in those verses, but rather what David is getting at is that when one says a passage of Scripture is clear that we must understand that we are interpreting the Scriptures and that our interpretation is not necessarily the true or clear interpretation of the Scriptures. As in other articles listed on this website every appeal to Scripture is considered an appeal to somebody’s interpretation of Scripture. I do not think that David was intending to yawn at your comments in the sense that he does not think that you are a person of considerable dignity that is worth talking with, but rather that (perhaps) David thinks that concerning the proper interpretation of the Scriptures he is asking under what authority does one’s interpretation of Scripture hold the weight of doctrinal authority?

    Regarding your comment that the Scriptures are above the bishops and people of the Church, Catholics do not believe themselves to be in any form above the Scriptures, because such a thought would be to say that an individual is above the very Faith he himself holds, as if he were above God somehow. Rather Catholics state that the Scriptures as the Word of God have been entrusted to the Church for her keeping and teaching until Christ comes again. In that sense individuals who have not been raised in the Christian faith ought not to pick up the Holy Scriptures as if they were an easy read (in Judaism one was not to read Ezekiel until he was in his fifties, and St. Peter himself attests that the letters of St. Paul are difficult to read), and since this is in some sense true when we read Romans 15:14, “And I myself also, my brethren, am assured of you that you also are full of love, replenished with all knowledge, so that you are able to admonish one another.” or Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God” that Christians by automatically being Christians will be able to properly interpret and understand the Scriptures so as to admonish each other according to wisdom. St. Paul is here simply stating optimisitically with hope and encouragement that the Christians of Rome and the Colossians will have the capacity and ability to do these things, but not that they will come out automatically. This is why David asks the question of authority, “who gives the right interpretation of Scripture and what divine authority do they have to say what is the correct interpretation of Scripture?” Anybody can pick up the Scriptures and interpret them, but can anyone bind the Church and say that other interpretations are incorrect?

    Regarding David’s question, “Where is your paradigm of “where is that in scripture…” in scripture?”:
    I think you might have taken some offense to this that I do not think David meant, but rather to put it in a more long about way, I think what David means to ask is why do you take the Scriptures to be the only rule of faith concerning the Christian faith and if you believe the Scriptures are the only authority regarding sacred doctrine where in Scripture did you find this decree? It would seem to me that even if one pointed to Scripture and said here is a list of all the sacred books of Scripture right in the Scriptures that such a list would be circular logic because we cannot believe in the authority of Scripture by the authority of the Scriptures. Rather something else has to give authority to the Word of God, for Catholics that is the Church, which receives her authority from Christ.

    Perhaps to address another of your points you wrote that the canon was already decided amongst many Christians in the late first century, stating that all of the letters of the New Testament were already written in the first century. But the problem comes up again, which of the many letters being written are Scripture. We know that St. Paul wrote four letters to the Corinthians, why don’t we have 4 letters to the Corinthians in the Bible? Why did some choose to have books of the Septuagint in there canon of the Bible while others did not? Who bound the Christian Church into believe that certain books were irrevocably the Word of God? What makes these persons reliable?

    Catholics believe in the canon of the Scriptures on the authority of the Church, because an appeal to the authority of the Scriptures in establishing the authority of the Scriptures would be circular and improper logic.

    Similarly your last statement as to how Matthew 1 is God-breathed does not escape the question of why is Matthew 1 considered Scripture and not say, the Gospel of Thomas? Who decides what Christian doctrine is? Does the Church decide which letters and books become part of the Scripture?

    Peace in the Lord,
    -Steven

  30. Thanks Stephen,
    I understand the Roman Catholic position on the Bible and canon; and I already answered those questions/issues in the earlier post. The so called “Gospel of Thomas” is easily dismissed as a fraud and fake, by some heretical Gnostic, because of the content of the letter. The Gnosticism in it is clear – the part about women having to become males in order to enter the kingdom of God; exposes the whole thing as a gnostic fake.

    Matthew is easily discerned as true by true believers – “My sheep hear My voice.” John 10:27

    Just because the early church got the NT canon right, does not make it infallible. They were all human, and not apostles; they were not “God-breathed” in their claims of apostolic tradition. The church did not determine the canon, rather it discerned and witnessed to the canon that was already in existence. It came into existence as soon as the ink dried on each letter/Gospel from 48 AD – 70 AD. (or 80 Jude; 90-96 – John’s writings, although personally, I believe there is good evidence for all of John’s writings to have been written by 68-69 AD. Revelation is mostly about the “soon coming judgment” on Babylon in 70 AD, which is apostate Israel and Jerusalem, who was an adulterous woman who rides the beast of the Roman leaders/Emperors – “We have no king but Caesar”, etc. Most every book of the NT was written by 68-69 AD.

    I will stop, since I have been warned about the principle of parsimony.
    Sincerely wishing you the peace of Christ also – John 14:27; Romans 5:1

  31. Ken Temple (#21),

    Thanks again for the dialogue. Steven Reyes in #26 did a great job of clarifying my ham-fisted comments. Please read him. Perhaps if you respond again you could respond to him, it may be more profitable for both of us. Don’t read too much into the Darth Vader thing. I like watching Star Wars with my 4 daughters, that is about it. There is a lot out there and I can’t get to it all. Much of your comment #22 was your interpreting of scripture and non-inspired confessions and I appreciate the very well thought out explainations. (most of which my natural mind is inclined to agree with, so you do not need to try to convince me!) I will refrain from a tet-a-tet on the interpretations, however, because the authority to do so is the very thing in question. (thus my “yawn” was because so many different people want me to listen to their interpretation, not because yours is not well thought out. I originally asked the Catholic gents on this thread if they can help me conform my mind to that of Christ’s on the issue of election. Whatever they say, I will expect it to be backed up by the authority to say it. So my “yawn” is not only at you, but at my opinions as well! I don’t want my opinions or yours to cloud the truth of Christ.
    You said:

    When we listen to the written Scripture, we are listening to them, and obeying Luke 10:16. It is we who work hard at understanding the Scriptures who obey Luke 10:16 more so than listening to traditions added on to the deposit several centuries later.

    To my ears that sounds authoritarian. It sounds to me like you are throwing your interpretation of the “Whoever listens to you listens to Me” passage out there and expecting submission to that interpretation based merely on your conviction that you have interpreted it correctly. But is this how the early church interpreted it? What would Ignatius of Antioch think of your interpretation. I just read his 7 letters he wrote on his way to being eaten by beasts in Rome in AD 107. I know he would reject your interpretation of Luke 10:16. It is also quite apparent to me that you are using a “tradition added on to the deposit several centuries later” (as in 1500 years later in the case of sola scriptura) to gain support for your interpretation.
    I said:

    But when you say “it is clear” I have really absolutely no reason whatsoever to listen to you.

    To that you said:

    Basically, you shut down all discussion by that. You have basically said, “they are a priori right, infallible, and so my mind is made up, so why should I listen to anyone else?”

    No, that is not what I said, and not what I think. Apologies if I came across that way. Remember, you sound exactly the same to me as I do to you. To me you are saying: “my interpretations are a priori right, infallible, and so my mind is made up, so why should I listen to anyone else?” Of course that is not what you think though.
    Here is a experiment. Every time you quote scripture (interpret), imagine two other sola scriptura Protestants, one on either side of you giving different interpretations of the verse you are quoting. All 3 of you are asking me to submit to your interpretation. OK, now can you see why I would say what I said about your claim to clarity and your arrogation of interpretive rights? To the one listening to you interpret God’s word, the elephant in the living room is “why should I accept your word on this? Why not the other guys OR none of you?” Where did your authority come from? I don’t mean to be rude, I am honestly, from my heart asking. Where did your authority come from to make these interpretations? I have prayed for an answer to that question from Protestants for a year and no answer comes. The silence is deafening.

    The Scriptures are above the bishops; the bishops/presbyters must listen to the Scriptures, not the other way around.

    That is true. But both the bishops and the scripture are above you and me, because we are not bishops, and we are not books. By claiming (like Arius) that the bishops are misinterpreting the scriptures, you in effect put yourself above the bishops and into the place of the Holy Spirit and proceed to tell the bishops what to do. Again I refer you to Ignatius, whose face is getting beat red at that thought.
    You said:

    But what about all the “one another” verses in the Bible? What about Romans 15:14 that says we are “full of goodness and competent to counsel/admonish one another”?

    What about them? They mesh far better with Catholic theology which has a single doctrine for people to admonish one another with, because they can admonish with teeth. They can say “this is our faith, obey it, and here is why we believe it” rather than merely trying to convince others of their exegesis. For instance, what can I possibly say to my conservative, evangelical relative who got her tubes tied. Nothing. She will have no admonishment because she is a law unto herself. She refuses to obey the scriptures and repent of her sin. Sola scriptura removes the ability of believers to authoritatively admonish one another because books can’t talk. Bishop’s can talk however. And the Catholic gents on this thread can inform me and admonish me if necessary with what those bishops have said concerning predestination.

    I also have no reason to trust what the Roman Catholic Church and her bishops and Pope says either, in infallible claims or traditions that it has added to the original deposit; and in those that issues that are unbiblical…

    Sounds like you should convert to Eastern Orthodoxy then. They have 7 valid sacraments including sacramental apostolic succession. (Ignatius smiles) And as far as your claim that the RCC has added “unbiblical” things to the deposit, that is just simply and obviously false. Not to mention the elephant in the living room again of who decides what is “unbiblical”.
    I had said:

    But who gave you this right? You are not my bishop.

    Then you said:

    That is very authoritarian and dictatorial, kind of like the character Darth Vader, that you have chosen as your “avatar”/signature. To say, “you cannot ask a question”, and “we don’t need to respond” is the epitome of chutzpah…

    I responded to this above.
    You said:

    You are saying, “Whatever we say goes; tough toenails; we are right; we are king and you are wrong.” Yuk ! That just proves to me how wrong the Roman Catholic Church is.

    That is not what I am saying. If I came off that way, I am sorry, I am a “cage stage” convert so cut me some slack. ;-)
    Absolute truth has a way of excluding things that… well are not true. A Buddhist might think you are yukky as you say to him that Christ is the singular way of salvation. That does not make you wrong and is not a good reason for him to reject your claim that Christ is the only way. Likewise here, your feeling of yukkyness should not prove to your mind what you say it proves. Was it yukky for Arius to be declared a heretic by the Catholic Church? Nestorius? The “tough toenails” part is off base as well. Catholicism invites deep criticism and examination. Her doctrines are very well explained and study and reflection is highly encouraged. But yes, just like Christ, in the end submission is required. Which means one’s mind may have to conform to something it is not inclined or desirous to believe. As a Calvinist I never wanted to believe God predestined to hell, but I believed it because my chosen interpreters told me it was true. Truth trumps absolutely everything. Turns out they had no authority to tell me that. They traded obedience to Christ through His Church for the traditions of mere men. I think Ignatius would agree. ;-)
    Your comment #24 is incorrect. You come to the wrong conclusion. Athanasius was a bishop for one thing, and he points to my option (B) by referring to the council of bishops to clarify the scriptural teaching. The quote you give proves the exact opposite of what you claim.

    Peace to you and yours brother,

    David Meyer

  32. Ken (#30):

    The church did not determine the canon, rather it discerned and witnessed to the canon that was already in existence.

    But since you’ve already declared that they were fallible, you have no good reason to claim that they were right in this particular discernment (especially since it seems to have taken a couple hundred years to pare the list down to only the 27 we now use). You say,

    “Matthew is easily discerned as true by true believers – “My sheep hear My voice.” John 10:27

    but John 10:27 does not mention Matthew, and nobody claims that Jesus authored Matthew or was referring here to future books that would be written about him, so the verse doesn’t apply at all to determining the canon. I could equally well use the verse to argue that “true believers” easily discern that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ as shepherd to his sheep until he returns. I think that use would be equally bad exegesis, even though I affirm its point. All this to say, when it comes to appealing to New Testament scriptures, I agree with St. Augustine:

    For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.

  33. Hi David,
    Thanks for a good discussion! I appreciate it.

    I like all the Star Wars movies also, so that’s cool.

    I understand what you are saying; I am familiar with all of those arguments. I was in debate over these very issues with one of my best friends, Rod Bennett, author of Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words. Ignatius Press, from 1996 (when he converted to Rome) – 2005, until he asked me to stop debating him and go debate with Dave Armstrong, who he said “he loves to debate”. Rod was one of my closest friends, I considered him so, (and still do; although we agreed not to debate anymore and we don’t see each other any more much – our lives just don’t intersect anymore, if you know what I mean, because of our church tradition and culture and natural friendships. That’s ok.) and he was a groomsmen in my wedding in 1988. He took the same path that all of you at CTC did and Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics, Dave Armstrong, etc. So, I am only telling you this because I know the argument and understand what all of you are saying. And Rod Bennett is one of the smartest people I have ever known in my life; and I still agree with that; although I think he and you guys are wrong.

    Bottom line, in keeping with the parsimony principle; you think the Roman Catholic Church of today is genetically and organically, in keeping with the acorns to oak tree analogy of John Henry Newman, is the true original church that Christ founded. I don’t. I believe that the early catholic church was true (0-500 AD), but started slowly going off in several areas(earliest beginnings of going wrong – Justin Martyr on baptismal regeneration is wrong; Ignatius in exalting the mono-espiscopais out from the college of presbuteros was wrong; and the neglect of justification by faith alone in Galatians and Romans being replaced with penance and legalisms and confusing justification and sanctification); and then added more and more unbiblical things later; but it never was totally apostate until it formally declared justification by faith alone a heresy and anathema at the Council of Trent in 1545-1563. After that, it became a false church.

  34. continued, trying to break it up in smaller chunks and keep to the parsimony principle:

    But Ignatius is great on most everything else. His defense of the physical crucifixion and Deity of Christ against Docetists and Gnostics is biblical and right.

    Anyway, I believe in local church authority and that qualified pastor/teachers/elders/overseers are the authority for a Biblical local church. I don’t believe Roman Catholic Churches are biblical at all. Yes, they teach some good things like the Deity of Christ and crucifixion and resurrection and the Trinity, but the other stuff (you know all the doctrines and practices that Evangelical and Reformed Protestants have a problem with in RCC; no need to rehash the indulgences, and I have mentioned all the Marian practices and dogmas that we sincerely believe are wrong.

    This is what I Tim. 3:15 is pointing to; the local biblical church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, if the leaders follow the Scriptures and the letter Paul is referring to in verse 14 as to his purpose for writing I Timothy. I am an ordained Southern Baptist (Reformed, Calvinistic) minister/missionary, so because elders are the same as bishops (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-7; I Peter 5:1-5; Acts 20:17, 28), then in that sense, I am a “bishop” (though I don’t use that name or title in baptist circles), as an ordained minister. I am under the council of elders at my local church, so I am not trying to be arrogant or boastful by sincerely believing my interpretation is the right one; I am only saying this part to show that we also believe in pastoral authority and responsibility to teach doctrine and interpret Scripture rightly.

  35. SB –
    Thanks, I think Augustine is right in the context of his day against the Manichees (and Pelagians) – Augustine’s statement can be understood as against the kind of “me and my bible in the woods” and “I don’t need a church” or “I don’t need to submit to authority” kind of modern attitude.

    Irenaeus and Tertullian use the same kind of argument against other heresies, mostly various forms of Gnosticism. And Protestants agree with them on that. The Rule of Faith and Nicean-Constantinoplian creeds, apostles creed, Chalcedon, Athanasian Creed are all biblical and compatible with Reformation doctrine.

    So, we also claim that we are “catholic churches”, as we believe we must protect doctrine, and that doctrine does not pass down magically (ex opere operato) by laying hands on someone to be the next bishop; etc. And if we are biblical, then we are “catholic” in the original historical meaning of the term. So, I learned the gospel from good, biblical, doctrinal, Baptist and Presbyterian churches and teachers, (but by no means perfect or infallible) so in that sense I can agree with Augustine.

    the later additions, corruptions, driftings from the truth, the dogmas of 1215, 1545-1563; 1854, 1870, 1950 were not part of the “catholic church” that Augustine defended.

  36. @Ken:

    The so called “Gospel of Thomas” is easily dismissed as a fraud and fake, by some heretical Gnostic, because of the content of the letter. The Gnosticism in it is clear – the part about women having to become males in order to enter the kingdom of God; exposes the whole thing as a gnostic fake.

    Ken – this is surely circular reasoning. You know the true Gospel because it is what corresponds with the content of the Scriptures; you know that the “Gospel of Thomas” is not part of Scripture because it does not correspond with the content of … what? the whole question is what are the books that constitute the Scriptures that then tell you what the true Gospel is.

    Either you must know what the true Gospel is from some other source than Scripture – in order to be able to test the Gospel of Thomas – or else you don’t know what the true Gospel is until you find out what books are in Scripture. If the Gospel of Thomas is in Scripture, then presumably the true Gospel includes the necessity of becoming male in order to be saved.

    I recall, in my journey to the Catholic Church, saying to my wife that if I didn’t come out of this mess a Catholic, I might end up something like a Quaker – but could never believe in spiritual authority again – including the authority of something that claims to be Scripture.

    jj

  37. JJ:
    Sola Scriptura never claimed that it had to contain all historical background knowledge of each inspired, God-breathed writing. It also never claimed to have to have the table of contents. Sorry, I don’t believe that my argument against the Gospel of Thomas is circular reasoning at all. In all honesty, it is your argumentation that seem to be more philosophically driven, than Biblical. I don’t doubt Matthew or Mark or Luke or John or 2 Peter, like you guys seem to.

    At some point, at the root bottom of all arguments; all arguments are circular and pre-suppositional in nature. Your church’s 1870 dogma is circular reasoning also, and anachronistic and pre-suppositional. It fails.

    Your argumentation is unnecessary skepticism and the way to madness of the mind and soul.

  38. Folks – don’t mean to be a wet blanket but let’s try to focus on the topic presented in this particular thread.

    I can see this conversation quickly getting into other things – authority, canon etc that have either been covered already or are being covered presently on different threads.

    Whilst the canon question is worthy of debate – hence we have a paper that can be discussed called ‘The Canon Question’ here – we need to try to keep things on topic. This also goes for questions of interpretative authority etc.

  39. Ken (#35):
    It doesn’t matter how St. Augustine “can be understood” now, nor whether the Creed can be understood in a way that Protestants can affirm. What is notable is that neither intended to teach “Reformation doctrine,” (though both can be twisted to that shape, as can Scripture itself). Augustine in that passage is not arguing against some-or-other heresy, he is saying that he would not have believed the Gospel had it not been for the authority of the Catholic Church. HE would not have believed, not someone else. If the only sense that you can agree with Augustine is by twisting his words to mean something other than he intended, than you do not agree with Augustine at all.

    Collapsing the meanings of “biblical” and “catholic” (which is historically unwarranted) does nothing to reduce your position’s question-begging. You talk about “biblical” and “unbiblical” doctrines, but haven’t yet established how you can know what the “Bible” is absent some authoritative determination. Otherwise, as a few of us have been saying, it’s just a fallible list of writings collected by fallible men. Certainly nothing I would stake my life on.

    That is why I identify with St. Augustine: I came out of a Baptist upbringing, spent years in Reformed churches, and after intentionally studying Church history without “the Reformation was unquestionably right” blinders on, ultimately knew that I could believe the Gospel only by the authority of the Church, and that a few 16th century schismatics didn’t qualify. Without the authority of the Church founded by Christ, I see no way to believe at all that does not reduce to either naked enthusiasm (“true believers”) or irrational and fearful dogmatism, both of which demonstrably and unavoidably lead to continual splintering division (the opposite of “catholic”), and neither of which inspire the sort of confidence that could lead to martyrdom.

  40. Ken,
    I agree with Patrick’s statement that perhaps it would be best to take up some of the points in this discussion in the “Where is the Catholic Church?” post:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/01/where-is-the-catholic-church/

    Concerning the circular reasoning me and John Thayer Jensen have stated of your identification of the Canon of the Bible perhaps you might want to mosie on to reading this article: “The Canon as its own Measure?”
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/03/the-canon-as-its-own-measure/

    Regarding Intrepretive authority perhaps you might want to discuss this more fully in the article (though that post has gotten heated up and might be hard to follow, at least I know it is hard for me to follow):
    Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    Also regarding St. Augustine, I do not think you would agree with St. Augustine’s soteriology at all, you might find it is not in line with your notion of the salvation described in Romans or Galatians.
    Here’s an article concerning St. Augustine’s ideas on salvation (his argument against Pelagianism is not an argument against the idea that one obtains Heaven by works of love done in grace, which the Reformed do not like to think):

    St. Augustine on Law and Grace
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/07/st-augustine-on-law-and-grace/

    Taylor,
    With regards to the eighth sign of Predestination had written, would it be more properly said that a devotion or familial love for the entire Communion of Saints be a sign of predestination (after all if you’re going to love your neighbor might as well start getting warmed up to the ones you’ll be cozying up to with in Heaven right?)? Or is it more often said in the writings of some of the saints that a strong devotion to Mary is what is called for? Properly understood veneration of the saints, at least in my conception, is simply the honoring of God to a fuller extent in honoring the work of His hands in building the saint up by grace. Any ideas? (By the way Taylor, thanks for the article and all the hard work you put into your blog over at Canterbury Tales! :-) )

  41. Ooops, sorry Sean, I called you by your last name on accident. Sorry!

  42. Tucker (#4),

    You are right that Jesus’ words are open to interpretation here.

    A few thoughts…

    First, it would seem to be an odd place for John to take care of some mere “housekeeping” matters, i.e. in the midst of the other last sayings of Jesus, all of which carry profound spiritual weight.

    Second, family is a theme that runs throughout John’s gospel. That is true with respect to the “Divine Family” i.e. God as revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is also true with respect to the “human family”, i.e. passages about our new birth in baptism and our adoption as God’s children. As it relates to Jn 19:26, the disciple is understood not just as an individual disciple but as an icon of every disciple that Jesus loves.

    Regardless, my original observations stands: it was the last command that Jesus gave to humanity (whether that is one person or many persons) before he died.

  43. Thanks for all of the suggestions Fred, David Pell, Bryan, Herbert, Mateo etc.

    Mateo in #14 said: “As a Catholic I was taught that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, not just for the sins of the “elect”: ”

    It is just a totally different paradigm. A Calvinist does not bat an eye at that verse and explains that “whole world” there means Jew and Gentile/all nations, but not each individual, else either all individuals would be saved, or Christ died for people who end up in hell, thus supposedly demeaning His sacrifice.

    Mateo, what is hard for a Calvinist to think of is the idea that Christ, as He suffered His passion was thinking about, let’s say, Irvin Kershner, and intending His sacrifice for Irvin. But in the end Irvin goes to hell. To the Calvinist this seems to be a slander on the power of Christ. If He wants to save Irvin, it is thought, He atones for Irvin and gives Irvin the grace to repent and believe.

    As a Catholic, I now have to wrap my mind around the fact that Christ died for each and every individuals sins. That He thought with love about Irvin Kershner, but that Irvin may, by his own fault, end up in hell. (God forbid that, and God rest his soul)

    To all, I have read and listened to all that was suggested and it has helped me. What is helping me the most is focusing on the sacrificial aspect of the atonement and the fact that Christ’s sacrifice NEEDS TO BE APPLIED somehow. If that is kept in mind, it is harder to keep in mind any lingering ideas about limited atonement. The straw man that Calvinism puts out there of Catholicism is that in the Catholic doctrine Christ ends up merely “trying” to save people because after dying for the entire human race, only some end up saved because it is left up to their own choice, and Christ fails in His mission. But I think this overlooks the method and frequency of the application of His sacrifice.

    First of all the mass is totally gracious for us. I don’t by my own strength receive the benefits of Christ’s atonement there. And the idea that the mass is “out of time” and is like being present at Calvary destroys the Calvinist need for there to be one unchanging set of the elect that Christ atoned for at one moment in time. When I go to mass tomorrow, I am going to Calvary and Christ’s sacrifice will be applied to me. If (God forbid) I apostatize on Monday and reject Christ then that changes things for me drastically.

    My fear has been that the answer to this atonement question as a Catholic would be that I do the applying. I feared that “free will” for Catholics means a semi-pelagian type of cooperation where I can pat myself on my own back for accepting Christ’s sacrifice for me. But I am finding this is not the case at all. Grace runs thick and deep in Catholic soteriology to the point where even the “cooperation” that is needed from us is dripping with God’s grace. Dripping with it to the point where I can say that without God’s grace I could not cooperate with His grace. (Correct me if I am wrong on that.)

    To my mind, Limited Atonement is a sort of unnecessarily defensive/reactionary doctrine against Pelagianism. It is trying to protect the fact of God’s condescension to us at the expense of His love of “the other”. Because if He created some of us specifically for hell to show his justice, that is just simply not love of the other. It is raw justice like the Muslim god and is not at all in harmony with His mercy and love. How could we then say that everything God makes is good and beautiful? If he created me specifically for the end of eternal damnation that means He created something non-good and non-beautiful, but horrible!

    I apologize to the moderators for the length here. Thanks for letting me ramble as I think through this.
    My last hurdle in this issue is this: If Irvin ends up in hell, could God have given more and more grace to him to the point of preventing him going to hell? If He could and chose not to give such grace, how is this in principle different from Limited Atonement? Or would the giving of more grace at some point become non-loving by violating the person?

    -David M.

  44. I’m a bit late to the party, but David, I appreciated your comments about letting go of Limited Atonement (especially your honesty about it).

    To my mind, this doctrine must be one of the hardest to let go for those who go from Geneva to Rome, especially because it is so biblical and so God-glorifying. If Jesus is a Savior who saves by offering an atonement that atones, then how can we say that his atonement could potentially atone for the sins of no one, or that his salvific work could potentially save nobody?

    Calvinists do not deny free will, but instead see a harmony and cooperation between the members of the Godhead and the saving work they perform. As clearly portrayed in Eph. 1, the Father chooses a multitude of lost sinners that no man can number, and gives them to his Son as a reward for his faithful mediatorial work. To these the Spirit gives the gift of regeneration and a new heart, which enables them freely to choose to repent and trust in Jesus.

    I am sure that the answer is that the only way the Calvinist could ever swallow the Catholic pill is by first completely abandoning his entire paradigm and adopting a new one, but that’s easier said than done. Especially when we read that Jesus “shall save his people from their sins,” and that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

    In short, if Jesus only provides the condition by which all men may save themselves if they choose to do so, but all may choose otherwise, then he is not a Savior at all, but seems rather impotent and weak.

  45. David Meyer: Mateo, what is hard for a Calvinist to think of is the idea that Christ, as He suffered His passion was thinking about, let’s say, Irvin Kershner, and intending His sacrifice for Irvin. But in the end Irvin goes to hell. To the Calvinist this seems to be a slander on the power of Christ. If He wants to save Irvin, it is thought, He atones for Irvin and gives Irvin the grace to repent and believe.

    My response to this would be that God does want to save Irvin Kershner because God unconditionally loves Irvin Kershner even in his sinfulness. In fact, God the Father loves Irvin Kershner so much, that while Irvin Kershner was dead in his sinfulness, he sent his only begotten Son to die for the sins of Irvin Kershner so that Irvin Kershner might be reconciled to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God does indeed give to Irvin Kershner the grace he needs to be saved – God gives every man and woman the grace they need to be saved. I think that the reason why the Calvinist has a problem with this way of thinking is because the Calvinist has a radically differnt understanding of grace than the Catholic. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that the Calvinist views “grace” as essentially a legal fiction. For the Calvinist, if one has “grace”, one possesses an irrevokeable legal contract with God that declares the person holding the contract to be not guilty (even though the person is guilty and totally depraved). The legal contract does nothing at all to bring about a change in the state of being of the person who holds the legal contract – the sinner was totally depraved before he was given the legal contract, and he remains totally depraved after he receives the legal contract. To the Calvinist. the claim that God gives everyone the grace they need to be saved would meant that God gives everyone a legal contract that declares them to be not guilty. The logical outcome of that way of thinking would be a doctrine of universalism, a doctrine that the Calvinist rightly condemns as being unscriptural.

    David Meyer: A Calvinist does not bat an eye at that verse and explains that “whole world” there means Jew and Gentile/all nations, but not each individual, else either all individuals would be saved, or Christ died for people who end up in hell, thus supposedly demeaning His sacrifice.

    I don’t understand the distinction being made by Calvinists between nations and individuals. A nation is an abstract concept – a nation is a set of individuals that is distict from another set of individuals. God dies for the abstract concept of a set, but not for individuals? Please help me understand this!

    It seems to me, that since the Calvinist views grace-as-a-legal-contract as an unmerited gift from God, what you say in the above would make sense given that soteriological paradigm. If God gives an irrevokable get-out-of-Hell-free-card to everyone, then everyone should be saved. If someone possesses a get-out-of-Hell-free-card, and he still goes to Hell, then God’s legal contract isn’t necessarily worth having, since this contract doesn’t always deliver what it promises – which makes no sense, since the omnipotent God is the one handing out the contracts. In the legal contract paradigm, the basis of the validiy of the legal contract is an exchange of goods – a perfect sinlesss life for debts owned by Satan. If the legal contract doesn’t deliver what is promised, it would not be because the totally depraved man’s sins aren’t real, it would be because the sacrifice offered in exchange for those sins is of limited value. Which does demean Christ’s sacrifice, if one accepts a definition of grace as a legal contract.

    Again, because the Calvinist starts with a defective understanding of grace, he ends up with a cascading series of errors in the rest of his soteriology. The solution for the Calvinist is to return to the historical Christian understanding of sanctifying grace – i.e. sanctifying grace is a participation in the divine life of God. The Calvinist will never understand the Gospel if he blindly accepts the novelty unleashed by the “reformers” whereby grace was redefined the “reformers” as essentially a legal fiction.

    David Meyer: To all, I have read and listened to all that was suggested and it has helped me. What is helping me the most is focusing on the sacrificial aspect of the atonement and the fact that Christ’s sacrifice NEEDS TO BE APPLIED somehow.

