Thought experiment for monergists

Apr 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Monergists, i.e. Calvinists and some Lutherans, claim that man cannot cooperate with God in salvation, because that would detract from God’s glory. I think that by God’s glory they mean something like “God appearing very impressive to everyone.” They probably mean additional though related things, like God doing whatever he wants. But let’s stick with that, the idea of God’s glory as God being impressive.

First, imagine a man rolling a large stone up a hill. If someone else helps him out a little bit, gives a little shove, then the man does not appear as impressive as he would had he rolled alone. Now, imagine a man holding a little child in his arms. This man essays to roll the stone up the hill. The child, having comparatively no strength and being absolutely unable to even reach the stone unless his father holds him up, reaches out to push as well. What would be more impressive, for the father to set the child aside and push alone, or for the father to let the child put his hands on the stone and join in the task of rolling the stone up the hill? The answer is obvious. A man who can hold a child, let the child “help,” and still roll the stone up the hill is far more impressive.

Of course, there is a sense in which the father does all the work. The child really makes an effort, wills what the father wills, but his little push does not add any strength that was lacking in the father. But there is also a sense in which the child really joins in the father’s work. What would be lacking, without the child’s efforts, would be the element of participation, the agape, friend of the father dimension of moving the rock. Got it? Now you have the gist of synergism.

[Update: Subsequent comments on this thread indicate that it would be helpful for me to provide a definition along with the foregoing illustration of synergism. So far as I can tell, synergism denotes the joining of two wills in acting towards one end.]

God does not “need” us (in the sense that his happiness does not depend upon us), but for that very reason he is not afraid to let his children participate in his work of salvation (Philippians 2:12), even as he called us to participate in his work of creation (Genesis 1:28; 2:15), such that “he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:6-7). This participation in salvation through faith and agape, which involves good works, is all a matter of grace. Our Father has his children in his arms. He will never drop us. In his arms, our hearts grow to be like his heart, and we learn to love to walk in his ways.

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  1. Nice. The quasi-Sisyphus illustration reminds me of a story I heard Scott Hahn tell. He says he was out jogging around a neighborhood, and first saw a man mowing his lawn, while the man’s son followed his dad around with a toy mower. On the next pass, Scott says that the man had scooped the child up in his left arm and was pushing the mower with his right, while the young tot was holding onto the mower’s handle and “helping” his dad with the mowing.

    Synergism: dad letting us in on the dignity of labor. You hear overtones of the flabbergasted joy at being elevated to such a dignified position in St Paul’s joy in his evangelistic and priestly work: “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things … So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Eph 3:7-13). No doubt God can think up more direct routes, more immediate and efficacious ways of bringing the good news to the doorstep of every sinner: Angels, voices from heaven booming “This is My Son: Listen to Him,” Moses-es and Elijahs popping in to bear witness, etc. But evidently God likes the sending of the feet to give good news, and maybe that’s because sending the feet to tell it is an integral part of the good-news-reality.

    gloria dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio dei

  2. I take it from a different perspective. Monergists are afraid of free will since it might interfere with God’s sovereignty. After all, if man can choose, then God’s plans can be thwarted. I take it from the opposite perspective (similar to your analogy), God is so sovereign that he can afford to give us free will and still have his plans succeed. Suppose “the plan” is modeled as a race. The winner of the race defines the plan. Monergists say man cannot run in the race since otherwise God would lose. Catholics would say, God is so sovereign that he can afford to let man not only get a head start, but get until a hair’s breath away from the finish line and still win the race.

    Of course, all analogies are imperfect. Ultimately, we have to rest in the mystery of free will versus sovereignty, God’s glory versus man’s actions, since we really are speaking of things to great to fit into out puny heads. As the Church Fathers repeatedly state, the Bible is God speaking to us in baby talk. Unfortunately, our egos often overreach our abilities and we place our trust in our systems of thought rather than in the source of all Truth, Good, Beauty, and Life.

  3. Andrew P,

    Please do check this out for yourself, but I think you will find in a review of the Reformed discussions on the matter that the term and concept of monergism is specifically focused on the doctrine of regeneration. We Reformed hold that regeneration is solely God’s work and man does not cooperate with God to regenerate himself.

    I don’t see any problem is speaking of God working synergistically with man when we are speaking of salvation in a broader sense. God works though our works in brining salvation to a lost world and works with us generally to accomplish to accomplish His will in this world. The fact that God works with us gives our work true significance. It seems to me that positing a God who works in synergistic manner with man is the answer to the dilemma posed by humanists like Camus who see human work as ultimately absurd.

  4. I confess I didn’t much care for Scott Hahn’s lawn-mowing image of divine-human synergism, nor of the Sysiphus illustration. I freely admit that I am probably wrong here, but it seems to me to mean that it’s only play-acting.

    Isn’t this like secondary causes of all sorts? If I walk under a falling piano, it seems to me that it really is the piano that kills me. It is also true that, ultimately, it is God Who kills me. But surely the piano is not just a pretence, a sort of mask for God?

    Similarly, when I choose to pull the trigger on the gun that kills you, it really is my will that did that. To be sure, it is also God willing – ‘permitting’ my will, though I confess I don’t much like that locution, either – that kills you.

    And when I chose in 1969 to become a Christian, and when, in 1994, I chose to become a Catholic – it was surely a real choosing – not just God pushing the lawnmower and letting me pretend to push it and ‘help.’

    I have always really liked the Westminster Confession’s statement on this (III.1):

    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.

    It seems to me when we try to make these apparent paradoxes comprehensible – we simply give up on them, assert one to the exclusion of the other, or something similar.

    Both are true: God is absolutely sovereign. Man’s choices are real and effective.

    But probably I am wrong. If I am, I would like to find out why and how I am wrong.

    jj

  5. Hey Andrew M.,

    I agree that the question of synergism is usually raised with respect to regeneration. However, I am getting some mixed vibes, about synergism in salvation as a whole (including sanctification), from various Calvinist quarters. (Regarding the medieval discussions about a “preparation for grace,” Bryan points out a crucial distinction in “Reply from a Romery Person,” namely, between actual grace and sanctifying grace, whereby man does cooperate with God prior to regeneration/sanctifying grace, but not prior to actual grace. I don’t know if any Reformed thinkers acknowledge something like that.)

    Currently reading Horton’s Covenant and Salvation. Looking forward to the second section on Union with Christ. At that point, perhaps he will affirm the synergistic nature of salvation-as-broader-then-justification-and-regeneration. Thus far, the fundamental problem Horton finds with “covenantal nomism” is that it is a “synergistic perspective,” like that of Trent and certain versions of the NPP. And that problem, for Horton, is not limited to getting in (baptism/regeneration), but staying in (perseverence). Those who want to know “how can I be saved?” will be little comforted by being told that, after God’s unilateral work of regeneration, they must cooperate with God in order to continue to enjoy the life of the covenant (cf. Covenant and Salvation, p. 50).

    But when I turn to my Baxter, and read his intructions to those Christians who wish to obtain the heavenly rest, your affirmation of Reformed synergism clicks, and I start to be grateful that (perhaps) we are not so far apart as might be supposed.

  6. Hey jj,

    In my illustration, the child does not pretend to push the rock–he really pushes. Plus, as I said in the post, his will is really joined to his father’s will. Therefore, the child is not merely an instrument of the father, or an instrumental cause (like a lever) of the rock’s being moved. Nor is he play acting. He is really co-operating in the father’s work.

    The reason that I put “help” in quotations was not to indicate that the child’s participation is a farce, but to indicate the child’s efforts do not make up for some strength that was lacking in the father, as though the father could not push the rock by himself. The father can push the rock by himself, but he chooses to let the child participate, for the good of the child, and because this arrangement, the child sharing in the glory of the father, is more glorifying to father than a solo display of strength.

    [Way back when this website was just getting started (a lifetime ago in cyber years), Tim Troutman addressed this issue in greater depth in his article, Soli Deo Gloria: A Catholic Perspective.]

  7. Thanks, Andrew.

    Maybe what is bothering me is the idea of synergism itself. Maybe I’m just a pantheist in theist’s clothing :-)

    It seems to me that either one is saying that God can do it all, but I am allowed actually to do a little bit, or else that God can’t do it all and needs my help.

    Whereas in fact it seems to me that what I do I do and if I didn’t – it wouldn’t be done. At the same time, it seems to me that I cannot do anything except in God.

    I’m not expressing it well. But it seems to me that God must do it all or it won’t get done – and that I must do what I must do – or it won’t get done.

    A long time ago, when I was still a Protestant, I adopted as my ‘life verse’ Philippians 2:12-13:

    work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    And that seems to me somehow not like either the Sisyphus illustration or the lawn-mowing one.

    Or as St Ignatius of Loyola is said to have said (I’m told that he said something rather different, though :-)):

    Pray as if all depended on God; work as if all depended on you

    Again, I am neither theologian nor philosopher and am probably wrong or confused – or wrong and confused. Would love to be straightened out.

    jj

  8. Andrew Preslar is correct. In Prevenient Grace, He takes the initiative, upstops our spiritual ears, and frees our will. Then we respond to grace, accept it or reject it. “He who made you without you does not redeem you without you.” What is more, Mary through her “fiat” responded freely, and thus through her the human race accepted its redemption/salvation/right-making — at least to the work done on the Cross and in the Resurrection.

    Don’t forget, there are three “right-makings” in Paul:
    1. What was done on the Cross — and the Resurrection (that the Resurrection is soteriological is ignored by many Christians, be they Catholic or Protestant. Paul in Romans 4:23, thinks differently.
    2. What is done with Prevenient Grace and with the consequential and freely accepted Baptismal Grace — the participation in the Paschal Mystery (Romans 6), and
    3. What will be done by the judgement of good works at the Parousia (Romans 2 — a chapter usually pole-vaulted over by Lutheran Protestants.

  9. Andrew[s],

    But when I turn to my Baxter, and read his intructions to those Christians who wish to obtain the heavenly rest, your affirmation of Reformed synergism clicks, and I start to be grateful that (perhaps) we are not so far apart as might be supposed.

    Yes, this is the point, or the positive and proper way to say what I was getting at in an inferior, negative and critical way, in the thread wherein I was complaining about Reformed rhetoric. What Andrew [M and P] says is right on, and I think much more representative of [the best of] Reformed theology than much of what the guardians of confessionalism in Cali write. I think perhaps the strength of the obsessive drive to distance themselves from Catholicism, and take every opportunity to criticize Catholic thought and contrast it with Reformed theology, has led to a lopsided portrayal of Reformed thought, which quiets and all but excises one of its truly Catholic currents.

    That was a long sentence. Shouldn’t work so hard on the Sabbath, ‘servile’ and ‘intellectual’ labor-distinctions notwithstanding.

    Neal

  10. Speaking of Baxter, my favorite Baxter wisdom-nugget is happily a propos to this discussion: “Many an error is taken up by going too far from other mens’ faults.”

  11. One of the aspects of Reformed theology that initially attracted me was the strong emphasis on sanctification / union with Christ / communion that I found in some writers and my local church. The idea that inward renewal and good works are not dispensable side-items for those who would see Heaven helped me to embrace obedience (in theory at least!) as an integral part of the good that God intends for man in saving him from his sins. This is an important area of agreement that, like Baxter says, tends to get lost in pursuit of a point of difference. Bring on the synergism, and not just in theory (please God)!

  12. John Thayer Jensen #7,

    It seems that you may have a metaphysics problem and a causality problem. The chicken definitely comes first here (for the Stoics and pantheists).

    Pantheism and Aristotle’s deity having some strikingly similarities with some of your notions of God in this thread. However, God exists outside of space and time and Aristotle’s materialism (vitalism?) couldn’t handle that. Aristotle and pantheists trap God in time and space. As such, all causality in time and space can be attributed to him not in the metaphysical order but in the physical order. That is not true. If I push a ball down the road, God doesn’t push the ball. Nor does God need to push the ball to be God. What is necessary is that God is the cause of our being which is not virtually in either the thing “me” or “ball”. Rather, it (being) is the gift of God and qua metaphysics God is the first cause.

    Though, in someone like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin you get this movement where the Incarnation somehow incorporates the cosmos (quasi-pantheistic notion); though I and the Magisterium (and not in that order) are uncomfortable with it.

    God obviously operates in time and space, but I don’t think that what acts in time and space must per se be from his causing. Per existence but not per accidens (the fact that thing does such and such is accidental to its nature; it could do otherwise and still be whatever it is).

    In the work of salvation (which is the work of God), he chooses to let us participate which as Andrew P. says “is more glorifying to the father than a solo display of strength”. We, of course, can imagine that God is capable of snapping his fingers and saving us all but that would seemingly deny (1) human free will, love and (2) the human causality necessary for both. Your two quotes “work out your own salvation…” and “work as if all depended” in the former speaks directly to the synergism the article elucidates and the later our attitude in prayer and life.

    I hope that helps and I’m sure a professional will clean it up where I have erred.

    Brent

  13. Brent – thanks, that does help … some :-)

    I understand that you are saying there is a difference because salvation is a direct work of God – or at least that is what I think I hear you saying.

    Nevertheless, what bothers me about Sisyphus is that it still seems either to be saying that the action of my will is play-acting – it is really God Who does it – or else that some of it depends on me and some one God – which seems to me somehow to put me and God on a common playing field, just that God is enormously more powerful than me. In fact, in the Sisyphus illustration, it seems to me that in the second case – my willing really does something but not much – that it is God Who is play-acting. God could do it all, just likes to let me pretend to help Him.

    Whereas my point in quoting Philippians, and St Ignatius, was to say that it seems to me like God does it all – and I do it all – where ‘all’ in my case means ‘all that I am capable of.’

    It seems to me like this is – to use another Scriptural phrase – what is meant by saying that if I try to save my life, I will lose it. It takes all I have to be saved. And it takes all God has/is to save me. And there is no point comparing my ‘all’ with His ‘all’ because they are not on the same level of being.

    No doubt I am just digging the hole deeper :-)

    jj

  14. Those who want to know “how can I be saved?” will be little comforted by being told that, after God’s unilateral work of regeneration, they must cooperate with God in order to continue to enjoy the life of the covenant (cf. Covenant and Salvation, p. 50).

    Andrew P,

    Yes, this is where some Evangelicals turn tail and run from Reformed theology. They perceive that we are saying that there are works that we must continue in to stay in God’s grace once we are justified. They think they hear something like what we genuinely hear from some in the Federal Vision camp. But of course there is a difference that the Reformed have with the Catholics here in that we hold that once regenerated, justified, etc we inexorably persevere to the end. But actually it’s not WE that are persevering but rather Christ who perseveres for us, so that we cannot jump into and out of his grasp by an act of our free will if indeed He is holding onto us. And at this point the Catholic apologist asks us how we know that Christ is holding onto us and our reply is that we know because we continue to work for Him.

    What Andrew [M and P] says is right on, and I think much more representative of [the best of] Reformed theology than much of what the guardians of confessionalism in Cali write. I think perhaps the strength of the obsessive drive to distance themselves from Catholicism, and take every opportunity to criticize Catholic thought and contrast it with Reformed theology, has led to a lopsided portrayal of Reformed thought, which quiets and all but excises one of its truly Catholic currents.

    Neal – I think you may be right. There is sometimes an overly anti-Catholic bias in Protestant soteriological formulations. But ironically the horror stories of modern Pelagianism come from Protestant evangelists rather than even excessively free will orientated Catholic thinkers. I think that Charles Finney would have made Pelagius himself blush!

  15. The child, having comparatively no strength and being absolutely unable to even reach the stone unless his father holds him up…

    Yes, I think this is the fundamental thing that is bothering me. It seems somehow … I don’t know, very jarring, at least … to use comparisons, except analogical ones, between God and man. Isn’t there something in St Thomas Aquinas about this, that the only comparison between God and man is analogical, and all such comparisons are more wrong than they are right?

    Or seomthing like that :-)

    jj

  16. jj,

    In my illustration, the child is weak, the father is strong, but the point of the illustration is not to “compare” the strength of each in a univocal way. Rather, the point is to bring them together, to illustrate the dynamic of synergism in a theistic, Christian framework.

    It is true that participation/synergism involves one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man, but we must not picture this as God and man standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder as equals. We must picture God “holding” man, sustaining him in existence and in grace, such that man is entirely dependent upon God, for existence, for life, for salvation. Thus, the man-holds-child-rolls-rock/mows-lawn illustration(s).

    (There is an important and relevant difference of course between creation and salvation, the latter involving the free movement of the will. However, even in this there remains a radical dependence upon God, in that the movement of free will towards the good is itself actualized by God, “and since its free mode is still being, it is included in the adequate object of divine omnipotence. Such is manifestly the doctrine of St. Thomas.” [!])

    The picture is limited, and you might be thinking, well, the child may be really pushing and really willing what the father wills, but he is not really moving the rock. The father is. (This might be false as a matter of physics, I don’t know.) Thus, the appearance of “play-acting.” In any event, whatever the picture looks like, whatever is true according to physics about who is moving the rock, the idea is that they are both moving the rock, but not in the same sense. A picture cannot of course comprehensively capture the ontological relation between God and man, it can only imperfectly, though not perhaps unhelpfully, illustrate this. If the illustration does not help you, then (as C.S. Lewis would say) toss it aside and find something that does.

  17. So, I hate to force us to do exegesis on an analogy, but it’s probably worth the effort to crank out a good analogy.

    Either (a) the child is moving the rock, or (b) the child is not moving the rock.
    If the child is moving the rock, he is doing it one one of two ways: (c) he is moving it by himself where the motion of the rock is not causally dependent on any other agent, or (d) he is doing it in a way such that the motion of the rock is causally dependent on some other agent.

    I think that the perfect analogy would have both (a), and (d). But does moving a rock, when you are causally dependent on another agent, really count as ‘moving’ a rock? Of course it does. Here’s why:

    Even the protestant will admit that we are held into existence by God at each moment of our existence- so everything we do (including moving things) is going to be causally dependent on another agent (God). So, when I brush my teeth, my ‘brushing’ is causally dependent on another agent, God Himself. But, would the realization that I am causally dependent on another agent for brushing my teeth, make it the case that I am no longer ‘brushing’ my teeth? I don’t think so. So, we can be causally dependent on another agent, and still be the ‘doers’ of our own actions.

    Of course, I think, we will have to be particular and spell out a bit exactly what it is for, ‘my ability to bring about a state of affairs’ to be causally dependent on another agent. And this will probably differ depending on exactly what it is we’re talking about. The dependence on God to put my faith in Jesus Christ, is probably going to have some more features (or different ones) than the dependence on God for brushing my teeth.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  18. I look at it this way:

    When I was a small child I used to “help” my mom bake cookies. She knew the recipe, she measured out all the ingredients, and she she’d look over my shoulder and I’d pour the ingredients into the bowl. Then, she’d hand me a wooden spoon and i’d stir them all together, even though as a child my arms were too uncoordinated to stir it well and she would either grab my arm to help move it around or when I got too tired, she would take the spoon and finish it up. Putting the cookies on the cookies sheet was the most difficult part, and after I put horribly uneven dabs of cookie dough down, shed take a little bit off of the big ones and add it to the smaller ones. After they were baked and cooled I got to tell my dad that mom and I made cookies, and of course I got to enjoy the cookies.

    Now, did my mom have to let me help her in order to eventually get a cookie into my stomach? Of course not, but she chose to because… she just did. Similarly, God chooses to let us help ourselves attain perfection and salvation, just like little children. Not only was the cookie I enjoyed a gift, but the opportunity to help my mom was a gift as well. I feel like the Christian life is similar. Grace, upon grace, upon grace. What a joy to be a Christian and enter into this wonderful work that God has done on our behalf.

    As an aside, I think it is worth pointing out the similarities between creation and redemption, which some theologians define as a re-creative act. Is God the one and only creator? Yes, he is, and nothing comes into being without Him. But does he allow husbands and wives to cooperate in his creative work? Of course! And does calling them co-creators with God lessen God’s ability to create? Absolutely not!

  19. Deacon Bryan,

    Great analogy. While being is a cause whereby we are completely reliant upon God for the effect (existence), the work of salvation is accidental to our existence. We don’t have to be saved. However, through our baptism and the graces of the Sacraments, we are continually”created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). That’s why St. Paul goes on to say, “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (present continuous verb tense-Eph 5:18-“go on being filled”). In this way, it is our new teleos; our new creaturely purpose per our Redeemer. Same for the married couple in that their sacrament disposes them to the good work of the unitive and procreative act. Conjugal love is something “God prepared in advance” for us not something we make up on our own.

    JTJ,

    I would recommend reading (VERY SLOWLY) St. Theresa Benedicta’s Finite and Eternal Being.

  20. Great analogies guys.

    Hey Brent,
    I recently picked up a copy of St. Theresa Benedicta’s Finite and Eternal Being, I haven’t read it yet, but since you’ve read it (presumably), I was hoping maybe I could ask you any questions if I had any [via private email?].

    Thanks, God bless.

  21. John Thayer Jensen: Maybe what is bothering me is the idea of synergism itself. Maybe I’m just a pantheist in theist’s clothing :-)

    It seems to me that either one is saying that God can do it all, but I am allowed actually to do a little bit, or else that God can’t do it all and needs my help.

    Whereas in fact it seems to me that what I do I do and if I didn’t – it wouldn’t be done. At the same time, it seems to me that I cannot do anything except in God.

    How about a third possibility? God can’t do it all, and God doesn’t need our help, since God is in need of nothing.

    First, why do I say God can’t do it all? I say this because God cannot contradict God. God, by a sovereign act of his will, has deigned to make human beings as creatures with free will. Our free will is essential to our nature, and without it, we can’t be human beings. If God were to “save” us by forcing upon us some kind of “irresistible” grace that destroyed our free will, then we would cease to be creatures with free will. That kind of “irresistible” grace would utterly annihilate the human being that God created, and what was “saved” after the annihilation wrought by irresistible grace would not be a human being at all, but merely the shell of a human being. Therefore, God can’t force a human to choose union with God without destroying what he has chosen to create. It isn’t that the omnipotent God lacks the power to force us to choose union with God, rather, it is that such an exercise of that omnipotent power would create a contradiction within God that is irreconcilable with what God has chosen to do, namely, God chooses to save human beings as beings as human beings. And that means an adult that has reached the age of reason has to exercise his free will to choose union with God over alienation from God in order to be saved. But how can a man that is born in bondage to sin, make a free choice for union with God? IOW, how does the Catholic Church avoid the heresy of semi-Pelagianism? If the fallen man could make a choice for God out of his will power alone, then he isn’t really in any sort of bondage to sin. The Catholic Church avoids the heresy of semi-Pelagianism by rejecting the false either/or false dichotomy of either monergism or synergism. Salvation is a both/and process, both monergism and synergism.

    The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V directly addresses the question of the actual graces that must be received by an adult before he chooses to become justified through the Sacrament of Baptism:

    “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.”

    The Council here is teaching that there are two kinds of actual grace that must be received by fallen man before he can make a free choice for reconciliation with God through the Sacraments of Initiation. First, he must receive the actual grace of prevenient grace that enlightens his understanding, and that grace is received without any merit on the part of man. This is a monergistic movement by God – God deigns, by a sovereign act of his will, to give fallen man enlightenment, an enlightenment that allows man to understand that he is in need of justification and conversion. After the man has been enlightened by prevenient grace, he receives the actual grace of quickening and assisting grace, and this actual grace gives enough healing to man’s wounded nature that he can now cooperate with God in his conversion and movement towards justification. Quickening and assisting grace can be resisted, and, ultimately, it can be rejected – or – this actual grace can be accepted, and by cooperation with this grace, a man can move towards reception of the sanctifying grace bestowed by the Sacraments of Initiation. This is cooperation with quickening and assisting grace is synergistic – the man can’t move in this grace unless he has this grace, yet at the same time, this grace is not irresistible, since he can exercise his free will to reject this grace.

  22. Andrew McCallum: … this is where some Evangelicals turn tail and run from Reformed theology. They perceive that we are saying that there are works that we must continue in to stay in God’s grace once we are justified. They think they hear something like what we genuinely hear from some in the Federal Vision camp. But of course there is a difference that the Reformed have with the Catholics here in that we hold that once regenerated, justified, etc we inexorably persevere to the end.

    It is this “inexorably” that Catholics reject because it contradicts what is written in the scriptures. For example, a Christian can commit the sin of unrepentant apostasy and be damned to eternity in hell because of this sin.

    The justified man can fall from grace by committing mortal sin.

  23. Dear Andrews [M and P],

    I’m interested to know the context of the Horton quote you have both referenced. Catholic Andrew’s remarks suggest that Horton is arguing againt the notion that a person must synergistically cooperate subsequent to monergistic regeneration, so as to remain in the covenant/God’s grace. In the context provided, it looks as though Horton is attributing this claim to covenantal monists, NPP folk, and Catholics, and is saying that this won’t assuage fears or inspire confidence about one’s eternal destiny in the way that Reformed theology can. Protestant Andrew, on the other hand, seems to interpret Horton as endorsing the claim that we “must” synergistically cooperate in order finally to be saved, and that this requirement causes non-reformed evangelicals to balk because it sounds too demanding, but only because they fail to appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

    Have I misread either of you? And what is Horton claiming?

  24. Neal, you are reading me correctly. I am pretty sure that I am reading Horton correctly but have yet to begin section on union with Christ. Horton seems to represent a broad spectrum of evangelicalism in his thinking on justification, not omitting the caricatures of Catholicism. What the non-Reformed evangelicals often balk at is the Reformed notion that good works are ordinarily necessary for those who would enter heaven. The qualifications, such as those offered by Andrew M, and tending towards monergism in sanctification, can seem practically indistinguishable from supposed problems that Horton finds with the Catholic doctrine of salvation.

  25. I should have written that the qualifications can leave the overall Reformed doctrine of salvation appearing practically indistinguishable from the Catholic doctrine of good works in salvation. All, I am on my kindle (limited internet) and cannot approve or moderate comments until I get back to my computer tomorrow morning.

  26. But if you want to, keep commenting and my CTC peeps can approve your refutations clarifications and otherwise welcome contributions.

  27. @Mateo #21:

    Thanks so much! I really like your take on the thing!

    How about a third possibility? God can’t do it all, and God doesn’t need our help, since God is in need of nothing.

    This has really, really clarified things for me. I do so much appreciate it.

    jj

  28. In Catholic doctrine, does everyone receive the initial grace which allows the will to desire conversion & cooperate with God in his conversion (but some refuse to cooperate with it); or are there some who never receive that initial grace?

  29. Andrew P,

    Yes, that sounds right, that’s what I’d thought. I am prepared to extend a line of credit to Horton, and assume that he fully endorses WCF 13 along with the gloss on it that JJS has provided in the other thread. By the same token, I’m prepared to chalk up the contrary sounding remarks to imprecise talk, and perhaps to the (misleading) rhetorical strategy I identified in that same thread. I continue to believe that the latter is both unfortunate and obfuscating. However, since I’m sure that Andrew M would extend the same line of credit to Horton, it makes sense why he would interpret the quotation from Horton in a way that the immediate context seemingly does not warrant.

    So far so good. Here are some further thoughts about the quotation in question (this one: Those who want to know “how can I be saved?” will be little comforted by being told that, after God’s unilateral work of regeneration, they must cooperate with God in order to continue to enjoy the life of the covenant (cf. Covenant and Salvation, p. 50)).

    How to interpret the “must?” First option: “It is [metaphysically] necessary that regenerate persons cooperate with God and [in order to] continue to enjoy the life of the covenant.” Nothing suspect here from the Reformed perspective: this is simply one way of stating the thesis of the Perseverance of the Saints, which says that all persons who have at any time been justified have ipso facto received the grace of final perseverance (are among the “elect” in that sense). Second option: “It is [deontically] necessary — that is, it is a moral obligation — that regenerate persons cooperate with God and [in order to] continue to enjoy the life of the covenant.” Again, nothing weird here from the Reformed perspective, I should think. For Reformed theology does say that Christians are obliged to work out their salvation in fear and trembling, and that without holiness they will not see the Lord. To be sure, if the Perseverance of the Saints is correct, we already know that anyone who has at any time been justified will also persevere to the end, since the class of the elect is coextensive with the class of all justified persons. But this gives no reason to reject the claim that Christians must cooperate with God in order to continue to enjoy the life of the covenant. The only reason to deny this claim (it seems) would be if being morally obligated to do something entailed that one is able to not do it. But the famous (infamous in some quarters) “ought implies can” principle says only that if one is genuinely morally obligated to do something, it must be possible for one to do it (if only by God’s grace); it doesn’t follow that if one is morally obliged to do something, it must be the case that one is also able to not do it. Not by my lights. So it’s unclear to me why Horton would hold this up as a suspicious, NPP/Catholic-ish claim.

    I guess I am unconvinced that evangelicals would balk at this, however. To be sure, most evangelicals endorse some version of “once saved always saved,” which is (again, by my lights) a darn sight weaker than the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, for the latter entails “onward and upward” (that’s for you, Andrew P) progress in sanctification, whereas “once saved always saved” doesn’t necessarily entail this. (It does entail this for “once saved always saved” proponents who came out on the right side of the “Lordship Salvation” controversy; for folks who came out on the wrong side, and make heavy weather of “Carnal Christians,” I suppose it doesn’t.) But if “once saved always saved” proponents were simply informed that Jesus does all the perseverance for them, as Andrew M’s remarks at least prima facie suggest, then I can’t see why any such evangelicals — even the “wrong side of the Lordship Salvation debate” evangelicals — would have a problem with it (though I can see why they’d have a problem with WCF 13).

    So to bring all this to happy resolution: let’s interpret Horton as not denying WCF 13, even though he sounds like he is, and let’s interpret Andrew M as also endorsing WCF 13, but not denying synergism in progressive sanctification, nor the concurrence of primary and secondary causes. (That is: the claim that Jesus perseveres for us, as Andrew M means it to be understood, should not be interpreted so as to entail that Christians themselves do not really cooperate or really persevere — Christ is not a perseverance substitute, we might say, but a perseverance enabler.)

    “There now,” he said in his best Doc Holiday voice, “now we can be friends again.”

  30. Steve Reyes @ #20,

    I had the pleasure of reading MacIntyre’s Edith Stein, Stein’s Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, and Finite and Eternal Being with Dr. Robert Wood at the University of Dallas in a graduate summer course. He’s done a lot of scholarly work in the phenomenology tradition. I’ll get out my notes and reading journals and see what I can do. She’s a heavy weight.

    brentstubbs @ gmail.com

  31. francis –

    I don’t believe that that question has been settled. I do know of at least one theologian who says that Grace is always present, at least in the mode of an offer.

  32. Thanks Brent,
    I’m a light weight so maybe I’ll learn a thing or two. I appreciate you leaving me your email. I’ll contact you if I have any problems :-).

    God bless.

  33. Brent,

    Here’s a pedantic and probably needless comment on your #12. I like the thrust of what you say, but I don’t interpret Aristotle in your way. Remember that in Physics VII and Metaphysics lambda Aristotle is looking for a prime unmoved mover (which he identifies as ‘theos’, also identified as the subject matter of metaphysics), which provides the metaphysical ground for the empirically observed motion with which he begins. This first principle or unmoved mover has to be noncomposite and therefore immaterial, however, and since time is the measure of change with respect to before and after (for Aristotle), there is no good sense in which this prime mover could be either spatial or temporal on Aristotle’s reckoning. So I don’t see Aristotle as being enlist-able in support of pantheism without further argumentation.

    End of pedantry.

  34. Eph 2:10- For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

    Can this verse show clearly that God want us to participate in His salvation since we are His handiwork and He set up good works to do on His behalf?

  35. Dear Francis,

    Christ’s atoning sacrifice is sufficient for every human being, and God offers sufficient grace to everyone. We can however distinguish between sufficient grace and efficacious or effectual grace. It is consistent with Catholic theology that the grace of God is efficacious or effectual for those who have been predestined to final salvation, whereas the non-elect (the reprobate) receive grace sufficient for their salvation, but not effectual for their salvation. According to some Catholic schools (classical Molinism, e.g.), efficacious grace is extrinsically effective — that is, it becomes effective when recipients of such grace respond to it in a salutary manner — whereas according to other schools (Augustinian and Thomistic) efficacious grace is intrinsically effective, in the sense that it is effectual per se. Augustinian and Thomistic thought is therefore closer to Calvinist thought than is (classical) Molinism, as regards the nature of the grace of final perseverance.

    For further reading on this, I suggest Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s Predestination, Louis Bouyer’s The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism (see his chapter on Aquinas and Trent), or the Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry on Predestination. (This latter is written by someone with clear classical Molinist sympathies, and he offers some criticisms of stronger views of predestination; however, it is important to note that the views of predestination he criticizes qua Molinist are not deemed heretical, but are admissible views for Catholics to take.)

    Best,

    Neal

  36. Neal,

    I appreciate the correction. I cringed when I put Aristotle because I knew I was opening myself up to expert rebuke like a coke brand manager at a diet drink convention. Pedantry accepted. Insert learning smile. I’m too tired nor is this the forum to work out such an argument so I will gently withdraw my comment about Aristotle whilst maintaining the rest of my comment intact.

    Grazie!

  37. Steven Reyes,

    My pleasure. I would recommend reading the book VERY SLOWLY. She’s great but in that book she tries (and successfully I might add) to work through Aristotelean-Thomistic metaphysics balancing Scotistic insights on the one hand while meditating on St. Teresa of Avila in the phenomenological tradition on the other (she was Husserl’s right hand-woman). Oh yeah, and she was/is a Saint too. If you haven’t done any reading in phenomenology I recommend anything by Fr. Robert Sokolowski as an introduction because phenomenology has a style all its own. You can also find Stein’s online bibliography here that Sarah Borden (Wheaton) put together with some help.

    Have fun! Keep your theological, philosophical and spiritual seat belt on.

  38. francis: In Catholic doctrine, does everyone receive the initial grace which allows the will to desire conversion & cooperate with God in his conversion (but some refuse to cooperate with it); or are there some who never receive that initial grace?

    Let us limit your question to adults that have reached the age of reason. (Infants and toddlers that receive a valid Sacrament of Baptism are regenerated by the Sacramental grace bestowed by Baptism, but they can’t be said to be cooperating with the grace of baptism in the sense that they are exercising their intellect and free will to make a choice for union with God.)

    The scriptures teach that God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and it is from this starting point that Catholic teaching on your question begins (at least the Catholic teaching that I am aware of). Since God desires all men to be saved, and since no man can be saved apart from the grace of God, then God must make it possible for all men to receive the grace necessary for their salvation. The means by which such grace is received by men can be divided into either the ordinary means of salvation (reception of the Sacraments) or the extraordinary means of salvation, which are more mysterious, since God has not deigned to publicly reveal how grace is given through the extraordinary means of salvation.

    CCC 1257 … The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

    What the CCC is saying is that the Church only knows with certainty that the ordinary means of salvation “assures entry into eternal beatitude”, and the Church’s mission to bring salvation to all mankind is bound to what has been publicly revealed by God about the Sacraments. While the Church’s mission is bound to the Sacraments, God himself is not bound by his Sacraments. Which means that grace necessary for salvation can be given in an extraordinary manner to those who are invincibly ignorant of the Gospel, since God desires all men to be saved, and his grace is absolutely necessary for salvation.

    It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.

    Pope Pius IX, Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863

  39. Thanks Brent,
    I heard of phenomenology but heck if I know anything about it. I think I might leave it on the bookshelf until after I get through reading St. Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo. :-)

    Sorry for de-railing the thread guys.

  40. Hey mateo, good catch on human nature and the contradiction of forced free acts. When I wrote that God could do it all, I had in mind what I take to be a possible state of affairs, in which God works with our freedom in initial salvation (so that free will is not violated), but not such that our subsequent works move us onward and upward towards heaven. Thus “all” is with reference to post baptismal works, not every movement of free will in response to grace.

    [I was not trying to prove that the Protestant Reformed doctrine regarding the place of good works in salvation is contradictory, only that it does not seem to portray as impressive a picture of God as does Catholic doctrine.]

  41. Thanks for indulging the pedantry like a good sport, Brent!

    Francis, I know I recommended a pretty heavy reading list just above, and probably my quick summary sounds pretty abstruse and dry — not a great way to whet the appetite for more (potentially) abstruse and dry stuff! But I remembered, after responding to you, a passage in Cardinal Newman’s address called “Faith and Private Judgment,” which I freely confess was very stirring and heartening to me as I was studying the Catholic faith while still a non-Catholic. (It will likely be obvious to you, upon reading what follows and knowing that it “stirred” me, that I harbor strong Augustinian sympathies. Chalk it up to my Reformed formation, I guess; but I remain extremely grateful for and proud of my Reformed formation, and I don’t mind being called an Augustinian any day of the week!) If there is an optimal way to express, in the most beautiful and affecting way, the Augustinian understanding of God’s sovereign grace, I think Newman’s words just below must be a strong contender for first prize:

    ***
    What thanks ought we to render to Almighty God my dear brethren, that He has made us what we are! It is a matter of grace. There are, to be sure, many cogent arguments to lead one to join the Catholic Church, but they do not force the will. We may know them, and not be moved by them to act upon them. We may be convinced without being persuaded. The two things are quite distinct from each other, seeing you ought to believe, and believing; reason, if left to itself, will bring you to the conclusion that you have sufficient grounds for believing, but belief is a gift of grace. You are then what you are, not from any excellence or merit of your own, but by the grace of God who has chosen you to believe. You might have been as the barbarians of Africa, or the freethinker of Europe, with grace sufficient to condemn you, because it had not furthered your salvation. You might have had strong inspirations of grace and have resisted them, and then additional grace might not have been given to overcome your resistance. God gives not the same measure of grace to all. Has He not visited you with over-abundant grace? And was it not necessary for your hard hearts to receive more than other people? Praise and bless Him continually for the benefit; do not forget, as time goes on, that it is of grace; do not pride yourselves upon it; pray ever not to lose it; and do your best to make others partakers of it.

    And you brethren, also, if such be present, who are not as yet Catholics, but who by your coming hither seem to show your interest in our teaching, and you wish to know more about it, you too remember, that though you may not yet have faith in the Church, still God has brought you into the way of obtaining it. You are under the influence of His grace; He has brought you a step on your journey; He wishes to bring you further. He wishes to bestow on you the fullness of His blessings, and to make you Catholics … Yet now the first suggestions of grace are working in your souls, and are issuing in pardon for the past and sanctity for the future. God is moving you to acts of faith, hope, love, hatred of sin, repentance; do not disappoint Him, do not thwart Him, concur with Him, obey Him. You look up, and you see, as it were, a great mountain to be scaled; you say, “How can I possibly find a path over these giant obstacles, which I find in the way of my becoming Catholic? I do not comprehend this doctrine, and I am pained at that; a third seems impossible; I never can be familiar with one practice, I am afraid of another; it is one maze and discomfort to me, and I am led to sink down in despair.” Say not so, my dear brethren, look up in hope, trust in Him who calls you forward. “Who art thou, O great mountain, before Zorobabel? but a plain.” He will lead you forward step by step, as He has led forward many a one before you.

    ***

  42. It is this “inexorably” that Catholics reject because it contradicts what is written in the scriptures. For example, a Christian can commit the sin of unrepentant apostasy and be damned to eternity in hell because of this sin. The justified man can fall from grace by committing mortal sin.

    Mateo (re: 22),

    One of the problems that Catholics and Protestants run into in the discussion of eternal security and apostasy is that generally the two sides are looking at the matter from different perspectives. I think what you are trying to argue is that someone can become a Christian by becoming part of the Church and then later apostatize. But what I’m looking at is the divine perspective. Christ says that His sheep will never perish and nobody can snatch one of Christ’s sheep from His hands. We are also told that those who are justified will be glorified. But we are speaking of God’s perspective here, not ours. If we are looking at it from the human perspective, then yes, plenty of people join the Church and they live in the Christian community maybe even for many years but then later deny the faith and become apostates. What I would say is that such people never really were one pf Christ’s sheep. Christ tells us that there will be those on Judgment Day who will be able to tell great stories of knowing Christ and even doing miraculous works in the Church, but Christ will then say to them that He NEVER knew them.

    So let’s define what perspective we are talking about when we speak of perseverance. If we are speaking from the divine perspective then I would say that Christ will most assuredly persevere for His sheep and they will never perish.

  43. Protestant Andrew, on the other hand, seems to interpret Horton as endorsing the claim that we “must” synergistically cooperate in order finally to be saved, and that this requirement causes non-reformed evangelicals to balk because it sounds too demanding, but only because they fail to appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

    Neal,

    I’m quite convinced that while Horton would argue that such synergistic working is absolutely necessary but it is necessary to demonstrate that faith is real. God certainly works with man synergistically in many areas but we would hold that this is not the case in regeneration which is an example of God’s working monergistically.

  44. Neal,

    The position that efficacious grace is intriniscally efficacious is attractive for a lot of reasons, including reasons that Calvinists give for holding a similar doctrine. The other view is attractive due to certain “gut feelings” about the nature of freedom. I lean towards Thomas and Augustine, but still….

    Going back to #29, yeah, I had the other side of the Lordship Salvation divide in mind when I suggested that the Reformed doctrine of perseverance / inexorable santification–bottom line, if you don’t synergistically produce good works then you will go to hell–does not sound much like resting in God assurance of heaven sort of good news. The idea that Jesus does it all for you, all the ad intra stuff worked out in love, so do not fret over your sanctification any more than your justification, was a huge draw for me, into the OPC. But my burgeoning Reformed faith ran off the rails on exegetical grounds. The exegesis of the “warning passages” seemed pretty fudged, and the “God will bring it to completion” passages did not sufficiently counter-balance that deficiency so for me to remain persuaded. Not that I have a pat interpretation of the “inexorable perseverance” verses. Probably something like an implicit “that is, of course, if you do not jump ship.” This seemed (seems) like less of a stretch than the “warnings refer to non-possibilities” harmonization.

    But, to end on an all friends with stuff in common note, at the end of the day, for both Catholics and Reformed Protestants, if you do not do good works, you will not go to heaven. The job is then to explain why that is not a bad thing, but a good thing. Methinks it good because its basically saying the life of heaven begins now, in the Church and thence extended to the world, as an invitation to the feast, all in charity, and if you don’t want to participate in this thing now, what makes you think you would want to participate in it after you die? Heaven is not simply “not hell.” It is a definite sort of life, fruitful life. And so forth.

  45. Andrew M:

    I’m quite convinced that while Horton would argue that such synergistic working is absolutely necessary but it is necessary to demonstrate that faith is real. God certainly works with man synergistically in many areas but we would hold that this is not the case in regeneration which is an example of God’s working monergistically.

    I think there are grammatical mistakes/typos in your sentence above. Here is how I understand you: “Horton does argue that the Christian’s synergistic working is absolutely necessary for his salvation, but only in the sense that such working is necessary for the Christian to demonstrate (not coram deo, before God, who knows all, but rather before men) that his faith is real. However, Horton also affirms that divine grace operates monergistically with respect to the Christian’s regeneration, since it is God who unilaterally brings him to saving faith to begin with.”

    If I’ve understood you aright, I would say that I agree with you in part. I agree that (according to Reformed theology) God unilaterally brings the individual Christian to saving faith. I am however hesitant to attribute to Reformed theology the thesis that the sole function of synergistic cooperation is to demonstrate (before men) that one is (before God) justified, because I do not believe that this does justice to the Reformed insistence on progressive sanctification as an integral element of salvation proper.

    But perhaps I am interpreting you incorrectly? Perhaps you are merely saying that God monergistically brings elect persons to saving faith according to Reformed theology (a claim I have not disputed)? And perhaps you are leaving open the possibility that, once brought to saving faith, regenerate persons are enabled to cooperatively progress in sanctification, by the sovereign hand of the Lord, so as to finally be purged of all sinful disposition and thus to enjoy everlasting communion with God and the saints in the life of the world to come?

    I’m not sure what you are saying. Maybe I’m reading too much into what you’ve said; let me know if I am. But when you say “we would hold that this [synergistic cooperation] is not the case in regeneration which is an example of God’s working monergistically,” you have not contradicted anything I said about (Augustinian/Thomistic) Catholic theology, or anything else I’ve said anywhere else. It seems as though you are trying to set me straight about something, but I’m not clear on what it is.

    Best,

    Neal

  46. Andrew M#41,

    From what you write, I’m led to believe that apostasy is a term only proper from man’s perspective. There is no apostasy from the Divine perspective. Since apostasia implies defection, and God’s elect according to you are incapable of defecting, why doesn’t God just call it hypocrisy which is what you are describing. I think this would have cleared a lot up. As is, the word apostasy leads me to believe that someone is actually one thing and then becomes another.

    Neal #44,

    How do you thinking within the Reformed tradition reconcile the big “Perseverance” with the synergism you recognize? Above, I’m questioning Andrew M’s way out which is what I’ll call a “hermeneutical perspective dichotomy”. To me, it seems to disarm completely the synergism required for salvation.

    Peace

  47. Brent,

    If I understand you correctly, you are worried that Reformed theology has a difficult time handling the Scriptural passages which warn Christians against falling away (e.g. 1 Cor 10, etc.). I don’t have a unique or very helpful response to this concern. The conjunction of the beliefs that (i) any person who has at any time been justified is among the elect and will therefore never fall away, and (ii) any person who has at any time been justified knows or can know with certainty that he is justified and therefore among the elect, does seem to render those warnings pretty toothless (or “merely hypothetical”). Against Andrew M, and along with Luther, I think it is bad pastoral advice to look to one’s own working/progress in sanctification in order to ground one’s “certain knowledge” that one is in fact a member of the elect. If you are interested in some of my thoughts about perseverance and the different but related issue of assurance of salvation, you might want to look at a post I wrote a little while ago, called Persevering Most Assuredly.

    Best,

    Neal

  48. Hey guy growing in faith (#34),

    Yeah I think that that verse along with many others shows us that God intends for man to cooperate with him in salvation. Those works that are merely “of ourselves” are no use for salvation, but those works that God has prepared for us to walk in are of a different sort, being the fruit of grace in our lives.

    Sincerely,

    Another guy praying that we will grow in faith

  49. Andrew M,
    Romans 11 discusses the breaking off of Jewish branches and grafting in of Gentiles. Both are said to stand (remain grafted) by faith, yet Paul warns the Gentile against haughtiness of this grafted place because if he does not continue in His goodness he may again be cut off. Also, the previously cut off Jew may be grafted back in. This is not a perspective issue, but is about the reality of the blessings of union with Christ which fully engages the human will and energy.

    Calvinism requires monergistic regeneration for a man to believe or act, yet the scripture does not describe regeneration this way. Colossians 2:11-3:4 tells us where we are brought from the deadness of our trespasses and uncircumcision–baptism, which is not at all seen as separate from faith (v.12-13) This comports with Romans 6 where baptism is our death, burial and resurrection because it is union with Him. And also this is when we stop being slaves of sin v.6, and are set free from sin and became slaves of righteousness (v18). Or John 3:5 where being born again is not monergistic regeneration, but comes by Water and the Spirit. How about Titus 3:3-7 where the same language is used “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
    And of course that famous verse in 1Peter 3:21 where baptism saves us—how?–through the resurrection of Christ!

    Monergism is wedded to the ancient heresies of mon-energism and monotheletism. It denies to Christ and to us (we are consubstantial with him according to his humanity) natural free will and energy in relation to God.

  50. Neal,

    I am however hesitant to attribute to Reformed theology the thesis that the sole function of synergistic cooperation is to demonstrate (before men) that one is (before God) justified, because I do not believe that this does justice to the Reformed insistence on progressive sanctification as an integral element of salvation proper.

    I don’t want to say “sole function,” but I would say that the show-me-your-faith-by-your-works emphasis is front and center in these discussions. Unless you want to cross into FV-land (which almost all of the Reformed communions today warn against) I don’t think we can say that active sanctification can be blended with justification or regeneration as the Trent and the CCC argue for. But we can have true synergistic active sanctification without it becoming part of a process of justification. Justification ushers in the synergistic role of sanctification. As Eph 2 says we are not saved BY good works, but we are surely saved FOR good works. Thus justification and sanctification as well as monergism and synergism are vitally linked without being blended. I don’t want to try to spend too much time exegeting Horton, but I think he would agree with the way I’ve stated it here.

    Now as read your third paragraph I think you are stating the matter well.

    As is, the word apostasy leads me to believe that someone is actually one thing and then becomes another.

    Brent,

    I would equate apostasy with formal heresy. It is consciously rejecting fundamental elements of the Christian faith that were previous affirmed to be true. From the Reformed standpoint we would say that Christ never knew such a person – this is the divine perspective. From the human side, we as non-omniscient human creatures might be very surprised at this apostasy, but no matter how much we were convinced that such a person’s profession of faith was credible, we would not say that they were previously regenerate and justified and part of Christ’s body, and then they decided by an act of their free will to leave Christ and thus leave a truly regenerate and justified state.

  51. Andrew McCallum: One of the problems that Catholics and Protestants run into in the discussion of eternal security and apostasy is that generally the two sides are looking at the matter from different perspectives. I think what you are trying to argue is that someone can become a Christian by becoming part of the Church and then later apostatize. But what I’m looking at is the divine perspective. Christ says that His sheep will never perish and nobody can snatch one of Christ’s sheep from His hands. We are also told that those who are justified will be glorified. But we are speaking of God’s perspective here, not ours. If we are looking at it from the human perspective, then yes, plenty of people join the Church and they live in the Christian community maybe even for many years but then later deny the faith and become apostates. What I would say is that such people never really were one of Christ’s sheep.

    First, I have no idea what you mean when you say that “someone can become a Christian by becoming part of the Church.” What is the name of “the Church” that you are referring to, and how does one become a member of “the Church”?

    If “the Church” is the Church that Christ founded, then the person that is a member of “the Church” is a Christian by definition, since a fully incorporated member of “the Church” has received valid Sacraments of Initiation.

    The “divine perspective” that you are describing – how do you know that this is a divine perspective? What source are you using to know this perspective? My comment was that Catholics reject the “inexorably” statement that you made because it contradicts what has been revealed to us by God in the scriptures. My perspective is a perspective derived from the scriptures, and scriptures clearly teach that Christians can commit the sin of apostasy, and they can be damned because of it. How in the world could a non-Christian commit the sin of apostasy anyway? Only Christians can commit that sin!

    What you are calling the “divine perspective” I would call a heretical Protestant perspective. If you would, please explain to me how God’s grace destroys a Christian’s free will and renders him incapable of becoming a dog that returns to his vomit.

    … if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire. 2 Peter 2:20-22

    … it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-5

    Andrew McCallum, who are the non-Christians that are “partakers of the Holy Spirit”?

    Andrew Preslar: …my burgeoning Reformed faith ran off the rails on exegetical grounds. The exegesis of the “warning passages” seemed pretty fudged, and the “God will bring it to completion” passages did not sufficiently counter-balance that deficiency so for me to remain persuaded. Not that I have a pat interpretation of the “inexorable perseverance” verses. Probably something like an implicit “that is, of course, if you do not jump ship.” This seemed (seems) like less of a stretch than the “warnings refer to non-possibilities” harmonization.

    Exactly – that plus the fact that the Fathers of the Church are unanimous in their teaching that Christians that commit unrepentant mortal sin should expect to see eternity in the fires of hell …

  52. Among the many passages worth considering, when it comes to the purpose (telos) of sanctification, the one that jumps to my mind is Romans 6:22:

    But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end [telos], eternal life.

    Like I said earlier, sanctification is not a mere ride-along with justification by faith / believing unto eternal life. Sanctification has the same telos as justification, namely, the free gift of eternal life (6:23).

  53. So who really decides if our sins will be forgiven? Me or God? If its me, then I must be sovereign, (shhh, don’t tell my wife!) for my salvation is founded on my will, not the will of God. If it is God, then He must be sovereign (more likely, to those who know me). Bothism is not an option … we can both agree, but we can’t both decide. The “quasi-Sisyphus illustration” seems a good parable describing sanctification.. ie, becoming more Christ-like in the activities of our lives, and participating in the advancement of God’s will on earth with the help of the Holy Spirit. But salvation… mmm, that’s a whole different story. I’m not big enough to save myself… I think that was the message of the Old Testament. Christ alone did for us what we could not do for ourselves, otherwise, why was the cross necessary?

    Saul is a great example… just plugging along through life, persecuting Christians and then BAM! Christ grabs him by the collar flips him 180 degrees and poof! he’s Paul the apostle. Was it Paul or God? I’m thinking Paul had two choices: yes or yes. Pharaoh might be the opposite story. Let’s look at Romans 9… 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

    Yeow! Remind me not to raise my hand in that class! So just for the record, THIS is the sovereign God in which the Calvinist believes… not that mamby pamby “God appearing very impressive to everyone” description ascribed above. Yeesh!

    Cheers
    Curt

  54. Hey Curt,

    God decides to become man, taking it upon himself to provide the all-sufficient means for the salvation of all men, and offering sufficient grace to all men so that we can receive the free gift of eternal life. We decide whether or not to receive this gift. So both God and man “decide,” but not in the same sense.

    I also think that my illustration describes sanctification, but as indicated in the quotation from St. Paul (Romans 6:22-23), sanctification and salvation are not different stories.

    I agree with Paul in Romans 9: Election does not depend upon the will of man. I hope that you agree with Paul in Romans 6 (and Romans 2–3): Eternal life is both a free gift and a reward for good works. I’ll bet we both agree that Paul is consistent with himself in this epistle. Unlike election, the die-hard differences that perhaps lie between us do depend upon the will of man.

  55. Andrew M,

    I don’t think we can say that active sanctification can be blended with justification or regeneration as the Trent and the CCC argue for. But we can have true synergistic active sanctification without it becoming part of a process of justification. Justification ushers in the synergistic role of sanctification. As Eph 2 says we are not saved BY good works, but we are surely saved FOR good works.

    I haven’t said anything in any way different from this when representing Reformed theology. I will take it, then, that you are not setting me straight about anything, but are just agreeing with and restating what I said.

    Best,

    Neal

  56. Curt #53,
    “So who really decides if our sins will be forgiven? Me or God?”

    In Gethsemane, did Christ decide to go to the cross divinely, humanly or both?

    ….is humanly a word?….

  57. Thanks Andrew…

    I think Paul is absolutely consistent. If we back up to verse 17-18 in Romans 6, Pauls states:

    “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

    So again, it is through what God has done for us (“having been freed from sin”… an act of God) we are therefore capable of living unto righteousness. No one is righteous of their own accord (Romans 3:10-12). So, even our ability to say yes to God can only be a gift from God.

    Regarding the gift of salvation, you state,

    “So both God and man “decide,” but not in the same sense.”

    How can this be reconciled with Romans 9…

    “15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? “

    Reconciling Romans 3, Romans 6 and Romans 9:15 et al, I would conclude from Paul’s teaching that God chooses us for His own divine purposes, either for salvation, or not as in the case of Pharoah. His sheep are drawn irresistibly to Himself. This is the free gift of salvation… all God’s doing, not reliant on man’s will. Once He chooses to free us from sin, He further chooses to include us in His plan, and empowers us unto righteousness (again, a gift from God), sending us out to work His plan. Enter free will… we can choose to harness the power He gives us, or not. Thus, salvation is through Christ and Christ alone… sanctification and the “working out of our salvation” is empowered by Christ through the Holy Spirit and acted upon by man.

    Cheers
    Curt

  58. Curt #57,
    And if you back up further in Romans 6, the text tells you where all this freedom was applied–baptism.
    Man uses his natural free human will to come to the place of union with the divine Christ. The natural ability of human nature to partake of divine grace does not require monergistic regeneration to get a person to that place of salvation.

  59. Hey Curt,

    It looks like we agree (at least to some extent) about sanctification. So we both have to consider what Paul says about election, which does not depend on the will of man, in relation to sanctification, which depends on the will of man (as enabled by God), and leads to eternal life, as Paul teaches in Romans 2 and 6, for example. And it looks as if we share significant agreement here as well, since I agree with your concluding sentences:

    Enter free will… we can choose to harness the power He gives us, or not. Thus, salvation is through Christ and Christ alone… sanctification and the “working out of our salvation” is empowered by Christ through the Holy Spirit and acted upon by man.

  60. Speaking of illustrations of synergism, the Bible is filled with such, and some of them are really similar to the one above. Think about it: Did God or David slay Goliath? Did God or Sampson destroy the Philistines? Did God or Gideon (and his three hundred) rout the Midianites? I mean, David really did the deed with the sling and stone (and the brutal last hack), and so did the others in their own ways, but does that entail that God was not the all-sufficient Deliverer of Israel? Of course he was. It pleased God, and redounded even more to his own glory, to allow his servants to participate in the salvation of his people.

  61. If “the Church” is the Church that Christ founded, then the person that is a member of “the Church” is a Christian by definition, since a fully incorporated member of “the Church” has received valid Sacraments of Initiation.

    Mateo – You are giving me the RCC perspective here, but obviously we reject this. You are saying that anyone who wanders in off the street and is baptized into the RCC is a Christian. From the Protestant standpoint, in line with the Early Church we would argue, a Christian is someone who follows Christ. In the RCC system the person who openly rejects the words of Christ by profession and behavior is a Christians in the RCC system if he has been properly baptized into the RCC.

    So from a Protestant standpoint we take note of what Christ says concerning those who were in the Church and who even performed miracles in Christ’s name and yet were never known by Christ. We say that if Christ never knew someone then they were never a Christian. It seems to us that the RCC perspective forces you to have to say that Christ’s sheep include those whom Christ never knew.

    The divine perspective then is based on what Christ says about His sheep. He tells us that He knows His sheep and they will never perish. From the Protestant standpoint we again do not equate formal membership in the Church with being a Christian. And so there is a human perspective on who is a Christian in the Church. This is why we make a formal distinction between visible and invisible Church. So is it possible to apostatize? Well yes, if we just mean that someone who says he is a Christian can fall away at a later time. But no, we would say it is not possible for those of Christ’s sheep (that is, those whom Christ has claimed as His own) to fall away since He has promised that this cannot happen.

    who are the non-Christians that are “partakers of the Holy Spirit”?