    It seems to me that Calvinism presents salvation as strict monergism, and utterly rejects any form of synergism (I stand open to correction). The Catholic understanding of salvation is not an either/or proposition – either monergism or synergism. The Catholic understanding is a both/and propositon – i.e. both monergism and synergism; salvation through both operating grace and cooperating grace.

    David Meyer: My last hurdle in this issue is this: If Irvin ends up in hell, could God have given more and more grace to him to the point of preventing him going to hell? If He could and chose not to give such grace, how is this in principle different from Limited Atonement? Or would the giving of more grace at some point become non-loving by violating the person?

    Personally, I always have a problem with questions that speculate about God doing something different than what he actually does. Whatever God does is perfect. It seems to me, that if God did something other than what he does, he would be doing something that is less than perfect, which God cannot do without violating who he is. I think that you are on the right track though, i.e. the idea that God’s grace couldn’t possibly violate the person, for that would make God into something like a rapist. Grace is a participitation in the divine life of God that perfects our human nature. If grace was coercive, if grace forced me to love God, then grace would destroy my nature. If God’s grace forced to do something against my will, I would be devolved by grace – I would be changed from a living being with the gift of free will, into a living being without free will. In short, I would be devolved by grace into something like a God-loving bipedal fungus – a living animal that was guided by an entirerly new and alien nature. I would be utterly destroyed by that kind of “irrestistible” grace because I would no longer be a human being with free will.

  46. To Pastor Jason Stellman –
    Very well said.

    I would just add that –

    On “free will” of humans – there is a “free will” in the sense of “no force” or coercion from the outside; but the human will is not free from the bondage to sin until Christ sets it free. But everyone still has a will and makes choices, it is just that the choices are always controlled and determined by the sinful desires and selfish motives, even seemingly good works and things like charity that Mother Teresa did or what other atheists and/or other religions like Buddhists do in charity work, etc.

    Unregenerate man is free to do whatever he/she wants to; but their wants and desires are always tainted in some way by sin; and they don’t have the power to choose good over evil until God changes their heart. Ezekiel 36:26; John 6:44; Acts 16:14

  47. David, (re: #43)

    If Irvin ends up in hell, could God have given more and more grace to him to the point of preventing him going to hell? If He could and chose not to give such grace, how is this in principle different from Limited Atonement? Or would the giving of more grace at some point become non-loving by violating the person?

    As you know, the Church has left some openness here, so some of what I say here may go beyond what has been defined. It has not been part of the Church’s tradition that people go to hell because of a lack of power on God’s part. The purpose of the time from the Garden of Eden until Christ’s return in glory is not a test of God’s power, but a test of man, as all the angels too were given a testing, so that by their own free will, and thus by self-determination, they could by God’s fitting gift of such a choice freely participate in the determination of their own ultimate end. (See Summa Theologica I Q.62) Otherwise the whole present time would be a waste of time, and an illusion that our choices have real eternal significance. Presumably God could turn any man’s heart as He wishes, but the point of the test is for man to choose freely between God and separation from God, and that would be nullified if God made the choice for us. God could have just skipped the whole illusion and created some already in heaven and the others already in hell. Hence the reprobate are so because of their own free choice against God, not because of what God has done or not done, as Adam’s sin was because of Adam’s choice, not because God made him sin or didn’t prevent him from sinning. Likewise, that every good thing we have comes from God does not nullify the genuineness of our free choice, or the self-determining nature of our free choice.

    Recently, Cardinal Burke was asked and answered the following question:

    Q.Even though God has a plan for every one of us, why is it that He gives us free will to make decisions in our earthly life? Why doesn’t He just say He has a predestined plan for us and make us act according to that?

    A.If that would be the case, we would no longer be made in His own image and likeness. We would be a kind of determined creature who is simply carrying out a program. Yes, He has a plan. The plan is our own perfection, what is for our greatest good. And we are confident that, if we pray to know God’s will and use all of the appropriate means to discover His will in our life, we will do it. But we will do it through our own knowledge, with the help of God’s grace of course, and our choice. We give ourselves. We are not determined to do something, but it is our free gift. That’s the way our Lord wants it, because we’re made to have communion with Him. And communion with Him means we share in His own gifts of truth and love.

    God made us with free will, because He made us in His own image. Free will is intrinsic to human nature. To lose free will would mean to cease to be human, to cease to be made in His image. So the notion that at the fall Adam and Eve lost free will (without qualification) would entail that at the fall they changed species, falling from human to non-human. And that would have many problematic implications. Through the fall man did not lose free will, but lost the ability to turn to God in filial love, without the gift of actual grace.

    Although this present time period [Eden to the Parousia] is the time of testing for man, there could be no test unless God in some way veiled Himself, because there could be no free choice to believe God in faith if God were not unseen (cf. Hebrews 11:1). So in order for there to be a genuine test, God does not overwhelm men with irresistible grace and the vision of His glory. This is why in this life grace is always resistible (see Trent VI Canon 4). Some, it seems, receive more grace than others. But He gives to all sufficient grace for salvation, and therefore every man’s choice (whether for or against God) is a free and self-determining choice, not a coerced choice or a choice without the ability to do otherwise.

    And that’s what makes Catholic doctrine different from the system of “limited atonement.” It cannot be said truly in the Calvinist doctrine that God loves all men and desires them all to enter freely into eternal friendship with Himself. But, that can be truly said within Catholic doctrine because God gives to all men sufficient grace to do just that. Likewise, given limited atonement, there cannot be an authentic offer of the gospel to the non-elect, since Christ did not die for them. But in Catholic doctrine there is an authentic offer to all men because Christ died for all men and through Christ God gives to every human being sufficient grace to turn to Him in faith and love. No one can say, “I didn’t receive enough grace; there was no way I could have turned to God. Therefore, I am not responsible for not turning to Christ, because I couldn’t have done otherwise.” But given “limited atonement” all the damned could say just that; they were never given a choice between heaven and hell, because the option of choosing heaven was never open to them. In fact, how could such a person be given sufficient reason to love God, if it were true that God made that person for the purpose of burning in hell forever, and refused to give such a person a chance for salvation?

    Such a theology reduces the gospel to a set of conditionals: “If you end up believing in Jesus, then He died for you … But if you end up disbelieving Jesus, then He didn’t die for you, etc.” So you have to fideistically believe that He died for you, in order to ‘make’ Him to have died for you. But as soon as you see what you are doing, building on a fideistic leap, the whole thing collapses, because you can never know (apart from ‘reliable’ ole bosom-burning) whether Christ really died for you, or whether Christ didn’t die for you and you have only temporary faith and will eventually fall away.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  48. By way of reference.

    “But the angels who, though created good, are yet evil now, became so by their own will. And this will was not made evil by their good nature, unless by its voluntary defection from good; for good is not the cause of evil, but a defection from good is. These angels, therefore, either received less of the grace of the divine love than those who persevered in the same; or if both were created equally good, then, while the one fell by their evil will, the others were more abundantly assisted, and attained to that pitch of blessedness at which they became certain they should never fall from it…”

    Augustine, The City of God, 12, 9.

  49. Bryan,

    It cannot be said truly in the Calvinist doctrine that God loves all men and desires them all to enter freely into eternal friendship with Himself. But, that can be truly said within Catholic doctrine because God gives to all men sufficient grace to do just that.

    Why can’t I just turn this around and say something like, “It cannot be said truly in the Catholic doctrine that God works all things out according to the counsel of his own will, or that he has his way among those in heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can say his hand or ask him, ‘What doest thou?'”?

    In the same way that our view seems to you to destroy God’s desire to save all men, it seems to us that yours destroys God’s ability to accomplish his will, both of which are equally Scriptural ideas. So unless your position can account for both, it does no good highlighting our problem texts as if that proves anything.

    And if, when all is said and done, you say something like, “In the end the relationship between divine election and human freedom is a mystery that we can’t fathom,” I would reply by saying that we are in complete agreement about that, we just disagree about which passages have the last word.

    But either way, none of us has bragging rights.

  50. In fact, how could such a person be given sufficient reason to love God, if it were true that God made that person for the purpose of burning in hell forever, and refused to give such a person a chance for salvation?

    If I may add my ‘amen’ to this, and push it a bit further: I and some other formerly Reformed folk I know at some point came to ask the related question, “how could anyone love a God who made billions of people for the purpose of burning in hell forever?” After we (I) came to what I believe is a fitting sense of horror at such a concept of God, Calvinism became utterly untenable for us. Catholicism has been the endpoint for more than just me.

    In a virtually simultaneous motion, however, I asked a closely related pair of questions, with which I still struggle: “how could anyone love a God who would allow billions of people to suffer in hell forever, with no possibility of reprieve,” and “how could any salvation be ‘heaven’ if its inhabitants are aware that others are in hell?” When Christ speaks of the “outer darkness,” there is no mistaking the sense that its inhabitants do not like being in it, regardless of the role of their free choice in arriving there. For a couple years I called myself a “Trinitarian Universalist,” believing a universalism pretty much identical to Origen’s, but had to regretfully set that aside when I came to accept the authority of the Catholic Church. They are not questions with which I have come to any sense of peace, however, which is why I bring them up. If, God forbid, my currently atheist siblings should die in their rejection of God, how could I possibly be in unqualified joy in the presence of God (assuming, God willing, I persevere) knowing of their damnation? Surely we are not so utterly transformed in our nature at the parousia as to lose all sense of fraternal love, of remembrance or care of our earthly lives, or of desire for the good (or perhaps, for the damned, ability to desire God)? Marriage may not continue in the resurrection, but surely my wife and my mother would not be indifferent to my damnation?

    When I pray for my family and friends who are not Christians, and who do not seem to be seeking Truth, I often find myself overcome to the point of desperation by the prospect of any one of them falling into the darkness, that then expanding to anyone at all. This is still one of the biggest problems for me, obviously, even thought I’ve rejected the heretical notion of a capriciously damning God I found in Calvinism. To me it is closely tied to “election unto damnation,” though, which is why, tangential as it is, I have allowed myself to bring it up here, hoping for wiser responses than I can muster.

  51. Jason, (re: #44)

    If Jesus is a Savior who saves by offering an atonement that atones, then how can we say that his atonement could potentially atone for the sins of no one, or that his salvific work could potentially save nobody?

    The question presupposes a different paradigm regarding what the atonement is. (see “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.”) Christ by his passion and death has atoned for the sins of the whole world. It would be false to say that His atonement could “potentially atone for the sins of no one.” It has already atoned for all the sins of everyone. This is why it is true that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, because Christ has already made atonement for their sins. This is the good news. But if we reject it, we bring damnation on ourselves, by rejecting the gift of eternal life offered to us in Christ. The reason that doesn’t make sense in a Reformed paradigm, is because the atonement is conceived as God punishing our sin in Christ. So if the sin is already punished, then it can’t be punished again, and therefore if Christ died for everyone then universalism is true, and if Christ died for a subset, then not one of them can go to hell.

    But as I explained in “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement,” that’s not the Catholic conception of the atonement. It is not one of God punishing our sins by punishing Christ for them, but of Christ making a sacrifice of love to the Father, and thus giving to the Father something far more pleasing than all our sins are displeasing, such that man is now under the grace of God. But if someone rejects Christ, then that person gets what he has chosen, and that’s not double-jeopardy, because his sin was not already punished in Christ; it was already atoned for by Christ’s sacrifice. But atonement is not punishment.

    I am sure that the answer is that the only way the Calvinist could ever swallow the Catholic pill is by first completely abandoning his entire paradigm and adopting a new one, but that’s easier said than done. Especially when we read that Jesus “shall save his people from their sins,” and that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

    Yes, the paradigm switch is not easy, especially if the Calvinist paradigm is deeply ingrained. The difficulty is not so much comparing the other paradigm, as seeing the other paradigm. So, can the Catholic paradigm make sense of the verses you just quoted? Yes. But, you can’t bring a monergistic lens to an attempt to understand the Catholic paradigm. It won’t make sense. The response of the people to Peter’s preaching at Pentecost was strange “What must we do …” Peter should have replied, “Nothing, didn’t you just hear me? Jesus saved you from your sins. I just thought you should know. You can go home now.” Likewise, in a the Catholic paradigm, the word ‘save’ in the two verses you quoted does not mean ‘monergistically save.’ Grace does not destroy nature, nullifying or making superfluous our free response. We’re not just a bunch of rocks. We are humans made in the image of God, and thus saving us is not like saving rocks, or even like saving human bodies from drowning — that can be done even without the person’s cooperation. What is being saved is our soul (and hence our bodies), and what we are being saved from is an estrangement from God, and what we are being saved to is friendship with God. So our salvation requires a personal and free act on our part. That’s just the nature of entering into friendship. And that’s why the monergistic way of conceiving of our salvation either treats us as less than human, or treats salvation as less than friendship.

    In short, if Jesus only provides the condition by which all men may save themselves if they choose to do so, but all may choose otherwise, then he is not a Savior at all, but seems rather impotent and weak.

    The “then He is not a Savior at all” begs the question by assuming that saving can be only monergistic. In the Catholic paradigm, saving does not have to be monergistic in order to be saving.

    As for “impotent and weak,” it may not be that the true doctrine of grace is rightly determined by asking “In which scenario does God exercise more power?” just as God’s providential relation to nature is not determined by asking that question, because in the latter case it would lead to the error of occasionalism, as I explained here. That’s because asking “In which scenario does God exercise more power?” or “Which theology gives God more glory?” are not safe ways of adjudicating between various theologies. Implicit in such a methodology is the assumption that our human reason is adequate to determine absolutely which theological position is more glorifying to God, or that God always chooses that course of action in which He exercises more of His own power. But sometimes our own reason is just not up for such a task, as when persons think occasionalism really would be more God-glorifying, not realizing that God is more glorified when He is shown to be the Creator of greater creatures with genuine secondary causal powers and genuine free will. Similarly, how can we know a priori that God always chooses the path of exercising more of His power? I mean, from my point of view, it seems presumptuous to think we could know that a priori. And it isn’t in Scripture, at least not clearly. The use of that criterion seems to be trying to make God into our own image, by making Him conform to our own reasoning in an a priori way. So, my response to the “impotent and weak” objection is to step back and ask why such a criterion should be thought to be a reliable indicator of how God acts. If it were a reliable theological test, we would have to treat the manger scene as a later interpolation — because Christ sure looks “impotent and weak” in the manger. Or we would have to wield the test in an arbitrary way, sometimes applying it, and sometimes not.

    (Just saw your latest comment — I’ll try to reply later.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  52. Bryan,

    Thanks for your reply, which I have only skimmed and will read in more depth in a moment.

    I guess a more concise way to persent my question is to ask, “If, as you say, Jesus has atoned for all people’s sins, then why would all people not end up in heaven?” And if the answer is “Because of their unbelief,” my next question would be, “Is unbelief a sin? If so, then didn’t Jesus atone for it? And of not, then why would it keep someone out of heaven?”

  53. PS – Note that my objections above do not depend on the idea that God has “punished our sins in Christ.”

  54. Jason, (re: #49/52/53)

    Why can’t I just turn this around and say something like, “It cannot be said truly in the Catholic doctrine that God works all things out according to the counsel of his own will, or that he has his way among those in heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can say his hand or ask him, ‘What doest thou?’”? In the same way that our view seems to you to destroy God’s desire to save all men, it seems to us that yours destroys God’s ability to accomplish his will, both of which are equally Scriptural ideas. So unless your position can account for both, it does no good highlighting our problem texts as if that proves anything.

    God does work all things out according to the counsel of His will, and He has His way among those in heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can stay His hand or call Him to account. But, God’s will is not that no other being exercise its will, or that He decide for each free creature what it will choose, and then let it live out this pre-determined program as if that creature had free choice. He is so much more generous. He has willed that there be real creatures truly endowed with free will, and that these free creatures truly and freely exercise their free will. This is precisely why there is a difference between God’s antecedent will and God’s consequent will, not because God is of two minds, but because His consequent will takes into consideration the free choices of His creatures. We know, for example, that God’s antecedent will is that all men always keep the Ten Commandments. But obviously, not all men keep the Ten Commandments. That does not “destroy God’s ability to accomplish His will.” He Himself has generously willed that we be given the power to freely choose contrary to His antecedent will. And yet even when we will what is contrary to God’s antecedent will, God is able to bring about through our choices the end He has willed, an end which takes into consideration our free choices.

    The Calvinist position makes God either likewise impotent (since He can’t seem to prevent people from going against His will specified in the Ten Commandments), or insincere in implying that it is His will that we obey the Ten Commandments, if whatever is His will He necessarily accomplishes. Instead of attributing schizophrenia, impotence or insincerity to God, we explain the distinction between His antecedent will and consequent will as a distinction based on His generosity in giving to rational creatures genuine free choice, even the power to choose contrary to His antecedent will, as Lucifer did, and Adam and Eve as well. If you say that they sinned because God willed them to sin, you make God the author of evil. But if you say that they sinned because God willed them to have free will, and because they freely willed to sin, then you do not make God the author of evil, nor do you make Him weak. Rather, you affirm the generosity of His gift of rationality to creatures, and locate the blame for man’s sin on man himself.

    I guess a more concise way to present my question is to ask, “If, as you say, Jesus has atoned for all people’s sins, then why would all people not end up in heaven?” And if the answer is “Because of their unbelief,” my next question would be, “Is unbelief a sin? If so, then didn’t Jesus atone for it? And of not, then why would it keep someone out of heaven?” Note that my objections above do not depend on the idea that God has “punished our sins in Christ.”

    A few weeks ago I was reading St. Thomas’ Sermon-Conferences on the Apostles’ Creed. In what line of the Apostles’ Creed do you think he places the sacraments? “Communion of saints.” Here, I’ll type out the relevant paragraphs:

    Just as in a physical body the operation of one member redounds to the good of the whole body, so it works in a spiritual body, that is to say, in the Church. Since all the faithful are one body, the good of one is communicated to another. Paul writes: “Thus, we who are many are one body in Christ,] individuals, yet members one of the other” [Rom 12:5]. Thus, among other matters which should be believed that the apostles handed down, there remains the communion of goods in the Church. This [doctrine] is called “the communion of saints.”

    Among all the other members of the Church, however, the principal member is Christ, for He is the Head of the Church: “[And] He put down everything under His feet, and] He put himself as Head over the whole Church, which is His Body, [the fullness of Him who fulfills everything in everyone]” (Eph. [1:22-23]). Therefore the good of Christ is communicated to all Christians, as the wisdom of the Head is communicated to all the members. This communion comes about through the sacraments of the Church, in which the strength of the passion of Christ for conferring grace and for forgiving sins operates.

    Then he goes on to talk about baptism and the other sacraments. I’m sure you see why I quoted that, in reply to your question. The good of Christ, i.e. the grace merited by Christ through His passion and death, is communicated to us through the sacraments, in His Body, the Church. It must be applied to us. St. Chrysostom says that in the Eucharist Christ’s blood is applied to the doorposts of our mouth, as the blood of the Passover lamb had been applied to the doorposts of the homes of the Hebrews. If the work of Christ is not applied to us, we remain dead in our sins and at enmity with God. If we remain at enmity with God, we cannot be forgiven, because by our enmity we remain a cause of offense against God and hence remain in need of forgiveness. In order to be forgiven, that which is causing offense must be removed. Hence to be forgiven requires that we receive sanctifying grace and agape.

    So regarding your “Is unbelief a sin? If so, then didn’t Jesus atone for it? And if not, then why would it keep someone out of heaven?”, yes, unbelief is a sin. And yes, Jesus atoned for it, in that it was for this sin among all the sins of the world that Christ offered Himself up as a sacrifice to the Father. But unless that person is united to Christ, and thus receives the benefits of Christ’s work into himself, the sacrifice that Christ made to the Father does that man no good. That’s because the problem between that man and God is not merely a forensic problem that Christ can ‘fix’ behind the scenes, in heaven. The problem between that man and God lies right in his own soul, in the absence of sanctifying grace, and the absence of charity, and the debt of his sins against God. That’s where the problem lies, and that’s the cause of the forensic problem. So long as the cause of his debt to God remains, it cannot be magically fixed in heaven. Unless his [internal] problem is removed, he remains unsaved, unregenerated, unjustified, and hell-bound. Only when he receives the grace which Christ merited through His passion and death is he restored to friendship with God.

    Christ’s meriting grace through His passion and death does not ipso facto save us; the fruit of His passion and death has to be applied to us, through our union with Him. Through the sacraments we are united to Him and receive the grace He merited on the cross, and thus the forgiveness of sins. That’s why we believe in “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” The forensic problem is resolved through the grace received in the sacrament.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  55. Scott, (re: #50)

    Those are both good questions. Your first question is: How could a good and loving God allow a being to suffer in hell forever, with no possibility of reprieve? Ironically, one of the reasons why Origenism was condemned is that it destroys the possibility of true human happiness in heaven. That is because if the human will does not become fixed (i.e. established, set, inflexible, ‘rigid’ with respect to its chosen end) then it would follow that the saints in heaven beholding the face of God could fall away from God, and the whole thing [Eden … ] start all over again. But the ever-present possibility of losing heaven would not allow the saints to attain the perfect peace and happiness of union with God, a peace and happiness in which they know that they can never ever be separated from Him.

    Not only that, but Origenism would undermine the eternal significance of our choices in this present life. Instead of our present choices truly determining our eternal end (i.e. heaven or hell), our present choices would have no eternal significance or meaning, since we could always reverse them in the future, and later reverse those choices, etc. No choice would have any real significance or meaning, if it could always eventually be reversed. Why suffer martyrdom for Christ, if you can just change your mind on the way to hell? Origenism makes fools of martyrs. It sucks out the meaning of this life, by removing from our present choices their eternal significance.

    We live in an age that tends not to recognize the great value of the gift of free will. We’re an age in which our ‘choices’ are explained as some combination of nature or nurture. But this is the great delusion which Satan undoubtedly hatched and now perpetuates. Free creatures given the opportunity in this present life to freely choose our eternal destiny either with God in perfect eternal happiness or apart from God in eternal misery, are reduced to a stupor concerning ourselves, a stupor in which the significance of the present moment is lost and the greatness of our existence as creatures who this day and hour freely choose either heaven or hell as our eternal end would be obscured from our eyes, so that in this stupor we live only for the weekend, or at best for retirement, like mere beasts who are here today and gone tomorrow.

    What makes it difficult to see how a good and loving God could allow a being to suffer in hell forever, with no possibility of reprieve, is not a deficient understanding of God’s goodness and love, but a deficient understanding of the greatness of the gift of free choice we have been given, and the eternal importance of the choice that has been placed before us presently. We have been given not only a will as a power in our soul; we have also been given, in accord with our nature as creatures endowed with free will, the gift of freely participating in God’s work of creating us, by freely choosing (in this life) whether to love God as our ultimate end and so be with Him eternally, or not to love Him as our ultimate end, and so be separated from Him eternally. God could have made us without this freedom, but that would have withheld from us a great good. The great good is to be made in His image, with free will, and this power of self-determination. This power allows for genuine love, in a definitive and permanent way. That’s why it allows us to enter into the Beatific Vision, the love shared in the Blessed Trinity. Just as a couple can bind themselves in love to each for a lifetime of marriage, so the saints by their faithfulness to Christ even unto death, thereby bind themselves for eternity to the Blessed One.

    But this power of free choice also allows persons to reject God, in a definitive and permanent way. The greatness of the gift of free will allows us to choose not only something as great as eternal union with God, but also to choose something as horrific as eternal separation from God, i.e. hell. The possibility of hell comes with the possibility of heaven. The possibility of sin and hell comes with the gift of free will and self-determination. To prevent the possibility of sin and hell, God would have had to not make any creatures with free will — i.e. all angels and humans. But, the great good of the gift of free will outweighs the evil of the use of that free will to separate oneself from God eternally. In other words, it is better that God gives free will to creatures, even if some of them will to separate themselves from Him eternally, than that He withhold free will from creatures.

    Your second question is: How could any saint in heaven be truly happy if he or she is aware that others are in hell? Our happiness comes from union with God, who is perfect happiness itself [Himself]. God’s perfect happiness is not diminished or marred by any creature, not even by those creatures who have turned against Him, creatures such as Satan. They have not the power to subtract the smallest bit of happiness from the One who is Happiness; they have only the power to separate themselves from His Happiness. But the saints in heaven have the mind of Christ, and Satan and his minions cannot rob Christ of His happiness.

    In the Supplement to St. Thomas’s Summa Theologica we find the following answer to the question “Whether the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned?”:

    Mercy or compassion may be in a person in two ways: first by way of passion, secondly by way of choice. In the blessed there will be no passion in the lower powers except as a result of the reason’s choice. Hence compassion or mercy will not be in them, except by the choice of reason. Now mercy or compassion comes of the reason’s choice when a person wishes another’s evil to be dispelled: wherefore in those things which, in accordance with reason, we do not wish to be dispelled, we have no such compassion. But so long as sinners are in this world they are in such a state that without prejudice to the Divine justice they can be taken away from a state of unhappiness and sin to a state of happiness. Consequently it is possible to have compassion on them both by the choice of the will–in which sense God, the angels and the blessed are said to pity them by desiring their salvation–and by passion, in which way they are pitied by the good men who are in the state of wayfarers. But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned. (Supp. Q.94 a.2)

    To see those in hell, from the God’s-eye point of view, is to see the good of God giving to them (and to all rational creatures) free choice, their use of that free choice to turn themselves away from God eternally even though sufficient grace was given to them by God to turn to Him freely, and the justice of their resulting state of eternal separation from God. That’s not easy for us to conceive, in our present condition. But, for some reason, the eternal suffering of Satan and the other demons does not seem to detract from our conception of the possibility of the happiness of the saints in heaven. And yet, the humans who end up in hell do so for the same reason the fallen angels end up in hell, and are, like the demons, in a state in which their wills are irreversibly ‘fixed’ in opposition to God, their choice against God prior to their dying in a state of mortal sin, being, at the moment of their death, crystallized into their eternal stance of opposition to and repulsion by God and His love. The perfect happiness of God and the saints does not depend on ignoring the damned or sweeping them under the rug of their mind’s eye; rather, the damned are seen by the saints through the Beatific Vision, and thus as God in His perfect happiness sees them.

    When I pray for my family and friends who are not Christians, and who do not seem to be seeking Truth, I often find myself overcome to the point of desperation by the prospect of any one of them falling into the darkness, that then expanding to anyone at all.

    What is right and true in what you say here is the urgency of evangelism and prayer for those who do not know the gospel of Christ. In Calvinism, if a person is non-elect, you can’t tell him the gospel (that Christ died for him), because Christ didn’t die for him, so there is no gospel for him. But if he is elect, you don’t need to tell him, because all his sins are already paid for, and therefore he can’t possibly go to hell; so he doesn’t need anything from you. Therefore, either way, evangelism is entirely unnecessary. But in the Catholic faith, our prayers and our actions really do matter, and truly make a difference in the spiritual realm. We are not just pawns in God’s determined machine. We are free agents in the middle of a spiritual war for the souls of men, the dragon making war on the rest of Mary’s offspring. (Rev 12:17) As members of Christ we can and do truly bring Christ to those sitting in darkness, filling up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col 1:24). What is needed among the soldiers of Christ is courage, fidelity, determination and perseverance, in true union with our bishops and Christ’s Vicar on earth, and faithful stewardship of the ‘little’ things Christ has entrusted to us. Don’t despair — He who is with and in us is greater than he who is in the world. Our prayers are not unheard, even if sometimes their answer is delayed. (Daniel 10:13) Moreover, we can uphold each other in the Body of Christ and carry each other’s burdens through our prayers for each other, and our mutual encouragement and mutual support. So I encourage you to allow your prayer burdens to be shared by the Body.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  56. Jason,

    If I might add my inexpert two cents on limited atonement.

    A little while back, you said to David Meyer (#44) that limited atonement “must be one of the hardest to let go for those who go from Geneva to Rome, especially because it is so biblical and so God-glorifying.” I gotta be honest: I’ve never found it either biblical or God-glorifying. Even as a (non-Calvinist) Protestant, I always found it, frankly, repulsive. (I know, I’ve just painted a big bullseye on my chest for certain of the online Reformed community to start shooting 1 Cor 2:14 at me. That doesn’t seem to be your style though, Jason, which I’ve always appreciated about you.) But that’s the truth. It has always seemed to me, not to safeguard the glory of God as revealed in Christ by the Spirit, which is the glory of the Blessed Trinity’s self-giving love, but to betray a conception of a God so concerned with His own transcendence and glory that He has to limit the extent of His redeeming love in order to make sure that we get the point that He’s powerful. Personally, I can’t reconcile that with a God who chose to have a Mother, to grow up in obscurity, and to die shamefully for us and for our salvation. I don’t believe that His glory delimits His love; I believe that His love reveals His glory.

    Bryan has given you an excellent response (#54) that I think gets at one of the fundamental, irreducible differences between Protestant and Catholic soteriology. Protestants believe that Jesus saves us through substitution. Catholics believe that Jesus saves us through participation. You can nuance this all you want—and I often see Protestants nuance it to great effect—but at the end of the day, I really think it’s a fundamental difference. So I’m worried that even Bryan’s clear explanation of the necessity of “application” of the fruits of Christ’s work in the incarnation to the soul is going to be misconstrued, as though it were an extrinsic application rather than a sacramental participation. Since you’re Reformed, I assume it’s going to be viewed as an extrinsic, imputed, legal/forensic application, but I don’t want to unfairly pigeonhole you, and that it be precisely such is not necessary to my point.

    Anyhow, limited atonement seems to me to be one ramification of the substitution view combined with the doctrine of predestination. Suppose Christ saves us by substitution (however you want to construe it), and suppose the sins of the entire human race “add up” to X. But the sins of the elect only add up to [X minus Y], with Y being the “size” of the sins of the reprobate. It seems to me that the Reformed think the question is: did Jesus only atone for sin in the amount of [X minus Y], in which case the whole “amount” of the atonement will take its proper effect by saving the elect? Or did He atone in the amount of X, in which case some of the atonement (in the amount of Y) will have been “useless”?

    You must see that for a Catholic this just sounds like God is being parsimonious with His atoning love. I also can’t imagine how to construe the Son’s perfect sacrifice of love and obedience to the Father in terms of quantities, such that the “amount” of atonement achieved in the Paschal Mystery might be more or less, corresponding, respectively, to the sins of all individuals ever or only to the sins of the elect. No, I’ll stick with the Tradition’s interpretation of Holy Scripture on this score and echo St Thomas:

    He properly atones for an offense who offers something which the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense. But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. First of all, because of the exceeding charity from which He suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of His life which He laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion, and the greatness of the grief endured, as stated above (Question 46, Article 6). And therefore Christ’s Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race; according to 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

    (Summa theologica IIIa, Q. 48, Art. 2, corpus)

    Superabundant atonement! Does that derogate from the glory and power of God? Not to my ears. Only a God of infinite goodness, eternally blessed in Himself, could be secure enough and powerful enough to love with such abandon. To some it may look like foolishness, but I believe it’s the very Wisdom of God.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  57. Some more material readers might find helpful.

    “Now there is no distinction between what flows from free will, and what is of predestination; as there is no distinction between what flows from a secondary cause and from a first cause. For the providence of God produces effects through the operation of secondary causes, as was above shown (Question 22, Art. 3). Wherefore, that which flows from free-will is also of predestination.”

    Thomas Aquinas, ST, Ia. Q. 23, a.5.

    “The reason for the predestination of some, and reprobation of others, must be sought for in the goodness of God. Thus He is said to have made all things through His goodness, so that the divine goodness might be represented in things. Now it is necessary that God’s goodness, which in itself is one and undivided, should be manifested in many ways in His creation; because creatures in themselves cannot attain to the simplicity of God. Thus it is that for the completion of the universe there are required different grades of being; some of which hold a high and some a low place in the universe. That this multiformity of grades may be preserved in things, God allows some evils, lest many good things should never happen, as was said above (Question 22, Art. 5). Let us then consider the whole of the human race, as we consider the whole universe. God wills to manifest His goodness in men; in respect to those whom He predestines, by means of His mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of His justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others… Thus too, in the things of nature, a reason can be assigned, since primary matter is altogether uniform, why one part of it was fashioned by God from the beginning under the form of fire, another under the form of earth, that there might be a diversity of species in things of nature. Yet why this particular part of matter is under this particular form, and that under another, depends upon the simple will of God; as from the simple will of the artificer it depends that this stone is in part of the wall, and that in another; although the plan requires that some stones should be in this place, and some in that place. Neither on this account can there be said to be injustice in God, if He prepares unequal lots for not unequal things.”

    ST, Ia. Q. 23, ad .3

  58. Bryan,

    He has willed that there be real creatures truly endowed with free will, and that these free creatures truly and freely exercise their free will.

    But this only begs the question, because you are assuming that man is free to exercise his will in such a way as to repent and trust in Jesus, which is one of the points in dispute between us. While I don’t deny that man is “free” in the sense that he acts of his own volition without outside compulsion, I also find a whole lot in Scripture to indicate that man is not truly free at all, but a slave. Over and over in the NT man’s bondage is highlighted, while his freedom is spoken of as a consequence of his coming to Christ.

    Instead of attributing schizophrenia, impotence or insincerity to God, we explain the distinction between His antecedent will and consequent will as a distinction based on His generosity in giving to rational creatures genuine free choice, even the power to choose contrary to His antecedent will, as Lucifer did, and Adam and Eve as well.

    The Calvinist puts it in terms of God’s moral will and his sovereign will, saying that the two are not always in agreement. For example, is it God’s moral will that we do not violate his law? Yes. Is it God’s sovereign will that no one ever violates his law? Obviously not (since people do, and since the Bible says that God always brings to pass his will). But rather than trying to penetrate into the divine mind on such “secret things which belong to the Lord our God,” or instead of accusing him of wrongdoing, we simply “let God be God, and every man a liar.” We can say this much, though: whatever evil God sovereignly allows he allows in order to highlight his gracious plan of redemption. The answer to the problem of evil is ultimately eschatological—God’s not done telling the story yet.

    If you say that they sinned because God willed them to sin, you make God the author of evil.

    Here is an example, I think, of the unfairness with which some Reformed folks accuse you (plural). You know very well that we officially confess that God’s decree does not make God the author of sin, which means that none of us believes what you attribute to us. Now, you will probably say something like, “Well, it’s one thing to confess to deny something, it’s another to deny it meaningfully.” But this is what we say to you when you deny that you worship statues. We post a link to a pic of a pope prostrating himself before a statue and kissing it, and yet you still deny that the pope is worshiping a statue. Our response is that it’s one thing to deny something, it’s another to do so meaningfully. So if we concede your point that the pope is not worshiping a statue, will you concede that the Calvinist God is not the author of sin?

    So regarding your “Is unbelief a sin? If so, then didn’t Jesus atone for it? And if not, then why would it keep someone out of heaven?”, yes, unbelief is a sin. And yes, Jesus atoned for it, in that it was for this sin among all the sins of the world that Christ offered Himself up as a sacrifice to the Father. But unless that person is united to Christ, and thus receives the benefits of Christ’s work into himself, the sacrifice that Christ made to the Father does that man no good.

    I don’t understand this. Your whole view of the atonement, insofar as I grasp it, is that the sacrifice of Christ is more pleasing to the Father than the sins of man are displeasing. You also say that Christ atoned for all the sins of all people, and further, you concede that unbelief is one of those sins. The reason I asked the question the way I did was that you often insist that Reformed objections to Rome’s view depend on a prior-held view of penal substitution. But I don’t think my view depends on that at all. I am simply saying that if all of a man’s sins are atoned for, but he gets sent to hell, then something’s wrong with the picture.

    That’s because the problem between that man and God is not merely a forensic problem that Christ can ‘fix’ behind the scenes, in heaven. The problem between that man and God lies right in his own soul, in the absence of sanctifying grace, and the absence of charity, and the debt of his sins against God. That’s where the problem lies, and that’s the cause of the forensic problem. So long as the cause of his debt to God remains, it cannot be magically fixed in heaven. Unless his [internal] problem is removed, he remains unsaved, unregenerated, unjustified, and hell-bound.

    This is why I said above that Jesus doesn’t sound like a true Savior in your view. If Jesus has atoned for every sin of everyone, but that person goes to hell anyway because of a lack of this or that virtue or grace in his soul, then the members of the Godhead need to regroup in order to get on the same page. The way the Reformed see it (following Eph. 1) is that there is a group of people whom Jesus calls “those whom the Father has given me,” and it is to these in particular that he says before his high-priestly prayer that he will give eternal life, and for whom Paul says Christ laid down his life (Eph. 5). Do these people need the life of God within their souls in order to be saved? Of course, which is why Paul says in Eph. 1 that the Spirit serves as a seal for those whom the Father chose (v. 4) and the Son redeemed (v. 7).

  59. Jason, (re: #58)

    Regarding freedom, of course I agree with you that man is in bondage to sin apart from grace. There is a distinction between being free in the sense of having free choice, and being free in the sense of being able to walk in the light of agape rather than in the darkness. Those are two different and mutually compatible senses of ‘freedom.’ Freedom in the former sense is intrinsic to man as man. But freedom in the latter sense is a gift of grace. The freedom spoken of in Scripture (especially in the NT) is primarily freedom in the latter sense.

    As for whether those who have reached the age of reason freely cooperate in being translated from the state of enmity with God to the state of friendship with God, yes, therein lies an important difference between the Catholic and Reformed paradigms. But I think the distinction between actual grace and sanctifying grace is helpful here; without that distinction the Catholic doctrine seems semi-Pelagian, from the Reformed point of view. But with the distinction the Catholic doctrine avoids both semi-Pelagianism and the monergism of Jansenism. (I’ve explained the distinction between actual grace and sanctifying grace briefly in “A Reply from a Romery Person.”)

    If the conjunction of the Catholic doctrines that (a) God desires all men to be saved and (b) God gives sufficient grace to all to be saved and (c) not all are saved seems to you to “destroy God’s ability to accomplish His will” then the Reformed distinction between God’s moral will and His sovereign will also either destroys God’s ability to accomplish His moral will, or it makes God disingenuous in claiming that He truly wants our obedience to His laws. But if the distinction between God’s sovereign will and His moral will doesn’t do either of those two things, then neither do the Catholic doctrines destroy God’s ability to accomplish His will.

    When I said, “If you say that they [Adam and Eve] sinned because God willed them to sin, you make God the author of evil” I wasn’t intending to imply that you or Reformed persons make the claim in the antecedent of that conditional. I was only intending to speak about what follows if we deny that the cause of Adam and Eve’s sin was their own free choice permitted by God, push the cause of their sin back to God Himself, and thereby pin the blame on God for the wrong they did. If God were the cause of Adam and Eve’s sin, it wouldn’t make sense for God to punish them, just as it wouldn’t make sense for me to punish my children for drawing on the wall, if I’m the one who told them to draw on the wall, let alone if I moved their hands around on the wall while they held the pencils in their hands. Moreover, if God causes innocent people to sin, then it wouldn’t make sense to claim that God is good or loving.

    Regarding the atonement, you wrote:

    Your whole view of the atonement, insofar as I grasp it, is that the sacrifice of Christ is more pleasing to the Father than the sins of man are displeasing. You also say that Christ atoned for all the sins of all people, and further, you concede that unbelief is one of those sins.

    All three of those statements accurately represent what I’m saying.

    I am simply saying that if all of a man’s sins are atoned for, but he gets sent to hell, then something’s wrong with the picture.

    Well, what exactly is wrong with the picture? I know you smell a stinking fish, but let’s pin down exactly what it is. (Perhaps you get to it below.)

    If Jesus has atoned for every sin of everyone, but that person goes to hell anyway because of a lack of this or that virtue or grace in his soul, then the members of the Godhead need to regroup in order to get on the same page.

    The truth of the antecedent of this conditional does not entail or imply that the members of the Godhead are not on the same page. They are all “on the same page.” When Christ offered Himself up to the Father to make atonement for all the sins of every person who has ever lived, He [Christ] (and the Father and the Spirit) did not intend that human free will be abrogated or nullified in order to get every soul into heaven. Nor did any of the three divine Persons intend that sufficient grace be given only to a subset of men. Grace perfects nature; it does not destroy nature. All three Persons of the Trinity offer salvation to all men, through the grace Christ merited on the cross. God, through the merits of Christ’s passion and cross, gives to all men sufficient actual grace to turn to Him and receive sanctifying grace and agape, and be saved.

    What I think you are getting at is the following objection: if the Son offers atonement to the Father for the sins of all men, but the Father predestines only some men, then the Father and the Son are not “on the same page.” But that objection would work only if predestination included the requirement of giving sufficient grace only to the elect. But the truth of predestination does not require that only the elect receive sufficient grace; the doctrine of predestination is fully compatible with the reprobate also receiving sufficient grace. Therefore, the Trinity can both predestine some men, and give to all men sufficient grace for salvation, without the members of the Godhead not “being on the same page.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Bryan,
    Though a member of a reformed church, I’ve wrestled for years with many of the problems with monergism and limited atonement that you lay out in the posts above. These significant problems notwhithstanding, there seems to me to be a problem with the Catholic position on predestination/election. I’ll highlight it by first referring to one of your comments.

    In #47 you wrote: :

    Although this present time period [Eden to the Parousia] is the time of testing for man, there could be no test unless God in some way veiled Himself, because there could be no free choice to believe God in faith if God were not unseen (cf. Hebrews 11:1). So in order for there to be a genuine test, God does not overwhelm men with irresistible grace and the vision of His glory. This is why in this life grace is always resistible (see Trent VI Canon 4). Some, it seems, receive more grace than others. But He gives to all sufficient grace for salvation, and therefore every man’s choice (whether for or against God) is a free and self-determining choice, not a coerced choice or a choice without the ability to do otherwise.

    Given what you say, in what sense does there remain a meaningful doctrine of predestination or election in the Catholic Church’s tradition? Is it that God is able to and does work things out according to His will while not infringing on man’s freedom? God has infinite knowledge of all causes including the free will of man. So I would think that God can and does act throughout history in ways that accomplish His will without infringing on man’s freedom. But, this then seems to be subject to one of the problems you mention with monergism and limited atonement. God does more work to draw some men to himself than he does others. So how can God be love and treat fallen individuals so differently to draw them to himself? Further, the idea in Thomas and Augustine that God does not give persevering grace to all those who are initially saved also seems to be subject to this same problem.

    Thank you in advance for your response.
    Mark S.

  61. Bryan, (re: # 47)

    You stated:

    It cannot be said truly in the Calvinist doctrine that God loves all men and desires them all to enter freely into eternal friendship with Himself. But, that can be truly said within Catholic doctrine because God gives to all men sufficient grace to do just that. Likewise, given limited atonement, there cannot be an authentic offer of the gospel to the non-elect, since Christ did not die for them. But in Catholic doctrine there is an authentic offer to all men because Christ died for all men and through Christ God gives to every human being sufficient grace to turn to Him in faith and love. No one can say, “I didn’t receive enough grace; there was no way I could have turned to God. Therefore, I am not responsible for not turning to Christ, because I couldn’t have done otherwise.”

    Could you please explain how babies that die unbaptized are given sufficient grace to turn to Christ? Thank you.

    In Jesu et Maria,

    Kepha

  62. Mark (re: #60)

    You are asking four distinct but related questions, and they are all good questions. First, if God truly desires all men to be saved, then how can we make sense of the notion that God predestines only some? Second, if God truly desires all men to be saved, why does He give more grace to some than to others? Third, how can God be love, and yet give less grace to some? Fourth, how can God desire all men to be saved, yet not give the grace of perseverance to all who come to faith?

    Let’s look at your third question first, because it is about the compatibility of love with unequal distributions of gifts. That God is love, and loves all His creatures, does not entail that God loves each creature equally. Even in the act of creating, God makes some creatures greater than other creatures, giving to some more gifts than to others. In other words, even in the order of nature (as opposed to the order of grace) we see that God gives more good to some creatures than to others, and this is compatible with His love for all His creatures, even the least endowed of His creatures. (See Summa Theologica I Q.20 a.3 “Does God love one thing more than another?”) The question, essentially, is whether God truly loves those persons to whom He gives less grace. And the answer is yes. We often underestimate the greatness of the gift of God’s invitation to be with Him eternally, and the magnitude of the sacrifice Christ made to merit this gift. God gives this gift to all men. He has given to all men His very Son; He does not withhold from anyone the grace that person needs to turn away from sin and turn to God.

    For those who receive less grace, even the grace they receive is entirely sufficient for them to turn to Him and be saved. God gives them sufficient grace precisely because He truly loves them and desires that they be with Him in heaven. Those who choose to reject God do so not because He did not give them sufficient grace, but because they freely reject the sufficient grace He has given them in love. It would be a mistake to assume that truly loving a man requires giving to him all possible graces, just as it would be a mistake to infer that God loves only the wealthiest 1%, since He did not give to the rest of the population that same measure of wealth.

    Regarding your first question, it is not predestining per se that raises the problem regarding God’s desire that all men be saved; it is His predestining some and not all, that seems (prima facie) incompatible with His genuinely desiring that all men be saved. If everyone were predestined, you wouldn’t be asking this first question. So the question is more fundamentally: Why are any reprobate? The Church has set down certain truths concerning the dogma of predestination, but she has also [for now] left open certain questions regarding this sacred mystery. I discussed this briefly in May of 2009 in comment #5 of Taylor’s post titled “Predestination: John Calvin vs. Thomas Aquinas.” Concerning this subject there are a few theological positions that are permissible; two were represented in the early seventeenth century by the Molinists and the followers of Banez. Pope Paul V declared that they stop feuding over the question, and prohibited both sides from condemning the position of the other.

    One permissible way of reconciling God’s desire that all men be saved with the fact that some are reprobate is that God reprobates those whom He foresees do not cooperate with the sufficient grace they are given. (See Fr. Most’s position described in Taylor’s post linked just above.) This idea depends on something we can see in St. Thomas, even if St. Thomas himself did not fully develop it. St. Thomas writes:

    Although one may neither merit in advance nor call forth divine grace by a movement of his free choice, he is able to prevent himself from receiving this grace: Indeed, it is said in Job(21:34): “Who have said to God: Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Your ways”; and in Job (24:13): “They have been rebellious to the light.” And since this ability to impede or not to impede the reception of divine grace is within the scope of free choice, not undeservedly is responsibility for the fault imputed to him who offers an impediment to the reception of grace. In fact, as far as He is concerned, God is ready to give grace to all; “indeed He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” as is said in 1 Timothy (2:4). But those alone are deprived of grace who offer an obstacle within themselves to grace; just as, while the sun is shining on the world, the man who keeps his eyes closed is held responsible for his fault, if as a result some evil follows, even though he could not see unless he were provided in advance with light from the sun. (SCG III 159)

    The key line here is “But those alone are deprived of grace who offer an obstacle within themselves to grace.” [sed illi soli gratia privantur qui in seipsis gratiae impedimentum praestant] So, according to this explanation, those alone are reprobate whom God has foreseen completely and finally reject the sufficient grace He offers them. This explanation allows it to be true that God genuinely desires the salvation of all men, because He truly gives to all men sufficient grace to be saved. But this explanation also allows it to be simultaneously true that some are reprobate (and thus that not all are predestined), not because God does not love the reprobate or genuinely desire their salvation, but because they themselves offer an obstacle within themselves to grace. In the asymmetry of salvation, man cannot save himself, but he can damn himself. God predestines none to sin or to hell. (See the Second Council of Orange, which states, “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.”)

    A similar idea can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its explanation of the role of free human responses in God’s eternal plan of predestination:

    Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God. To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. (CCC 599,600, my emphasis)

    A few paragraphs later the Catechism reaffirms that the Church, following the Apostles, has always taught that Christ died for every human being:

    By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” God “shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many;” this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.” (CCC 604,605, my emphasis)

    According to this explanation, there is a great asymmetry between predestination and reprobation. Predestination is not due to man’s foreseen merit, but reprobation is due to man’s free rejection of grace. This allows the truth of predestination and the truth of God’s universal salvific will to be held together. This is not the only possible explanation; nor does it answer all the questions that could be raised. But it is one possible and permissible explanation for Catholics.

    Regarding your second question, I don’t know why God gives more grace to some than to others; presumably, in His goodness and wisdom He sees this as better than giving all an equal measure of grace. But, those who receive less grace, do not receive insufficient grace. And that’s the important point, as I explained in answer to your third question above. That some receive lesser grace is fully compatible with His universal salvific desire so long as that lesser grace is sufficient grace. The Second Vatican Council taught: “For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et spes 22).

    Regarding your fourth question, I think this is an important question, and helpful in answering your first question, and vice versa (i.e. the answer to your first question is helpful in answering your fourth question). In other words, the question of why some who receive the grace of faith and justification do not receive the grace of perseverance, is a species of the broader question, “Why are some reprobate?” The Council of Trent has a fascinating line in its paragraph on perseverance:

    For God, unless men themselves fail in His grace, as he has begun a good work, so will he perfect it, working to will and to accomplish. (Phil. 1:6, 2:13.) (Council of Trent, Session VI, chapter 13)

    Notice that phrase “unless men themselves fail in His grace.” Implied there is the idea that God wants to give the gift of perseverance to all who come to faith. The Council seeks to avoid two errors with respect to perseverance: presumption that those who come to faith are guaranteed to persevere, and despair that those who come to faith can persevere, even with God’s help, or that God is truly willing to help them. That can be seen in canon 22 of that same session:

    If anyone says that the one justified either can without the special help of God persevere in the justice received, or that with that help he cannot, let him be anathema.

    The Christian is to believe that he must seek the gift of perseverance from God, who will not withhold good gifts from those who ask. He can know with encouragement that God will help him persevere if he faithfully implores God’s aid and does not neglect the means of grace. But the believer is simultaneously warned that he cannot presume to have the gift of perseverance, or think he can persevere by his own strength. Here again, I think, we see a similar relation to the relation of predestination and God’s universal salvific desire. Only those who freely neglect the means of grace do not receive the gift of perseverance. It is not God that causes men not to persevere; it is God who is working in us to persevere. But we can place an obstacle, to use the language of St. Thomas. And if we place an obstacle, then our not persevering is due to us, not to God.

    I know this doesn’t fully answer your questions, and that much more could be said. But, I hope it helps a little.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  63. Kepha (re: #61),

    Yes God’s universal desire for the salvation of men extends to babies. But what that entails for babies who die before reaching the age of reason, and how they might receive grace or respond to that grace, we do not know. We know that sanctifying grace and agape is necessary to enter heaven. We also know that babies are born into this world in a state of original sin (i.e. deprived of sanctifying grace and agape). Nevertheless, the Catholic Church does not teach that unbaptized infants who die before reaching the age of reason go to heaven, nor does it teach that they go to hell. It calls us to entrust them to the mercy of God.

    As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (CCC, 1261)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  64. T Ciatoris, you gave a quote from Thoman Aquinas which points to something that I see as missing not only within the Calvinist “limited atonement” soteriology, but also to something that is missing generally within Protestantism about the efffects of the atoning sacrifice of the Cross. I believe that Protestantism typically views the atoning sacrifice of the Cross in terms of satisfaction of divine justice for sins committed by mankind. That is to say, that the sacrifice of the Cross was offered to God to “pay the price for sin”. While this is true in a certain sense, the atoning sacrifice is fundamentally an act of divine love, and as such, it is fundamentally about the opening of the gate of divine mercy to mankind. I would say that the atoning sacrifice is not primarily about the satisfaction of divine justice, it is primarily about the outpouring of divine mercy. Yes, the atoning sacrifice of the Crosss made satisfaction for the eternal punishment due the sins of mankind, but it also opened to mankind access to the infinite merits of the Cross.

    Your quote from Aquinas:

    He properly atones for an offense who offers something which the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense. But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race.

    Because Christ gave more on the Cross “than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race”, not only was divine justice satisfied, an outpouring of grace was unleashed by the atoning sacrifice. This overflowing of grace from the atoning sacrifice can be called the infinite merits of the Cross.

    I am making a distinction between the terms satisfaction and merit as these terms are understood in Catholic theology. I believe that you understand that distinction, but for those following reading this who might not, I will try to to illustrate the difference with a thought experiment.

    Imagine that I maliciously throw a rock through my neighbor’s garage window. Justice demands that I atone for the damage that I caused; I need to apologise to atone for my disrespect of my neighbor, and, I need to fix the window that I broke. Suppose that I make a sincere apology and I personally fix the window. By doing that, I am making satisfaction for my offense. There is nothing meritorious about my action of fixing the window, because I am only doing what I am required to do to satisfy justice. No one is going to honor me with a Medal for Meritorious Service for repairing what was damaged by my act of vandalism.

    Now imagine instead that I see that someone else has maliciously smashed the garage window of my neighbor. I take it upon myself to fix the broken windows out of an act of love. This action has merit, because I am doing something that justice does not require – I am going over and beyond what justice requires. Note that in both cases I am doing exactly the same act – fixing a window. In the first case, fixing the window is an act of justice that is without merit, and in the second case, fixing the window is an act of mercy that is meritorious.

    The atoning sacrifice of the Cross does indeed make satisfaction for the eternal punishment due the sins of all mankind, but does much more than that because it is an act of infinite mercy. Man, because he is a creature, cannot do anything that is infinite. All the sins that mankind has ever committed, or ever will commit, cannot add up to a sum that is infinitely evil. But the atoning sacrifice of the Cross is an infinite act of mercy, because what is being offered up on the Cross is the infinite love of God. To see the value of the atoning sacrifice of the Cross strictly in terms of satsisfaction is to miss the point of the atoning sacrifice altogether. The value of atoning sacrifice is much greater than what was required to satisfy the eternal punishment due the sins of all mankind. The true measure of the value of the atoning sacrifice is the infinite merits of the Cross, the outpouring of grace that allows man not only to be reconciled to God, but to partake in the divine life of God.

    For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10

    Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4

  65. Kepha (#61) and Bryan (#63):

    St. Augustine’s view was that babies who die unbaptized end up with a mild form of hell forever. That view stemmed directly from his conviction that original sin is personal culpa. Aquinas softened that by putting such babies in a permanent “limbo,” a place of purely natural happiness. That became the common doctrine until the mid-20th century. But in response to the Calvinist and Jansenist challenges, the Church came gradually to repudiate the underlying premise that original sin is personal culpa. See CCC §405. Once that happened, the rationale for a permanent limbo disappeared. The Pope does not believe there is such a thing.

    Of course limbo remains an opinion one can hold within the ambit of orthodoxy. But a few Catholic traditionalists, such as Fr. Brian Harrison, still hold that the existence of a permanent limbo as the sempiternal fate for unbaptized babies has been infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. For my response to that, see here. I also recommend Fr. Al Kimel’s treatment of the topic of limbo.

    Best,
    Mike

  66. Bryan (re: 63),

    How do you reconcile the statement from the CCC with these statements:

    “The punishment of Original Sin is the deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting Hell…” (Innocent III Den. 410)

    “The souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in Original Sin only, descend immediately into Hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds.” (Council of Florence 1438-1445, Denz. 693)

    Pope John XXII wrote in 1321 “It (The Roman Church) teaches that the souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with only Original Sin descend immediately into Hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places.” (Denz. 493a)

    It is my understanding that the Church has always taught that unbapitzed babies were deprived of heaven. The only dispute was over the nature of that deprivation. That is, would such souls suffer pain in Hell, would they remain on the outer edge of Hell (i.e., Limbo), etc. However, I find nothing throughout Church history, until very recently, that claims unbaptized babies can go to heaven.

    In Jesu et Mariae,

    Kepha

  67. Kepha (#66):

    Since Bryan is tied up at the moment, I shall reply to your comment with his permission.

    From the magisterial sources you quote, it does not logically follow that babies who die without having undergone ordinary, sacramental baptism will never see God. (For brevity, let’s call the thesis that babies who die without formal baptism ‘NSG’). I say for two reasons.

    First, NSG would only follow if we knew there were no “extraordinary” means of baptism available to such infants. But we do not know that. For one thing, the Church has always recognized at least two extraordinary means of baptism: baptism “by desire,” most commonly seen in catechumens who, through no fault of their own, die before formal baptism; and baptism “by blood,” by which those who die witnessing to the Faith go straight to heaven without formal baptism. The latter is even attributed by tradition to the Holy Innocents, who could not have been desirous of baptism or conscious of any witness to the Faith. So the question then arises: could there not be extraordinary means of baptism that apply to other infants who died without baptism? Dogma does not answer that question one way or the other. Catholic orthodoxy does not oblige us to believe that all infants who die without ordinary baptism die without extraordinary baptism, such as the tears and prayers of their parents. There is nothing to rule out that such means could help those who have died without ever having sinned, as they help in the case of the souls in purgatory, who did sin in their earthly lives.

    Second and accordingly, even assuming that all infants who die without ordinary baptism go ad infernum, it does not follow that that is a permanent state. That is shown by the ancient doctrine, alluded to in the Apostles’ Creed, of the limbus patrum. The early Church believed that when Christ “descended into hell” (descendit ad infernum), he liberated the souls of the “just” who were awaiting him there. If being in inferno were always and necessarily a permanent state, that would not have been possible. Now if the souls of people who had committed actual sins in their lives could thus be liberated, there is no a priori reason to believe that the souls of those who have died without having committed any actual sins could also be liberated.

    All that is why the Church has never condemned the speculations of theologians about how infants who die unbaptized might yet come to enjoy the beatific vision. What speculations? I quote from the Wikipedia article on “Limbo,” which is actually pretty good (footnotes and links omitted; emphasis added):

    The Ecumenical Council of Florence (1442) spoke of baptism as necessary even for children and required that they be baptised soon after birth. This had earlier been affirmed at the local Council of Carthage in 417. The Council of Florence also stated that those who die in original sin alone go to hell. John Wycliffe’s attack on the necessity of infant baptism was condemned by another general council, the Council of Constance. The Council of Trent in 1547 explicitly stated that baptism (or desire for baptism) was the means by which one is transferred “from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

    If adults could effectively be baptised through a desire for the sacrament when prevented from actually receiving it, some speculated that perhaps sacramentally unbaptised infants too might be saved by some waterless equivalent of ordinary baptism when prevented. Cajetan, a major 16th-century theologian, suggested that infants dying in the womb before birth, and so before ordinary sacramental baptism could be administered, might be saved through their mother’s wish for their baptism. Thus, there was no clear consensus that the Council of Florence had excluded salvation of infants by such extra-sacramental equivalents of baptism.

    Through the 18th and 19th centuries, individual theologians (Bianchi in 1768, H. Klee in 1835, Caron in 1855, H. Schell in 1893) continued to formulate theories of how children who died unbaptised might still be saved. By 1952 a theologian such as Ludwig Ott could, in a widely used and well-regarded manual, openly teach the possibility that children who die unbaptised might be saved for heaven—though he still represented their going to limbo as the commonly taught opinion. In its 1980 instruction on children’s baptism the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed that “with regard to children who die without having received baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as indeed she does in the funeral rite established for them.” And in 1984, when Joseph Ratzinger, then Cardinal Prefect of that Congregation, stated that, as a private theologian, he rejected the claim that children who die unbaptised cannot attain salvation, he was speaking for many academic theologians of his background and training.

    Thus in 1992, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while affirming that “the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude”, but also stating that “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments”, stated: “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

    On April 22, 2007, the advisory body known as the International Theological Commission released a document, originally commissioned by Pope John Paul II, entitled “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized.”[23]

    I also reiterate the two links I provided in my previous comment.

    Best,
    Mike

  68. Mike (re: #67):

    Thank you for your response. The evidences you have provided are, as you stated, speculations. Your quote from Wikipedia sites Cajetan as a support for this “doctrine.” However, we are not bound to believe Cajetan’s speculations. I believe Cajetan also held the opinion that the deutero-canonical books should not be considered scripture. Cajetan was fallible.

    The teaching of the Church throughout the centuries is that infants require baptism in order to be saved. There is no mention of “extraordinary” means.