    They are those who partake of the blessings of being part of the covenant community. I assume that you would take “partakers” to be speaking of those who Christ has redeemed. If so, I think you are reading too much into being a “partaker.”

  62. Canadian (58)

    I’m confused… if we exercise free will at baptism, then infant baptism would be a farce. Paul in Romans 6 is using baptism to mean the New Covenant… just as he uses circumcision to refer to the Old Covenant, for example in Romans 4:11. Thus Paul is saying that it is through the New Covenant (promise of God) that we are placed in divine communion with God. God’s promises are never dependent on man. This is why we can baptize infants… it is a sign and seal of the promise of God, not a sign of acceptance by man.

    Cheers
    Curt

  63. Gentlemen,

    Father Z has a great post about meritum and praemium here. It may be helpful to move the discussion forward. A brief quote from Father Z:

    “when God crowns our merits, He crowns His own merits in us”

    Peace,

    Brent

  64. Andrew

    Those are all great examples of God working through man to accomplish His purposes. These men were all chosen by God to be on His team. Once God put them on the team, they accomplished mighty things… but they were not selected as a result of their works… their works were performed as a result of God’s selection. Here again, salvation and sanctification are separate … God chooses us and we have eternal life. The Holy Spirit goes to work and we respond with acts of worship and good works. To say that salvation is somehow dependent on man would require serious dancing around Romans 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

    Cheers
    Curt

  65. Curt Russell: So who really decides if our sins will be forgiven? Me or God?

    Who really decides to repent of my sins so that they can be forgiven, Me or God?

    We know from scriptures that God desires that every man should be saved. Why, then, aren’t all men saved? Why doesn’t God force irresistible grace on every man and make them repent of their sins so that they can be saved?

    God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who has indignation every day.
    If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
    he has bent and strung his bow;
    he has prepared his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
    Psalm 7: 11-13

    Curt Russell: So again, it is through what God has done for us (“having been freed from sin”… an act of God) we are therefore capable of living unto righteousness. No one is righteous of their own accord (Romans 3:10-12). So, even our ability to say yes to God can only be a gift from God.

    I agree – our ability to say “yes” to God is a gift from God – it is the gift of free will. That same gift of free will that gives us the ability to say “yes” to God also gives us the ability to say “no” to God. If free will is destroyed by monergistic irresistible grace, then human beings are destroyed by irresistible grace.

    Curt Russell: His sheep are drawn irresistibly to Himself.

    The concept of “irresistible” change reminds me of the plot of the 1975 film The Stepford Wives. In the film, the men of Stepford Connecticut are married to real human beings, but their women are getting way too uppity in their newly discovered feminism. Joanna (Katherine Ross) is causing discontent among the Stepford women by her conscience raising sessions, so she needs to be cured of her rebelliousness. The solution? Turn Joanna into to a docile gynbot through some mysterious procedure at the Men’s Club. Turn her, against her will, into the perfect wife: impossibly beautiful, sexy, monogamous, doting on her nerdy husband and without a mind of her own, nor the ability to go back to her nasty old way of thinking …

    … I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will.
    Philemon 1:14

  66. Hi Brent

    Nice quote, and one I would embrace wholeheartedly. I read Father Z’s article and found solid agreement until he reached the end… then I got lost in the Latin. He makes a clear statement that the RC Church does not teach that “we can earn our salvation by performing good works”. I would agree with this theological position. Then he concludes, “Clearly the Church continues faithfully to hold to her traditional theology of merit and grace.” I did not follow the step from one to the other. If he is saying that salvation is a gift from God, not dependent on man… and that man can earn rewards through good works after salvation, then I would agree.

    Cheers
    Curt

  67. Brent,

    Right on! I particularly appreciated the reference to Galatians 6:6-10, which like Romans 6:22 seems to indicate that sanctification (well-doing) is part and parcel of salvation whereby we are delivered from corruption and enjoy eternal life:

    7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

  68. And since we know we cannot sow good seed without the Spirit working within us, even those good works are a gift from God. Romans 3…

    10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;
    11 there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for god;
    12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

    Thus Paul concludes…

    27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
    28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

    Cheers
    Curt

  69. Hey Curt (#64),

    There are several terms in the mix. Salvation. Election. Justification. Sanctification. Eternal life. We don’t have to completely agree right away on how these are all related, but I at least want to clarify how I understand some of this.

    That bit in Romans 9 is addressing *election* in particular, not every aspect of salvation. You write that “God chooses us and then we have eternal life.” But that is not the whole story. Salvation also includes things like justification and sanctification, and the obedience of faith.

    In particular, as we have seen (Romans 6 and Galatians 6), sanctification is a condition for receiving eternal life. Even if one maintains that justification and sanctification are seperate gifts, one still has to account for the biblical data concerning the telos of sanctification / good works, and that data indicates that these are not only evidence of salvation (i.e. justification and eternal life), nor only expressions of gratitude for these other gifts, but stand in a cause-effect relation to the gifts of eternal life and justification.”He who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

    Part of the disconnect in the conversation might be due to different ways of thinking about salvation. When you use the word, you seem to refer to a once-for-all event, either a timeless decree of individual election, or a moment of faith, or both. Thus, receiving eternal life, being justified, can only refer to a past event in a Christian’s life. I am referring to salvation as a process. Salvation has a past, a present, and a future. We can see, for example, that Paul refers to both “eternal life” and “justification” as rewards to be received in the future, as the culmination of sanctification, as well as conditions that obtain in the present, for those who are united to Christ by living faith.

    We seem to have agreed that sanctification involves the will of man, cooperating with divine grace. But since Sacred Scripture also teaches that sanctification is an integral aspect of salvation upon which future salvific gifts are conditioned, it is incorrect to say that salvation is not somehow dependent on man. I know that it sounds strange to Reformed ears, but synergism in salvation seems to be the biblical perspective. This is fully compatible with Romans 9:14-18, since the antecedent of “it” in that passage is not “the whole of salvation” but God’s election of Jacob / Israel.

  70. Mateo (65)

    Thanks for the response!

    We know from scriptures that God desires that every man should be saved. Why, then, aren’t all men saved? Why doesn’t God force irresistible grace on every man and make them repent of their sins so that they can be saved?

    Are you asking me to explain the sovereignty of God? I’m flattered but quite incapable! Your answer lies in Romans 9… “19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”

    We know that God is perfectly loving, perfectly just… full of grace and truth. Who are we to question why He hardened the heart of Pharaoh but saved you or me? More than anything, God is sovereign! He gets to decide. We are not sovereign… we take the ride. If you think we have control, how do you explain these verses in Romans 9…

    10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

    God is sovereign… He decides what He wants.

    I agree – our ability to say “yes” to God is a gift from God – it is the gift of free will. That same gift of free will that gives us the ability to say “yes” to God also gives us the ability to say “no” to God. If free will is destroyed by monergistic irresistible grace, then human beings are destroyed by irresistible grace.

    Let’s think how this comment fits with Romans 9. God’s purpose trumps all. Though God chooses to be merciful, He does not exist to serve our needs. On the contrary, we exist to glorify Him. Thus, irresistible grace in not mongeristic, it is God directed. Shall we stand and say to God, “You’re not fair… Esau was cheated! Pharaoh too!”? Good luck with that, my friend!

    Cheers
    Curt

  71. Curt,
    The scripture and the fathers declare Baptism to be man’s regeneration and resurrection from death to life, his union with Christ, his forgiveness of sin. So for adults, the will is fully active in coming to regeneration. Monergistic regeneration is incompatible with this. Also, if we do not have free human will then Christ does not have free human will. If our human nature with it’s free will and energy does not freely operate in relation to God then neither does Christ’s natural free will and energy and the Incarnation is destroyed. This is why the ancient Councils condemned Mon-energism and Monothelitism. Removing man’s activity in relation to God does not show how gracious God is like the Reformed think, it destroys the truth about the Incarnate God himself!

  72. Curt,

    There is no way we can save ourselves. We are completely incapable. It is Christ “in us” the hope of glory. However, this hope doesn’t deprive us of the unique requisite for a relationship of love; namely free response. We must respond to the gift of Christ. In doing so, we must do good works, “work out our own salvation with fear in trembling”–not to save ourselves or anything even close–but rather to participate in a real way in the work of Christ in us.

    When God rewards our merits, He crowns His own merit. Why? Because He purchased you and I, not to simply add us to the roll but to incorporate us into himself that we might become sons and daughters of God. This incorporation, divination, deification is the point of salvation. Our responding to the the gift of Christ in good works is “faith” in Christ in us. How can we demonstrate that we believe that He is in us and that one day “we shall be like Him because we will see Him as He is”? We show God that we believe by acting on our faith–faith working through agape. This is living and saving faith (versus dead and lifeless faith) and God takes those agape animated works (the cause of which is His Spirit) and rewards those with eternal life.

    That is why in the parable of the talents, the man who does not use what he is given (grace) will have what he has taken from him and be thrown “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

    And, by the way, this is what Trent says too.

    Peace to you on your journey.

    Brent

  73. Good explanation Brent. And there is a mystery which needs to be expressed… that Jesus says in John 10… ” 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

    Thus the question… if we have been chosen by God, can we snatch ourselves out of the hand of Jesus?

    Cheers
    Curt

  74. @Andrew Preslar

    Good article but I would also like to echo John Thayer Jensen’s concerns in #4. Salvation is a synergism; man’s activity is a co-operation – a subordinate “with operation” that ultimately results in the individual being in eschatological communion with God. In the activity, it is 100% the activity of God and 100% the activity of man. In both the Sisyphus illustration and Dr. Hahn’s illustration, there is a sense that man is just “being carried along for the ride” and that man’s work in the task does not actually result in the task being completed. Would pushing the bolder up the hill or mowing the lawn get completed if man pushed not quite so hard or pushed not at all? Yes. Thus I don’t see either event as a “synergistic event” because when you break down the work, man’s activity is in addition to and above that which is required by “the Father” to accomplish the task at hand. That isn’t really synergism.

    You wrote:

    God is not a sissy, or a Sisyphus. He moved the stone, and it cannot be rolled back. God does not “need” us, but for that reason he is not afraid to let his children participate in the work of salvation

    I think here you get near the core of the issue for monergists. “Does God need us?” That question bothers monergists because of their concept of God’s sovereignty — to be sovereign, as far as I understand the monergist’s concept of the term, is to “be alone” — but right there I find that to be a mistaken understanding of the very nature of God. God is not “alone”, but being Trinity, God is from eternity a communion of persons — The Triune persons of the Trinity are eternally with each other united in one divine nature. As such, God’s sovereignty cannot be thought of as “being alone”, “without”, “excluding all else”, but God’s sovereignty must be thought of in terms of the eternal internal economy of the Trinity.

    Does God need us? Well that is not so much the important question as “Do I need me?” If salvation involves me, then I need me. Ultimately any concept of salvation that views the human soul / the activity of man as something that is passive or superfluous is something that really isn’t salvation. If a man, who is in a coma, is hooked up to all sorts of machines that cause his heart to pump, cause air to be brought into is lungs and brings in nutrients and removes byproducts — essentially a man whose own personal activity is passive or superfluous to that which the machines do can hardly be said to be fully alive or remotely experiencing “salvation”. Likewise a relationship where God sovereignly does everything (or wills the outcome of every action of mine) and I am not truly needed or just involved passively isn’t really worth much.

    Only when we see that “I need me” in salvation can we answer the question of “Does God need us?” Well, did God need Mary to say yes? From the standpoint of justice, God “needs” us for it would not be just to save us without our participation — for example it would have been unjust for the Son to have incarnated in Mary without her “yes”. Nor would it be just for God to have ordained the outcome of Mary’s yes for then human activity is simply an extension of divine activity and not truly activity in it of itself — man is simply God’s puppet. From the standpoint of God’s sovereignty does God “need” us? We are not nominalists — we do not mean by God’s sovereignty that God can do whatever and anything. We believe that what God does is in accordance with His nature — God cannot, in a real and actual sense, do evil. Whatever God does is not, in a nominalistic sense, called good simply because it is an activity done by a sovereign being, but the activity is itself truly good for it proceeds forth from a truly good nature, not simply a nature that is sovereign. (At least in my talking with Reformed individuals there seems to be a sense that they view God’s nature as simply sovereign.) God is, in His nature, Triune and thus God’s sovereignty is in accordance with His nature as Trinity. Thus the activity of salvation that stems from God cannot be viewed as a wholly unilateral activity on God’s part — a monergistic activity, but it must be viewed as an activity that requires the other — a synergistic activity. Salvation, communion with God is not possible without us. Thus for God to have full communion with me, there is definitely a sense in which He “needs” me. I must participate in my own salvation.

    This is why Augustine says “He Who hath created thee without thee, will not justify thee without thee” (St. Augustine, Sermo 169.13).

    This is why St. Paul says Col 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church

    I would also like to point out something in John Thayer Jensen’s #4 where he points to the WCF. The problem, from a Catholic point of view, with this section from the WCF III.1 is in terms of causality and ordination. Let me give the quote again because I will follow close to the language within it.

    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.

    In Reformed theology, if God ordains X to occur, X occurs, and whatever occurs is because it was so ordained. Ordaining something to be is not passive but active willing. Thus any evil act that occurs is not a “passively willed/permitted by God” but it is actually ordained by God in an unchangeable way. In this system God is not the “author of sin” because it is not a sin for God to ordain an individual to election to danmantion where He will display His sovereignty by exercising justice over the sinner. The problem in the Reformed system here is that it boils down to a misunderstanding of God’s nature and this accentuated concept of sovereignty. In the reformed system, the outcome of secondary causes (man’s choices in his activity) is always predetermined. It is man’s choice, but that choice is established by God in its specifics. Violence is not offered to the will of the creature, for in order for violence to be done, the creature would have to have the ability to will contrary to what God ordained, and thus would be in conflict with that ordaining. But for the Reformed concept, the creature’s will is that which God ordained it to be — thus no violence done. (a human will cannot fight do be damned if God ordained the creature to be justified, and a human will cannot fight to be saved if God ordained the creature to be damned. Because God ordained, the human will actively wills to be saved/damned according to that which God forordained.) The WCF is very monergistic in this section. But it is also not what Augustine means when he talks about how grace works. In Augustine, God doesn’t ordain the outcome of the will but rather establishes the capability of the will to will the good and draws man towards the good while allowing man to reject the good and salvation. In Augustine, God doesn’t act in an irresistible manner that determines the outcome of the human will. cf. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02091a.htm especially where it compares Augustine and Calvin.

    John Thayer Jensen said

    Whereas in fact it seems to me that what I do I do and if I didn’t – it wouldn’t be done. At the same time, it seems to me that I cannot do anything except in God.

    This I think here gets to the truth of the matter. When we look to the mystics and look at their writings on hell, what we often see is hell depicted as a place of “inactivity”. We are conditioned to think of hell as a place of bristling anguishing activity, but the Bible does also describe it as a place of darkness and inactivity. Activity cannot be accomplished unless it is done in God. Those in hell, because they are separated from God, and are not in communion with God, cannot act.

    Evil actions are rarely chosen because they are evil — rather they are a chosen because the individual has a mistaken understanding of the hierarchy of the good (this is a result of the fall). Here in this life we are all pilgrims, even those who are far away and know not Christ. We are, by our nature, attracted to the good, and we accomplish natural good by our nature which comes from God and supernatural good through grace and our synergism in God. Evil is simply choosing a natural good over a supernatural good or choosing a lesser natural good over a greater natural good. God works in us to will and we synergistically work to do His good pleasure.

  75. Hi Andrew

    re: your comments on my (64)

    Yes I agree with your analysis of the differences, both in terminolgical understanding and theological understanding. I might even go so far as to say that I somewhat agree, except that there are passages in Scripture where God’s sovereignty rises above our comfort level and stretches beyond what I believe you are saying. I noticed in Nathan’s comment above that “as far as I understand the monergist’s concept of the term [sovereignty], is to “be alone” … nothing could be further from the reformed understanding of sovereignty. Sovereignty simply means “above all”. My earthly father was “above all” in our house growing up, but he was certainly not alone.

    In Scripture, we have difficult verses like the Romans 9, where God’s sovereignty clearly rises beyond choosing and waiting for a human response, to a level of choosing the outcome. To Pharaoh He says, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So He raised up Pharaoh to knock him down in order to glorify Himself. We have to believe in a very sovereign God to be able to accept this.

    The same Scripture clearly teaches that God chooses whom He will save or not save… “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

    The real kicker in Romans 9 is God choosing Jacob over Esau “though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.”

    These are very difficult verses, no matter whether you are orthodox or reformed. They call us to believe in a God who’s sovereignty reaches uncomfortable heights for us mortals. As such, we must trust that God is both loving and just in His infinite righteousness.

    Yes, I believe salvation is a once for all event… Jesus on the cross was sufficient for the sins of mankind. But I do not deny that sanctification is divinely hitched to salvation. If we are saved, the Holy Spirit is at work in us and there will be fruit. I believe we will be rewarded in heaven for our good works… but not with salvation … that was a gift … we can’t pay for the gift… if we could, Christ’s death was unnecessary. We are dead in the law, but alive in Christ. Our disagreement will likely stand at the cause and effect question regarding salvation. I believe that God loves us so much that He would not leave our salvation at the peril of our sinful nature. The Old Testament proved that this was a losing battle.

    Thanks very much for your thoughts!
    Curt

  76. Curt Russell: Are you asking me to explain the sovereignty of God?

    Heck no! I already acknowledge that God is sovereign. By a sovereign act of God’s will I received my life without having any say in the manner. The human life that received includes having a free will as an essential part of my human nature. You have free will too, and there is nothing you can do to change that fact. You can choose to accept God with your free will, or you can choose to reject God with your free will, just like any other human being.

    Curt Russell: We know that God is perfectly loving, perfectly just… full of grace and truth. Who are we to question why He hardened the heart of Pharaoh but saved you or me?

    Who is questioning why God hardened the heart of Pharaoh? That is hardly a mystery. As you say, we know that God is perfectly just, and because of that knowledge, we also know that God was just in hardening the heart of the Pharaoh. Pharoh’s heart was hardened because Pharaoh used his free will to refuse to listen to God when he was confronted with the revelation of a true prophet of God – Moses.

    Curt Russell: More than anything, God is sovereign! He gets to decide.

    More than anything, God is merciful because his mercy is above all things. But God is indeed sovereign, and in a sovereign act of his will he created us as beings with free will so that we could make real choices. Whether our choices are for good or evil, God will judge that. But God is not capricious in his judgment – God gives us a human nature that knows right and wrong through the natural law; God gives us divine revelation that lets us know that the Ten Commandments are binding upon all men; God gives us a church that he founded, a church that has the authority to teaches us what we must believe to be a faithful Christian, a church that teaches all men what constitutes the objective norms of proper behavior. God, in a sovereign act of his will, has founded a church, and God has commanded that all Christians must listen to his church or be excommunicated. Do you exercise your free will to listen to the church founded by Christ?

    Curt Russell: Thus, irresistible grace in not mongeristic, it is God directed.

    What does that mean? Please clarify!

  77. Nathan,

    Thanks for the comment. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read through the thread, but some points have been taken up in greater detail here and there.

    You asked, and answered in the affirmative, the following question:

    “Would pushing the bolder up the hill or mowing the lawn get completed if man pushed not quite so hard or pushed not at all?”

    It depends on what task the picture is illustrating. I purposefully kept that bit fluid, such that the rock-rolling could symbolize an individual’s salvation or the world-wide work of salvation.

  78. Nathan B.

    I’m not sure which Reformed theologians you are somewhat paraphrasing, but your understanding of reformed theology is far afield from that which I am aware. Let me dissect one comment you made:

    Likewise a relationship where God sovereignly does everything (or wills the outcome of every action of mine) and I am not truly needed or just involved passively isn’t really worth much.

    First, I know of no reformed theologian that propounds this concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty does not mean “being alone” as you ascribed to the reformed position. It means “above all”. God is sovereign over the entire universe, including you and me. He created us and reigns over us. For an out-of-the-box example, think about this… When you go surfing, you hop on a board and paddle out, watch for a wave and then ride it in. God created the wave… you rode it. God could just as easily create waves and leave you out, but its more fun to let you be a part of it. The wave is not dependent on you, only God. He can create waves without us, but without God, you can’t surf. God calls us to be a part of the spiritual body and to ride the waves as He orchestrates them. To say that isn’t worth much is to say that God’s purposes aren’t worth much. God loves us and wants us to be on His team… for me that’s a move from the sand lot to the major leagues. I can live with that.

    PS: I would love to hear your explanation of Romans 9.

    Cheers
    Curt

  79. Who is questioning why God hardened the heart of Pharaoh? That is hardly a mystery. As you say, we know that God is perfectly just, and because of that knowledge, we also know that God was just in hardening the heart of the Pharaoh. Pharoh’s heart was hardened because Pharaoh used his free will to refuse to listen to God when he was confronted with the revelation of a true prophet of God – Moses.

    Very interesting… but that’s not what it says. “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” God raised him up to knock him down. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God so that God would be glorified. That’s sovereignty.

    Here’s the extra credit problem… Romans 9…

    10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
    11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
    12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
    13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

    When exactly when did Esau use his free will to reject God? Hmmm.

    More than anything, God is merciful because his mercy is above all things.

    Again, interesting thought. God’s mercy extends to us… in fact, its all about us. If God’s mercy is above all, that would make us more important than God. I’m sure you are not saying that. The first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” God is sovereign… above all. His mercy is lower on the ladder.

    By a sovereign act of God’s will I received my life without having any say in the manner.

    If God created you without your help, why is it hard to believe that He can save you without your help?

    Cheers
    Curt

  80. Nathan B. “Does God need us?” That question bothers monergists because of their concept of God’s sovereignty — to be sovereign, as far as I understand the monergist’s concept of the term, is to “be alone” — but right there I find that to be a mistaken understanding of the very nature of God. God is not “alone”, but being Trinity, God is from eternity a communion of persons — The Triune persons of the Trinity are eternally with each other united in one divine nature. As such, God’s sovereignty cannot be thought of as “being alone”, “without”, “excluding all else”, but God’s sovereignty must be thought of in terms of the eternal internal economy of the Trinity.

    I think that I get what you are saying about the eternal nature of God and how that bears on the nature of grace. If “monergism only” is true, that would imply a modalistic understanding of God – i.e,.God is only one person that is alone, not three persons with one nature. But I also think that the monergism vs. synergism argument a false dichotomy. Salvation is simultaneously both monergism and synergism, but it is hard for me to explain what I am trying to say. So bear with me as I muddle through with my thoughts.

    Within the eternal life of God we see what is reflected in us because we are beings created in the image and likeness of God. In that reflection of the eternal God, I “see” both monergism and synergism in the order of grace that brings me to salvation. For example, in the eternal life of God, does God the Father and God the Holy Spirit eternally beget God the Son, or does only God the Father eternally beget the Son? Only the Father begets the Son. That only the Father begets the Son makes me see monergism when I am begotten by the Father to become a child of God. But though the Son is eternally begotten by the Father alone, the Son, like the Father and the Holy Spirit has life without beginning or end. So that eternal life of three persons without beginning or end must also reflect in my salvation, since my salvation is a participation in the eternal life of three persons who love one another. So I also see synergism in my salvation. To be begotten as a child of God, I must respond with love to that begetting of new life. I can’t be dragged unwillingly to the baptismal font and have new life forced upon me. I must respond with love and faith to the actual grace that God is giving me that draws me to ask the church for the Sacrament of Baptism.

    Salvation – simultaneous monergism and synergism.

  81. Dear Curt,

    “No one can snatch them out of his hand”. Great question and yes this is a great mystery. Curt, I think we have two options:

    (1) Take all the Biblical data that seems to point to the ability for Christians to fall away and say “they were never Christians to begin with”. I’m afraid those this does great damage to the Holy Scriptures.

    or

    (2) Interpret this passage in light of Romans 8:38-39, the numerous passages in #1, the Tradition, and according to Mother Church to mean that nothing other than our free response to reject God can separate us from Him. No angel, demon, another person or power can rob Jesus of the power of salvation he bestows upon those by His grace and by their free response. That’s why the judgment is our personal judgment, and we will be left without excuse.

    We are in His Hand, Yes. But how did we get there? The requisite for all love relationships is free response. God’s grace must first aid us to “see” the Truth of Jesus Christ, but even then we can choose to reject it. This is true for all things God gives us grace to believe. God gives many people much grace “to see” that the Catholic Church is the Church he established. Do they all follow his leading? No. This doesn’t prove that anyone can snatch me out of Mother Church nor does the defections of fallen away Catholics concern me. As Jesus says in the same passage you quoted regarding Gentiles, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).

    Not only through His resurrection, but through our salvation unto good works, Christ “takes up His life again” (v.17) which is pleasing to the Father and a witness to the world (Matt 5:6, 1 Peter 2:12).

    Peace to you on your journey.

    Brent

  82. Curt,
    Romans 9 is covenantal. It is not a discussion on the mechanics of individual salvation but about nations and God’s sovereign activity in regard to the gospel. Look at Malachi 1 which Romans 9 cites, Jacob and Esau are nations. God turns his own command in Deut. 21:15-17 on its head with Jacob and Esau, and Paul is answering the natural question “is there unrighteousnes with God?” because of this. These chapters in Romans are adressing Israel’s fall and the acceptance of the gentiles not individual election to heaven or hell.
    And please apply your monergistic grid to the Incarnation and you will see that it is heresy and destroys the Christ we love!

  83. Curt,
    To clarify my last sentence in #82, I include you in the statement “the Christ we love.” My Calvinism did not fall until I realized it attacked and destroyed the very Christ (Christology) I loved and I challenge you to explore this about the one you love as well.
    Regarding Pharoah the text is not saying God hardened him for predestination to hell, but so that God’s name would be declared in all the earth because the most powerful nation on the planet became vessels of wrath and was plundered by Israel, and those Jewish vessels of mercy proceeded to the promised land to bring forth the Christ who will bring all nations into his covenant. Israel themselves would soon become vessels of wrath so that the gentiles would become vessels of mercy, provoking the Jews to jealousy that all could together find mercy in the One who was given as a covenant for all. Remember chapter 11, both Jews and Gentiles are cut off due to unbelief and grafted in again through faith.

  84. Re: Post #81

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28-27

    Brent, your second exegesis of John 10:27-28 is spot on – i.e. “nothing other than our free response to reject God can separate us from Him. No angel, demon, another person or power can rob Jesus of the power of salvation he bestows upon those by His grace and by their free response.”

    John’s Gospel was the last Gospel written, and the Christians to whom it was addressed were experiencing a persecution of the church that was getting worse. I believe that this passage was written by John to encourage the Christians facing persecution to stand fast, to help them realize that no matter what was thrown at them, no one could snatch them away from God. But that encouragement was not meant to tell them that they could deny the Lord when the persecution came so that they could save their own life or the lives of their families. These early Christians also knew that “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:33). Many early Christians did stand up to the persecution, and they refused to deny Jesus even if it meant watching their children sown up in sheep skins and tossed to the lions as entertainment for the Romans.

    Fast forward to our era. Protestant evangelicals are using John 10:28-27 as a “proof text” to support a gospel of cheap grace and easy believism – i.e. “Once Saved, Always Saved, there is no sin that you could ever commit that would make you lose your salvation.” It is a false gospel, and there isn’t going to be a “rapture” that blasts the Christians from the earth so that they can escape the Great Tribulation that is coming. Will the Protestants that have been raised on a diet of OSAS stand firm when the persecution comes down? Or will they deny the Lord before men when the going gets rough, because, hey, Once Saved, Always Saved, even if I deny God before man, I have eternal security because of my one time act of faith.

    Personally, I think that Satan using OSAS doctrine to set up a trap that will entice Christians to fall away when the persecution of the Antichrist becomes manifest.

    For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. Matt 24:7-11

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    The Church’s ultimate trial

    675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

    677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

  85. Mateo (84)

    I hear what you are saying, but it would be good to take care when over-generalizing about different groups. Whether that Catholic or protestant doctrine ends up being right, I’m not sure there are sufficient numbers of theologians among the flock in either camp to say that one or the other will fall away during the tribulation. If you want evidence from recent history, look at the church in Nazi Germany. Read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “The Cost of Discipleship”. A quote from that book: “Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.” Then read the Confession of Barmen and about the Confessing Church movement of the time. Bonhoeffer, by the way, was hanged by the Nazi’s. Read Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. She ended up in a concentration camp for hiding Jews from the Nazis in Holland. Then read about the Catholic Church response to Nazism and tell me who believed in costly grace. I’m not trying to advocate one or the other, but I am refuting your argument that somehow Protestants believe in cheap grace.

    Cheers
    Curt

  86. Hey Curt,

    The first part of #85 is great. So I was surprised to find you flat on your face in the second to last sentence. You reference two Protestants who behaved heroically in the midst of a great tribulation. But then you make an insinuating comparison to “the Catholic Church response to Nazism.” Thus, instead of an effective reply to mateo, concerning uncharitable over-generalizations, your comment resolves into irony and hypocrisy, through uncharitable over-generalization.

  87. Brent

    A very plausible response. To me, there is a mystery relationship between the doctrine of election and the doctrine of free will. Biblically, it is a both/and relationship… both true… but seemingly in conflict from the human view. I do not struggle with a “salvation through grace” with a “works/rewards” concept of sanctification. I do struggle with salvation through grace and works. Jesus fulfills the law by filling the gap between human sin and perfect obedience. Yes we are called to strive for perfect obedience, and yes we will fall short. There are questions left open: How much obedience is sufficient for salvation? Or, how much sin will jeopardize salvation? if the Holy Spirit is truly living within us, can we really commit “mortal” sins?

    Cheers
    Curt

  88. Canadian (82,83)

    Thanks for the response. I do not understand what you mean…

    And please apply your monergistic grid to the Incarnation and you will see that it is heresy and destroys the Christ we love!

    How does monergism apply to the Incarnation?

    Thanks
    Curt

  89. Curt Russell: In Scripture, we have difficult verses like the Romans 9, where God’s sovereignty clearly rises beyond choosing and waiting for a human response …

    As a Catholic I guess that I am supposed to find Roman chapter 9 troubling is some way, but I don’t see it that way at all. As Canadian pointed out in his post #82:

    Romans 9 is covenantal. It is not a discussion on the mechanics of individual salvation but about nations and God’s sovereign activity in regard to the gospel.

    The topic that Paul is raising in Romans 9 is who is the true Israel to whom the promises of God have been made. The true Israel is the church Jesus founded, and Paul is quoting the scriptures that prove that this was God’s intention from the very beginning. As a Catholic, I don’t find Romans 9 bothersome at all; in fact, I take comfort in it since I am a member of the church that Christ founded – a Gentile that is part of the true Israel.

    For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants … Romans 9:6-7

    That is a description of me – a child of Abraham that is not a descendant of Abraham …

    Curt Russell: If God’s mercy is above all, that would make us more important than God. I’m sure you are not saying that. The first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” God is sovereign… above all. His mercy is lower on the ladder.

    The Muslims tell me that Allah is sovereign and his majesty is paramount. The mercy of Allah is down on the ladder in the grand scheme of things. But then, the Muslims consider it a great outrage to call God “father” because they know not the Gospel.

    Your biblical exegesis has got things exactly backwards – you are trying to use the Old Testament to shed light on the New Testament, when you should be doing your exegesis the other way around. The Jews rejected Jesus because they wanted a Messiah that would come with power and majesty to crush the neck of the Romans. Instead, they got a meek and humble Jesus who preached a gospel of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus revealed the Father to us, and what he revealed is that God is love. Instead of the wrath that we deserve, we have been offered mercy over judgement.

    God is love
    1 John 4:8

    mercy triumphs over judgment
    James 2:13

    for as His majesty is,
    so also is His mercy
    Sirach 2:18

    God’s mercy is above all things because God is love. His majesty is His mercy.

    Curt Russell: If God created you without your help, why is it hard to believe that He can save you without your help?

    Repenting of my sin is not me “helping” God. Repenting is what I must do to receive the salvation being offered to me by God through the atoning sacrifice of the cross. Why is it so hard to see that “Repent and be Saved” is an essential element of the Gospel?

    I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
    Luke 5:32

    I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
    Luke 15:7

    And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    Acts 2:38

  90. Andrew

    You are partially right… but I did not draw a conclusion. I simply encouraged mateo to investigate and report. I furthered tempered the question with the last sentence. The reality is that there are Christians of all stripes who live as though grace were cheap. There are also Christians of all stripes who know that grace is costly.

    Cheers
    Curt

  91. Curt Russell: I am refuting your argument that somehow Protestants believe in cheap grace.

    Not all Protestants preach a gospel of cheap grace, of course, which is why a Protestant like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s could write this:

    “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

  92. Curt,

    You asked:

    How much obedience is sufficient for salvation? Or, how much sin will jeopardize salvation? if the Holy Spirit is truly living within us, can we really commit “mortal” sins?

    If you mean a quantitative amount it is the wrong question. If you are asking a qualitative question, I’m the wrong person (God). If, however, you are asking me if you must “lay down your life”, “pick up your cross”, “die to yourself”, “sell all you possessions”, “give up mother or father” than my answer is yes this is sufficient for salvation according to Jesus. Our hope is in Christ in us, not in our works. Our faith working through love synergistically brings about “fruit that will remain” (Jn 15) and He tell us this “so that you may not fall away” (Jn 16:1; which implies one can fall away unless Jesus is playing a word game).

    To your second question, God breathed into Adam His Spirit. Adam committed a mortal sin. God sent Jesus to give us the grace to not commit mortal sins and offer us the life of the Holy Trinity. However, we can still resist that grace. That is why it is so much worse for us who reject God under the New Covenant. See Hebrews 10:26-30 which is about God’s judgment of “his people”.

    Peace to you on your journey.

  93. @Curt:

    If, however, you are asking me if you must “lay down your life”, “pick up your cross”, “die to yourself”, “sell all you possessions”, “give up mother or father” than my answer is yes this is sufficient for salvation according to Jesus.

    I would say that giving up all, holding nothing back, is not only sufficient, it is necessary (Luke 14:33):

    So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

    That is what death is about. At the end, it is whether we forsake all that we have, or whether we have it forceably taken from us, that determines our fate.

    work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    If that is synergism, make the most of it. All of mine for all of His.

    jj

  94. Brent, again, great answer. I’m not trying to beat the horse, but let me pick up on what you said…

    If, however, you are asking me if you must “lay down your life”, “pick up your cross”, “die to yourself”, “sell all you possessions”, “give up mother or father” than my answer is yes this is sufficient for salvation according to Jesus.

    So, I humbly ask (and I mean that)… Have you personally done all of those things? I ask rhetorically… my point being that we as Christ followers aspire to all of those things, but few achieve all of those things. As I understand RC theology, that makes our salvation at risk. To me, this leaves grace hanging out in the cold… did Christ die to save me from my sin, or not?

    Thanks
    Curt

  95. @Curt:

    few achieve all of those things

    You will – the only question is whether willingly or not. That is why salvation is not a done deal until death. Even then, God in His mercy provides Purgatory, for those ‘givings-up’ that are less than fatal but not entirely cleaned up. But you are quite right to suppose that neither Brent (I incorrectly addressed my previous post to you but I see it was Brent who posted it) nor you nor I has done these things in this life.

    But you will. You will not go out from there until the last farthing is paid. What it means for salvation is the relation of your will to the giving up.

    jj

  96. Curt,

    You asked, “did Christ die to save me from my sin.” Beforehand you remarked, “few achieve all of those things.”

    Did he or did he not, Curt? I’m asking you. On the one hand you say he does, but then you seem to gesture at the impossibility of that work. We all throw ourselves at the mercy of God, but where much is given much is required. I was given birth in a relatively luxurious country. How do I lay my life down and carry my cross? My wife and family (four kids 5 and under). I went to the Sacrament of Confession tonight to clean up for an imperfect job there. Why? Not because I’m giving up that I can be better, but that I can cooperate with God’s grace more. I must because I know I can. I believe in God’s grace that much. I believe in Jesus that much.

    How do I sell all my possessions or leave my family? I’ll tell you my friend. I sold possessions and moved across the country to study Catholicism. I gave up ministry, relationships, and family to come into the Catholic Church. It was my opportunity. We all have different ones. I call it the “rubber meets the road”. It’s all good to say, “I love you Jesus” or “I give my life to you Jesus” but what we do when we are faced with our own greatest loss is the measure of those words. If we are accountable to the grace we resist, how much more will we be accounted for the grace we cooperate with?

    Peace to you on your journey.

  97. Curt #88,
    I discussed it some in #56 and #71.
    The ancient Ecumenical Councils are crucial to all this. Trinitarian and Incarnational theology protects the church from nearly every error. It is critical to distinguish between person and nature both in God and in man. Christ, the church discerned, has two natures, two natural free wills and two natural energies. We are of the same substance (consubstantial) with Christ according to his humanity. His humanity is the same as ours except for sin. He assumed our human nature which was fallen NOT sinful, exactly as it was in Mary. His natures are not contrary to one another or in opposition and the properties of each nature are not lost when united in the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    So the divine Person of Christ wills naturally both as God and as man, he operates freely both as God and as man. Calvinism denies free will to man, but if man does not have natural free will neither does Christ because his natural human will is the same as ours!
    The sixth Council in condemning mon-energism and monothelitism affirms that Christ’s human will and energy freely follows the divine will not resisting or reluctant. Calvinism requires the Divine will and energy to compell, subsume, overwhelm our human will and energy in relation to God, specifically in salvation. Again, if this is true for us then it MUST be for Christ–which would be heresy. Now none of this means that we do not resist God as Persons. Persons sin, natures do not. So God does not monergistically give regeneration to our human nature, will, and energy before we can believe or act in relation to God, otherwise the hypostatic union would require the same and would destroy Christ’s true humanity. That is why man has natural ability under the influence of grace to come freely to salvation. The act of coming for mercy is not self-saving but salvation does not happen without without the sinful human Person employing his free Natural will and energy to submit completely to God the Father to do for him what he cannot do for himself.
    Also, Calvinism confuses person and nature when saying that only elect persons were really united with Christ’s saving person and work. I hope that helps and does not make things worse :-)

  98. Brent…

    Alas something in common! I had four kids under 5… once. Now I have five, with four in college. I’ll be praying for you!

    Did he or did he not, Curt? I’m asking you. On the one hand you say he does, but then you seem to gesture at the impossibility of that work.

    With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible. I do not have to rely on myself for salvation… God has done what I could not. My job is participation in sanctification through the power of the Spirit to produce fruit for the Kingdom. In this way I agree that we are accountable to God for the grace we receive.

    Cheers
    Curt

  99. Canadian (97)

    Thank you for your extraordinary explanation!

    You said… “He [Christ] assumed our human nature which was fallen NOT sinful”

    If I read you correctly, you are saying that man does not have a sinful nature. Paul describes himself this way…

    Eph2:3 “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

    So I’m kind of lost on the concept that man has no sinful nature.

    You also said, “Calvinism denies free will to man”

    You say this as though free will is something to be desired. In fact, it is free will that gets us in trouble, when exercised in conjunction with our sinful nature. God mercifully sets us free from the bondage of sin by trumping our free will with His grace and mercy.

    2Cor5… “14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

    He assumed our human nature which was fallen NOT sinful, exactly as it was in Mary.

    Sorry, but I just can’t let this go by. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… including Mary. There is none righteous, no not one… including Mary. Like so many of us, her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior… she says “my Savior… not our Savior… not your Savior. She knew she needed a Savior.

    Finishing up… Jesus tells us that all of the law of the prophets can be boiled down to two things… Love God with all of your heart soul mind and spirit; and love your neighbor as yourself. When we read a verse like this, I sometimes think we make theology more complicated than God intended.

    Cheers
    Curt

  100. Curt,

    Thanks for your prayers! You will be in mine as well. From our discussion though, I think we have a lot more in common! : )

    If I may, I would recommend a book by Robert Sungenis Not by Bread Alone. The book is very readable and addresses how justification works inside Catholic eucharistic theology. I sounded just like you until I read that book. The first 200 pages work entirely within the framework of scripture which I know you will appreciate as did I.

    Peace to you on your journey.

  101. Brent

    Thanks for the prayers and the book recommendation. I just ordered it and look forward to a good read. I will likely disappear for a while until I have had a chance to digest it. I want to try to better understand your understanding, and also avoid devolving into “tit for tat” theological bantering which becomes counter-productive. By the way, I hope you have a good job… I’m at $130k in college expenses this year and my oldest just got accepted into grad school. That’s after tax dollars. I can’t imagine what it will cost when your kids get there!

    Cheers
    Curt

  102. Curt Russell: You say this as though free will is something to be desired. In fact, it is free will that gets us in trouble, when exercised in conjunction with our sinful nature. God mercifully sets us free from the bondage of sin by trumping our free will with His grace and mercy.

    Wow, that certainly is a revelatory statement! I would like to ask the ex-Calvinists at CTC if this is a common way of thinking among Calvinists. That is, when you were a practicing Calvinist, did you believe that irresistible grace took away your free will and turned you into something that was controlled by God?

    Curt, please clarify something for me. When Adam was in Paradise before the Fall, did Adam exercise his free will to choose to be disobedient to God, or did God have a “secret will” that made Adam commit an act of disobedience?

  103. Canadian,

    Thanks, I like the Christological focus in your comments. Is your criticism directed to the Reformed only, or to the Augustinian West at large?

    In Christ,
    John

  104. Curt,

    God bless you! Your a good dad. My kids have two options: (1) get full rides or (2) go to our local CC. That’s the way it was for me, so it made me work really hard for a full ride which I got. I am also blessed with some good grandparents and between us we are all already saving for that day. I’m still anxious though.

    One last recommendation. Pope Benedict XVI’s new book is incredible and actually addresses a lot of what we are talking about. He uses Judas as an example of one who can fall away. Interestingly enough, he kind of says that salvation is beyond the categories that we are talking about but can rightly be understood in the Eastern/Jewish idea of the emersion in agape (which is symbolically initiated with the foot washing). I’m only a third into it (I got it 36 hours ago), but it is incredible. I plan to have it done by the end of Holy Week and will write a small review on it at my website the week after. Here’s a link. Title: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Intrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.

    One may be able to fault a few of us Catholics for not knowing our Bible well enough, but not our German Papa! He goes so far as to say that he is doing what has never been done before in exegesis; namely to assume all of the authentic insights of the historical critical method but to move beyond it to theological interpretation of the texts. I’m done typing, I’m going back to reading!

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  105. In reading the scriptures as a Protestant, I found people making decisions. Those decisions may have been good or bad, but they were decisions made by individuals or their leaders, and so far as I could see God honored those choices by not denying them. It also appeared to me that He permitted those people to achieve the reward that they were seeking in making those choices. If they were seeking Him or seeking good, sooner or later He or that good would seem to come their way. If they were seeking someone else or a wrong, that someone else or that wrong would be a reward which arrived in due time.

    I was under the impression that I was not an automaton, a robot, unable to at least recognize good and right, even when I failed to move in that direction. I did not believe Luther when he wrote that God would saddle me up and ride me in one direction until He got tired, and then that Satan would saddle me up and ride me in the other direction until he got tired. Rather I was a human being with reason and will, whoever and whatever I was serving, including myself.

    All of scripture colluded with the idea that I could and would have to make decisions, right or wrong, for which I would be judged. I could not escape the fact that I was responsible for a great many things that I thought and did, and that my circumstances were so dire that God Himself would have to rescue me. At that point I would have to respond to that rescue and that Rescuer, by responding to the grace that would follow. If I did it correctly, good. If I did it for the right reason but imperfectly, still good (thank you GK Chesterton for that insight). If I did it wrong, not good.

    While I have heard and read a great many conversion stories in all directions, the majority of those I heard from Catholics involved the Eucharist, a profound Gift to us. However my conversion involved the fact that I wanted to be forgiven, as in “whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them” kind of forgiven. I wanted that weight lifted off my shoulders because someone working for Someone with the proper historical pedigree was given that authority to exercise. I needed that because I do not always do the right thing, perfectly or imperfectly. I needed someone who could do that because my free will does not always act in concert with our Lord’s general will or His particular will for me in a particular circumstance.

    It appears to me that God wants those who want Him. They are recognized by their thought, word and deed. Per the apostle, “I’ll show you my faith through my works.” It appears that one makes a choice or a continuing series of choices and acts on it/them, for good or ill.

  106. Mateo (102)

    Adam, like you and me, chose to do evil. Humans can choose to do evil on their own all day long, but humans can only choose to do good when God intervenes.

    Romans 3:10… “as it is written, “there is none righteous, not even one; 11 there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; 12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

    It is not I, but Christ who lives in me…

    Galations 2:20… “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

    God trumps our free will to save us… Praise His name!

    Cheers
    Curt

  107. donald todd: I was under the impression that I was not an automaton, a robot, unable to at least recognize good and right, even when I failed to move in that direction. I did not believe Luther when he wrote that God would saddle me up and ride me in one direction until He got tired, and then that Satan would saddle me up and ride me in the other direction until he got tired. Rather I was a human being with reason and will, whoever and whatever I was serving, including myself.

    Thanks for this response. In fact, thanks for all your posts to CTC. I always find your posts to be interesting and well thought out.

    If we are really just robots without free will, then in what sense did Adam commit a sin? If Adam didn’t really choose to be disobedient, then God is responsible for everything that went wrong after the Fall, since God willed his Adam robot to be disobedient. Which would mean that if I am one of the lucky few that are among the elect, I really don’t have to repent – God is the one that needs to repent for me for since I am a slave to sin and it is God’s fault that I was born this way.

    Hence my question to Curt Russell:

    Who really decides to repent of my sins so that they can be forgiven, Me or God?

  108. Mateo

    Wrong question… Who saves you… You or God? If you can repent without God, then Christ’s death was unnecessary. If you need God’s help, then it is no longer you, it is God.

    Curt

  109. Curt,
    We need to adhere to proper Christology first, then proceed to our anthropology. All of the statements you made about the sinful actions of persons do not get you where you want to go in regard to human nature. Sin is a transgression or unlawful act (1John 3:4) which is an act of a person, natures do not act. The Church’s Christology shows us this. Our nature has been corrupted and damaged and it is fallen which means it is subject to death. Christ assumed our nature in this state and united it to his divinity so that his flesh becomes life-giving (eucharist) and able to exceed it’s natural capabilities (deification) like glowing brighter than the sun on the mount or walking on water or being worshipped as God. This is why the Son needed to assume it, but he could not assume it if sin was a “thing” or “substance” that was inherent in that nature.

    In fact, it is free will that gets us in trouble, when exercised in conjunction with our sinful nature. God mercifully sets us free from the bondage of sin by trumping our free will with His grace and mercy.

    Here you seem to make the will a faculty of person rather than nature, if this were true Jesus would only have one will and the Trinity would have three. Or else you make the natural will sinful in itself. Either way the it would destroy the Incarnation if it were true.
    What gets us in trouble is that we personally use our free natural will in ways that are against nature (Romans 1:26). And also we are uncertain as to what is actually “good” so we deliberate and often sin whether intentionally or not. Jesus Christ did not have this problem when using his (our) free natural human will because he was a divine person not a human person.
    God sets us free from our bondage to sin not by trumping our free will (mon-energism/monotheletism) but by uniting us to Christ through faith and baptism which we come to by our free will.

  110. John #103,

    Thanks, I like the Christological focus in your comments. Is your criticism directed to the Reformed only, or to the Augustinian West at large?

    I feel like I am in no place to criticise anyone, sinner I am. But as a dysfucnctional Reformed Baptist I could no longer stand up to the constant Christological challenges, whether direct or indirect :-) from folks like Perry Robinson and Bryan Cross, and I am almost certainly heading to Eastern Orthodoxy. And now, I hope to fumble my way in discussions like this to have other Calvinist’s see that the Christ we love dearly is actually destroyed by some of the postitions we hold, most of which were dealt with in the ancient Ecumenical Councils and an ecclesial reading of scripture.

  111. Curt,

    That’s not true at #108. We are co-laborers with Christ. It’s not the me only or God only paradigm.

    That’s just not coherent to the Biblical data. It does make for a very exciting possibility, but just not the good news Jesus preached.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  112. Canadian (#110):

    Thanks, I’m sympathetic to Orthodoxy, and would go East if ever I lost confidence in the Reformation. To rephrase the earlier comment, it seems your criticism of Calvinism is equally applicable to Thomism and other variants of high Augustinian theology. The reason is that when Reformed deny “free will,” they’re speaking improperly, for a will that’s not free is a contradiction. What they mean is that fallen man, although he has natural free will, will never turn to God apart from grace; he’s too biased towards sin. That’s a standard Augustinian idea, the so-called “captive free will.” The Reformed add a twist with irresistible grace, but even there, the thought is not that the elect cannot resist the call, it’s that they do not resist; renewed by the Spirit, they come to assent freely, of their own accord. Grace is therefore necessary to their repentance, and it infallibly achieves its purpose in them, somehow doing all this without violence to their wills. How’s that possible, I’m not sure. But once terminological differences are accounted for, it doesn’t seem very different from what many Roman Catholic divines have held about operative and efficacious grace.

    In Christ,
    John

  113. Curt you said:

    Wrong question… Who saves you… You or God? If you can repent without God, then Christ’s death was unnecessary. If you need God’s help, then it is no longer you, it is God.

    This is why I keep pointing you toward Christology. You reveal here that you espouse an inherent opposition between God and Man, just as you did earlier between grace and nature. But apply this to the Incarnation and you lose everything. Did Christ’s humanity need his divinity to will and act for it because it must be God and no longer man? No Catholic or Orthodox believe that they can do anything “without God” and no Catholic or Orthodox believe they save themselves. If you remove the free movement of the humanity of Christ then salvation does not happen. The “necessary” death of Christ you mention is accomplished by the divine Son freely laying his human life down, no one takes it from him….not even God the Father!

  114. Canadian

    Thanks, and good explanation, though I’m still no there. If we do not have a sin nature, how is it that 100% of all the humans that have lived since day one have sinned? I don’t know of any other thing in nature that has 100% repeatbility. While I undestand you argument, I don’t buy its premise.

    Curt

  115. John 112,
    Thanks for your comment.

    The reason is that when Reformed deny “free will,” they’re speaking improperly, for a will that’s not free is a contradiction. What they mean is that fallen man, although he has natural free will, will never turn to God apart from grace; he’s too biased towards sin.

    Total depravity includes all natural faculties, that they are inoperative in relation to God. If total depravity is true then when Christ assumed our nature from the Mother of God, he must have changed it from this depraved and inoperative condition which is explicitly rejected by the church:

    one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation;

    What the Calvinist needs at this point is monergistic regeneration, to be brought from death to life, enlivened, born again. But this is against the unanimous agreement of the church and scripture that regeneration occurs at baptism. Differently from the ancient churches, the Calvinist sees opposition between nature and grace–even in prelapsarian Adam. Adam is operating by nature without grace (covenant of works) so after he fell, he must have lost the operation of that nature, so grace must be applied to alone do what that nature is incapable of. As others have pointed out on this site different times, Pelagianism and Calvinism are both monergistic!
    Calvinist’s know that Christ is doing something effectual for man in his person and work but apply this only to elect persons rather than the universal human nature he assumed. Christ recapitulates all of man’s life at the level of nature and really tastes death for every man (Heb 2:9), but this is applied to persons through faith and baptism which of course are attended by grace building on nature. This is why even the damned will be raised with the saved, because death was trampled by Christ for all. The damned will experience the immortality of our God as a consuming fire, the blessed will experience it as joy unspeakable and full of glory.
    Peace in Christ

  116. Curt #114,
    Even under your scheme, it’s not 100%. Adam was not compelled by nature to sin.
    100% of trees, animals, plants, and microorganisms die without a sin nature. This is because they too are corrupted and damaged in nature from the fall and Christ will not only redeem man but all of creation the apostle says in the NT. As for sin, yes we have strong inclination for it because our personal use of our natural faculty of will has not been inseparably joined as it will in heaven when we can freely choose various good things but never choose what is against nature and therefore against God (sin). Our minds will no longer be darkened, we will not have the devil to deceive us.
    As Farrell points our in his “Disputation with Pyrrhus” a chief point of the monothelite heresy was that what is natural is compelled.

  117. Canadian

    First on your comments in (115), you speak of…

    unanimous agreement of the church and scripture that regeneration occurs at baptism

    Yet, there are numerous times in Scripture when Jesus says to an unbaptised person words like, “go, your sins have been forgiven”. You and I also have known people who were baptized that give no sign of regeneration in their life. If regeneration only occurs through baptism, why would Jesus tell someone to go without also telling them to get baptized? And why would “regenerated people” not show signs or fruit from their regeneration?

    And then (116)… as I understand your position, man is basically good, but fallen? And what does this mean… ” our personal use of our natural faculty of will has not been inseparably joined” joined to what? and what natural faculty?

    Thanks
    Curt

  118. Canadian (#115):

    Thanks for your comment. I’m still having trouble seeing why you object to Calvinism but not to Catholic Augustinianism. Reformed hold that fallen man has free will. He must have it, for to have a will belongs to human nature, and a “will” that is not free is not a will–it’s a contradiction in terms. Total depravity does not, to my knowledge, imply that our faculties are inoperative. What Reformed mean is that after the fall man’s free will is captive to sin. It operates, but the mind and affections are disordered, biased against God. As a consequence, fallen man simply will not turn to God apart from grace: he can turn, but he does not. In order for him to repent, God must act to remove the bias. Once that happens, man assents to the gospel freely, not because his will is coerced.

    Were I to frame objections to that account, they would focus on whether its treatment of the will, sin, and grace is coherent. But Protestant and Catholic Augustinians are in the same boat as far as that goes–and Orthodox typically object to both. Is it baptismal regeneration that sets the two apart in your eyes? If so, we have to decide what regeneration means. Reformed use the word in various senses, and commonly include actual grace within it, whereas Catholics limit it to sanctifying grace.

    In Christ,
    John

  119. Andrew P and Neal,

    Why is our participation necessary? I mean to push (PUN!) in the other direction here. If God can accomplish it alone, why do I (and the whole cosmos) have to suffer seemingly needlessly? There seems to be no reason on this view why our active and intrinsic participation is necessary. Or to put it another way, what soteriological use was Christ’s human freedom and what was the nature of that freedom? Are we saved by a human choice or no?

    Or how would the example look if we modified it to portray the two wills in Christ in accomplishing our salvation?

    And so…

    What are the conditions on “free will” as you are using it? Is there a Magisterial judgment on those conditions or no? It certainly doesn’t look like a Libertarian conception. At best it seems like source incompatibilist or soft determinist.

    What difference is there between irresistible grace and the gift of perseverance?

    Can God revoke what he has given relative to the definition of a nature?

  120. Curt

    Baptism doesn’t imply monergism since what baptism does falls alone the lines of the person/nature distinction. Hence there is an effect of baptism that happens without our choice (nature) and one that cannot occur without our choice(person). Hence infant baptism doesn’t supply proof for monergism.

    All of the examples of Romans 9 serve to buttress Paul’s argument, namely that a premise of the objection is false, that election entailed salvation. The objection was that if Jesus was messiah, then the salvation of the Jews should have taken place but it didn’t and so Jesus was not messiah. Paul argues that election does not entail salvation, but requires repentance even of those elect, lest they be cut off. Hence Pharaoh is an example of election since election is a means by which God’s purposes come through. (v. 11) The preservation of the divine purpose (the bringing about of Messiah) through the election does not guarantee the salvation of those through whom it came, which is why Pharaoh is an apt example and why the Jews are still called elect (chapter 10) even in unbelief.

    As for Eph 2, the material there does not speak of an essence that is of wrath or sin, but of habit. Check any major lexicon and it will tell you the same. It is “nature” in the sense of habitual or second nature. Consequently there is no such thing as a “sinful nature” since sin has no positive existence.

    If free will were not desirable and only got us into trouble, then it must be something God gave us since there is no other source. But if God created us good then free will per se must be good, which would make it desirable, wouldn’t it? Is God then opposed to what is good? Wouldn’t that make God evil? So as you’ve seemingly framed it either God is good and nature at its best is evil or God is evil and nature is good. Both seems seriously wrong.

    If God trumps our free will, then why give it to us in the first place? It is not as if God needs sin in order to manifest his justice or holiness since he was holy and just logically prior to creation. Second, does God trump human free will in Christ? If free will is natural and essential to human nature your view seems to imply that the imago dei is lost *when* we are regenerated, which is problematic on so many levels so far as I can see.

  121. Nathan,

    You wrote,

    “In the reformed system, the outcome of secondary causes (man’s choices in his activity) is always predetermined.”

    But Aquinas writes,

    “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.

    You also write:

    “In Augustine, God doesn’t ordain the outcome of the will but rather establishes the capability of the will to will the good and draws man towards the good while allowing man to reject the good and salvation. In Augustine, God doesn’t act in an irresistible manner that determines the outcome of the human will.”

    Is this true with respect to efficacious grace or the gift of perseverance? Augustine doesn’t seem to talk that way in his, On the predestination of the saints.

  122. John,

    you are right to see the line of Christological criticism as equally applicable to Thomism, Scotism and Molinism. The key issue is then what is nature and what is grace? Is the imago dei of nature or grace? This is why Lubac says that none of the problems he’s dealing with over nature and grace in Thomas arise in the Eastern tradition. Predestination is therefore a Christological problem/issue. Sharper Reformed minds have seen this in say Muller’s Christ and the Decree. You can see a parallel problem worked in Catholic theology in Basil Studer’s The Grace of Christ and the Grace of God in Augustine of Hippo: Christocentrism or Theocentrism?

  123. Curt,

    First a few points.