    I think the Councils of Lyon and Florence are clear:

    “The souls of those who die in actual mortal sin OR IN ORIGINAL SIN ONLY immediately descend into hell, even though they suffer different penalties” (D 464, 693).

    Don’t unbaptized babies fall into the ‘original sin only’ category? Why not? Why no qualifications made for infants in these councils?

    The Council of Florence stated:

    “Regarding children, indeed, because of danger of death, which can often take place, SINCE NO HELP CAN BE BROUGHT TO THEM BY ANOTHER REMEDY than through the sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched from the domination of the devil and adopted among the sons of God, [the sacrosanct Roman Church] advises that holy baptism ought not to be deferred for forty or eighty days, . . . but it should be conferred as soon as it can be done conveniently” (DS 1349).

    This council clearly stated that there is no other remedy, and again, no mention of “extraordinary” means. The quotes I have provided enjoy a higher level of authority than the evidences you provided. I am not appealing to the speculations of individual theologians, since they have no authority.

    Here are two more from sainted popes:

    In 385, Pope St. Siricius sent a letter to a Bishop Himerius, telling the bishop that both of their souls are in danger if they defer the baptism of infants or adults: “. . . lest our own souls be in danger if, as a result of our having denied the saving font to those who stand in need of it, each one of them, on leaving the world, should lose the kingdom as well as his life” (DS 184).

    Pope St. Innocent I, in 417, wrote to the Synod of Milevis, that: “The idea that infants can be granted the rewards of eternal life even without the grace of baptism is utterly foolish” (DS 219).

    Additional authoritative quotes supporting the necessity of baptism for infants could be provided. This has been the teaching of the Church throughout the centuries.

    – Kepha

  69. Kepha, (#66,68)

    The teaching of the Church throughout the centuries is that infants require baptism in order to be saved. There is no mention of “extraordinary” means.

    That’s just the point. The teaching of the Church through the centuries simply is not addressing extraordinary means, just as Cantate Domino was not addressing the condition of those in invincible ignorance. The Feeneyites didn’t understand that [about Cantate Domino], and therefore did not perceive the theoretical ‘space’ or ‘room’ for the development of the Church’s understanding of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. They misinterpreted the Church’s documents by failing to recognize the qualifications that were implicit, and so treated the prior teaching as unqualified and absolute.

    When you say, “Why no qualifications made for infants in these councils?” you are trying to use an argument from silence, as though the not saying of x were equivalent to the saying of ~x. But using an argument from silence against the development of doctrine simply begs the question, by presupposing that development of doctrine is impossible. Development of doctrine is a deepening of the Church’s understanding of what has been given, and thus a filling in of precisely what has not been explicitly stated. A strict adherence to a denial of development would eliminate all the quotations you cite, because if the Church were not allowed to say what had not already been previously and explicitly stated, all the quotations you cite would themselves be disallowed.

    We do, however, have good reason to believe that the Church has always recognized the possibility of God acting extraordinarily to bring salvation to children who die prior to receiving baptism. The Latin Church started celebrating the Feast of the Holy Innocents sometime between the fourth and fifth centuries. Your reading of the texts you have cited would make this feast heretical in what it teaches. But this just shows that you are reading more into the texts than what is there (i.e. over-reading the texts), and that the texts you have cited must be interpreted in light of this feast, and thus within the qualification entailed by the authenticity of this feast, because the Church never saw or treated this feast as incompatible with the texts you cited. Nor was the possibility of God’s extraordinary act in saving the Holy Innocents seen as a type of divine act restricted only to the Old Covenant, and excluded from the New Covenant.

    All the texts you cite are speaking within a context in which only the ordinary means are in view, just as are all the texts teaching extra ecclesiam nulla salus. They are not excluding the extraordinary, because they are not talking about the extraordinary or with the extraordinary in view, but only about what is true given the ordinary. So there is an implicit contextual circumscription in the quotations you are citing. Ignoring that circumscription leads to an error similar to that of the Feeneyites, by treating as absolute what is in fact implicitly qualified. For example, the line “since no help can be brought to them by another remedy” isn’t teaching that God cannot act extraordinarily to save infants who die without baptism (as though the Holy Innocents currently don’t see the face of God), but is instead saying that no other means has been received by the Church to effect their salvation.

    Last year, Cardinal Burke (then Archbishop) gave an interview to David Moss of the Association of Hebrew Catholics. David asked Cardinal Burke a question about the development of doctrine in relation to circumcision; particularly, David asked Cardinal Burke to explain how to reconcile the teaching of Pope Eugenius IV on circumcision with the later teaching of Pope Benedict XIV regarding circumcision. In his answer, Cardinal Burke explains how the two teachings are reconciled, by showing the contextual qualifications implicit within the teaching of Pope Eugenius IV, due to the circumstances he was addressing at the time, and the scope of the intent of his teaching in relation to those circumstances. (I have included the video of that section of the interview below.) This is another example showing the importance of recognizing implicit historical and contextual qualifications for rightly interpreting Church documents, such that one does not mistakenly treat the not saying of x as the saying of ~x, or treat the saying of x [within an implicit qualified context] as though it were x-and-absolutely-and-unqualifiedly-x.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  70. Kepha (#68):

    First, what Bryan said.

    Second, you write:

    The evidences you have provided are, as you stated, speculations. Your quote from Wikipedia sites Cajetan as a support for this “doctrine.” However, we are not bound to believe Cajetan’s speculations. I believe Cajetan also held the opinion that the deutero-canonical books should not be considered scripture. Cajetan was fallible.

    That illustrates what is apparently your habit of reading more into statements than is there. Your response would be apposite if I had been arguing that Cajetan’s speculations are true. But I made no such argument. In fact, I don’t profess to know whether Cajetan’s or anybody else’s speculations on this topic are true. What I asserted is that Cajetan’s speculations, and others of a similar kind from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, are logically compatiblewith the definitive teaching of the Church. None has ever been condemned, which would be rather odd if the Magisterium had thought they were incompatible with defined doctrine. Thus we have evidence that the Magisterium itself interprets its own doctrines in a weaker sense than you do.

    The teaching of the Church throughout the centuries is that infants require baptism in order to be saved. There is no mention of “extraordinary” means.

    From the fact that no mention of “extraordinary means” is ever explicitly made in dogma, it does not follow that the Church has never recognized any such means. As Bryan has indicated, that’s the fallacy of argumentum ab silentio:the fallacy of inferring, from P’s not being asserted, that not-P is being asserted. Baptism by desire and blood, and the salvation of the Holy Innocents, have been recognized by Tradition for as long as we have records. You have not denied that, and it forms the context of qualification for the dogmas. After all, if we were bound to believe only what is dogmatically defined and promulgated as binding on the whole Church, then all doctrines prior to the first ecumenical council would have been optional prior to that council, which is absurd. Dogmas only clarify Scripture and Tradition. They do not substitute for or supplant Scripture and Tradition, nor are they exhaustive thereof.

    Nobody here denies the necessity of “baptism.” The other quotes you supply, which are about the necessity of baptism, would only be relevant if they established that there are no extraordinary means of baptism. As Tradition’s context of qualification shows, they establish no such thing. Hence they are irrelevant.

    Best,
    Mike

  71. This thread seemed to me to be more about the existential evidences of divine predestination and (implicitly, given the nature of our blog) the relationship between Catholic and Reformed understandings of predestination.

  72. David (#71):

    I understand why the excursus of the last several comments might seem off topic, but I don’t think it really is. Here’s why.

    The explicit thesis that many people are punished eternally if they die in original sin alone stems from St. Augustine. He held that thesis because he believed that original sin is a personal fault in each of Adam’s descendants. If we are each personally guilty at the moment of conception, then it makes sense to say that those who die without the baptism that removes original sin will be punished eternally. Now God foreknows that many people, including infants who are miscarried, will die without formal baptism. So, on the assumption that original sin is a personal fault in each of Adam’s descendants, it at least makes sense to say that many are predestined to hell, even though that doesn’t strictly follow.

    It was that train of thought which lent so much fuel to Calvinism and Jansenism. But in response to those heresies, the Church gradually came to repudiate the Augustinian idea that original sin is personal fault (cf CCC §405). Hence there is no reason to postulate a permanent limbo to soften the blow of double predestinationism.

    Best,
    Mike

  73. There are several things I’d like to say:
    1. It stuck me that someone can “over-read” a text. I’ve never hear that before. That seems like a duplicitous strategy to say that to someone. In a similar vein we are told: “Thus we have evidence that the Magisterium itself interprets its own doctrines in a weaker sense than you do.” What is that supposed to mean. Some people are “heretics” and “innovators” but if they have not been officially condemned it is just “development” and “dogma” based on scripture and “tradition” that can be read more or less weakly or strongly. ?

    The point is that if we are not willing to back everything up with scripture and stick with scripture and not go beyond scripture and be silent before mysteries where we have no clear human understanding, we end up with this labyrinth of definitions, dogmas, etc. where we even have to be careful not to “over-read” the text and or make the Magesterium’s doctrines stronger than what they were meant to be. I am sorry, but that does sound like spearking out of both corner of the mouth.

    2. The whole thing about the “Free Will” or “Bound Will” and predestination is this: When the gospel is proclaimed is the message for me (or you) now, exactly the way you are? Can I be sure. If not we have the “the monster of uncertainty”. There are more than one way to rob people of the gospel.

    One is the preaching of limited atonement. This is easily understood. It is possible that the message of forgiveness of sins is not for me (or you). Another one is the Roman Catholic teaching (and that of others) that some measure of grace must precede so you can use your free will to do it yourself, whichever way that is exactly stated (not to over-read, or under-read, or quote ad nauseam). If there is the slightest thing other than the cross of Christ held before my eyes to believe in, need, require, do, chose, it falls all back on me. What I do has to be zero, with an infinite zero’s behind the decimal point. This also serves God’s honor as Savior. If there is some Thing required, it detracts from God being Savior and the whole agony of Christ on the cross is nullified.

    3. Predestination is meant to be a comfort. God has chosen us. He is Savior. He thinks, he knows, he acts, he choses and he did it for me (and you).

    4. Why many don’t believe, we don’t know. We need not go beyond scripture.

    5. When the gospel is announced to me and you, it is indeed true for me and you. Our sins are forgiven. Our God has known us from the beginning and knows us now. He is our dear and mericful God (yours and mine, and the whole world) and we can go walk with him in humility and joy and love. In the sacraments he says this to us over and over again and it is real as his words declare and as we need his love and mercy daily. When he says: ” this is my body” it is really his body. And when he says “for your”, it is really for you. And when he says and promises: “for the forgiveness of sins” it means your sins are really forgiven. God’s Word is the greatest treasure and it is true.

  74. Hello Brigitte (re: #73)

    It stuck me that someone can “over-read” a text. I’ve never hear that before. That seems like a duplicitous strategy to say that to someone.

    I see no justification to immediately assume duplicity on anyone’s part. By ‘over-reading’ I mean simply failing to recognize the implicit contextual and theological qualifications in the statements. It seems to me that rather than assuming duplicity when you’ve never heard a term before, a more charitable approach is first to determine whether there really is possibly such a thing as ‘over-reading’ a text by failing to recognize its implicit qualifications.

    In a similar vein we are told: “Thus we have evidence that the Magisterium itself interprets its own doctrines in a weaker sense than you do.” What is that supposed to mean.

    It means that the Magisterial statements have implicit contextual qualifications, and if a person fails to recognize those qualifications, he or she will mistakenly interpret the statements in a more absolute sense than they actual mean.

    Some people are “heretics” and “innovators” but if they have not been officially condemned it is just “development” and “dogma” based on scripture and “tradition” that can be read more or less weakly or strongly. ?

    I don’t understand your question.

    The point is that if we are not willing to back everything up with scripture and stick with scripture and not go beyond scripture and be silent before mysteries where we have no clear human understanding, we end up with this labyrinth of definitions, dogmas, etc. where we even have to be careful not to “over-read” the text and or make the Magesterium’s doctrines stronger than what they were meant to be. I am sorry, but that does sound like spearking out of both corner of the mouth.

    Here’s how I see it. The assumption that we must “back everything up with Scripture” is not itself in Scripture. For that reason, it does not meet its own test, and is therefore a self-refuting claim. (See “Logic and the Foundations of Protestantism.”) Moreover, the hypothesis that if we just stick with Scripture we won’t have doctrinal confusion and disagreement, has been patently falsified by the five-hundred year experiment that is Protestantism. It simply doesn’t work, because apart from an authoritative Magisterium, people cannot agree how to interpret Scripture and what exactly are the essentials. (See our “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”)

    One possible response to the difficulty of rightly interpreting Church documents written over the past two-thousand years is to conclude that the whole content of Catholic doctrine can be dismissed as faulty at its foundation, as though nothing that complicated or difficult could be true. But such a response assumes that the facility with which we can fully comprehend something without error, is a measure of its truth. The idea is that what is too hard for me to grasp easily, what seems like a “labyrinth” to me, must not be true, since if it were true, I would easily understand it. But that is a dubious assumption. In certain ways the faith is very simple, so simple a child can grasp it, as when the priest asked my seven year old daughter “What is the Eucharist?” and she immediately replied “the Body and the Blood.” And yet fully to plumb the depths of sacred theology, even the wisest man can get but a drop within the entire ocean of what is there to be known about Christ and what He has revealed to us. So it is not safe to assume that our difficulty in grasping something is evidence of its falsehood; it could be evidence instead of its loftiness and our own limitation in relation to it. “Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think on them always, and in many of his works be not curious.” (Sirach 3:22)

    2. The whole thing about the “Free Will” or “Bound Will” and predestination is this: When the gospel is proclaimed is the message for me (or you) now, exactly the way you are? Can I be sure. If not we have the “the monster of uncertainty”. There are more than one way to rob people of the gospel.

    I agree. See the beginning of the last paragraph in #55.

    Another one is the Roman Catholic teaching (and that of others) that some measure of grace must precede so you can use your free will to do it yourself, whichever way that is exactly stated (not to over-read, or under-read, or quote ad nauseam). If there is the slightest thing other than the cross of Christ held before my eyes to believe in, need, require, do, chose, it falls all back on me. What I do has to be zero, with an infinite zero’s behind the decimal point.

    That is a false gospel, because it makes faith, hope, and love optional. God does not believe for us. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” If we don’t choose, but God chooses for us, then God is a liar when He commands us to choose. God does not hope for us. He does not love for us; He commands us to love. No one who has not love can be saved. That’s what John’s first epistle is all about. So we must do some things; we must believe, we must hope, and we must love. If what we had to do were “nothing,” then St. Peter greatly misled the people in his sermon on Pentecost. When they, being pierced to the heart by his preaching concerning Christ’s death and resurrection, asked in response, “What shall we do?” if your “we do nothing” gospel were the Apostles’ message, then Peter would have said, “Nothing. It is all done. You don’t need to do a thing. I just thought you should know what Christ did for you. You all can go home now.” But that’s not what he said. Rather, he proclaimed, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of the your sins.” (Acts 2:38) Either Peter had not yet learned the gospel, or the ‘gospel’ you are advocating is a message altogether different from the one proclaimed by the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    This also serves God’s honor as Savior. If there is some Thing required, it detracts from God being Savior and the whole agony of Christ on the cross is nullified.

    God is not a glory-monger; He is love. And for that reason, He calls His saints to share in His glory. That’s what heaven is. We don’t share in His glory by being in a place or proximity. We share in His glory, first by sharing in His sufferings: “fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Rom 8:17) In this life we labor with Him, as His co-laborers. (1 Cor 3:9) If God were a glory-monger, it would not make sense for Jesus to urge us to seek the glory that is from God. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44) If God were a glory-monger, He wouldn’t give glory to men. But Jesus said to the Father, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.” (John 17:22) And St. Paul says that our afflictions in this present life are producing an eternal weight of glory. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor 4:17) If God were a glory-monger, then instead of saying, “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Thess 2:14) the Holy Spirit would have said, “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may give all the glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.” If God were a glory-monger and wished that His creatures had no share in His glory, then why would St. Peter write that the believers are “full of glory”? (1 Pet 1:8) Why would he describe himself as a “partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed” (1 Pet 5:1)? Why would he say that believers are to receive an unfading crown of glory? (1 Pet 5:4) The reason the Apostles write all these things is because God is love, and as love He wants us to participate in His glory, to share in it. And so He generously gives to us His glory — that is what the Christian life is all about, sharing in His suffering, so that He makes us sharers in His glory. I wrote more about this in “The Gospel and the Paradox of Glory.”

    3. Predestination is meant to be a comfort. God has chosen us. He is Savior. He thinks, he knows, he acts, he choses and he did it for me (and you).

    We can have moral certainty that we are presently in a state of grace. But apart from a special revelation to us personally, we cannot know in this life that we are predestined, though the continuing presence of certain attributes in our life is a sign that, should we continue in them to the end, we are predestined, as Taylor explained in his post at the beginning of this thread.

    5. When the gospel is announced to me and you, it is indeed true for me and you. Our sins are forgiven. Our God has known us from the beginning and knows us now. He is our dear and mericful God (yours and mine, and the whole world) and we can go walk with him in humility and joy and love. In the sacraments he says this to us over and over again and it is real as his words declare and as we need his love and mercy daily. When he says: ” this is my body” it is really his body. And when he says “for your”, it is really for you. And when he says and promises: “for the forgiveness of sins” it means your sins are really forgiven. God’s Word is the greatest treasure and it is true.

    I mostly agree, though with one qualification. The message of the early Church and in the gospels and the NT is that forgiveness of sins is something that comes to us through baptism. Christ died for our sins, but we receive the benefit of that work on the cross through the sacrament of baptism. This was what Peter said on Pentecost, and it is what we say in the Creed: “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” (See our article “The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration.“) But, as for your point that the gospel is really and truly offered to every person, yes, on that point we completely agree.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. Brigitte: There are more than one way to rob people of the gospel.
    One is the preaching of limited atonement. This is easily understood. It is possible that the message of forgiveness of sins is not for me (or you). Another one is the Roman Catholic teaching (and that of others) that some measure of grace must precede so you can use your free will to do it yourself, whichever way that is exactly stated (not to over-read, or under-read, or quote ad nauseam).

    Why would anyone need preceding grace if they could use their free will to do what is necessary to follow the message of the Gospel by themselves? What would be the purpose of receiving preceding grace if that grace was utterly unnecessary? What the Catholic Church condemns is both the heresy of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, which is why the Catholic Church teaches exactly the opposite of “use your free will to do it yourself”.

    Brigitte: If there is the slightest thing other than the cross of Christ held before my eyes to believe in, need, require, do, chose, it falls all back on me. What I do has to be zero, with an infinite zero’s behind the decimal point.

    Suppose you were at work, and your boss told you that your job was to get a five-hundred pound piece of steel lifted off the ground and put into the back of a pickup truck. Could you lift that piece of steel by yourself? I am guessing no. But if a really strong man gave you a hand, you could help lift the piece of steel into the pickup truck. If you chose to cooperate with the strong man, you would be exercising your free will in your choice to cooperate with another to get the job done. Using your free will does not necessarily mean that you must do everything by yourself.

    What are the criteria that Jesus give for separating the sheep from the goats? (See Matt 25:32-36). The sheep do the works of mercy, and the goats do not. If one attempts to do the works of mercy that separate the sheep from the goats, one will not get the job done unless he or she cooperates the strong man. How does one become a sheep by doing zero? Doing zero is what makes one a goat!

  76. That’s a long response Bryan, thank you, kindly.

    1. I do not wish to be uncharitable, though sadly, due to my sinful nature, this happens with regularity. However, there is something here which I feel needs to be denounced in strong terms.

    A “weak reading” and a “stong reading” are not terms generally used in regular discourse. Everyone should be as direct and clear in what they are saying, so that the meaning would become clear from the statement itself or the context around it. One should be able to determine what is exactly being said from the two combined. Either a unbaptized baby goes to hell or not, or we don’t know and commit the child to God’s gracious will. Not much else can really be said, whether you write a thousand pages about it or not. And only two of the three statements will comfort a grieving mother. A weak or strong reading or other subleties and sophistries will not be pastorally helpful, just makes for a lot of talk and maybe for the speaker to feel superior. As Jesus said: let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.

    There are many ways of giving in a statement and then taking it away again. There are many “yes, buts” and no one is really helped by it.

    In terms of clear and honest pronouncements, let me also complain about what has happened to me before in this thread. We were commended to listen to Mr. (Rev.? Dr.?) Feinstein’s lecture. First off I had to hear that Luther is a heretic and innovator and he abolished the mass and the eucharist. He did no such thing and I offered to find all the pertinent sections of the confessions. He only removed the Roman teaching of “sacrifice” which we find nowhere in Jesus words or institution and which even RC’s cannot sufficiently define. What exactly is being sacrificed in the mass? Where does Jesus talk about this supposed sacrifice? The abuse of this is that a work of man is posited here which accumulates merit –rather than the joy of trusting in Christ’s work and promise. This is the only thing which is being denounced. Secondly, I gave the quote of Lutheranism’s teaching of Christ’s descent into hell which is also falsely decried as Christ having gone to suffer in hell. This is not Luther’s teaching. So at best we have misinformation, at worst slander and false accusations.

    Did anyone say: “You are right. Sorry. Luther never did teach that. We stand corrected.” ? Nobody said that. It does not seem to matter. Is this “charitable”? Then I get a long list of Bible verses which are to prove that the mass is a sacrifice (other than praise) and I point out that each passage speaks of a “testament”, i.e. a promise, gift or inheritance. To this promise we cling. Nobody responded to that.

    This is the manner in which God’s word is treated. This is the manner in which Luther’s words are treated. This is the manner in which my correction is dealt with, and then we hear sophistries about “strong and weak” readings. You will understand these misgivings.

    2. Backing things up with scripture.

    On one hand Luther is denounced in the strongest way for classifying writings into different categories of priorities for interpretation, and with RC apologists even his own writings are generally not distinguished between (such as table talks written down by some other person vs. confessional statements penned by himself)–and on the other hand it is not deemed necessary to back up all your own teachings by scripture. There is a discrepancy here.

    Indeed the truth is that scripture is a unity as a whole: Christ-centered from the beginning to the end, through and through– from Genesis to Revelation– announcing forgiveness and wholeness to people continually erring and wandering, calling them back to trust in God and his word. Thus is also my daily journey. There are various standards for authenticity and we need not go through all of them here. Most important to me is the fact that the NT was written by eye-witnesses and those who associated with them. The work of the Holy Spirit is visible and audible throughout in the kerygma.

    The church father’s would not have wanted to be known to be off the base of scripture and to be said have added their own stuff. Hebrews tells us also that in the last days God has spoken to us through his Son.

    When the RC church comes up practically 2000 years later with teachings such as the assumption of Mary, which is not scriptural, nor even held unanimously by Christendom, then it moves itself off the witness of the word and distances itself ecumenically. I do not know what on earth is gained by this type of thing, other than what Hermann Sasse said: the eyes removed from the scandal of the cross to something more pleasant, more unblody. Of course, I eyes should be on the cross.

    I’ll leave the subject matter there. We cannot have Christian unity if we shall not agree that our basis is scripture itself and alone, from there all fathers and teachers and creeds of the church have to be evaluated. Nor will we long preserve the cross and God’s undeserved mercy as the center of our faith, which is what happens all the time.

    I’ll post this much now and take up the rest after.
    Thanks.

  77. …continued

    3. The perspectuity of scripture or clearity vs. of the RC dogma.

    I like your Sirach quote, though I am not an ardent reader of Apocrypha (my parent’s and grandparent’s German Luther translation Bibles all have the Apocrypha in them in the middle, though the new ones don’t have them). There are indeed things beyond our understanding. There are mysteries, there is knowledge that is too high for us. This is also one of my postulates here against the Calvinists.

    It may not be recognizable to all people here, but my concern is the truth and unity of all of us in Christ. RC and Calvinists differ in irreconcilable ways. Luther already saw that and defended scriptural truth in both directions. At the heart is always that we trust in God’s word and promises without overspeculating on things beyond our reason.

    It is not true that a unified confession cannot be arrived at or that scripture will lead us in a thousand directions. For one thing the Confessions contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 have been maintained by the confessional Lutheran church for 430 years and I do not see RC’s or Calvinists dealing with them or refuting them. I’d actually like to see some articles taken up and dealt with. Who does actually not agree with what and do they have a good reason?

    The Bible is not a sealed book. I grew up reading and discussing it and I have put in about 30 years teaching Sunday School and such. It is slander of the Bible to say that it is not clear ways. Some principles of interpretation need to be applied as in the proper distinction between law and gospel, as in letting scripture interpret scripture, etc. We always have our trained clergy we can ask for further clarification. Some things are mysteries and some things are more clear than other things. We will afirm most strongly what is most clear and leave what is not accessible to our reason to faith. It is a blessed, lifelong process to grow in this.

    It is hypocritical to say that RC are unified in their teaching because of the Magesterium. For those of us on the ground who know many Roman Catholic individuals from having attended Catholic schools, sitting beside them in church because they have married a non-Catholic, to neighbors who don’t go at all. The best Roman Catholics I know will rattle off on their fingers all the dogmas that they don’t agree with. You know that this is true. There is the “big tent” and it includes all kinds of opinions. Some of these opinions, by the way, are strongly leaning towards rehabilitating Luther, admitting that the treatment of him has been “nasty”, to quote a Canadian RC Bishop. I know that the current pope has encouraged people to read Luther for himself. That’s bit of a change from only saying to him “you must renounce your books” or you will be excummunicated (and surely he was).

    The Magesterium only succeeds in opressing consciences by making people feel pressured to believe and do things that they do not wish to do and believe. This is not good for them nor pleasing to the Lord. He will not have forced service or devotion or belief. You cannot really force a belief. Belief is inspired by the person who speaks to you (God) and the message of truth itself.

    The labyrinth of RC dogma and cannon law, somebody said, would not be something that the Apostles themselves would recognize or know their way around, never mind the poor laymen. This is defeating and obscures the good news. We must bring Christ himself and his redeeming work to all the nations through word and sacrament ministry and a clear proclamation. All kinds of acretions should really be removed. It’s like the decluttering I have to do right now, moving form a large country home to a smaller city place. What is it I really need and want, and what really matters?

    I heard a lecture the other day (November at Concordia College, Edmonton) by a Roman Catholic Bishop on Luther and he spoke the gospel beautifully. I was enthralled by the man. He also became a mature Christian through the influence of a Lutheran and is good at bridging some of the issues. But when he discusses these issues, it all has to come from this papal document or that papal document, all with Latin names that no regular person has heard of and certainly not most non RC. How are we to have dialogue on anything this way? He tried and I appreciated it. I post below a link to Bishop Bolen’s lecture. A very winsome man. God bless his work.

    http://www.livestream.com/concordialutheranseminary/video?clipId=pla_4ad51c69-86d7-4d3c-b502-3113f33d18b6

    I’ll quit here for today.

  78. Ok, I told my husband I was off the computer, but maybe not. We have to get to the point mateo is addressing along with Bryan.

    If I were smart I would know how to quote beautifully like you. I am open to instruction.

    Bryan writes:
    “That is a false gospel, because it makes faith, hope, and love optional. God does not believe for us. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” If we don’t choose, but God chooses for us, then God is a liar when He commands us to choose. God does not hope for us. He does not love for us; He commands us to love. No one who has not love can be saved. That’s what John’s first epistle is all about. So we must do some things; we must believe, we must hope, and we must love.”

    If we don’t chose then we make a liar of God. I see. Or we show our inpotence?

    We also have Jesus clearly saying that God choses us not we him.

    How do we deal with this? Lutheran assert, and I would guess Calvinists, that “ought does not imply can”. We have this all over the OT. Follow the ten commandments! Do this! Don’t grumble! Does the law ever work? Can we be nagged into doing the right thing?

    The old testament is an illustration that we cannot follow the law. Jesus points this out over and over to the Pharisees and others. We are lost without him like the lost sheep that the shepherd has to go after. We can chose God as little as the little, lost sheep will find its way back into the sheepfold. It will be fodder for the predator.

    Love, hope and all good things happen because he first loved us. When we know what Jesus means to us, we cannot but love and adore him and cherish our fellow Christians and in fact all the world by proclaiming and serving. Like in any relationship of love, there is no coercion. Coercion is a love killer. It produces wrath. We know this. We are all in relationships. This is so real and so simple.

    God’s grace and mercy creates the faith which receives him and his gifts. Faith is not a work. Hope is not a work. You either have it or you don’t. We can build up or faith and hope and love, by God’s means, his word and sacrament. I can go and be nourished and strengthened. I can pray for help in the empty beggars way. And I can know that in him I have everything. And in him I also have brothers and sister who come to him just as empty handed and who know that they have been made rich in the same undeserved way. These are the most profound relationships. I love these brothers and sister so much, I do want to die for them if needed (so help me God).

    But what comes first is knowing how much God loved us and how he chose us (everyone in the all encompassing, positive way–contra Calvin–never excluding or limiting.)

    To move to Mateo’s example. The helping of the lifting. You see, the requirement that I do my part by helping lift poses two problems. It implies that the strong man is either not able to or willing to just simply do it for me. This makes a statement about him. Secondly, I cannot know if I’ve done my part. This makes the strong man’s contribution meaningless, because I cannot focus on him and his work but must see to it that I do my part. It nullifies in essence what the strong man is doing.

    Back to Bryan, in this connection, he also said that God is not a glory-monger. In fact, scripture says all over that the glory is God’s. In Isaiah we have several times, that we will NOT give his glory to another, that He HIMSELF is Israels savior.

    In fact, and to contradict Bryan, we kow we have the right theology when God gets all the glory. This is like a litmus test. Please, think about it.

    The sheep and the goats we agree with, as Jesus told this story. There are many angles to it, such as that those who were sheep did not know that they had done this to him. This is a kind of blindness of love. Love does not count the cost, nor ask for reward or repayment, or hold it over anyone. Love is free, blind, and instinctive when you know what love is, when you have been loved and you are imbued with this love.

    The other part is law: if you are Christians, this is how you will view the weaker person, you will see him as Christ himself. You will serve him the way you would serve God himself. This is the duty of the Christian. Luther addressed this in the Freedom of the Christian Person: “The Christian is a free man and servant of none; the Christian is a slave and servant of all.”

    But you need to know the gospel for yourself first, otherwise you cannot serve a brother the way you would serve Christ your Savior. You will not earn anything this way. It will be a free response and a sweet, willing giving to the Lord. This is of essence.

  79. Brigitte,

    I’ll respond to your comments tonight, God willing. I’ll start by responding to your comments #15,16,17, which I hadn’t seen before (sorry). You have put a lot of time into the dialogue in this thread, and I see that you sincerely desire Catholic-Lutheran reconciliation. I appreciate that, and tonight I’ll try to focus on what fundamentally divides us, and consider how possibly to move forward from there.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  80. Brigitte: To move to Mateo’s example. The helping of the lifting. You see, the requirement that I do my part by helping lift poses two problems. It implies that the strong man is either not able to or willing to just simply do it for me. This makes a statement about him.

    How does my example imply anything about the strong man being incapable of doing the job all by himself? It doesn’t. My example was intended to show that exercising one’s free will does NOT mean that one is doing something all by oneself. If I choose to play an instrument in a orchestra, am I creating all the music by myself? Of course not. By choosing to play in an orchestra, I am exercising my free will to be part of something larger than myself.

    Brigitte: Secondly, I cannot know if I’ve done my part. This makes the strong man’s contribution meaningless, because I cannot focus on him and his work but must see to it that I do my part. It nullifies in essence what the strong man is doing.

    If you help the strong man in the lifting, you do not make what the strong man is doing meaningless! Maybe you can’t focus on what YOU did, but so what? Perhaps that is the point! Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Jesus didn’t say, “You need to do nothing because I will do everything.” No, the scriptures say that we must be doers of the word, not just hearers of the word, lest we deceive ourselves. (James 1:22).

  81. Brigitte, (re: #15,16,17)

    Regarding Professor Feingold’s talk (in comment #12), you wrote:

    However, he does not from this many body of the talk repudiate Luther’s view, nor show that the eucharist is not now only a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not blood. He does not bring in scripture passages that deal with how the word “priest” is used in the NT, or what Christ and Paul say about the Lord’s supper.

    He gave this talk to the Association of Hebrew Catholics, so it was intended primarily for Catholics, not Lutherans or even Protestants. The revised form of this talk is now Chapter 6 in his recently published book The Mystery of Israel and the Church: Vol II. So, you are right that he does not refute Luther’s position here; that was not his intention in this talk. His talk was aimed at helping Catholics understand the nature of sacrifice. In the subsequent talk titled “The Eucharist: The One Sacrifice of the New Covenant,” he explains in more detail how the Eucharist is a sacrifice.

    Our Lord is abundantly clear that the supper is a Promise, a Testament, not a sacrifice/

    The Eucharist is not itself a promise, but Christ has made promises concerning it, and fulfills those promises whenever the sacrifice of the mass is offered. When we participate in the mass, we are participating in the New Covenant sacrifice and the blessed sacrament of the New Covenant. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Eucharist is not a sacrifice.

    But Luther gets dragged in here, as a red herring to obfuscate that the RC teaching here is not scripturally underpinned or takes away from Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice, robbing him of his glory, thereby.

    His purpose in mentioning Luther was not to obfuscate, nor to introduce a red herring. Rather, he brought up Luther’s rejection of the ministerial priesthood and rejection of the sacrifice of the mass to show that although with respect to priesthood and sacraments there is a fundamental continuity between divine worship under the Old Covenant and the Catholic Church under the New Covenant, nevertheless Protestantism rejected both the hierarchical priesthood of the Catholic Church and the sacrifice of the mass, which Luther by his own authority decided was idolatrous. In that respect, Protestantism assumed a radical opposition between the Old and New Covenants, and treated the Catholic priesthood and Eucharistic sacrifice as erroneous vestiges of (or returns to) to Judaism.

    Luther did not abolish the Eucharist or the mass, only the abuse of it (have a look at the confessions).

    To reject the sacrifice of the mass is to abolish the mass, because the mass is fundamentally a sacrifice; if there is no sacrifice then it is not a participation in Christ’s worship. There is no mass where there is no sacrifice. Anyone can call what is orthodox an “abuse” to justify heresy. So merely calling the sacrifice of the mass an “abuse” does not show it to be an abuse. In order to be an abuse, it would have to go against what the Church has always believed and taught and practiced. But the Church from the first centuries and throughout the world has understood the mass to be a sacrifice. And therefore it is not an abuse. Rather, Luther used as a standard his own interpretation of Scripture, and then called things that did not conform to his own interpretation of Scripture an ‘abuse.’ But Luther’s interpretation of Scripture is not the standard to which Christ has called the sheep to conform, because Christ never gave Luther magisterial authority over His Church.

    Also it is wrong to say that Luther taught that Christ suffered in hell. Again, have a look at the confessions. Feingold calls him in one breath an innovator and heretic, but then alleges teachings he did not hold, and does not explore the false teachings which he deplored. There is no fairness in this.

    I can see that, but keep in mind that this was a talk given to Catholics, and not given with the purpose of showing to Lutherans that Luther’s errors are errors.

    The never-ending demands on man’s conscience by requiring repeated masses, ceremonies, sufficient contrition (who can know when he has sufficient contrition?), payments–all never-ending or enough and all for merit and the power of the pope–this is what is being deplored. The right use of the Eucharist is not.

    You seem to be complaining about the demands the Church places on the conscience of Catholics regarding attending mass. But your complaint presupposes that the Church does not have the authority to establish precepts regarding mass attendance, precepts to which all Catholics are obliged to obey. If the words “Do this in remembrance of Me” hadn’t come right out of Jesus’ mouth, your complaint could be made about those words as well: “The never-ending demands on man’s conscience by requiring repeated remembrances of that Last Supper …” If the Church has the divine authority to establish such precepts, then all Catholics are, by divine authority, rightly and truly bound in conscience to obey. In other words, your own opinion about how often we ought to “do this in remembrance of Me” isn’t the standard to which the Church’s Magisterium must conform, and therefore isn’t the standard to which Catholics ought to conform. We cannot resolve the question “How often should we attend mass?” while prescinding from the question of Church authority. Likewise, the objection ‘who can know when he has sufficient repentance?” is not a good reason to make repentance optional. Such an objection misunderstands the nature of contrition and repentance, which are not in the emotions, but in the will. We have repented when we have turned away from mortal sin in our will. The person living in mortal sin has not sufficiently repented.

    Luther’s response to the conundrum is the proper one, to stick with the creed, to not teach things not contained in the scriptures (apostolic witness), to be faithful to what has been revealed and not speculate on what has not been revealed and then make the teaching binding on consciences.

    In order to progress toward reunion, we have to come to agreement regarding the notion that Scripture alone is what we have to believe. It was never that way when the Apostles were preaching before the NT was written. The gospel was entirely in the form of an oral Tradition. Just because certain things were written down does not subtract authority from the oral Tradition that the Apostles preached and passed down. (See “Scripture and Tradition.”) The Christians had to believe what the Apostles were preaching and teaching, even if it wasn’t in the Old Testament, and none of the books of the NT had been written. That was the way in which Christ structured His Church, and the fact that some of the Apostles wrote gospels and epistles could not change the structure Christ had already established. Nor was there any sudden authority shift when the last Apostle died, as though all authority shifted from Apostles to the Bible. Rather, the Apostles authorized men to succeed them in shepherding the Churches and preserving the authentic interpretation of the Scriptures. See the Apostolic Succession section of my reply to Michael Horton.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  82. The topic of Predestination in Roman Catholicism is an interesting one. What many Calvinists do not understand is that they actually share this doctrine with Roman Catholicism. Second that it was actually this doctrine of Predestination that Luther rebelled against. That issue is dealt with thoroughly in “Luther Discovers the Gospel” by Uuras Saarnivaara
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Luther+Discovers+the+Gospel&x=0&y=0

    Brigitte,
    your concerns are the reason Catholic Apologists fail with Lutherans, at least serious Lutherans who know what it is we teach. Most Catholics think of us as nothing but protestants and confuse us with Calvinists and Arminians, as if there was a difference.

    And I really don’t care if I have the character of one predestined, if I can not thereby know that I am predestined. Thankfully I know that I am elect, as God has baptized me, and forgives my sins freely on account of Christ’s death and resurrection.

  83. Brigitte, (re: #76),

    A weak or strong reading or other subleties and sophistries will not be pastorally helpful, just makes for a lot of talk and maybe for the speaker to feel superior. As Jesus said: let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.

    You seem to be suggesting that if something isn’t pastorally helpful, then not only is there no place for it, but its only purpose is to make the speaker feel superior. That conclusion seems neither charitable nor justified. Surely you are aware that most of what is written in Lutheran systematic theology texts is not “pastorally helpful.” That’s because that’s not its purpose. It takes the form it takes in the discipline of theology, because the primary purpose of the discipline of theology is not to produce what is “pastorally helpful,” but to help those trained in theology to understand more deeply the truth concerning what God has revealed. And that requires also carefully understanding what the Church has taught about the subject. It is not pastorally helpful to give falsehoods to the sheep, even if the words are easy to understand and pleasant to the ear. So the pastor needs the discipline of theology, and training in that discipline, in order to avoid giving false platitudes to the flock.

    What exactly is being sacrificed in the mass?

    Jesus Christ. In the mass we are participating in the event of Calvary, wherein Christ offered Himself, as both Priest and Victim, to the Father.

    Where does Jesus talk about this supposed sacrifice?

    Again, it is absolutely essential to recognize the different starting points, so that you don’t implicitly “beg the question” (i.e. assume precisely what is in question between us). Your question presupposes that if something isn’t clearly stated in Scripture, then the Church cannot know it or teach it or require the faithful to believe it. But Catholics don’t hold that presupposition (which isn’t itself in Scripture, and which therefore refutes itself, by failing to pass its own test). The deposit of faith comes down to us through Scripture and Tradition, as mediated to us by the Church. See sections 8-10 of Dei Verbum.

    The abuse of this is that a work of man is posited here which accumulates merit –rather than the joy of trusting in Christ’s work and promise. This is the only thing which is being denounced.

    If the work of man were forbidden, then Christ’s own work would be forbidden, since He is not only true God but also true man. If the work of man were forbidden, then Jesus would never have commissioned the Apostles to do a single thing. And St. Paul could never have said that he fills up in his own flesh what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings. (Col 1:24) But, as it is, you are misunderstanding the mass, as though it were a mere work of man, when in actuality it is the work of the God-man, just as He works in baptism. In the Eucharist, the priest lends, as it were, his lips and hands to Christ, just as at baptism it is Christ who baptizes.

    As for Christ’s descent into hell, if Dr. Feingold said that Luther held Calvin’s position on this, then it appears that on this point he was mistaken. (Knowing him, he would be glad to learn of his mistake, and to retract the error.)

    This is the manner in which God’s word is treated. This is the manner in which Luther’s words are treated. This is the manner in which my correction is dealt with, and then we hear sophistries about “strong and weak” readings. You will understand these misgivings.

    I understand your not appreciating Luther being misrepresented regarding Christ’s descent into hell, but there have been no sophistries here.

    On one hand Luther is denounced in the strongest way for classifying writings into different categories of priorities for interpretation, and with RC apologists even his own writings are generally not distinguished between (such as table talks written down by some other person vs. confessional statements penned by himself)–and on the other hand it is not deemed necessary to back up all your own teachings by scripture. There is a discrepancy here.

    What exactly is the “discrepancy”?

    Indeed the truth is that scripture is a unity as a whole: Christ-centered from the beginning to the end, through and through– from Genesis to Revelation– announcing forgiveness and wholeness to people continually erring and wandering, calling them back to trust in God and his word. Thus is also my daily journey. There are various standards for authenticity and we need not go through all of them here. Most important to me is the fact that the NT was written by eye-witnesses and those who associated with them. The work of the Holy Spirit is visible and audible throughout in the kerygma.

    I don’t know any Catholic who would disagree with that.

    The church father’s would not have wanted to be known to be off the base of scripture and to be said have added their own stuff.

    Of course the Church Fathers wanted to be in agreement with Scripture. But, the oral Tradition that was handed down from the Apostles, and which we find in the Fathers, is not “their own stuff;” it is what they had received from the Apostles.

    When the RC church comes up practically 2000 years later with teachings such as the assumption of Mary, which is not scriptural, nor even held unanimously by Christendom, then it moves itself off the witness of the word and distances itself ecumenically.

    The Catholic Church did not come up with the doctrine of the Assumption 2000 years later. This doctrine has implicitly been part of the Tradition from the very beginning, as shown by the fact that no one has ever claimed to have a first-class relic of the Blessed Mother, although the Church has retained first class relics of most all the other saints. In May of 1946, Pope Pius XII sent out a letter titled “Deiparae Virginis Mariae” to all the bishops in the Church. In this letter he asked two questions: “Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?” Out of 1232 bishops, 1210 answered yes to both questions. Hence Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, in which he defined the doctrine as a dogma of the Catholic Church, wrote:

    But those whom “the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God” gave an almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions. This “outstanding agreement of the Catholic prelates and the faithful,” affirming that the bodily Assumption of God’s Mother into heaven can be defined as a dogma of faith, since it shows us the concordant teaching of the Church’s ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people which the same doctrinal authority sustains and directs, thus by itself and in an entirely certain and infallible way, manifests this privilege as a truth revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which Christ has delivered to his Spouse to be guarded faithfully and to be taught infallibly. Certainly this teaching authority of the Church, not by any merely human effort but under the protection of the Spirit of Truth, and therefore absolutely without error, carries out the commission entrusted to it, that of preserving the revealed truths pure and entire throughout every age, in such a way that it presents them undefiled, adding nothing to them and taking nothing away from them. For, as the Vatican Council teaches, “the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in such a way that, by his revelation, they might manifest new doctrine, but so that, by his assistance, they might guard as sacred and might faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the apostles, or the deposit of faith.” Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven- which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned-is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church. For, as the Vatican Council asserts, “all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church, either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office, as divinely revealed truths which must be believed.”

    The almost universal consensus among all the Catholic bishops and the faithful under the care regarding Mary’s Assumption, is evidence that it has always been in some sense part of the Catholic faith, even if it only gradually came to be explicitly affirmed throughout the Catholic Church. This is because the Holy Spirit guards and protects the universal Church, to protect her from doctrinal error. Of course the doctrine of the Assumption is not held by non-Catholic sects, but the doctrinal truth isn’t determined by taking a vote among heresies and sects and schisms. The Church is not required to conform to what heretical sects think, just as she wasn’t required to conform to what the Arians thought. Ecumenicism isn’t about a lowest-common denominator mere Christianity. It is ultimately about being reconciled in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded. It seems to me that you don’t realize that the Catholic Church claims to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded. The Catholic Church is not a denomination among ‘Christendom,’ where ‘Christendom’ is a nebulous amorphous abstraction in which heretical and schismatic groups claim membership in order to make themselves seem legitimate.

    I do not know what on earth is gained by this type of thing, other than what Hermann Sasse said: the eyes removed from the scandal of the cross to something more pleasant, more unblody. Of course, I eyes should be on the cross.

    If you want to know what is “gained by this type of thing,” I recommend listening to Professor Feingold’s talk on Mary’s Assumption:

    You wrote:

    We cannot have Christian unity if we shall not agree that our basis is scripture itself and alone, from there all fathers and teachers and creeds of the church have to be evaluated.

    No two people can be united so long as they each claim that their basis for doctrine is their own interpretation of Scripture. Eventually, they will each form their own denomination. It is clinging to this notion that Scripture alone is sufficient for unity that is precisely the source of perpetual and ever-increasing disunity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  84. Dear Mateo: when you quote James to me, why do you quote nothing from Paul and make the two fit with the spirit of letting scripture interpret scripture. Paul happens to be responsible for a huge section of the NT and is its main theologian; so maybe James needs to fit with Paul and not Paul with James. It has been said before, and let me refer you again to such documents as the Freedom of the Christian Person: The Christian is a perfectly free man subject to none. The Christian is a slave and servant of all. i.e. all works flow from this freedom.

    I do wonder, though, about you personally, Mateo, whether you think your attempts at good works are good enough to get the job of salvation done? If you say “yes” then you will be proud and be like the Pharisee in the parable. If you say “no”, which I hope, you will be the publican in the parable. For such men as the latter there is hope. He went away justified.

    For both of you, Bryan and Mateo: I just rifled through my “Treasury of Daily Prayer” to find something from a church father. You might want to get yourselves a copy of this book. It was published by Concordia Publishing House only a couple of years ago, and has for each day readings from Psalms, the OT, the NT, a prayer, a hymn, often a commemoration of a Biblical person or even Church Fathers, and a Writing. These writings have been very intriguing for me because they are brought in from important writers of all centuries. This is really the only meaninngful contact I have had with Church Fathers. I have found the quotes from them very refreshing because they have also taught beautifully about Christ, such as what I will quote below.

    On page 75, for the Thursday in the second week in Lent we have, for example, a writing from the Epistle to Diognetus. The internet tells me that he was a very early Christian apologist and is considered a Father (2nd century). He preaches here so nicely about Christ and his kindness and our abject weakness, such weakness that we did not even look for his kindness (bondage of the will).

    Here we go: “But when, on the one hand, our unrighteousness was fulfilled, and it was completely obvious that its wages–punishment and death–was to be expected, then, on the other hand, the time came during which God had decicded at last to make clear his own benevolence and power (oh, the exceeding favor for humanity and love of God!). He did not hate us nor reject us nor hold a grudge, but he was longsuffering and patient; being merciful, he took up our sins himself, he himself gave his own Son as the redemption price for us, the Holy for the unholy, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the mortal. For what besides his righteousness could cover our sins? In whom is it possible fro us lawless and ungodly men to be justified except in the only Son of God? Oh, the sweet exchange! Oh, the incomprehensible handiwork [of God]! Oh, the un-looked-for kindnesses: that, on the one hand, the lawlessness of the many be hidden in the Righteous One, while, on the other hand, the righteousness of the One justify the many lawless. Thus having proven in the former time the inability of our nature to attain life, now having shown that the Savior has the power to save even powerless things, for both these reasons he willed that we believe in his benevolence…”

    An Apostolic Father would really need to be an echo of an Apostle such as here with a nice teaching on justification along the lines of St. Paul. If we have any other teaching, we know what Paul pronounces upon it. And all this is because the poor sheep of Christ are otherwise burdened with a troubled conscience and the freedom Christ brought is nullified. A false teaching of works-righteousness is an affront to God and a murdering of souls.

    Plus, in this way Christianity distinguishes itself from all other religions. This is why this Epistle is also an Apologetic work for Christianity.

    Bryan:

    You have quoted me nothing from scripture, from Church fathers, from the confessions, etc. We hear again the assertion that Luther arrogated to himself an authority which does not belong to him, but assert on the other hand that the Magesterium has authority. We hear no apology for atributing teachings to Luther which he did not profess, again. It does not matter to whom the lectue was addressed. What is false is false. You are sorry or Feingold should be sorry, that would be the response. But no, it seems like slander of Luther is a favorite past-time. But, indeed, it is not about him, it is about the teaching. He could have made from himself a much more pleasant life than challenging the corrupt medieval church.

    We hear again not what kind of sacrifice the mass is exactly supposed to be. We again repeat that Christ himself called it a Testament. You can make as many words about it as you like. As to the Calvinists we repeat: “This is my body”. To you we repeat: “This is cup is the new testament in my blood”. Note the word “new” and “testament”. It is so simple. Christ gives us his gifts and we are thankful. This is the sacrifice of praise.

    The abuse of the mass, really, I should not have to explain to you. For money the forgiveness of sins is “sold” to the poor people who can least afford it. Even now we hear stories from around the world where children have not been baptized because they cannot afford to pay the priest. Lutheran pastors encounter this everywhere with people form poor nations. As the mass and the all the various ones, such as Requiem masses, etc. were “read” (rather than eaten and drunk, as Christ institutes) for money to gain merit for people, whether they were repentant or not, or even still alive or not (how shall the dead repent?), the abuses were completely unspiritual and very much based on greed. The church was corrupt and becoming a joke to the humanists (Erasmus and his biting satire). The church was a tyrant silencing critics by excommunication, torture and murder.

    This is all so well known, it hardly bears repeating. The sacrifice of the mass and the resulting merit of performing it was at the center of how all these deplorable situations came about. I have a video about the Medici of Florence. Somehow they managed even make a man a pope who was a pirate. Everything for money, money, money, including, of course, the bishopric of Mainz. The pope who granted it, himself became a cardinal at age 14, against canon law. The archbishop of Mainz also purchased his offices at too young an age. The poor were supposed to pay for all this. It was like a franchise, like a licence to print money. This is the pope Leo and the archbishop and the times, Luther was trying to reason scripture with and restore the church to the teaching of the gospel. Pretty much all was corrupt because of money and power. The Eastern church never stooped to selling forgiveness and merit. And the money had to do with indulgences and with masses, all of which had to do with merit. These are the nature of the “abuses”.

    And nowhere does Christ say for us to do it this way. And which Apostolic church father tells us to do this. I am curious.

    We shall indeed agree on nothing, if we shall not agree that all subsequent teachings need not rest on the teaching of the Apostles themselves. How can an Apostolic succession differ in content in its teaching from the Apostle’s teaching? The Apostle’s teachings is what we have in scripture. We must take scripture as superseding everything else. If we don’t do that, we are no longer with the Apostolic teaching.

  85. Bryan:

    This is the second time you have called me “uncharitable”.

    Whether or not something is “pastorally helpful” is an important point. It does not change what we confess in accord with scripture; but what scriture tell us is that God is good, that God forgives, that God loves, that God is my Father in heaven, that God is the good shepherd. His heart is the concorn for us. Therefore, what is pastoral is what counts at the bottom of it.

    Lutheran systematic theology is exactly about what is pastorally helpful. Basically the center of it is the justification by Christ’s work which then excludes both pride and despair in the person. Around this the other systematics are connected. The reformation was ignited by a pastoral concern. People no longer repented and trusted in Christ, since they could gain salvation by following the church’s steps and measures such as buying an indulgence. (Do not tell me that Lutherans don’t teach repentance. You cannot really believe in the forgiveness of your sins without repentance. How can I rejoice in the forgiveness of my sins, if I don’t know that I have sinned. We all know it. The law is written on man’s heart.)

    “If the work of man were forbidden… then Jesus would never have commissioned the Apostles to do a single thing.”

    You are misrepresenting Reformation teaching and take Paul out of context. You seem unwilling to understand that works that are good must come from the good tree, the tree that willingly and freely,uncoercedly and naturally produces its fruit.

    The description and reasoning for how the Roman Catholics arrived at a dogma of the Assumption of Mary and the subsequent denigration of other Christians (who are accused of innovations when they try to lead the church back to scriptural teaching) whose opinion on the matter need not be asked since they are schismatic, is insulting and illustrates what many people think of RC initiatives at ecumenism: the Roman church is incorribigle and dishonest in its overtures.

    If the Roman church had allowed a reasonable debate during the Reformation and mended its ways at that time, instead of persecuting those who spoke truth to it, a unity of doctrine might have been arrived at.

    I am really, at the moment, finished speaking with you Bryan. We will see at Christ’s coming who is the church. The Lord knows his own and they know his voice.

  86. Dear Brigitte,

    Bryan is certainly capable of responding to you on his own, and perhaps he will, but I’d like to jump in briefly.

    I’m sorry to see you cut off further conversation with Bryan and leave with as rhetorically charged a flourish as: “We will see at Christ’s coming who is the church. The Lord knows his own and they know his voice.” Clearly, you’ve become exasperated. I’m having difficulty seeing what has provoked this degree of exasperation, other than straightforward statements of disagreement with doctrinal positions you hold dear (especially sola scriptura, justification, and the nature of the Church). I know your commitment to these positions is deep, but surely you can see that it is not legitimate to stipulate that Catholics should accept your views on sola scriptura, justification, and the nature of the Church in order to have a fruitful discussion that might contribute to greater Christian unity. Yet when these stipulations have been rejected by Catholics in the comments above you’ve reacted quite strongly and negatively. I’m morally certain that no one intended to insult you or exasperate you.

    At any rate, I hope you’ll stick around and patiently dig deeper with Bryan and others.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  87. Re #84

    Jesus is Lord and Mary is His mother

    One of the early problems I had was that Protestantism was parsing James (faith and works) through Paul (you are saved by grace through faith and not by works lest any man boast), and essentially denying James in the process. On a practical level Luther’s position that James was an epistle of straw was being maintained although no one had the courage to write him out of the Bible. However, this is the same Paul noted that one was to work out one’s salvation in fear and trembling. It appeared to me that Paul and James were in conflict and that Paul and Paul were in conflict. So much for easily understood scripture.

    When I was reading Acts about Paul, in any city or town where there were Jews, he would visit the Jews first. He would give his Jewish brethren the good news before he gave it to the gentiles.

    I learned from reading Paul’s letters, with the exception of Hebrews which is entirely dedicated to the Jews, he would first write to the Jews and then to the entire congregation including the non-Jewish Christians. Romans is a very good example of that fact. When Paul writes about the Law to the Church in Rome, he is not writing about the Roman law, he is writing about the Jewish law. This is not about the 10 stone tablets or Seneca or Cicero or anything Roman at that time, it is about Moses and the law that was given to the Jews.

    This is very important for a specific reason. The early history of Christianity involves the desire of Jewish Christians to force the works of the Law on the non-Jewish Christians. A good example is that circumcision is being pushed. Paul’s position: Avoid the cutters! (This is a derogatory remark about those who would force circumcision on the gentile Christians). Paul is waging the fight against having the Law forced on non-Jewish Christians.

    Once I understood what Paul was doing, I was no longer trying to force James to conform to Paul. I was not trying to force Paul to conform to Paul. I was cognizant of Jesus’ call for us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and to visit those who are sick and in prison. I did not take that statement for a suggestion, and it certainly fitted nicely with “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” and with “I’ll show you my faith through my works.” Scripture was no longer contending with itself and both James and Paul were in agreement with Jesus Who is responsible for our direction.

    There was and is a lot more for me where that came from, about the Eucharist/Passover, or Mary, or Simon Peter, but it really boiled down to whether Jesus founded a Church of Which He is the Head, and if He permitted It to fail after saying the gates of Hell would not prevail against It.

    The failure of the Church was my inherited position as an evangelical. It was a position inherited from Luther and maintained by a veritable army of individuals whose interpretations of scripture range far afield from the Roman Catholic Church, and from Luther, and Calvin as well, on through the history of individual or private interpretation of scripture which undergirds Protestantism’s myriad and conflicting positions. Protestantism is not merely a religion in conflict with Catholicism, it is a religion in conflict with itself.

    I was quite fortunate. I wanted the Truth more than I wanted anything else. I wanted the Truth more than my being right about everything. Given where I started, I was right about wanting the Truth, and for a number of years wrong about virtually everything else. Once I was no longer in charge, finding and accepting the Truth became much easier. If I had been accused of kicking against the gode, it would have been an accurate depiction.

    Pride of place in telling God what He can and cannot do has been replace by humility and a realization that He is not limited by any conception of mine. I am rather and regularly startled by what He can do and what He does. A proper conception of scripture certainly is part and parcel of that recognition.

    I hope this for anyone who reads this letter. May the Truth find you and may you find the Truth. And His mother. And His chamberlain/associate high priest. And His sacraments. And His scripture.

    dt

  88. “Blessed are the pure in heart.”

    I don’t know anyone (other than Christ Himself) who fits that description.

    I do know that many actually believe that they are. And I think that is a terribly dangerous place to be (pride).

  89. Bryan said:

    “The Catholic Church did not come up with the doctrine of the Assumption 2000 years later. This doctrine has implicitly been part of the Tradition from the very beginning . . .”

    According to Pope Benedict himself, that does not appear to be true as he states in “Milestones”:

    “Before Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was defined, all theological faculties in the world were consulted for their opinion. Our teachers’ answer was emphatically negative… ’Tradition’ was identified with what could be proved on the basis of texts. Altaner, the patrologist from Würzburg…had proven in a scientifically persuasive manner that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was unknown before the fifth century; this doctrine, therefore, he argued, could not belong to the ‘apostolic tradition.’ And this was his conclusion, which my teachers at Munich shared.”

    If it’s been a part of “Tradition” since the beginning, please provide us the names of the apostles that taught his doctrine, and the documentary evidence that shows this. But then again, you’d have to have evidence that the pope and his fellow Catholic scholars around the world couldn’t find.

  90. Dear T. Ciatoris,

    thank you for your note. I do not wish to be curt or give the sense that I am not willing to speak with anyone or someone in particular. It is just that life is short, and the messages are long, and RC’s find it somehow ok to misrepresent Reformation teaching, denigrate the solas, strenously defended by marty’s blood, sweat and tears against great odds and still refer them to the Magesterium of all places, all the while calling those who hold to the gospel “schismatic”, “heretical”, “not church”, “innovators”, “setting up their own selves as authories”, not to mention “uncharitable”, forbidding good works and repentence, etc. ad nauseam.

    There comes a point where one commends your conscience to the Lord above. Sort it out with Him. This is not a flourish. This is Coram Deo. Go there before Him and sort it out with Him. That’s all. He is the one to whom we answer. He is the one we want to listen to.

    I will not be able to convince anyone. And the Magesterium I will never follow. And my conscience I will not have oppressed. So there is really not much else to talk about, at this point, as I can see.

    To take in this slander of Luther, I cannot stomach either. I commend you also to actually read some of his theological writings on the sacraments and such, as well as the Book of Concord. You would be in good company of serious RC theologians.

    Blessings to all.