    1. God made everything and
    2. Holds it in existence
    3. Ergo, I don’t own myself. I belong in the truest sense to He Who made everything and holds it in existence, and
    4. Jesus saves

    I remember reading CS Lewis as he was trying to explain something (to me) and, as he often did, he made his point very well. A father provided the paper and the crayons. The child made a picture for his father. No one is under the impression that the father made a dime on the deal, but the father was none-the-less pleased at his child’s expression of love.

    Nothing that I do will add to or detract from the glory of God. I cannot take anything from Him or add anything to Him. It is beyond me to do so.

    Luther saw us as dung heaps wrapped in snow. If the snow melts, you still have a dung heap.

    Catholicism sees us much differently. Catholicism sees us as works in progress where grace perfects nature. In order for that grace, freely given by God to us, to complete the work He manifestly desires to perform in us, He looks for our collaboration. He provides the material of creation, the stuff I am made of. He holds it in existence and in doing so He holds me in existence. He provides the grace, and looks to see if I’ll pick up that paper and those crayons He gives me. Will I draw that picture for Him out of the love I hopefully have for Him? Paul, the favorite apostle of Protestantism, wrote that one is to work out one’s salvation in fear and trembling because it is God’s good purpose both to will and to work in us. The Catholic position, grace perfecting nature, fits that description. It also exactly falls in line with Paul’s peer, James, who writes, “I’ll show you my faith through my works.” Both were dependent on our Lord to provide the grace which powers that response. Both are examples of those who imitated our Lord and who we can use as examples in our own responses. Both are heroes of my own, and I hope to meet them both in the world to come.

    There are a great many reasons that I became a Catholic. Actually probably more than I can remember at any single sitting, and the “grace perfecting nature” is one of those reasons. I can act in favor of God, and actually have it redound to my own good. I can participate in the life He has made for me, and not sit passively as opportunities for real good pass by. I can offer Him through faith a response to the grace He has given to me (perfectly or imperfectly) and, being the perfect Father He is, He’ll be pleased at a simple display of love for Him; all the while His grace works to perfect my human nature.

    Thanks be to God.

  124. Bill,

    To say that the Reformed view humans as retaining free will depends on what we mean by the term “free will.” Certainly the Reformed do not think humans have, if they ever had, free will in terms of the conditions spelled out by libertarianism. They endorse rather a soft determinist notion, that is an agent acts freely when there is no external power preventing them from accomplishing their desires even though their antecedent appetitive states were determined by an agent other than their own and they do not have alternative possibilities open to them.

    Total depravity entails a few things, the most important of which is that some of the essential constituents of the image of God are lost at the fall (namely righteousness) such that human nature in and of itself is fundamentally changed from what God willed it to be.

    Bias may not be a sufficiently strong enough concept to do the work you want it to in glossing the Reformed view. One can be biased and still either come to the right conclusion or overcome their bias at times. The Reformed claims seems stronger than mere bias. It seems like a specific form of theological determinism. God determined Adam to fall since foreknowledge and determination are not different things in God, and then humans sin because their natures so determine them to do so, as Edwards argued.

    You are right that Orthodox typically object to both the Reformed/Lutheran views and Catholic Augustinian views, and the root of those objections is Christological. What in the main sets the Reformed tradition off from the Catholic is that the former take the image of God to be fundamentally altered at the fall and the Catholics don’t since grace is lost. But the Reformed take a Pelagian view of human nature prior to the fall thinking that nature was grace rather than say the Catholic view as articulated This is why the effect of and operation of grace is different relative to nature for both of them. But that both of them take it to be the case that God loves some people more than others, gives more graces to secure the salvation of some than to others, chooses some and passes over others in a predestinarian manner is not fundamentally different between Rome and the Reformed. Or so it seems to me. This is why sola fide can be effectively de-coupled from Sola Gratia.

  125. Perry, (#122)

    The Christological criticisms Canadian mentioned do not apply to Thomism, Scotism or Molinism. Larry Feingold has argued convincingly (in The Natural Desire To See God according to St. Thomas and His Interpreters) that the nature-grace problems de Lubac is dealing with are due to his own misinterpretation of St. Thomas, not to St. Thomas himself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  126. Perry,

    Briefly (in response to your questions in #119):

    1. Our participation in salvation is necessary because God created us persons. The point being illustrated in the post was clarified in several subsequent comments, including 16, 40, 69.

    2. Of course we are saved by a human choice. Jesus was human, and freely chose to redeem us. This indicates another sense in which God does not need us (i.e., all created persons) in order to completely be glorified in man.

    3. The illustration would look different if used to illustrate the two wills of our Lord, since he is one uncreated person with two wills, “his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will.” We, on the other hand, are created persons, with one will, and that sometimes not subject to the divine will. However, the illustration would not be completely different, in that our free will, like Christ’s human will, is sometimes subject to the divine will, and at all times, in “its free mode is still being, it is included in the adequate object of divine omnipotence.” Thus, our being carried, the dependence of free will, as with all created things, upon God.

    4. As for libertarianism, and various determinisms, I confess that I am not sure which label applies to the truth of the matter, i.e., that all created things, including free will, and the free acts of the will, depend upon God. So far as I know, there is no Magisterial judgment underwriting either libertarian or some other account of freedom. However, some things promulgated by Trent would seem to be relevant.

    5. The difference is that irresistible grace overrides or restores free will, whereas efficient grace (and I am including the gift of final perseverance under this rubric, which seems correct), even if “intrinsically efficacious,” involves the free assent and cooperation of the will.

    6. Your last question is ambiguous to me. If you mean “Can God create a thing, and then take away something that is essential to that thing?” then I would say “No.” God can create something and then destroy it, or effect a substantial change such that nothing underlies the change but matter, but he cannot make a thing to be itself and not be itself and the same time and in the same sense.

  127. I will be out until tomorrow morning. Anyone who wants can continue commenting, and any fellow CTC member can approve the comments, or else I wll approve them all in the morning. I look forward to rejoining / dropping in on the conversation.

  128. Donald (123)

    Thanks very much for your response, and particularly for using words that I understand. Picking up on your thoughts:

    Catholicism sees us as works in progress where grace perfects nature. In order for that grace, freely given by God to us, to complete the work He manifestly desires to perform in us, He looks for our collaboration.

    I would postulate that this is exactly what I believe as a Calvinist. The difference would be in the salvation / sanctification question. The Catholic believes that salvation is accomplished through the process of faith (God) plus works (man). The Calvinist believes that God saves us first (God), and then sets us on a path of sanctification (man), a work in progress which is collaborative with God (Holy Spirit). In my humble view, the Calvinist position would then fall in line with the “grace perfecting nature” concept as you have described it.

    Thanks
    Curt

  129. John: I’m still having trouble seeing why you object to Calvinism but not to Catholic Augustinianism. Reformed hold that fallen man has free will. He must have it, for to have a will belongs to human nature, and a “will” that is not free is not a will–it’s a contradiction in terms. Total depravity does not, to my knowledge, imply that our faculties are inoperative. What Reformed mean is that after the fall man’s free will is captive to sin. It operates, but the mind and affections are disordered, biased against God. As a consequence, fallen man simply will not turn to God apart from grace: he can turn, but he does not. In order for him to repent, God must act to remove the bias. Once that happens, man assents to the gospel freely, not because his will is coerced.

    As a Catholic, the above sounds reasonable to me, i.e. that men assent freely to the gospel, and that allows men to be saved, with the caveat that a man’s assent is not given by a man apart from the reception of the grace of God. The caveat avoids the heresy of semi-Pelagianism. My question to a Calvinist that said what is written in the above would be this: How does God act to remove the bias with his grace? What, exactly, does the Calvinist mean when he speaks of an “irresistible” grace that does NOT destroy the free will of man?

    The Catholic answer to my question is found in The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V, which I quoted in my post #21 to this thread – God removes the bias by giving man actual grace in two forms, prevenient grace and quickening and assisting grace.

    Dr. Ludwig Ott” book The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma gives the Catholic Church’s de fide teaching on these two forms of actual grace:

    Prevenient Grace (which Dr. Ott calls Antecedent Grace):

    The Church’s teaching of the existence of antecedent grace and its necessity for the achieving of justification was defined at the Council of Trent. [Session VI, Chapter V]: “In adults the beginning of justification must proceed from the antecedent grace of God acquired by Jesus Christ (a Dei per Christum Jesum praeveniente gratia).”

    Antecedent Grace: “There is a supernatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide.)” In [Antecedent Grace] God works alone “in us, without us” … and produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will.

    Quickening and Assisting grace (which Dr. Ott calls Consequent Grace):

    The Church’s teaching regarding the reality and necessity of consequent grace is expressed in the Decree of the Council of Trent [Session VI, Chapter V]. The sinner returns to justification: “by freely assenting to and co-operating with grace (gratiae libere assentiendo et cooperando).”

    Consequent Grace: “There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man’s free act of will. (De fide.)” In salutary acts God and man work together. God works “in us, with us”, so that they are a conjoint work of God’s grace and of man’s activity under the control of his will.

    Prevenient Grace: God works alone “in us, without us” … and produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will.

    Consequent Grace: God works “in us, with us”, so that they are a conjoint work of God’s grace and of man’s activity under the control of his will.

    ——————————–

    John: The Reformed add a twist with irresistible grace, but even there, the thought is not that the elect cannot resist the call, it’s that they do not resist; renewed by the Spirit, they come to assent freely, of their own accord. Grace is therefore necessary to their repentance, and it infallibly achieves its purpose in them, somehow doing all this without violence to their wills. How’s that possible, I’m not sure.

    The Catholic Church’s distinction between Antecedent Grace and Consequent Grace allows for a coherent teaching where God works in adults both “in us, without us” and “in us, with us” prior to regeneration. I believe that Calvinism breaks down because it teaches a rigid doctrine of “irresistible grace” prior to regeneration. By definition, irresistible grace is grace where God works “in us, without us”. It is not that the Catholic Church rejects entirely the concept of irresistible grace, because she teaches that prevenient grace produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will. What she rejects is the idea that consequent grace cannot be resisted.

    If God decided to allow me to see the aurora borealis tonight, he could give me that gift without violating my free will. In an analogous manner, God can give a man, without violating his free will, the enlightenment that he needs to know that he must repent and be saved by accepting the gospel. What God can’t do is force a man to repent without destroying him as a person with free will.

  130. Bryan,

    I am not persuaded by your assertions that the problems do not apply to Thomism, Scotism and Molinism since I am not convinced by assertions.

    Feingold arguing convincingly does not imply arguing soundly. Second, that work is not necessarily normative for Catholics and so Catholic academics I know who are conservative disagree with it. They were not convinced.

    If you read through the scholastics on Dyothelitism it is obvious that they are groping around and land in a bunch of different places, some of which are just contrary to the conciliar teaching on the matter and express forms of Monothelitism that were condemned. I’d suggest you read Maximus Disputation with Pyrrus, for example and compare it to the account given by Thomas. It might also be helpful to review the integrity of the Latin corpus available to the scholastics of John of Damascus as they were in many cases relying on corrupt Latin texts which influenced how they understood the matter. The authentic readings only came to light in the post-reformation context of modernity.

  131. Canadian, a question for you.

    I gave the Catholic Church’s de fide distinction between antecedent grace (God works alone “in us, without us”) and consequent grace (God works “in us, with us”). That distinction I accept, as must all practicing Catholics. I have also been saying in my posts to CTC that monergism is God working alone in us, without us, and that synergism is God working in us, with us. I have been saying that about monergism and synergism, because that is what I understand monergism and synergism to be. But I freely admit that my understanding of monergism and synergism may be deficient because I have accepted a defective definition of monergism and synergism that is something other than it’s historical definition.

    It seems to me that you are defining monergism differently than I am, and your arguments against monergism are Christological arguments supported by the definitions promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils.

    My question to you, do you think that I am defining monergism and synergism incorrectly?

  132. Andrew P,

    First. I am not clear how 16, 40 and 69 get at my worry. If operative grace can in some sense act without us, why not the whole way? That is, what is it about human nature that precludes God “zapping” us immediately into sanctity?

    Second. This only moves the question on to what “free” means doesn’t it?

    Third. I agree the example would look different, but it is because it is the principle place where the divine and human will operate most appropriately it seems to me that such an example would be even more crucial and enlightening.

    What you cite from the council is right, though “subject to” does not imply subordinate to, nor does it imply a lack of alternative possibilities in Christ. So the questions are, do you think it does in Christ? Is willing to preserve human life a divine good? Is it something Christ wills or merely desires in the Passion? Is Christ’s human choice for salvation performed freely in a Libertarian sense or a Soft Determinist sense or say a Source incompatibilist sense or some other view?

    This seems to me to be the crucial question surrounding synergism and monergism, because for example Augustine and much of post-Augustine Augustinian theology takes Christ to be the principle example of divine predestination in his humanity. If monergism isn’t true in Christ, then it isn’t true with us either.

    As for our free will being included in the “adequate object of divine omnipotence” this seems to turn on what we mean by “free” again doesn’t it? That is, including freedom there will not work for just any conception of freedom, so what conceptions do you think it allows or excludes for Catholics? And in Christology and anthropology this seems to be the real issue.

    Four, so as to what conceptual content there is to Catholic usages of free will has no determinate meaning (within reason) as far as the Magisterium is concerned as far as you understand? is that right? That is, it could pick out a number of views of what constitutes free will in your understanding? If so, how do you suggest operative grace works with a Libertarian notion of free will and the conditions which excldue any antecedent sufficient cause for our actions?

    What things by Trent do you think would be relevant?

    Five, I meant only could maintain an essence of a thing while removing what he previously (logically) willed it to have as a necessary constituent of its essence. That is, could God constitute human nature to be “free” and then remove this later while human nature remaining as such? So your reply in the first pretty much mapped on to what I was after. Thanks.

  133. Perry,

    If we set predestination aside, do you consider eudaimonism consistent with free will? I think the Reformed have a tendency to muddle that question when analyzing original sin and irresistible grace.

  134. Recommended reading:

    Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2, pp. 157-162. I’m not ready to summarize the Holy Father’s words just yet (just read this last night), but I think he deals with this issue and his way out is Maximus the Confessor’s concept of synergy in the two wills of Christ which ultimately points to the type of participation we enter into in our own salvation; the redemption of our wills or rather the incorporation of our will into the will of the Father which is its proper teleos.

    “In attuning to the divine will, it experiences its fulfillment, not its annihilation.” p.160

  135. Mateo,
    Thanks for your comment. I must admit, I am relatively new to all this and would not presume to give the proper position of Orthodoxy, I just haven’t delved into the working of grace etc deeply enough. I will defer to the Council’s and the church.
    I acknowlege the absolute need for grace. In fact, in the verse I quoted earlier it states that Christ tasted death for every man by the grace of God, and scripture also says Christ was full of grace and truth. So grace is not some substance that needs to be applied to sinners as if it was created for that purpose, sin making grace required. I would have trouble with God working in Christ’s humanity “in him, without him”. Ok in the sense that God is everywhere present and fills all things, but not that Christ’s humanity would need some sort of gracious jump start. The natural human energy and will of Christ must freely operate and follow his divinity. Christ’s humanity participated in God freely and so must we. Deeper articulations than the Councils are likely beyond my present knowlege and I would defer to someone like Perry or a theologian like Maximus the Confessor.
    :-)

  136. Perry,

    (numbers correspond to paragraphs in your last)

    1. God can and does always in some sense act without us. He is the creator and giver of every good gift. But he does not in every sense act without us because he created us persons.

    2. In the post, I indicated that a person is the type of being capable of friendship, love, co-operation with another person. God gives us this dignity in salvation, as indicated in Sacred Scripture. God’s gift, in creation, in the new creation, is always presupposed by our response. That there is such a response, and that it is an integral part of salvation, is my point. The logical relation of acts of the will to counter-factuals or possible worlds or God’s knowledge or whatever is a further question. As I indicated to Neal in the first part of #44, I do not know what that relation is, so to select from among the various libertarianisms and determinisms on the philosophical market.

    3. That would be very interesting.

    4. I am glad that we both accept the teaching of Constantinople III. I would turn to the teaching of that Council for answers to your questions–not that each one is taken up precisely, but what is dogmatically affirmed there can add some ballast to such speculations, as well as some protection from error in formulating one’s private opinions.

    5. Because we know that Christ had two wills, and that his human will was operative in perfect accord with the divine will, we can affirm synergism. What we know about the relation of Christ’s wills (see above) is undoubtedly useful for speculating on the relation between the will of created persons and the will of God.

    6. Everthing that is qualifies as an adequate object of divine omnipotence. This includes created wills, whatever be their relation to things that do not exist (counter-factuals, possible worlds, etc.).

    7. I do not know how operative grace would work with a conception of free will such that there are no antecedent sufficient causes for our actions. Possibly, appeal could be made to distinct kinds of causality, particularly with reference to the peculiarities involved when one agent is God, such that the “no antecedent sufficient cause”criterion could be narrowed down.

    8. Anything concerning free will.

    9. Okay.

  137. I am still waiting for either a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox to demonstrate a quotation from even a rudimentary theology manual that says what you guys think we mean by monergism. Robert Shaw wrote a commentary on the confession and has been the standard commentary for about 200 years in the scottish churches.

    On Chapter 10 of the confession concerning effectual calling Shaw states,

    “4. That in this calling no violence is offered to the will. While the Spirit effectually draws sinners to Christ, he deals with them in a way agreeable to their rational nature, “so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” The liberty of the will is not invaded, for that would destroy its very nature; but its obstinacy is overcome, its perverseness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, attracted to the Saviour. The compliance of the soul is voluntary, while the energy of the Spirit is efficient and almighty: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”—Ps. cx. 3.”

    The will is not forced.

    !Oh but you calvinists will not admit a synergism after conversion! Wrong! Repeat wrong!

    1. Girardeau asserts the free will of man restored after conversion,

    “As then efficacious grace. the fruit of election, RESTORES TO HIM THE LIBERTY TO WILL HOLINESS, SO FAR FROM BEING INCONSISTENT WITH THAT LIBERTY, IT IS PROVED TO BE ITS ONLY CAUSE.”

    Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism

    Girardeau muses over the problem of determination and the will of man post redemption. I think Shaw answers this.

    2. Commenting on WCF 10.2 Robert Shaw says,

    “7. That in this calling the sinner is altogether passive, until he is quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Here it is proper to distinguish between regeneration and conversion; in the former the sinner is passive – in the latter he is active, or co-operates with the grace of God. In regeneration a principle of grace is implanted in the soul, and previous to this the sinner is incapable of moral activity; for, in the language of inspiration, he is “dead in trespasses and sins.” In conversion the soul turns to God, which imports activity; but still the sinner only acts as he is acted upon by God, who “worketh in him both to will and to do.”

    In Regeneration he is passive in conversion he is active and co-operates. Co-operation is synergism again after conversion.

  138. Andrew P (#136):

    It’s debatable, but I think your point 7 is where Duns Scotus ends up. He wants to be libertarian about created wills in Perry’s sense, i.e. he holds that at the time it elicits an act the will has alternative possibilities open to it, that there are no antecedent sufficient causes for its determination. But he also wants to hold that predestination is absolute; that God knows future contingents through his willing that they obtain; that God permits sin but is not its author; and that grace is indispensable for fallen man’s repentance. How those are fit together is anyone’s guess.

    In Christ,
    John

  139. Drake:

    On Chapter 10 of the confession concerning effectual calling Shaw states,

    “4. That in this calling no violence is offered to the will. While the Spirit effectually draws sinners to Christ, he deals with them in a way agreeable to their rational nature, “so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” The liberty of the will is not invaded, for that would destroy its very nature; but its obstinacy is overcome, its perverseness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, attracted to the Saviour. The compliance of the soul is voluntary, while the energy of the Spirit is efficient and almighty: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”—Ps. cx. 3.”

    The will is not forced.

    If the will is not forced, that would mean that any man has the ability to refuse the grace of God that calls him to repentance . In what sense can this calling grace be said to be “irresistible” if it can be rejected by men?

  140. Canadian: I would have trouble with God working in Christ’s humanity “in him, without him”. Ok in the sense that God is everywhere present and fills all things, but not that Christ’s humanity would need some sort of gracious jump start. The natural human energy and will of Christ must freely operate and follow his divinity. Christ’s humanity participated in God freely and so must we.

    You are making a distinction between human energy and divine energy, and saying that in Jesus, because he is true God and true man, there must be two energies that are not in opposition to each other. Therefore, monergism is an impossibility like monothelitism, since Jesus has two energies, divine and human, just as he has two wills, divine and human.

    Do I understand you correctly?

    Another question for you. Jesus is a human being and a divine person. The divine person of God the Son is eternally begotten by God the Father. Is the eternal begetting of the Son synergistic or monergistic? Does God the Son have to cooperate with God the Father to be begotten?

  141. Drake,

    “so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” The liberty of the will is not invaded, for that would destroy its very nature; but its obstinacy is overcome, its perverseness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, attracted to the Saviour. The compliance of the soul is voluntary, while the energy of the Spirit is efficient and almighty:

    So in Jesus Christ, grace made his human will willing; his natural human obstinancy is overcome; and his human will’s natural perverseness is taken away; and the almighty Divine energy efficientlyprocured voluntary compliance in his soul?

    In regeneration a principle of grace is implanted in the soul and previous to this the sinner is incapable of moral activity, ; for, in the language of inspiration, he is “dead in trespasses and sins.” In conversion the soul turns to God, which imports activity; but still the sinner only acts as he is acted upon by God

    So, a principle of grace is implanted in Christ’s human soul because it was incapable of moral activity?
    Christ’s human soul (faculty of nature) then turns to God and imports activity (becomes active) because, and only because he is acted upon by God?
    It is mon-energism/monotheletism when you place passivity in the humanity of Christ. Remember Chalcedon……without change

  142. Mateo,

    Do I understand you correctly?

    Yes. The Council’s are quite clear about two natures, two natural wills and two natural energies or principles of operation. Interestingly, when the Councils say that Christ has a natural divine energy, this is implicitly distinguished from the Divine essence itself.

    Is the eternal begetting of the Son synergistic or monergistic? Does God the Son have to cooperate with God the Father to be begotten?

    Wow. Without checking John of Damascus or Gregory Nazianzus for example, I tread lightly here. I will look into this great question. Off the cuff though, I don’t know if synergy and monergy is applicable or not, but rather Person and Nature. The unbegotten Father being the monarch and source of the divinity of the eternally begotten Son and the eternally proceeding Spirit does not need the Son and Spirit to “cooperate” as the Trinity has only one natural will.

  143. Mateo,
    “If the will is not forced, that would mean that any man has the ability to refuse the grace of God that calls him to repentance . In what sense can this calling grace be said to be “irresistible” if it can be rejected by men?”

    Shaw addresses that exact issue in the very next section; commentary 10.5,

    “5. That in this calling the operations of the Holy Spirit are invincible. As Arminians and others maintain that God gives sufficient grace to all men, upon the due improvement of which they may be saved, if it is not their own fault, so they also hold that there are no operations of the Spirit in conversion which do not leave the sinner in such a state as that he may either comply with them or not. It is obvious that this opinion makes the success of the Spirit’s work to depend on the sinner’s free will, so that those who do actually obey the call of the gospel are not more indebted to God than those who reject it, but may take praise to themselves for having made a better use of their power, in direct opposition to Scripture, which declares that “it is not of him that willeth, but of God that showeth mercy.” We admit that there are common operations of the Spirit which do not issue in the conversion of the sinner; but we maintain that the special operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition, and effectually determine the sinner to embrace Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel. If the special operations of the Spirit not invincible, but might be effectually resisted, then it would be uncertain whether any would believe or not, and consequently possible that all which Christ had done and suffered in the work of redemption might have been done and suffered in vain.”

  144. Canadian,
    “So in Jesus Christ, grace made his human will willing; his natural human obstinancy is overcome; and his human will’s natural perverseness is taken away; and the almightyDivine energy efficientlyprocured voluntary compliance in his soul?”

    It is your task to show how God forced him. You have not done it. Show me how you get foreknowledge if God is not the ultimate cause of all things. How do you get an objective future reality that God can foreknow if he cannot operate on his creature’s wills.

    “So, a principle of grace is implanted in Christ’s human soul because it was incapable of moral activity?”
    Christ’s human soul (faculty of nature) then turns to God and imports activity (becomes active) because, and only because he is acted upon by God?”

    Not in the same sense that it is done in the life of a sinner. Christ has all ability to choose the good. You are going to say, pre or post operation of grace? It depends on what you mean. If you think I mean that his human nature was given grace and cleansing at his baptism to be God’s son I deny it. I am talking about the moment of conception. John Owen says (Holy Spirit 2.4) “The human nature of Chris, being thus formed in the womb by a creating act of the Holy Spirit, was in the instant of its conception sanctified and filled with grace according to the measure of its receptivity.”

    Dogmatic Theology, by W.G.T. Shedd, Third Edition, ed. Alan W. Gomes,(Phillipsburg, NJ, P&R Publishing, 2003), pg 635

    Augustine Letter 164 chap 7

    “or if the soul of Christ be derived from Adam’s soul He in assuming it to Himself, CLEANSED IT so that when He came into this world He was born of the Virgin perfectly free from sin either actual or transmitted. If, however, the souls of men are not derived from that onesoul, and it is only by the flesh that original sin is transmitted from Adam, the Son of God created a soul for Himself, as He creates souls for all other men, but He united it not to sinful flesh, but to the likeness of sinful flesh. Romans 8:3 For He took, indeed, from the Virginthe true substance of flesh; not, however, sinful flesh, for it was neither begotten nor conceived through carnal concupiscence, but mortal, and capable of change in the successive stages of life, as being like sinful flesh in all points, sin excepted.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102164.htm’

    Epitome of the Formula of Concord, I Original Sin, 5-6

    “5] Moreover, the Son of God has assumed this human nature, however, without sin, and therefore not a foreign, but our own flesh, into the unity of His person, and according to it is become our true Brother. Heb. 2:14: Forasmuch, then, as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same. Again, 16; 4:15: He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, yet without sin. 6] In like manner Christ has also redeemed it as His work, sanctifies it as His work, raises it from the dead, and gloriously adorns it as His work. But original sin He has not created, assumed, redeemed, sanctified; nor will He raise it, will neither adorn nor save it in the elect, but in the [blessed] resurrection it will be entirely destroyed.”
    http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#VIII. The Person of Christ.
    So is this grace given to do any good at all? No, it is given to do divine works as a deified human nature united to the Logos.

    “It is mon-energism/monotheletism when you place passivity in the humanity of Christ. Remember Chalcedon……without change”

    This seems silly to me. By without change I was under the impression that this concerns no metamorphosis from one nature to another as in Eutychus’ Theanthropic, christic nature. If you say it can undergo no operation from a divine person then you must deny the human nature’s deification. The Sixth Council states in its Definition of Faith:

    “And these two natural wills [in Christ] are not contrary the one to the other (God
    forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as
    resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will.
    For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will,
    according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh
    of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and IS THE
    PROPER WILL OF GOD THE WORD, as he himself says: “I came down from
    heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent
    me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was
    also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not
    destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature…SO
    ALSO HIS HUMAN WILL, ALTHOUGH DEIFIED, was not suppressed, but
    was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will
    [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”

    To be deified implies that at some moment in time it was not deified. So then it undergoes a change though no essential change in nature or metamorphosis. By the by, what uncreated object do you or Christ’s human nature participate in? Are you Eastern Ortho? If so, what rational principle “around God” is it that you participate in? There are hundreds of rational principles out there, concepts, propositions, laws of logic, syllogisms etc. What kind do you participate in?

  145. Drake,

    It is your task to show how God forced him. You have not done it.

    Why? I deny God forced man in Christ. My comment you quoted was a question to you, not an assertion.

    Christ could never suffer in vain as he accomplished things for man at the level of nature such as immortality to the damned and saved which is not natural to us, so this idea that if free will were left to man possibly no one would have been saved is foolish.

    I have declared my agreement with the deification of the humanity of Christ here and elsewhere on CTC but deification is not change but elevation and glorification. The divine Person of the Logos wills freely and operates freely by nature as Man. Personal use of the natural wills is free both as man and as God. Persons act not natures, but that nature was not sinful, not because he cleansed it but because natures are not sinful, persons are. This is incomplete….rushed and out of time for now.

  146. “Why? I deny God forced man in Christ. My comment you quoted was a question to you, not an assertion.”

    No, on my view. You have to show how my view posits God forcing man, you haven’t done it and you cannot do it and I quite weary of reading Eastern Orthodox polemics accusing us of monothelitism without even a leg to stand on.

    “Christ could never suffer in vain as he accomplished things for man at the level of nature such as immortality to the damned and saved which is not natural to us, so this idea that if free will were left to man possibly no one would have been saved is foolish.”

    I already addressed this. First, You can only have Christ accomplishing salvation for every single man who ever lived at the level of nature by positing Christ taking all of human nature in the the hypostatic union. I already addressed this. You do not have a bit of scripture for it and no scripture to even infer it. Second, only the elect have immortality and yours is a poorly constructed view of immortality that Edward White refuted a long time ago, see here:

    http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/edward-white-on-regeneration-and-immortality-the-eastern-view-refuted-ed-drake/

    I deny that you can speak of deification at all until you answer my question which I noticed you completely avoided as Perry, Jay Dyer, Jnorm, David P Withun and every other EO person I have spoken to. In reference to your gnomie distinction of a will at the level of nature and that of person, the mode of the mode, I will ask you the same thing I have asked Perry. Can you provide me any major philosopher who has ever posited a mode of a mode (Besides Maxim and Farrell of course) and what that means exactly.

  147. “but that nature was not sinful, not because he cleansed it but because natures are not sinful, persons are. This is incomplete….rushed and out of time for now.”

    This seems to deny real distinctions between nature and person. Where then did Christ get his curse of mortality from? The Logos? He dies and was therefore under the curse of mortality.

  148. My last two posts are for Canadian.

  149. “Persons act not natures, but that nature was not sinful, not because he cleansed it but because natures are not sinful, persons are. This is incomplete….rushed and out of time for now.”

    This also sounds very monothelete where the divine person is predicated directly in all acts of Christ. This denies his 3 fold operation. All of the actions of Christ are not divino-human (formally theandric) some are human -divino. What that means is that there are three classes of action, divine actions without respect to a human nature (non-theandric), divine actions through a human nature (formally theandric) and then HUMAN ACTIONS moding as a divine person (materially theandric).
    So what I am saying is that human actions performed as in a single hypostatic mode with the Logos are not directly to be predicated of the Logos but indirectly. I agree with the new Advent Catholic Encyclopedia,

    “St. Sophronius, and after him St. Maximus and St. John Damascene, showed that the two energeia produce three classes of actions, since actions are complex, and some are therefore mingled of the human and the divine.
    (1) There are Divine actions exercised by God the Son in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost (e.g. the creation of souls or the conservation of the universe) in which His human nature bears no part whatever, and these cannot be called divino-human, for they are purely Divine. It is true that it is correct to say that a child ruled the universe (by the communicatio idiomatum), but this is a matter of words, and is an accidental, not a formal predication — He who became a child ruled the universe as God, not as a child, and by an activity that is wholly Divine, not divino-human.
    (2) There are other Divine actions which the Word Incarnate exercised in and through His human nature, as to raise the dead by a word, to heal the sick by a touch. Here the Divine action is distinguished from the human actions of touching or speaking, though it uses them, but through this close connexion the word theandric is not out of place for the whole complex act, while the Divine action as exercised through the human may be called formally theandric, or divino-human.
    (3) Again, there are purely human actions of Christ, such as walking or eating, but these are due to the free human will, acting in response to a motion of the Divine will. These are elicited from a human potentia, but under the direction of the Divine. Therefore they are also called theandric, but in a different sense — they are materially theandric, humano-divine. We have seen therefore that to some of our Lord’s actions the word theandric cannot be applied at all; to some it can be applied in one sense, to others in a different sense. The Lateran Council of 649 anathematized the expression una deivirilis operatio, mia theandrike energeia, by which all the actions divine and human are performed.”
    [“Monothelitism and Monothelites”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10502a.htm

    The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says,

    “For the essence of Monothelism is the refusal to apportion the actions (’enérgeiai) between the two natures, but to insist that they are all the actions of the one Personality.”

    [“Eutychianism” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05633a.htm ]

    But on Canadian’s view natures do not act only the person. Who is the Monothelite?

  150. In Free Choice in Maximus the Confessor Farrell says, “Proper Christological method is recapitulational, for Christ possesses and is all the fullness of Deity and of humanity; ” (223)

    If this is true how does it not conclude with Christ having both male and female characteristics in some kind of universal ethno-hermaphrodite?

  151. Drake,

    How do you get an objective future reality that God can foreknow if he cannot operate on his creature’s wills.

    Why do you restrict God’s knowledge to what he causes? Does the Father know his uncaused Son and Spirit or himself? God is future-less. Everything is present for him, knowlege come by presence not by decree. By your scheme, God is the operative causality on his creatures wills for good and for evil.
    So God operated on (determined) Christ’s human will? The 6th Council you quoted declares that Christ’s natural will freely, without reluctance or resistance follows the divine will. There was never reluctance or resistance because the natures are not contrary to each other or in any opposition NATURALLY. Yet in your last comment to Mateo, you quote Shaw thus:

    but we maintain that the special operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition, and effectually determine the sinner to embrace Jesus Christ

    For you there’s Natural opposition and therefore required determination, again. If this applies to Christ, it applies to us.
    Christ’s humanity did not need changing, cleansing, deification IN ORDER TO OPERATE FREELY, but is deified (not cleansed or changed) because it is the proper end for our humanity as the image of God and it is accomplished synergistically both in Christ and in us (2 Peter 1:3-11).

    Christ has all ability to choose the good.

    And this ability is natural! Christ has free choice with both natures! The appropriation of his natural faculties and abilities whether as God or as man are of the one Person of Christ. And his personal use of our natural will is never against nature or against God as it is with us.

    what uncreated object do you or Christ’s human nature participate in?

    It seems to me Christ’s humanity participated in the Divine energy of the Divine nature in the one Divine person of the Logos. That is how we participate in God as well, through his energy not essence, though not united hypostatically.

  152. Drake: Shaw addresses that exact issue in the very next section; commentary 10.5 …

    It seems to me that Shaw does NOT address that issue, instead, he contradicts himself. First, Shaw says “That in this calling no violence is offered to the will.” Then he contradicts himself and says “we maintain that the special operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition … If the special operations of the Spirit not invincible, but might be effectually resisted …”.

    If the sinner is forced to repent, then his will is violated. Shaw can’t have it both ways. Either every sinner can refuse repentance when given the grace that calls him to repentance, or the sinner’s will is destroyed by this “special operation” of the Holy Spirit and he is forced to repent even if he doesn’t want to repent. When Shaw says the “special operations of the Spirit are invincible, he is saying the same thing as what Curt Russell has been saying, i.e. “God trumps our free will to save us.” At least, that is the way that I see it.

  153. Drake,

    You have to show how my view posits God forcing man

    When you affirm God “overcomes opposition” and “determines”.

    You can only have Christ accomplishing salvation for every single man who ever lived at the level of nature by positing Christ taking all of human nature in the the hypostatic union.

    Heb 2:9, 11 Rom 8:3 1Cor 15;13-22

    Where then did Christ get his curse of mortality from?

    He assumed our fallen nature which is mortal and subject to death, but not sinful.

    All the actions of Christ are of the divine Logos, there is only one agent in him. His personal agency utilizes the natures available to him, divine and human with all their free faculties. It would be Nestorian to apply actions to either nature, though each nature provides energy and will for the one Logos to appropriate personally. Monothelitism denies two natural wills, I affirm them but you seem to have agency to each nature which would be Nestorian. We can say the source of certain actions are from certain natures, but one agent ACTS in both/either nature.

    If this is true how does it not conclude with Christ having both male and female characteristics in some kind of universal ethno-hermaphrodite?

    “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men…….” 1 Cor. 15:39

  154. Drake,
    Just to clarify, the following part of my last comment was a little unclear. I forgot to actually respond, and then messed the verses somewhat:

    You can only have Christ accomplishing salvation for every single man who ever lived at the level of nature by positing Christ taking all of human nature in the the hypostatic union.

    Heb 2:9, 11 Rom 8:3 1Cor 15;13-22

    I would affirm that Christ took on all of human nature as the 2nd Adam and not just a single instance of it. Should be Hebrews 2:9-11; Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:13-22.
    Sorry. And thanks for the interaction, by the way.

  155. Canadian,

    “Why do you restrict God’s knowledge to what he causes?”

    Why do you avoid the questions I ask? How do you get a future objective reality that God can foreknow? Moreover, you cannot speak of God’s knowledge at all. That would imply that God is a divine mind and that would be presumptuous because on your view you know nothing of God as he “whatevers”(I want to say subsists but that would be predicating and that’s not allowed on your system) in divine darkness. All you can speak of is bulbs of energy “around” God that you still cannot define. The reason I base foreknowledge on God’s decree is because it makes no sense to foreknow something that isn’t objectively real. You have to have something fixed, objective and real in order for God to foreknow it. Otherwise you just make the future a wish that God has. Therefore, it is not foreknowledge it is wishful thinking. You are never going to be able to answer this. The best Pelagian authors have admitted they can’t answer it and just chalk it up to paradox so I will just make it easy on you and accept your resignation from Pelagianism.

    “Does the Father know his uncaused Son and Spirit or himself?”

    I reject that the Logos is auto-theos and therefore uncaused. I hold to the Eastern Triadology and the Monarchy of the Father where the Son derives the deity from the Father not the personal nature, whatever that is. I thought you were eastern, this statement is confusing me.

    “God is future-less.”

    Ok

    “Everything is present for him”

    That is not what I have read from other Eastern and Arminian theologians that would take similar views of God do to your view of the will. If everything is present for him, then strong assertions of immutability are required and this leans more deterministic.

    “knowledge come by presence not by decree.”

    So then experiences are objects of knowledge? Are you then positing truth as encounter? A problem: Judas had presence and experience with Christ in a long term personal relationship and he was not saved. The gospel therefore cannot be a personal relationship or presence.

    “By your scheme, God is the operative causality on his creatures wills for good and for evil.”

    Depends on what you mean by operative. If you mean that God positively implants principles of evil in people that is not what we I mean. Giraradeau defines reprobation,

    “Reprobation is God’s eternal purpose, presupposing his foreknowledge of the fall of mankind into sin through their own fault, and grounded in the sovereign pleasure of his will, not to elect to salvation certain individual men,-that is, to pass them by, and to continue them under condemnation for their sins, – in order to the glory of his justice…God did not create men in order that they should sin and be damned and so glorify his justice; for he is not the author of sin, but man, in the first instance, sinned and fell by the free and avoidable decision of his own will… (166-167) There are two elements in which it involves: first, a sovereign act of God, by which they were in his purpose passed by…That is called preterition. Secondly, there is a judicial act of God, by which they were in his purpose ordained to continue under the sentence of the broken law and to suffer punishment for their sin. (176) The Calvinist says, God finds men already disobedient and condemned, and leaves some of them in the condition of disobedience and condemnation to which by their own avoidable act they had reduced themselves. The Arminian represents the Calvinist as saying, God decrees to reject some of mankind from eternal salvation, and their disobedience follows as a necessary consequence. That is to say, if the language mean anything, God’s decree of reprobation causes the disobedience of some men, and then dooms them to eternal punishment for that disobedience. But who would deny that to be unjust.” pg. 186.

    [Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism (New York: The Baker & Taylor Co., 1890)]

    Girardeau is a bit ambiguous on the issue of the creation of man. If he is rejecting that God created men with a moral dysfunction in order to damn him If so I agree. If not, I do not know what he is saying. Here Girardeau gives a two fold definition of reprobation as a passing by and to those critics who ask how that can be a positive ordination he continues in saying “there is a judicial act of God, by which they were in his purpose ordained to continue under the sentence of the broken law”. Concerning reprobation Girardeau explains two parts, preterition and condemnation. God does not cause the fall and sin in the sense that he positively implants a principle of evil in men, but that he withholds some persevering grace from man and man freely sins of his own agency. However, God’s withholding of grace is considered causal, in that God is governing (WCF 5.1) his creatures to make the outcome certain without positively or immediately implanting principles of evil in them. In reference to reprobation, there is an aspect of reprobation that logically precedes man’s sin, and it is the preterition. This is the point at which my construction is individuated from Infralapsarianism This is the first part of reprobation and it is not based on man’s sinful acts. It is a sovereign act of God’s will as the potter of the clay (Rom 9). The second part of reprobation is based on man’s sin. Yet, the first part of Reprobation does not positively compel man to sin, yet it is the ultimate reason why they do sin.

    “So God operated on (determined) Christ’s human will?”

    I already stated that it is not in the same sense that sinner’s are regenerated. And by operation God is not forcing anyone to do anything. He is implanting principles of grace and then men act freely in response to them, though these principles are irresistible in the perfect action of God’s spirit in convincing and persuading people of his perfect righteousness, the knowledge of Christ, etc. Shaw explain commenting on Chapter 10 of WCF, in his point 3

    “By means of the law, the Spirit convinces them of their sinfulness, shows them the danger to which they are exposed, and discovers to them the utter insufficiency of their own works of righteousness as the ground of their hope and trust for acceptance before God. By means of the gospel, he enlightens their minds in the knowledge of Christ—discovers to them the glory of his person, the perfection of his righteousness, the suitableness of his offices, and the fullness of his grace; shows them his ability to save to the uttermost, his suitableness to their condition, and his willingness to receive all that come to him. He also takes away their heart of stone, and gives unto them an heart of flesh—renews their wills, and effectually determines and enables them to embrace Christ as their own Saviour.”

    “The 6th Council you quoted declares that Christ’s natural will freely, without reluctance or resistance follows the divine will. There was never reluctance or resistance because the natures are not contrary to each other or in any opposition NATURALLY.”

    Ok

    “Yet in your last comment to Mateo, you quote Shaw thus:
    “but we maintain that the special operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition, and effectually determine the sinner to embrace Jesus Christ”

    Ok so again you are going to have to prove that everything in the life of Christ is parallel to the regeneration of a sinner. I don’t remember Farrell using this argument and the answer is so obvious that I’m reluctant to even write as to miss the esoteric point you seem to be making: Christ has not opposition to God because he has no original sin, men do have original sin and therefore opposition. And this goes back to an objection I have answered so many times I am also weary of pasting it because I already pasted this above: How can Jesus have a true human nature is human nature is depraved, i.e. original sin?

    Charles Hodge,

    “While, therefore, the Scriptures make the original moral perfection of man the most prominent element of that likeness to God in which he was created, it is no less true that they recognize man as a child of God in virtue of his rational nature. He is the image of God, and bears and reflects the divine likeness among the inhabitants of the earth, because he is a spirit, an intelligent, voluntary agent; and as such he is rightfully invested with universal dominion. This is what the Reformed theologians were accustomed to call the essential image of God, as distinguished from the accidental. The one consisting in the very nature of the soul, the other in its accidental endowments, that is, such as might be lost without the loss of humanity itself.” Systematic Theology Vol 2 pg. 99
    Second,

    WCF 6.3-4

    “Section III.—They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.

    Section IV.—From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”

    Robert Shaw commenting on 6.3-4 of the Confession says,

    “These sections point out the consequences of the sin of our first parents in regard to their posterity. These consequences are restricted to those “descending from them by ordinary generation.” This restriction is obviously introduced in order to exclude our Lord Jesus Christ, who, as man, was one of the posterity of Adam, but did not descend from him by ordinary generation. The genealogy of Christ is traced up to Adam (Luke iii. 38), but his human nature was supernaturally framed in the womb of the Virgin, by the power of the Holy Ghost.—Luke i. 35. In his birth, therefore, as well as in his life, he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners.” But the effects of Adam’s first transgression extend to all his natural posterity;

    Again, if you cannot predicate action to the nature you cannot distribute the actions between the natures in Christ. You are therefore left with one operation, one will, that is monothelete.

  156. Canadian,

    Again, if you cannot predicate action to the nature you cannot distribute the actions between the natures in Christ. You are therefore left with one operation, one will, that is monothelete.

    “For you there’s Natural opposition”

    Wrong. First, I do not believe the scholastic view of divine simplicity as I have shown that even Muller admitted the the soteriological system of Calvinism is not seated in the doctrine of the divine attributes but in the ordo salutis. Second, the only way you can impale me on a natural opposition is if original sin or at least the moral direction of the human nature is an essential attribute of it. Hodge denies it clearly, I deny it. Christ did not take original sin but only the mortality of it as Shaw asserts. The essential element of human nature is the rational faculty with dominion over the earth.

    “Christ’s humanity did not need changing, cleansing, deification IN ORDER TO OPERATE FREELY”

    I never said it did. I said it was cleansed and imparted divine grace to perform divine works. I have yet to find a statement that you are actually representing me correctly as of yet Canadian and quite frankly it is getting a bit tiresome of typing out clarifications to straw men.

    “but is deified (not cleansed or changed)”

    Assertion. You are not showing the difference. How is the principle of deification any less deterministic than the Reformed effectual call? The deification and the effectual call both impart something not in the nature per se. Both assert that subsequent action is influenced by it, yet the nature is not forced. Good luck and God speed on that, I don’t think you can do it.
    And again you have yet to show how you have a theory of deification. Why is it that all your objections get a reply but none of mine do?

    “Christ has all ability to choose the good
    And this ability is natural!”

    I have yet to read a Scottish Theologian who denies that even post fall men can do natural good. Just not spiritual good.

    WCF 9.3 III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any SPIRITUAL GOOD accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
    So again I am perfectly fine with post fall man doing natural good.

    “The appropriation of his natural faculties and abilities whether as God or as man are of the one Person of Christ.”

    So then are all actions of Christ DIRECTLY predicated of his divine person?

    “It seems to me Christ’s humanity participated in the Divine energy of the Divine nature in the one Divine person of the Logos. That is how we participate in God as well, through his energy not essence, though not united hypostatically.”

    You either did not read Farrell’s book or you didn’t read what I said earlier. The energies are defined as rational principles by Maxim/Farrell. Maximus’ Proper Theological construction posits an essence outside/non/super being and around this essence are Logoi: the plurality of objects “around God”, the energies. So the question is, what is he talking about? In opposition to Origen’s logikoi which were

    “rational creatures of the Henad, St. Maximus opposes his logoi, which unlike the former, are not creatures in any sense but rather ‘rational principles’, or simply ‘principles’ which preexist in God. In this the Confessor’s conception of the logoi is rather closer to Origen’s own conception of the epinoiai which are a ‘plurality of aspects…(which) stand for the manifold characters which the Word presents either in His eternal being (e.g. Wisdom, Truth, Life) or as the incarnate (e.g. Healer, Door, Ressurection). ” Free Choice in Maximus the Confessor pg. 133

    So you cannot escape by simply stating they are energies. Maximus defines these as Logoi, rational principles around God. Farrell continues,

    “The logoi are principles and agencies by which God created the world, but they are also the One Logos, a point which gives unique Christological perspectives to the doctrine”. (136) Farrell goes on to quote Maximus as saying “who then cannot see that the one Rational principle is in fact many rational principles, and that created things were determined simultaneously but the agency of this distinction which is undivided because their attributes are distinct from each other and without confusion? And again the many [rational principles] are in fact one [Rational Principle] existing without confusion by virtue of all things being offered up to Him through Him Who is ‘their essentialization and enhypostatization, God the Logos of the Father, Who is the source and cause of all things…For He Himself subsisted, along with the rational principles of the things which would come into existence before the ages, supporting by His good will the invisible and visible creation, for He created, and creates all things at the proper time by the agency of a rational principle and wisdom proper to the whole and to each thing individually.” (136-137)

    Again, what are we talking about? There are many rational principles. Does he mean concepts, propositions, logic, syllogisms, what?

  157. “It seems to me that Shaw does NOT address that issue, instead, he contradicts himself. First, Shaw says “That in this calling no violence is offered to the will.” Then he contradicts himself and says “we maintain that the special operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition … If the special operations of the Spirit not invincible, but might be effectually resisted …”.

    Shaw did not say that the will is overcome but “its obstinacy is overcome, its perverseness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, attracted to the Saviour.”

    “Heb 2:9, 11 Rom 8:3 1Cor 15;13-22”

    First, I would like to get you to acknowledge that I took the time to represent what your view is saying instead of making some half read caricature of what you believe. Notice how you didn’t respond by clarifying what you mean. You acknowledge that I understood your view spot on. Just for the record.

    Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
    Heb 2:9 says nothing of the incarnation and this is another debate over limited atonement. I wrote an article on it here: http://olivianus.thekingsparlor.com/the-atonement/limited-atonement

    “Heb 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

    Upon examination of this passage in context, it appears that the, “everyone” in verse 9 is qualified by verse 10 as being the, “many sons”. But this is another debate and a complete diversion from the required demonstration. Verse 11 also says nothing of Christ taking all of humanity in the hypostatic union.

    Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

    Again says nothing of Christ uniting himself to all of human nature.
    From the 1 Cor quote I am assuming you are referring to vs “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

    Again this says nothing of Christ taking all human nature in the hypostatic union. Shaw commenting on WCF 6.4,

    “By the imputation of Adam’s first sin, it is not intended that his personal transgression becomes the personal transgression of his posterity; but that the guilt of his transgression is reckoned to their account. And it is only the guilt of his first sin, which was committed by him as a public representative, that is imputed to his posterity, and not the guilt of his future sins, after he had ceased to act in that character. The grounds of this imputation are, that Adam was both the natural root and the federal head or representative of all his posterity. The former is the only ground mentioned in this section of the Confession, probably, because the representative character of Adam in the covenant of works has not yet been brought into view; but in the succeeding chapter this is distinctly recognised. And both in the Larger Catechism (Quest. 22), and in the Shorter (Quest. 16), the representative character of Adam in the covenant made with him, is explicitly assigned as the principal ground of the imputation of the guilt of his first sin to all his posterity.”

    Speaking of Romans 5:18-19 Shaw says

    “The analogy affirmed in these verses leads irresistibly to this conclusion. The judgment that we are guilty is transferred to us from the actual guilt of the one representative, even as the judgment that we are righteous is transferred to us from the actual righteousness of the other representative. We are sinners in virtue of one man’s disobedience, independently of our own personal sins; and we are righteous in virtue of another’s obedience, independently of our own personal qualifications. We do not say, but that through Adam we become personally sinful—inheriting as we do his corrupt nature. Neither do we say, but that through Christ we become personally holy—deriving out of his fullness the very graces which adorned his own character. But, as it is at best a tainted holiness that we have on this side of death, we must have something more than it in which to appear before God; and the righteousness of Christ reckoned unto us and rewarded in us, is that something. The something which corresponds to this in Adam, is his guilt reckoned unto us and punished in us—so that, to complete the analogy, as from him we get the infusion of his depravity, so from him also do we get the imputation of his demerit.” “Adam is not merely the corrupt parent of a corrupt offspring, who sin because of the depravity wherewith he has tainted all the families of the earth; but who have sinned in him, to use the language of our old divines, as their federal head—as the representative of a covenant which God made with him, and through him with all his posterity.”

    From this passage methinks it safe to say that sin accrues to men as complete human persons from a federal representative in a covenant not as if human nature was some platonic idea separate from the persons that hypostatize it that Adam ontologically corrupts by his sin.
    Farrell on page 225 of Free Choice wants the parallel element in Christ and Adam to be a universal efficacy but here Shaw proves that the parallel element is federal representation of two numerically different groups of people in different covenants.

    “All the actions of Christ are of the divine Logos, there is only one agent in him.”
    Do you mean DIRECTLY of the Logos? By “agent” are you referring to operation or hypostasis?
    “It would be Nestorian to apply actions to either nature, though each nature provides energy and will for the one Logos to appropriate personally”

    So then how do you individuate an action that is divino-human from an action that is human-divino?

    “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men…….” 1 Cor. 15:39”

    So the context contrasts this with the flesh of beasts and birds etc. not other humans of a different sex or ethnicity. By “men” Paul is referring to humans in general. How is this even a semblance of an answer?

  158. I said,
    “That would imply that God is a divine mind and that would be presumptuous because on your view you know nothing of God as he “whatevers”(I want to say subsists but that would be predicating and that’s not allowed on your system) in divine darkness.”
    I am writing an article on some reading I have done in Muller’s Dogmatics and in Vol3 pg. 235 he admits that this is the same for the scholastics. He denies the Cartesian view that God is infinite thinking and this implies a “positive concept of God’s essence” and is therefore to be rejected because “Mastricht strenously denies this view, since all that discussion of divine essence can provide is an understanding of what God is not, rather than what God is in himself.”

    It is striking how similar the Eastern and medieval Scholastic theology is despite proposed objections.

  159. Drake,

    I approved your last several comments, but in the future would you just summarize the point made by various authors, instead of cutting and pasting paragraphs? This will make your comments shorter, though hopefully not any less to the point.

    Andrew

  160. Andrew, no problem.

    This quote should serve to show that western divine simplicity is not a seat or necessary accompaniment to Reformed Soteriology. I am still trying to figure out the demographic here as Canadian sounds like an eastern guy and this is a catholic blog so forgive my irrelevance if I am preaching to the choir so to speak.

    “Schneckenburger argues that the Reformed doctrine of predestination cannot be conceived as a consequence of the idea of God and his attributes since the characteristics of Reformed systematic is not the objective determination of the doctrine of predestination but the personal assurance of election by the grace of God. This is a subjective consciousness which is witnessed by Calvin’s conception of predestination as a part of the ordo salutis rather than as part of the doctrine of God…[Muller approves of him on page 5] We shall attempt to show in this study that Schneckenburger’s conception of Protestant orthodoxy not only deserves attention, but that his view is far more satisfactory than the theory of his opponents. ” Christ and The Decree by Richard Muller, pg. 4-5 (Durham, North Carolina: The Labyrinth Press, 1986)

  161. Drake,

    I think that your comments are mostly relevant, only that it is better (in a combox) to keep things as short as possible. Regarding your last, this gets back to the gist of the post, which was about soteriology, namely, man’s participation in salvation. If we focus on predestination, then Reformed and (Augustinian–Thomistic) Catholic thought will be seen to converge, though not entirely. If we focus on the necessity of works / synergism in some sort of ordo salutis, there will likewise be some convergence. I think that the differences start to emerge when we consider the precise relation of man’s love for God and neighbor (synergism) to final salvation.

    Regarding the theological component of this discussion, I find your Clarkian sympathies with Orthodoxy to be intriguing, although, being Catholic, I affirm divine simplicity (the “absolute” just seems like rhetorical gerrymandering). Ultimately, everything is on topic, divine simplicity, predestination, Christology. So long as we stay somewhat close to monergism / synergism, I don’t mind letting the conversation flow into these areas. As to Christology, I am not sure what you mean by “human nature.” How can a human being possess only part of a human nature?

  162. mateo :“It seems to me that Shaw does NOT address that issue, instead, he contradicts himself. First, Shaw says “That in this calling no violence is offered to the will.” Then he contradicts himself and says “we maintain that the special operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition … If the special operations of the Spirit not invincible, but might be effectually resisted …”.

    Drake: Shaw did not say that the will is overcome but “its obstinacy is overcome, its perverseness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, attracted to the Saviour.”

    Drake, your quote from Shaw was given in response to my original question:

    mateo: “If the will is not forced, that would mean that any man has the ability to refuse the grace of God that calls him to repentance . In what sense can this calling grace be said to be “irresistible” if it can be rejected by men?”

    Let me try to clarify the difference between what Shaw is saying, and what the Catholic Church teaches. The question involves the state of being of fallen man. A fallen man is someone whose free will is wounded by the Fall such that his will opposes God. How can a man in this state of being ever repent of his sinfulness and seek union with God? Both Calvinists and Catholics reject the heresy of semi-Pelagianism, the heresy that fallen man could seek union with God apart from grace. The Calvinists claim that God gives the fallen man irresistible grace, and that irresistible grace operates on the will such that “its obstinacy is overcome, its perverseness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, attracted to the Saviour” etc. etc. If this calling grace is irresistible then it must force the will to be irresistibly attracted to the Savior. The Catholic Church rejects the contention that the grace that calls us to the Savior is irresistible.

    The Catholic Church teaches that the grace that calls an adult to the Savior is given as actual grace under two forms, prevenient grace, and quickening and assisting grace. (see my post # 129, this thread). Before I proceed, I would like to give a definition of actual grace for those following this conversation:

    Actual grace derives its name, actual, from the Latin actualis (ad actum), for it is granted by God for the performance of salutary acts and is present and disappears with the action itself. Its opposite, therefore, is not possible grace, which is without usefulness or importance, but habitual grace, which causes a state of holiness, so that the mutual relations between these two kinds of grace are the relation between action and state, not those between actuality and potentiality. …Catholic Encyclopedia, Article: Actual Grace

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06689x.htm

    In the Catholic theology of grace, the actual graces of prevenient grace / quickening and assisting grace are the “calling graces” that God gives temporarily to fallen man so that he may seek inhering habitual grace. (Habitual grace is initially received through the Sacrament of Baptism.) The “calling grace” of God is a healing grace, that is necessary for fallen man to receive so that his wounded nature
    can be healed enough so that he can freely choose to seek regeneration through the sacrament of Baptism. From the same article quoted above:

    … As pure nature is in itself completely incapable of performing salutary acts through its own strength, actual grace must come to the rescue of its incapacity and supply the deficient powers, without which no supernatural activity is possible. Actual grace thus becomes a special causal principle which communicates to impotent nature moral, and especially physical, powers. Grace, as a moral cause, presupposes the existence of obstacles which render the work of salvation so difficult that their removal is morally impossible without special Divine help. Grace must be brought into operation as healing grace (gratia sanans, medicinalis); free will, bent towards the earth and weakened by concupiscence, is yet filled with love of good and horror of evil. The consciousness of the necessity of this moral influence may become so perfect that we beg of God the grace of a violent victory over our evil nature; witness the celebrated prayer of the Church: “Ad te nostras, etiam rebelles, compelle propitius voluntates” (Vouchsafe to compel our wills to Thee albeit they resist).

    To sum up, the difference between Calvinism and Catholicism when it comes to the “calling grace” that draws an adult to the Savior is this: Calvinism teaches that the calling grace is irresistible – the free will of the man being called cannot resist the calling. The Catholic Church teaches that when the fallen man is given calling grace, he is given a temporary supernatural aid, that gives him enough healing that he can make real choice to either accept or reject the calling. Calling grace is resistible, not irresistible. If the man given healing grace chooses to reject the Savior, if he refuses to seek the Sacrament of Baptism, then his temporary healing will go away. He will revert to the state of being of a man whose will is bent and deformed such that he prefers the darkness to the light.

  163. Mateo (162)

    Excellent summation. So the bottom line is that, in Catholicism, God’s grace is insufficent for our salvation, while in Calvinism, God’s grace is sufficient for our salvation. In other words, in Catholicism, we must help God save us, while in Calvinism, it is God alone who saves us.

    Thank you for the clarification!

    Curt

  164. Andrew,
    ” How can a human being possess only part of a human nature?”
    I didn’t say part of a human natre I said part of human nature as a species. Do you seriously think that Jesus was Jewish, German, Russian, Ethiopian, Male and Female, etc.? He did not take the whole species, he took a part of the species, that is, one Hebrew, male human nature. The Eastern Theology needs the whole species to be assumed by the Logos in order to get salvation infused at the level of nature for literally every human who ever existed, both male and female.

  165. Mateo,

    “Both Calvinists and Catholics reject the heresy of semi-Pelagianism, the heresy that fallen man could seek union with God apart from grace.”

    Do you then acknowledge the position of the East and John Cassian then as heretical? I hope so.

    “If this calling grace is irresistible then it must force the will to be irresistibly attracted to the Savior.”

    Assertion. Show it, prove it. I am single so I can talk like this. I find Spanish girls with long black silky hair irresistibly attractive. They are not forcing me to feel anything. They do not even know I’m attracted to them because I am such a religious fanatic I don’t even waste my time on women that look like that. A poor theologian just isn’t the type of guy that those girls look for. You have not and I repeat cannot show how our view forces the will.

    “The Catholic Church teaches that the grace that calls an adult to the Savior is given as actual grace under two forms, prevenient grace, and quickening and assisting grace.”

    Resistible or irresistible? If it is resistible then you cannot really speak of it aiding the man. So are you asserting that a rebellious man who has been given healing grace can reject the grace while it is healing him? If not then it was never healing grace to begin with and you are right back to square one. See, on your view, God cannot operate on the will at all. This is Pelagian.

    “Before I proceed, I would like to give a definition of actual grace for those following this conversation:”

    Created or uncreated? If uncreated, I have a question. How can you participate in anything uncreated if there are no real distinctions in God, per ADS without participating in all of God, i.e. the essence of God? If created, how do you participate in an uncreated nature, per 2 Peter 1:3-4? If I am not mistaken the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that sanctifying grace is created.
    Scripturalism teaches a direct relationship between man and God. The only middle man so to speak with the church is the human nature of Christ which is deified humanity. No created grace or light is needed.

    “Actual grace derives its name, actual, from the Latin actualis (ad actum), for it is granted by God for the performance of salutary acts and is present and disappears with the action itself. Its opposite, therefore, is not possible grace, which is without usefulness or importance, but habitual grace, which causes a state of holiness, so that the mutual relations between these two kinds of grace are the relation between action and state, not those between actuality and potentiality. …Catholic Encyclopedia, Article: Actual Grace

    Can you give me a definition of cause? If the grace can disappear it sounds created. I just do not believe in created and fallible causes.

  166. Drake,

    So far as I know, “human” denotes a species, and “human nature” denotes that which makes an entity a member of that species. So I am not sure what “human nature as a species” means. The properties that you pick out are, I think, something like proper accidents of human nature, but not essential properties of that nature. Each member of the human species has the same human nature. There are not multiple human natures, only multiple human beings, each with different characteristics, such as gender and ethnicity. These characteristics differentiate individuals who are human, they do not specify human nature.

  167. Curt (#163),

    Almost.

    God’s grace is sufficient for our salvation, and we must help God save us, as illustrated in the post.

  168. By the way, how can you speak of classes or species? Have you ever seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelled an abract class concept ?

    “The properties that you pick out are, I think, something like proper accidents of human nature, but not essential properties of that nature”

    No you cannot say that, because on your view a depraved nature as in Calvinism is not possible because any moral change to it cannot redefine it, it cannot be accidental. You cannot speak of accidents to human nature and then turn around and criticize Calvinists for denying a true human nature to Christ.

    “Each member of the human species has the same human nature.”

    No it has part of the whole human nature created in Adam. I suppose this is assuming upon Traducianism, I am a Tradicianist. Turretin says,

    “The ‘person’ of an individual man is constituted out of the specific ‘nature’ of man and is a fractional part of it; consequently, if the whole was in Adam the part was also; and the very same properties and qualities belong to both.”

    Dogmatic Theology, by W.G.T. Shedd, Third Edition, ed. Alan W. Gomes,(Phillipsburg, NJ, P&R Publishing, 2003) says pg. 491-492, Part 4 Anthropology, Supplement 4.1.18

    “There are not multiple human natures”

    But there are multiple persons that are parts of the common species. What it sounds like to me you are saying is that human nature is simple and with no parts. Christ took one part of the human nature created in Adam. He did not take the whole thing.

  169. Curt Russell: So the bottom line is that, in Catholicism, God’s grace is insufficent for our salvation, while in Calvinism, God’s grace is sufficient for our salvation.

    The bottom line is that God saves us as human beings, not as sanctified robots without free will. A man gets to make a real choice when he is given consequent grace. If he says “yes” to the calling of the Savior, then he has set himself on the path to salvation. If he says “no” when given consequent grace, he will not be forced to accept the salvation that is being offered.

    “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts
    Hebrews 3:15

    ————————-

    mateo: “The Catholic Church teaches that the grace that calls an adult to the Savior is given as actual grace under two forms, prevenient grace, and quickening and assisting grace.”

    Drake: Resistible or irresistible?

    Prevenient (antecedent) grace is irresistible, quickening and assisting grace (consequent grace) is resistible. See my earlier posts in this thread.

    Drake: If it is resistible then you cannot really speak of it aiding the man.

    Of course I can. Without consequent grace the fallen man can’t make the choice for God. Consequent grace allows a man to make a real choice for God, if he chooses to make that choice.

    “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you …” Deuteronomy 30:19-30

    Consequent grace also allows the fallen man to make a culpable choice to reject the salvation being offered. The fallen man that has been given consequent grace and chooses to reject the salvation being offered will be damned because he rejected the Savior.

    Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. Hebrews 3:12

    Drake: If I am not mistaken the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that sanctifying grace is created.

    I think that your knowledge of the Catholic theology of grace might be lacking. Catholic theologians speak about both uncreated grace and created grace. See, for example, Dr. Ludwig Ott’s book The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

  170. Drake,

    I have seen, heard, touched and smelled human beings, and have come to know, and speak, of human nature (and the species, homo sapiens) by means of the forms that inform those beings, in themselves, and my soul, through sensation and intellection.

    I do not understand your second paragraph.

    The bit from Turretin needs some context. As it stands, it makes no sense, and I have spent some time trying. He seems to be saying that other people are “parts” of Adam, who is (was) the “whole” human nature. But Adam, like his offspring, was a human being, not a human nature, and the part / whole relation is misplaced as between human beings.

    Further, human beings are not parts of the human species, they are members of the species. Also, human beings are not parts of human nature, or the whole of human nature, they are informed by human nature (= the substantial form of each being that is human).

    What I mean to affirm about human nature is that it is the substantial form, or essence, of every entity that is human. I suspect that forms are not composite (they certainly are not material), but if they are, it still seems that any entity only endowed with part of this particular form is only partly human. Thus, granted that Christ is fully human, not part-human, he could not assume only a part of human nature.

    I have long heard, and taken it for granted, that the Eastern Church has explored in some depth the soteriological implications of the fact that God became fully human (not that the Western Church has been entirely negligent on this count). Sadly, for me, I know very little about this exploration, and am only at the stage of thinking that, yeah, the Incarnation is a big salvific deal, for every human, in some way.

  171. I was going to add “tasted” to complete the list in the first sentence of my last comment, but it already seemed way too personal.

  172. Andrew P,

    You have no theory of logic or individuation. In Aristotelianism, only individuals are real they are the primary realities. Take for instance a mountain like mount blanca. On your view a individual rock would only be a fraction of the reality and therefore not real. Which is why you keep denying that parts of human nature are not real because you cannot speak of real parts. But then again mount blanca is a part of a range and itself is a part of something else as everything then becomes and therefore nothing is real. Which is the reality, rock mountain or range? What about the bear that hunts on the mountain range? Which is the individual, the bear’s teeth, his hair, his toenails? If you appeal to the numerical unity through qualitative change I ask how do you know that a change such as the change in blood composition is a change in the animal or a change from one animal to another animal? This is the problem with Aristotelianism: sometimes Aristotle determines numerical unity by prior knowledge of what a substance is, and other times determines what a substance is by its numerical unity. Which primary substance is a man? His blood, his fingernails, his hair, his skin? Which one? What if you have two mean who are the exact same weight, 200 pounds. Are they then not alike quantitatively? Is then 200 pounds a relation between a man and a unit of weight? Likeness would then fall under the category of relation. This destroys Aristotle’s distinction between quality and relation. He even admits that some things can be both qualities and relations. Yet the categories are supposed to be grasped by an infallible intuition arising from sensible particulars. 1. The categories cannot be distinguished among themselves. Quantity , quality and relation was just shown indistinguishable. 2. Primary realities cannot be identified. 3. If sensation cannot deal with mountains and bears it certainly cannot produce or explain by abstraction/intellection, abstract concepts or class concepts. Only individual particulars are real on your theory so universal abstract or class concepts cannot be spoken of.

  173. I will now accept your resignation from Thomism.

  174. Hey Drake,

    You are, er, paraphrasing some of the objections to Aristotelian ontology and logic that Gordon Clark raises (in passing) in Thales to Dewey (3rd ed., Trinity Foundation, 1997). Such objections are common in contemporary philosophy. To understand why this is the case, and why some philosophers, and curious non-philosophers such as I, continue to find Aristotle helpful, see Henry B. Veatch, Two Logics: The Conflict Between Classical and Neo-Analytic Philosophy. That book is hard to come by, and usually expensive (if you are near a university, you can probably find it in their library, as I have–community user card style). For an easier to find, less expensive alternative, albeit without the analysis of contemporary analytic philosophy, check out Veatch’s Aristotle: A Contemporary Appreciation.

    The first sentence in your comment is inaccurate. I do have a theory of logic and individuation, only it is more of (to use Veatch’s terms) a “what-logic” than a “relating-logic.” I think that men are real, in the sense of unified, concrete being (substance), and that “units of weight” and such like properties are only real in a derivative sense, something like “mental beings.” A mountain is, perhaps, an aggregate of inanimate substances (e.g. minerals), having only an accidental unity (i.e., no internal organizing / unifying principle). I think that much of your comment illustrates a different onotology and logic (i.e. “relating-logic”). In my opinion, your comment also (inadvertently, no doubt) illustrates the desirability of Aristotelian, or “what” logic.

    The last sentence in your comment is also inaccurate. Universals are real, and can “be spoken of,” but they are not real in the same sense that substances are real.

    I did not know that I had resigned from Thomism.

  175. “You are, er, paraphrasing some of the objections to Aristotelian ontology and logic that Gordon Clark raises (in passing) in Thales to Dewey (3rd ed., Trinity Foundation, 1997). ”

    Actually, I got those from his Festschrift edited by Nash. I have read Thales to Dewey a couple times and plan on reading it again. Your bbliography is not answering the objections.

    “The first sentence in your comment is inaccurate. I do have a theory of logic and individuation, only it is more of (to use Veatch’s terms) a “what-logic” than a “relating-logic.” ”

    This is an asertion. I gave accompanying arguments why I rejected your theory of logic and you answered none of them. You cannot indivudate things because you can never tell us which individual substratum or primary substance you are referring to.

    “Universals are real, and can “be spoken of,” but they are not real in the same sense that substances are real.”

    This ia aslo an assertion. You cannot show how you have knowledge of such universals. You cannot sense them or abstract them from my previous arguments.

    You have nothing left and so you are doing what Wes White at the Protestant Scholastic site does, start throwing bibliographies at me and if I might add books that he himself has not read. From your so called answers I expect the same from you. My work is done here and anyone with an eye to see can perceive it. I leave you to your created and modulated reality.

  176. RC doctrine can be fairly described as teaching that we “help” God save us only if one assumes in advance Calvinist “zap theology” (http://www.upsaid.com/micahnewman/index.php?action=viewcom&id=454) (and thereby dialectically commits the “fallacy of incomplete analysis” http://www.upsaid.com/micahnewman/index.php?action=viewcom&id=464).

    That is, the denial of what I summarily refer to as “zap” theology only entails Pelagianism if you assume full-blown Calvinism to begin with. What it does entail without begging the question in either direction is that room is made for actual experience of progression by sanctification on the one hand or regressing/falling-away on the other. In other words, “once saved, always saved” is its own reductio ad absurdum when you realize that in order to avoid counterexamples, you have to make blatantly ad hoc retroactive judgments about the prior state of salvation (i.e., “really saved” or “not”) of a person who ends up ditching Christianity. (Devin Rose had a blog post about this but I can’t find it now…)

  177. Well Drake, you are welcome back here anytime.

    As to my assertions, it seemed to me that you were stipulating certain things about what I “have” and what I take to be real. I responded by correcting those claims. I do have a theory of individuation, namely, that matter is what individuates species or essences. I also have a theory of logic, namely, the subject-predicate “what that thing is” logic first developed by Aristotle. (The new logic is not entirely unhelpful, only rather ontologically confused, in my opinion.) My theory of logic is based on a particular ontology, and this ontology is based upon what I know about objective reality. This knowledge includes items such as: Things other than and external to myself exist, many of these things endure through time / change, and somehow they exist in my mind, as well as in themselves.

    Now, I take it that you think this is pretty much wrong, but it is unclear to me why you reject such a theory of logic, or how your previous comment demonstrated that I cannot know universals by way of sensation and intellection. I read the assertions made and the questions asked in your comments, but I never saw anything much like an argument.

    At the very least, which is really a lot, I hope that we can agree that the Son of God is fully human, not part-human. More than that, I hope that we will both grow to better appreciate this astounding truth, particularly as it illuminates the way of salvation.

  178. Gentlemen, I have a question: Clement I of Rome was the first apostolic father of the Roman church. Was he also the first Calvinist?

    Clement I 32:
    “All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

    This sounds like justification by faith and faith alone.

    Cheers
    Curt

  179. Curt,

    What St. Clement writes in this passage reflects Catholic soteriology, as one would expect from a Pope of Old Rome. For an argument to this end, check out Bryan Cross’s post, St. Clement of Rome: Soteriology and Ecclesiology.

  180. Andrew,

    Thanks for the reference… it was most informative! From the Bryan Cross post:

    St. Clement is saying here that justification (in this sense) is not by our own works or by the righteousness we have wrought or by our wisdom or our understanding or our godliness or by works we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith.

    I absolutely agree, and I think Calvin would too. Bryan continues…

    The second thing that must be kept in mind is the nature of this faith by which are justified, whether it is living faith or dead faith. That is, is this a faith informed by the virtue of agape, or is it a faith not informed by the virtue of agape? In Catholic soteriology, agape is a virtue (i.e. habit) poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says:

    “because the agape of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” [ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκκέχυται ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου τοῦ δοθέντος ἡμῖν] (Romans 5:5)

    Again, I absolutely agree, and I think Calvin would too. Thus, the initial justification is derived from God and God alone. The resulting agape that leads to sanctification comes from the Holy Spirit and we are called to respond to this love with works attuned to God’s will.

    And all this time I thought Calvin was the first to teach salvation by “grace and grace alone”… Heck, Clement had him beat by, what, 1300 years?

    Cheers
    Curt

  181. Curt,

    St. Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians has been dated as early as c. 70 AD, but perhaps is more commonly thought to have been written around 95 AD. From the time of Christ onward, the Catholic Church has taught that all of salvation is all of God’s grace.

  182. Andrew

    Plus works, right.

    Curt

  183. Curt,

    The word “plus” is misplaced, when referring to good works done in Christ (“the obedience of faith”). Salvation includes sanctification, and sanctification includes our good works. So these works are not added to God’s grace, but are the fruits of God’s grace operating from within. I think that you have already allowed for synergism in sanctification (#57, above). I have shown (#52) that sanctification has the same end as justification, namely, the free gift of eternal life. So, while works are opposed to grace in one sense (Romans 3:20-31; 4:4-5; 11:6), there is another sense in which grace gives rise to works, which leads to justification and eternal life (Romans 2:6-13; 6:15-23).

  184. I think this last conversation goes to show why pca guys keep going RC and EO. The reformation is primarily about the regulative principle and it’s application to authority and yes there are even civil consequences just read the history of Scotland concerning the national covenant of 1638. When so called reformed churches loosen up just a little on these issues the being reformed just seems pointless. I know roman catholic people that believe in unconditIonal predestination. Aquinas was not far off the path on the 5 points. To be reformed is to be a Puritan in worship and government and the pca just is not. why stay in the pca when you could have your cake and eat it too.

  185. Curt,

    “Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.” First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 30.

    Catholic soteriology in the mouth of Pope #4 (my redaction): We are saved by faith (a part from ceremonial works and faithless works) but in accord with our demonstration of that faith through our works, and as such are meritorious for eternal life because it is not dead faith but faith caused by agape poured out into our hearts compelling us to “live” out God’s law summed in “Love God and Love thy neighbor”. Thus, when God crowns our merits, He crowns His own merits in us.

    We can talk over each other until we are blue in the face if what you think we are saying is that it’s me + Jesus. But, really what we are saying is me in and by and for and throughChrist. He is working in us what we are working out with fear and trembling (synergy).

    There a nice short post and podcast about this issue over at Taylor Marshall’s blog here.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  186. Drake,

    Several CTC contributors (myself included) were OPC before we entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. There are several posts on this site that discuss biblical principles of liturgy. You also mentioned the “civil consequences” of the RPW. A while back, I wrote something that also sort of looks at these things together — Prose and Poetry: A Catholic Perspective on Kingdom(s), Cult and Creation

    Any comments about the RPW and related matters would be better directed to this or one of our other posts on Christian worship.

  187. Don’t be deceived curt. Justification means something completely different to the RC and EO than to the Reformed. The main issue here is, is justification infused or imputed. The Reformed say the latter.

    Brent said,
    “Catholic soteriology in the mouth of Pope #4 (my redaction): We are saved by faith (a part from ceremonial works and faithless works) but in accord with our demonstration of that faith through our works,”

    Shaw dealt with this explicitly in commenting on Chap 11 of the confession,

    “The Apostle Paul fully discusses the subject of justification in his Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians; and in both of these Epistles he explicitly declares, that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.”—Rom. iii. 20; Gal. ii. 16. In answer to this argument, it has been often urged, that the works which the apostle excludes from the ground of the sinner’s justification before God, are only works of the ceremonial, not of the moral, law. This “witty shift,” Calvin says, the “wrangling disputants” of his time borrowed from Origen and some of the old writers; and he declares it is “very foolish and absurd,” and calls upon his readers to “maintain this for a certain truth, that the whole law is spoken of, when the power of justifying is taken away from the law.” “The reference,” says Mr Haldane, “is to every law that God has given to man, whether expressed in words or imprinted in the heart. It is that law which the Gentiles have transgressed, which they have naturally inscribed in their hearts. It is that law which the Jews have violated, when they committed theft, adulteries, and sacrileges, which convicted them of impiety, of evil speaking, of calumny, of murder, of injustice. In one word, it is that law which shuts the mouth of the whole world, as had been said in the preceding verse, and brings in all men guilty before God.”

    Others have contended that the works which the apostle excludes from any share in our justification are merely works not performed in faith. This allegation is equally groundless; for the apostle excludes works in general—works of every sort, without distinction or exception (Eph. ii. 9, 10); and the most eminent saints disclaim all dependence upon their own works, and deprecate being dealt with according to their best performances.—Ps. cxliii. 2; Phil. iii. 8, 9.”

  188. Brent

    Perhaps the stumbling block is the word “justified”. To me, the common meaning of the word is to be “made right”. When one says we are justified by our works, I understand that to mean “we are made right by our works”. I see this as wholely different than we are “saved” by our works. God saves us through His grace. This is a gift of love, not a business deal. On the cross, Jesus paid the price for all sin for all time. Then, because is grace is boundless, He further fills us with the Holy Spirit and begins the process of sanctification, in which He proceeds to “make us right”, ie, align our works with His will. This process is not part of salvation; it is subsequent to salvation.

    Within this context, I would agree… “He is working in us what we are working out with fear and trembling”, and “Thus, when God crowns our merits, He crowns His own merits in us.” I would also agree with Clement that we are justified (made right… aligned with God’s will) by our works… post-salvation. I cannot add to what Christ did on the cross… the price of my shortfall (sin) has already been paid by Him, once for all. But because of what Christ did for me and in me, I can contribute to the Kingdom to advance God’s will.

    On synergy… the word implies that the total is greater than the sum of the parts. If God is infinite, if His mercy is infinite, if His love is infinite… then what is the meaning of synergy when God is one part and we are the other? It seems like a meaningless premise to me. Infinity plus me equals what? Something greater than infinity? I cannot add to an infinite God, but Through His grace, I can be a part of God’s infinite plan.

    Cheers
    Curt

  189. Drake,

    The basic difference between Catholic and Lutheran / Reformed definitions of justification is well known, and I doubt that Curt has missed that point. The excerpt you gave merely asserts a Lutheran / Reformed viewpoint.

    The topic of this thread is synergism. Hitherto, there has been general agreement that sanctification is a synergistic process, along the lines of Philippians 2:12-13.

    Given this point of agreement, I have asked (e.g. #52, #183) folks to consider what, biblically speaking, is the end, or goal (telos) of sanctification. I am hoping that we can move forward in agreement, not only that sanctification is synergistic, and that sanctification is included in salvation, but also that the manner of the inclusion of our good works, wrought in Christ, in sanctification, is such that these works result in justification and eternal life (Romans 2 and 6).

    Obviously, there are works that do not result in justification and life (Romans 3, 4, 11). But we cannot interpret some parts of Sacred Scripture in a way that renders these in compatible with other parts of Sacred Scripture. It seems to me, following some scholars, that Romans 8 (the Spirit of life within the baptized) is the key that unlocks the harmony in St. Paul’s teaching respecting faith and works in Romans.

    Due to the need to focus our discussion, I suggest that further comments should somehow reckon with the data in Romans 6:15-23 regarding salvation, sanctification, synergism, and the free gift of eternal life.

  190. Drake,

    What are “dead works”?

    The main issue here is, is justification infused or imputed.

    Yes, you are right. I think our Lord's teaching in Matthew 7 gets emptied of all meaning in the Reformed system, or at the least requires a lot of mental gymnastics. If you interpret Romans and Galatians through what our Lord teaches (the New Kingdom and the end of the Old Temple with its customs, rites, laws, etc) then you get a coherent picture. I think to assume what is assumed in your post in Romans and Galatians does damage both to Jesus's mission and his teaching.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  191. Gentlemen

    There is a further irony in this discussion that should be brought to light… one which Calvin from the grave would likely be pounding his fist about, were he to read our words. It seems like a good point to remind ourselves of a few historical thoughts.

    Calvin was the guy who relentlessly preached that there was no dichotomy between our common life and our Christian life, a view not widely held in the 1500’s. Calvin made war on his perception of the theology of that time … a “live like hell all week and then confess and all is forgiven” view of salvation. Calvin strongly advocated both salvation by grace AND sanctification resulting in good works. He believed that real Christians would live unto the Lord at all times… at work, at home, at church… always. From this teaching, we were given what came to be known as the “Protestant work ethic”… people living their faith in their everyday life.

    I make a point of this because it would be a gross misrepresentation of Calvin’s teaching to emphasize the “salvation by grace alone” and then understate his teaching on the importance of good works in the life of the Christian. Calvin would not approve! From time to time, I get the sense that some think it is the Calvinist who can live like hell because of the “once saved always saved” tenet of Calvin’s teaching. History shows, I believe, that few Calvinists think like that, or more importantly,
    act like that.

    Just food for thought…

    Cheers
    Curt

  192. Andrew

    I find it interesting that you would limit the discussion on Romans 6 to verses 15-23. Verse 12 begins with “Therefore…” thus, Paul at that point is beginning a conclusion based on a previously stated premise. What is that premise?

    Verse 3: We are baptized into His death
    Verse 4: Through the death of the old self, we walk in newness of life
    Verse 5: We are united with Him in the ressurection
    Verse 6: We are no longer slaves to sin
    Verse 7: We are freed from sin
    Verse 8: We will live with Christ… (with v. 5) we are resurrected with Him, it is finished!
    Verse 9: Death is no longer the master
    Verse 10: He died once for all
    Verse 11: We are dead to sin and alive in Christ.
    And now, the “therefore”…
    Verse 12: Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body
    Verse 13: Fight temptation and live unto Christ
    Why?
    Verse 14a: Sin is not our master
    Why?
    Verse 14b: Because we live under grace, not the law.

    The premise Paul sets up is that we are crucified with Christ and we are raised with Christ. Our salvation is initiated and completed through the cross. When Paul says “sin is not our master”, there can only be two meanings… either we are now sinless, or our sins have been forgiven. If we cannot abide the former, we mus accept the latter. Paul does not say we are dead to sin and potentially alive in Christ. He makes a definitive statement… we are alive in Christ. It is finished… period. Then he goes on… “Therfore…” therefore, what? Therefore, we should resist temptation and live unto Christ.

    Verses 22 and 23 beautifully summarize Paul’s teaching:

    22 But now having been freed from sin (salvation by grace alone) and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit (eternal life), resulting in sanctification (notice this is a result of salvation, not a cause), and the outcome, eternal life.

    23 For the wages of sin is death (under the old covenant), but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (the good news of the new covenant).

    Clear as a bell, Paul teaches that salvation is a free gift by grace and grace alone. Sanctification and eternal life are the benefits of that free gift in this world and the next.

    Cheers
    Curt

  193. Brent

    Following up on 190, you said, “I think our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 7 gets emptied of all meaning in the Reformed system, or at the least requires a lot of mental gymnastics.”

    How so?

    Curt

  194. “The excerpt you gave merely asserts a Lutheran / Reformed viewpoint.”
    I disagree. Shaw was directly addressing why the ceremonial and faithful works interp. Of the Roman Church is wrong. 1 He said, “In one word, it is that law which shuts the mouth of the whole world, as had been said in the preceding verse, and brings in all men guilty before God.” If it is for the whole world it is not ceremonial. Then he challenges the other view about faithless works. I have no time for assertions and I am sure you don’t either. I make very certain that I do not base my arguments on mere assertions.

    Brent,

    I am still hammering out an issue with my soteriology that I will not settle for a while so I will remain silent on that point before I am comfortable with my view. I do not hold to the scholastic view of God or the Eastern view but the view of Clark and Philo which posits a direct relationship between the essence of God and man (understanding the mediation of Christ of course) and so created grace seems incompatible. The Reformed do not emphasize as much as the roman but there are essential elements that are the same. Shaw says,
    “The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole ground of a sinner’s justification before God. It is not his essential righteousness as God that we intend, for that is incommunicable; but his mediatory or surety-righteousness, which, according to our Confession, consists of his “obedience and satisfaction.”

    I do not believe in incommincable attributes. If there is to be a classification it should be revealed and unrevealed attributes. Not communicable and incommunicable. The very idea asserts that God is now powerful enough to commuicate them and/or not competent enough to create creatures with the capacity to understand them. I believe there are some things about God that he has not told us but that in no way asserts incommunicableness to God. The only difference between the righteousness of the Logos and the Righteousness of the elect as the Logos’ righteousness is imputed to us, is that our righteousness is in a human way as we are directly united representatively to the human nature of Christ not the divine nature. I see no reason to assert any created grace or “mediatory or surety-righteousness” if that is what he means, but I could be misrepresenting him because he never mentions that it is created but that would be in keeping with the Scholastic tradition.

  195. Curt,

    #188
    I would recommend listening to the podcast on free will posted by Bryan. The infinity + me is really a misnomer because it implies that God gets the most glory if only He acts. Our participation actually brings Him more glory in that He gets to share His goodness with us; in this case His ultimate goodness (salvation!). Which is why he made us to begin with.

    #191
    I don’t think anyone who has had a conversion to Christ believes “you can live like hell”. What some may argue is that one’s theology can lead to that conclusion. The next question is whether or not that is a logical conclusion or merely an abuse of the theology. I think abusing the sacrament of Confession to sin is just that–abuse.

    I get it that Calvin had a strong moral sense. That’s commendable. So do Mormons and Pentecostals. What I think we are trying to get at in this forum is what is the truth regarding salvation. In one schema, sanctification is what comes after justification as a necessary consequence of it but not in anyway necessary for its efficaciousness. In the other schema, sanctification is the process of justification unfolding and as thus must unfold to be meritorious for the reward of heaven.

    Which of these two schemas fits ALL of the Biblical data?

  196. Thanks Brent

    Re 188… First, with due respect, I don’t see “infinity plus me” as a minomer in the context of the Sisyphus example, nor in the context of the theological position exemplified by the allegory. If God is infinite, what can I possibly do to build on what He has already done? Can I respond? Yes. But His love and subsequent grace is completely sufficient, and has already paid for all of my sins. I cannot pay Him back, but I can respond with agape through the Holy Spirit.

    Re 191… Paragraph 1… I agree with you.

    Re 191… Paragraph 2… I agree that this is the question. When I read Scripture, it seems clear to me that we are saved by grace (God alone) and sanctified through a mutual process with the Holy Spirit. Thus, there is no conundrum for Jesus to say, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” to an unrepentent unsanctified sinner hanging on the cross next to Him. No hail Marys, no indulgences, no baptisms… just forgiven. When you read Scripture, you focus on Scriptures that, in and of themselves, would support your position. Which of these two schemas fits ALL of the Biblical data? Yes… that is the question.

    I still want to hear why you think “our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 7 gets emptied of all meaning in the Reformed system, or at the least requires a lot of mental gymnastics.” I don’t see that at all, so feel free to be direct and open. :-)

    Cheers
    Curt

  197. By the way, the word in the first paragraph above is “misnomer” not “minomer”. I’m missing the end of my index finger due to a misunderstanding with my power planer. As a result, my typing sometimes has a lisp.

    Cheers
    Curt

  198. Ok Brent

    I listened to Feingold’s entire discussion on free will… and found it, well, aggravating from a Calvinist viewpoint. Not because he disagrees with Calvin, but mostly because he quotes Luther and then disparages Calvin as if he were quoting Calvin. But he never quotes Calvin. Luther and Calvin are not the same person, nor did they end up with the same theology. I found Feingold’s explanation of the Reformed “denial of free will” to be a gross overstatement and, unintentionally perhaps, a misrepresentation of Calvin’s concept of free will. What he said may have been closer to Lutheran theology… I don’t know, as I have not studied Luther to that level. But he lumps Calvin right along as if to say, “those Reformation guys… they’re all alike”.

    All that aside, I continued to listen to gain an understanding of the position he asserted. I came away with is this: Feingold fundamentally believes that all Reformed theologies deny the existence of free will in all its forms. This just isn’t true. He then spends a lot of time refuting that position. The pretext was a gross over-simplification of a complex concept…. similar to a protestant saying all Catholics believe they are saved by works. For a protestant to refute that position for an hour, as if it were the all-in-all of Catholocism, would leave you feeling frustrated with the person making the case. You want to say, Wait a minute… it’s a lot more than that! Likewise, as a Calvinist, it would have been much more interesting to me if he had clearly and fully stated Calvin’s position on free will and then refuted it. Instead, it came across as a well developed rebuttal to a red herring premise that, in a sideways manner, was attributed to Calvin.

    Cheers
    Curt

  199. Andrew Preslar: The topic of this thread is synergism. Hitherto, there has been general agreement that sanctification is a synergistic process, along the lines of Philippians 2:12-13.

    How would you define synergism? The way that Canadian has defined synergism in this thread is very interesting to me, and it is certainly not how I would define synergism. I know that CTC plans a main article on monergism & synergism, and I can see from this thread see that the terms monergism and synergism will need to be defined so that people aren‘t just arguing semantics.

    The reason I ask you for your definition of synergism is because I don’t agree that sanctification is necessarily a synergistic process. I can think of execeptions. For example, when an infant is baptized, the infant is justified and sanctified. When Adam was created, he was justified and sanctified at the moment life was breathed into his body. In neither of these cases do I see synergism in play. But then again, that may be simply due to the way I would define synergism.

  200. Curt (#192),

    You wrote:

    When Paul says “sin is not our master”, there can only be two meanings … either we are now sinless, or our sins have been forgiven.

    This is incorrect. St. Paul informs us what it means to be free from sin:

    But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

    To be obedient from the heart to Christ’s standard of teaching is not to be perfect, it is to be in a state of grace, to walk in the Spirit. Freedom from sin also involves forgiveness (Romans 4:7-8), freedom from the penalty of sin. But this should not be placed in opposition to sanctity, as though freedom were either one or the other.

    You missed the point about the purpose of sanctification in Romans 6:22. This is due in part to your misunderstanding of freedom from sin, which is mentioned at the beginning of the verse, and in part to fact that you ignored the end of verse 22: Eternal life is the end/purpose/outcome of sanctification.

    But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:22)

  201. Hey mateo,

    So far as I can tell, synergism is a joining of two wills in acting towards one end. Sanctification is necessarily synergistic for anyone who is capable of joining his will to God’s will.

  202. @Curt:

    When Paul says “sin is not our master”, there can only be two meanings … either we are now sinless, or our sins have been forgiven.

    Hmm… It has always seemed to me – did when I was a Calvinist and does now that I am a Catholic – that what Paul means is that sin has no more rights over me. I no longer have to obey sin – like his other example, of a woman whose husband has died. She is now free to marry the new husband.

    Before I became a Christian, I had no conception of sin. I just did what I wanted – which turned out to be sin. In Christ I am empowered to serve Christ; I am not, however, impeccable. That is why Paul tells me I am no longer to let sin reign in me.

    jj

  203. Curt,

    I would love to really discuss this in more detail out of the comboxes because it will require so much more than what we can do in this particular thread (to be fair to everyone else and to Andrew). If you want, my email is blessedsacrament2010@gmail.com. You can just put “Curt from CTC” in the subject line. We can talk through Matthew 7 and where exactly we don’t see eye-to-eye. We could bring it back into the comboxes when it gets relevant.

    If not, that’s perfectly fine, and I’ll lay low and let the discussion on synergism proceed.

    God bless you this Easter Triduum!

  204. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

    syn·er·gy (snr-j)
    n. pl. syn·er·gies

    1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

    Synergy not only entails working together, but also embodies the concept that the sum is greater than the parts. It is a noun that describes an additive formula. One plus one equals three.

    Thus applied to this theological discussion, if we use the concept of synergy to define our relationship with God, we would be saying that “me plus God” is greater than me or God. Logically, this is nonsensical.

    Cheers
    Curt

  205. Andrew

    My friend, you skipped over verses 5 and 6 which tells how we are free from sin.

    5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,

    6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

    Thus, Paul says our old self was crucified with Christ on the cross… and now it is God working His will within us that keeps us from being slaves to sin. Therefore, Paul is able to say to the Galatians (Ch 2):

    20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
    21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    In other words, if I could save myself with good works, then why the cross? The obvious answer is, I can’t save myself with good works. My obedience comes from God working within me, not my own ability.

    Cheers
    Curt

  206. Hey Curt,

    (re #204)

    In the original post, I wrote:

    “What would be lacking, without the child’s efforts, would be the element of participation, the agape, friend of the father dimension of moving the rock.”

    Our efforts do not add anything to God, they add something to us; namely, the joy of being a friend of God.

    (re #205)

    The first part of Romans 6 does indeed tell us *how* we are freed from sin: by being united to Christ in baptism. I was discussing what freedom from sin involves; i.e., forgiveness, new life, obedience. Everything that you say in your last comment is compatible with both synergism in sanctification and sanctification resulting in eternal life.

  207. Curt #204,

    I think that word as defined has taken on a modern materialist color. As Andrew has pointed out, we are talking about wills which are immaterial. I think synergy is now more commonly used in a scientific context where 1+1=2.

    In the Latin/Greek, synergy implies cooperation and joint-work. See the Online Etymology Dictionary.

    Cooperation implies “working with” (co=with). The opposite of working with would be working against. So, we now come to three possibilities: (a) working with Christ, (b) working against Christ, or (c) doing neither.

    Which begs the question is (c) possible? You are either arguing for (c) or a (d) I have not suggested. You are not arguing for (b) and if you hold (a) then we agree on synergy.

  208. Brent

    I’ll stipulate to your definition of synergy in this context. That said, I suppose I would vie for (d)… none of the above. We are not working with Christ; Christ is working in us. The difference might seem insignificant but it isn’t. The difference is the origin of our initiative toward good works. Scripture tells us that we cannot seek to do good on our own. We can only do good when God works through us. Is that, therefore, attributable to me or to God? In my book, it is attributable to God 100%, not synergistically. Yes we participate … as beneficiaries of His grace.

    Example 1: Let’s suppose you are an injured race car driver. On race day, your rich uncle Mario puts up a million dollar winner’s bonus, and then drives your car to victory lane, giving you the million dollar prize (it was, after all, your car). Is that a synergistic relationship? Perhaps in some extreme sense, but not in the normal sense, even by your definition. To me, our relationship with God is infinitely more generous than this example. We are the car, but God is driving and He gives us the reward that results from His expert driving abilities.

    Example 2: I Cor 10:13… “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

    Apparently, God goes before us and somehow controls events such that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. And even when we are tempted, He also goes before us to control the circumstance to provide a way out for us. Would you describe this as synergistic (using your definition)? I would not. Do we participate… yes, but synergy implies that we make some contribution. In this example, God did all the heavy lifting. We are merely beneficiaries, not synergistic partners.

    Just thinking out loud.

    Cheers
    Curt

  209. Curt,
    I think you and Brent might be miscommunicating a bit, I’m no scholar on the Catholic Church’s understanding of grace, but perhaps we can look to St. Augustine on operative and co-operative grace for common ground.

    For St. Augustine these two were not two species of graces given by God, but rather two effects of God’s grace (or so I think). Namely operative grace is whereby God grants us the ability and disposition towards doing something good for another out of divine charity (God does this without us) and then He grants us co-operative grace whereby we can actually do what is in our head (actually carry out the good deed). God’s grace is necessary in all aspects of doing a good deed according to St. Augustine (and Catholics, though the Scholastic understanding of grace is probably way more complex). This is what is meant by synergy. One cannot block God from the operative grace given (that would be like somehow being able to block our own conscience from working, which doesn’t make sense to me), but one can choose not to work with co-operating grace, that is one could do something good even though God provided us with the means of doing good (I believe it is in the Council of Orange that no person can have an excuse with God that He didn’t give them the grace to not sin).

    It seems to me like you are advocating that when God grants us grace we do something good, necessarily, and that all good deeds that we did are because of grace and all bad deeds are because we didn’t receive grace, but if we didn’t receive grace to do good deeds then one might say God is at fault for judging us for something we were not capable of doing.

    Not sure if this helps or not. I hope I’ve said things that are true about the Catholic Church. Somebody correct me if I’ve made too many errors.

    God bless,
    Curt.

  210. Oops,
    I meant God bless Curt,
    Steven Reyes

    Doh!

  211. Curt #208,

    Christ works in us. Yes! We also are co-workers with him (1 Cor 3:9), “working out our salvation with fear and trembling for God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Phil 2:12-13). Synergy!

    Example 1: I am not a car/vehicle/robot, etc. I am God’s creature created uniquely in His image and likeness with a will and an intellect. I can agree that God’s relationship with us is infinitely more generous than your example; yet it is so precisely because He invites us to share in His work–to cooperate.

    Example 2: “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man” From this scripture we know that temptations do overtake us, but they are not unique. In other words, we cannot complain to God, “But, my temptation was different!” Reading the verse right before it and after it makes this even more clear. “take care not to fall” (v.12) “avoid idolatry” (v.14). “Taking care” and “avoiding” are things we do.

    “whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (v.31)

    In your system Curt, I’m having a hard time understanding what we can “do” to give God glory.

  212. Curt

    I would like to vent a complaint about men doing good. The Westminster confession forbids the possibility of SPIRITUAL good not NATURAL good. I notice most Calvinists i know deny all good works to natural man in every sense and it seems to me that this view posits more than a loss of original righteousness but the image of God altogether. Not to change the subject but Clark came after Van til on this point especially as it is applied to mans rational faculty.

  213. Steven

    Thanks, and God bless you too! Weve wandered off track a bit, my fault. To circle back around, the issue I have is not that we do or don’t work cooperatively with God. I believe we are saved by God’s grace through the cross, once for all of our sins. Period end of salvation discussion. I then believe God pours His Holy Spirit into us which allows us to perform works of grace, but it is not me, for I am sinful. Rather, it is God working in me. As He draws us closer in relationship, our fruit increases. This is sanctification.

    Salvation is the complete act of God forgiving our sins through the cross. We cannot ad to our salvation. It is finished. I see sanctification as the process of God drawing us to His holiness. I do not see sanctification as a component of salvation. So finally to be clear on my view, salvation is 100% God, sanctification is a synergistic process.

    This is where the discussion gets divided in our word usage. The RC church sees sanctification as part of salvation, ie God intitiates the salvation process and we complete the salvation process through sanctification (ie good works). Thus the entire process is peceived as synergistic. I hope I am characterizing this correctly. Conversely, as stated, I believe God completed our salvation on the cross. Once He offers that grace to us, He fills us with the Holy Spirit and we enter the sanctification process. He draws us closer to Himself and calls us for His particular purpose within His grand plan. In my view, sanctification does not add to or complete salvation; that process is complete in Christ. Sanctification is our agape response to God’s overwhelming love… after He saves us. Thus, I do not see synergy in salvation, but would allow that sanctification is marginally synergistic; ie, little me serving on big God’s team.

    Sorry for the redundance, but I am trying to clarify the distinctions that are the struggle of previous discussions.

    Thanks and praise God!

    Curt

  214. Brent

    This is a great question…

    In your system Curt, I’m having a hard time understanding what we can “do” to give God glory.

    My response… forgive the directness brother… is this: stop trying to take credit for the work that God has done and is doing. When I do good works, it is not me, but Christ working in me. Thus Paul’s admontion which, as you know, I have beaten like a drum, Eph 2:8-9:

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

    Everything we do should point to God and His infinite love and amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. This is why I struggle with any concept of “God acting and me acting” adding up to salvation. It is His infinite grace alone on the cross that saves me. I can respond in the sanctification process, but I cannot add to the salvation process. Thus, all I do in sanctification is God working in me pointing right back to Him. In that, we can do plenty to glorify God. And, He gets all the glory.

    Praise His name!
    Curt

  215. Drake

    Point taken. Thanks.

    Curt

  216. Curt,

    You said, “I do not see sanctification as a component of salvation.”

    First: Really? You do not see our growth in that holiness “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12.14) as integral to our salvation?

    Second: If so, this puts you seriously at odds with Scripture. For example: “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess 2.13, ESV).

    Third: From a Reformed point of view, you’re equating and therefore confusing salvation as a whole with justification. PCA Pastor Jason Stellman, for one, is on record on this blog protesting vehemently against Catholics for accusing Reformed of doing this very thing. For example: here, here, here, and here. But this is exactly what you are doing.

    Please reconsider.

    Have a blessed Holy Thursday.

  217. John

    I love your beard!

    Everyone else… I clearly stirred the hornets nest!

    In light of the fact that it is Holy Week, let’s take a breather and worship our Savior.

    I’m sure we can agree that, in this sacred time, our focus is better spent on His infinite worthiness rather than our petty misunderstandings!

    Grace and peace to all…

    Curt

  218. Curt,

    Good call man!

    All,

    My policy is to approve all comments unless they are simply too long (as measured by my attention span) or contain a personal attack. However, I just now realized that the Curt-directed comments had begun to pile up, and this is unfair, though of course the fault is mine. So I removed some of the most recent comments, even though they were good and on point, so to avoid redundancy and the pile-up effect.

    A couple of people (including Curt, above) have suggested that we take a break for the Easter Triduum. I agree. Until Bright Monday, gentlemen!

  219. After a few months of reflection I would like to review of few things:
    I said,
    “This seems to deny real distinctions between nature and person. Where then did Christ get his curse of mortality from? The Logos? He dies and was therefore under the curse of mortality.”

    This is wrong and I discovered this while studying the trinity. Real distinctions between nature and person result in a quaternity in the Trinity.

    Canadian said,
    “All the actions of Christ are of the divine Logos, there is only one agent in him. His personal agency utilizes the natures available to him, divine and human with all their free faculties. It would be Nestorian to apply actions to either nature, though each nature provides energy and will for the one Logos to appropriate personally. Monothelitism denies two natural wills, I affirm them but you seem to have agency to each nature which would be Nestorian. We can say the source of certain actions are from certain natures, but one agent ACTS in both/either nature.”

    I think he is correct on this point.

    Yet he still did not answer this: “So then how do you individuate an action that is divino-human from an action that is human-divino?”

  220. One of the above comments mentions Midian as being a great example of synergism. Evidently, the Holy Spirit through the prophet Isaiah agrees, comparing the coming salvation through Jesus with liberation from Midian in Isaiah 9:4: http://pjamesbeardsley.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/why-midian-isaiah-or-salvation-is-synergistic-and-that-doesnt-diminish-gods-glory/

  221. Perhaps a tad inconvenient, but Paul was apparently a monergist…

    Romans 9…
    16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    God’s sovereignty trumps all. I, by the way, thank God every day that He chose me and did not leave the choosing to me. As Paul further exposited…

    Ephesians 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

    Praise God who created us! Praise Christ who saved us! Praise the Holy Spirit who guides us in His will!

    I’m not sure why the concept of being chosen by God and God alone is so difficult to accept. Did not God choose the Jews? Did they somehow earn His favor? Not at all. God just chose them… rather arbitrarily one might observe.

    Deuteronomy 7

    6 For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers

    God chooses whom He will for His purposes… its all about His will. We are but humble servants chosen according to His purposes. While that might sound awful to those outside the faith, you and I know that God makes life in Christ an exhilarating experience. His plan is perfect. Can I get an amen?

    Blessings
    Curt

  222. Curt,

    You are merely blurting out opinions, unsupported by any reasoned analysis of the texts that you cite. This post, and the subsequent thread, focused on synergism in the process of sanctification, it being a point of agreement between us that sanctification is necessary for final salvation. Your latest comment appears to address the question of man’s cooperation (or lack thereof) in initial salvation. On that topic, as regards the relation of man’s free will and God’s freely given grace, see the excellent discussion beginning with this comment and continuing to the end of the thread.

    Andrew

  223. Thank you Andrew. With all due respect, at least I cited Scripture which, may I humbly point out, you did not in your opening statement… A statement that opens with your opinion about what I, as a Calvinist believe. So let the reader understand… I posted to clarify and the Scripture cited is what I believe.

    Blessings
    Curt

  224. By the way, I agree that God lets us participate in the process of sanctification… but not to the point that my salvation is dependent upon my success. My salvation is by grace alone through Christ alone.

    Blessings
    Curt

  225. Curt,

    You could copy and paste the entire Bible in the comment box, and no one here would disagree with a word, just as I am sure that you agree with the Scripture that I have cited in the post and subsequent comments. The problem is, so far as I can tell from our previous discussion, you do not properly understand the meaning of Scripture, as regards man’s cooperation in salvation, including his cooperation in sanctification. If you want to pick up the threads of our previous discussion, please do so. We were looking at the goal of sanctification as depicted in Romans 6.

    Regarding my opinion about what Calvinists believe: As was discussed at the beginning of this thread, not all Calvinists seem to agree that sanctification is a synergistic process (e.g., Michael Horton makes some claims that suggest that sanctification does not depend at all upon the will of the believer). I admit that the question of monergism/synergism most commonly arises with respect to initial salvation/regeneration. If you want to discuss synergism in initial salvation, or the relation of grace and free will in detail, I recommend that you jump into the aformentioned thread on that topic.

    Andrew

  226. I’m not familiar with Horton’s work but would agree with you that sanctification is synergistic in that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we enter a process of becoming more holy… more tuned in to the will of God and more inclined toward good works in His will. Where the Calvinists I know would depart with the Catholic understanding is in the belief that our eternal salvation is dependent on our success or failure in the sanctification process. If we agree that we are chosen of God, then consider the following: Romans 8: “37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Not even I can separate myself from the love of God. Jesus said that the shepherd knows His sheep and that nothing can snatch us from His hand. That is the good news of the gospel! Thus my salvation is complete in the ressurection. My sanctification is the result of God’s continuing love and influence in my life… an outward sign of His inward grace. Yes I participate, but it is His power, not mine, that achieves sanctification. He creates the wave… I get to surf it. I ride in the direction He sends me… not by my own power… but by His and His alone. Thus, both “initial” salvation and sanctification are the result of God’s grace alone. I am merely the lucky recipient.

    Sorry… That was a long lead in to Romans 6. First, in context, Paul is clearly exhorting the Romans to live unto Christ and cut out the sin. Thus, clearly, we are active participants in the process of becoming more holy. But before we jump ahead to your verse 22, let’s look at 17… “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” How did that happen? Who set them free? By what power? Who changed their heart? Was it them or was it God? This verse shows us clearly that the power of sanctification comes from God. And now to verse 22 “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So we have been set free from sin (by God, not our works), and the benefit leads to holiness (empowered by God changing our hearts) leading to eternal life… through God’s will alone. The clincher is 23… for the wages of sin is death (and we were set free from sin by God in verse 22) but the free gift of God is eternal life. That free gift cannot be earned, can it? Just like the example given above with the father, son and lawnmower, the kid participates, but the lawn gets mowed even if the kids fails… the Father will see to that!

    Blessings
    Curt

  227. Curt,

    On the one hand, you write:

    [I] would agree with you that sanctification is synergistic…

    Yes I participate…

    And on the other hand, you write:

    …but it is His power, not mine, that achieves sanctification. He creates the wave… I get to surf it. I ride in the direction He sends me… not by my own power… but by His and His alone. Thus, both “initial” salvation and sanctification are the result of God’s grace alone. I am merely the lucky recipient.

    Of course I agree that the power for sanctification comes from God alone. He is the source of all good things. The question is, does sanctification, which comes from God, involve the active participation of man, by which he wills what God wills (i.e., holiness)? Synergism involves the operation of two wills (God’s and man’s) towards the same end, and participation (for a volitional creature) implies the activity of the creature’s will. Being lucky and riding a wave (as a plank or bit of seaweed can do) do not involve the creature’s will, so it is hard for me to see where you are affirming actual synergism here.

    You do go on to affirm, on the basis of Romans 6, that:

    Thus, clearly, we are active participants in the process of becoming more holy.

    In what way are we active participants? Is it by joining our will to God’s will? You have yet to affirm that, but that is what synergism means.

    Finally, you wrote:

    That free gift cannot be earned, can it? Just like the example given above with the father, son and lawnmower, the kid participates, but the lawn gets mowed even if the kids fails… the Father will see to that!

    The free gift referred to at the end of Romans 6 is the eternal life that is the result of sanctification. Because sanctification itself is a free gift of God, it is true that the result of sanctification, eternal life, is not earned (like a wage), but it is also true that this eternal life depends upon yielding our members to righteousness for sanctification (6:19). If we do not so yield our members, we will not be sanctified, and we will not receive the end of sanctification, which is eternal life. Thus, it is not true that “the lawn gets mowed even if the kid fails.”

  228. Thanks Andrew

    Yes we must yield ourselves to righteousness, and we can ONLY because God is at the controls… not because we of our own volition have the power to do that. Just as we could not overcome being slaves to sin before salvation, neither can we overcome being servants of Christ after salvation. So my definition of synergy differs from yours. We are crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives within us. Thus we are joined synergistically but not equally. Synergy does not require equality… “Synergy may be defined as two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable” (pardon the quick wiki definition). So… if sanctifying works do not occur, that person must not be among the sheep. Thus Jesus says, “you will know them by their fruit”.

    More evidence: 2 Cor 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

    And then: 17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

    When we are saved, we become a new creation that participates in God’s wonderful plan. All these things are from God (not me). He reconciled me to Himself… not by my works or will, but by His will. His plan is unstoppable… if we fail “even the stones will cry out”. And yes the lawn gets mowed with or without us.

    Oh, and perhaps you didn’t understand the surfing analogy… A surfer must paddle out to the head of the waves (analogy… seek after God’s will), be prepared mentally and physically to ride the wave (tune into one’s gifts and hone them for use in the kingdom), be vigilant to find the right wave (look for God’s call) and then connect with the wave (take action in the ministry of the kingdom). So there is plenty for the surfer (Christian) to do (unlike seaweed)… but the power of the wave comes from God alone (ie, our actions do not contribute to the wave, but the wave contributes the sole force for our actions). Our ability for righteousness comes solely from God, not our notion to do right or wrong.

    Blessings
    Curt

  229. Curt,

    Of course the synergy of God’s will and man’s will does not involve equality. That could not have been more obvious from my illustration and subsequent comments. And I agree, as stated in my last comment, that the power / ability for righteousness comes solely from God, as do all good things. So that at least is common ground.

    You appear to be further claiming that all those who once receive the sanctifying grace of God necessarily persevere in sanctification to the end, and thus inherit eternal life. But that point cannot be here assumed, because it is something on which Calvinists and Catholics (along with most other Christians) differ. The perseverance of the saints does not follow from (1) the radical inequality between Creator/Sanctifier and created/sanctified and (2) the Creator/Sanctifier being the sole source of man’s power or ability for righteousness. You will have to introduce other premises in order to validly establish that particular conclusion.

    As for the “lawn getting mowed,” it is important at this point to state what that illustration stands for, which in this case is the sanctification of the human person. Clearly, if the person’s will is synergistically involved in the process of sanctification, as you affirm, then it cannot be the case that “the lawn gets mowed with or without us.” What you are affirming in conjunction, (a) synergism in sanctification and (b) sanctification occurring with or without man’s will, is an explicit contradiction.

    Regarding the surfing analogy: It is not that I didn’t understand it, the problem is that you did not sufficiently develop it, in the first instance, so that it necessarily included the act of the will. “I get to surf [the wave]” does not imply all of the things included in the expanded analogy in your most recent comment. The expanded analogy does make it more clear that you think the will is involved synergistically in sanctification/riding the wave, but this leaves you with the contradiction pointed out in the preceding paragraph.

  230. Thanks Andrew

    What I am saying is that God’s will, external of me, working in conjunction with God’s spirit in me results in sanctification. I am involved in the process, but it is 100% God. My will is dead. The old is gone, the new has come. So this is synergistic, yet not dependent on my will. If I am mowing the lawn with my son, and he runs out of steam, I will continue to push the lawn mower while he walks alongside because it is my will to finish the lawn. Synergistic… yes. Dependent on my son… no. If it is God’s will for me to be saved, nothing, including my stumbles, will snatch me from His grace. If my sanctification (and thus salvation, by Catholic theology) is dependent on me, I am then under the law… and in deep trouble. So I have no problem saying that sanctification is synergistic, and yet the outcome is 100% grace, independent of my will.

    When I spoke of equality in the synergy equation I mean this: If God can choose me and I can unchoose myself, this by default means God and are equal in the equation. This is nonsensical… God is sovereign. I cannot trump the will of God.

    Regarding the perserverence of those whom God has chosen… it’s all about the perserverence of God in His mercy toward us, and not at all about our human perserverence. This aligns with the concepts I have presented heretofore. If God has chosen us, He will not let us go, even if we screw up. Certainly guys like David, Paul, Peter and many others in the Bible would attest to this. Jesus called Peter satan,… Peter denied Christ three times, yet Peter persevered. His will was weak, yet in Christ, he perservered even unto death. It was God’s will and Peter could not change that.

    Since you asked for evidence, I’ll post a short list of examples. These evidence God’s mercy toward those who have been chosen, (sometimes even when they do not behave well) and His faithfulness to preserve those whom He has called, regardless of their will or actions.

    God doesn’t forsake the chosen, even when they are bad…
    Nehemiah 9:16, “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. 17 They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.
    But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.”

    None of the chosen will be lost:
    John 6:39-40, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

    Nothing can snatch the chosen from the hand of Christ. Nothing means nothing.
    John 10:27, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

    The chosen are predestined, called, justified and glorified… no act of my will is mentioned
    Romans 8: 28, And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

    The believer is sealed through Christ into the inheritance… God’s will – 100%, my will – 0%
    Eph 1:11 “…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

    God does the sanctifying and preserves us without blame to the end
    1 Thess 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

    God finishes what He starts
    Phil 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

    Salvation is in the present tense… it is finished
    John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

    I could go on. In the end, the question is whether the will of the chosen sheep can trump the will of God. I say it can’t. Yes we can and will sin, just as David, Peter, Paul and millions of others have. And just like them, we cannot unchoose what God has chosen. God is faithful, merciful, omnipotent and sovereign. His grace trumps all.

    Blessings
    Curt

  231. Curt,

    Your first and third paragraphs in #230 simply repeat the contradiction that I pointed out in #229.

    Your second paragraph is a non sequitur. If a king chooses that a particular peasant come and live at court, and the peasant later chooses to leave the court, and return to the fields to take up his old life as a swineherd, this in no way implies the equality of the king and the peasant in the equation.