  91. Brigette,
    I’ve been following these posts the past few days or so and as I read your comments it seems to me that you are almost engaging in a sort of tirade against the others. I am sorry if I am reading you incorrectly but it is difficult at times to read on the Internet because it is difficult to gauge emotions through text. I think that in the past few days you’ve also been making reference to my post about the New Testament being initiated at the Lord’s Supper, but have been mis-attributing it to other commentators on this thread so far (I went back and checked for the use of the word and it was not used by those whom you have addressed so far). I do not know if this is just a series of accidental errors in attributing ideas addressed by different commentators to the wrong persons but perhaps, if I may suggest it, it may be helpful to read some of our posts more slowly. We’re not trying to attack you or your beliefs harshly, but we are trying to maintain a dialog with you about where we think you may be wrong on certain doctrines. I hope that you can see a form of the spirit of charity in our words, please bear with us though if you see us as being offensive to you.

    With regards to my comments about the New Testament. I cited Hebrews to show that St. Paul is writing that a testament (testament is another term for covenant, as in Old Covenant and New Covenant) is begun only when the author of the testament has died is a testament formed. The tension I was referencing is that the Gospels say that the New Testament is begun when Christ says that what is in the chalice is the blood of the new testament. The point being is that one interpretation of the passages of the Gospel accounts and the words of Hebrews is that Jesus literally starts the New Testament/Covenant before He’s died on the cross, but that St. Paul has written that testaments do not begin or have any force until the author of the testament has died. The way that a Catholic might resolve this tension is by saying that the sacrifice of Christ’s Passion is mystically made present at the Lord’s Supper, and the fact that Jesus says do all this in commemoration or remembrance of Me is a sign that the Eucharist is supposed to be the literal unique and only sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary made present again. This is what Catholics believe the Eucharist does and they see this as a fulfillment of John 6 and Malachi 1:11. However, we are likely to disagree on these interpretations of what the Scriptures are saying and so that is why we are so insistent on looking for orthodoxy in reading the Scriptures with the tradition of the Church as a guide to the apostolic teaching. Bryan and others touched on regarding the tradition of the Church apart from Scripture alone.

    With regards to your reply to Mateo on works. Catholics do not believe in works-righteousness, we can’t make a checklist and win our way into Heaven. That’s Pelagianism which Catholics condemned. If you want to see the Catholic doctrine of salvation you might want to see Bryan’s post on St. Augustine’s perspective of salvation titled St. Augustine on law and grace:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/07/st-augustine-on-law-and-grace/

    I don’t think I find any issues with the letter to Diognetus, or at least my interpretation of him, with respect to the Catholic dogmas. This may be my interpretation of your words to Bryan and Mateo but it sounded a lot like an admonition. With regards to the Treasury of Daily Prayer, I do not mean to be disrespectful but Catholics make use of something called the Divine Office which serves a similar function I presume as the Treasure of Daily Prayer. The Divine Office is a way of devotion of reading certain passages of the Scripture, singing of the psalms, reading of the works of the Fathers, during several periods of the day. The Divine Office or at least a form of it seems to have been around at least prior to the 3rd century (or at least it seems so from my reading of “Mary through the centuries by Jaroslav Pelikan at how St. Athanasius makes reference to a commemoration of the Blessed Virgin as a defense against Arianism).

    Regarding your comment with Bryan:
    “You are misrepresenting Reformation teaching and take Paul out of context. You seem unwilling to understand that works that are good must come from the good tree, the tree that willingly and freely,uncoercedly and naturally produces its fruit.”

    I do not think Bryan or any orthodox Catholic would deny this since we don’t believe in meritorious or ‘good works’ prior to being regenerated by grace nor do we believe one can do a meritorious deed without the assistance of grace in carrying out said meritorious deed.

    Perhaps on another point, this thread is more about predestination but I suppose, if the moderator is willing, can continue our discussions on this thread.

    All this in mind, I do not mean to cause you offense in any way, but it seems that you are writing in as if you were very offended by many of our comments. If I have offended in any way I sincerely apologize, I do not mean to do any harm but only try to help in discussing my perspectives and trying to see how we can be reconciled and brought back into communion with one another.

    With the humble hope that we can dialog further:

    God bless,
    -Steven Reyes

  92. Steven, the point of that quote From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s auto-biography, was to criticize the ‘scientific’ historical-critical interpretation of History. The precise opposite of the use you are making of it.

  93. Steve G (#89):

    I believe y0u’re missing the point of the remarks from Bryan and then-Cardinal Ratzinger which you quote. The key word in that remark is “implicitly.” But the fundamental issue is much larger.

    As a young theologian, Ratzinger recognized that the dogma of the Assumption cannot just be logically deduced from the early texts that are extant. He still recognizes that. But he also affirms said dogma as part of the deposit of faith. Accordingly, he is committed to denying the premise that a given doctrine can be accounted part of the deposit of faith only if it is explicitly stated in, or logically deducible from, the early texts that are extant.

    That is clear from another passage in the same section of the book from which you quote. Referring to Altaner’s argument, he writes:

    This argument is compelling if you understand “tradition” strictly as the handing down of fixed formulas or texts. This was the position that our teachers represented. But if you conceive of “tradition” as the living process by which the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what we previously could not grasp (cf Jn 16: 12-13), then subsequent “remembering” (cf Jn 16:4, for instance) can come to recognize what it had not thought of previously and yet was already handing down in the original Word. But such a perspective was still quite unattainable by German theological thought.

    Given that context, what Ratzinger was doing in the quotation you offer was explaining why the theologians who educated him were opposed to treating the Assumption as anything more than a pious fancy, and why he eventually came to reject the premise about the nature of tradition that his teachers shared. So, he affirms the Assumption as part of the “original Word,” but contained in that Word only implicitly, and recoverable only by the activity of the Spirit in the Church over time. That was the view of the Eastern churches who came to celebrate the “Dormition” (different word, same idea) of the Theotokos in the fifth century. And that is the Catholic view.

    This reflects a fundamental difference of paradigm between Catholicism and certain sorts of Protestants. But that doesn’t mean Catholicism (or Orthodoxy) is false. It means that conservative Protestants have adopted a hermeneutical paradigm which is not dictated by Scripture itself, any more than the Catholic or Orthodox HPs are.

    Best,
    Mike

  94. Michael

    I’m not misunderstanding anything. I knew exactly where Bryan or you or anyone else would go with this from the beginning but I just wanted to clarify the facts of the situation and get the cards on the table. Bryan stated that the assumption has been part of tradition since the beginning. That is clearly false since your own Catholic scholars say there is no evidence for this before the 5th century. Indeed the earliest evidence for this belief is found in apocryphal Christian writings which the Catholic Church said early on were not to be considered as part of the faith. Indeed some of these writings were actually condemned by some of the early popes, interestingly enough.

    Of course Benedict believes in the Assumption of Mary, he’s the pope after all. But your follow up quotation of Benedict shows the intellectual contortions one has to go through to believe this dogma. It’s not found in any of the earliest traditions, so he and you and Bryan have to think of tradition as a “living” tradition, which is just another word for doctrinal development. Bryan tries to have it both ways, appealing to a sort of historical evidence (there are no relics of Mary), but also covers himself by stating that it only came to be “explicitly affirmed” over time. The church denies doctrinal development of course, but that really doesn’t resolve the contradiction. Call it what you want, but there it is.

    Calling it part of the “deposit of faith” and saying it was always there, if only “implicitly”, and recoverable only “under the activity of the Spirit” doesn’t wash. If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s still a duck. So it is with the Marian dogmas – they’re all examples of doctrinal development. There’s little or no historical evidence for any of them, but since the church says they’re true, you’re stuck with defending them. You’ve all taken the blue pill (obligatory Matrix reference here).

  95. Brigitte (re: #77)

    It may not be recognizable to all people here, but my concern is the truth and unity of all of us in Christ.

    All of us here at CTC likewise share that same concern.

    RC and Calvinists differ in irreconcilable ways. Luther already saw that and defended scriptural truth in both directions. At the heart is always that we trust in God’s word and promises without overspeculating on things beyond our reason.

    That’s exactly what Calvinists say, and yet Calvinists and Lutherans come to different conclusions when they interpret Scripture.

    It is not true that a unified confession cannot be arrived at or that scripture will lead us in a thousand directions. For one thing the Confessions contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 have been maintained by the confessional Lutheran church for 430 years

    You might have misunderstood me. I wasn’t claiming that two or more people cannot come to the same interpretation of Scripture, and form a ‘confession’ based on their shared interpretation of Scripture. Any group of persons holding a shared interpretation of Scripture can formulate a confession. And that’s what the Reformed confessions are, and the Lutheran confessions, and the Baptist confessions, etc. (See here for a list of all different sorts of Christian creeds and confessions.) When in #74 I said:

    Moreover, the hypothesis that if we just stick with Scripture we won’t have doctrinal confusion and disagreement, has been patently falsified by the five-hundred year experiment that is Protestantism. It simply doesn’t work, because apart from an authoritative Magisterium, people cannot agree how to interpret Scripture and what exactly are the essentials.

    I was saying that the claim that unity among [all] those who sincerely wish to understand Scripture is achieved by Scripture alone has been falsified. Not even the majority of people who use Scripture alone can agree on a creed. What remains of Protestantism are thousands of mutually incompatible belief systems fragmented into further subdivisions;nor is there any sign that in the future all these fragments will, upon reading Scripture more closely, suddenly come to a general agreement concerning the faith. But, the fact is that even Lutherans cannot agree among themselves. Among the ‘alphabet soup’ of present-day Lutheran denominations are: TAALC, AFLC, ALC, CLB, CLC, ALCC, EKD, ELCA, ELS, IELC, ILD, LCA, LCC, LCMC, LCMS, LCR, NALC, and WELS.

    and I do not see RC’s or Calvinists dealing with them or refuting them. I’d actually like to see some articles taken up and dealt with. Who does actually not agree with what and do they have a good reason?

    Ok, I’ll keep that in mind for future posts and article. But I would say that much of what we have already written here at CTC applies just as much to Lutheran theology as it does to Calvinist theology.

    The Bible is not a sealed book. I grew up reading and discussing it and I have put in about 30 years teaching Sunday School and such. It is slander of the Bible to say that it is not clear ways.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “clear ways.” But nowhere in the Bible does it say that it is slander of the Bible to say that it is not by itself sufficient to govern Christ’s Church or sufficient by itself to bring all sincere readers to unity of faith. You are going beyond Scripture, but treating your own opinion as though it were Scripture.

    Some principles of interpretation need to be applied as in the proper distinction between law and gospel, as in letting scripture interpret scripture, etc.

    If certain [theologically-loaded] “principles of interpretation” must be brought to the text of Scripture in order for all readers to agree on its meaning, then Scripture alone is not sufficient for reaching agreement concerning its meaning. The “law / gospel” paradigm, for example, is theologically loaded, as I showed here. The problem, however, is that you don’t have the authority to tell all other Christians what assumptions and “principles of interpretation” they must bring to the text. So your options are either to find some way to give yourself universal authority over all Christians so that you can require them to bring your “principles of interpretation” to the text, or accept the Tradition as an interpretive guide as handed down to us by the Magisterium instituted by Christ, as I have explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    We always have our trained clergy we can ask for further clarification.

    Every sect can make its own “trained clergy” who will take a wage to teach members of that sect how to interpret Scripture according to the tenets of that sect. That’s why it is absolutely essential that the clergy not only be ‘trained’ but also that they be divinely authorized, which requires that they receive Holy Orders. Lutheran pastors, however, do not have Holy Orders, because Martin Luther rejected the ministerial priesthood, affirming instead the universal priesthood of all believers. For that reason, if you disagree with your “trained clergy,” you can, like Luther, simply leave and start your own denomination, and all who follow you can call themselves by your name, instead of Luther’s. But St. Isidore, bishop of Seville (570-663) writes:

    They are heretics who depart from the Church, calling themselves by the name of their author. … Arians are so called from Arius the presbyter of Alexandria, who did not recognize the Son as coeternal with the Father and asserted different substances in the Trinity, against which the Lord said “I and the Father are One.” … Priscillianists are so called after Priscillian, who in Spain composed a teaching which combined the errors of the Gnostics and the Manichees. … Pelagians are called after the monk Pelagius. These place free will ahead of divine grace, claiming that will is all that is needed to fulfill the divine commands. Nestorians are called after Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, who claimed that the Virgin Mary was the mother, not of God, but of man, so that one person was made of the flesh, another of the divinity, and did not believe in One Christ in the word of God and in the flesh….

    According to St. Isidore, one very common feature of a heresy is a group that separates from the Church and calls itself after the name of its author. You might think that there is a great exception for Lutherans, though not for Calvinists. But surely that’s what all these sects have thought, that they were the exception, that they were right and all the other sects were wrong.

    As for the allegedly disunity of Catholics, I have addressed that in a number of other threads here. The disunity is not a disunity within the Church itself, but between those Catholics who believe what the Church teaches (i.e. orthodox Catholics), and those who don’t (material heretics). The latter have separated themselves from the one faith of the Church, but they have not separated or divided the Church.

    Some of these opinions, by the way, are strongly leaning towards rehabilitating Luther, admitting that the treatment of him has been “nasty”, to quote a Canadian RC Bishop. I know that the current pope has encouraged people to read Luther for himself. That’s bit of a change from only saying to him “you must renounce your books” or you will be excummunicated (and surely he was).

    I agree that certain Catholic writers of the past were unfair in their portrayal of Luther.

    The Magesterium only succeeds in opressing consciences by making people feel pressured to believe and do things that they do not wish to do and believe. This is not good for them nor pleasing to the Lord. He will not have forced service or devotion or belief. You cannot really force a belief. Belief is inspired by the person who speaks to you (God) and the message of truth itself.

    The Magisterium does not “oppress” consciences; it informs them. If a person doesn’t believe that the Church has divine authority, then he has no reason to feel ‘pressured’ to do anything the Church mandates. But if he believes that the Church has divine authority, then his conscience should check him when he is tempted to disobey her precepts.

    The labyrinth of RC dogma and cannon law, somebody said, would not be something that the Apostles themselves would recognize or know their way around, never mind the poor laymen. This is defeating and obscures the good news.

    Claiming that the test of doctrinal truth is its degree of complexity goes beyond Scripture. Moreover, I can point you to some fundamentalists who would use this very test to justify tossing out the Book of Concord. The problem is that you are using your own position as the standard for what is or isn’t too complicated. Therefore, what is ‘too complicated’ is simply whatever is more complicated than your position. I don’t think the Apostles would recognize church buildings, pews, pulpits, stained glass windows, etc. But I don’t see you tearing Lutheran church buildings down. They definitely wouldn’t recognize the Book of Concord, but that doesn’t stop you from using it or promoting it. So you’re being arbitrary in how you apply this “WWTAR” [What Would the Apostles Recognize”] test.

    The Church grows over time not only in her size, but also in her understanding of the deposit of faith. And doctrine comes to be more explicit and specifically defined. So you should expect the two-thousand year old Church to be much more developed in its doctrine and law, which is exactly what we find. It wouldn’t be a good defense on the Day of Judgment to say to God, “The reason I didn’t enter into full communion with the Church you founded is because the doctrines and laws were too complicated.” That reasoning is much like that of the servant who buried his talent, in the parable Jesus told.

    All kinds of acretions should really be removed.

    The problem is that you are treating genuine developments as though they are mere accretions. And if you don’t know how to tell the difference, then you shouldn’t be calling for the removal of anything.

    But when he discusses these issues, it all has to come from this papal document or that papal document, all with Latin names that no regular person has heard of and certainly not most non RC. How are we to have dialogue on anything this way?

    I’m glad that you appreciate his talk, and sorry that you found it less than accessible. Ecumenism takes work, a lot of work, because it takes work to understand other positions, just as it takes time and effort to learn another language. A good place to begin, is by reading through the Catholic Catechism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

  96. Steve Martin (re: #88),

    In your comment regarding Christ’s words, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” you write that you don’t know anyone (other than Christ Himself) who actually fits that description. Your implication seems to be that other than Christ Himself, no one *can* reasonably be described as being “pure in heart.” If this is the case, then I am curious– why do you believe that Christ even made such a statement? What would it even mean for Christ to say, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” if no one, other than Him, actually *is* pure in heart?

  97. Steve G (#94):

    I don’t know where you got the idea that the Catholic Church “denies doctrinal development” (‘DD’ for short). For instance, Vatican II says, in a document freely accessible online (references omitted, emphasis added):

    This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

    And just before he became pope, Ratzinger said (emphasis added):

    When I continued my studies in Munich in 1947, I found a well read and enthusiastic follower of Newman in the Fundamental Theologian, Gottlieb Söhngen, who was my true teacher in theology. He opened up the Grammar of Assent to us and in doing so, the special manner and form of certainty in religious knowledge. Even deeper for me was the contribution which Heinrich Fries published in connection with the Jubilee of Chalcedon. Here I found access to Newman’s teaching on the development of doctrine, which I regard along with his doctrine on conscience as his decisive contribution to the renewal of theology. With this he had placed the key in our hand to build historical thought into theology, or much more, he taught us to think historically in theology and so to recognize the identity of faith in all developments.

    What the Pope and the Church would and do deny is the claim that DD adds to the deposit of faith, which is how you seem to conceive it. Rather, DD is believed to express only a deeper understanding of the faith “given once for all to the holy ones.”

    You seem to think that DD is some sort of intellectual sleight-of-hand masking an internal contradiction. But your argument to that effect is invalid. For one thing, your criticism of DD begs the question by assuming that DD constitutes addition to the deposit, which the Church denies, and would only be true if DD could be justified only when it’s deduction from documentary sources considered normative, which is also being denied. In other words, you’re just assuming the very critique of DD that Ratzinger’s early teachers favored, but which he came to reject, for reasons he gives. For another, you claim:

    Indeed the earliest evidence for this belief is found in apocryphal Christian writings which the Catholic Church said early on were not to be considered as part of the faith. Indeed some of these writings were actually condemned by some of the early popes, interestingly enough.

    But that argument masks a fallacy. From the fact that early Church authorities denied that a given text T is a reliable record of the faith, it does not follow that every statement made in T was believed to be false. For instance, among the pre-Nicene documentary sources, the perpetual virginity of Mary is asserted only in the Protoevangelium of James, which the Church authorities decided to exclude from the canon on the ground that its apostolic authorship was dubious at best. Yet the perpetual virginity of Mary was being unreservedly affirmed by both the Eastern and Western churches well before the fifth century. So, just because a given belief appears in a text that was not considered reliable overall, it does not follow that everything in it was considered false. The same goes, of course, for the “Dormition” or Assumption of Mary.

    Your argument would be strengthened if you could show that the early Church deemed as legitimate doctrinal developments only those statements which are either explicitly made in sources she considered normative or are logically deducible therefrom. But the evidence does not permit such a move. E.g., there is ample historical evidence that the cult of the martyrs and saints, understood as seeking the intercession of holy Christians who had died and gone to their reward, was well-established by the mid-2nd century and accepted as legitimate. Yet it is not possible to deduce the legitimacy of that practice from the biblical canon or other written sources considered normative at the time.

    So of course I’d say that the four Marian dogmas are doctrinal developments, as the Church herself understands DD. By the criteria used in the Church for as far back as we do have records, they are also legitimate doctrinal developments. One can deny that only by rejecting the idea that a visible Church, continuous with that of the Apostles by apostolic succession, inherits their teaching authority. Which of course is what you do. But you have provided no argument that you should, or even may.

    Best,
    Mike

  98. Christopher Lake (#96)

    I believe that Jesus was laying down (or re-presenting) the law, in order to convict of sin. To make it clear to us that no one has it in them to be what God commands that they be, pure and righteous (other than Him). I believe that is also why Jesus commands that we “be perfect…”. What do you do with that?

    Anyway, after the Sermon on the Mount is finished, Jesus comes down off the mouintain (notice this is also where Moses presented the law) and he encounters a leper (thought to be the most sinful of people) and Jesus heals him. There is the gospel.

    Jesus convicts us, in no uncertain terms, and then he heals us…and not because of any goodness on our (the leper’s) part, but out of his sheer mercy and grace.

    This, I believe, is the law/gospel paradigm.

    Thanks, C. Lake.

  99. @Brigitte #76

    “Where does Jesus talk about this supposed sacrifice?”

    Stating first and foremost that I fully share what Bryan said in #83…

    “Your question presupposes that if something isn’t clearly stated in Scripture, then the Church cannot know it or teach it or require the faithful to believe it. But Catholics don’t hold that presupposition (which isn’t itself in Scripture, and which therefore refutes itself, by failing to pass its own test). The deposit of faith comes down to us through Scripture and Tradition, as mediated to us by the Church. “

    … I will then share my perception that the belief that the Eucharist is a sacrifice follows naturally from Jesus’ words when instituting it and the context in which He said those words. From the account in Lk 22:19-20:

    ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’

    ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.’

    “Given” and “poured”, which some translations render “which is given/poured”, show that Jesus has accepted the Father’s design that “He gives his life as a sin offering” (Is 53:10) and that He is offering Himself to the Father anticipating and making present the sacrifice of the Cross.

    This becomes even clearer when seen in the context of the Passover meal, where the cup over which Jesus pronounced his words was the third, “the cup of blessing” or “the cup of thanksgiving”, taken at the time when the people recited Psalm 116:

    “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

    I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.”

    I like to say that just as the Church re-presents the sacrifice of the Cross in each Eucharist, Jesus pre-presented his sacrifice at the Last Supper. Sure “pre-present” is a term I just coined, but I feel its use in conjunction with “re-present” makes it crystal clear that the Last Supper, the Cross and each Eucharist are one and the same sacrifice.

    For more insight of Catholic doctrine on this point, I suggest reading John Paul II’s “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” #11-13:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_eucharistia_en.html

  100. Brigitte: Dear Mateo: when you quote James to me, why do you quote nothing from Paul and make the two fit with the spirit of letting scripture interpret scripture.

    I quoted James 1:22. I could just as easily of quoted Paul, who says exactly the same thing as James:

    St. Paul: For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Romans 2:13

    St. James:But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

    Brigitte: Paul happens to be responsible for a huge section of the NT and is its main theologian; so maybe James needs to fit with Paul and not Paul with James.

    I am quite sure that Paul would reject this idea. Paul would say that what he preaches is in line with what Christ preached. James would say the same thing. Christ is the “main theologian”, not Paul!

    Brigitte: It has been said before, and let me refer you again to such documents as the Freedom of the Christian Person: The Christian is a perfectly free man subject to none.

    That is not what the scriptures teach! Christ said that Christians must listen to the church that He founded or be excommunicated. (Matt 18:17) The church that Luther founded is not the church that Christ founded, because Luther is not Christ. Christians are not free to reject the authority of Christ’s church.

    Brigitte: I do wonder, though, about you personally, Mateo, whether you think your attempts at good works are good enough to get the job of salvation done?

    Do you think that it is “unscriptural” to keep the commandments? Do you think that man is justified by faith alone?

    “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” Matt 19:17

    “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

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

    The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9

    If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. James 2:8

    … if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12

    … if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Cor 13:2

    You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:22

  101. I will offer my contribution to address the apparent incompatibility pointed out by Kepha between the infallible and irreformable teaching of the Council of Florence in its Session 6 – 6 July 1439:

    “the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”

    and the following (controversial to some theologians) statement of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

    1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.

    The possible solution I will present is based on the first reason Dr Michael Liccione proposes in #67. But before proceeding, I want to state my disagreement with Dr Liccione’s second proposition in #67. The infernum in Council of Florence’s definition is not the same as that in the Creed that refers to the hades to which Jesus descended. The latter was a general term equivalent to sheol, which included both Abraham’s bossom and the hell of the damned, two conditions (“places”) that not only were essentially different but also had no possibility of transition between them, as Jesus made most clear through Abraham’s words in the parable of Lazarus and the rich (Lk 16: 25-26):

    ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    Back to the main subject, the key point is: is there any way through which an infant that dies unbaptized may not be in a state of original sin? One possible such way is based on the established doctrine of baptism of desire, summarized (now without controversy) by the CCC as:

    1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

    1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

    Now, how could possibly the soul of an infant desire Baptism and accept and correspond to the saving love of God? In ordinary circumstances it just cannot, as the activity of the soul requires the “physical support” of conscious cerebral activity. But God is able to waiver a soul from that requirement whenever He pleases, as He actually did with St. John Baptist when he “leaped for joy” in her mother’s womb when the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb was revealed directly to his soul, i.e. without going through his senses and brain (Lk 1:41-44). Moreover, Pius XII’s encyclical “Mystici Corporis Christi” states in #75:

    “But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.”

    Since Jesus began to enjoy the Beatific Vision from the very moment of his conception, in technical terms since his Body was in the initial unicellular state in which all human beings begin their existence, the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision as an activity of the soul did not need a corresponding supporting activity of his central nervous system, for He did not have it at the time. On the other hand, since Jesus had a human, not super-human, nature, his Soul had the same capabilities than any other human soul has. Therefore any human soul is potentially capable of enjoying the Beatific Vision from the very first stages of the embryo state, without the need of any central nervous system activity to support it. The fact that no one other than Jesus did or will ever actually enjoy the Beatific Vision when in the womb of their mother is a matter of qualification, not of capability.

    If any human soul can potentially be endowed with the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision right from the initial unicellular state, then any human soul at any stage of body development can be the recipient of a direct revelation whereby God reveals Himself and his saving love to the child and prompts him or her for a decision, either to accept and correspond to his love or to reject it, so that, if the child accepts and corresponds to God’s love, it is an exact case of the undisputed teaching on Baptism of desire quoted above, bringing about the fruits of Baptism so that the child does not depart this life in original sin. I call the speculation that this is the actual case the “direct revelation of kerygma” (drk) hypothesis.

    Now, is this hypothesis compatible with this statement from the Council of Florence in its Session 11 – 4 February 1442:

    “With regard to children, since the danger of death is often present and the only remedy available to them is the sacrament of baptism by which they are snatched away from the dominion of the devil and adopted as children of God,”

    This statement can be understood in two senses: general, as it would also apply to adult people, whereby the compatibility with the drk hypothesis is straightforward per the doctrine of baptism of desire, or specific, as applying only to infants. I see the latter sense as clearly preferred from a straight reading of the paragraph. Thus, the Council Fathers state that the path of baptism of desire is not available to infants. To note, Pius XII states explicitely as much in its well-known 1951 Allocution to Italian Midwives:

    “If what we have said up to now concerns the protection and care of the natural life, with much stronger reason it must hold for the supernatural life, which the newly born receives with Baptism. In the present economy there is no other means to communicate this life to the child, who still does not have the use of reason. And yet the state of grace at the moment of death is absolutely necessary for salvation; without that it is not possible to arrive at supernatural happiness, at the beatific vision of God. An act of love can suffice for an adult to obtain sanctifying grace and compensate the lack of baptism: to the unborn or newly born child this path is not open.” (*)

    Now, since nobody can deny that God CAN reveal Himself and his love directly to the soul of an infant who is about to die and enable him/her to give a response, we can combine this obvious truth with the Papal statement above (which also covers the conciliar statement) in two possible ways:

    A. Assuming that the Pope and Council Fathers implicitely reject the hypothesis that God reveals Himself directly, so that the full Papal statement that takes it into consideration would be: “to the unborn or newly born child this path is not open, because we know with certainty that God does not reveal Himself and his love directly to the soul of a child who is about to die in order to prompt him/her for a response.”

    B. Assuming that the Pope and Council Fathers have not considered the hypothesis that God reveals Himself directly, so that the full Papal statement that takes it into consideration would be: “to the unborn or newly born child this path is not open, unless God reveals Himself and his love directly to the soul of a child who is about to die in order to prompt him/her for a response, which we just do not know whether He does.”

    Clearly the statement in CCC #1261 implies option B. Also clear, the issue of whether option B is a legitimate interpretation of the Conciliar and Papal statements above is a matter of discussion. I am just presenting the possibility, not defending it.

    (*) Personal translation of :
    “Se ciò che abbiamo detto finora riguarda la protezione e la cura della vita naturale, a ben più forte ragione deve valere per la vita soprannaturale, che il neonato riceve col battesimo. Nella presente economia non vi è altro mezzo per comunicare questa vita al bambino, che non ha ancora l’uso della ragione. E tuttavia lo stato di grazia nel momento della morte è assolutamente necessario per la salvezza; senza di esso non è possibile di giungere alla felicità soprannaturale, alla visione beatifica di Dio. Un atto di amore può bastare all’adulto per conseguire la grazia santificante e supplire al difetto del battesimo: al non ancora nato o al neonato bambino questa via non è aperta.”

  102. @Mateo #100

    Hi Mateo, I will add to your points, possibly with some redundance, from a similar discussion last August on the Calvin thread.

    First of all, Jesus Himself makes it unequivocal that good works are necessary to remain in salvation. This is stated in positive statements in John’s Gospel, chapters 14 and 15:

    “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (Jn 14:21)

    “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23)

    “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:9-10)

    “You are my friends if you do what I command you. … This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15:14,17)

    The Apostle John, in turn, makes the same concept clear in negative statements in his first letter:

    Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. (I Jn 3:15)

    If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? (I Jn 3:17)

    And as if all the above were not enough, there is this gem from Paul:

    And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Tim 5:8)

  103. “If you love me you will keep my Commandments.”

    That reveals to us that we really don’t love Him. Certainly not in the way that we should. We have our moments, but Christ’s command to “be perfect…” is an imperative. We need to be perfect, and like…right now! But we won’t. We will not to be. We are our own gods. Idolatry is what we do.

    But, as St. Paul tells us, “Christ died for the ungodly.” God loves sinners! He doesn’t love their sin, but He loves them, nonetheless.

    Christ doesn’t love us because of our “good works” (and the Holy Scriptures tell us that “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags”) but rather He loves us in spite of our “good works”, which aren’t really “good” because they are tainted by sin.

    THIS is the gospel! The good news!

    Would it really be “good news” if we had to perform at a level of perfection in our lives?

    That is not salvation, but damnation, since “no one will be justified in the sight if the law”

    Thank you, very much.