    I did not exactly ask for evidence, but for a premise that would yield, with your other claims (with which I agree), a valid argument to the effect that everyone who once receives sanctifying grace continues in that grace to the end. What you cite as evidence for this conclusion are passages of Scripture which neither say nor imply that everyone who once receives sanctifying grace continues in that grace to the end.

    In the final paragraph, you wrote:

    Yes we can and will sin, just as David, Peter, Paul and millions of others have. And just like them, we cannot unchoose what God has chosen.

    If in the process of sanctification we can chose to sin, contrary to the will of God, how does this not render us equal with God, per your stipulation in the second paragraph?

  232. Curt,

    I stated that the passages you cite in support of your thesis (i.e., all those who once receive sanctifying grace continue in that grace to the end) do not in fact imply that thesis. When I have the opportunity, tonight or later this week, I will attempt to explain my understanding of what these passages do teach, and how this is different from the notion that all (without exception) who once receive sanctifying grace continue in that grace to the end.

    Andrew

  233. Curt (#230)

    What I am saying is that God’s will, external of me, working in conjunction with God’s spirit in me results in sanctification. I am involved in the process, but it is 100% God. My will is dead. The old is gone, the new has come. So this is synergistic, yet not dependent on my will. If I am mowing the lawn with my son, and he runs out of steam, I will continue to push the lawn mower while he walks alongside because it is my will to finish the lawn. Synergistic… yes. Dependent on my son… no. If it is God’s will for me to be saved, nothing, including my stumbles, will snatch me from His grace. If my sanctification (and thus salvation, by Catholic theology) is dependent on me, I am then under the law… and in deep trouble. So I have no problem saying that sanctification is synergistic, and yet the outcome is 100% grace, independent of my will.

    What seems to me to be the problem with this picture is the question of what “mowing the lawn” represents. If it means “accomplishing God’s determinate will,” then, of course, the lawn will get mown. If it means “the son who is helping will inevitably be saved,” then I think you are begging the question. Is it God’s determinate will that the son will be saved? God desires the son to be saved. This we know. But the question is whether it is God’s determinate will that the son will be saved by helping to mow the lawn. It seems to me that the Scripture says the latter: Philippians 2;13-13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do, for His good pleasure.” Salvation, it seems to me, is just the son’s continuing to help mow the lawn until it his mown. St Paul’s other stuff in Philippians about “not that I have attained yet, but I press on…” and so forth seems to me to mean precisely this.

    To be sure, it is all God – and it is all me. It is not 98% God and 2% me.

    Be interested to know what Andrew thinks of my analogy – but so it seems to me.

    jj

  234. Curt, you write:

    I am involved in the process, but it is 100% God. My will is dead.

    If your will is now dead, how then, could you ever possibly will to do what is right?

    Paul describes what his state of being was like before Jesus Christ set him free from his bondage to sin:

    … I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
    Romans 7:14-18

    Note that Paul never says that Jesus Christ destroyed his will when he saved him from “this body of death.” Just the opposite. Paul says that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” Freedom from the law of sin and death allows Paul to do what he willed before he encountered the risen Christ.

    Curt, if you would, please explain what you mean when your say, “My will is dead”? If your will is dead, how do you do anything at all?

  235. Andrew

    I’ll wait for the explanation offered in 232. Regarding 231, the “contradiction” you refer to is the mystery and beauty of grace. While we were yet sinners, Christ died and rose again for our redemption. This could be paraphrased as such: While our will was in the mud, God decided to save us anyway. His will trumps our will. This is different from your follow up example of the peasant and the king in this way… in your example, the peasant trumps the will of the king by leaving. In terms of will, the peasant is greater than the king. In the case of salvation/sanctification, God trumps our will by choosing us, then filling us with the Holy Spirit such that we can be assured, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” In the micro sense, we can make errors, but in the macro sense, God carries out His will by seeing us through to the end. This is similar to the Catholic concept that the integrity of the Church and the apostolic succession has been preserved in purity through the ages, though there were periods of sin along the way. God’s will wins out. Not so in your example of the king and the peasant.

    So to answer your final question in 231…

    If in the process of sanctification we can chose to sin, contrary to the will of God, how does this not render us equal with God, per your stipulation in the second paragraph?

    We are not equal with God because God’s will wins out, regardless of our choices. We are given the gift of eternal life by His choice and His alone. If we sin, He has already covered it. He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within, steering us back toward Him and His will.

    Blessings
    Curt

  236. Hey JJ

    I have always had tremendous repsect for your thoughts on this board. Thanks for jumping in!

    It seems to me that there are three options, assuming we’re not muslims or mormons:

    1. God does not choose me (God’s will trumps my will)
    2. God chooses me and I am saved regardless of my will (God’s will trumps my will)
    3. God chooses me and I can choose to surrender or not surrender (My will trumps God’s will)

    We know 1 is a possibility from Romans 9, Pharaoh example, twins example. We know that 2 is true… Peter was saved even though Jesus called him “Satan” and he denied Christ three times (seems like a pretty serious sin???). I cannot think of a Biblical example of 3, though I can think of people like the rich young man who would not give up his wealth… he might be given as an example. I would question, was he chosen? … and the answer is… we don’t know.

    I am setting up this postulate to ask you… what does “100% God and 100% me” really mean, if we are speaking of the will? We cannot both choose. If God chooses me and sees me through my subsequent sin into full salvation, as He did with David, Peter, Paul, countless others, and me… that’s 100% God. If God chooses to save me and I opt out, then God’s will is trumped. That’s 100% my will.

    I think your Phillipians verse is a perfect clarifying example… it speaks of working out our salvation, how? With “fear and trembling”. Why? “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do, for His good pleasure.” God is working His will through us, in spite of our weakness. It is His will, and so it shall be. Does it not fill us with fear and trembling to have the Creator of the universe working His will through us? I hope so! It sure beats what I had planned! To summarize, our good works are not the result of our will… it is GOD working HIS will for HIS good pleasure.

    Love to hear your thoughts…
    Curt

  237. Oh and JJ… regarding the Philippians verse you mentioned at the end “not that have already attained it” et al… Chapter 3 is Paul’s “goal of life” chapter. He recounts that he was a “perfect” Jew in the Pharisaic sense, a life which he gave up for a life of hardship in the will of God. He counts his former life as rubbish compare to a life in Christ which he describes as “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” So the righteousness that comes from God is the power of the resurrection (Paul’s “new self”), not being perfect under the law, which is mere self righteousness (Paul’s “old self”). Verses 12 and subsequent discuss Paul’s desire to continue fulfilling God’s will, not that its done yet, but continuing until Christ brings him home. What he has not laid hold of is perfection but he will continue to press on toward that goal of perfection in Christ.

    He sums this up in the final two verses, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Notice he does not say “If you do this or that, you’ll attain heaven”. It is a definitive statement in the present tense… we’re in, by the grace of God.

    Blessings
    Curt

  238. JJ,

    You wrote:

    What seems to me to be the problem with this picture is the question of what “mowing the lawn” represents. If it means “accomplishing God’s determinate will,” then, of course, the lawn will get mown. If it means “the son who is helping will inevitably be saved,” then I think you are begging the question. Is it God’s determinate will that the son will be saved? God desires the son to be saved. This we know. But the question is whether it is God’s determinate will that the son will be saved by helping to mow the lawn. It seems to me that the Scripture says the latter: Philippians 2;13-13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do, for His good pleasure.” Salvation, it seems to me, is just the son’s continuing to help mow the lawn until it his mown. St Paul’s other stuff in Philippians about “not that I have attained yet, but I press on…” and so forth seems to me to mean precisely this.

    Those are helpful distinctions and your referent for “mowing the lawn” tracks well with what I had in mind in #229, where I stated that in this analogy it stands for the process of sanctification.

  239. Curt,

    You wrote:

    Regarding 231, the “contradiction” you refer to is the mystery and beauty of grace.

    A contradiction does not cease to be a contradiction by simply calling it something else.

    The example of the peasant was meant to illustrate that the ability to choose contrary to God’s will does not imply equality between God and man. Suppose that the peasant returns from his swineherding and is ultimately saved. His departure was still contrary to the will of the king; thus, it would seem that “in terms of will the peasant was greater than the king,” that is, if choosing something contrary to the king’s will entails equality between the peasant and the king. This problem is not resolved by distinguishing between “micro” and “macro” sins, because even “micro” sins are contrary to the will of God, and yet we choose to commit them. This is true even if those who commit these “micro” sins are ultimately saved; therefore, stipulating that they are ultimately saved does not render your position non-contradictory.

  240. Andrew

    Thanks so much for hanging with me on this. With due respect, the contradiction is on you… I don’t see a contradiction, which is why I put the word in quotes. In the “contradiction” as you defined it in 229, you are assuming that the sanctifying actions of saved man are the result of his own will, thus his will must be synergistically involved in sanctification. But we know from Scripture that it is not our will, but God’s will in us that causes the santifying works. Our natural will wants to work against this, but God’s will wins out, and thus our salvation is complete in Christ alone. In my definition of synergy, the man is actively involved because he carries out the will of the Father. But it is God’s will that is directing him to do so, not the man’s will. Thus there is no contradiction… sanctification is 100% God’s will, 0% man’s will, 100% man’s actions in the physical world, as directed by God. The beauty and mystery of grace is that, even after we are chosen, God continues to see us through the sanctification process, even if we do sin. As previously pointed out, this is in evidence with David, Peter, Paul and so many others in Scripture. Once God chooses us, He sees us through to the end, which is why Paul could say, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can thwart the will of God nor separate those who are chosen from His grasp. Not even my will. That is the good news of the gospel. Comparitively, if it is our will that ultimately saves us, then in my humble opinion, we reduce the gospel to a doctrine of works righteousness equivalent to that of islam, mormonism, the law of Judaism or any number of other works based religions. The Christian is saved by the gift of God’s grace which has already defeated the death of sin. In Christ, it is finished. Oh death, where is thy sting?

    Blessings
    Curt

  241. Curt,

    Neither does one’s position cease to be contradictory by merely stipulating that, no, it is one’s interlocultor who is contradicting himself. You have repeatedly affirmed synergy in sanctification, which by definition involves man’s will, as well as God’s will. But then you have repeatedly claimed that sanctification is 100 percent God’s will and 0 percent man’s will, which by definition eliminates man’s will in sanctification. This is a contradiction.

    You wrote:

    But we know from Scripture that it is not our will, but God’s will in us that causes the santifying works.

    This is incorrect. What we know from Scripture is that it is both God’s will in us and our own will that causes the sanctifying works. That is synergy–man’s will with God’s will acting for one end, namely, sanctification and its goal, which is everlasting life.

    I notice that you did not respond to the bulk of my last comment. Are you dropping the charge that choosing something contrary to God’s will implies equality between man and God “in the equation”? If not, then perhaps you would respond to this:

    The example of the peasant was meant to illustrate that the ability to choose contrary to God’s will does not imply equality between God and man. Suppose that the peasant returns from his swineherding and is ultimately saved. His departure was still contrary to the will of the king; thus, it would seem that “in terms of will the peasant was greater than the king,” that is, if choosing something contrary to the king’s will entails equality between the peasant and the king. This problem is not resolved by distinguishing between “micro” and “macro” sins, because even “micro” sins are contrary to the will of God, and yet we choose to commit them. This is true even if those who commit these “micro” sins are ultimately saved; therefore, stipulating that they are ultimately saved does not render your position non-contradictory.

  242. Curt,

    Here is what I take to be the clearest and most succinct statement of your position thus far:

    In my definition of synergy, the man is actively involved because he carries out the will of the Father. But it is God’s will that is directing him to do so, not the man’s will. Thus there is no contradiction… sanctification is 100% God’s will, 0% man’s will, 100% man’s actions in the physical world, as directed by God.

    Additionally to my previous response, I would like to make a couple of observations, and ask two questions:

    1. I think that I can see how you are trying to shrug off the contradiction: by relegating man’s active involvement in carrying out the will of the Father to his “actions in the physical world.” Those actions of man in the physical world that are not acts of his own will are by definition involuntary, such as rolling over in one’s sleep, flinching, salivating, blinking, etc. Is it your position that man’s actions in sanctification are only involuntary?

    2. Every action in the physical world is caused and directed by God, in the sense that God is the source, sustainer, and end of everything, including every action in the physical world. However, as I understand matters, divine causality does not eliminate other causes. Thus, it is true to say that the rock hitting the glass is the cause of the glass’s being broken, and that a man is the cause of his voluntary actions. It seems to me that finite causation is completely compatible with divine causation. Is it your position that if God is the cause of an action, such as an action in the physical world (or any action), then no other thing or person is the cause of that action?

  243. Andrew

    First 240… Yous state, “You have repeatedly affirmed synergy in sanctification, which by definition involves man’s will, as well as God’s will.” That is your definition of synergy, not mine. I gave mine in 239, “sanctification is 100% God’s will, 0% man’s will, 100% man’s actions in the physical world, as directed by God.” This is synergy because it involves God and man… God’s will, man’s action. But it is not, as you define it, synergy of the will of God and the will of man. Thus, the contradition exists only under your definition of synergy, not mine.

    Regarding the second part of 240, you ask, “Are you dropping the charge that choosing something contrary to God’s will implies equality between man and God “in the equation”? First, I do not claim that man and God are equal. In my equation, God’s will trumps all, thus God is sovereign. In your equation, man’s will can trump God’s will, thus man is sovereign. In the peasant example, obviously the peasant is not equal to the king in all regards. But in your example, the peasant has the power to choose to walk away, his WILL is superior to the king’s WILL. Likewise in the spiritual example, neither of us are claiming that man is equal to God. But your understanding places man’s WILL above God’s WILL for the purposes of sanctification. Mine does not.

    Now to 241… and thank you for this… Whether we agree or disagree, this is getting much closer to mutual understanding.

    Question 1. “Is it your position that sanctification involves only man’s involuntary actions?”

    Well I try not to be in the opinion business (this probably makes you laugh, given the conversation thus far), but my refernce point is Scripture. And, by the way, this is a great question. So let me begin by asking you… Was the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart voluntary or involuntary? When God says, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” before they were born, was their fate voluntary or involuntary? I believe that the good works of the chosen are the result of an involuntary response to God’s will, and conversely, the sins we commit are a voluntary response to our sinful natural will. Paul says there are none righteous; we cannot choose God’s righteousness on our own. So why then do we do good? Because God is working His will in us. Thus, sanctification (the doing of God’s will) is 100% the result of God’s will working in us. And atonement for the sins we commit is 100% God’s grace in Christ. So to reiterate…the good works of the chosen are the result of an involuntary response to God’s will, and conversely, the sins we commit are a voluntary response to our sinful natural will. Thus sanctifying good works are the result of God’s, will not mine. Yes, I believe that the sanctifying works we do are an involuntary response to God’s will. We do not have the voluntary ability to do God’s will.

    Question 2. “Is it your position that if God is the cause of something, such as an action in the physical world, or an act of the will, then no other thing or person is the cause of that action?”

    Now you are asking a much broader question. I cannot pretend to know how God orchestrates His will throughout all of the events of nature and time. Nor can I possibly understand the causality relationship in His great scheme. Since we are talking about sanctification and salvation… If you want to narrow the question to something like this, “if God is the cause of salvation, then no other thing or person is the cause of that action?” then I would answer yes. God causes our salvation by His will and so it shall be. Nothing can snatch us, steal us, or otherwise overcome what God has chosen.

    Using the peasant and the king… let’s suppose the peasant owes $1000 in taxes to the king. The king comes to the peasant and says, “Last week I decided to forgive your taxes. By decree, your taxes are now forgiven. This is my gift to you.” Does the peasant, in his will, have the power to undo what the king has done? The peasant cannot make the king “unforgive” his taxes, nor would he want to. Nor can the peasant subsequently earn what has already been given to him. It was a gift pure and simple.

    Blessings
    Curt

  244. Curt,

    A few points:

    (1) Your definition of synergism, then, appears to be this: God causes man to do good acts apart from man’s will. It seems to me that this is an idiosyncratic definition of synergism. But at this point we can leave the word aside, and focus on the substance of the difference between us, namely, whether in sanctification:

    God causes man to do good works apart from man’s will, such that sanctification is an involuntary process on the part man (100 percent God’s will, 0 percent man’s will–this is your position)

    or

    God causes man to do good works by moving and enabling man’s will, such that sanctification is a voluntary process on the part of man (100 percent God’s will, 100 percent man’s will–this is my position).

    So perhaps this difference needs to be the focus of our discussion.

    (2) The second paragraph in your last comment did not answer my question. Allow me to pose it again, more precisely:

    Does man choosing something contrary to God’s will imply either equality between man’s will and God’s will or superiority of man’s will to God’s will?

    (Just to be clear, I deny both. But as JJ pointed out in #233, there might be some equivocation involved regarding the referent of “God’s will.” Perhaps you would specify what you mean by that. I am referring most generally to those things that God has revealed as being his will, e.g., that all be saved, that people obey his commandments, that we give thanks in everything.)

    (3) Your answer to my second question in #241 amounts to, “I don’t know.” But until you know the answer to this question, you cannot know whether or not the fact that God is the cause of our sanctification (on this we are agreed) entails that we are not also the cause of our sanctification (on this we disagree). So I would encourage you to look at this matter more carefully, instead of throwing up your hands and taking the agnostic position. It might be that you know more than you think you know, e.g., that God is the cause of all things, and that a rock hitting a window is the cause of the window breaking.

    (4) Your final paragraph moves the goalposts by changing the analogy. Of course no one has the power to change the past. That has never been the issue. The issue is the relation between God’s choosing and man’s choosing in the process of sanctification. You grant that someone who has received sanctifying grace can choose to do wrong, but you deny that he can choose to do right. You further maintain that all those who once receive sanctifying grace continue in that grace to the end. As promised, I will respond to the latter claim (and the texts you cited in support), and I will also further respond to the former claim, citing some relevant bits of Sacred Scripture, when I have the opportunity.

    I do think that we are honing in on the basic differences between us. Unfortunately, what I took to be an area of agreement, that sanctification is a synergistic process involving both God’s will and man’s will, is now revealed to be a matter on which we differ. Oh well. Sometimes there is a step back, before stepping forward. Here’s to more stepping forward.

    Andrew

  245. Curt (#236):

    What he has not laid hold of is perfection but he will continue to press on toward that goal of perfection in Christ.

    Well, yes, that is what I understand him to mean – and is what I meant. That was my point – if Paul says, “Well, Christ will get me to Heaven so I won’t strive for the prize; I’ll just take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry, and sin as much as want. I know that I have believed in Christ. I don’t need to keep mowing the lawn; He will take care of mowing the lawn” – would Paul have made it to Heaven?

    jj

  246. @Curt (#235):

    2. God chooses me and I am saved regardless of my will (God’s will trumps my will)

    We know that 2 is true… Peter was saved even though Jesus called him “Satan” and he denied Christ three times (seems like a pretty serious sin???).

    I’m not sure I see how Peter’s experience shows that 2. is possible. To say that Peter was saved regardless of his will would seem to say that Peter continued not to will to be saved to the very end of his life – but we have no evidence of that. Peter repented. Suppose he had not repented. Suppose he had done like Judas – gone and hanged himself (and suppose – because we don’t know even in Judas’s case – Peter had not repented in the moment of dying) – are you saying Peter might have been saved despite his not willing to be saved – supposing, even, that he died hating God? Even when I was Reformed I would have rejected this. I would have had recourse to some such formulation as that Peter had not had real faith.

    jj

  247. Hey JJ

    I’ll jump to your comment because I can do it quickly, then back to Andrew. IF Paul’s salvation were up to Paul and he had done this I would agree with your inference… that Paul would not have been saved. But it wasn’t up to Paul, it was God who chose Paul, and then worked His will in Paul, thus Paul could not “take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry, and sin as much as he wanted”. Paul was saved by grace… even though, I might add, he did continue to sin. God chose Paul and then worked His will in Paul. This is why “we know them by their fruit”. No fruit… no salvation. But it is not the fruit that causes salvation… it is God’s choice that causes salvation. Thus we have verses like…

    Titus 3:4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    Blessings
    Curt

  248. @Curt (#239)

    But we know from Scripture that it is not our will, but God’s will in us that causes the santifying works.

    I’m not sure we do. I take Paul’s “…God Who works in you both to will and to do…” to mean that God’s grace strengthens my will and energy – not that I myself am not willing or doing. I wonder if this isn’t the same issue that the monothelites stumbled over.

    I think that it is I who love God – and I think that I could not love God unless God raised my will to the supernatural level of being able to love Him. But it really is me – or so it seems to me. I can’t make sense of the whole of Scripture – which mostly talks just like this – otherwise.

    jj

  249. @Curt (#242)

    Using the peasant and the king… let’s suppose the peasant owes $1000 in taxes to the king. The king comes to the peasant and says, “Last week I decided to forgive your taxes. By decree, your taxes are now forgiven. This is my gift to you.” Does the peasant, in his will, have the power to undo what the king has done? The peasant cannot make the king “unforgive” his taxes, nor would he want to. Nor can the peasant subsequently earn what has already been given to him. It was a gift pure and simple.

    Here I think we get down to what is a fundamental difference between Reformed and Catholic views of justification. Is justification just paying the debt? Or is it changing the man? If it is the latter, then the illustration isn’t enough. The King wants to make the peasant his viceroy – and – surely! – the peasant has to agree.

    jj

  250. Hey again JJ

    Regarding 245… There are only two wills involved: God’s will and Peter’s will. Peter denied Christ. This was Peter’s will at work. Peter repented. This was God’s will at work in Peter. The hypothetical concept of Peter being unwilling to be saved is not a possibility in the realm of salvation by grace. God chose Peter and God saw him through, in spite of his sin. Of that, we have real evidence. Judas is another prime example of the principle in the opposite direction. Judas, like pharaoh, was chosen by God for a particular purpose that God’s will might be done. Was Judas ever saved? I do not think he was.

    Blessings
    Curt

  251. JJ

    Re: 248 … I agree… the analogy, like most, falls apart at some level. But good point on justification… and I would agree that justification involves the changing of the man. In this life, the Holy Spirit, not our will, is the agent of that change. We are incapable of perfecting ourselves. So God justifies us through Christ. Those whom God has chosen have been saved from their sin already. The debt was paid by Christ. But God had a bigger plan… to work out His will through us in the present world. So here we are… saved and being sanctified in Christ, all by the power, grace and sovereignty of God who loves us that much. Thus we have Scriptures like, “For by grace you have been [past tense] saved through faith, and that is not of yourself, it is a gift from God, not as a result of works that none should boast.”

    Blessings
    Curt

  252. JJ

    Re: 247… “…God Who works in you both to will and to do…” Who is doing the work, me or God? God. What is He doing? Willing and doing.

    To substantiate my understanding, I will again refer to Titus 3, “4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

    He saved us (again, past tense)… according to His mercy… through regeneration by the Holy Spirit (not my will) … so that we are justified by HIS GRACE… not on the basis of righteous deeds. This seems pretty clear to me, justification comes by grace not deeds. Grace is the cause, justification and good deeds are the outcome.

    Blessings
    Curt

  253. Andrew… I’m back :-)

    Re: 243 your question: “Does man choosing something contrary to God’s will imply either equality between man’s will and God’s will or superiority of man’s will to God’s will?”

    To answer this, let me step outside of the man/God debate for a second. If you and I are going to make a choice, and your decision has the final say, then whose will is superior? Yours, of course. If I say “A” and you say “B”, and thus it is “B” by the prevalent decision making rule, then your will trumps my will and is superior for the purposes of that particular decision. If God chooses to save me, but I can choose to unsave me, then my will would be said to be trumping God’s will… which cannot be. This is just a basic point of logic.

    Regarding para 3… I’m not sure why I have to know how God works in all cases to know how He works in some cases. For example, I know from Genesis that God created. I don’t know how He created… just that He did. If God wanted to tell us how He created, it would take more than one chapter in a book. It wasn’t important to our understanding. What WAS important was to know that HE created. But let me roll on with your point. I would simply point to Scripture, and the Titus 3 verse I quoted above in 251 seems like a reasonable start. It not only does NOT say that our justification comes from our own works, but it specifically says that our justification does NOT come from our works, but grace alone. There are, of course, other verses which say the same (EPH 2:8-9, etc).

    Para 4… You summarize my position, “You grant that someone who has received sanctifying grace can choose to do wrong, but you deny that he can choose to do right.” Yes. We choose to do wrong by our own sinful will. We choose to do right by God’s will working within us.

    Phil 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”
    Rom 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
    Rom 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”
    etc…

    I’ll wait for your “larger catechism” on the subject. Take your time… I actually have a job and I’m sure you do to :-)

    Blessings
    Curt

  254. Curt,

    I’ll respond briefly to your last comment, before moving forward. It is important to arrive at some mutual understanding on these preliminary issues before considering Sacred Scripture together, else we will spend most of our time simply talking past one another, rather than coming to a mutual understanding of the word of God.

    You wrote:

    If you and I are going to make a choice, and your decision has the final say, then whose will is superior? Yours, of course. If I say “A” and you say “B”, and thus it is “B” by the prevalent decision making rule, then your will trumps my will and is superior for the purposes of that particular decision.

    Not necessarily. You might have a good reason for allowing me to choose contrary to your will. Consider God’s will expressed in the commandment: You shall not commit adultery. Now, when David chose to commit adultery with Bathsheba, he chose something contrary to God’s will. When I choose not to give thanks in something, I chose something contrary to God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:18). One does not have to persist in sin or finally be damned for his sinful act to be contrary to God’s express will. But neither do these acts “trump” God’s sovereignty, implying that man’s will is “superior” to God’s in these instances, since God could have a good reason for allowing man to act contrary to his will in some cases.

    You wrote:

    I’m not sure why I have to know how God works in all cases to know how He works in some cases.

    If you do not have some understanding of how God, as God, relates to his creatures, as creatures, then you will be much more likely to fail to understand the nature of his particular working in particular cases. I am not asking you to account for the details of a myriad of individual cases. I am asking the following questions:

    (1) Is God in some sense the cause of the action of all things? (Psalm 103:19; Ephesians 1:11; cf. Summa contra gentiles, Book Three, Chapter 67.)

    (2) Are created things in some sense the cause of some actions (e.g., a rock thrown into a window causing the window to shatter)?

    Your concluding remarks on various Bible passages are interesting, but not exactly on topic, except for Philippians 2:13, which is exactly on topic; but I want to try to iron out some of these preliminary matters before commenting on that verse. We have been discussing the process of sanctification, including the good works which are a necessary part of that process. The verses you cite do not state or imply that good works are not a necessary part of the process of sanctification. I thought that we were already agreed upon that point, in relation to which we have been discussing the nature of synergy, and whether and in what sense sanctification is synergistic.

    Andrew

  255. Curt (#247):

    I’ll jump to your comment because I can do it quickly, then back to Andrew. IF Paul’s salvation were up to Paul and he had done this I would agree with your inference… that Paul would not have been saved. But it wasn’t up to Paul, it was God who chose Paul, and then worked His will in Paul, thus Paul could not “take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry, and sin as much as he wanted”. Paul was saved by grace… even though, I might add, he did continue to sin. God chose Paul and then worked His will in Paul. This is why “we know them by their fruit”. No fruit… no salvation. But it is not the fruit that causes salvation… it is God’s choice that causes salvation.

    Which does, it seems to me, mean that if Paul did, indeed, simply stop practising as a Christian, a Protestant would say that he had never truly been saved, a Catholic that he had rejected God.

    And I don’t personally think the ‘never truly saved’ would need to be the explanation if it were not for Reformed theology. The surface appearance would seem to be “Paul kicked over the traces and is apostate.”

    And, again, speaking practically, when I (alas, too seldom) deny my will in favour of God’s will, it certainly seems to me that it is I who have done this. I also know – from bitter experience – that when I try to do His will ‘on my own’ – without prayer, and with a certain inner attitude that you may be able to recognise yourself :-) – that I fail. Now it doesn’t seem to me that in the first place it is I who will one thing but God another. I do know, for instance, that God desires me to admit my faults. When I then do admit my faults, it seems to me that I have decided to do so – which is what would call ‘synergy.’ Without God’s help strengthening my will to do good, I would not be able to do so. But unless I actually choose to do good, I would not do the good – so it seems to me. And I can tell you that I am quite capable of not choosing to do good.

    It seems to me (that phrase again) either that your explanation explains everything – and therefore explains nothing – or else that some form of synergy is the case. If in fact the reason I sometimes sin is because of God’s will – mine has nothing to do with it – and if other times I choose to do good, it is because of God’s will – then it is always God’s will and I become a sort of robot.

    By the way, no Catholic suggests that my salvation is anything but 100% God’s grace. We are only arguing about whether God’s grace simply ignores my will, or strengthens it.

    jj

  256. Andrew Re 254

    To your first point, I agree that God may have reasons for allowing us to sin, and that our sin does not trump God’s will.

    To your second point, I agree that understanding how God relates to His creatures is a valid pursuit, and further add that it is the very purpose of Scripture. It is my belief that Scripture provides us everything we need to know in this regard, but in light of the topic at hand, I would add that it obviously does not provide us with everything known to God about His will and His ways. For example, as a Christian, I know that God created every living creature. As a scientist, I know that living creatures evolve. As a Christian and a scientist, I am perfectly comfortable with the concept that God created all creatures, and that some of them evolved. I am not comfortable at all with the concept that creatures were created through a random evolutionary process. There is neither scientific nor Scriptural evidence of creation through evolution. However, neither do we know HOW God created. Apparently God was not willing to share that information… but that’s OK. He tells us what we need to know, and that is the truth that HE created.

    So now to your questions:

    (1) Is God in some sense the cause of the action of all things?

    God is in every sense the cause of the action of all things.

    (2) Are created things in some sense the cause of some actions (e.g., a rock thrown into a window causing the window to shatter)?

    Only to the extent that God allows them to be.

    Yous state, “The verses you cite do not state or imply that good works are not a necessary part of the process of sanctification.” I am not postulating that good works are not a necessary part of sanctification. Rather, I am postulating that the good works we do are the result of God’s will working in us, and not the result of our will.

    Jesus prayed to be released from the death which He was about to endure, but concluded “not My will but Thy will be done.” So apparently even Jesus could not, of His human will, do the will of God. It was only the will of God within Him that made it possible for Him to go to the cross… the ultimate good work.

    Anyway, I answered your questions and hopefully these will be sufficient for you to proceed with your subesequent points.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  257. JJ Re 255

    Re Paragraph 1
    Truth be told, both Catholics and many protestants would say that the person had rejected God. Mostly it would be the Calvinist and similar reformers that would say that they were never saved.

    Re Paragraph 3

    I agree with you personal case study, as to what it SEEMS like. But tell me if you could also agree with my experience… God grabbed me by the collar and turned me from a lost life moving away from God, to a found life moving toward Him. Yet, through the course of my life, I have made good choices and bad choices. Yet, looking back now, my life in Christ is way beyond where I would have been had God not grabbed me by the collar. Overwhelmingly, it is the result of God’s amazing grace, not my choices. I could not possibly equate the good in my life by saying it is “100% God and 100% me”. Yes I chose my wife 30 years ago… but the incredible wife she turned out to be is 100% God’s grace. See where I’m coming from? While it would SEEM to be my choice, it was God who was orchestrating both the choice the outcome.

    Re Last paragraph

    You stated, “no Catholic suggests that my salvation is anything but 100% God’s grace. We are only arguing about whether God’s grace simply ignores my will, or strengthens it.” With due respect, if my salvation requires my will to do good works in any way, then there are only two explanations:

    1. My salvation comes from God’s grace plus my affirming will, leading to actions of good works. Thus salvation is less than 100% grace (assuming by definition that my will is independent of God’s will). My salvation is dependent on God’s work plus my works.

    or

    2. My salvation comes from God’s grace alone, and my good works are the result of God overcoming my sinful nature, thereby working His will through me, leading to actions of good works. Thus salvation is 100% grace. I am saved regardless of my ability to overcome sin. That to me is real grace… a free gift… not earned.

    You stated, “We are only arguing about whether God’s grace simply ignores my will, or strengthens it.”

    I’ll use the same closing thought that I did in 256. Jesus prayed to be released from the death which He was about to endure. Jesus did not pray, “Strengthen my will so I can go to the cross”. He said, “Not my will but Thy will.” So apparently even Jesus could not, of His human will, do the will of God. It was only the will of God within Him that made it possible for Him to go to the cross… the ultimate good work. Likewise with us… our good works may SEEM like us making good choices, but the spiritual reality is that God’s will is working through us.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  258. Curt (#257) – very briefly because it’s Saturday evening here, I am about to have my dinner and then, pretty soon, go to bed – and away tomorrow.

    Regarding your first (“God grabbed me by the collar …”, yes, of course it is that God did it. I think we are trying to unscrew the inscrutable here. I have heard the nice illustration of salvation as a gate with “Whoever will may come” on one side, and “Chosen from all eternity” on the other. In my view, when you try to decide between two alternatives, one of which is an infinity – between the finite will of man and the infinite will of God – if you think you have figured it out, you are bound to heresy.

    So to comment on your second point – neither one. Certainly not the first. Neither salvation can be in any sense “God-plus” – again, it is the problem of infinity. Adding one to infinity does not increase it. But regarding the second, if by “…working His will through me…” you mean that my choices only seem to be mine – then, no, of course not. They are mine. On a certain day in 1969, at the age of 27, I was presented with the alternatives: God or Satan. I chose God. I might not have done. Had I not, then I would not have chosen God. To be sure, God so strengthened my will that I did choose Him, indeed, that I could choose Him – and, indeed, there is a mysterious sense in which I was unable not to choose Him. But, as you said somewhere above (I think to Andrew), and as the Westminster Confession says, God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. If we sin – and if I had not chosen God – then it is because, as you said, God permits that. To be more exact, God ordained that my will would be such that I might reject Him.

    I think myself that this is a fruitless discussion, that we do not, in fact, disagree. Unless you were willing to say – as I hope you are not – that the man who rejects God really hasn’t willed to reject God; God has forced the man to reject God – then it seems to me obvious that our wills are ours – and therefore real. We have utter freedom – and God is utterly sovereign.

    That fuller quote of the WCF is worth reflecting on, both for Catholics and Protestants:

    God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    That is what I mean. Violence is not offered to the will of the creature, and the liberty or contingecy of second causes is established. Blessed be He!

    jj

  259. Thanks JJ

    And I hear what you are saying. I’m curious though… what is your understanding of Romans 9:

    14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
    16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

    Hmmmm… And then…

    17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

    19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?

    Do these verses not say that it is God’s mercy alone and not “human desire or effort”. If God chooses us, He has mercy on us… if He chooses to harden us, so it shall be. It continues to the nth degree by posing, who are we to say it should be otherwise.

    Just curious how you understand these Scriptures… when you get a chance.

    Thanks,
    Curt

  260. JJ

    I was re-reading your post and picked up something that I didn’t fully get in the first reading. You said… “and, indeed, there is a mysterious sense in which I was unable not to choose Him.” This mysterious sense, to me, is a sovereign God carrying forward His “grace”. God loved you, chose you, and put you in the hand of the Shepherd never to be released. Even if you sin, and we all do, He will not let you go. This is the good news of the gospel. Your salvation is not dependent on your works, but on His promise. We are sanctified, not to earn our salvation, but to fulfill God’s will… for He saves each one for a purpose. Your good works are a sign of what He is doing in your life, and evidence of His saving grace. Even if we stumble along the way, our fate is already sealed by His promise, and cannot be thwarted by our weakness. Thus Jesus could say, “I came that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” If my salvation is in any way dependent on my works, I don’t know diddly. But if my salvation is based on God’s promise… that I can believe, trust, and know.

    Blessings
    Curt

  261. Curt (#259 and 260)

    Just curious how you understand these Scriptures…

    I’m tempted to say that I don’t :-) However, I say what I said before – that I see two things in Scripture: God is sovereign, and ordains whatsoever comes to pass – and that man is responsible and free, and chooses or not. You could add Jacob and Esau to this; Judas, whose perdition ‘must be’ so that the Scripture may be fulfilled; those in Acts somewhere, the “those who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

    To understand can have two levels. I can understand the sovereignty of God, and know that it means that – well, what I said above; and I can understand my own choices, that I have had put before my life and death – and therefore must choose life, and will have no one to blame but myself if I do not – not, in particular, God, Who ordained me to perdition.

    But if I think I can understand how both can be true in a way that means I can nod my head and say, “Yeah, OK, that makes sense” – then in my opinion I have dropped one of the two understandings above. If I become a kind of hyper-Calvinist, then I really have not understood what my freedom is, how real it is, how, in a sense, everything depends on my choice for good or ill (C. S. Lewis in Perelandra is quite good about this, I think). If I become some sort of – well, I don’t know, were even the Pelagians like this? – anyway, if I decide that my free will is just that, sovereign, and that God is just standing up in Heaven wringing His Hands hoping I’ll make the right decision, maybe tossing a carrot or two to attract me to Heaven or threatening a stick to scare me from Hell – then I have not understood that “I am the Lord. I create darkness and I create light. I make well and I make ill.” But it is that and it is also “turn unto Me and be ye saved.”

    So, you see, I would have done better to have said what I said at the beginning: that in the sense of comprehending it, I do not understand it. But then I understand nothing comprehensively. How God can be all in all and yet create something that is not Himself. How any one thing can be itself and not just an instance of a type. How I can be so manifestly a physical creature and seemingly some sort of computer-brain thing and yet know things as well as will things.

    I know what is; not how. God is utterly sovereign. I am utterly free. I’m afraid I cannot fit these into some higher system that embraces and thus explains them both.

    jj

  262. JJ

    That is a beautifully honest answer. I would humbly agree that, when we speak of what we KNOW, we all must tread lightly lest we tread on the very Word and will of God. Yet, there are certain thing which are clearly spoken in Scripture, indeed, so that we may KNOW what God wants us to know. Regarding the juxtaposition of God’s will and man’s will, God’s sovereignty and man’s insufficiency, what we can know and what we cannot know, we can only look to the promises of Jesus and words of the Apostles, as recorded in Scripture…

    John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

    John 6:40, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

    John 6:47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

    John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

    John 17:1-3, “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

    1 John 5:10-12, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe, God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

    1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.”

    ——————————————————————————————————————————-

    There is certainly an overaching theme in these Scriptures: Believe and you will receive eternal life. Further, Paul makes clear that under the new covenant, Jesus made one sacrifice for all sin for all time, perfecting the believer for all time.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————-

    Hebrews 10, “11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

    16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
    I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

    He then says,

    17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
    18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————-

    So… From these verses, here is what the believer can know… That God loves each of us so much that He sacrificed His Son Jesus to pay for our wrongs, such that, if we believe in Him, our sins are remembered no more, and we are given the gift of eternal life.

    These are the promises of God in Scripture. Paul further clarifies that, “where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” So… This is where I get nervous… If I perform good works as a sin offering, where does that leave me? I submit that it speaks of two things. Firstly, I am affirming that God did not forgive my sins, though He said He did. Secondly, I am rejecting the gift of Jesus who shed His blood to atone for my sins, suggesting that His gift was incomplete. If a friend offered a priceless gift and I responded by saying, “Here, let me give you ten bucks for that”, would it not be insulting? The aforementioned Scriptures are clear that the “believer” inherits eternal life. We must ask ourselves, “Am I believing in the blood of Christ if I also believe that my works have an impact on my salvation?” Again here, I am in no way arguing against good works… they are surely a part of God’s will. I am only questioning their salvific causal impact. Is the grace of God perfected in my good works, or are my good works perfected by the grace of God? The latter is what the Scriptural evidence points to. These and others in previous posts indicate to me that we are saved by the grace of God and that our good works are the result of that grace, God’s will evidenced in, and worked out through, the life of every believer. My salvation is the result of God’s promise alone, and not further dependent on my good works, thus I may KNOW that I have eternal life… my trust is in God, not me.

    Blessings
    Curt

  263. Curt said:

    If I perform good works as a sin offering, where does that leave me? I submit that it speaks of two things. Firstly, I am affirming that God did not forgive my sins, though He said He did. Secondly, I am rejecting the gift of Jesus who shed His blood to atone for my sins, suggesting that His gift was incomplete.

    Hi Curt,

    Forgive me for popping in here (I’m a reader more than a commenter), but as an Evangelical looking into the Catholic Church I am coming to some understandings that have truly rocked my world.

    For one thing, I have been paying special attention to the times in Scripture where Paul or some other teacher mentions “works” in a negative light. Almost in every case he is referring to the works of the Law, i.e. circumcision or something to do with the Judaizers. The Judaizers were a particular thorn in the Early Church’s side. This is an interesting discovery for me because I have been steeped in the “all works are bad” paradigm for the last 23 years. But what I am noticing is that there is a line of demarcation when referring to “works”, be they good or bad. Good works are expected once we are born again. Jesus Himself said He would at a future point divide the sheep and the goats by…what? Their works. Were they merciful and loving or did they have no concern for those in need? How as an Evangelical faith alone believer am I to understand this? I couldn’t. It was like Jesus was saying one thing and Paul was saying another. How do we reconcile the two?

    But faith alone (as in head knowledge) is not enough as St. James asserts. If it was then Jesus wouldn’t have preached so heavily about morality playing into our gaining or losing eternal life. Like it or not, our actions do matter once we come to faith in Christ. But I don’t think you’d disagree with that. All Bible-steeped Christians know that we are to seek and live a holy life as believers. We are to take up our cross and die daily. We are to enter into the sufferings of Christ. We are to look to the needs of those around us. All of this is just living by faith infused with love, which is what the CC teaches. Paul said that we are nothing if we have not love. So if our faith is a fruitless (loveless) faith then it is a dead faith as St. James also says. Therefore, our actions do matter. Drawing near to Christ will automatically make us love others and seek their good. We won’t be able to help it.

    So here’s what I understand the Catholic Church to be saying about salvation. You must be born again (through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit – i.e. faith and baptism). We must believe (have faith), which is also given to us by grace. It is the grace of Jesus Christ that saves us. But that grace is not just to cover our iniquities like a blanket, it is to transform us from within and make us new creations (i.e. being born anew). We as Evangelicals believe this, too, don’t we? We also believe that when God changes us He gives us a new nature that is able to do good works and is expected to do them because our new nature is given by the Holy Spirit and we are infused with grace now. Our good works are glorifying to Christ because we are, by grace, doing His Will which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    So His gift is not incomplete when He asks us as believers to live a holy life of seeking Him and doing good works because He is the very one requiring it AND gives us the means to do it (grace). In the letter to Titus, Paul exhorts Titus to teach that young men are to show a pattern or example of good works. Paul also says in this same letter that Christ gave Himself to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own who are zealous for good works.

    Please notice when reading New Testament scripture:

    1. How often we are told that how we live matters to God, even unto attaining eternal life. But of course, we can only live this holy life by grace through Christ’s atonement.

    2. How often “the circumcision” group is referred to when the wrong kind of works (works of the Law) are mentioned. Those works are of a different kind. They are “of the flesh” meaning apart from grace.

    CtC guys, please correct me if I’m in error on anything I said. I am really trying to understand properly the Catholic Church’s teachings and am very excited about what I’ve learned. But I am a simple person and it’s a lot to take in.

    Also, Curt, I don’t know if you’ve read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the church document Dei Verbum, but I highly recommend them to you. You might be very surprised at what you see there.

  264. Curt (#262)

    If I perform good works as a sin offering, where does that leave me? I submit that it speaks of two things. Firstly, I am affirming that God did not forgive my sins, though He said He did. Secondly, I am rejecting the gift of Jesus who shed His blood to atone for my sins, suggesting that His gift was incomplete.

    Absolutely! If I perform good works thinking that these works may themselves purchase forgiveness of sin, I am, indeed, crucifying Christ anew. You do well to question the ‘salvific causal impact’ of good works.

    On the other hand…

    I haven’t time to look up even a tiny handful of the Scriptures that point to the relation between our works and our salvation. I will just make allusion to the well-known words of Our Lord regarding the sheep and the goats and the business of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and the other works of mercy (to mention just a tiny fraction of what Scripture says about works and their very evident relation to salvation). And that they do relate to salvation is very clear: the goats are not entering into eternal life.

    My response as a Protestant was to say that those who did miracles in His Name, but whom He ‘never knew’ had not ‘really believed.’ Well, ok, I guess – except it seems to me that this is no explanation. It is just labelling the fact that they are not saved, by calling their faith, ‘false faith.’ It seems a bit circular. What is false faith? Why, faith that does not result in salvation!

    Sticking a little closer to Scripture I would say that we must seek to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourself – and if we do not, we must fear lest we shall not be saved.

    Again, I think it’s a problem, our trying to see things from God’s point of view – because His point of view is infinite. There is, also, a tendency on the part of some people to over-theologise things when it comes to personal life issues. In particular, some Protestants seem to me to try to use St Paul to trump the Gospels – indeed, the ultimate of this is the Dispensationalist who thinks that most of what the Lord said will only apply at some time in future – perhaps a kind of Marcionism. If you read just St Paul, then – works are opposed to faith, salvation is guaranteed (sometimes :-) St Paul is not quite as once-saved-always-saved as people seem to think) – meditating on Our Lord’s Words in the Gospels is … sobering :-)

    So … I agree with you about works. And, no doubt, there are those who think they can work their way to Heaven. God have mercy on them – and teach them to trust wholly and only in His grace and mercy! Works – and the prayers of the saints and all the rest of it – are, in my understanding, simply ways of participating in Christ’s once-for-all complete Sacrifice. It is, you could say, a question of how to receive His offering. It seems to me that I receive it by giving all of me – and I get, in return, all of Him. A pretty good deal :-)

    jj

  265. JJ

    Amen! Regarding Pauline books and the gospel… I understand your comments there, and being somewhat aware of that tension, I intentionally chose 7 out of 8 of the verses from the gospels to make my last observation. That said, I agree with you, but would perhaps flip the wording… I get all of Him, and in receiving Him, I offer all of me. God always initiates – and I, in return, respond. Notwithstanding the order of the wording, we agree… a pretty good deal indeed! ;-)

    Blessings
    Curt

  266. Curt Russell,

    Blessings to you, brother, in the name of the one and only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope you don’t mind if I enter into your conversation with JJ just to ask a few questions from Scripture.

    In 1 John 5:16-17, the author writes, “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.”

    Curt, what do you understand to be sin that is not deadly (or “sin that does not lead to death,” in some translations)? What do you understand to be sin that *is* deadly?

    In your understanding, what is the nature of the differentiation in sin(s) that the author is making in these verses?

    What, exactly, is the *need* for such a differentiation, if, at the moment one comes to faith (genuine trust) in Christ, all of one’s past, present, and future sins are completely covered by Christ’s blood, and the perfect, spotless righteousness of Christ is imputed, by God, to oneself?

  267. Curt (#265)

    I agree with you, but would perhaps flip the wording… I get all of Him, and in receiving Him, I offer all of me. God always initiates – and I, in return, respond.

    Certainly – I am scribbling comments in the cracks of doing work :-) And my response is itself his gift – one of the nice things that one of the forms of Mass says is “our desire to thank you is itself your gift.”

    Actually, I was thinking of this conversation at mid-day Mass today – the Gospel was from John 5 (sorry, you poor Yanks on the wrong side of the dateline – you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for it :-)). In particular, John 5:28-29:

    the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

    As Kim said above, it seems to me that most of the condemnations of works in St Paul are aimed at “works of the Law” – but, that said, there is no knowledgeable Catholic who will tell you that you can ‘earn’ Heaven by your works.

    jj

  268. Hi Christopher

    Blessings to you as well… Thanks for jumping in! The question you ask is both interesting and deep. Let me first say that the only unforgivable sin I am aware of in Scripture is that of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. That in itself could take on many meanings… but it is most interesting that John closes this chapter with this one little statement, “21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” I’ll get back to that in a minute.

    So… Regarding the specific Scripture you have cited, perhaps the context from which it was extracted might provide clues as to its meaning. John has been telling us that, in Christ, we can overcome the world… “4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” He further tells us that we may definitively know that we are saved… “13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” So this is the pretext to the verses you cited.

    Then John talks about sin that leads to death and sin that does not lead to death, concluding this thought with… “17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. ” I’ll circle back to this momentarily.

    Then the postscript… “18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” As I see it, there are two ways to interpret this verse. Either we say that literally, no Christian can sin… this emphasizes part “a” of the verse. Or we can say that our sin is not reckoned to us because of Christ… this emphasizes part “b” of the text. Now… as for me and my house, I have not yet met a Christian who does not sin. Therefore, if we accept the former understanding of 18, there are going to be a lot of disappointed folks on judgment day, not the least of which will be me. However, in light of the pretext above (and pehaps personal experience), I’m inclined to lean toward the latter understanding of 18… as in “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith”… or, “12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

    But that one little verse at the end of the chapter… that verse keeps ringing in our ears when we re-read the chapter. John is beating a drum that repeats and reiterates… if you are with God you are saved… if you are not with God, you are not saved. “one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar” He says this in a lot of ways throughout the chapter.

    Circling back to 17 then, John is speaking of a brother (I don’t think he means a literal brother, but perhaps one who is in the church). In light of verse 18, the sin that leads to death is sin by an unbeliever, or perhaps mor poignantly, an idolater. The sin that does not lead to death is the sin that is covered by Christ, ie, sin commited by a “brother” in Christ. He is saying to believers (brothers)… don’t be sucked in by idol worship … only Christ can cover your sins. And by the way, brother… idol worship is an unforgivable sin.

    That is my “brief as I can make em” thoughts on 1 John 5. If you re-read the chapter and think of “God vs idolatry”, the chapter sounds like a sales pitch for the “benefits of faith in the true God” versus “the death and destruction of idolatry”. I’m not fond of that characterization, but could not think of a better way to word it.

    Hope I said enough to make my thoughts halfway understandable!

    Blessings
    Curt

  269. Hi Kim

    Thanks for joining in! Let me begin by saying that I have been a part of many protestant (mostly Presbyterian) church communities, and I have never heard of “works” being discussed in a negative light nor considered Paul’s teaching to do that either. The line of demarcation I am aware of relates only to the discussion of cause and effect regarding salvation. The protestants I know believe that salvation is chosen by God as He alone elects, and that our good works are the result of His Spirit indwelling us. In other words, salvation is dependent on grace, and good works are dependent on salvation (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). This is in contrast to the Catholic teaching that (pardon the shabby paraphrase on my part) salvation is initiated by God and completed by our good works. In other words (my words), grace alone was not sufficient for my salvation… I must complete what God did not finish.

    With that rather inconsiderately strong intro, let me also say that I agree with your statement… “It is the grace of Jesus Christ that saves us. But that grace is not just to cover our iniquities like a blanket, it is to transform us from within and make us new creations (i.e. being born anew). We as Evangelicals believe this, too, don’t we?” Yes we do! Again, it is only the cause and effect of salvation that is in question, not the “rightness” of doing good works.

    Personally, I think what Jesus and Paul taught is in perfect unity. I could quote Scripture endlessly, but I’ll pick two:

    Jesus said… John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

    He did not say, he who “he who hears My word, and does a bunch of good works has eternal life.”

    Paul said… 1 Tim 1 “15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

    So Paul admits he is the foremost of all sinners, and yet God is patient with him as an example to whom? … those who would believe in Him for eternal life. God covered all of Paul’s sin as an example for us who believe…. right in line, by the way, with what Jesus said in John 5:24 above.

    Pauls joyously concludes… 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

    And again I say amen!

    Curt

  270. Hey JJ

    I know what you mean about sqeezing between the cracks of work! But onward we go :-)

    Regarding John 5… Broadly in chapter 5, Jesus is ripping the Jews for their unbelief and establishing His Diety. I think you have to back up to verse 25 and then forward to 29 to get the meaning in context. These verses are comparing and contrasting salvation under the old and new covenants. Verses 25/26 are speaking of those who “hear the voice of the Son of God” … these are post-Christ, under the new covenant. Salvation post Christ is defined in 25 this way: “those who hear will live”. Verse 27 establishes Christ as the judge. Verses 28/29 speak of “all who are in the tombs”… ie, those who lived under the law, pre-Christ. They are under the covenant of Abraham, and will be judged according to their deeds.

    Sometimes I think we don’t understand words that are said in Scripture as well as one would have at the time because we live so far outside of their context. A Jew would have known exactly what Jesus was saying, which is why they wanted to kill Him. For 21st century troglodytes like me, it isn’t as obvious.

    I do think it interesting that Jesus, in this juxtaposition, does not mention deeds under the new covenant. Hmmm…

    Finally, you have mentioned several times… “there is no knowledgeable Catholic who will tell you that you can ‘earn’ Heaven by your works.” I understand your point… but… if I am saved, then struck by a bus, can I go to heaven without having done good works?

    Blessings
    Curt

  271. Curt said,

    In other words, salvation is dependent on grace, and good works are dependent on salvation (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). This is in contrast to the Catholic teaching that (pardon the shabby paraphrase on my part) salvation is initiated by God and completed by our good works. In other words (my words), grace alone was not sufficient for my salvation… I must complete what God did not finish.

    Hi Curt,

    Everything I’ve read so far from the Church’s teachings say that grace is fully and wholly sufficient and necessary for the Christian to live this life. If anything, it is a bigger picture of grace than I have ever seen as a Protestant, although during my days in the Pentecostal churches early in my walk I saw a more Catholic view of all-encompassing grace than I saw in the Presbyterian churches I’ve been in which seem to split things up more. I’ve had a wide array of denominational experiences and so I know what’s out there, as well.

    Could you show me from the Church’s own teachings where you get this idea that we have to complete our faith on our own without the grace Christ purchased for us on the cross? I don’t see it. Thanks!

  272. Curt (#270)

    …if I am saved, then struck by a bus, can I go to heaven without having done good works?

    Certainly – if you are struck by a ‘bus – or if you are deservedly hanging on a cross :-)

    jj

  273. Dear Curt (re: Kim’s #271)

    This is in contrast to the Catholic teaching that (pardon the shabby paraphrase on my part) salvation is initiated by God and completed by our good works. In other words (my words), grace alone was not sufficient for my salvation… I must complete what God did not finish.

    The “shabbiness” of your paraphrase is the problem here, I think. You can be pardoned : ) because Catholic doctrines are very precise and often quite nuanced – and therefore need to be understood as they are actually taught.

    This article covers the issue well. Catholics believe in grace/salvation as a synergistic affair. This stems from a view of human nature that differs from that held by Calvinists and other Monergists. The Church teaches that while the Fall resulted in the loss of sanctifying grace (and agape) it did not utterly corrupt human nature. That which God declared as “very good” in Genesis remains so – though now no longer capable of attaining eternal life without the action of sanctifying grace initiated solely by God (grace earned through the merits of Christ’s self-offering on the Cross.) There is nothing we can do to merit this initial offer of grace and nothing we can do to cause God to make the offer.

    The Church does not believe that this sanctifying grace overcomes human nature/free will in a monergistic fashion, but instead perfects that nature when the sinner freely accepts that grace. The process is synergistic. We must freely cooperate with God’s offer of sanctifying grace. This exercise of acceptance is according to our created natures – creatures with free will. Again, grace elevates nature, it does not destroy it.

    Now here’s the most important part: this cooperation does not add one single thing to the grace offered by God. Therefore your conclusion that “I must complete what God did not finish” is based on an erroneous understanding of the nature of the synergism. It is Christ’s finished work on the Cross that merits for us the Sanctifying grace that saves us. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. But we can reject the offer of this grace. God grants us, by virtue of being made in His image, the exercise of those divine capacities of intellect and will in the process of salvation. If he did not, we would be mere puppets – not beings whose destiny is a share in the Divine life with all its attributes, which include (with immortality and agape) intellect and will.

    Blessings to you,
    Frank

  274. Curt (re:#268),

    Thank you for the reply, brother. You mention your sense that in 1 John 5:16-17, when the author mentions a “brother,” he is referring to someone who is “in the church,” but not necessarily a “believer.” When I was a Calvinist, that probably would have been my interpretation too– in fact, I think it was, from what I can remember.

    In hindsight though, I cannot help but wonder if I was interpreting the verses as such, because I had to, in order to continue holding to a theological paradigm which maintained that a “true Christian” can never lose his/her salvation. Not that my Calvinism didn’t have an exegetical basis– I initially came to embrace Calvinism, at least partially, through reading the Scriptures themselves. However, the longer that I was a Calvinist, the more passages I discovered which seemed to conflict with the paradigm– especially eternal security, or “the Perseverance of the Saints.” More on that in a bit.

    Back directly to 1 John 5:16-17: if the author is writing about someone who is in the church but not a believer, then would that person not *already be* in a state of spiritual death (especially according to Calvinist thinking)? How could a spiritually dead person commit a sin *leading* to spiritual death? The concept seems akin to positing that a corpse could commit physical suicide.

    Moreover, positing that the sin is question is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit seems problematic, when the author speaks of “such a thing as deadly sin,” not simply “one sin (alone) which is deadly.” He further writes that “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not deadly,” suggesting *categories* of sin (deadly and non-deadly, or fatal and non-fatal), rather than a paradigm in which all sins but one alone are “non-fatal” (spiritually speaking).

    I realize that Calvinism does not allow for the possibility of a believer committing “spiritually fatal” sins. (Again, I was once a Calvinist myself.) However, could that not be an exegetical problem for the theological system of Calvinism itself, if there are Biblical texts which clearly seem to say that a brother (or sister) *can* commit sin which is deadly?

    There is an article, here at CTC, on why John Calvin did not recognize the difference between mortal and venial sin. Of course, the *quick* Calvinist answer to this question could simply be, “He did not recognize the difference between them, because the concepts are not there in Scripture,” but that would seem to be question-begging. You might find the article to be interesting– I’ll leave the link: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/why-john-calvin-did-not-recognize-the-distinction-between-mortal-and-venial-sin/

    About some of the other Biblical passages which I found, as a “beginning-to-question” Calvinist, to be quite difficult to square with the concept of eternal security (or “Perseverance of the Saints”): Romans 11:1-24, which speaks openly of people who are professed believers in Christ being “cut off,” and 1 Corinthians 9:1-24, in which Paul writes of the possibility of himself being “disqualified” after “preaching to others.” Unfortunately, I don’t have time, at this exact moment to go in-depth, exegetically, into those passages, but the standard Calvinist answers which I heard, concerning them, were troubling to me, even *when* I was a Calvinist, and now, they seem wholly unconvincing– examples of eisegesis, in fact, rather than exegesis.