  104. Johannes (#101):

    You wrote:

    I want to state my disagreement with Dr Liccione’s second proposition in #67. The infernum in Council of Florence’s definition is not the same as that in the Creed that refers to the hades to which Jesus descended. The latter was a general term equivalent to sheol, which included both Abraham’s bossom and the hell of the damned, two conditions (“places”) that not only were essentially different but also had no possibility of transition between them, as Jesus made most clear through Abraham’s words in the parable of Lazarus and the rich…

    I’m not sure how you can be sure that what Florence meant by infernum was the eternal fire of punishment rather than merely the underworld. If your interpretation were correct, then we would be obliged to infer that it’s at least possible that those who have never committed any actual sin in their lives are punished eternally. I know of no de fide doctrines that would support such a conclusion. Indeed, CCC §1037 says that for going to hell qua eternal punishment “a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.” That is not the same as “original sin alone.” And that’s why I adopt the interpretation of Florence that I do.

    Best,
    Mike

  105. Brigitte (re: #78)

    You wrote:

    If we don’t chose then we make a liar of God. I see. Or we show our inpotence?

    If we cannot choose, and yet God calls us to choose, then God is falsely implying that we can do something that we cannot do. But God cannot lie and therefore does not lie. Therefore, when God calls us, we can choose to obey, just as Mary “chose the better part” (Luke 10:42), and the Psalmist chose the faithful way (Ps 119:30), and the people of Israel chose to serve the Lord, according to the words of Joshua: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the LORD, to serve Him.” (Joshua 24:22)

    We also have Jesus clearly saying that God choses us not we him.

    You are referring to John 15:16, where Jesus says to His Apostles, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.” Jesus is speaking about choosing the Apostles to be Apostles. He isn’t saying that all those who become Christians do not choose Christ.

    How do we deal with this? Lutheran assert, and I would guess Calvinists, that “ought does not imply can”. We have this all over the OT. Follow the ten commandments! Do this! Don’t grumble! Does the law ever work? Can we be nagged into doing the right thing?

    You assume that the OT is evidence that ought does not imply can. But that conclusion does not follow by necessity from the evidence. The fact that people under the law broke the law does not imply that through the grace God continually offered them they could not keep the law. This is how “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time” (Gen 6:9). This is how Job was blameless and upright. (Job 1:1,8; 2:3) This is how Joseph was a “righteous man.” (Mt. 1:19) This is how Abraham could have a discussion with God about the righteous and the wicked in Sodom; that conversation wouldn’t have been possible if all people are unrighteous. Does that mean that Noah never sinned? No, as Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” So Noah was both righteous and blameless, and yet not without sin. That’s because though he sinned venially, he didn’t sin mortally. And that is true of all the OT saints, who died in friendship with God. They fulfilled the law not necessarily in the letter, but in the spirit of the law, which is the essence of the law. And the spirit of the law is agape. Because they had agape, they fulfilled the law, for as St. Paul teaches, agape fulfills the law (Rom 13:8, 10; Gal 5:14, James 2:8).

    The old testament is an illustration that we cannot follow the law.

    The Old Testament shows us that without the grace of God we cannot keep the law. But in the saints of the Old Testament, we see that with grace we can follow the law — see the saints described in Hebrews 11.

    Love, hope and all good things happen because he first loved us. When we know what Jesus means to us, we cannot but love and adore him and cherish our fellow Christians and in fact all the world by proclaiming and serving. Like in any relationship of love, there is no coercion. Coercion is a love killer. It produces wrath. We know this. We are all in relationships. This is so real and so simple.

    I agree (with a qualification) that coercion is a love killer. That’s precisely why we can choose. If we couldn’t choose, then our service wouldn’t be love, because love is free. People reject Christ not only because they do not know what He did for them. The problem is not fundamentally a lack of knowledge, just as Adam and Eve’s sin was not due to a lack of knowledge. They sinned by freely choosing against what they knew to be right. The solution to sin is not merely knowledge, just as the solution to crime is not merely education. It requires new dispositions in the will, and this requires sanctifying grace, which Christ gives to us through the sacraments.

    God’s grace and mercy creates the faith which receives him and his gifts. Faith is not a work. Hope is not a work.

    No one can believe for you. Faith is a gift from God, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t choose to believe. We believe (it is our will that assents to the revelation of Jesus), but we are enabled to do this by grace. That is why unbelief is a sin, because we do it, and we know we shouldn’t do it. Likewise, hope is not entailed or necessitated by God’s promise, because people can choose not to hope, even while knowing the divine promises. Such a choice is called the sin of despair.

    We can build up or faith and hope and love, by God’s means, his word and sacrament. I can go and be nourished and strengthened. I can pray for help in the empty beggars way. And I can know that in him I have everything. And in him I also have brothers and sister who come to him just as empty handed and who know that they have been made rich in the same undeserved way. These are the most profound relationships. I love these brothers and sister so much, I do want to die for them if needed (so help me God).

    I understand.

    But what comes first is knowing how much God loved us and how he chose us (everyone in the all encompassing, positive way–contra Calvin–never excluding or limiting.)

    I don’t disagree.

    The helping of the lifting. You see, the requirement that I do my part by helping lift poses two problems. It implies that the strong man is either not able to or willing to just simply do it for me.

    You’re overlooking a third alternative. He is graciously giving you the gift of being allowed truly to participate in what He is doing, just as all men live and move and have their being in Him. God doesn’t move our hand to our mouth at the dinner table; He gives us the gift of being able truly to participate in His creation. And He does the same in the order of grace.

    Secondly, I cannot know if I’ve done my part.

    Actually you can, through an informed examination of conscience.

    Back to Bryan, in this connection, he also said that God is not a glory-monger. In fact, scripture says all over that the glory is God’s. In Isaiah we have several times, that we will NOT give his glory to another, that He HIMSELF is Israels savior.

    The meaning there is that God does not permit His people to give to any creature the adoration that belongs only to the Creator. It does not contradict all the verses I mentioned in #74 concerning our participation in His glory.

    In fact, and to contradict Bryan, we kow we have the right theology when God gets all the glory. This is like a litmus test. Please, think about it.

    Here again you are going beyond Scripture (while treating your extra-Scriptural opinion as though it were Scripture). Scripture never says that God should get all the glory, just as it never says “cleanliness is next to godliness.” If God were to get all the glory, then no one could share in His glory, and thus no one could go to heaven. As Catholics we say, “ad majorem Dei gloriam,” (to the greater glory of God). God is more greatly glorified when through His grace His saints are made glorious. That is most evident in the life of the saint whose feast we celebrate today, St. Thomas Aquinas.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  106. Bror Erickson (re: #82),

    The Calvinist doctrine of predestination differs in very significant ways from the Catholic doctrine of predestination; see comments #5 and #8 in Taylor’s earlier post titled “Predestination: John Calvin vs. Thomas Aquinas.”

    Thankfully I know that I am elect, as God has baptized me, and forgives my sins freely on account of Christ’s death and resurrection.

    If by ‘elect’ you are referring to those predestined to receive sanctifying grace, then every Catholic can say ‘amen’ to your statement. But in that case, you are not talking about predestination in the same sense as Taylor’s post at the start of this thread, because he is referring to predestination to glory. If you are referring to predestination to glory, then it would follow that no baptized person could fail to enter heaven. But that is quite obviously false, as I hope you agree. This is why the Council of Trent teaches that:

    No one, moreover, so long as he lives this mortal life, ought in regard to the sacred mystery of divine predestination, so far presume as to state with absolute certainty that he is among the number of the predestined, as if it were true that the one justified either cannot sin any more, or, if he does sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance. For except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God has chosen to Himself. (Session VI, chapter XII)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  107. Brigitte, (re: #84)

    You wrote:

    You have quoted me nothing from scripture, from Church fathers, from the confessions, etc.

    There are many other things I have not quoted from as well, and so likewise many things you have not quoted from as well. But what I have not quoted from does not falsify or nullify anything that I have said.

    We hear no apology for atributing teachings to Luther which he did not profess, again. It does not matter to whom the lectue was addressed. What is false is false. You are sorry or Feingold should be sorry, that would be the response.

    I’m sorry. The truth is very important, and I’m sorry that a lecture I posted contained a false statement that offended you.

    We again repeat that Christ himself called it a Testament.

    And Catholics agree with you about that. And that’s precisely why it doesn’t resolve the disagreement, because that’s not the point of disagreement.

    The abuse of the mass, really, I should not have to explain to you. For money the forgiveness of sins is “sold” to the poor people who can least afford it.

    If that last statement is false, will you apologize, as I have done just above? The Catholic Church does not sell forgiveness of sins. I cannot guarantee that there isn’t some rogue priest somewhere doing so, but doing so is a violation of the doctrine and law of the Catholic Church. I would not be justified in claiming that “the Lutheran Church” is racist, if, for example, a rogue Lutheran pastor made a racist statement in public. Likewise, the charge you are making against the Catholic Church is both false and unjustified.

    Even now we hear stories from around the world where children have not been baptized because they cannot afford to pay the priest.

    May God have mercy on those who make up such a story, and on those who spread such an unverified and slanderous rumor against Christ’s Church.

    As the mass and the all the various ones, such as Requiem masses, etc. were “read” (rather than eaten and drunk, as Christ institutes) for money to gain merit for people, whether they were repentant or not, or even still alive or not (how shall the dead repent?), the abuses were completely unspiritual and very much based on greed.

    The mass is read; the consecrated elements are eaten/drunk. (I attended a Lutheran church for five years, and the pastor always read the liturgy; he never had the whole thing memorized.) In Catholic doctrine it is impossible to “gain merit” for a person who is unrepentant, whether he is physically alive or physically dead. The mass is not only a sacrifice, it is also an intercessory prayer, and just as you believe that your prayers for unbelievers are effective, so we believe that the mass offered for an unbelieving person is effective in leading that person to repentance and faith, or whatever else our intention might be for them. The nominal fee (around $5) to have a mass said for someone is probably much less than your pastor makes in a weekend, so unless you’re prepared to make your pastor work for free, your criticism of the Catholic Church requesting a nominal fee (which is waived where someone truly cannot pay) to have a mass said for someone, is just special pleading.

    The church was corrupt and becoming a joke to the humanists (Erasmus and his biting satire). The church was a tyrant silencing critics by excommunication, torture and murder.

    There were many in the Church who abused their position and authority. But two wrongs never make a right. Corruption by Church officials never justifies schism from the Church. We have no authority to start our own Church; Christ founded His Church and we must stay in His Church. We should be willing to lay our life down, if necessary, to stay within Christ’s Church, working to build her up, even when we find sinners within her.

    The sacrifice of the mass and the resulting merit of performing it was at the center of how all these deplorable situations came about.

    Abusus non tollit usum (abuse does not nullify proper use). The fact that some people abused the mass, does not nullify the truth and benefit of the mass. What was at the center of these abuses was not the sacraments or the mass or the liturgy, but the sinful heart of men.

    I have a video about the Medici of Florence. Somehow they managed even make a man a pope who was a pirate. Everything for money, money, money, including, of course, the bishopric of Mainz. The pope who granted it, himself became a cardinal at age 14, against canon law. The archbishop of Mainz also purchased his offices at too young an age. The poor were supposed to pay for all this. It was like a franchise, like a licence to print money. This is the pope Leo and the archbishop and the times, Luther was trying to reason scripture with and restore the church to the teaching of the gospel. Pretty much all was corrupt because of money and power. The Eastern church never stooped to selling forgiveness and merit. And the money had to do with indulgences and with masses, all of which had to do with merit. These are the nature of the “abuses”.

    Of course I don’t deny the historical facts concerning these corrupt clergymen and the sinfulness of their actions. But, in no way do such actions justify making or preserving a schism from the Church.

    And nowhere does Christ say for us to do it this way. And which Apostolic church father tells us to do this. I am curious.

    It has been the universal Church’s practice from the beginning. There was no uproar or protest as one part of the universal Church decided to make the supper into the mass. That’s because it has always been the mass, even before that term was used. Go into any of the Orthodox or Oriental Churches, and you will find the same idea and practice concerning the mass, even though the Oriental Church have been separated for about 1500 years.

    We shall indeed agree on nothing, if we shall not agree that all subsequent teachings need not rest on the teaching of the Apostles themselves.

    I think you mean “need rest on the teaching of the Apostles themselves.” If that is what you mean, then I agree.

    How can an Apostolic succession differ in content in its teaching from the Apostle’s teaching?

    Apostolic succession is the succession of bishops from the Apostles. As I wrote in #95, “The Church grows over time not only in her size, but also in her understanding of the deposit of faith. And doctrine comes to be more explicit and specifically defined. So you should expect the two-thousand year old Church to be much more developed in its doctrine and law, which is exactly what we find.” That’s the only sense in which the doctrine taught by the Apostles can differ from that taught by their successors many generations later, namely, by a deeper and more specified explication of the original deposit.

    The Apostle’s teachings is what we have in scripture.

    True, but the Apostle’s teaching is also in the oral Tradition which we find recorded in the Church Fathers.

    We must take scripture as superseding everything else. If we don’t do that, we are no longer with the Apostolic teaching.

    That conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premise; it would follow only if you added an additional premise, namely, that the Apostolic teaching was handed down only in Scripture. Because the Apostolic teaching is also contained in the oral Tradition that was handed down alongside Scripture, and recorded in the Church Fathers, we should allow that Tradition to inform and guide our interpretation and understanding of Scripture. In addition, because Christ entrusted His Church to the Apostles and their authorized successors, we are bound to submit our interpretations of Scripture to those of the successors of the Apostles in communion with the successor of the Apostle to whom Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom, and upon whom He said He would build His Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  108. Brigitte (re: #85)

    You wrote:

    This is the second time you have called me “uncharitable”.

    I have not called you uncharitable. I pointed out that two of your comments contained uncharitable assumptions.

    Whether or not something is “pastorally helpful” is an important point. It does not change what we confess in accord with scripture; but what scriture tell us is that God is good, that God forgives, that God loves, that God is my Father in heaven, that God is the good shepherd. His heart is the concorn for us. Therefore, what is pastoral is what counts at the bottom of it.

    I agree with you.

    Lutheran systematic theology is exactly about what is pastorally helpful.

    I think you’re missing my point. Yes, systematic theology is pastorally helpful in the sense that it helps pastors know and communicate the truth. But woe to a pastor who preaches from a systematics text. That’s because systematic theology as a discipline is not the same as pastoral theology, even though the former informs the latter.

    The reformation was ignited by a pastoral concern. People no longer repented and trusted in Christ, since they could gain salvation by following the church’s steps and measures such as buying an indulgence.

    In Catholic theology, an indulgence does not “gain salvation.” It reduces or removes temporal suffering for those in a state of grace.

    I wrote, “If the work of man were forbidden… then Jesus would never have commissioned the Apostles to do a single thing.” You replied:

    You are misrepresenting Reformation teaching and take Paul out of context.

    In my statement I wasn’t intending to represent Reformation teaching; I was making a statement about the permissibility of work in and for the Kingdom. You were claiming that the mass is “a work of man” and that we should instead trust in “Christ’s work and promise.” I was responding to this (in my mind) false dichotomy, by pointing out that our work and Christ’s work can and do go together. And that’s what the mass is; it is Christ’s work in which we are graciously being allowed to participate.

    And as for my quoting St. Paul saying that he fills up in his own flesh what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings (Col 1:24), I don’t think I’m taking Paul out of context. I’m quite familiar with the context of Colossians, and I don’t see any reason to believe that he means anything other than that for the sake of Christ’s Church, St. Paul fills up in his own flesh what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings, to bring the gospel to those who haven’t heard, to build up the Church through labors and sufferings, and to intercede for her.

    You seem unwilling to understand that works that are good must come from the good tree, the tree that willingly and freely,uncoercedly and naturally produces its fruit.

    I’m willing to understand whatever is intelligible. And I agree, of course, that works that are good must come from a good tree. But, in this context, we were talking about the mass. You had claimed that the mass is a work of man, and that we should instead be “trusting in Christ’s work.” But the mass is Christ’s work — and-we-getting-to-participate-in-it.

    The description and reasoning for how the Roman Catholics arrived at a dogma of the Assumption of Mary and the subsequent denigration of other Christians (who are accused of innovations when they try to lead the church back to scriptural teaching) whose opinion on the matter need not be asked since they are schismatic, is insulting and illustrates what many people think of RC initiatives at ecumenism: the Roman church is incorribigle and dishonest in its overtures.

    I’m not insulted when you claim that the Lutherans are right and the Catholics are in error; I expect Lutherans to say just that, nor does it make Lutheran ecumenical initiatives dishonest or Lutherans incorrible. Likewise, I see no reason why you should take offense when Catholics state what the Catholic Church actually believes, namely, that she is the Church Christ founded, and therefore that those who are visibly separated from communion with her are in schism (whether culpable or inculpable) from the Church, and that those who are validly baptized, but who reject some Catholic dogma, are in at least material heresy (whether culpable or inculpable). That doesn’t make Catholic initiatives at ecumenism dishonest, as I explained in “Two Ecumenicisms.”

    If the Roman church had allowed a reasonable debate during the Reformation and mended its ways at that time, instead of persecuting those who spoke truth to it, a unity of doctrine might have been arrived at.

    Translated, that reads: “If the Church that Christ founded had conformed to Luther’s interpretation of Scripture, then there could be unity between her and Luther.” The Catholic Church is not a democracy. Christ gave authority to the Apostles, and they to their successors. We submit to them. They don’t submit to us; they serve us by shepherding us under Christ’s authority. But, likewise, we can consider the other side of your conditional. If those Catholics (who later became the first Protestants) rather than asserting their own interpretation of Scripture, had instead submitted to the Church, with prayer and fasting for her reform, there would have been a great revitalization of the Church, and unity preserved, and no religious wars between Protestants and Catholics. Luther and Calvin might today be Catholic saints, along with St. Ignatius and St. Francis de Sales. And today there would be no disunity between Protestants and Catholics, because there would be no such things as Protestants; they would all be Catholics. Europe might still be Christian.

    I am really, at the moment, finished speaking with you Bryan. We will see at Christ’s coming who is the church. The Lord knows his own and they know his voice.

    I will continue to pray for you and for the reunion of Lutherans and the Catholic Church. Thanks for talking with me, and for your patience.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  109. Steve Martin: “If you love me you will keep my Commandments.”

    That reveals to us that we really don’t love Him. Certainly not in the way that we should. We have our moments, but Christ’s command to “be perfect…” is an imperative. We need to be perfect, and like…right now! But we won’t. We will not to be. We are our own gods. Idolatry is what we do.

    What? Am I supposed to interpret the scripture so that the opposite of what the scriptures actually say is the correct interpretation? Christ says that we are to be perfect, and that if we love Christ we will keep his commandments. The Catholic interpretation of those verses is that they mean what they say!

    It is true that if a man is not in a state of grace, he cannot love God with supernatural love, nor can he keep God’s commandments in a way that is wholly pleasing to God. But the Gospel is that Christians are reconciled to God through the death of Christ, and born again into a new life through the resurrection of Christ. The good news is that Christians are not slaves to sin, and because we have been freed from the slavery to sin, we can keep God‘s commandments!

    How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:2-4

    We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin … you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:6 & 11

    We see in the scriptures Christ’s commandment to be perfect at the end of Matthew’s Gospel in chapter five:

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

    This commandment of Christ to be perfect is Christ’s summation of all that is taught in Matthew chapter five, the chapter that gives us the beatitudes, the commandment to love our enemies, etc. The command by Christ to be perfect is a commandment to live a life of perfect love, and that is the essence of the Gospel. To say that Christians cannot keep Christ’s commandment to be perfect, is to actually deny the heart of the Gospel. We will indeed struggle with our concupiscence as we try to love as Christ loves, but to claim that Christians in a state of grace cannot manifest supernatural charity is to deny that we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

  110. Steve Martin (re:#98),

    Thank you for your reply. I understand the Law/Gospel way of reading and understanding Scripture; I subscribed to it for years and thought that it was the “plain reading” of Scripture. Early last year though, I decided to attempt to take off my “Protestant glasses” and read Scripture outside of that paradigm. I was surprised and shocked at much of what I found.

    You write that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is presenting us with the Law, in order to convict us of sin and to show us what we cannot do. I would agree with you, emphatically, that we can do nothing without God’s grace. That is a basic Christian truth on which Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants would all agree. It is not only Protestants who view the concept of “earning salvation by works” as a false gospel. The Catholic Church condemned that very concept at the Council of Trent hundreds of years ago.

    Again though, in terms of interpreting Christ’s “Blessed” statements in the Sermon on the Mount, it seems strange that He would state, quite clearly, that “Blessed are the pure in heart” and “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” if no one, other than Him, actually is, or even *can be*, pure in heart or poor in spirit. Why would He choose such an apparently clear and straightforward statement as “Blessed are the pure in heart” as a roundabout way of telling people that they can *never* be pure in heart? The Law/Gospel paradigm of reading Scripture simply does violence, logically and linguistically, to Christ’s statements in the Sermon on the Mount. I write this as one who held to that paradigm for years.

    As I wrote above, Catholic teaching is opposed to the heretical concept of salvation by works. Many Protestants aren’t aware of this, but it is the case. God’s grace is the source of both our redemption *and* our works. He gets the glory, not us, in the Catholic understanding. However, Protestants often hone in on certain verses to say that even the works of Christians who are striving to follow God are seen as “filthy rags” by Him. This is an inaccurate, unbalanced understanding, for in Revelation, the saints are described as being dressed in fine linen, which is made up of their righteous deeds. Our works are only seen by God as “filthy rags” when we are attempting to use *them alone* as a way of being seen as “righteous” before God. When coupled with faith though, and when springing from faith, the works of Christians do actually please God. This is consistent with the whole counsel of Scripture, not certain verses read out of context.

    About the “Be ye perfect…” verse, Protestants take a clear command from Christ and attempt to fit it into “Law/Gospel.” Catholics, however, are able to understand that verse as it is written, *as* a command. Of course, we will not become perfect in this life, but we can strive for it (not to “earn salvation by works” though), and it will be completed in Purgatory. The Catholic view is Scripture’s view– Christ did not die simply so that we could be seen through His righteousness, if we trust in Him. He died so that, trusting in Him and living *from* that trust, we could actually *become righteous*. Not perfectly, not in this life, and not to earn salvation from God. Truly though, in obedience to Christ’s commands.

  111. Clarification to #110– when I wrote, “not in this life,” in the last sentence above, I did not mean that we could not become righteous at all, in this life, but rather, that we could not become *perfectly* righteous in this life. Many people are described as righteous throughout Scripture, and it often emphatically not on the basis of “faith alone.” Not that such righteousness earns us salvation… but Scripture does indicate that *by God’s grace*, Christian can do righteous deeds.

  112. Christopher Lake,

    Thanks, very much.

    How are you doing? How’s the religious, ladder climbing going? Are you living on a slim margin of income and giving the rest to the poor? Are you visiting the sick in hospitals and th prisiners in the jails and prisons? Are you inviting your enemeies over to dinner. Have you divested yourself of everything, for no one can be His disciple without so doing?

    I’m sure you are doing all those things.

    Thanks for a very enlightening discussion.

    Off to live mylife in Christian freedom.

    Good bye, and good luck.

  113. Steve Martin,

    I’m struggling to think the best of you right now, but your comment to Christopher Lake in #112 sure does come off as caustically sarcastic, arrogant, and malicious. If I’ve misread your tone (which happens often enough in comboxes), please correct me. If not, I would humbly implore you to reconsider your remarks and apologize to Christopher.

    Incidentally, those who’ve been around this site for long know that Christopher Lake is a man who has suffered and sacrificed a great deal for the love of Christ. Just thought you should know.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  114. Dear Steve Martin,

    By the grace of Christ empowering us to conform to His image, Catholics strive to visit the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the poor. I pray you strive to do the same; for no amount of interpretive gymnastics will benefit any of us on the last day. As far as I can tell, only the Catholic understanding of Christ’s infused grace making us both “legally” righteous AND enabling us to follow His commands makes any sense out of our Lord’s most starting words. A gospel that offeres eternal life with God, while making no demands on us is both cheap and false.

    31″But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’
    37″Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’
    40″The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
    44″Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’
    45″Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    You may want to seriously reconsider a novel view of justification by “faith alone” which forces you to ridicule the very acts of love which Christ Himself proclaims will determine your eternal destiny. Whoever hears His word and does not keep them is like a man who built his house upon the sand . . . . . .

    You have my prayers.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  115. T. Ciatoris,

    If you are struggling to think the best of me, then maybe you are NOT one of the predestined. Christ loves His enemies and forgave them.

    All I’m trying to do is to let you spiritual navel gazers know that you have a long way to go, and that time is a runnin’ out. You’d better get busy. Christ commands all those things I earlier mentioned, and if you won’t do them then I think there is some trouble a brewin’.

    Food for thought.

  116. Steve Martin,

    I was trying to think the best of your previous comment precisely out of charity. I do love you and forgive you. Go with my prayers. And please, again, reconsider the name-calling, sarcasm, and mockery.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  117. T. Ciatoris,

    When Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” and told them that they were “whitewashed tombs”, he didn’t do so with malice, but rather to expose the religious phoniness and hypocrisy.

    I’m sorry if I offended you, T. Ciatoris.

    May the peace of the Lord be with you.

  118. Steve Martin,

    I will surely continue to ask the Holy Spirit to search my heart for religious phoniness and hypocrisy. I hope you will do the same whenever you cast yourself as Jesus and others — whom you don’t know personally — as Pharisees. I must admit to having a little trouble understanding your reasoning on this score: Christopher Lake and others have insisted on (1) taking Jesus at His word and (2) recognizing their utter need for grace to do so. How that makes them Pharisees is simply beyond me.

    And also with you.

    TC

  119. Thinking that we are capable of doing a pretty good job with what God commands us to do is what makes us Pharisees.

    Personally, I know that I am not up to it.

    But my Lord has declared me righteous for His sake.

    That’s the gospel.

    Thanks, TC.

    Ciao!

  120. “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” Matt 19:17

    We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin … you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:6 & 11

    … chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ … 1 Peter 1:2

    As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-15

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

    Steve Martin: Off to live mylife in Christian freedom.

    If freedom in Christ is not freedom from the bondage of sin, a freedom that allows me to live a life of holiness, then what is it? Is it the “freedom” of a spoiled and undisciplined child that does whatever he wants to do? No.

    And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? — “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-11

    Steve, what exactly do you think freedom in Christ is?

  121. Freedom in Christ is a couple of things.

    It is freedom from the demand of the law for righteousness. No more religious ladder climbing is necessary.

    And it is freedom for the neighbor. Since I do not have to be worried about pleasing God with my religious performance, then I am free for the needs of the neighbor.

  122. Steve Martin,

    Thinking that we are capable of doing a pretty good job with what God commands us to do is what makes us Pharisees.

    From a scholarly point of view, the work of Krister Stendahl, E. P. Sanders, and N. T. Wright has exploded this opinion, in which Pharisees become proto-Pelagians. As a rhetoric construct, though, I’ll accept it.

    Personally, I know that I am not up to it.

    I’m quite certain that everyone participating in this combox would agree wholeheartedly. We can do nothing apart from Jesus.

    But my Lord has declared me righteous for His sake.

    And there’s the rub. I do not believe that God declares things to be so that are not so. The gospel is not a declaration that we are holy so that we don’t actually have to become holy. The gospel is the amazing news that we can participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity through Christ in the power of the Spirit. As wayfarers on earth, we participate by faith, hope, and charity. This is why faith in Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection is not the undoing of the commands to be holy, as God is holy; to be perfect, as God is perfect; to be merciful as God is merciful; to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Rather, faith in Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection is the way we enter into the perfect freedom of the children of God, in which we share His divine life and so fulfill His commands, not in servile fear, but in charity. That’s how our righteousness can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees so that, by His grace, we might enter the kingdom of heaven.

    That’s the gospel.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  123. Steve,

    In addition to other instances in the O.T. regarding the righteousness of certain individuals (such as Job), how do you resolve Psalm 14:4-5 with the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness according to Protestants?

    Psalm 14:4-5 says:

    “Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord? There they are in great dread, for God is with the righteous generation.”

    Do you think that the people in the O.T. were merely “declared” righteous as opposed to actually being made righteous by the grace and love of God transforming their lives, resulting in obedience?

  124. Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagee.

    I say that Christ declares us to be, makes us Holy, and this is totally His work (in the Word and Sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion)…

    and you say that we have some role to play in making ourselves Holy.

    Some role to play for us is not the good news, but rather bad. For “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”

    I’ll trust in His work, and you can trust in yours.

    Semi-Pelagianism is the theology of the Roman Church, and I don’t buy it.

    I would never go so far as to say that Romanists are not Christians (as do many Protestants), but I will say this, there is a more excellent way, and that is Christ ALONE.

    Gotta run. Take care, God bless and have a wonderful life full of the Lord’s blessings!

    – Steve

  125. Brian M.,

    Romans 4

    “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

    Romans 4:4
    “Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift, but his due.

    5 And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”

    I don’t think it can be any clearer than that.

  126. Dear Steve Martin,

    That all sounds like good news, except that when I sin I feel guilt. Your interpretation of the good news does not seem to speak to this reality in my life. Its not merely that I am trying to do good. Its that I feel bad when I sin.

    I do find the Gospel according to the Catholic Church to be good news. It speaks to this reality. On the one hand, it teaches that Jesus Christ died for my sins and saved me. It takes it a step further, however, and tells me that Grace – especially the merits he earned for me on the cross – are working in my life right now and continuously forming me in his own image.

    God doesn’t just pretend that I’m righteous. He actually works in my life to help me become righteous! That is the Good News of Jesus Christ. To think anything less is, frankly, to empty the cross – the saving work of Jesus Christ – of its power.

    Blessings to all!

    Deacon Bryan

  127. Steve,

    I understand that you want to be done. Fair enough. Briefly:

    Some role to play for us is not the good news, but rather bad.

    Actually, it’s good news, because it means that God saves us as free, rational creatures with whom He wishes to share His divine life.

    As another commentator has pointed out, your interpretation of Isaiah 64:6 does not sit well with Revelation 19:8 (among other passages). Actually, a quick glance at the context of the former verse would help immensely.

    I’ll trust in His work, and you can trust in yours.

    The fact that you think that we Catholics are saying that we trust in our own work rather than the work of Christ suggests to me that you’ve imbibed anti-Catholic polemical slogans to the point that you simply cannot “hear” what has been written over and over in the comments above.