    Thanks again for the (continuing) conversation, brother! I wish I could write more, for this comment, but obligations call at the moment!

  275. Hi Kim…

    First of all, let me humbly point out that your last paraphrase of my thoughts are not what I have been saying. Quite the opposite, actually. Briefly, my position is that both initial salvation and the process of sanctification are the result of God’s grace. By this I mean that the process of sanctification occurs because our sinful will is being replaced by God’s will, and thus our good works are not the result of our will, but God’s will working within us. The Catholic position is the similar except that in sanctification, man’s will gets involved. Thus it is God’s grace plus the will of man to do good works that brings final salvation (therefore eternal life).

    There is endless Catholic teaching on this subject. I went to the Catechism of the Catholic Church online to look for a succint answer to your inquiry. So that you may follow up, here is the reference:

    SECTION ONE
    MAN’S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
    CHAPTER THREE
    GOD’S SALVATION: LAW AND GRACE
    ARTICLE 2
    GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION

    2027 “No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.”

    This is in the “IN BRIEF” section at the end, which summarizes the lengthy teaching of this particular article. My read of this teaching is that initial grace starts the salvation process, but our eternal life rests on God’s initial grace plus my merited grace, as moved by the Holy Spirit. Without merited grace, there is no eternal life. Merited grace, by the way, means my good works flowing from my will. Thus, eternal life does not come by grace alone, but by God’s grace plus my works. Or, to paraphrase, eternal life is not the result of God’s will alone, but God’s will plus my will. So we must ask, is God’s grace sufficient for my salvation unto eternal life? I say it is, but I cannot see that in the teaching above. When Jesus was about to go to the cross, He prayed that God would take the cup from Him, but followed with “…yet not My will but Thy will”. I believe it is exactly the same with us. In the process of sanctification we pray for God’s will to replace our sinful will… thus it is God in us that brings about good works, not my “changed” will.

    Another interesting aspect of the teaching above is that we can merit grace for others besides ourselves such that they too may have eternal life based on our good works. So, if uncle Joe was a no-good son of a gun, he might still gain eternal life on the ticket of my good works. I’ll let you do your own Scriptural study of that concept. Suffice it to say, I do not believe it is within my power to save myself, let alone mean uncle Joe.

    I could cut and paste lots of teaching from online Catholic sources, but I think this captures the doctrine you were asking about. Of course, there is tremendous history behind these doctrinal differences that started in the middle ages and erupted in the reformation period… some of which persists to this day. A study of this history might be helpful in understanding the doctrinal differences as well as the driving energies behind them.

    Blessings
    Curt

  276. Hey Christopher

    Thanks for the follow up… I too have obligations pressing… gotta go watch my daughter play lacrosse! I’ll try to respond soon. I perused your article already, but confess it was a speed read, not a study per se.

    Blessings
    Curt

  277. Hi Curt,

    I have written and rewritten a response to you only to delete it every time. In the meantime I have reread over the section of the CCotCC that you quoted from and I am once again amazed at the Church’s understanding about salvation and how that understanding brings so many Scriptures together so beautifully for me. Have you read the whole section? Are you not moved by it? It’s beautiful and speaks life to me.

    God bless,

    Kim, the simple one

  278. Oh, also, Curt, I want to apologize for giving you a non-answer. I was beginning to get a headache over this. It happens whenever I try to comprehend the Protestant/Catholic differences. What I see seems almost indistinguishable in practice, so I wonder sometimes if it’s even worth discussing. But I still try to hash it out occasionally, much to my dismay. I’m no academic scholar, but I still like reading here. I’ve learned a lot from both sides. But I think the Catholics have the better argument.

  279. Curt (re:#275),

    I know that you have pressing responsibilities, as do I, so I don’t want to give you another lengthy comment to which to reply before you’ve even had a chance to respond to my last one. I just want to make a quick observation about one part of your last comment to Kim. You wrote:

    Another interesting aspect of the teaching above is that we can merit grace for others besides ourselves such that they too may have eternal life based on our good works. So, if uncle Joe was a no-good son of a gun, he might still gain eternal life on the ticket of my good works. I’ll let you do your own Scriptural study of that concept. Suffice it to say, I do not believe it is within my power to save myself, let alone mean uncle Joe.

    Curt, if your knowledge of Catholic teaching comes mainly from reading isolated passages from Catholic documents, then I can understand your above misreading of the Church’s teaching on merit.

    However, the Catechism itself, *in* the specific section on merit, should disabuse you of the notion that, in your words, “if uncle Joe was a no-good son of a gun, he might still gain eternal life on the ticket of my good works.” Brother, this is *not* what the Catholic Church teaches. The graces of initial justification and conversion are necessary to even *begin* on the *road* of sanctification– a road which we travel by God’s grace alone. If “Uncle Joe” never even experienced initial justification and conversion, and he lived a life of unrepentant sin until death, then we should not harbor any hopes that he “might still gain eternal life on the ticket of my (or anyone’s) good works.”

    So that anyone reading this will have a more accurate, contextual view of the Church’s teaching on merit, I will leave the Catechism’s section on the subject here (it’s not too lengthy, actually, but it is very God-centered and beautiful):

    III. Merit

    You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59

    2006 The term “merit” refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.

    2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

    2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

    2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.”60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due…. Our merits are God’s gifts.”62

    2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

    2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. the saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

    After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone…. In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63

  280. P.S. I should have included the footnotes from the Catechism’s section on merit, so that anyone who wishes may look up the quotes. I find the last one (footnote 63, from St. Therese of Liseux’s “Story of a Soul”) to be particularly wonderful. Here are the citations, from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P70.HTM

    59 Roman Missal, Prefatio I de sanctis; Qui in Sanctorum concilio
    celebraris, et eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas, citing the “Doctor
    of grace,” St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 102, 7: PL 37, 1321-1322.

    60 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.

    61 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.

    62 St. Augustine, Sermo 298, 4-5: PL 38, 1367.

    63 St. Therese of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in Story of a Soul, tr. John
    Clarke (Washington Dc: ICS, 1981), 277.

  281. Hey Christopher

    I did read the section you posted… just trying to keep it short… but ok, lets talk about the “merit concept”. In my view, the Catholic teaching muddies the water between God’s will and man’s will as pertains to salvation, sanctification, and subsequent eternal life. I’ll refer to the section of the Catechism you posted:

    2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows MAN’S FREE ACTING through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful.

    So, eternal life is derived by the grace of God first, completed by man’s free will in collaboration.

    Then it finishes…

    Man’s merit, moreover, ITSELF DUE TO GOD, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

    This strikes me as double-speak. Either our will is both free and able to choose to do righteous acts, or our righteous acts are due to God in Christ, “predisposed” through the Holy Spirit. As my previous posts would indicate, I am in the latter camp. It cannot be “God’s will AND my will”. My will is predisposed to sin. Paul said, “There is none righteous, not even one.” My righteousness can only come from God. As I have mentioned several times, even Jesus Himself denied that his human will had any power for righteousness. He said things like, “I have not come to do My will, but the will of the Father who sent Me”, and praying in the garden He said to the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will”. He did not align His will to the will of God, rather, He prayed that the will of God would replace His will.

    So this is what happens, in my humble opinion… Once God offers the grace of salvation, He begins the process of replacing our will with His will, and in this, we perform acts of His will which are righteous. This is why grace without works is dead… because, if we have been given the gift of grace, God has promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by which we are transformed unto His will for His glory, for works of righteousness. When Paul says we are “saved by grace through faith… not as a result of works”, there is no merit… only grace. My acts of righteousness in sanctification are 100% grace, not grace plus my sinful will trying to do right. Our righteousness comes 100% from God… not in any way from us. A doctrine of merit is not a doctrine of grace, it is a doctrine of self-righteousness. I would allow that in Catholic theology, it is perhaps a doctrine of partial grace and partial self-righteousness. In light of Scripture, I would persist that salvation, sanctification and eternal life are 100% a gift from God. God loves us so much that He would not leave our eternal destiny in our sinful hands. That is the power and beauty of the gospel …

    “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
    Romans 5:8-9

    We are already justified… not by my works, but by God’s love!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  282. Kim

    Happy to have you in the conversation! To your last question, please read my last post to Christopher (218).

    You said: “In the meantime I have reread over the section of the CCotCC that you quoted from and I am once again amazed at the Church’s understanding about salvation and how that understanding brings so many Scriptures together so beautifully for me. Have you read the whole section? Are you not moved by it? It’s beautiful and speaks life to me.”

    The answer to your question is this… I see beauty in the Scripture… That we are saved by grace because God loves us that much. It is this alone that “speaks life” to me. The section of CCotCC you are referring to, in my humble opinion, bounces back and forth between the “all God” concept of salvation, and the “God plus me” concept. This is confusing to me… or more precisely, it is confused doctrine, again, in my humble opinion.

    One other thought from you previous post… it would be wise not to throw all protestants into the same theological bucket. You indicated that your protestant experience was predominantly Pentecostal which is substantially different theologically than some of systematic reformed theologies. I only point this out because a comparison of Pentecostal theology with Catholic theology might lead you to a different place than a similar comparison between systematic reformed theologies and Catholicism. Not trying to argue “fer or agin” one or the other… just that there are differences that might affect the outcome of your study.

    As to your very last post… no need to get headaches! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” I agree with simple… I don’t think God wants it to be this hard. Jesus boiled it all down to two things: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself”. If we do this… it’ll be ok.

    Blessings
    Curt

  283. Curt (#281)

    Once God offers the grace of salvation, He begins the process of replacing our will with His will, and in this, we perform acts of His will which are righteous.

    Probably just a matter of imprecision in language here – but if I thought you really meant ‘replacing our will with His will,’ I would say this could run into the issue of monothelitism. I mean, Jesus was completely human, right? But He had two wills – His human will and His divine will. His human will always willed exactly what His divine will willed (gosh, that is expressed clumsily, but maybe you know what I mean :-)).

    I would try to put what I think you are saying by saying that when we receive the grace of the new birth, God begins the process of enabling us to conform our will to His. But at the end of the process, even in Heaven, there are still two distinct wills: ours and His (of course His is not one of ours, like Jesus – we are not God – but His Holy Spirit lives in us so there are two wills ‘in’ us in that way). In Heaven the reason we cannot reject God is because our will has now completely – and therefore irrevocably – willed to will what He wills. Our will is still a distinct, and created, will. It has not become replaced by God’s will.

    If that is a fair summary of what you think, that I would say – under correction – that the Church thinks that, as well. If you meant literally what you seemed to say – that at the end we no longer have a distinct human will – then I think the Church disagrees with you.

    jj

  284. PS – in case anyone cares, I will be incommunicado until Monday our time. I am going on retreat from this evening for the week-end (“Yaay!! jj is silenced,” I hear from some :-)).

    jj

  285. Hey Curt,

    You said:

    The answer to your question is this… I see beauty in the Scripture… That we are saved by grace because God loves us that much. It is this alone that “speaks life” to me. The section of CCotCC you are referring to, in my humble opinion, bounces back and forth between the “all God” concept of salvation, and the “God plus me” concept. This is confusing to me… or more precisely, it is confused doctrine, again, in my humble opinion.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you about the beauty in Scripture! Amen and amen! I don’t think the Church teachings would contradict that, at least what I have read so far hasn’t. And I see God’s Word reflected in the Catechism which is why I think the Catechism is beautiful, as well. It fleshes out the Scriptures, so to speak, in a beautiful way.

    As far as the bouncing back and forth thing, I think Frank addressed that in #273. Am I right? And there are many Scriptures that would fit that paradigm. One that comes to mind is Philippians 2:12-13:

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    This Scripture is an enigma. On the one hand it is our job to work out our salvation (i.e. obey the Lord’s commands) and on the other hand, God is doing it all. So I see that synergistic thing going on in the believer. We do our part, but it is God giving us the grace to do it.

    You said:

    One other thought from you previous post… it would be wise not to throw all protestants into the same theological bucket. You indicated that your protestant experience was predominantly Pentecostal which is substantially different theologically than some of systematic reformed theologies. I only point this out because a comparison of Pentecostal theology with Catholic theology might lead you to a different place than a similar comparison between systematic reformed theologies and Catholicism. Not trying to argue “fer or agin” one or the other… just that there are differences that might affect the outcome of your study.

    Forgive me if it seemed that I lumped all Protestants together. Certainly from my own experience I can attest to the fact that there are many differences between denominations depending on which camp you’re in. Even within Presbyterianism or Lutheranism there are differences.

    Actually, I wasn’t predominantly Pentecostal. I’ve been a Christian for 23 years and it was only the first 3 years that I was in Pentecostal circles, mainly Assemblies of God and Church of God, Cleveland, TN (the charismatic branch of the Church of God). I spent 9 years (5 at one and 4 at another, respectively) in 2 different PCA churches where I learned the Reformed perspective. I learned mostly, though, through Reformed blogs and online writings, some even of the Truly Reformed bent. ;) . The rest has been spent in a Calvary Chapel, a non-denominational denomination. ;) I’ve had a tiny taste of a few other denominations mixed in here and there. I even spent 4 months in a Russian Orthodox church. Regardless of where I went, my main focus of study has always been the Scriptures. I am always a bit hesitant to listen to commentary no matter who is teaching because I have heard so many contradictions that way. Heck, I have enough of my own just looking only at Scripture!

    What I was saying about my Pentecostal experience was that what they taught seemed more in line with many of the Catholic doctrines I’m learning about. But I am also finding that many Reformed doctrines are in line with Catholic doctrine.

    In fact, I was just reading in Louis Bouyer’s book, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism about the papal bull written by Pope Boniface II called Per Filium Nostrum written against the heresy of Pelagianism. Bouyer was positing that the Church’s teaching on grace and man’s depravity lined up with Luther’s view, much to the consternation of many modern Catholics of Bouyer’s time and likely, ours. I posted the bull on my blog if you’d like to read it. This was written in the year 531 a.d. Pretty clear depiction of the depravity of man apart from God’s saving grace, methinks. Pope Boniface refers to Christ as “the author and consummator of [our] faith”. Or as we know it, finisher.

    Thanks for the admonishment to trust in the Lord and not in my own understanding. Amen to that! Still, a lover of truth must do some thinking, yes? Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. :)

  286. (“Yaay!! jj is silenced,” I hear from some :-)).

    You won’t hear me saying that. You’ll be missed, jj!

  287. Dern, okay, in my last comment I mentioned the papal bull when I should’ve mentioned the Second Council of Orange. That was what Bouyer was referring to as the edict against Pelagianism. The papal bull I mentioned was the Pope’s confirmation of that Council’s decisions. Both are important, of course. Sorry for the mistake.

  288. Kim:

    You won’t hear me saying that. You’ll be missed, jj!

    Like Arnie, I’ll be back :-)

    jj

  289. JJ,

    You will be missed, brother, for many reasons– one of them being that you have been providing so many good and helpful replies! (That’s not the only reason though, hehe– you’re just a great guy!) Maybe you should ask to join the CTC team? Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write in-depth articles here, but I think you would make a very good addition to the team, with your Reformed background!

  290. Christopher (#289)

    Maybe you should ask to join the CTC team?

    Nah, I have the attention span to fire off a little-thought-out comment; not to write a post. Plus, you guys add footnotes and all sorts of impressive things to your posts!

    To be serious for a moment: I really don’t have either the background or the time to do the kind of posting that has been so helpful to me here. When I comment, in any useful way, it is because something that someone has said here connects with something I have had to deal with in the past. But I have no theological expertise. My subject, to the extent it is still a live option, is linguistics. Even that is pretty obsolete. For the last thirty years I have made my living as a computer system admin.

    On leave today, getting ready for the retreat – say a prayer for the men who will be on retreat this week-end, and I will be praying for Called to Communion, as I do every day, in fact. CtC has meant a great deal to me as a Catholic convert trying to make up for lost time.

    jj

  291. Curt (re:#281),

    Thanks for the reply, brother. You wrote, in response to the section of the Catechism on merit:

    This strikes me as double-speak. Either our will is both free and able to choose to do righteous acts, or our righteous acts are due to God in Christ, “predisposed” through the Holy Spirit. As my previous posts would indicate, I am in the latter camp. It cannot be “God’s will AND my will”. My will is predisposed to sin. Paul said, “There is none righteous, not even one.” My righteousness can only come from God. As I have mentioned several times, even Jesus Himself denied that his human will had any power for righteousness. He said things like, “I have not come to do My will, but the will of the Father who sent Me”, and praying in the garden He said to the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will”. He did not align His will to the will of God, rather, He prayed that the will of God would replace His will.

    Curt, do you not at least believe that when we are regenerated, our will is *then* able to do righteous deeds via God’s grace? If you don’t believe that, then I wonder what you do with Scriptures such as Revelation 19:6-8 (from the well-regarded ESV translation):

    6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

    “Hallelujah!
    For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
    7 Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
    for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
    8 it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

    for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

    (Source: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+19&version=ESV)

    It is certainly true that before God, no one is righteous *in and of him/herself*. However, God’s grace does give us the ability to do righteous deeds. This is affirmed repeatedly in Scripture. When St. Paul writes in Romans that “no one is righteous, not even one,” this verse must be understood in the larger context of the passage, which is that of (many of) the Israelite Jews thinking that they are righteous, simply for belonging to God’s original chosen people. Paul responds, in effect, “No, both the Israelites *and* the Gentiles are sinful people, and you *both*, and all people, are in desperate need of God’s grace!” If you read the verses in the context of the larger passage, they are clearly not saying that no one can ever do a righteous deed. To be sure, no one can save him/herself by works– but that is a different matter.

    Part of the problem here is that Calvinist theology wrongly makes makes man’s free participation in God’s work into a “robbing God of His glory.” However, God cannot *be* robbed of His glory– period. Man’s choice to trust in and follow God, or not, does not rob God of any of His glory. God’s glory is intrinsically *His*, because of who He is. Our choice to follow Him, or not, is a gift that He gives us, not a potential way for us to take away any of His glory.

    Regarding what you wrote about Jesus’s human will supposedly not being able to do anything righteous, I refer you to JJ’s reply at #283.

    When Jesus prays, “Not my will, Father, but thine…,” He is expressing submission to the Father’s will, not a “replacing” of His human will with the Father’s will. Please think very carefully about the implications of what you wrote. Why would Jesus even *need* for His human will to be replaced? His human will was/is completely free of any sin and any *proclivity toward* sin.

  292. John (re:#290),

    I hear you; I’m in somewhat of a similar place (although, alas, I’m not currently employed in a paying job). My Biblical/theological knowledge has largely been gained through my own study and through reading the fruits of the study of others (from Reformed scholars to Pope Benedict XVI). I’m not a formally trained scholar at all. I sometimes wish that I were, but God has His good reasons for the paths that our lives take! (I also can’t type very quickly, due to my Cerebral Palsy, which makes regularly contributing long articles here difficult for me.)

    I will pray for you and the other men on retreat, brother. God bless!

  293. JJ… have a great and fruitful time! … and by the way, God can redeem anything, including lost time… Just look at me ;-)

    Curt

  294. Christopher,

    Re: #291: Thank you for such that excellent response! You always add so much to the conversation. I always look forward to your comments.

  295. To everyone

    I love this site BUT, as a husband, father of five great kids, business owner, elder and two-finger typer, I’m having a bit trouble keeping up with yall! I also am trying not to keep repeating things I have already said, so bear with me if you would be so kind. :-) I’m going to try to briefly work back up through the last flurry of posts, and respond to key points.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  296. Brother Christopher (at 291)…

    The answer to your question is no… I do not believe that we are capable of righteous deeds eminating from our will. The “righteous deeds of the saints” that are “granted us” are the result of God’s grace working through us. A grant is a gift. Our righteousness is a gift from God, not the result of a self-improvement program. Regarding the question of monothelitism, I never said that there was one will. Mine is an argument of God’s will trumping man’s will. There is a difference. Regarding the Romans 3 verse… That Paul is speaking to the Jews does not nullify the truth of his statement. Further, if you, good brother, will read it in context, you will see that Paul includes the Gentiles and clarifies how both Jew and Gentile will be saved…

    Romans 3:27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

    So man is justified by faith APART from works. Since you took a jab at Calvinism, let me point out that, in my humble opinion, Catholic doctrine wrongly relies on works righteousness for salvation. The text above along with Eph 2:8-9 and many other Scriptures make it abundantly clear that this is in error. Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This verse, for the record, was written to the Gentiles. Finally, you asked, “Why would Jesus even *need* for His human will to be replaced? His human will was/is completely free of any sin and any *proclivity toward* sin.” Because the will of the Father is all that matters… it trumps the will even of Christ. Let me flip the question on you… if the human will of Jesus ” was/is completely free of any sin and any *proclivity toward* sin”, (and I’m not saying it wasn’t/isn’t) why did Jesus need to pray “Not My will, but Thy will”? If His will was in perfect sync with the will of the Father, why did it matter? I believe that Jesus was showing us the order of God’s universe… that God’s will can only be accomplished by God’s will, not by human initiative… even if you are Jesus.

    Circling back to your question… “Curt, do you not at least believe that when we are regenerated, our will is *then* able to do righteous deeds via God’s grace?” I would rely on the obvious theme of the following Scriptures:

    Romans 11:32, For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
    Mark 10:18, And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
    John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”
    Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please Him [God]
    John 3:27 – John answered, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
    John 6:44,65 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
    Romans 9:16 – So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
    Romans 11:35-36 – “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things.
    Acts 11:18 – When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (even repentence is “granted”)
    2 Timothy 2:24-25 – And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, [etc.]… God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (again, even repentence is “granted”)
    2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (all things … granted… granted … granted)
    Romans 11:36 – For from him and through him and to him are all things.
    John 6:63 – “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;”
    Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
    Philippians 2:13 – for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Even this is not a complete list … So no, there is nothing in my will that wants to do good. My good works are only because of His grace, working His will in me. It is not my will but Thy will that brings about my righteous deeds. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that you are asserting that we do good works because God regenerates our will to conform to His will. So what does that mean? If God is changing my will to conform to His, where is my choice in the matter. If I have the option to deny His regeneration, is it not His grace alone that keeps me from doing it? Certainly, in light of the verses above, we could not possibly infer that we have the power outside of God’s grace to choose rightly. Thus our ability to do good works are the result of God’s unilateral grace operative in our life. These works are evident solely because God willed it to be so. Any other conclusion relies on our ability to choose righteousness apart from God, an irreconcilable position in light of Scripture.

    Its late now, so I’ll let it end there. Thanks for the ongoing thoughts!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  297. Hi Kim

    Jumping right into your last comment, you said…

    “As far as the bouncing back and forth thing, I think Frank addressed that in #273. Am I right? And there are many Scriptures that would fit that paradigm. One that comes to mind is Philippians 2:12-13…”

    So I need to back up, because I missed Frank’s comment earlier (sorry Frank!). Regarding us humans, Frank said, “That which God declared as “very good” in Genesis remains so”. All I can say to this is… really? I’ll just review two Scriptures from my last post…

    Romans 11:32, For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
    Mark 10:18, And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

    Was Jesus wrong? Are we really good? Apparently not, and there are many, many other Scriptures to support this. So, if Frank’s fundamental premise does not square with Scripture, I find it diffucult to build a theological point upon it.

    Regarding Phil 2:12-13… I think this is a great verse that falls right in line with my point…

    “12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

    So I ask this… Is it my will or God’s will that is being worked out? “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Sure doesn’t sound like my will. What would cause fear and trembling if we were only talking about me working out my own will? LOL. Conversely, who wouldn’t experience fear and trembling if God was working out His will in us? Move away from the steering wheel please! This verse get misused all the time to rationalize a doctrine of man ordained works. That is not what it says. It says our works are the result of God’s will working in us. God isn’t our co-pilot, He is our Pilot.

    You said, “This Scripture is an enigma. On the one hand it is our job to work out our salvation (i.e. obey the Lord’s commands) and on the other hand, God is doing it all. So I see that synergistic thing going on in the believer. We do our part, but it is God giving us the grace to do it.”

    I would agree with your position if I could refine it this way: It is synergistic in that it is God’s will directing my actions. If clarified this way, the enigma goes away. This however is different than the synergism spoken of at the outset of this site, which defines synergism as my will and God’s will somehow working together. As previously pointed out in Scripture, my will is incapable of doing good. Thus, if I do good, it is only because of God’s will.

    Gotta go!

    Blessings,
    Curt

    Regarding theological systems… there is much to like about the Catholic Catechism. And there is a strong desire to see Christians around the world unite under one banner. The problem I have is that I keep running into theological positions that in my humble opinion, do not square with Scripture. And unfortunately, they are not sidebar issues, but core beliefs. Conversely, when I read the Westminster Confession and corroborating Scriptures, I do not find such issues. Nevertheless, I hang out here to challenge both my beliefs and the beliefs of those who post, presuming that we are all seeking the truth.

  298. Curt, et al,
    I know you’re responding to multiple people here so I expect no response; this is just food for thought.
    In 297 you said:

    The problem I have is that I keep running into theological positions that in my humble opinion, do not square with Scripture… Conversely, when I read the Westminster Confession and corroborating Scriptures, I do not find such issues.

    Two things here that I just want to throw out, and it is certainly not my intention to threadjack, but I find that a lot of Catholic/Reformed dialogue in some ways always seems to boil down to a few key issues and in your above quote you’ve hit two of them on the head.
    1) When you refer to something called “Scripture” you are making a previous judgement as to what that is, and how we have come to know it, and can trust that it is in fact God’s Word. So in some ways this puts the cart before the horse, because only after you have made this prior judgement as to what constitutes Scripture can you then use it as a norm with which to “square” things.

    2) You mention that there are judgements that you are making that are your opinion in regards to Biblical interpretation. As Catholics we do not believe that we have the ultimate authority, individually, to definitively interpret Scripture. This authority belongs to the successors of the Apostles, who can be identified today by means of Apostolic Succession.

    These two issues are fundamentally what led to my conversion from Reformed Protestantism to the Catholic Church, which will finally be complete in just a few weeks at Easter.

    You said:

    Nevertheless, I hang out here to challenge both my beliefs and the beliefs of those who post, presuming that we are all seeking the truth.

    That is great! Iron sharpening iron and all ;-) And in that vein I would highly recommend the following articles:
    In regards to 1) above: here and here

    In regards to 2) above: here and here

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  299. Hi Curt,

    Sorry to jump in out of nowhere. But I wanted to address what you wrote (297) about the Philippians passage. The more natural reading of the text seems to be the Catholic one. This is a verse that troubled me when I was Reformed for that very reason. Let’s look at it again.

    Chapter 2 starts with an encouragement to imitate Christ in his humility and obedience. Then in the passage in question he encourages them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling even when Paul is not around. He futher encourages them that they have God working in them to will and work. He goes on to offer further encourament and reasons to rejoice in the Lord.

    One really does need to have a strong presupposition to see this verse as suggesting that God is not working in and with the believer, but overriding their will. But the context does not give any such impression. In fact there is no place in scripture where the mystery of God working in His people (and the “how” is certainly a mystery) where God is being a puppet master.

    Just as the the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures and it is exactly what God wanted written – yet He did it through the agency and a will of men. He did not simply possess the Biblical writers… he actually worked in, through and with (I wish I knew how to italicize “with”) them.

    Respectfully, you are seeing more in the verse than is actually there. Man can do nothing without God and synergy is not an equal partnership. God certainly needs to enliven and enable the will of man – but it still remains the creature’s will.

  300. Dear Curt,

    Thank you for the valuable time you are able to devote to this discussion. With so many interlocutors, it must be a real challenge to keep up and read/respond in detail. So I will keep this one short and just call it a place marker for a more detailed discussion later.

    1. It seems you read my comment about “very good” too quickly? I did not say Man was without sin. I said our human nature was not utterly corrupted by the Fall. Different things. I am not expressing a personal opinion here, I am relying on what is taught by the Catholic Church. I will find the references for you.

    2. Many of these dialogues ultimately come down to the core issue of authority: the Protestant’s reading of Scripture, guided by the primacy of individual conscience, vs. the Catholic’s reliance on the teaching of the Church: Scripture and Sacred Tradition as faithful preserved and taught by her Magisterium. That’s where this discussion is headed, it looks.

    God bless, please do not take time away from your family to respond to me if your time is limited.

    Frank

  301. Hey Frank

    Thanks for the follow up. I like short follow ups because I can respond to them quickly. OK… Maybe I misunderstood, but you said, “That which God declared as “very good” in Genesis remains so”. That is what you said. Jesus said, “no one is good but the Father”. If you were in my shoes, who would you believe… you and the Catholic Catechism or Jesus? This is what I mean when I say that much of the doctrine here comes across as double speak, in my humble opinion. We’re very good, but we’re not really good. We’re sinners, but we’re also good. Whether we accept the apostolic succession or not, the words of Jesus, for me, will always represent truth. I know you would agree… but this is where I get frustrated. Even if we toss out Sola Scriptura, can we not at least agree that Scripture is first in line to all other doctrine? After all, the Scriptures quoted are from the books that we all accept as canon, and the doctrines are said to be derived therefrom.

    Blessings
    Curt

  302. Curt, I understand the family responsibilities, too. No pressure. We home-school and I am also keeping a home, so I, too, am limited with my time. But that doesn’t seem to stop me from getting myself tangled up in these heavy discussions now, does it? lol So I may not address everything. Please forgive me.

    Okay, here goes. I’m going to pepper you with questions, mainly rhetorical, but feel free to answer any of them you like. I wish we could all talk in person. It would be so much easier than all this typing!

    You said:

    So I ask this… Is it my will or God’s will that is being worked out? “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Sure doesn’t sound like my will. What would cause fear and trembling if we were only talking about me working out my own will? LOL. Conversely, who wouldn’t experience fear and trembling if God was working out His will in us? Move away from the steering wheel please! This verse get misused all the time to rationalize a doctrine of man ordained works. That is not what it says. It says our works are the result of God’s will working in us. God isn’t our co-pilot, He is our Pilot.

    When we become believers and receive the Holy Spirit and are regenerated in baptism, is not our will changed? Transformed, even? Do we not start wanting God’s will where once we didn’t? Why would Paul even says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”? Why not leave that part out and just tell us “it is God working in [us] to will and to act…”. But instead, Paul is commanding us to do something. Why? How does his command play out in real life? What you say and what I read the Catholic Church saying, in essence, is the same thing. We are guided by grace the whole way and our transformed nature is willing itself toward God because God is causing the willing. (Trying not to pull my hair out over this, I must say.)

    How does me working out my salvation vs. God working it out in me look to you in practice? Is it a matter of what I’m thinking is happening while I do good deeds each day, if I, Lord willing, do them? That would be so tiring, wouldn’t it? It would be like having to think of each breath as I breath or else suffocate. Thank God that is not the case! lol In practice, I must trust that God is working through me as I yield to Him moment by moment. But sometimes I forget to yield, often, in fact; but my heart is continually facing toward God. Don’t you feel that is the case with you? That we are ever in His Presence whether we feel it strongly or weakly? We always sense Him there with us, yes? So in real life I am seeking God’s will while I do everything I do, even when I’m not aware of it. When I mess up, He is right there showing me. I believe we call this living in the Spirit?

    14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

    What do you make of Paul here when he speaks of having the Philippians’ good deeds (helping Paul, financially) “credited to [their] account”? What account is he referring to? Do we all have accounts with God? How exactly do we make deposits? What will we be able to withdraw some day? What is the point of these accounts he speaks of? Paul refers to their monetary gifts as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God”. What does he mean by that?

    Okay, rubber meets road: When I see a need and act to meet that need, am I doing my will or God’s will? If knowing that it pleases God and that He promises to “add it to my account”, should I stop doing it so I won’t accidentally be “working” for anything? What am I missing? How do you see these things lived out? It seems to me that many Catholics take that first Philippians Scripture I quoted to heart, knowing that they need Christ to live out their faith and that without Him they can do nothing…even good deeds toward others.

    I am being a bit hyperbolic, so please try to understand where I am coming from trying to get my point across, which is that we are not very far away from each other on this issue of how grace plays out in our different, but extremely close paradigms. The Catholic Church teaches (so far as I’ve read in the Catechism and other Church documents on the subject of grace) that we are completely dependent on Christ through and through. And that our will is changed so that now we are able to do God’s will (love Him and our neighbors withagape love) and to also desire to please Him in all things. That is a sign of living faith whereas without any sign of wanting to reach out in love through acts of mercy or concern for pleasing God, we are dead in our faith as James says.

    Okay, I think I need to go take a nap or make dinner or something!

    God bless and sorry for all the hyperbole! I hope I made sense.
    Kim

  303. Hello Dave

    Welcome to the conversation! You said,

    One really does need to have a strong presupposition to see this verse as suggesting that God is not working in and with the believer, but overriding their will. But the context does not give any such impression. In fact there is no place in scripture where the mystery of God working in His people (and the “how” is certainly a mystery) where God is being a puppet master.

    Interesting… How about Romans 9? Here is a hint…

    Romans 9:16 – “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

    Not much of a presupposition here… My will and my works are meaningless. God’s will working through me … but not my will. Also in Romans 9, God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born to serve His purposes. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to suit His purposes. Sounds to me like God’s will trumped them all.

    2 Cor 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us”

    Rom 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

    If righteousness is a gift, it is not from me… nor my will.

    Rom 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

    Does a slave act with free will?

    I do believe God works in the believer… and it is His will alone that brings us to good works, not some collaboration with my sinful will.

    On a related topic… I haven’t heard a good explanation for this yet, so I’ll throw it out to you… Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will”. Why did He have to do that? Was His will different than the Father’s?

    Blessings
    Curt

  304. Hey Aaron

    thanks for your thoughts. Just a couple of quick responses…

    You said: 1) When you refer to something called “Scripture” you are making a previous judgement as to what that is, and how we have come to know it, and can trust that it is in fact God’s Word. So in some ways this puts the cart before the horse, because only after you have made this prior judgement as to what constitutes Scripture can you then use it as a norm with which to “square” things.

    Since the Scriptures we have discuss thus far come from mutually agreed canon, we are observing the same “dataset”. We not postulating from the Book of Mormon and the Science with Keys to the Scriptures. We have an agreed upon norm of canon, at least until we hit the deutero-whatever books.

    You said: 2) You mention that there are judgements that you are making that are your opinion in regards to Biblical interpretation. As Catholics we do not believe that we have the ultimate authority, individually, to definitively interpret Scripture. This authority belongs to the successors of the Apostles, who can be identified today by means of Apostolic Succession.

    You have just made a judgment based on your opinion. When we look at history, I personally have a hard time accepting that Christ chose “the bad Popes” to be His vicars. If you can believe that, well and good, but it is nonetheless a judgment based on your opinion of information you have studied.

    I’ll try to read the links you posted tonight.

    Blesings, Curt

  305. Curt (re:#296),

    Knowing the serious responsibilities that you have (I’m currently unmarried with no children, so I do have more free time than you), I want to try to keep my responses to you fairly short. I appreciate your writing such a thorough reply to me, but out of respect for your situation, I will not attempt to reply to every point, and to address all of the Scriptures which you quoted. This is *not* because there are no good Catholic answers *to* your points, and/or no sound Catholic understandings of those Scriptures. There are *both*– and if I were to provide them all here, my response would be a very lengthy one. I just want to respect your responsibilities and your time, brother. :-)

    Briefly, then– about St. Paul’s statement in Romans that “no one is righteous,” while the context involved Israelites thinking themselves to be righteous, based on their status as God’s chosen people, I did clearly state, in my previous response to you, that St. Paul is addressing both Jews *and Gentiles*, and all people– saying to all of them, in effect, “Not one of you is (autonomously) morally righteous! You are all in desperate need of God’s grace!”

    Again, St. Paul’s point, in the passage from Romans, is to state our need for, and dependence on, God. Paul is stating that none of us is righteous apart from God’s grace. He is attempting to help the Israelites and the Gentiles, and all people, to see that we are all utterly dependent on God’s grace– period. This does not conflict with the *Biblical point* that after regeneration, our wills are truly capable of good works, *if* we are submitting our wills to God’s will. His will is not “replacing” ours, but we are choosing, by His grace, to bring our wills into conformity with His will. In that vein, consider this passage of Scripture (from the Protestant ESV translation):

    17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/1+Timothy+6/)

    The rich are commanded to “do good, to be rich in good works,” in this passage, because, reliant upon God’s grace, they are *able* to truly do good. To say that they are reliant upon God’s grace is *not* to say that their wills are no longer truly their wills. They (the rich in this passage) are, by God’s grace, participating in their sanctification, by choosing to bring their wills into conformity with His will.

    To make very clear, as a last point (for this comment), when I asked whether you believe that our wills are capable of righteous deeds after regeneration, I was not implying semi-Pelagianism. Even after regeneration, our wills are still reliant upon God’s grace for *any* good that we do. It is not as if, post-regeneration, our wills are somehow able to do good works “autonomously.” We are in desperate need of God’s grace, both before and after regeneration. After regeneration, we continue to be reliant upon His grace to do *anything good*.

    I really want to address further, in this comment, the issues of Jesus’s human will and His divine will. I want *more*, though, for you to have quality (and “quantity”) time with your family. :-) Submitting my will to God’s will! :-) In that vein, I will end for now, and wish you and yours a blessed weekend!

  306. P.S. to my #305: Curt, in one statement that I made above, my wording was imprecise, and therefore, confusing. I wrote that “our wills are truly capable of good works, *if* we are submitting our wills to God’s will.”

    The more Biblically accurate way to put it would be that, *because of God’s grace* through regeneration, our wills are now truly capable of good works. One of these good works is, itself, is the grace-empowered choice that we make to submit our wills to God’s will.

    Have a blessed weekend and Lord’s Day! I’ll be back, Lord willing, sometime on Sunday, to respond to any replies!

  307. Kim (re:#294),

    Thank you very much, sister. I look forward to your contributions here too! Have a blessed weekend and Lord’s Day!

  308. Dear Curt (Re: #301)
    You wrote:

    OK… Maybe I misunderstood, but you said, “That which God declared as “very good” in Genesis remains so”. That is what you said. Jesus said, “no one is good but the Father”. If you were in my shoes, who would you believe… you and the Catholic Catechism or Jesus?

    Fortunately, I do not have to choose between the Catechism and Jesus, because there is no contradiction. I think the source of the misunderstanding here is that you continue to overlook the sentence that precedes “That which God declared as “very good” in Genesis remains so” – which reads:

    The Church teaches that while the Fall resulted in the loss of sanctifying grace (and agape) it did not utterly corrupt human nature. (emphasis added)

    “Human nature” is a description of ourselves as persons made in the image of God – with all that entails. Please note I did not say that “men are morally good” after the Fall, I said “human nature was not utterly corrupted.” Different things. So your confusion

    We’re very good, but we’re not really good. We’re sinners, but we’re also good.

    stems from thinking that I am saying men are morally good by nature (which I am not) as opposed to saying that our natures (made in the image of God) are still good.

    When Jesus says “no one is good except the Father” he is not referring to the nature of the human person (“the image of God” in us), he is saying no one is morally good by nature after the Fall. I believe this is the source of your “doublespeak.” Jesus in that quote, and I, were talking about different aspects of the human person: essential, God-given nature (me) and moral goodness (Jesus).

    After the Fall we retain those elements of our nature that make us to be “in the image of God” – rational intellect and will. We can still reason rightly. We can (with grace) will what God wills without losing our separate, human nature (will). Grace builds on nature, as Aquinas said so often, it does not destroy it (which is what it sounds like you are saying). In the Incarnation, human nature was redeemed, and that is why the Church can teach that it is still “good”: Jesus restored it by uniting it to his divine nature in the Incarnation.

    Peace,
    Frank

  309. Brother Frank

    With due respect, this still sounds like double speak to me… but I think you could help me with Scripture. The foundation of you statement rests on this comment…

    “The Church teaches that while the Fall resulted in the loss of sanctifying grace (and agape) it did not utterly corrupt human nature. (emphasis added)”

    What is the Scriptural basis for this teaching? Where does Scripture teach that humans are internally divided into sub-parts, some of which are corrupt, and others which are not? To me, this is like saying the window is half broken.

    Thanks!
    Curt

  310. Hey Christopher…

    We’re getting closer! You said…

    “The more Biblically accurate way to put it would be that, *because of God’s grace* through regeneration, our wills are now truly capable of good works. One of these good works is, itself, is the grace-empowered choice that we make to submit our wills to God’s will.”

    So, if I understand you correctly, God empowers us through grace to make a free will choice to do good works, one of which is the choice to submit to God’s will. Is that right?

    Then to build upon this concept, while we are empowered and thus have the option to do good works through God’s will, we also still have the option to choose not to do good works, presumably not God’s will. Since our predisposition after the fall is unrighteousness, our good works can only be attributable to God’s will working in us, and our will becomes subservient to His will Because of His will. After all, we did not ask for grace. It was His will to give us grace (thank God!). His will trumped our will the moment He gave us grace. Thus, we can think that our good works are the result of our choosing to do right, but they are in actuality God working His will through us. God predestines our path for His purposes. Bear with me…

    It is a very subtle difference, but I think it is entirely supported by Romans 9 which depicts clear examples of God choosing paths for people (Jacob, Esau, Pharaoh) to suit His particular purpose without their willful agreement. Paul fully understands our difficulty with this principle when he says:

    “19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”

    Clearly, this refers to God’s will trumping man’s will. Backing up to verse 15…

    15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    This is the sovereignty of God.

    Blessings
    Curt

  311. Good Morning Curt,

    You asked:

    Where does Scripture teach that humans are internally divided into sub-parts, some of which are corrupt, and others which are not?

    “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”

    Rm 7:17-20

    Blessings,
    Frank

  312. “To me, this is like saying the window is half broken.”

    Curt, precisely! This is the Catholic position. A half broken window still needs to be fixed…saved even! We are broken! I would argue that the half-broken analogy fits in much better with the way we find God interacting with His people. Did God really find something redeemable in Lot and his family? Did the Athenians really perceive, through a shattered glass, an “unknown god” for whom they worshiped in some truth yet in ignorance?

    The question is, in our modern day, what can put the pieces back together again? G.K. Chesterton, in The Thing, put it this way:

    “Humanism, in Mr. Foerster’s sense, has one very wise and worthy character. It is really trying to pick up the pieces; that is, to pick up all the pieces. All that was done before was first blind destruction and then random and scrappy selection; as if boys had broken up a stained-glass window and then made a few scraps into coloured spectacles, the rose-coloured spectacles of the republican or the green or yellow spectacles of the pessimist and the decadent. But Humanism as here professed will stoop to gather all it can; for instance, it is great enough to stoop and pick up the jewel of humility…But before we call either Culture or Humanism a substitute for religion, there is a very plain question that can be asked in the form of a very homely metaphor. Humanism may try to pick up the pieces; but can it stick them together? Where is the cement which made religion corporate and popular, which can prevent it falling to pieces in a debris of individualistic tastes and degrees? What is to prevent one Humanist wanting chastity without humility, and another humility without chastity, and another truth or beauty without either? The problem of an enduring ethic and culture consists in finding an arrangement of the pieces by which they remain related, as do the stones arranged in an arch. And I know only one scheme that has thus proved its solidity, bestriding lands and ages with its gigantic arches, and carrying everywhere the high river of baptism upon an aqueduct of Rome.”

    I think this comment is also relevant to Brantley Millegan’s review of “The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society” found here.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  313. Curt, (309) a good explanation of the Catholic understanding of what happened to man at the fall can be found at Lawrence Feingold on Original Justice and Original Sin. It would help to listen to the previous lecture Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark, and then read the followup article “Protestant Objections to the Catholic Doctrines of Original Justice and Original Sin.

  314. Curt (303),

    Thanks for the welcome. Had I realized how many people you were engaging I would have spared you! Thank you for taking the time to engage with me as well.

    One really does need to have a strong presupposition to see this verse as suggesting that God is not working in and with the believer, but overriding their will. But the context does not give any such impression. In fact there is no place in scripture where the mystery of God working in His people (and the “how” is certainly a mystery) where God is being a puppet master.

    You wrote:

    “Interesting… How about Romans 9? Here is a hint…

    Romans 9:16 – “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

    Not much of a presupposition here… My will and my works are meaningless. God’s will working through me … but not my will. Also in Romans 9, God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born to serve His purposes. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to suit His purposes. Sounds to me like God’s will trumped them all.”

    I have no problem at all with this passage. I still lean heavily Augustinian/Thomist in my views on predestination and election One of the beautiful things about being a Catholic is the predestination is de fide but being able to understand the mind of God is not.

    2 Cor 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us”

    I am no Greek scholar but “urges us on” is another common translation of this passage.

    “Rom 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

    Amen.

    “If righteousness is a gift, it is not from me… nor my will.”

    Amen again. It is not from your will. But your will is still involved.

    “Rom 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

    Does a slave act with free will?”

    Of course. A slave can still disobey and be punished for it. And of course if we are slaves to righteousness then the elect should also be without sin once they believe – based on how you seem to be intepreting this passage. If my will is no longer active then I am not going to sin because it would be impossible.

    “I do believe God works in the believer… and it is His will alone that brings us to good works, not some collaboration with my sinful will.”

    We cannot respond without His grace. But as I indicated before, and the verses you cited do not contradict, we are not puppets. If we are to follow this to its logical conclusion we have to conclude our choices are an illusion. The man dead in sin only receives the grace that leads to repentance if he responds to it. His response is his own but it is the Holy Spirit who prompts. The man in a state of grace can have his will united with the God’s will because of the life of Christ within him. Not of his own merit.

    There are an overwhelming number of scriptures that instruct man how to act. These passages lay out the consequences of disobeying. And many of these passages are written to believers. If we are to take the Calvinist either/or approach rather than the both/and approach of Catholicism we need to ask why the Bible has so many extra, needless words. The Bible should only be the size of a booklet if we can erase the paradox that does exist in scripture and explain it away.

    “On a related topic… I haven’t heard a good explanation for this yet, so I’ll throw it out to you… Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will”. Why did He have to do that? Was His will different than the Father’s?”

    Hmmm. Good question. I will refer you to the CCC 615, 532 and 2600. The three sections together offer a very good answer to your question. It would take up a lot of space to repost all three here. In brief He has a human will that can fear the agony to come while still being in perfect unity with the divine will. He was entrusting himself to His Father. Let me illustrate. It is my will that my children should not suffer anything. However, God builds character and faith in suffering. Therefore while in one sense I will them to not suffer I know that certain sufferings are to there benefit. I am not in conflict with God’s will or even my desire for character building for my children when I feel a type of pain when I think of them suffering.

    What a great question. You have given me something very worthwhile to wrestle with. I am certainly not done thinking about this. It may have been years before I read those sections of the catechism together. Thank you, brother.

    Dave

  315. Mornin Frank

    You are making my point. Paul continues in Romans 8, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” So it is not me who wills to do good works… it is God in me. My will is sinful as Paul points out in your quote, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” It is only Christ in me that wills to do good. This is the grace of sanctification.

    Blessings
    Curt

  316. Brother Brent

    How are you? Hope you and your tribe are well! I don’t want to get too far afield from the purpose of this board, but I’ll respond quickly. Regarding your comment at 312, I read the review of Gregory’s book and I tried to envision the world without the reformation in terms of theology, society and political systems. First, the US and its form of government were a direct result of the reformation. The reformation was the birthplace of democracy. So democracy goes away. The European countries and North American countries would still be kingdoms and colonial empires. Societies would, therefore, still be subservient to a caste system. And given that the Catholic Church refused internal reform until the external reformation brought it to a head… who knows where we would be theologically. (You’re allowed to go outside and scream here).

    Gregory’s concept is interesting, but I think a bit one-sided. The success of the reformation was due in large part to the failure of the Catholic Church… first in the sins of its leadership, and secondly, in its refusal to correct known issues. So… that there was a reformation at all can be laid at the door of the Catholic Church. In the modern U.S. landscape, the secularization of society is the fault of all Christians, both protestant and Catholic. Our mutual failure to evangelize and teach Biblical truth results in a society that does not take seriously the truth of the Scripture, nor the love and justice of Christ. Further, the RC sex scandals of recent years have probably chased more Catholics to protestantism than Calvin did. In sum, I’ll take the reformers share of the credit for secularization, but the RC church gets credit for the Kennedy/Pelosi/Mikulski Catholics who advance the abortion cause and other secularizations, and yes, I know they make you cringe as well… I’m just making a point that we all share some blame.

    Finally, books like Gregory’s really bother me. In his case, he attempts to discredit the reformation, and therefore protestantism, by entirely blaming secularization upon it… as if there were nothing else going on in the world since 1500. This technique is fine for political hacks with negative ads and the like, but those who walk in the light should be above trying to make ourselves look good simply by discrediting someone else.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  317. Hello RSD

    Yes I have listened to, and read, Feingold’s work. He makes for wonderful philosophical study, but rarely uses Scripture to substantiate his points. He bounces from Luther to Calvin to Pelagius to whatever and espouses his opinions or perhaps reflects the opinions of others. I wish he would just say, “Here is my position and here is the Scriptural evidence for it”. That would be interesting.

    Blessings
    Curt

  318. Dear Curt (re: #315)

    You originally asked me to show you: “Where does Scripture teach that humans are internally divided into sub-parts, some of which are corrupt, and others which are not?” And I did this. You are now jumping to another aspect of the discussion without acknowledging that your question has been answered – from Scripture.

    If Rm. 7: 17-20 is a perfect example of what you have been calling “doublespeak”: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” There are two “I”s here: the “I” who recognizes good from evil and desires to do good, and the “I” who does the evil the other “I” does not want to do.

    This is precisely the dichotomy I presented in #308 – the ‘imago Dei’ (which knows and desires the good) and the fallen nature (plagued by concupiscence – inclination to sin). Please do me the courtesy of acknowledging that your question was answered before moving forward to the question of how we are saved from this condition, which is the subject of Romans 8 and the Gospels.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  319. Hey Curt, me again. :-)

    You said:

    You have just made a judgment based on your opinion. When we look at history, I personally have a hard time accepting that Christ chose “the bad Popes” to be His vicars. If you can believe that, well and good, but it is nonetheless a judgment based on your opinion of information you have studied.

    What about the bad judges and kings of Israel in the Old Testament? Also, Jesus chose Judas to be one of the Twelve knowing he’d steal from the money purse and then ultimately betray him. How to explain? God has His reasons.

  320. Hey Frank

    Happy sabbath! And friend, I’ll acknowledge your answer when I get it. Until then, be a little patient with me… brother… ;-)

    Our discussion has heretofore been a question of “whose WILL causes me to do good works”. My position is that it is God’s will alone. Your position is that it is a collaboration of God’s will and my will. In the verse you cited, Paul says… “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” He rues the fact that he cannot do good works because of his sinful nature. So regarding his works, he is one person with one will that is incapable of willing himself to do good works, regardless of what he desires. This, in my view, tees up Romans 8 which follows with praise for “the solution” that God provides for us all in this condition. That solution is God’s will indwelling me and trumping my will which, as Paul has established, is incapable of choosing to do right.

    So, technically yes, you answered my question… but for me it did not answer the theological point.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  321. Hey Kim

    Perhaps His reason was the Reformation! =;-0

    Curt

  322. Hi Dave

    Thanks for the follow up!

    2 Cor 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us”

    You wrote: I am no Greek scholar but “urges us on” is another common translation of this passage.

    Nor am I. I use the NASB translation because it is widely regarded as the most literal translation. Not trying to sell it, just an fyi.

    “Rom 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

    “If righteousness is a gift, it is not from me… nor my will.”

    You wrote: “Amen again. It is not from your will. But your will is still involved.”
    I say: If the gift of righteousness reigns in my life, then my will which is sinful, by default, is trumped.

    “Rom 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

    I asked: Does a slave act with free will?”

    You wrote: “Of course. A slave can still disobey and be punished for it. And of course if we are slaves to righteousness then the elect should also be without sin once they believe – based on how you seem to be intepreting this passage. If my will is no longer active then I am not going to sin because it would be impossible.”

    I say: Not so. My sinful will can still sin. When Paul speaks of being slaves to sin, he defines the term slave by saying that the slavery is absolute… ie, we cannot choose to do right, we cannot free ourselves from our sinful nature. I believe he follows the same thought process when he says we are slaves to righteousness… that when God works His will in us, we cannot choose not to obey.

    You said: “We cannot respond without His grace. But as I indicated before, and the verses you cited do not contradict, we are not puppets. If we are to follow this to its logical conclusion we have to conclude our choices are an illusion. The man dead in sin only receives the grace that leads to repentance if he responds to it. His response is his own but it is the Holy Spirit who prompts. The man in a state of grace can have his will united with the God’s will because of the life of Christ within him. Not of his own merit.”

    I say: So, if it is not of his own merit, his good works are the result of God’s will, not his own will. See, I struggle with this: We cannot do righteous works without God’s will and God’s empowerment driving us to do these things. Then, the Catholic church wants us to believe there is a merit system by which we complete our salvation through these good works, even though God, not my will, is the one who deserves the credit.

    You said: There are an overwhelming number of scriptures that instruct man how to act. These passages lay out the consequences of disobeying. And many of these passages are written to believers. If we are to take the Calvinist either/or approach rather than the both/and approach of Catholicism we need to ask why the Bible has so many extra, needless words. The Bible should only be the size of a booklet if we can erase the paradox that does exist in scripture and explain it away.

    I say: I do not see Calvinism as an either/or approach. In fact, one of Calvin’s biggest complaints with the Catholic church at the time was the concept of living like hell all week and then confessing on Sunday. He was a strong proponent of good works, and preached equally strongly that our life should reflect Christ at work and home. He just did not believe that works contributed to “earning” eternal life. Grace was complete on the cross. The believer’s sins are already forgiven. Our good works are the result of God working in us… we deserve no credit for these “merits”.

    I asked: “On a related topic… I haven’t heard a good explanation for this yet, so I’ll throw it out to you… Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will”. Why did He have to do that? Was His will different than the Father’s?”

    You wrote: Hmmm. Good question. I will refer you to the CCC 615, 532 and 2600. The three sections together offer a very good answer to your question. It would take up a lot of space to repost all three here. In brief He has a human will that can fear the agony to come while still being in perfect unity with the divine will. He was entrusting himself to His Father. Let me illustrate. It is my will that my children should not suffer anything. However, God builds character and faith in suffering. Therefore while in one sense I will them to not suffer I know that certain sufferings are to there benefit. I am not in conflict with God’s will or even my desire for character building for my children when I feel a type of pain when I think of them suffering.”

    I say: Good answer, but I think CCC 532 really gets at the root of this question… Christ was being obedient to the Father. He acknowledged God’s will while ignoring His own, knowing that God’s will is the only will that can bring about God’s will. Regarding your children analogy (I have 5, so a little experience here!)… When we grab a childs hand in the parking lot… is it our will or theirs that keeps them from harm? Ours right? Likewise, when we let our kid choose not to wear a coat on a winter day, it is still our will that allows them to choose (badly) so they may learn a lesson. Yet, if they want to choose to do something that has life and death consequences, we will certainly keep them from it… why? … because we love them. Thus, while our child may think they have some options to choose, the reality is that our will trumps their will to protect them from fatal choices. While we may occasionally fail to protect our kids, God never fails to protect His sheep from death bad choices.

    You said: … You have given me something very worthwhile to wrestle with. I am certainly not done thinking about this.

    I say: Amen … and me either!

    Blessings
    Curt

  323. Curt (#303)

    On a related topic… I haven’t heard a good explanation for this yet, so I’ll throw it out to you… Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will”. Why did He have to do that? Was His will different than the Father’s?

    Distinct, yes – He had a human will and a Divine will, united in one Person – but not different in the sense of willing different things. But, distinct, I would say obviously from Scripture – otherwise ‘My will’ and ‘Thy will’ wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

    And this is kind of what I mean about all of this stuff for us creatures. In Philippians 2:13-13 God works in me ‘to will and to do’ – by strengthening my will, which, to be sure, unredeemed, is incapable of any supernatural good (genuine charity, in particular), but, redeemed, is transformed – both in principle, at the moment of regeneration, and progressively as I grow in holiness. Thus my redeemed will can, indeed, will true good – but only by the grace of God working in it. I do think this is different from saying that the good I do is done only by God’s willing it in me.

    jj

  324. Curt,

    I was hoping, and intending, to begin replying to you tonight… but honestly, brother, I am very, very tired. In order to write a proper response, which your last reply deserves (and which all of your replies have deserved!), I need to take a bit more time to read and think through Scripture (including the famed Romans 9, which I read again and again, many times over, as a firmly convinced Calvinist!)

    Happily, this time will give you a continued break from discussion with me (although not others here)! :-) Lord willing, I hope to reply to you either at some point tomorrow or, at the latest, by sometime on Tuesday. I hope you had a blessed weekend, brother!

  325. Christopher, your charitable heart touches me, especially when I think of your trying to be a help to others when you have a disability that makes it hard on you to keep going. Everything you say is earnest and loving. When you are rested, I too look forward to your response to Curt

    Alicia

  326. Hey JJ

    Welocme back! Hope your retreat was fruitful for the Kingdom!

    I understand your reading of “to will and to work”. I’m going to clip and paste some of my conversation with Chris above because it fits here as well. The problem I have is reconciling this understanding with Romans 9 which depicts clear examples of God choosing paths for people (Jacob, Esau, Pharaoh) to suit His particular purpose without their willful agreement. Paul fully understands our difficulty with this principle when he says:

    “19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”

    Clearly, this refers to God’s will trumping man’s will in these particular cases. Then, backing up to verse 15…

    15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    One might say this refers to initial salvation, not the sanctification process. But I would counter that in the case of Pharaoh, Esau and Jacob, it had to do with both.

    In light of Romans 9, it makes perfect sense to read Phil 2 “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” to mean that He is actually willing me and working through me to accomplish His will. It is also consistent with Romans 7, in which Paul points out that we are total dirtbags and incapable of doing good due to our sinful nature, and Romans 8 where we discover that the solution to our unsolvable problem is the Spirit of God sent to dwell in us.

    Blessings
    Curt

  327. Hey Chris

    Take you time brother! We probably won’t solve 500 years of theological wrangling in the next week or so. Slow and thoughtful is much appreciated.

    Blessings
    Curt

  328. Forgive me, but I am going to have to bow out of all discussions right now. My allergies are in full force and I need to not expend any more energy than is necessary just now. God bless you all!

    (Kind moderators: Please delete my last two comments since I’m unable to follow up. Thanks!)

  329. Curt (#326)

    The problem I have is reconciling this understanding with Romans 9 which depicts clear examples of God choosing paths for people (Jacob, Esau, Pharaoh) to suit His particular purpose without their willful agreement.

    But, Curt, I agree with you about this. What I don’t think is that there is a contradiction. And I do just think that there is a misunderstanding here:

    In light of Romans 9, it makes perfect sense to read Phil 2 “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” to mean that He is actually willing me and working through me to accomplish His will.

    If this means – what I think it means – that God is, indeed, ‘working through me to accomplish His will’ by changing my will so that I can freely and fully will His Will, then there is no conflict between Romans and Philippians. But if you think it means that I am no longer the one willing at all – that God just sets aside, neutralises, or ignores my will – then I think this is wrong. I think the whole point of conversion is precisely that God is changing me (including my will, and all other aspects of me) s0 that I can be in harmony with Him, instead of at enmity with Him.

    It seems to me that the issue here is anthropological, not theological – and is quite deeply involved with the sometime-Calvinist belief that even redeemed man is nothing but sin. God just negates the man himself, in favour of God living in him – indeed, in that (extreme) conception, I don’t see how there even is any ‘man’ left at all for God to live in!

    But maybe I just don’t understand – quite likely :-)

    Hope your retreat was fruitful for the Kingdom!

    And so do I! :-)

    jj

  330. Hi JJ

    You said: “I think the whole point of conversion is precisely that God is changing me (including my will, and all other aspects of me)”

    If God changes our will, then I think we are saying the same thing with semantics sprinkled in for good measure. As Paul said, our nature is totally incapable of choosing good. Our ability to choose good can only happen if God changes our will to do so. Thus God’s will must trump our will for us to do good.

    There is an inherent logic problem with shades of gray if we say God gives us the ability to choose good, but it is up to us. If we don’t choose to do good, God must not have given us sufficient grace to overcome our sinful nature. This, of course, cannot be. My ability to do good is 100% God in me… my ability to sin is 100% my sin nature. As God works His will in me, my sin nature must take a back seat.

    Blessings
    Curt

  331. Alicia (re:#325),

    Thank you very much for your kind words, sister. It is good to know that my relatively small contributions to this site are helpful for some readers– and I am grateful to everyone who reads them, even (or perhaps especially!) to those who vehemently disagree.

    I was once convinced, myself, that “consistent Catholics” were “lost” and in need of the “true, Biblical (i.e. Calvinist Protestant) Gospel.” During those years of my life, I may well have led some Catholics, eventually, to question and leave the Church. I thought that I was doing the right thing. However, objectively speaking, I was wrong.

    In attempting to help on this site, and elsewhere on the net, in clarifying the Church’s true teaching (and, at times, clarifying the accurate *historical* truth about her, such as that the Pope *did not* side with Hitler in World War II… sigh, the misinformation out there!)… in trying to help people with their misunderstandings about Catholic doctrines, teachings, practices, and Church history, in some ways, I am simply writing to counteract misinformation that, in my Protestant past, I myself believed and spread to others. I consider it a very small, and informal, penance on my part. I am happy to do this penance for the rest of my life, Lord willing– it’s a joy for me.

    When I returned to the Church in 2010, after years of being misinformed about her, and strongly supporting “sola Scriptura” Calvinist Protestantism, I confessed my previous anti-Catholicism to a priest. That was far from my only confession. There is no need for shameful details of the sins confessed that afternoon and evening, but I had been away from the Church for almost fifteen years.

    When I knew that I had to return to the Church, upon pain of mortal sin if I did not do so, I met with a priest to arrange a time for the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. He graciously agreed to meet me at my house (where I lived at the time), partially because I told him that it would be a very long confession. In all, the entire time (including helpful spiritual direction, by his own gracious choice– he did not have to provide it, as part of the Sacrament) lasted between three to four hours.

    In writing here, I am, partially, saying thank you to God, to that priest, and to everyone else, including the writers at CTC, who helped me in returning to the Church. “Thank you” (to them) and “Let’s talk– can I be of help to you?” to others, such as everyone who reads and write here. So many people have helped me. I want to help too– not to “earn my way to Heaven,” but because I believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be .

    Thank you again for your kind words, sister. God bless you and be with you in your continued journey. You are in the prayers of many here.

  332. Curt (re:#327),

    Thank you for your patience with my reply (or possible replies) about Romans 9 and the issue of God’s sovereignty and the human will. You are right– this question is not likely to be resolved quickly here, given that it has been argued over for 500 years! :-) I love how the Church has handled it– Catholics are free to take a view, according to their careful understanding of the Biblical data, that places a very strong emphasis on God’s sovereignty in the human will, as part of salvation, and they are free to take another view (also based on a careful understanding of the Biblical data) that places more emphasis on the human will.

    What Catholics are *not* free to do is to say that human beings, as wounded by original sin as they are, have absolutely no free will at all to choose God. Before returning to the Catholic Church (in the several months prior), I was beginning to reach the conclusion that I had interpreted many Biblical passages wrongly as a five-point Calvinist. Romans 9 had been one of my “go-to” texts to explain and defend my convictions (which I had been convinced were Biblical) on God’s absolute sovereignty over, and our complete lack of free will in, our salvation (at least in terms of predestination and election).

    As a Catholic, I still do hold to a high view of God’s sovereignty in our salvation. However, my previous, Calvinist understanding of Romans 9 had been terribly hampered by a lack of knowledge that the chapter is almost impossible to accurately understand without a serious examination of Old Testament passages to which St. Paul refers– and which the Jewish Christians of *that time* would have understood, in context, but which many Protestants (including Calvin) have not understood, and do not understand, in context.

    To be very clear, I’m not speaking from any place of pride here, as if to say that, “I have figured out God’s sovereignty, in Romans 9 and elsewhere in the Bible, whereas Calvin misunderstood it.” There is still so much that I do not fully “get” in the Bible. In this vein, Romans 9 (and the entire matter of God’s sovereignty and our will in Scripture) is much more complicated and nuanced than I once thought as a Calvinist.

    I quoted Romans 9 so assuredly to non-Calvinists, and Romans 1, and the first and second chapters of Ephesians, and the passages of Exodus about God and Pharoah… basically, I quoted, to others, almost everything that you have quoted to me to argue for a “correct, Biblical” (i.e. Calvinist) understanding of the Scriptures.

    However, the hard fact is, for most of those “Calvinist” years, I simply did not seriously take into account historic Catholic exegesis on God’s sovereignty and our will in Scripture. I did not (seriously) take this exegesis into account, largely, because I had been taught by Protestant pastors (from their interpretations of Scripture) that the Catholic Church has the Gospel itself wrong– so I reasoned, why should I spend much time on Catholic exegesis on Romans 9, or on any other book of the Bible, when they can’t even get the Gospel right?

    This reasoning led me, alternately, to ignore *most* of the Church Father’s writings, spanning over 1,500 years, while concentrating on Scripture, as according to my interpretation of it, and the interpretations of the pastors and theologians whom I chose to read. This was a *serious* oversight on my part. The Church Fathers had been doing Biblical exegesis of great depth, from the point just after Christ and the original apostles died, up to the Reformation… and I had ignored most of it, only dipping into their writings occasionally, to see how sometimes, some of them “seemed” to agree with my interpretations of Scripture, while, sadly, many of them just didn’t “get it”– “it” being the seeming truth(s) of the Protestant Gospel that I thought Luther and Calvin had “rediscovered” in Scripture, after that Gospel had been so long “denied” or “obscured” by the Catholic Church.

    I missed out on so much, Curt. I missed out on (for the most part) 1, 500 years of writing by people deeply devoted to Christ *and* His Gospel (not that the two can really be separated!)… and, I eventually learned, to His Church, which I had fought against vociferously, but in ignorance, as a Protestant.

    I thank God that in time, my ignorance eventually showed itself *not* to be invincible… and I learned what the Catholic Church truly teaches. I learned so much about *Scripture*, as I studied it and the Fathers’ exegesis of it… and in time, I had to return the Catholic Church.

    I still haven’t gotten to actual *exegesis* of Romans 9, but Lord willing, in my next reply to you, I will do so! Thanks again for your patience, brother! In the meantime, you might find this site to be interesting, if you haven’t already perused it. It was created by a Calvinist who became Catholic: http://www.churchfathers.org/

  333. P.S. Curt, as I’ve, unfortunately, had to write here before, for other comments of mine, please excuse my typos in the above comment.

    Take Cerebral Palsy, and combine it with fatigue (which eventually comes for me, when typing comments of more than a few paragraphs, as my CP causes me to type somewhat slowly, which then makes commenting take longer…), and then, combine CP *and* fatigue with a lack of a professional editor at my current place of residence… and well, you have my comments! :-)

    I had better stop for the night before typos strike again! :-) Lord willing, I will be back relatively soon, rested and refreshed! God bless, brother! :-)

  334. Brother Chris

    Thanks so much for all you do! I know I’m not an easy sell when it come to theology, but I am happy to be as patient as needed because I am interested in your story… particularly the Scriptural exegesis that became the turning points for you.

    Blessings (and rest!) brother
    Curt

  335. Curt (#329)
    <blockquote)If God changes our will, then I think we are saying the same thing with semantics sprinkled in for good measure.
    Well…

    As Paul said, our nature is totally incapable of choosing good.

    Is it our nature – or our fallen nature? And does regeneration not change that fallen nature so that it ceases, in principle, to be fallen, and – God granting us the grace of final perseverance – ultimately is unfallen entirely? And if…

    Thus God’s will must trump our will for us to do good

    This word ‘trumps’ – what do you mean by it? It still seems to me you are saying that God’s Will simply ignores our will – and what I think I am saying is that it changes our will so that we can and do will the true good – us doing the willing.

    jj

  336. Dear Curt (re#320):

    Your post just showed up in the last hour — not sure when you sent it, given the time difference (I’m on Pacific Time).

    You wrote: “So, technically yes, you answered my question… but for me it did not answer the theological point.”

    I agree with you that it does not answer the theological point, but it does help with laying a foundation Romans 8 and the Gospel message of salvation. So when I have a little more time, we can move on to that phase. I am swamped with final papers today and tomorrow (I teach) so, it may have to wait for another day or two.

    I think it was JJ who said he thought a significant part of this might be as much an anthropological as it is theological question. To an extent I agree, though I might have said ontological instead. I saw that you kind of dismissed the heavily philosophical orientation of Dr. Feingold’s lecture. I am not sure this question can be fully explored without somephilosophy, since it involves what might be a difference of views on the nature of the human person.

    Anyway — be back when I have more time.

    God bless you on your journey with Him,
    Frank

  337. Curt

    You say that God’s will trumps our will. This would mean that God’s will overpowers our will and thus we would no longer have free will. I believe that God’s grace lifts us to do the good but that He never *trumps* our will. We are always able to reject the good and never forced to do God`s will. Thus Mary was able to say “may it be done unto me according to your will” and Jesus could say, “Not my will but yours be done” Both Mary and Jesus did the will of God but neither were forced into doing what God asked of them. We are always enlightened by God’s grace to do His will but it ultimately depends on us to submit or not.

    Blessings
    NHU

  338. To John and Nelson (#335 and 337):

    God completely “trumps” our unregenerate will in [Protestant] justification. (It’s stone-cold dead…not particularly difficult to trump! The fleshly will we possess at that time…sold out to the “prince of the power of the air” cannot really be said to be “ours”…and it’s certainly not one we’d want to hold on to.)

    Our regenerate will belongs to a new creation that WANTS to learn to obey the Good Shepherd. We actually “hear his voice,” according to Scripture. {Protestant] Sanctification is in this way an actual cooperation between God and Man. In other ways, however, his will still trumps our will: the Good Shepherd is there to guide, direct, and discipline. Shepherds routinely carried “rods and staves”–basically, cudgels for [gently] clubbing the sheepses back in line and crooks for putting a hook around their wayward little necks!

    If it’s a choice between (1.) my stumbling on a narrow ridge and plunging over a precipice to the rocks below and (2.) feeling a hook yanked ’round my scruffy little neck and dragged to safety…I’ll take the hook every time.

    You Catholics evidently believe yourselves to have been left alone to wander…to enjoy your “freedom.” Coming along with the rest of the flock when you feel like it, running off to cavort when that suits your fancy, or even jumping off a cliff when the cares of life overwhelm you. (The Catholic Christ grants you grace to keep up with the other sheep when you’re traipsing along with the herd. Where does he go when you choose to follow another path?)

    He came and got me.

    In the “trumping” love of Christ,

    –Eric

  339. Eric, (re#338),

    Welcome back. You have been in my daily prayers since your last visit to C2C (if you are the same Eric).

    Would you care to provide any evidence for these assertions:

    You Catholics evidently believe yourselves to have been left alone to wander…to enjoy your “freedom.” Coming along with the rest of the flock when you feel like it, running off to cavort when that suits your fancy, or even jumping off a cliff when the cares of life overwhelm you.

    It would seem rather that Protestants are the ones left to wander in the primacy of their individual consciences, without a Magisterium to authoritatively preserve and teach the Deposit of Faith.

    And can you clarify this for me?

    {Protestant] Sanctification is in this way an actual cooperation between God and Man. In other ways, however, his will still trumps our will.

    When are you cooperating and when are you being trumped (could you give examples)? And how do you know which is which?

    Blessings,
    Frank

  340. Hi Eric,

    If you mean that God’s will trumps our will because He is God that is true. However God does not force Himself upon us. He sends His grace to inform and enlighten us and gently entices us to Him. But He never *forces* us to comply with His will. We always have the ability to reject His will. If this were not the case we would be robots, unable to decide for ourselves.

    Even Adam and Eve with all the Grace of God were able to reject God’s will and go against Sanctifying Grace. You state Eric, that Jesus will ultimately pull us to safety if we wander into danger. This is not so if we insist on getting into dangerous situations. It is our decision to make whether we heed His warnings or not.

    As a catholic we are not left alone to wander. But neither are we turned into compliant robots. We are given the Grace of God to know right from wrong. We are given the Grace of God to submit our will to God’s will but never does He impose His will upon us. Even with Sanctifying Grace within us there is still the freedom of our will. We are still able to turn away from the Good Shepherd and loose our way. His Grace within us can convert our way of thinking, if we allow it so that we willingly submit to God but at no time does He coerce us to submit.

    As far as traipsing along with the herd is concerned, our submission to God is no more a traipsing along with the herd than your submission to God is. But as for wandering off ( I suspect that this would mean falling into sin) it would be no worse than anyone else`s sinning. If we fall off the cliff we die. That would be known as loosing our salvation.

    You said,

    “If it’s a choice between (1.) my stumbling on a narrow ridge and plunging over a precipice to the rocks below and (2.) feeling a hook yanked ’round my scruffy little neck and dragged to safety…I’ll take the hook every time. “

    Of course you would take the hook every time. However there are those who do not and who knows their reasons. Because Jesus is our Shepherd does not mean the freedom of our will is gone. His will strengthens us and enlightens us and regenerates us , but as Adam and Eve had the ability to reject God even while God lived within them through Sanctifying Grace so do we have that freedom of will to “go our own way” to our detriment .

    Blessings
    NHU

  341. Eric (re:#338),

    As I just wrote to Alicia in another thread, Catholics have not been “left alone” to wander in our “freedom” at all. We have a visible, living, speaking, teaching authority, founded by Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit, in her official teaching on matters of faith and morals, to which we *submit*, and which can *correct* us when we go astray.

    By contrast, Protestants *must* finally go with their subjective sense that they have interpreted the Scriptures correctly, by comparing Scripture with Scripture (but always being *free*, and finally *enjoined*, to choose to go with the Scriptures which seem “clearest” to them), via the claimed illumination of the Holy Spirit (even though every Protestant demonination differs with others) and the help of Biblical commentaries.

    In that light of the above, which paradigm is more founded upon, and ending in, freedom and personal autonomy– the Catholic one, or that of any branch of Protestantism?

    Eric (if you are the same “formerly Catholic” Eric who commented at CTC not too long ago), when you were a Catholic, what did you take to be authoritative– the Magisterium’s understanding of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, up to and including Vatican II, or your own interpretation of these things, even when it conflicted with the Magisterium’s official statements? The former paradigm is the Catholic one. The latter is (still) Protestant, and therefore, personally autonomous.

  342. Eric,

    As a convert to Catholicism who experiences sins of commission and of omission, I would note that I use the sacrament of reconciliation or, if you prefer, “auricular confession,” where I admit to particular sins before a priest given the faculty of hearing confessions and granting absolution. (This faculty is given to the priest by his bishop who is a successor to the apostles.) The priest then decides if my sin is forgivable and if it is, he gives me absolution and assigns a penance. (Good news! Whatever the unforgivable sin is, I haven’t committed it.)

    Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, they are retained.

    I would note that I do my best to get them all out. I don’t want to keep any of them and I don’t want to remain estranged from Jesus due to sin. I don’t care how bad it is, I confess (admit) it. At the conclusion of confession, I commonly experience something that I appear to share with many of my peers, relief and renewal. I am no longer carrying a burden I was never equal to carrying in the first place. I am no longer estranged from the Lord due to my action or inaction.

    Authority has a real place and it benefits me to surrender to that Authority as He exercises it through His Church.

    Cordially,

    dt

  343. Curt and Alicia,

    Well, as I am continuing to prepare to offer a faithfully Catholic (and faithful to the Bible, which makes sense, given that the Church wrote and codified the New Testament!) exegesis of Romans 9, I see that my brother, Nicholas, in another thread here, offers a link wherein he has already done such an exegesis which basically makes the same case that I was going to make, explicitly from Scripture! Thank you, Nicholas! Here is the link: http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2012/03/does-romans-9-condemn-unconditional.html

    I still plan to offer some exegetical thoughts (soon) on Romans 9 though. I am not done with this subject here! :-)

    It is *very important* to know that differing views on election and predestination are allowed by the Catholic Church for her members. This entails then, basically, that the Church allows for differing interpretations of St. Paul’s teaching in Romans 9.

    This allowance by the Church does not mean that Catholic Biblical teaching degenerates into ultimate exegetical subjectivism though. Again, we have the Magisterium’s visible teaching authority, to which Catholics are called to finally submit. The Church has not told us how we *must* interpret Romans 9, but she has told us how we *cannot* interpret it. This may not seem very helpful, but it is actually greatly helpful, and it is a clear alternative to the centuries-old situation in Protestantism, wherein exegetical/theological fights between Calvinism and Arminianism have resulted in the splitting of so many ecclesial communities, and in the founding of entire new Protestant denominations, numerous times, within single centuries (let alone within the entire 500 years of Protestantism).

    The two major differing schools of thought, within the Church, on election and predestination, are, briefly, the Thomists and the Molinists. *Neither* of these interpretations is allowed to conflict with the official Church teaching (from before the New Testament was even formally codified into a *canon* by the Church!) that God predestines *no one* to damnation.

    Here is a link to an article, from “Catholic Answers” (via EWTN), which specifically examines the five points of Calvinism, and explains to what degree Catholics can agree with aspects of the five points, and where they *must* disagree, as Catholics, submitting to the Magisterium’s Christ-given teaching authority. http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/TULIP.htm

    Finally (at least until I can give my Catholic exegetical thoughts on Romans 9!), here is one last *very* helpful blog piece which looks at the questions of election and predestination, from within the context of Church history and Councils. The author includes numerous passages from the Catholic Catechism and various Church Councils on these matters (the author’s first language, I believe, is not English, so he makes a *few* grammatical mistakes in his English, but his grasp of Catholic teaching is good): http://vivacatholic.wordpress.com/2007/08/12/predestination-in-catholicism/

  344. Frank–

    I doubt I’m the other Eric. I’ve just started posting here. In the past I’ve read a good number of threads on c2c. Unfortunately. a lot of times you don’t get enough Reformed participation…so whoever does post gets piled on. Not your fault particularly, but it makes the site look like it only wants to preach to the choir or beat up on a few upstarts (and thus it gets dubbed a “recruitment” site). You’d fare better, I believe, if you actually had some staff personnel with an ongoing commitment to Reformed theology to balance things out a bit.

    We are all left to the primacy of our individual consciences. I simply choose to take responsibility for mine whilst you give yours away.

    Have you never experienced the leading of the Holy Spirit? One cooperates in moving toward Christ (and along with other sheep). One is whacked and dragged fiercely back when one strays. Hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it.

    Nelson–

    You need to study philosophic compatabilism. Calvinism is not deterministic. Nobody is a robot or a puppet (though that is what I thought, too, before I became Reformed). Being yanked back in line is not nearly the same as being a robot. By the way, I have gotten into more than my fair share of tight spots and dangerous places…and he has always come for me. Someone who is regenerate does not continue to “go his own way.” I’m as stupid and rebellious a sheep as the next, but I hear and respond to his voice when he calls.

    Christopher–

    It’s all very nice, warm, and fuzzy that you have the church to guide and protect you. I’d rather have Jesus. The church never claims to protect me from myself: Jesus does.

    There is absolutely no getting around subjective decision making. You feel “enlightened” to trust the church to interpret Scripture for you. I feel “enlightened” to interpret Scripture for myself because it is clear enough to do so. (As you probably feel the catechism is “clear enough,” and you don’t go off running to your priest all the time to interpret for you.) When Scripture is not as clear as I’d like, I do have commentaries and confessions and church tradition and mature believers and the Holy Spirit and prayer. I feel rather comfortable with that. Might I make mistakes? Sure, same as you might reading your favorite Catholic theologian or listening to your favorite priest…neither one of which may enjoy the full imprimatur of Rome. I have taught a boatload of Catholic students who don’t have the foggiest notion what the Church teaches. They have the Magisterium to rely on. What good has it done them?

    I actually like the fact there are so many denominations. It gives me something to choose from. Iron sharpens iron. I know from the coherence of their theology or the redemptiveness of their ministry how they stack up against other denominations. And denominations do not necessarily imply disunity. Pretty much ALL evangelical churches are in intercommunion with one another. They often greet each other when they first meet like long lost family. My wife and I were recently rear ended by a fellow evangelical. I think the responding officers were somewhat nonplussed by our transparent “chumminess.”

    Your “personal autonomy” question needs to be cleaned up a bit. Regenerate of unregenerate? Soteriology or interpretation of Scripture? I assume you mean interpretation.

    Catholics are constrained by the stance of the current Magisterium, basically the catechism.

    [Conservative] Protestants are constrained by the ecumenical creeds and councils, the historical confessions, grammatico-historical hermeneutics, and the perspicuous text of Scripture. So, Protestants have a little more leeway, but not much. And if you ever looked into it, you’d find that most evangelical churches’ statements of faith are more or less identical. (Distinctions in sacramentology and eschatology are the main differences. Polity doesn’t usually come up.)

    By the way, I’ve never been a member of the Catholic church. I have thought about joining…just to be the loyal opposition!

    Donald–

    A number of the Reformers, at least at first, held onto auricular confession. I actually believe it would be good to bring it back. Many Protestant groups have what they call “accountibility groups” where a small group of friends meet regularly to confess their sins to one another.

    I have to tell you that though I may feel ashamed for my sin, I never feel estranged from my Lord. Quite honestly, that doesn’t sound healthy. When I did wrong as a kid, I may have feared my dad’s discipline, but I never felt cut off from him, never felt unsure of his love.

    Thanks, guys!

    –Eric

  345. Dear Eric (re #334):

    I am not a member of the C2C staff, so you’d have to talk to them about your idea.

    You wrote:

    Have you never experienced the leading of the Holy Spirit? One cooperates in moving toward Christ (and along with other sheep). One is whacked and dragged fiercely back when one strays. Hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it.

    I most definitely do know this experience and it is the reason I am a Catholic. I spent 17 years at a conservative Reformed Church and saw first hand the effects of “primacy of individual conscience” when it came certain matters of sin and to “life” issues such as abortion. I saw how there was an inability to defend what I thought of as clear matters of moral conduct when my (and those who agreed with me) “Spirit-led” interpretation of Scripture could be effectively countered by someone else’s “Spirit-led” interpretation.

    The Holy Spirit led to me believe that our Lord would not leave his sheep without teachers who could be trusted to pass down the truths once for all delivered to the Apostles by Jesus Himself. And that same Spirit led me to know the early Church, its ecclesiastical structure, its hierarchy, its Sacraments. When I looked around, there was only one Church that had all these things, and it was not Presbyterian or Lutheran or Baptist or Methodist or non-denominational….it was the Catholic Church, the same founded by Him on the foundation of Peter and the Apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. And then He led me, trembling to my very core, back into the Confessional after 42 years, to be fully and finally cleansed of actual sin in accordance with John 20:23. It simply transformed my life.

    I will only comment on the matters you raised in your reply to me. But I would direct you to a fascinating post on this site which touches upon your comment about liking the variety of denominations.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  346. Eric (re:#344),

    Jesus does guide me. He guides me, objectively speaking, as I am a believing, practicing, member of the Church that He founded, when he ordained Peter and the other disciples and sent them out, saying to them, “Whoever hears you hears me.” That was the beginning of Christ-given, Christ-ordained apostolic succession. It continues today in the Catholic Church and in (although they reject the Papacy, which is problematic for unity) the Orthodox Church(es).

    Eric, I know about regeneration and soteriology. I used to be a passionate Calvinist, and quite an anti-Catholic one. Jesus graciously guided me, in many ways, then too (not in my anti-Catholicism though), but when it came to the interpretation of Scripture, I was finally *subject*, not to Christ, but to my own interpretation, through my personal study of the Bible and commentaries and Protestant books, and finally, as through my subjective sense that the Holy Spirit was “illuminating” these things for me.

    I said that I was “submitting to Scripture,” as a Protestant, but after all of my study of the Bible, *I* was the one who finally decided for myself what Scripture meant. I attributed it to the Holy Spirit, as a credobaptist, but I still always went with my interpretation of Scripture– just as Presbyterians go with their interpretations and are paedobaptists in their separate communities.

    The evidence that I was my final authority? Whenever I came to sufficiently disagree (“sufficiently,” as decided ultimately by me) with the exegesis of the Protestant pastors in the ecclesial community I was in– I left and found another Protestant community which agreed with *my* exegesis.

    I am off of that merry-go-round now, but not because I checked my brain at the door of the Catholic Church. Rather, I discovered the Church, in history and today, and *she* confronted *me* with who she is, and with who and what I was being, unwittingly, as a Protestant. I was an unwitting heretic. The “unwitting” part diminished my culpability for the heresy, but once I realized where I was actually standing, I had to return to the Church.

    As St. Irenaeus wrote in 189 A.D., in “Against Heresies”:

    “It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    and:

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).”

    (Source: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/apostolic-succession/)

  347. Eric,

    P.S. I must have left out something for the “block quoting” on that last, powerful passage from St. Irenaeus– which predates, by 200 years, the formal codifying of the New Testament canon at a Catholic Church council. The point of the passage stands, and it was an indictment of me as a Protestant. I genuinely loved Christ though, which is why I had to return to His Church. I had left her many years earlier, not realizing what I was objectively doing at the time (i.e. rejecting His Church).

  348. Hi Eric,

    I was not accusing anyone of being a robot. What I was trying to say was that if God *trumps* our will then we are left without free will and become like robots. I think we all have free will and no one is a robot. That was my point. We all can stray from the path and Jesus will get our attention to bring us back without forcing the issue. ( In other words God does not make us do what we don’t want to do.) I agree with you that those who are regenerate will “hear His voice” and return but there are still some who will be lost and will not return. They do surely “ go their own way” by their own choices.

    Blessings
    NHU

  349. JJ re 335

    Been busy but I’m back :-) …

    You asked…
    Is it our nature – or our fallen nature? And does regeneration not change that fallen nature so that it ceases, in principle, to be fallen, and – God granting us the grace of final perseverance – ultimately is unfallen entirely?

    I respond…
    Our nature IS fallen. If regeneration changed our nature so that it ceased to be fallen, we would not sin once we were saved.

    You asked…
    This word ‘trumps’ – what do you mean by it? It still seems to me you are saying that God’s Will simply ignores our will – and what I think I am saying is that it changes our will so that we can and do will the true good – us doing the willing.

    I respond…
    If God’s will changes our will to do something good … something we would not have done on our own … then by default, God’s will ignores our will in favor of His. Either His will changes our will sufficiently to do something good or it doesn’t. If He does, then I can claim no merit… it is His will that decides.

    Blessings
    Curt

  350. Christopher re 343

    Hello brother. I took a look at the links you supplied and found them very interesting. It seems to be that somewhere between Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent, Catholic teaching took a major turn regarding the concept of “unconditional election” …

    Your link from “Catholic Answers” (via EWTN) supplies the following:

    Thomas Aquinas wrote, “God wills to manifest his goodness in men: in respect to those whom he predestines, by means of his mercy, in 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…. Yet why he chooses some for glory and reprobates others has no reason except the divine will. Hence Augustine says, ‘Why he draws one, and another he draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish to err.'”

    The Council of Trent stated, “If anyone says that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God produces the evil as well as the good works, not only by permission, but also properly and of himself, so that the betrayal of Judas is no less his own proper work than the vocation of Paul, let him be anathema…. If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is attained by those only who are predestined unto life, but that all others, who are called, are called indeed, but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.”

    One can only assume that those at Trent were unaware of Aquinas (not likely, we would agree) or they had other motives for the decisions they made.

    I found “Nicks blog” regarding Romans 9 to be woefully incomplete. While he makes a wonderfully yet labored New Testament argument regarding the meaning of Romans 9 (roughly, the Jewish vs gentile inheritance argument), he totally fails to acknowledge that God chose the Jews to be the “chosen people” in the first place, and that by this choice, God also did not choose others. He therefore looks at God’s (sovereignty in choosing the elect) only through the eyes of a 21st century Christian… not in the total context of Biblical history.

    Blessings
    Curt

  351. Christopher re 345

    To summarize my understanding of your comment: you came to the Catholic Church, in part, because you believe the “apostolic succession” that Irenaeus spoke of in 189 a.d. continues to this day in the Roman Catholic Church. If we were to “de facto” accept Irenaeus’ statement as accurate through 189 a.d., what subsequently guarantees it’s truth to the present? Hint: The “we are because we say we are” is the argument the Jews used unsuccessfully in Romans 9.

    Irenaeus made several other statements worth to noting… First, I find it interesting that he describes the church founders as “Peter and Paul”, not just Peter. Further, and more seriously, he chastises “all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper”. Many would argue that this describes the Roman church during the “dark periods”. They might also argue that the reformers held more closely to the teachings of the early apostles than did the Roman church of the 1500s.

    Blessings
    Curt

  352. Nelson re 340

    You said:
    If you mean that God’s will trumps our will because He is God that is true. However God does not force Himself upon us. He sends His grace to inform and enlighten us and gently entices us to Him. But He never *forces* us to comply with His will. We always have the ability to reject His will. If this were not the case we would be robots, unable to decide for ourselves.

    I believe God loves the sheep too much for this to be accurate. I’ll reiterate an example I posted earlier… When we grab a childs hand in the parking lot… is it our will or theirs that keeps them from harm? Ours right? Likewise, when we let our kid choose not to wear a coat on a winter day, it is still our will that allows them to choose (badly) so they may learn a lesson. Yet, if they want to choose to do something that has life and death consequences, we will certainly keep them from it… why? … because we love them. Thus, while our child may think they have some options to choose, the reality is that our will trumps their will to protect them from fatal choices. While we may occasionally fail to protect our kids because we are not omnipotent and omnipresent, God never fails to protect His sheep from death bad choices. I believe this is how God works with us. As Jesus said:

    John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    The sheep are protected from harm… both externally and internally inflicted … and preserved for God’s glory.

    Just a thought…
    Curt

  353. Christopher–

    If you used to be a vehement Protestant, then you know that we don’t consider the Roman church to be either “catholic” OR the “church that Christ founded.” Though I do believe the invisible church to be the “church that Christ founded,” I’m not going to beat you over the head with it every chance I get. If I were a “Catholic” on this site, I’d ditch that phrase as it makes you sound arrogant or petulant or worse. I EXPECT you to believe it or you wouldn’t be Catholic. I also expect you NOT to say it in respectful inter-dialogue. (Where exactly does the Missouri River end? Just north of St. Louis? Or in the Mississippi Delta? The Democratic-Republican Party is actually the predecessor of both current major US political parties. [D-R to National Republican to Whig to Republican]. So why couldn’t the GOP call itself the “party of Jefferson”? After all, neither party bears any resemblance to its originators.)

    Where in the world do you get the notion anyway that Christ set up a centralized church? (And if he did, why would it not be located in Jerusalem, as per Acts 15?)

    After his conversion, Paul didn’t combine with the established church for quite some time:

    “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.”

    Later, though commissioned by Antioch, he appears to act independent of hierarchical control.

    Clearly, there’s no evidence that the apostles continued to work together as a unit, but dispersed every which way. Why is Peter’s Roman church “apostolic”? Why not Thomas’s Mar Toma church in India? Or Mark’s Coptic church in Alexandria? Or Andrew’s churches in Georgia, the Ukraine, and perhaps even Scotland? Because of one obscure verse in Matthew?

    Evidently, someone forgot to tell Christ about the mandatory institutional unity:

    “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”

    Sorry, but the whole thing ticks me off. I’ll not bring it up again. By the way, you can come to my church and take communion. I’ll call you a brother and slap my hand around your back: another member of the invisible church…the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church! (The one that more than talks about unity. The one that doesn’t exclude other believing Christians. The one that works for the kingdom motivated solely by love and thanksgiving. The one that has members inside and out the so-called “catholic” church. The one that follows the teachings of all 12 apostles instead of one. Oh, and Paul, too!)

    Sorry again. Say, if you ever need a cup of water, I’ll bring it to you. Just say the word….

    Yes, Jesus guides you until you turn aside onto a wrong path…and there he abandons you. My Jesus is there…every step of the way.

    I am in NO WAY subject to my own interpretation. Oh, ye of little faith! I have been taught all kinds of things by Scripture that I didn’t like one little bit. C.S. Lewis speaks of being the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. I was brought kicking and screaming into the Reformed fold.

    You TRUST the Holy Spirit to work through your version of the church. I TRUST the Holy Spirit to work through my version of the church. In the trusting part, both of us are subjective. All you’re actually saying is “My church is better than your church! Nya-nya-nya!” Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that. I don’t think there’s any good evidence for it (and a good deal of evidence to the contrary).

    You say you “submitted” to Scripture as a Protestant. When you did that, how much of what you believed was wrong as a result? Did you forsake the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the hope of glory? Did you quit believing in sin and repentance and absolution? Did you stop going to church or loving your brother? What consensus orthodox Christian view did you lay down?

    Did you change any of these things when you became a Catholic?

    No, all you got was a “clear-cut view” on the sacraments and the “correct” polity of the church! (By the way, some Protestants believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, even her Assumption, even some aspects of her immaculacy.)

    And no, you didn’t “check your brain at the door” or you wouldn’t bother to keep discussing these things on a website like this. What you did do is get on that little train that goes around the amusement park. You can see the zip lines and roller coasters and tilt-a-whirls from a distance in complete safety.

    It’s safe, but it’s not a lot of fun! Getting off and having an adventure is, I admit, a little scary. There are all kinds of temptations and risks. But if you are truly his child, Jesus is there right beside you. I believe he wants you to climb right on to that infernal merry-go-round and discover the truth for yourself. What do you think life is for?

    But hey, if you’d rather be spoon fed….

    Oh, and if I’m an unwitting heretic, then at least I’m an unwitting heretic who loves his living Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. I trust myself in his gracious hands.

    Of course, from my vantage point, you’d probably be better off in a different church. I will pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your (and in my) life. He knows the truth, and he will not let us down.

    Your quote, by the by, I think proves too much. Irenaeus speaks of “the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world.”

    And, as J.N.D. Kelly has observed, “Where in practice was the apostolic testimony or tradition to be found?
    . . . The most obvious answer was that the apostles had committed it orally to the Church, where it had been handed down from generation to generation. . . . Unlike the alleged secret tradition of the Gnostics, it was entirely public and open, having been entrusted by the apostles to their successors, and by these in turn to those who followed them, and was visible in the Church for all who cared to look for it” (Early Christian Doctrines, 37).

    It was entirely public and open. The Jewish oral tradition [The Mishnah] was written down in about 200 CE in order that it might be “entirely public and open.” This is something the Roman Catholic version of oral tradition has never attained. Are you all Gnostic by any chance? You run the same risks! (Oh, and by the way, why does the Roman church not accept the Jewish oral tradition? If the New Testament has written and oral components, then why not the O.T.?)

    I like to frolic around a lot with words. I beg you not to take my playfulness too seriously. I mean no offense.

    In the end, we are both in His hands…

    –Eric

  354. Curt (#352)
    I was just thinking about this whole God’s-will-vs-my-will business the other day – reflecting on the stuff that you and I both said.

    It seems to me that you must, at most, be saying that God’s will trumps ours in certain specific instances. I mean, you say:

    The sheep are protected from harm… both externally and internally inflicted … and preserved for God’s glory.

    When I sin, evidently God’s Will has not trumped mine – yet sin certainly harms me internally.

    From this:

    …if they want to choose to do something that has life and death consequences…

    So do I infer that you mean God will prevent us from doing something that will cause us to lose our salvation – but not otherwise?

    jj

  355. Curt (#349)

    Our nature IS fallen. If regeneration changed our nature so that it ceased to be fallen, we would not sin once we were saved.

    I guess it comes down to what ‘fallen’ means. My understanding of human natural capacities (such as free will) is that they are damaged by original sin, restored to the capacity of choosing God’s Will by regeneration – but only gradually strengthened actually to choose His Will as we grow in grace.

    So I don’t think that regeneration changes our nature, but begins the process of restoring it.

    Of course what you say here is true in some senses:

    If God’s will changes our will to do something good … something we would not have done on our own … then by default, God’s will ignores our will in favor of His. Either His will changes our will sufficiently to do something good or it doesn’t. If He does, then I can claim no merit… it is His will that decides.

    I just would quarrel with the word ‘ignore’ there. To go to childish analogies (which has been done before in this discussion :-)), if a father gives his son a dollar, and the son knows that it would be good to use part of it to buy his father a birthday gift, the son is meritorious in a sense if he does what he knows what his father would like. But of course the dollar was a gift – and – here the analogy is limited – the gift of life itself was through (if not from) the father – and that enabled the son to give the gift.

    Catholics distinguish between strict merit – which none of us can every have – and condign merit – the merit that accrues to doing by grace what we should. But we can do nothing at all without grace, and all that we do that is meritorious is by grace.

    It is what I think St Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 3 – about ‘rewards’ – surely that is the same language??

    jj

  356. Curt (re #350): You wrote:

    One can only assume that those at Trent were unaware of Aquinas (not likely, we would agree) or they had other motives for the decisions they made.

    Did you know (this is from Bryan Cross’ “Aquinas and Trent – Part I”):

    According to Pope Leo XIII, there were three books granted the honor of being placed on the altar at the Council of Trent. One was the Bible, one was the Decretals, and the other was Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. This does not mean that they believed the Summa to be equivalent in authority to Scripture, or that it was to be blindly received as an infallible commentary upon Scripture. Rather, it indicates how much respect the bishops at Trent had for the Summa as summarizing the Church’s organic tradition through which Scripture was to be understood.

    So whatever disagreement or dissonance you think you have found between St. Thomas and The Council of Trent is due to some incorrect reading of same on your part. There is a very nuanced meaning to “reprobate” in Aquinas that is quite different from the one used by Calvin (it’s somewhere here on C2C and I will try to find it), and this misunderstanding is the reason Aquinas is erroneously read, by some, as consonant with Calvinist double predestination — a doctrine explicitly rejected by the Church (and Aquinas).

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  357. Curt, (re#350):

    Regarding double predestination, there are two passages in Aquinas that have to be read together to get his whole view. These are Q.23, Articles 3 and 6 of the Summa.

    The first (Art. 3), in reply to the question as to whether God reprobates any man, he writes:

    I answer that, God does reprobate some. For it was said above (Article 1) that predestination is a part of providence. To providence, however, it belongs to permit certain defects in those things which are subject to providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 2). Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is a part of providence, in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation, so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Question 22, Article 1). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin.

    The second, in his response to the question as to whether predestination is of necessity (Art. 6), he writes:

    I answer that, Predestination most certainly and infallibly takes effect; yet it does not impose any necessity, so that, namely, its effect should take place from necessity. For it was said above (Article 1), that predestination is a part of providence. But not all things subject to providence are necessary; some things happening from contingency, according to the nature of the proximate causes, which divine providence has ordained for such effects. Yet the order of providence is infallible, as was shown above (Question 22, Article 4). So also the order of predestination is certain; yet free-will is not destroyed; whence the effect of predestination has its contingency. Moreover all that has been said about the divine knowledge and will (14, 13; 19, 4) must also be taken into consideration; since they do not destroy contingency in things, although they themselves are most certain and infallible.

    As is clear from these two articles: 1) the reprobation is not active, but occurs by God’s permissive will; and 2) predestination does not destroy free will. This is not the Calvinist/Romans 9 view of “predestination”, which was an entirely novel doctrine that (somehow) no one had thought of until the 1530’s. And there is no dissonance between Aquinas and Trent on this matter.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  358. Eric (re:#353),

    You requested that I not, in “respectful inter-dialogue” with Protestants, describe the Catholic Church as the “Church that Christ founded.”

    With respectful inter-dialogue in mind, in your previous comment to me (#344) (*before* I wrote the one to you with my “offensive” statement), you wrote:

    It’s all very nice, warm, and fuzzy that you have the church to guide and protect you. I’d rather have Jesus. The church never claims to protect me from myself: Jesus does.

    Eric, how respectful are your above statements to me, as a Catholic?

    Consider this, from your latest comment:

    It’s safe, but it’s not a lot of fun! Getting off and having an adventure is, I admit, a little scary. There are all kinds of temptations and risks. But if you are truly his child, Jesus is there right beside you. I believe he wants you to climb right on to that infernal merry-go-round and discover the truth for yourself. What do you think life is for?

    But hey, if you’d rather be spoon fed….

    Eric, when I described myself as an “unwitting heretic” as a Protestant, I was indicting *myself*. I didn’t realize it in those years, but the fact is, as a Calvinist, I held to doctrines (such as double predestination) that the early Christians did *not* believe, and by which they would have likely been deeply scandalized.

    I did painful, humbling, sometimes agonizing, research and study, in Scripture, and in the writings of the Church Fathers, before I returned to the Catholic Church. I found out that if I had lived in 189 A.D., with my “Calvinistic” beliefs on election and predestination, yes, I would have been considered a heretic. I also would have been considered a heretic for not submitting to my local bishop, for interpreting Scripture according to my own understanding (as supposedly illuminated by the Holy Spirit), rather than the understanding the Catholic Church, and for not believing in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

    I have done the research, Eric. This was the early Christian Church– and it was Catholic in belief and practice. As a start, for the Scriptural basis, please consider Matthew 16:18-19 and John 20-19-23 (from the Protestant ESV translation):

    18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    19 On the evening dof that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, m“Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

    (Sources: http://www.esvbible.org/Matthew+16.18-19/ and http://www.esvbible.org/search/John+20%3A19-23/)

    Would the pastors/elders/seminary presidents in your Protestant denomination, when sending men out for formal ministry, *dare* to use Jesus’s exact words to his disciples in John 20:19-23? When Jesus breathed on them (a sign of ordination for ministry in that context) and sent them out, He gave them the authority to forgive *and* to retain the sins of others– others who had not, seemingly, sinned against *them* in any personal way. Has Christ given the leaders in your denomination (or non-denominational ecclesiastical community, if that be the case) the authority to forgive the sins of others and to retain them? Catholic priests have that Christ-given authority, as they are in the line of apostolic succession, directly from the original apostles. This is history, not fabricated Catholic mythology. (The Church’s list of Popes goes from St. Peter in 70 A.D. to Benedict XVI in 2005, still currently on the chair of Peter.)

    If you want to look into the world of the early Christians, centuries before the New Testament canon was codified, to see if their beliefs *really were* yours, this site provides a start (but only a start– there is much more). It’s a small window into the research that I did, which, with Scripture, brought me back to the Catholic Church. If you are interested in doing it too: http://www.churchfathers.org/

    On the question of Biblical interpretation and “submitting to Scrpture,” when you finally became convinced of Reformed theology, was it *your* interpretation of Scripture that led to that conclusion? As a Catholic, I cannot simply follow my own interpretation of Scripture wherever it may lead– and I thank God for that fact. It keeps me from unwitting heresy.

    The Holy Spirit guides the Church to protect me, and to protect all Catholics (now, whether they *listen* to the Church or not is their own choice– many don’t listen, and as a result, just don’t know Catholic teaching ), from heresies such as double predestination and the “purely symbolic” view of the Lord’s Supper (Baptist) or the “Christ as mystically, but not physically, present” view of the Eucharist, to which Calvin subscribed.

    Again, if you don’t think that at least one or two of these views is a heresy, why not do some research into the early Christians of 150 or 200 A.D. , from their own writings, to see what they believed about these matters? The New Testament canon, itself, wasn’t formally settled and codified until *397 A.D.*, at a Catholic Church Council.

  359. Dear Eric,

    The love I have and live with my wife and family is very public, but none of it is written down. Something need not be written down to be public. The Tradition of the Church has never been “secret”, it has always been in the bosom of the Church, expressed openly in Her teachings, piety and devotions and expressed ultimately in Her great liturgy.

    But a long discussion on Sacred Tradition would get us too far off the rails of this combox. So, I will only refer you to Bryan’s post on Tradition here and a very short, readable article by Mark Shea here.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

    *Please take this at best as a small note or at worst a small couch pillow thrown, not a “piling on” in any sense of the phrase. : )

  360. Brother Eric

    As a fellow protestant, I am probably a strong in my Calvinistic beliefs as you, but when I read your posts, they come across as written by one who has had a few too many cups of espresso. As an outsider, I try to keep on point while respecting that others disagree. We’re all seeking the truth, and discussions that shed light will bring the truth forward. Conversely, comments that devolve into “we/they” serve no purpose. It’s an artform I have had to learn myself. Just encouraging you to work at it a bit… switch to decaf bro, and let’s keep comparing notes with our brothers!

    Blessings
    Curt

  361. JJ

    Re 354…

    You said…
    It seems to me that you must, at most, be saying that God’s will trumps ours in certain specific instances.

    I respond…
    Yes, that would be correct. God gives us free will to choose up to a point. I think I would argue further and say that it is “apparent free will” in that, He lets us think we are choosing, but He is really orchestrating our “choices”. Our sin nature still causes us to make bad choices, but God intervenes to keep us on His path.

    Re 355…

    Let me begin with a basically true generalization: Fundamentally, the Catholic church speaks of “merits” in sanctification which contribute to a person’s ultimate salvation according to Catholic theology. I am postulating that our good works are the result of grace, and undeserving of merits for my personal benefit. I think the verse you cited disambiguates this perfectly:

    I Cor 3:14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

    My understanding is this: If by grace we build upon the Kingdom, we receive a reward in heaven. If, by our sinful will we do a lousy job, we receive little or no reward in heaven… but we still are saved. The key here is whether our works are salvific or not. I say not. The Catholic Church says they are, when combined with initial grace. I say our works are wholely the result of grace and therefore of no merit to my salvation, only to the Kingdom. The Catholic Church says we get a dose of grace and then God leaves it up to us. I say God predestined us for salvation and protects us from making “fatal” choices. The Catholic Church believes that God predestined us for salvation and then threw it back to us… as if somehow we are better than Adam. I know I’m reaching wide with generalizations here, but that’s basically the difference as I see it. When God gave us “initial grace” He didn’t ask if we wanted it because He knew we would have said no (at least that’s Paul’s view). He did it anyway… because He loves us that much. My will was not a part of the equation. Why would He then leave it to us to earn the rest of the way to final salvation, knowing that our will is still sinful? It just would be inconsistent… sort of like a parent who pays for their kid to go to Harvard … and then gives them the car keys when the kid is drunk. This would not be perfect love.

    Blessings
    Curt

  362. JJ

    Another point to ponder regarding free will… I was sitting here thinking how many things God has chosen for us already. These choices did not involve our free will, yet they have had a huge impact on our lives. First, He chose to create us. He did this before the beginning of time. He chose where we would be born… Dallas or Delhi? … who our parents would be… Fred & Gloria or Sajiv & Sabeena? … who our brothers and sisters would be… whether we would be born into wealth or poverty… He chose what church we would grow up in… and who would be the pastor of that church. He chose what words would constitute Scripture we read. Most importantly, He chose out of pure love to send His son to the cross for us. If I can live with all of these choices that a sovereign God has made for me, how hard is it to believe that He makes other choices in my life even now? This seems perfectly consistent with His nature. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. How does He do this if someone’s will is not sometimes trumped?

    Food for thought… 2:30am… hittin’ the rack!

    Curt

  363. Frank (re #356)

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time to get into this in detail now, but I submit that there is not much difference between a “Calvinist” view of predestination and the view of some rigorist or strict “Thomists” that are perfectly orthodox as far as the Church is concerned – this mainly goes to the issue of reprobation.

    However, I want to note as to “contingency” and “free will,” the Calvinist scheme is compatible with St. Thomas and the Thomists – the fact that “contingency” and “free will” remain despite the infallibility of predestination has nothing to do with the real possibility that the moral agent could in fact act differently – he could not in fact do the opposite action – but by the nature or essence of the secondary cause (the will) itself, which is created “free” by its Creator: the will is not necessitated (i.e., remains “free) because the object of its choice, any particular action it takes, has a negative aspect (a non-good aspect) that has a kind of drag on the action, and hence the will is not compelled. Only that which is completely good (i.e. God) could compel or necessitate the will – such as if one were to behold God “face to face,” the will would be compelled to move to (choose) Him.
    In this created order, we do not encounter God “face to face,” and our wills are “free.”

    The “evil” of some of the infallibly decreed actions of the moral agent comes in via the evil motive of the human actor, which God does not cause. But that the agent’s hand will strike, etc. is infallibly decreed. Both a Catholic and a Calvinist could agree on this.

    Anyway, as to free will, consider your second citation from St. Thomas against this:

    Westminster Confession, Chapter V, Of Providence

    II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly;[8] yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

    There is no conflict between St. Thomas and the Calvinists as to the existence of “free” or “contingent” secondary causes, and I suggest (and hope to add more later) that there is essentially no conflict between the Calvinist notion of reprobation and a permissibly orthodox Catholic understanding of the same.

  364. Here’s another Calvinist expression recognizing the freedom of the will:

    1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

    Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree

    1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
    ( Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5 )

  365. Christopher–

    I wasn’t actually offended by your “church Christ founded” claim. I just don’t think it’s a smart thing to say: my church goes all the way back to Christ and–by implication–yours doesn’t. The Roman Catholic church is either valid or it isn’t…and its [external] pedigree is not going to win any arguments. Most Protestants are just going to tell you–and mean it–that they follow the actual Catholic church re-established in 1517 or thereabouts (and that you are in the post-Vatican version of the Tridentine church, established in 1563).

    The Temple in Jerusalem was really nothing special unless the Shekinah Glory resided therein, making it the dwelling place of God on earth. When it left during the Exile, it was no longer a Jewish temple in any real sense. Much later, Augustine when speaking of the thicket of weeds and bramble left on the site of the Temple’s destruction, sees it as a sign that the Spirit of God left the Jews and henceforth would reside with the Catholic church. (A good number of Jews still believe the Shekinah to be resident in the Western [“Wailing”] Wall, which is perhaps part of the foundation of the Second Temple…or actually, the Herodian renovation of it.)

    Does the Spirit of God reside in some special fashion with the Roman church? Perhaps, perhaps not. But age alone doesn’t get us anywhere. (Or else, why not go with the Copts or the Armenians or heck, the Syriac Orthodox Church…they still do the liturgy in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke!) So I don’t give a fig if you were established by Moses. Does the Spirit of God reside in you?

    I’m not likely to get offended by anything you have to say. Take off the kid gloves and let’s go a round or two. (You know the proverb: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!) I take very seriously a contention that arguments such as these are not about people, but ideas. You can trash my ideas from here to kingdom come. I myself do not come attached to them. I am merely looking for truth. And if you can help me along that path by exposing the inadequacies of my sacred cows…then so much the better. Try to keep in mind that I’m only being playful. I really am. Read Brent’s gracious reply to me. I’m much more like that at heart. Sometimes–especially when I get tired–I feel like poking and prodding will open up the discussion a little more, get people to say stuff that’s outside their sphere of safety. It’s probably not true, however, and I’ll try to be more consistently gentle. When we partake in dialog like this–across worldview divides–there will be a tendency to get really frustrated. Ever feel like banging your head against the wall because of something blind as blind can be some silly Protestant just ran by you?

    There is no such thing, Christopher, as “having done the research.” You do realize, don’t you, that two people could spend their entire lives studying the early church and come to very different conclusions? We are so terribly influenced by our circumstances and upbringing, by our peers, our careers and our tears. Your conversion to Catholicism was first and foremost for emotional rather than rational reasons (as mine to the Reformed faith). I have read an awful lot of Protestant to Catholic conversion stories, and have yet to see ONE exhibit a passionately adequate, let alone truly convicted understanding of sola fide. Scott Hahn, for example was absolutely clueless! He had never accepted it, and his “conversion” to what he already was comes as no surprise.

    Travel a hundred years prior to 189 CE, and you’ll be more than safe with your Calvinism. A couple of hundred years later, and your Tridentine understanding will get you labeled a heretic. Augustine WAS a double predestinarian, and semi-Augustinianism doesn’t get established till the Second Council of Orange in 529 CE. Mathetes (not his actual name, it just means “disciple”) writing to Diognetus somewhere between 130 and 200 CE, seems to clearly espouse the doctrine of the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ. Some feel he may actually have been a disciple of Paul. At any rate, around him you’d be a heretic for what you believe NOW. The early church fathers were very uneven. We read into them Protestantism or Orthodoxy or Catholicism, but it’s better to see them on their own terms.

    Why do you have so much problem with Calvinism anyway? Back at #343 you link to Jimmy Akin’s article on the Five Points. I think he misunderstands Augustine on Perseverance just a bit, but I have no major problems with accepting a modified Thomistic stance. I believe it squares with many moderate forms of Calvinism. (I don’t think I have ever met a modern Calvinist who believes in double predestination though they are careful not to move over into Amyraldianism.)

    So many times, you guys here are tilting at windmills. You’re skewering your own caricature of Calvinism (the Great Satan!) And you say not a word about the evident semi-Pelagianism of many a modern Catholic. In theory Molinism is orthodox, in practice it generally is not. In fact, it often seems to veer into out-and-out Pelagianism. Give us Calvinists a break! (We’re really pretty close to you stalwart Thomists….)

    By the way, Catholic theologians have always had the freedom to interpret Scripture for themselves (within the bounds of established orthodoxy), which is basically what we Protestants do.

    Should a Catholic submit to his or her local bishop when he advocates for abortion, contraception, intercommunion, women’s ordination, etc.?

    Here’s a blurb from an article on Mother Angelica:

    “It was not easy for the bishops to watch their own creation flounder while EWTN won the admiration of Pope John Paul II. Adding to their chagrin was their inability to get Mother Angelica to switch to a new interfaith satellite network. As to her own operations, Mother Angelica did not take kindly to those clerics who questioned her authority to showcase some bishops, but not others. “I happen to own the network,” she instructed. When told that this would not be forever, she let loose: “I’ll blow the damn thing up before you get your hands on it.”

    “In 1989, a report by the bishops complained that EWTN rejected “one out of every three programs submitted by the bishops conference.” The bishops and Mother Angelica were clearly on a collision course: she had no tolerance for the theological dissidence that was tolerated by many bishops and their staff. The last straw came when the bishops conference sent a show to be aired featuring a cleric promising female ordination under the next pope.

    The dissent, whether voiced by the Catholic Theological Society of America, or by feminist nuns who favored gender-neutral language in the Catholic Catechism, distressed Mother badly. She even had to endure being lobbied to push for “inclusive” language in the Catechism by the likes of “conservatives” such as Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. That he failed should surprise no one.”

    So, Christopher…is “blowing the place up” the new version of submission?

    Oh, and in case you had forgotten: all magisterial Protestants do believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, not in Aristotelian terms, mind you…but in terms more reminiscent of…oh, I don’t know…the early church? And yes, this means the “physical” presence. Sure, a lot of Presbyterians don’t know their sacramental theology, but Calvin spoke of being transported by faith into the heavenly presence of Christ to truly feed on him. Lutherans believe that Christ’s physical nature took on the attribute of omnipresence [ubiquity] after his ascension and thus can come down–many places at once if need be–to spiritually feed his sheep. Both of these are theorized to protect the notion of Christ physically seated on the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms, the Incarnation ongoing. Which is, of course, part of the Nicene Creed. Calvin made much of the “sursum corda” in the liturgy: We lift up our hearts unto the Lord.