    Semi-Pelagianism is the theology of the Roman Church, and I don’t buy it.

    I’m glad you don’t buy Semi-Pelagianism, as it is a condemned heresy. For a response to your unsubstantiated charge that this is what the Holy Catholic Church teaches, see here.

    Thank you for your parting blessing. May we all be ever more open to the transformative mystery of Christ.

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  128. Gentlemen:

    It doesn’t take much to expose the charge that Catholic doctrine is semi-Pelagian, despite the Church’s solemn condemnation of semi-Pelagianism, as altogether bogus. It’s just one more instance of people thinking that they know better than the Magisterium what the Magisterium really means. I don’t need to supply the appropriate label for that attitude. But with that said, we need to ask ourselves why so many people find the charge plausible.

    I believe the answer lies in the attitude of many faithful, churchgoing Catholics, and in how that attitude is reinforced by the usual tenor of preaching at Mass. The main outline of the spiritual life is typically presented and understood as moral improvement. Grace is usually spoken of as though it were some sort of unseen fuel for the journey of becoming “a better person.” For that, we pull up, tank up, pay up, and pull out; just observe the parking lot of a typical Catholic Church before and after Mass. Among the better Catholics, the attitude in question often has the effect of causing people to believe that God owes them heaven as a reward for taking his demands seriously. Or so I’ve observed. We must frankly admit that such an approach is a distortion that kills enthusiasm, especially among the mass of lazy, ignorant, worldly Catholics who think they’re good people just as they are, thank you very much. As a distortion, it is not downright false, but it only gets half the picture.

    As most guys around here know, the reality of the life to which are called out of darkness is to become “partakers of the divine nature” (1 Peter 2:4), by which we become “gods” (cf. John 10:34). That implies three things: we are nowhere near what we are meant to be, we cannot become that by ourselves, and yet we can gradually get there with the help of the God who dwells within us by virtue of the sacraments and prayer. Can you imagine the effect on many Roman Catholics if the theme of divinization were regularly sounded from the pulpit? I don’t know about you, but I’d be inspired. Which is the opposite of what one finds at many Sunday Masses.

    As long as the spiritual life is thought of primarily as moral improvement, most people will be discouraged. Some will just give up; others will hang in there, depressed. That is no way to evangelize. Let’s pay more attention to our true doctrine. If we did, we wouldn’t hear the semi-Pelagian song so much.

    Best,
    Mike

  129. Gentlemen,

    This is my last word. We are starting to chase our tails.

    I have been trying to defend Christ’s work FOR us on the cross and in our Baptisms.

    You guys are trying to defend our work. Just look at that for a moment, will you?

    When you standing someday before the Living God, do you really want to point to your seriousness, your good efforts, your good deeds?

    For me, I will point to Christ alone.

    Thanks, all.

  130. Steve,

    I do hope you check back in. I just have a brief comment to make about what you wrote:

    “Since I do not have to be worried about pleasing God with my religious performance, then I am free for the needs of the neighbor.”

    I have great sympathy for why Reformed people can get confused on these topics: you mention that you are not worried about “pleasing God”, yet R.C. Sproul wrote a book on that very topic, Pleasing God. Why would Sproul write such a book if pleasing God were not something to be concerned about? I am reminded of what one writer wrote of much Reformed discussion of sanctification: a dense Puritan fog hovers over the conversation leading to much confusion within the Reformed camp on the topic.

    The second thought is this: since you do not have to worry about pleasing God you are free for the needs of your neighbor. It sounds as if you are saying that the good deeds you do for your neighbor are for your neighbor alone. That strikes me as a man-centered approach to sanctification, since those good deeds, I gather from your position, cannot please God. That seems rather Pelagian in an interesting way. It also strikes me as unbiblical, considering Jesus Christ said if we give even a cup of water in His name, we would not lose our reward, and the whole tenor of His discussion of the final judgement suggests that in the face of our neighbor we behold Christ, “whatsoever you do unto the least of these, my brethren, you do unto Me.”

  131. Mike,

    A hearty Amen from me.

  132. @ Steve Martin #129

    Certainly when that day comes, I will First be grateful the Jesus my Lord and Savior. And one of the things I hope to be able to be grateful for is that I don’t show up empty handed in heaven because by the grace of God I won’t have let His work in me come up barren.

    What I don’t want is:

    “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

    “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Mathew 25:26-30

    It is All Jesus and it is all FOR Jesus, and of myself I am nothing. But the Gospel is clear, Jesus wants me to DO something with what I have been Given.

    Peace and Blessings

    GNW_Paul

  133. Steve Martin (re:112),

    You asked me some pointed questions in response to my last message. I don’t mind you asking these questions, but I do hope that you will remain here long enough to hear my answers. Your questions for me are as follows (reproducing them here, exactly as you wrote them, with no alterations):

    “How’s the religious, ladder climbing going? Are you living on a slim margin of income and giving the rest to the poor? Are you visiting the sick in hospitals and th prisiners in the jails and prisons? Are you inviting your enemeies over to dinner. Have you divested yourself of everything, for no one can be His disciple without so doing?”

    In response to the first question, I am not climbing a religious ladder. I am striving to live a holy life, NOT to earn salvation (as if that were possible), but in obedience to God, because I love God, for who He is and all that He has done for me.

    Regarding your second question, I am, in fact, living on a slim margin of income, because I have the physical disability of Cerebral Palsy, I use a wheelchair, and I am not able to drive back and forth to a job. Partially due to these factors, I am currently unemployed and, yes, living on a slim income. I am not even allowed, by the government, to give money to any organizations which help the poor (including my church). If I do so, I must report that money to the government, which will then take money *out* of my already slim income….. because surely, in their reasoning, if I can afford to give money to the poor, then I don’t need much of the slim income that I receive from disability benefits.

    Concerning your third question, Steve, I wish that I were able to visit the sick in hospitals and prisoners in jails. I truly do wish that. I have done so in the past. At the current time, I am not living close enough to a good public transportation system, so that I can visit hospitals and jails. I hope and pray for that to change in the future…. again, not to supposedly “work my way to Heaven,” but because I know that God desires for His concerns, as expressed in Scripture (for the sick and imprisoned), to be the concerns of those who claim to love Him. Not earning salvation– being conformed to the character of Christ. By the way, if all of the works of *Christians* (which are not done to earn salvation) are “filthy rags,” why does John state in Revelation that the saints in Heaven are dressed in fine linen, which is their righteous deeds? How can filthy rags also be described in Scripture as righteous deeds?

    You asked if I am inviting my enemies over to dinner. Due to my current physical situation, I can’t even easily get out, on my own, and meet anyone to invite them anywhere. However, via e-mail and Facebook, I have reached out to many of my friends from my several years as a Protestant (which only ended about six months ago). A few of these friends have responded by continuing to accept me as a brother in Christ, albeit by decision to return to the Catholic Church (which I believe to the Church that Christ founded, with continuing apostolic succession to this day, but that’s another issue). However, most of my Protestant friends have rebuked me and/or shunned me for my supposed “abandoning of the Gospel.” I still love them and care about them, as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have forgiven them for their treatment of me. Two years ago, I might well have reacted in much the same way, if a brother who had been a committed Protestant, and believer in the Law/Gospel paradigm (as I was), had returned to the Catholic Church.

    In your last question, you asked if I had sold everything, because supposedly, without doing so, no one can be Christ’s disciple. I pray that, by God’s grace, I am *willing* to leave all that I have, in terms of earthly belongings and attachments, in order to obey Christ, if He should ask me to make that kind of radical sacrifice. In returning to the Catholic Church, I have lost entire communities of cherished Protestant friends. I would still love to have them as friends, but the choice is not entirely up to me. Right now, after having been a returned Catholic for about six months, it seems that I have lost most of my Protestant friends. Perhaps that will change in the future. If it doesn’t, I am willing to live with that painful sacrifice.

    Steve, I’m not sure what I, or anyone here, can say to you, to help you understand that the Catholic Church *does not hold* that our works earn us entry into Heaven. The entrance into Heaven, and to a relationship of personal faith with God, was opened, in a sense, before the foundation of the world, because God saw fit to plan redemption, through Christ, before Christ even came to earth. Those who have ever been, and ever will be, saved, will be saved by God’s grace alone through Christ alone.

    Pope Benedict XVI has even stated that if what Luther meant by “faith alone,” is a faith that is formed by love (for God and man), then the Catholic Church can accept “faith alone.” However, to say that our faith alone justifies us eternally before God, and that works play no role in at all in our final justification, is to go beyond Scripture itself. God does initially justify the ungodly. He does so through the baptism of infants, who are born (as I, you, and all sinful humans were) with the stain of original sin. As life continues though, we must obey God, if we claim to love Him. Faith without works is dead. James explicitly rejects faith alone, without works, as a faith which will not justify. *This* is the “faith alone” which the Catholic Church rightly rejects as a heresy.

  134. Sorry for the typos in that last message, Steve M. and everyone! Please ask if you need clarification on anything!

  135. Christopher

    I am confident you serve Jesus and his Church well in your prayers. Thank You.

  136. Steve Martin (re: 125),

    I could respond by quoting other verses that seem to contradict your understanding of Scripture, but I’m not sure that would be helpful at this point. I’m curious though, if Romans 4:3-5 clearly teaches the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, how did the church misunderstand St. Paul for at least a thousand years until the time of the Reformation?

    Also, how would someone know if a passage is “not” clearly teaching something? In other words, what principle do you use to distinguish between clear passages and unclear passages? I guess I’m wondering how an appeal such as, “This verse teaches x because it is clear,” is even helpful. What is clear to one person is not clear to another person. For example, someone could just as easily point to James 2:24 and claim that this passage “clearly” teaches that one is not justified by faith alone. They could claim something along the lines of, “It is so clear that this verse refutes the Protestant doctrine of imputation that Luther wanted to throw out the Book of James due to the overwhelming clarity.” But, of course, you would clearly disagree with such a claim.

    Brian M

  137. Mateo: Steve, what exactly do you think freedom in Christ is?

    Steve Martin: It is freedom from the demand of the law for righteousness.

    Steve, your answer make no sense to me.

    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

    If freedom in Christ means that I am free from the law of righteousness, that would mean I can be righteous in Christ while I hate God and hate my brothers!

    Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

  138. GNW_Paul,

    You are kind, my brother. Thank you, and please pray for me. I have much, much room to grow in my prayer life– not to earn God’s love, which is already there for me, but simply to love God and others more deeply and truly. As a single man, I see it this way– if I were married, I would (hopefully, if I were thinking rightly) want to spend much time talking with my wife each day. Therefore, as a Christian, that is how I should think and live in my prayer life… but as so many of us who love God know, the life of prayer can be a struggle. Pray for me, my brother. Thank you again.

  139. Mateo (re:#137),

    I won’t presume to speak for Steve, but many Protestants believe (and I believed, in my years as a Protestant) that there were two ways to be saved and accepted by God (with the first one being purely rhetorical and, actually, impossible for sinful humans):

    1. To live a life of complete perfection, always thinking and acting in complete fidelity to God’s revealed moral law in the Bible, or…

    2. To believe that Jesus Christ alone lived that perfect life, and to put my faith in Him for salvation, which would then mean, in *Protestant terms*, that His perfect righteousness would be credited to me by God, and that I would be, henceforth, seen and loved by God as though I actually were morally perfect. This would then “free” me to live a life of good works, out of gratefulness to God for His gift of salvation. In general *Protestant terms*, if I had no desire to live such a life, this would be evidence that I had never actually put my faith in Jesus Christ in the first place.

    The above way of interpreting the Bible’s teaching on salvation, to me, no longer seems to square with the Biblical texts themselves. It is certainly not consistent with the apostolic teaching of the early Church. Until Luther and the Reformation, such an “imputed righteousness” understanding of salvation was, to my knowledge, unknown and unthinkable. Now, many Protestants would assert that this doesn’t matter, because the “imputed righteousness” understanding is the “clear teaching of the Bible.” This is an *assertion*, though, not at all a clear reality, and it is an assertion with which Christians did not agree for 1,500 years. I no longer agree with it myself, which is one of the reasons that I left Protestantism to return to the Catholic Church.

  140. Chris, good to see you posting again to CTC!

    Thanks for attempting to explain the way that some Protestants understand the meaning of grace (your post # 139). I would like to bounce a few of my comments off of what you have written, if you don’t mind, to explain what I see as the defects in this understanding of grace.

    … many Protestants believe (and I believed, in my years as a Protestant) that there were two ways to be saved and accepted by God (with the first one being purely rhetorical and, actually, impossible for sinful humans):

    1. To live a life of complete perfection, always thinking and acting in complete fidelity to God’s revealed moral law in the Bible, or…

    Option number one is nothing more than Pelagianism. Protestants are correct that this option is impossible for fallen man. But option one does point to a truth – that IF a man did live in this fashion, he would be living in a way that is pleasing to God. Those who don’t live this way are called “sinners“, and they aren’t living in a way that is pleasing to God.

    2. To believe that Jesus Christ alone lived that perfect life, and to put my faith in Him for salvation, which would then mean, in *Protestant terms*, that His perfect righteousness would be credited to me by God, and that I would be, henceforth, seen and loved by God as though I actually were morally perfect.

    This is a view of grace is what I mentioned in my post # 45, where “grace” is viewed as a legal fiction. The person with “grace” holds a legal contract that declares him to be “not guilty”, even though he is guilty and he is still enslaved to the bondage of sin. Your “as though” qualification is the reason for the word “fiction“ in legal fiction. God is pretending to see us as something that we really aren’t, and this has to be a pretense on God‘s part, because God is omniscient, and he would always know what the real truth of the matter is. One thing that strikes me as nonsensical in this point of view, is that the man not obeying God in option one is a sinner that is living a life that is displeasing to God, and the man that has “grace” is also a sinner that is leading a life that is … that is … that is what? If “grace” doesn’t actually free me from the bondage to sin, then the person with “grace” cannot help but live a life that is no different than the sinner in option one!

    This would then “free” me to live a life of good works, out of gratefulness to God for His gift of salvation. In general *Protestant terms*, if I had no desire to live such a life, this would be evidence that I had never actually put my faith in Jesus Christ in the first place.

    I disagree with the last part of what you have said, because I know plenty of Protestants that don’t believe that at all. Southern Baptists, for instance, when they defend their version of “Once Saved, Always Saved” will typically tell you that once you get “saved” there is absolutely, positively, no conceivable sin that you could ever commit that would cause you lose your salvation. If a boy was “saved” as an twelve year old, and died fifty years later as a God hating, unrepentant, apostate Satan worshipper, he would go straight to heaven when he died. The Southern Baptist would say that the “saved” boy that became an unrepentant Satan worshipper “grieved the Holy Spirit” but he was still secure in his salvation. The “saved” unrepentant Satan worshipper was horribly backslid to be sure, but nevertheless, he is eternally secure in his salvation because of his act of faith as a boy. The following is from the Southern Baptist Convention’s website:

    All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

    http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp#iv

    The caveat that those who “had no desire to live such a life” (a moral life) would be showing evidence that they were “never saved in the first place“, is a statement that one would hear more often from Calvinists as they defend their version of OSAS. The Southern Baptist version of OSAS is full blown antinomianism, while Calvinists generally are not given over to antinomianism. So there are two distinct flavors of OSAS within Protestant evangelicalism, the Baptist flavor and the Calvinist flavor. The Baptist flavor of OSAS stems from their belief that “saved” men have free will, and they can freely choose to commit sin if that is what they feel like doing.

    Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man
    http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp#iv

    In my admittedly limited interactions with Calvinists, it seems to me that they want to avoid the heresy of antinomianism, but the question of free will causes them fits, since they know for a fact that the Southern Baptists are right – Christians can sin if they want to sin. Which leads to what one Calvinist friend of mine called “salvation anxiety”. Supposedly, if one is lucky enough to be a member of the elect, the life of holiness automatically manifests itself in selfless acts of charity without any effort on the part of the Christian. Which means that if one is struggling to be loving to those who hate you, it just might be a sign that one is damned but don’t know it. The struggling is the tip-off that gives one cause for doubt, because if one is struggling to be holy and selflessly loving, it is possible that one is not one of the lucky few that God chose to be saved from the eternal fires of Hell. The struggler might be a sinner predestined for damnation that is really just faking it in an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of those in the church for whom the life of holiness is a breeze that automatically manifests in their lives.

    The above way of interpreting the Bible’s teaching on salvation, to me, no longer seems to square with the Biblical texts themselves.

    I agree. Grace isn’t a legal fiction, grace does not give me a legal contract that allows me to commit any sin I feel like committing with the assurance of “eternal security”, and grace does not turn me into a holy robot that has no free will. Even with grace, I will struggle to overcome my concupiscence, but that is no reason for despair or doubt, because I know that God is for me, even when I struggle to live up to my vows.

    This I know, that God is for me.
    In God, whose word I praise,
    in the LORD, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust without a fear.
    What can man do to me?
    My vows to thee I must perform, O God;
    I will render thank offerings to thee.
    For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
    yea, my feet from falling,
    that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

    Psalm 56: 9-13

  141. Mateo (#140),

    Thanks for your reply! I do wish that I were able to comment at CTC more regularly and predictably. Some of the “irregularity” therein simply has to do with circumstance and the availability of time. Some of it also has to do with the fact that my, and others’, comments can be somewhat lengthy, and because of my Cerebral Palsy, I am not able to type as quickly as many people. Therefore, writing a lengthy comment can be an investment of some time for me. I do hope to begin commenting again more often here though, whenever I can!

    (Can someone please remind me again how to do the “block quoting,” in regard to other peoples’ comments? Thanks! )

    As a Catholic Christian, of course, I agree with you that the first, purely rhetorical “way to salvation” that I posted is Pelagian, and therefore heretical, and inherently impossible for sinful humanity. Actually though, part of your response to it illustrates why many Protestants, especially of the Lutheran/Presbyterian/Reformed Baptist camps, believe that nothing (nada, no work which we do) can ever please God.

    You write that:

    “Option number one is nothing more than Pelagianism. Protestants are correct that this option is impossible for fallen man. But option one does point to a truth – that IF a man did live in this fashion, he would be living in a way that is pleasing to God. Those who don’t live this way are called “sinners“, and they aren’t living in a way that is pleasing to God.”

    This is why *confessional* Protestants, such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Reformed Baptists, some of whom are happy to be “Southern Baptists,” in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention (the “confessional* part being an important qualification which I should have used earlier– my mistake) generally believe that the works of Christians cannot be please God. Christians are still sinners. Even our best works usually (always?) have some element of pride, some element of selfish motive or desire. Therefore, in this view, which many Protestants hold, we cannot ever “please” God by our works. We must put our trust in Christ’s work on the cross– and Lutheran and Reformed Protestants hold that this trust is *God’s* work, not something which we, of ourselves, choose to exercise, at least in a certain sense. Therefore, in the general Lutheran/Reformed view, salvation must be by faith alone, or we begin to supposedly fall into a view in which we are attempting use our sin-tainted works to please God– and in this view, sinners can never please God by anything that they (we) do– not even sinners who are trusting in Christ alone, and out of that gratitude, doing “good” works. In this view, nothing we do can ever be truly “good,” because everything we do is tainted by sin. However, we *are* still to do certain works, out of our love for God, and because He desires transformed lives from those whom He has elected.

    Actually, in the strict, confessionally Reformed sense, those whom He has elected *will* lead transformed lives, because He has elected them, *and* He will enable and empower them to lead such lives. If we don’t lead at least *somewhat* transformed lives, in this view, then we were likely never elected by God in the first place… which is why many Reformed congregations are strongly exhorted by their pastors, as I was myself, to “examine yourselves, to see if you are in the faith.”

    The situation which you describe, of “imputed righteousness” being a legal fiction, would be denied by the Lutheran/Reformed, because they do not see themselves as being “enslaved to the bondage of sin” any longer. They would retort, to Catholics and others, that they are *still sinners*, but they are not *enslaved* to sin, for if they were, they would have no power to resist sin, and through regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they *do* have the power to resist sin. (Just to be clear, being a “revert” Catholic, I am merely explaining certain forms of Protestant theology here, not agreeing with them!)

    The “Once Saved, Always Saved” brand of Southern Baptists, whom you have encountered, are not actually considered to be “historic Baptists” by Reformed Baptists– and both OSAS Baptists and Reformed Baptists are found in the Southern Baptist Convention… Reformed Baptists would even say that theirs is the historically “Southern Baptist” theology, as the founders of the SBC were more Calvinistic, subscribing to a more rigorous “perseverance of the saints” understanding of sanctification, rather than the somewhat glib OSAS. Sorry, I know that this can all be very confusing to an outside observer of Protestantism!!

    All of the above (my entire comment) points out the confusion and fragmentation of Protestantism– and I mean Protestantism, itself, and especially Sola Scriptura, as a working principle. Lutherans and the Reformed would bristle at such a statement, but the fact is, when one interprets Scripture *and* historic confessions of faith, ultimately, according to one’s own understanding of Scripture, history shows that confusion and fragmentation are the results.

    Even within *conservative Lutheranism and the confessional Reformed congregations alone* (“Reformed,” here, broadly referring to Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, Reformed Anglicans, etc. who subscribe to an historic confession of Reformed faith), there continue to be splits and more splits, into different denominations and ecclesial communities, who cannot agree with each other on their interpretations of certain Scriptures and the *implications* of those Scriptures for the Christian.

    This, finally, is the fruit of Sola Scriptura– yes, Sola Scriptura, as understood within conservative, confessional Lutheran and Reformed congregations, as opposed to the a-historical, non-confessional “*Solo* Scriptura,” which confessional Protestants deride for not taking into account, in matters of Scriptural interpretation, the historic confessions of Reformed faith. The Sola Scriptura principle cannot provide the unity among believers for which Jesus prayed in the high priestly prayer.

    Sola Scriptura cannot even provide this unity among believers, in terms of *formal teaching*, in confessional Protestant churches, because one can leave, when one’s interpretation of Scripture comes into *sufficient* conflict with the confession of one’s church, and then join another “confessional” Protestant church. Confessions are no bulwark against the exegetical, and ecclesial, fragmentation which is the inevitable result of Sola Scriptura.

  142. Christopher Lake: (Can someone please remind me again how to do the “block quoting,” in regard to other peoples’ comments? Thanks! )

    Under the “About” pull-down menu on the top of this page, click on “Comment Formatting”. You will also find there a link to the “sandbox’, where you can check to see if your HTML formatting tags are doing what you want. I always write my posts first in a word processor, and then cut and paste them in the “sandbox” to get a preview of what I am about to post to the comment box. If you are working with Windows, the ctrl+c (copy) and ctrl+v (paste) commands makes the whole process relatively painless. It helps too, to make the CTC sandbox a favorite in your web browser.

    Christopher Lake: … *confessional* Protestants … generally believe that the works of Christians cannot be please God. Christians are still sinners. Even our best works usually (always?) have some element of pride, some element of selfish motive or desire. Therefore, in this view, which many Protestants hold, we cannot ever “please” God by our works.

    It is true that when we are baby Christians our love of God is probably less than perfect. But I have to believe that even baby Christians that are trying their best to live holy lives are pleasing to God, even if their love of God and neighbor is somewhat mercenary because of their spiritual immaturity. Where the Protestants are wrong is the extremist view that asserts one can never grow sufficiently in the spiritual life to reach THE UNITIVE WAY OF THE PERFECT. But Protestants often don’t make a distinction between sin and concupiscence, so of course they would think that they are fundamentally “sinners”.

    As an aside, I would not completely agree with this statement you made in your post #110 which has to do with the Way of the Perfect:

    Of course, we will not become perfect in this life, but we can strive for it (not to “earn salvation by works” though), and it will be completed in Purgatory.

    Actually, by cooperating with God’s grace, you can reach a level sanctity in this life such that you would go straight to Heaven when you die. Life in this place of exile can be our Purgatory, if we allow it! And that is what we should all be striving for, to become great saints on earth that go straight to Heaven when we die. Saving faith is the belief that one can be perfect with the grace of God. A dead faith that is merely intellectual assent to theological propositions can save no one.

    Christopher Lake: The situation which you describe, of “imputed righteousness” being a legal fiction, would be denied by the Lutheran/Reformed, because they do not see themselves as being “enslaved to the bondage of sin” any longer. They would retort, to Catholics and others, that they are *still sinners*, but they are not *enslaved* to sin, for if they were, they would have no power to resist sin, and through regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they *do* have the power to resist sin.

    The “regenerated” man is not enslaved to sin, but is still a sinner … what is that supposed to mean? It is a distinction without a difference.

    If God’s grace is giving a Christian an ability to resist sin, then grace is not extrinsic to the Christian, it is intrinsic to his interior life, and the Protestant should have no problem with the concept of the infused virtues.

    Christopher Lake: The “Once Saved, Always Saved” brand of Southern Baptists, whom you have encountered, are not actually considered to be “historic Baptists” by Reformed Baptists …

    I believe that John Macarthur is at heart a “reformed Baptist” and he takes his SBC brethren to task for their non-Lordship salvation soteriology. Unfortunately, non-Lordship salvation is the belief of millions of evangelical Protestants, and non-Lordship antinomian OSAS is what I hear most often preached on “Christian” radio and television.

    Christopher Lake: The Sola Scriptura principle cannot provide the unity among believers for which Jesus prayed in the high priestly prayer.

    Agreed. I believe that Luther’s sola scriptura novelty is the source of the doctrinal anarchy reigning within Protestantism.

  143. Mateo (re:#142),

    Thank you for the reminder about the comment formatting. Lord willing, I will put it to future use here.

    I don’t have time for a lengthy reply tonight, but I do want to say that I wrote somewhat clumsily (perhaps even inaccurately– I’m not sure at this point) about something in my last comment, and you noticed it and commented on it. It is true, obviously, in Catholic theology, that a Christian can reach such a level of sanctity in this life that at death, he/she will go straight to Heaven, with no need of Purgatory. However, even with such a person, is it accurate to say that he/she has reached *moral perfection* before actually going to Heaven?

    I don’t (yet) understand what you mean by “the unitive way of being perfect.” I clicked on the link which you provided for it, but I don’t see how the content therein (a prayer from St. Alphonsus Ligouri) relates to the concept which you mentioned.

    Reformed Christians would not say that *Christians* are “fundamentally sinners.” In the Reformed view, at least as I understand and was taught it, Christians, fundamentally, are people who love God, because He has transformed (and is still transforming) their minds to love Him, and to love Him more as they grow in grace and truth.

    Only non-Christians would be viewed as “fundamentally sinners” by the Reformed, or more accurately, non-Christians would be viewed as “complete, total, nothing-but sinners,” because in the Reformed view, one either knows God, savingly, through Jesus Christ, and trusts in, and happily submits to, Him (in an overall sense, in one’s life, though with falls into sin)– or one does not know God through Jesus Christ, and one hates God, in the depths of one’s heart, and is perpetually at war with Him.

    I can very much identify with what you wrote, in an earlier comment, about “salvation anxiety” among Reformed Christians. As a Calvinist, I would try to “rest in the work of Christ,” but at the same time, I was exhorted to examine myself to make sure that I was in the Faith, i.e. of the elect. I would go back and forth, from one month to another, based on how much I seemed to be living a “faithful life.” I would fall into (choose to) sin of varying degrees, at different times, and wonder if I were truly elect. I experienced the “assurance of salvation,” sometimes, of which Calvinists speak, and which they say that Christians, normatively, *should have*– but at other times, after falls into certain sins, I would come close to despair and wonder if I were not deceiving myself about my being one of the elect.

    As a Catholic, I no longer trouble myself about the “assurance of my salvation,” because such “assurance” is actually a form of *presumption*, which is to be avoided by Christians. I am either in a state of grace or not at a given time. I am either avoiding serious sin (all sin being grievous but Scripture itself stating that certain sins are more serious), *or* I am committing, or have committed, serious sin, and therefore, I need to avail myself of Confession and penance, to return to a state of grace. These things are *in Scripture*, and if Protestants would accept the context in which Scripture was actually written and canonized (the context of the Church), they would understand these things. That understanding requires acceptance and submission though. It requires a renouncing of one’s interpretive autonomy *over* Scripture, and Protestants will not renounce that autonomy. It is how they came to exist as Protestants.

  144. Correction to my previous comment, mateo– apparently, I had time (or made time) for a lengthy reply but just not an *extremely* lengthy one!

  145. Christopher Lake:I don’t (yet) understand what you mean by “the unitive way of being perfect.” I clicked on the link which you provided for it, but I don’t see how the content therein (a prayer from St. Alphonsus Ligouri) relates to the concept which you mentioned.

    My link is not working, that is why you don’t understand. Mea Culpa! What I was trying to link to was a website that has an electronic copy of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s book, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Prelude to Eternal Life, part IV, The Unititive Way of the Perfect:

    http://www.christianperfection.info/content4.php

    Christopher Lake:It is true, obviously, in Catholic theology, that a Christian can reach such a level of sanctity in this life that at death, he/she will go straight to Heaven, with no need of Purgatory. However, even with such a person, is it accurate to say that he/she has reached *moral perfection* before actually going to Heaven?

    What does it mean for a Christian to be perfect? Fr. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange answers that question in the same book in Part I, Chapter 8, The True Nature of Christian Perfection:

    http://www.christianperfection.info/tta18.php

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Christian Holiness

    2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.

    2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments – “the holy mysteries” – and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

    Christopher Lake:As a Catholic, I no longer trouble myself about the “assurance of my salvation,” because such “assurance” is actually a form of *presumption*, which is to be avoided by Christians. I am either in a state of grace or not at a given time.

    Exactly. It is a mistake to equate the consolations that God may give you with your state of grace. Baby Christians often experience great spiritual consolation, but that is NOT necessarily a sign of great spiritual maturity. The “Dark Night of the Senses” and the “Dark Night of the Soul” are transitional stages leading to the Unitive Way of the Perfect, and these transitional stages are noted for their lack of consolations and their spiritual aridity.

    … we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him …Romans 8:16-17

    CCC 2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

    He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.

Leave Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Subscribe without commenting