    Actually, historians do believe the names of the popes listed in the early years are mythological. The Book of Pontifices only dates from the 13th Century. There are demonstrable gaps (e.g., Liberius was in exile in Thrace from 355 to 357, having no power or jurisdiction. If he was pope, it was in name only.) I do believe the Church of England has admitted there are probable gaps in apostolic succession during the early years of the Roman church. Unless you subscribe to some “magical” understanding of the Providence of God, why would that upset you so much?

    I also think saying the Catholic church established the canon of Scripture is a silly argument. We need different nomenclature: Nicene church or Ecumenical church or something. I am actually looking into whether the Protestant exclusion of the Apocrypha was legitimate. (That’s because I tend to believe in the providential oversight of Scripture which most modern Protestants completely throw out. KJV-only fundamentalists still subscribe, of course, but not with any logical integrity.)

    The principal reason that I don’t subscribe to the indefectibility of the Roman church is that it appears so demonstrably false. Perhaps if y’all weren’t so blamed ragged around the edges, I’d consider it.

    No, I’m not looking for a perfect church. Yes, I understand there will be tares among the wheat. But I don’t particularly consider the Roman church even a good church. If I ranked them in holiness or Scriptural integrity (or almost anything else, for that matter, other than aesthetics), the Catholic church would be way down the list. Yes, they’re huge. As a result, they do a lot of good. You guys are probably the principal targets in the cultural wars. Thanks for standing up! (Of course, at least you get depicted in the entertainment media. We’re 25% of the population, but have thus far only garnered Ned Flanders!)

    I actually wish there were an indefectible church. It’d save me a lot of work! It doesn’t really appear that’s the way God works, however. Either in the Old Testament or the New. Prophets call the church back from its waywardness. It’s not simple or elegant. It’s a heckuva lot of work. But I’m convinced that sometimes the more difficult way is the better way. In any case, I believe that’s the lot we’ve been granted.

    I do hope and pray for more. I do feel called to communion with the rest of the Bride of Christ. I’m even fine with its being centered in Rome. I think it is in solidarity with the Reformers that I can say:

    When Rome is faithful, I’ll come home.

    May Jesus be with you,

    –Eric

  366. Hi Mark, (re# 363, 364): You wrote:

    this mainly goes to the issue of reprobation.

    It does indeed, and I recall reading some very carefully parsed explanations of this by (I believe) Bryan Cross on this site, but I could not find it. I am certainly not equipped to offer same as I have only an armchair philosopher’s level of understanding – I would have to rely on secondary sources.

    I agree that the quotes you cited seem to support what you’re saying, but I’m in no position (as I said) to offer any deeper insight.

    My post was in reply to an interlocutor on this site (Curt Russell, a Calvinist) who has made statements to the effect that “God trumps our free will to save us” (#106), citing Romans 9 to support this. Also this (#221)

    Perhaps a tad inconvenient, but Paul was apparently a monergist…

    Romans 9…
    16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    God’s sovereignty trumps all.

    (boldface emphasis mine)

    This was to suggest that that God actively chooses to reprobate some, and that is what it seems Aquinas does not believe, and a question on which Aquinas and Trent to no diverge, as Curt Russell suggested in his #350.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  367. Brent–

    Bless you for your irenic reply. I am truly appreciative! May your model be followed by us all….

    On your content:

    Unfortunately, the love you display for your wife and kids in public may be far from the truth in private. (Speaking generally, of course: I’m not specifically indicting YOUR family. I’m sure everything there is properly warm and cuddly.)

    Your point, I’m guessing, is that the openness becomes clear once one has safely crossed the Tiber and welcomed into the arms of the church’s spiritual family. My problem, however, is that the Church has always seemed unnecessarily coy about exact specifics: What PRECISE sins are considered mortal? When does it count that the Pope has spoken “ex cathedra”? Why was strong evidence AGAINST the immaculate conception of Mary or papal infallibility dismissed in the process of considering these dogmas? (Newman, for example, while accepting the watered-down version of infallibility that was proclaimed, had been an adversary of proclaiming anything.)

    And the problem with this lack of transparency is its self-evident motivation: the Roman church does not want to get caught in a clear contradiction. If they never spell things out, the Protestants can never shout, “Gotcha!” To me it shows just the opposite: if you won’t open yourself up to falsifiability, that’s evidence enough that you don’t stand for the truth. Paul commended the Bereans for thoroughly “fact checking” him!

    Bryan’s article is to me wrongheaded in the way Michael Liccione states in the very first comment. The Reformers were deep, deep, deep into the church fathers, and as far as I’m concerned, any good Protestant should be, too. Mark Shea makes the claim that sacred tradition is, more or less, taken by “good and necessary inference” from Scripture (and the common life of the church), that nothing within it is “de novo.” I’m fine with this to some extent. Many Roman accretions can be taken as pious options. Most of the Reformers accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the concept really doesn’t do any violence to Scripture. Bullinger, at least, accepted the Assumption. This is a tradition from very early on in the life of the church, and likewise, does no violence to any vital tenet of the faith.

    Again, thanks for the display of respect and brotherly affection!

    Yours in Christ,

    –Eric

  368. Nelson (#348)

    I know very clearly that the Holy Spirit from time to time forces my will. But I don’t consider it a case of his going against what Lincoln called, “the better angels of [my] nature.”

    When you submit to the Magisterium or your bishop (or a traffic cop or your parents), it may well be “against” your momentary will. But it is in keeping with what you want for yourself in a larger sense. God graciously keeps me from making mistakes that will impact my eternity. I WANT him to do that with all my heart and soul! I would immediately be utterly lost if he ever withdrew his protective hand from me…. Augustine says that God will answer the honest prayer for perseverance WITHOUT FAIL.

    Go with God,

    –Eric

  369. Curt (#360)

    Thanks, brother, for taking me to the woodshed! I actually cannot drink caffeine: it would mess me up too bad.

    I do, however, have a chronic health issue that leaves me permanently tired out. So I sometimes sound like I’m a little “jacked up.” I’m passionate about theology. I’m passionate about learning as much as I can of the truth from others and about sharing what little I have of the truth with others. Get to know me, and you’ll find I’m a rather gentle soul. And if I honestly hurt someone’s feelings, I’ll be the one crying.

    I have to tell you my wife started reading this thread and a couple others on c2c and pointed you out to me. She said–and I quote–“This guy sounds a lot like you!” (I’m sorry that she dissed you so bad!)

    At any rate, I have been impressed by your posts, and I’ll try to bring the tenor of mine down a notch or two.

    (I sincerely have “fun” mixing it up…and don’t really mind being “piled on” for a good cause. But I will consider my will “trumped” in this case, for I am sure you are right in the long run.)

    Have patience with me, please.

    –Eric

  370. Cut (#361)

    If by grace we build upon the Kingdom, we receive a reward in heaven. If, by our sinful will we do a lousy job, we receive little or no reward in heaven… but we still are saved. The key here is whether our works are salvific or not. I say not. The Catholic Church says they are, when combined with initial grace. I say our works are wholely the result of grace and therefore of no merit to my salvation, only to the Kingdom.

    Regarding the first part, we are in complete agreement, I think; regarding the second – it seems to me it’s almost a difference in words:

    When I was a Protestant – no works, or only evil works = you never really believed and were never really saved

    Now that I am a Catholic – no works, or only evil works = you have not cooperated with Grace and so will not be saved

    jj

  371. Curt (re#:350),

    Thanks for the continued discussion, brother! About your *perception* of the differences in Catholic teaching, from Aquinas to Trent, Frank La Rocca has engaged you on that issue, and I thank him for doing so! Not that I’m not willing to discuss it with you, certainly, but Frank’s replies in #356 and #357 will hopefully help to clarify this matter, at least a bit. For now, I’ll let you guys engage in that discussion (unless you really want me to jump in), and I’ll reply to the other part of your comment to me (#350) and also to #351.

    You wrote that you found Nick’s exegesis of Romans 9 to be “woefully incomplete,” because he did not deal with the question of God’s sovereignty in “choosing” Israel, rather than other nations. However, Nick’s exegesis is only really problematic from within a strict Calvinist framework.

    I would agree with you that God sovereignly chose to work with Israel, in the context of the Old Testament, in a particular way in which He did not work with other nations. This is so clear as to be self-evident from the OT. However, consider this question– because God sovereignly chose the nation of Israel (as, literally, His original “chosen people”), does that mean that every Israelite was saved? Obviously not. That is largely what the chapters of Romans 9-11 are dealing with (as Nick specifically shows at length in his exegesis): God sovereignly, specifically chose to work with *Israel*, as a nation, in a way that He *didn’t* choose to work with other nations. On this basis, the Israelites believed themselves to be “right” with God, and they believed the Gentiles to be out of God’s favour.

    However, St. Paul tells the Israelites *and* the Gentiles, through the entire book of Romans, and especially in Romans 9-11, that being right with God is not a matter of one’s ethnic lineage, or about Jewish matters such as circumcision or uncircumcision, or, even, about whether God has *chosen* to work with a *entire nation* in a particular way at a particular time. God sovereignly chose the nation of Israel, yet many of them were not saved, because they *chose* to willfully reject Christ.

    No, St. Paul writes, being right with God, *explicitly since the coming of Christ*, is a matter of having *faith in Him*– not being presumptuous about one’s being “right with God” on the basis of His having chosen to work with a certain nation to which one belongs (Israel).

    However, St. Paul also affirms in many, many passages (and he is “backed up” in this, one might say, by Our Lord Himself and St. James, to name only two authoritative sources!) that one is not right before God on the basis of a “faith alone” that is not formed by love– that is to say, a professed faith in Christ, and a claim that on that basis, that one is “right with God,” *apart* from any good works.

    Let’s look at Romans 2:1-8, from the ESV (I’m using a well-regarded Protestant translation here, partially , so that my separated Protestant brothers and sisters will know that I’m not trying to *skew* the objective evidential data to the Catholic side! :-) ):

    Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

    6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who oby patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

    Read in the context of the preceding chapter of Romans (which is *crucial* for understanding here), St. Paul is, in this passage (largely, but not entirely) reproving Israelites who look down upon Gentiles for not *being* Israelites (ethnically speaking, and also in the sense of not holding to the *distinctively* Jewish law, such as circumcision). He is saying, effectively, “Don’t be so quick to judge the Gentiles, because you, yourselves, are storing up wrath from God for your unrepentant sinfulness!”

    However, St, Paul is also *not* telling the Jews *or* the Gentiles that they can be right with God by “faith alone,” apart from good works. This should be clear from verses 6-8, above, wherein Paul explicitly links good works to our *eternal judgment* (for Heaven or Hell)– not simply to the eternal “rewards” which we will receive from God in Heaven as believers in Christ.

    St. James is just as emphatic and clear in James 2:14-24. He explicitly states that man is faith alone, apart from good works, is dead and useless. I know well the general Reformed interpretation of these verses (because I subscribed to that interpretation myself for years!): James is referring works here simply as part of the the evidence that one has always been “permanently justified” and made “right with God” by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Catholics can actually agree with that interpretation, to *some* extent– we affirm that our salvation is due to God’s grace alone, and we affirm faith (genuine trust) in Christ alone.

    We *cannot* agree with “faith alone,” nor with the concept of “eternal security,” based on a professed faith in Christ, apart from good works. However, we don’t disagree with those concepts because we are trying to “work our way to Heaven.”

    We disagree because faith alone, apart from works, is dead, and because “eternal security,” *especially* apart from works, is never affirmed by Our Lord. Eternal security is “affirmed” mainly by sincere, but sincerely mistaken, Protestant misreadings of St. Paul– which may be why my Calvinist pastors almost always preached more from St. Paul than from Jesus Himself on the questions of “What is the Gospel?” and “How is one saved?”

  372. Christopher (re#367) –

    I see I did a bit of “treadjacking” in my enthusiasm to support the consistent teaching of the RCC. Since Curt directed the question to you originally, I think it would be preferable for you and he to remain engaged on that topic, and I’ll just read from the sidelines.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  373. Curt,

    P.S. Brother, I apologize that I didn’t get to your comment #351 in my reply (#366), as I had originally intended and hoped, but given that what I *did* write was so lengthy, I’ll give you a chance to absorb #366 before writing more!

    I’m sorry that so many of my comments here have been fairly lengthy, but I’m having to answer Protestant exegesis with Catholic exegesis, and true exegesis can be a matter of some depth, as I know that you know, as a Calvinist! :-)

    Lord willing, I’ll answer your #351 in my reply to your next response! I’m going to get combox vertigo here, hehe!

  374. JJ

    You said…
    Now that I am a Catholic – no works, or only evil works = you have not cooperated with Grace and so will not be saved

    I respond…
    Even our will to cooperate comes from God, thus no personal merits can be attributed to me.

    That said, I think we’ve beat this poor horse to death. I’m willing to call a truce of mutual understanding on the grace/works question if you wish.

    Blessings
    Curt

  375. Hi Curt,

    In your reply to me you state that God loves His sheep too much to allow them to depart from Him so He protects the sheep from harm both externally and internally for God’s Glory.

    We are joined together with God in love. If we have proved to God that we do not love Him by our actions ( for instance if we commit a deadly sin such as murder) God does not force us to repent of that sin. What good would be a forced love? We must love God with all our hearts, soul and being, and our neighbour as ourselves. The love must come from ourselves and is not pulled out of us by God. Yet even a murderer can repent and still be saved through the Grace of God. It is all Grace and it is all God but it is still free choice. Herein lies the mystery of free will and predestination. Both Catholics and Protestants can quote Holy Scripture to prove their points but one thing is for certain and that is love must be a factor from both sides of the controversy and freely given. We are not saved outside of love, no matter how much God loves us. It will never be one sided. God loves even those who are condemned to Hell but they have no love for God.

    Does God love everyone He ever created? Yes ,or He would not have created them. God does not create in hatred but in love. God is love. God never hates the sinner but the sin. If we say we love God and claim to be saved but choose not to repent of our sins, we are the ones responsible for our actions not God. He loves us enough to respect our choice *not* to love Him. Even Judas would be saved had he repented ( and we don’t know for certain that he didn’t)

    God sends us trials in our life not to punish us but to turn our vision back towards Him so that we may see the folly of our ways. He is trying to turn us around. It is His desire to turn us around, *His will even*, but if we will not, He will not.

    Blessings
    NHU

  376. Christopher

    Thank you for your lengthy response, and don’t fret about 351… it was just an observation. Regarding your discussion of Romans 2, I have to hold you accountablt to the same in contextual broadening as you did with my Romans 9 discussion. Paul ends Romans 1 with the opening case of his theology… that all are guilty under the law. He continues in chapter 2 with the position that both Jew and gentile are guilty under the law… and that under the law, God’s justice requires judgement according to our deeds. Paul continues to expand on this through Romans 3:20, concluding that:

    19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

    Then in Romans 3:21, Paul begins to lay out the gospel of faith:

    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

    Paul nullifies the judgment under the law which you alluded to… it has been replaced by the new covenant… a covenant of faith in Christ such that “He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”. Thus “… a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Context, my friend, context. :-)

    You concluded with…
    “We disagree because faith alone, apart from works, is dead, and because “eternal security,” *especially* apart from works, is never affirmed by Our Lord.”

    Au contraire, mon frere… Jesus said,

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    The believer is not judged. Jesus said so.

    John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

    Ditto!

    John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

    Ditto again!

    John 6:40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

    And again!

    John 6:47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

    And again and again!

    John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

    … Well do you? Hint: “Yes, but” is not a valid answer. :-)

    Love you brother,
    Curt

  377. Christopher- (#370)

    Do you know how you can explain to a Protestant a hundred times that when a Catholic prays to a Saint what he’s really doing is asking the Saint to pray for him…just like that Catholic could with any flesh and blood friend right here and now? You explain it a hundred times, and still they come back with, “Why do you have to pray to Saints? They’re not God, you know.”

    Calvinists do not believe in Eternal Security, never have and never will. Eternal Security is a tenet of Dispensational faith (generally Baptist). It’s also called “once saved-always saved.” You walk the aisle, you’re good to go. Calvinists believe in the Perseverance of the Saints. As Paul says in Philippians 3: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

    There is pain and sweat and effort involved…PERSEVERANCE.

    At the same time, Paul can say this in 2 Corinthians: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

    Already and not yet.

    Calm assurance on one hand and work yet to be done on the other. We will “work out our salvation with fear and trembling…for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

    Both-and, not either-or.

    I loved the way you said it, “…we affirm that our salvation is due to God’s grace alone, and we affirm faith (genuine trust) in Christ alone.”

    The Reformed way is not some dodge to get out of having to do good works. We’re going to try to outwork everybody.

    “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

    All we are saying is that our confidence is not in OUR works. Our confidence is in the finished work of Christ. We are justified by our trust (our faith) in Christ. We have faith AND works. But we are justified only by our complete trust in our Savior’s accomplishments. The faith that we possess is a living faith, a working faith, a loving faith. It is union with Christ who works within us.

    I almost wish we would get rid of the phrase “faith alone” because it is so often misunderstood. The whole thrust of Calvinism is humility: sola dei gloria–to God alone be glory. All the rest is rhetoric.

    Our works cannot compare to his works. Our love cannot compare to his love. It’s not even close. And we couldn’t do a thing on our own without him.

    Our salvation is “not of works…LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST.”

    May all his love be yours,

    –Eric

  378. Curt (#374)

    Even our will to cooperate comes from God, thus no personal merits can be attributed to me.

    Amen!

    That said, I think we’ve beat this poor horse to death. I’m willing to call a truce of mutual understanding on the grace/works question if you wish.

    Indeed, I don’t think there is any real disagreement. I have said, since before becoming a Catholic, that I don’t think there is any substantial difference between sane Protestants and sane Catholics (there are, to be sure, other sorts of both :-)) on most issues – except ecclesiology. When I respond to stuff like what you and I have been discussing, it has been mostly in an attempt to get us both to find that, really, we’re on the same page. The Church is the real issue.

    jj

  379. PS on my #378 – I hasten to add: no substantial differences once both sides understand what each other actually means by very different words. 500 years of talking mostly to people who agree with you is time enough for your respective languages to diverge considerably.

    Many Protestants have only a very distorted view of what the Catholic Church (as opposed to some individual Catholics) actually believes – and many Catholics have, I think, an even more distorted view of what Protestants, on the whole, believe. The major task in all oecumenism is communication.

    jj

  380. Curt (re:#376),

    Brother, thanks for your reply. As a former Protestant of many years, when I used to read St. Paul’s writings about faith, works, and justification in Romans 1, 2, and 3, and elsewhere in Scripture (such as Galatians 3), I believed that in these writings, he is setting up an “either/or” dichotomy. Either we are justified by faith *alone* in Christ, apart from any good works, or we are attempting to be right with God by, at least to some degree, relying on our works.

    I was very sure of my interpretation of St. Paul– so much so that I called it “the Gospel” and assessed the orthodoxy of other professing Christians by it. I now believe (on the basis of more than *just* my own interpretation of Scripture and that of selected exegetes– I’m not a “Protestant” Catholic, in other words) that I was subscribing to a truncated Gospel. I won’t call it a “false Gospel,” as I described Catholicism in my Calvinist years. However, the “either/or” paradigm that I sincerely believed St. Paul to be setting up, and laying out, in Romans 1, 2, and 3, is now, I believe, a serious misreading of the texts. Some of it is based on a certain (mis)understanding of the Pauline phrase, “justified by faith, not by (or “apart from,” in some translations) “works of the Law,” and/or sometimes, simply, just “works.”

    As a former Protestant, I know that the understanding of “works” and “works of the Law,” as necessarily meaning *all* good works, is a standard Protestant view, but Romans 2:1-8 (which you did not directly deal with, in terms of my exegesis thereof in #351) would seem to argue against that view:

    Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
    6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who obey patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+2%3A1-8/)

    The general Calvinistic understanding, as articulated by you (and as I held for years) is that the believer will not be judged, eternally speaking, according his/her works, but that the “judgment of works” will only be for in terms of the believer’s rewards in eternity.

    However, in Romans 2:5-8, above, St. Paul *specifically ties* good works, or the lack thereof, to whether one will gain “eternal life” or face “wrath and fury.” He specifically states that *eternal* judgment will be “rendered to each one according to his works.” It’s quite clear in the passage.

    Now, of course, I don’t want to engage in proof-texting– or at least, as little as possible. We know from Romans 1 and 3 that that St. Paul does *not* teach justification by works, so how do we understand Romans 2:5-8? As a Protestant, I was taught two differing interpretations, in different ecclesiastical contexts: 1. That St. Paul is only referring to works of the believer being “judged” in the sense of proving “external evidence” of an already-permanent justification, and 2. That the “judgment” here is only to establish the believer’s rewards in Heaven, and it is *not* an eternal judgment in terms of Heaven or Hell.

    There is a serious exegetical problem with both of these interpretations. The problem is that in the text itself, St. Paul writes that the judgment *will* be eternal– a matter of Heaven or Hell– *and* that it will be based on *works*.

    Again though, how do we square this passage with St. Paul’s *other* emphatic declarations in Romans 1 and 3 that believers are justified by faith, not by works (sometimes, stated as “works of the Law”)? Here is a possible place to start. In your exegesis of Romans 1, 2, and 3, did you notice that St. Paul never once states explicitly that we are justified by faith *alone*? Yes, he does certainly speak of being justified by faith, not by works (or “works of the Law,”) but he never once tells believers that they are justified by faith alone. He only states, passionately, that they are *not* justified by works.

    Many Protestants believe that in St. Paul’s declarations that Christians are not justified by works, there is an almost self-evident condemnation of Catholicism (so to speak). However, he actually, literally sets out and espouses the *Catholic* view– which is that we are *not* justified, in terms of where we stand with God, by faith alone *or* by works alone, but rather by faith *in Christ alone*, as informed by, and as *working through*, love of Christ.

    This understanding does not comport with a *very* rigorously strict, “either/or” Protestant understanding of “justification by faith alone” or “earning one’s way to Heaven by works”– but the Catholic Church does not actually teach the latter, in her exegesis of Scripture and in her Tradition. However, she also does not, and cannot, teach the former (justification by faith alone), because Our Lord did not teach it, and thus, none of His apostles and disciples taught it.

    St. James explicitly (almost disdainfully, really) refutes the idea that man is justified by faith alone. *If* we were to read the Book of James in isolation, we could easily come away with the idea that believers are actually justified by works alone!

    However, reading any Scripture in isolation is generally not a good idea, so we compare St. Paul with St. James. We see that Paul writes that we are *not* justified by works but by faith in Christ– yet we also see that he speaks of *eternal* judgment as being rendered according to one’s *works*. Then, we see that St. James clearly states that justification is *not* by faith alone. In light of these things, the only interpretation that does not seem like a dodge of the texts that our final justification, as believers, is based on both a *living* faith in Christ alone and the works which come from that living faith.

    It is true, as you noted, that Jesus makes clear statements about people believing in Him, and on that basis, having eternal life. Catholics strongly affirm those passages (and all passages of the Bible!). We do affirm that those who *truly* believe in Jesus, and who *continue* believing in Him (St. Paul’s warnings come to mind, about the Gentile grafted-in branches being “cut off” from the vine, if they do not continue in believing…)– those true believers in Christ, who continue in Him, do have eternal life. Continuing in Him means trusting in Him *and* obeying Him. The former entails a renunciation of self-righteousness. The latter entails good works. If we, as Christians, claim to be “right with God,” apart from faith in Christ alone, *or* apart from good works, we put ourselves in serious danger.

    Our Lord makes so many statements in Scripture about our eternal judgment being based at least *partially* on our works that, in retrospect, it is no surprise to me that many Reformed pastors go largely to St. Paul for (their understanding of) the “Biblical Gospel,” while preaching exegetically about Jesus’s statements. virtually, as needing to be read *in light of* Paul! This tendency, in much Reformed preaching, is an indication that something is seriously imbalanced in Reformed exegesis and theology themselves.

  381. Curt,

    P.S. I referred, above, in #380, to my exegesis of Romans 2:1-8 as being in comment #351. *That* comment is actually yours, hehe! (I still plan to reply to it soon too.) My comment, with my aforementioned exegesis, is #371. (This thread is getting lengthy! However, it hasn’t yet come close to the well over 1,000 comments for the CTC article (which I commend to you for future reference), “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority!”

  382. Eric (re:377),

    Brother, I must apologize to you for a misunderstanding, reflected in your reply above but caused by my less-than-careful use of Protestant terms. When I referred to “eternal security,” I did not mean to connote *at all* the easy-believism (sometimes set in a dispensational framework, sometimes not) of “Once Saved, Always Saved.” I most definitely did *not* hold to “OSAS” as a Calvinist. I was a most passionate adherent of the “Perseverance of the Saints.”

    The body of believers in which my Calvinism really took deep exegetical root was/is very much a “Puritan-esque” body, in terms of their views on justification, sanctification, and perseverance. (Our church bookshelves were teeming with Puritan books!) That is to say, the Perseverance of the Saints was preached strongly there, as a reality enabled and empowered by God, but also something for which we had to take serious care, to see that it was actually *happening* in our lives (i.e. making our “calling and election sure,” in the Calvinist understanding). Here is a link to the Statement of Faith of my previous Puritan-loving (although not “Puritan” in baptism and polity) community, so that you can see whether it agrees with your understanding of the Perseverance of the Saints: http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/we-are/governed/statement-of-faith/

    As a Catholic, though, now, I see serious exegetical problems with both “Once Saved, Always Saved” and “Perseverance of the Saints.” (Much more so with the former than the latter, but the latter is still exegetically problematic.) I don’t have time to go into detail, in this particular comment, about the Biblical problems with “Perseverance of the Saints,” but I touched on it a bit in my reply to Curt in comment #380.

    Last thoughts, for this comment: in Romans, St. Paul writes that the Gentiles have been “grafted in” as branches on the vine, but that they must “continue in His kindness,” or they, too, will be “cut off,” as the unbelieving Israelites were. A question: If those who finally fall away were never really true Christians– “persevering saints”– in the first place, then why does St. Paul even warn about being “grafted in” and yet “cut off”? How is one “cut off” from a vine in which one was never *truly* grafted in the first place?

    I have heard multitudes of Reformed explanations therein, and they usually speak of those people as being a visible part of the church community, and even, possibly, appearing to truly be believers… but they simply never truly believed. In that light, then, how could God really be said to “cut them off,” since they (in the Calvinist understanding) were never truly joined to Him, in a loving relationship of faith, in the first place?

  383. Brother Christopher

    You said…
    “As a former Protestant, I know that the understanding of “works” and “works of the Law,” as necessarily meaning *all* good works, is a standard Protestant view, but Romans 2:1-8 (which you did not directly deal with, in terms of my exegesis thereof in #351) would seem to argue against that view: …”

    I believe I did deal with Romans 2:1-8… I said…

    “Paul ends Romans 1 with the opening case of his theology… that all are guilty under the law. He continues in chapter 2 with the position that both Jew and gentile are guilty under the law… and that under the law, God’s justice requires judgement according to our deeds. Paul continues to expand on this through Romans 3:20, concluding that:

    19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

    Thus Paul is setting up the gospel. First we must be aware that we have all sinned, and are all therefore guilty under the law. This is not complicated exegesis. Romans 1:1 through 3:20 sets up the problem… we are all guilty under the law, and as such, are subject to judgment under the law… which will not be good.

    Then Paul introduces the gospel starting in 3:21…

    21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

    So the gospel is this: We were guilty under the law and thus condemned by our works. Now we are justified by faith apart from our works. This is hardly contorted exegesis. Guilty under the law… yes. But now Christ is “the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

    So we were guilty under the law which required our works. Now we are saved by faith, not our works. This fits perfectly with subsequent Pauline doctrine, as well as the numerous quotes of Jesus Himself. To me, the contorted doctrine is that we are saved by grace but also by works. For example, the “grace plus works” concept is completely the opposite of verse 28 above. Explaining this away requires considerable distortion of exegesis, in my humble opinion.

    You closed with…
    “Our Lord makes so many statements in Scripture about our eternal judgment being based at least *partially* on our works”

    Would you mind pointing out these particular passages?

    Thanks
    Curt

  384. Mark,

    Your comment #364 is particularly relevant to this discussion, in light of Curt’s repeated denial that the human will is involved in the process of sanctification. Your citation from the London Baptist Confession encapsulates a point that I had been developing (up to comment #254, way back when) in regard to synergism in sanctification, whereby the grace of God enables me “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, emphasis added).

    Andrew

  385. Christopher–

    I, of course, have tremendous respect for Mark Dever. You were assuredly taught Perseverance if you went to his church. (Oh, and by the way, Puritans had various beliefs on Baptism and church polity: John Bunyan was a Baptist; John Owen was a congregationalist; the two of them were close friends. I believe they were actually buried together.)

    Because Catholics combine justification and sanctification into one concept, they usually sound like they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth to us Protestants. You get one way of talking–and listening–stuck in your brain….

    That’s what you sound like to me in #380. I tried to separate them (justification and sanctification, that is) for you in #377. Did that work at all for you? Or was it a foreign language? (Of course, they can only be separated conceptually. In truth, they are all part of one salvific process. And often Scripture treats them this way: that’s why all the seeming un-Calvinistic combination of works and salvation which you cite.)

    I’m not at all sure one can easily toggle back and forth. Once you become Catholic, the Protestant message becomes garbled, even to a former Protestant.

    As a Protestant, I believe that part of this is because the Catholic message is inconsistent. It bathes everything in grace, but the grace doesn’t soak through. You come out with a Gospel that is somewhat schizophrenic: it’s a gospel of grace and a gospel of works all at the same time.

    Do a little thought experiment. Pelagians can certainly say (in spite of their belief in an unfallen human nature) that their every breath come from the Lord. He created them. He empowers them. He aids them by the Holy Spirit. He directs them through the Word. They can SAY that all is of grace. Yet both Catholics and Protestants will quickly charge them with a gospel of works. (“BUT,” they will retort, “The Scriptures constantly tie works and salvation together!”)

    If one relies solely on infused grace, one logically ends with works righteousness of a sort. There is no rational way around it that I can see. If one states that the elect may lose their salvation, one also ends up with what looks to all the world like works righteousness. I have Nazarene friends who are constantly losing their salvation to this, that, and the other sin. They end up having a mindset concentrated on works. Can’t fall again. Can’t fall again. Can’t fall again. Gotta do better. Gotta do better. Gotta do better. (Calvinists who over-exaggerate the “infallible” sense of assurance one is to have according to Westminster, end up with works righteousness. I gotta show evidence. I gotta show evidence. I gotta show evidence.)

    Likewise, Catholics–against the catechism, no doubt–end up coming to church regularly, taking the Eucharist, participating in auricular confession, doing the prescribed penance, praying the Rosary, etc., etc. like items in a check list that will make them right with God. If I had to evaluate, I would guess that the overwhelming majority of Catholics I have encountered are involved in a form of works righteousness. (Many, many, many Protestants are, too. It’s the default position for us as humans.)

    I tend to think Protestants end up that way (1.) because they are in a denomination that blurs “sola fide” like many Arminian groups do, (2.) because they are in a dispensational or a holiness group that concentrates on moral living without ever making sure their congregants are truly converted (beyond requiring a trip down the aisle and a thirty-second prayer), or (3.) because they’ve been influenced more by the world than the church (I’ll go to heaven because, more or less, I’ve been a good person.)

    I actually think Catholics end up that way because their soteriology is a hodge-podge of things indecipherable to the common parishioner. (Do you disagree with me that there is a problem in the pews? The catechism can be interpreted in a way that’s fairly grace oriented, I’m sure, but do many rank-and-file Catholics, in any significant way, “get” that?)

    I think many Catholics end up saying, “I gotta make it to Mass. I gotta confess my sins. I gotta do my penance. I gotta get absolved. I gotta make sure I haven’t committed any mortal sin. I gotta make it to the end. I gotta make it to the end. I gotta make it to the end.” And they’re told that grace is being infused, and that they’re only doing what they do through the power of Christ. And so, they are comforted.

    Let me be clear. It doesn’t appear that that is true in your life…at least not in any outward sense. (I have no idea what God sees in you. Or in me for that matter.) It’s one of the problems of Catholicism for me. Even if grace is hidden in the catechism–a mother lode for anyone who sees to get out his pick ax and start digging–how does that help the masses? Sometimes it appears to me that the only Catholics that do see are former Protestants.

    Francis Beckwith, by the way, has said that in his estimation, Trent accepted forensic justification. What say you? I know-I know: he’s just a philosopher. Here’s a quote from his blogsite:

    “It seems to me that in Catholic thought prior to the Reformation there had always been a forensic aspect to justification, insofar as there is a legal component to one becoming an adopted son of the Father at baptism. Even The Council of Trent claims as much: “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost,[Rom. 5:5] and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.” If you read it carefully, Trent does not deny that justification involves imputation of righteousness. What it is claiming is that it is wrong to think of justification as “the imputation of the justice of Christ ALONE,” just as it is wrong to think of Jesus Christ as not fully both God and man.”

    Imputation by the way, despite the Luther analogy of the new Christian being “excrement” covered by snow, is certainly more than that. Even if we were “dead” in our sins before regeneration,–even if we were mere refuse [garbage]–after regeneration we are a new creation. We have the deposit of the Holy Spirit. Imputation “impregnates” us with new life with all of that new life’s potential. We’re more like an egg covered with the shell of Christ or a caterpillar covered with a chrysalis…. We develop in this protected state until in glory we become the chicken or the butterfly. And Protestantism does not deny infusion in sanctification. So if Beckwith is correct–at least with this particular anathema–Trent and Protestantism are compatible to a degree. (We still would have to navigate that sticky little issue: though justification does not involve the imputation of the justice of Christ ALONE, he is the only one with any impact whatsoever.)

    The whole business of [apparent] Christians who fall away (Hebrews 6) I will need to leave to another post. It is one of the more difficult passages for Calvinists obviously. I think clues to the mystery lie in the olive tree analogy you mention, the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, and verse 8 of Hebrews 6 dealing with thistles and thorns. In the end–in God’s purview–there may not be all that much difference between Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic understandings.

    Hope you’re having a great weekend! (Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem…and all.)

    –Eric

  386. Andrew (#384) and Mark (#364):

    If you’d like to read a good survey on Reformed beliefs concerning monergism vs. synergism in sanctification:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/09/21/is-sanctification-monergistic-or-synergistic-a-reformed-survey/

    We are freed from sin and death and have a regenerated will to exercise. It is, however, enslaved to Christ and empowered solely by him. Sanctification is totally a sovereign gift of God, but we nonetheless truthfully cooperate in the process….

    –Eric

  387. Christopher (#383)

    I confess that I had always thought, when I was a Calvinist, that the place of works in salvation was speaking phaenomenologically the same for Calvinists and Catholics – that you could not be saved without works. Whether the works were the exhibition of Christ’s grace in you, or the cooperative response to that, did (and does!) seem to me a bit of a matter of words. In fact, it seems to me, both are true – ‘works’ – the beginnings of genuinely righteous behaviour in the redeemed – are both the exhibition of Christ’s grace in the redeemed and the cooperation of the redeemed with grace. I mean, they are literally the co-operation – the ‘with-working’ of the redeemed – and they are certainly only and all by the grace of God, else we are at least semi-Pelagians.

    Regarding the Perseverance of the Saints, again, it seems to me both sides are saying the same thing but from different angles. From the Calvinist side, it seems to me a tautology – the saints will persevere – and the saints are the ones who persevere. From the Catholic – taking a more realistic – or, rather, phaenomenological – point of view – the ones who go to Heaven are the ones who persevere. Perseverance is just a way of saying ‘finally saved.’

    I’d be interested to know what the Calvinists – present- or ex- – think about this.

    jj

  388. Eric, re#386,

    Thanks. I enjoyed reading that. Kevin defines synergism, with reference to regeneration, as *cooperation with the grace of God.* He doesn’t want to use the word with reference to sanctification, but he does seem to affirm, bolstered by quotes from Reformed luminaries, the definition. This definition tracks pretty well with the one that I gave earlier, in a sort of bare-bones rendering:

    So far as I can tell, synergism denotes the joining of two wills in acting towards one end.

    Neither Kevin nor the theologians to whom he appeals say much specifically about the *will* of man, but I take the activity of the will to be implied by words like “cooperation,” such that man’s actions in sanctification are voluntary. Otherwise, the affirmation that man is actively involved in sanctification (unlike regeneration, in which man is entirely passive, on the Reformed reading) reduces his activity to the involuntary realm, analogous to natural actions such as flinching, twitching, and salivating. The problem with this, of course, is that the essence of those grace-enabled actions (i.e., good works) that are pleasing unto God is *love,* and it is hard to imagine how acts which are involuntary, whether of the purely natural or the grace-enabled variety, could possibly be construed as love.

    In short, I read Kevin’s post as indirectly calling into question Curt’s thesis that man’s will is not involved in the process of sanctification. I wonder what are your opinions on that thesis, my reading of Kevin’s post, and my definition of synergism. If we can agree that the will of man is a contingent, secondary cause of sanctification, in which process the liberty of the will is preserved (I am using language from the London Baptist Confession, which Mark referenced in #364), and that God is the primary, originating and sustaining, cause of our good works, then this should open up further avenues of discussion, e.g., regarding the perseverance of the saints, and the purpose of sanctification, some of which have already been discussed, at some length, in this thread.

    Andrew

  389. Andrew-

    DeYoung wants to use “synergism” only for the Arminian/Molinist/Thomistic understanding of regeneration (and “monergism” for the Reformed/conservative Lutheran understanding).

    He’d rather not use either term for sanctification.

    I would say that for pretty much all the Reformed, sanctification is active, voluntary cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Wayne Grudem, in his ST, is unapologetically synergistic when it comes to sanctification (p. 753). In a footnote, however, he says this: “On the other hand, if we wish to say that sanctification is entirely God’s work, and that we use the ‘means of sanctification’ in order to contribute to it (or some similar expression), the meaning is the same.”

    In other words, though he cites John Murray as preferring the designation “monergistic” for sanctification, he feels there may not be any real difference between those Calvinists who call it “synergistic” and those who call it “monergistic.” God is totally sovereign and all credit must be given to him. On the other hand, regenerate man does indeed cooperate with God in an active and voluntary sense, and there’s no real reason not to call this “cooperation.”

    (It may be kind of like the water droplet of one Hinduistic soul re-mingling with the ocean of the Brahma: our “cooperation,” so to speak, may not be worth talking about.)

    What exactly does it mean to be in union with Christ, and have him work “in and through” us? Calvinists are quite eager to claim that it’s all Him while at the same time protecting our very real freedom as new creatures. He is primary; we are secondary. veritably non-consequential….

    Nevertheless, within the dynamics of the human-divine relationship, holy living is extraordinarily significant! For we are loved…and love in return.

    Therefore, as far as I can tell, to say “that the will of man is a contingent, secondary cause of sanctification, in which process the liberty of the will is preserved” is well within the confines of Reformed orthodoxy.

    Curt may feel differently.

    All the best,

    –Eric

  390. John Thayer Jensen (#387)

    JJ–

    I would say for Augustine it was a tautology: those who persevered to the end had the gift of perseverance. (Nevertheless, he did believe that the elect would invariably be saved.)

    For Calvinists, there is at least some sense of assurance, of implicitly knowing (because, for example, the Spirit simply will not give you a second’s rest) that one is chosen. With this intervening gift of a reasonable confidence, perseverance becomes a real hope and a comfort.

    If you take the opposite tack–that those who persevere are the ones who go to heaven–you make salvation contingent on one’s own efforts: you create a works righteousness….

    God’s blessings on you!

    –Eric

  391. Eric (#390)

    If you take the opposite tack–that those who persevere are the ones who go to heaven–you make salvation contingent on one’s own efforts: you create a works righteousness….

    I can see how this could be interpreted that way – but, it seems to me, not necessarily. If – as Catholics and Calvinists both believe, I think – our perseverance is itself wholly the work of God in us, then the ‘works’ in ‘works righteousness’ we owe wholly to Him.

    It seems to me that the Calvinist, following a laudable desire to ascribe all glory to God, is afraid of saying that we do something, for fear of its meaning that if we do it, then to that extent it is not God Who is doing it. My idea is that there is no way to deny that when I do some act of charity – and, by God’s grace, I do, albeit not as often nor as purely (yet!) as I wish – then it really is I who have done it – and at the same time I owe the doing of it – “both to will and to do” – wholly to God, without Whom I could do nothing.

    It seems to me that the apparent paradox is apparent only – that my works and God’s are not a zero-sum game – and that whenever I try to sort out any partition between a finite creature’s being and that of the infinite God I am going to run into apparent paradoxes. I am better off, it seems to me, simply to recognise the facts: I do it, and the Scripture tells me that it is wholly of God.

    jj

  392. JJ–

    I was actually going to say that that was a possibility. If you work, crediting it wholly to God, then you are no longer motivated to earn your salvation in any way…and we are at one with one another.

    A problem could creep in if you fear you may lose your salvation…and fight to maintain it. All of a sudden you’re involved in earning it again (which is why I maintain that Arminian soteriology is as bad as Catholic. I’m not at all sure they can be consistent in terms of their commitment to sola fide. They will always end up trying to earn their way).

    –Eric

  393. JJ

    You said…
    It seems to me that the Calvinist, following a laudable desire to ascribe all glory to God, is afraid of saying that we do something, for fear of its meaning that if we do it, then to that extent it is not God Who is doing it. My idea is that there is no way to deny that when I do some act of charity – and, by God’s grace, I do, albeit not as often nor as purely (yet!) as I wish – then it really is I who have done it – and at the same time I owe the doing of it – “both to will and to do” – wholly to God, without Whom I could do nothing.

    I think the Calvinist might not disagree with what you are saying in the doing of good works. Where the Calvinist is likely to disagree is in the salvific implecations; that somehow our works are necessary for salvation. We were looking at Hosea 14 in church this morning, and I thought about our conversations here.

    1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
    For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
    2 Take words with you and return to the LORD.
    Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity
    And receive us graciously,
    That we may present the fruit of our lips.
    3 “Assyria will not save us,
    We will not ride on horses;
    Nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’
    To the work of our hands;
    For in You the orphan finds mercy.”

    Here again (God is always consistent) God’s grace and mercy is apart from works… a gift. Even to the Jews who had fallen into apostacy, Hosea encourages them to pray for mercy. Their country can’t save them. Their works can’t save them. Only God’s gift of grace can save them. Isn’t that what eucharist means? Good gift.

    Blessings on this triumphant day!

    Curt

  394. To all who have replied to me (recently) in this thread,

    First, I hope that you’re each having a blessed Palm Sunday!

    I will reply to each of you in chronological order– Curt, Eric, and JJ. Each of my replies will be a bit lengthy, so they may take a day or two.

    In full honesty, I’m sensing the need to be more careful by not putting *too* much strain on myself physically, with my CP and the related difficulties in typing– or, rather, I should say, in typing *quickly*. One lengthy reply, for me, can take three or more hours to type. Along with that, there is strain with sitting in the same posture for hours. Don’t get me wrong– I do want to reply to you, and to *everyone* who writes to me, and I *will* reply (Lord willing). I know, though, that I need to be mindful of my physical well-being, as related to my disability.

    I dislike mentioning these things publicly, really– I don’t like to draw attention to myself as “the guy with the disability.” I’m a human being, a Catholic Christian, a writer (in different capacities), and a man with a physical disability– in that order. However, at the age of 38 (almost 39), I’m realizing, increasingly, that I have to take my physical situation into consideration when I sit down at (I mean, roll over to, hehe!) the computer to write.

    Blessings to each of you, and to everyone here at CTC! Lord willing, I will be back to replying in the next day or so!

  395. I don’t want to enter this conversation too much as I could stand to interrupt the flow and introduce something that disorientates. I know I have a hard time weeding through aruguments, by getting caught into something that is really only peripheral.

    Re: Eric # 389 You said: “Therefore, as far as I can tell, to say “that the will of man is a contingent, secondary cause of sanctification, in which process the liberty of the will is preserved” is well within the confines of Reformed orthodoxy”

    I’m thrown by this language of secondary cause. To me this still “requires” something actual. We all admit that God is acting first cause except in regards to evil. This language can cause me to be just as uncertain about my final salvation. It says, to my understanding, you have nothing to add to your sanctification(which is toward a final end), but you still are contributing to that end by the libery of your will. Maybe the component being left out is final assurance, for which case, I’m not sure but I’m hopeful considering I cannot obliterate that there is such a thing as violations to God’s moral law and that salvation is contingent on my not sinning grieviously( mortal according to the CC). I think one of my problems is that the CC claims I must become sinless before I can see God, and when I look at people within the CC or anywhere(I have never met a Catholic Saint) I don’t see them, nor myself as being pristine, so to me either Aquinas got it wrong or Luther got it wrong. Both had their philosophical systems that undergird their theology, and one must be incorrect. I think this is why I am hung-up. Is this what you find too?
    Dear Chris, take your time. we’ll still be here waiting;) ! Blessed Palm Sunday to you too. Hosanna!!

  396. Eric re 389

    You said…

    “Therefore, as far as I can tell, to say “that the will of man is a contingent, secondary cause of sanctification, in which process the liberty of the will is preserved” is well within the confines of Reformed orthodoxy.
    Curt may feel differently.”

    I respond…
    When we speak of will, there are two wills involved. God’s perfect will, and my sinful will. When two opposed wills are involved in any joint action, by default, one will must be operative and the other will must be submissive. If we “choose” to do good, the operative will is God’s; our will is submissive. Since our will is sinful, even its abiity to be submissive is powered by God. Thus there can be no merit attributed to me. My will can still choose to sin, thus the liberty of my will is preserved. When God empowers us not to sin, one could hardly call this “violence” to the will. On the contrary, it is benevolence to the will.

    All that aside, it seems to me that the broad difference between the Calvinist and the Catholic position is the salvific nature of sanctification. The Calvinist believes that we are saved by God and works of sanctification result from salvation. The Catholic believes that we are saved by God and our works of sanctification.

    Blessings
    Curt

  397. Alicia

    I agree with your comment, “This language can cause me to be just as uncertain about my final salvation.” John said, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” We know this because of the promises of God, not because we have hope in our good works.

    Jesus prayed for us like this…

    John 17:2 “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” … 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. … 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. … 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. ”

    We KNOW that we are sanctified through the work of Christ… not the works of me. Thus we are the beneficiaries of grace through salvation AND sanctification. Eternal life is granted by God to all those He has given to Christ. This is the promise of God! Good News! The gift is given, bought and paid for by Jesus on the cross. It is finished!

    Blessings
    Curt

  398. Alicia,

    I believe Calvin and the reformed scholastics all used the language of secondary causality. This is really the only way to avoid attributing the cause of sin to God and maintaining a genuine place for nature (contra pantheism). The question, I think, is whether secondary causality is anything more than mere instrumental causality for the Reformers.

    Also, the fact that saints are hard to spot is no argument against there being any (we are not omniscient like God, after all). And even this perfection can only be a result of grace.

    Finally, unless we’re merely utilizing God in order to avoid hell, the idea that we should be purged of sin before seeing him is perfectly acceptable, even necessary. To turn to God is simultaneously to turn from darkness and sin; to desire God is to hate sin. This is why there is purgatory. If we would never dare meet the president without having washed up and changed out of our pajamas, how much more should we desire to be free from any sin when we meet our Bridegroom?

  399. Curt,

    I believe that your intentions are good, and I join you in the affirmation of those wonderful words of St. John, written by divine inspiration. I also appreciate the enthusiasm, but want to advocate carefulness in expression, particularly in this forum. This site exists to provide a place for the careful discussion of the truth that is in Christ Jesus, particularly with reference to those issues over which Catholic and Reformed Christians remain divided. That said, it is not clear to me what you mean by the following claim:

    We KNOW that we are sanctified through the work of Christ… not the works of me.

    I thought that one of the principle points of agreement on this matter in general, and throughout the discussion on this thread in particular, is that sanctification proceeds both through the work of Christ and “the works of me,” though of course the process originates with the work of Christ in me, in the Holy Spirit, prior to my good works. Perhaps you would clarify what you mean by the above statement, for purposes of mutual understanding.

    Andrew

  400. Curt,

    What do you make of Francis Turretin’s statement in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology:

    Seventeenth Topic: The Necessity Of Good Works, III:
    Are good works necessary to salvation?
    We affirm.

    ?

  401. Devin!

    How good to hear from you my friend. I hope you and the Rose tribe are well!

    You asked…
    “What do you make of Francis Turretin’s statement in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology”…

    I respond with Turretin…
    “Further with regard to the question here agitated between us and the Romanists-whether the works of believers are and can be called truly good. We must distinguish between truly good and perfectly good. We have proved before that the latter cannot be ascribed to the works of the saints on account of the imperfection of sanctification and the remains of sin. But the former is rightly predicated of them because although they are not as yet perfectly renewed, still they are truly and unfeignedly renewed. While the Romanists are unwilling to make this distinction, they falsely charge us with denying that the works of believers are truly good because we maintain that they are imperfect, since the truth and perfection of works are notwithstanding most diverse and the former can be granted without the latter.”

    Blessings
    Curt

  402. Andrew

    You requested…
    “Perhaps you would clarify what you mean by the above statement, for purposes of mutual understanding.”

    I have a jillion posts above, most of which answer your question… and for the sake of not being repetitive, redundant and saying the same thing over again, I’ll first point back to them. To answer you question briefly so as not to be discourteous :-) so here goes…

    You said…
    “I thought that one of the principle points of agreement on this matter in general, and throughout the discussion on this thread in particular, is that sanctification proceeds both through the work of Christ and “the works of me,” though of course the process originates with the work of Christ in me, in the Holy Spirit, prior to my good works.

    I respond…
    It seems to me that we have gone beyond this opening statement to a point where we were discussing the “will” of God and the “will” of man, and were further discussing the operative will in my good works. This in parallel with a discussion of the salvific nature (or not) of sanctification.

    In particular to your question, my comment, “We KNOW that we are sanctified through the work of Christ… not the works of me” stems from my understanding of Jesus’ words, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” along with all the other Scriptures I have previously quoted in this thread. Going back to John’s words, ““I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life”… how can we possibly KNOW that we have eternal life if such is based on my works and not solely the promises of God? We do not KNOW what tomorrow may hold for us, save in the promises of God.

    Blessings
    Curt

  403. Curt,

    Perhaps you could be more specific in pointing to those particular comments that explain what you mean by the claim in question. Just based on the material following “I respond…” in your most recent comment, it seems to me that your claim that we are not sanctified though “the works of me” reduces to the claim that we are not sanctified by our *voluntary* works, i.e., those works that are acts of our own will. In that case, you are simply begging the question, because, as you say, this is the very point being disputed, between you and, it seems, everyone else commenting in this thread (whether Catholic or Protestant).

    Regarding the basis of your claim, our Lord’s words about sanctification do not entail your claim, neither does St. John’s statement about knowing that one has eternal life entail your claim. In response to your question, “how can we possibly KNOW that we have eternal life if such is based on my works and not solely the promises of God?” I will cite some further passages from the First Epistle of John:

    And by this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments. He who says that he knows him and keeps not his commandments is a liar: and the truth is not in him. But he that keeps his word, in him in very deed the charity of God is perfected. And by this we know that we are in him. (1 John 2:3-5.)

    We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not abides in death. Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in himself. (1 John 3:14-15.)

    My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth. In this we know that we are of the truth and in his sight shall persuade our hearts. (1 John 3:18-19.)

    Eternal life is not merely perpetual existence apart from the pains of hell. It is life in love, based upon the love of God in Christ Jesus. We are caught up into this life by the “washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,” not on the basis of any righteousness that we have done. Then, we progress in this new life of grace by means of “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), which love is expressed by obeying the commandments of God. We do not obtain eternal life by good works, but we do live this eternal life by good works, that is, by loving God and obeying his commandments, because loving God and obeying his commandments is the very essence of eternal life. This is why St. John can write that we know that we have eternal life because we love the brethren.

    (It seems to me that the entire First Epistle of John can legitimately be read as a commentary on John 17:3; i.e., an explanation of what eternal life is, by way of explaining what it means to “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”)

    The relation between love of God and the brethren, and acts of the will, relative to the disagreement between us regarding the same, was expressed in the second paragraph of comment #388, which I will reproduce here, for convenience:

    Neither Kevin nor the theologians to whom he appeals say much specifically about the *will* of man, but I take the activity of the will to be implied by words like “cooperation,” such that man’s actions in sanctification are voluntary. Otherwise, the affirmation that man is actively involved in sanctification (unlike regeneration, in which man is entirely passive, on the Reformed reading) reduces his activity to the involuntary realm, analogous to natural actions such as flinching, twitching, and salivating. The problem with this, of course, is that the essence of those grace-enabled actions (i.e., good works) that are pleasing unto God is *love,* and it is hard to imagine how acts which are involuntary, whether of the purely natural or the grace-enabled variety, could possibly be construed as love.

    Andrew

  404. Andrew

    With due respect, my friend, I probably have 50+ previous posts, and for the sake of others, I’m trying not to just repost everything I have already said. Further, to be honest, I am having difficulty finding (or at least understanding) the question in your question. I will, for the moment, discuss the Scriptures you provided, specifically in light of sanctification as a personal merit on which my salvation depends:

    1 ————————-
    “And by this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments. He who says that he knows him and keeps not his commandments is a liar: and the truth is not in him. But he that keeps his word, in him in very deed the charity of God is perfected. And by this we know that we are in him. (1 John 2:3-5.)

    This Scripture can only be understood with the Scriptures preceding, “And by this we know…” By what do we know?

    ” 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. ” (1 John 2:1-2)

    So Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. Therefore we know, as pointed out in 3, that if we are in Him, we will keep His commandments. So keeping His commandments is a sign that He is in us. And if we sin, He is the propitiation of our sins. Jesus concludes in 29, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” So our righteousness is the result of being “born of Him”. Merit score: God 100%, Me 0%.

    2 ————————-
    We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not abides in death. Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in himself. (1 John 3:14-15.)

    This Scripture is self-evident. We have passed from death to life… past tense, we are already saved unto eternal life. We know this how? Because we love the brethren… the sign of what God has already done. Thus, if love is not evident, we have not passed from death to life. Pretty straight forward. God saves us, and our works of love are the evidence or result of His grace. Merit score: God 100%, Me 0%.

    3 ————————-
    My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth. In this, we know that we are of the truth and in his sight shall persuade our hearts. (1 John 3:18-19)

    This follows the same reasoning as 2 above. We know that we are “of the truth”, ie sheep of the Shepherd by our actions. John sums this up much better than I can at the end of Chapter 3:

    23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    It is the Spirit within that effects our outward works. Keeping His commandments is the sign of He in me. It is not the result of my meritorious goodness. It is the result of His grace. Merit score: God 100%, Me 0%.

    Blessings
    Curt

  405. Alicia (#395)

    I think one of my problems is that the CC claims I must become sinless before I can see God, and when I look at people within the CC or anywhere(I have never met a Catholic Saint) I don’t see them, nor myself as being pristine, so to me either Aquinas got it wrong or Luther got it wrong. Both had their philosophical systems that undergird their theology, and one must be incorrect. I think this is why I am hung-up. Is this what you find too?

    Alicia, never fear, you will be sinless when you see God – and, indeed, will not see Him until you are. You have certainly never met a sinless living person – including those who, after death, are declared saints. The just man sins seven times a day (Proverbs 24:16).

    This is what Purgatory is about. I first believed in Purgatory in 1970, a few months after I had first believed in Christ – and more than twenty years before I even thought of being a Catholic, from what C. S. Lewis wrote:

    “Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?

    I believe in Purgatory.

    Mind you, the Reformers had good reasons for throwing doubt on the ‘Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory’ as that Romish doctrine had then become…..

    The right view returns magnificently in Newman’s DREAM. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer ‘With its darkness to affront that light’. Religion has claimed Purgatory.

    Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’

    I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don’t think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

    My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am ‘coming round’,’ a voice will say, ‘Rinse your mouth out with this.’ This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed.”

    – C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 20, paragraphs 7-10, pages 108-109

    I cannot describe the longing with which I think of Purgatory – to be unable to sin – as those in Purgatory are – I would go through anything for that.

    How could I face the all-Holy God with any trace of sin still in my heart?

    jj

  406. Curt,

    All you need to do is list the comment numbers for the comments in which you explained your meaning. You do not need to reproduce the explanations. Short of that, I will assume that my gloss (in the first paragraph of #403) adequately captures your meaning.

    Your glosses of the verses that I cited illustrates the futility of proceeding by proof-texting. Your readings of these verses are by no means obvious, and your engagement with the texts, which is almost entirely assertorical (and seemingly haphazard) sheds no light on the point under consideration, which is your question, “how can we possibly KNOW that we have eternal life if such is based on my works and not solely the promises of God?”

    As St. John shows in his First Epistle, to abide in eternal life is to live in a certain way. To this extent, having eternal life depends on our works, although obtaining eternal life does not. St. John further shows that in fact we can know that we have eternal life, even though having eternal life, in the sense of abiding in life, depends upon our works (i.e., our love for the brethren) at least in the sense that if we do not love the brethren, then we do not have eternal life. We might go on to arrive at different theological interpretations of this point, but the point is clearly there in the text, and it suffices, so far as I can tell, to put to rest your question about assurance.

    To be fair, I kind of set this up by citing multiple Scriptures to you in the first place, before we had resolved certain outstanding differences. One man’s exegesis is another man’s eisegesis. I do not mean to imply that we cannot appeal to Sacred Scripture in the course of working out our differences, only that in these appeals we must proceed more slowly, and avoid making assertions for which we have not provided careful arguments.

    At this point, I am not sure that that is going to happen in this thread. But instead of absolutely pulling the plug, I am simply going to put this conversation on pause in order to focus on Holy Week. I will not comment or approve further comments until at least Bright Monday. Some guests at CTC have been cleared to post comments without waiting for moderation, and I won’t delete any comments they might post, but I encourage everyone to take a break, have a blessed Easter, and return refreshed and recommitted to a careful conversation, to the end of acheiving greater unity in our understanding of the nature and purpose of sanctification.

    In Christ,

    Andrew

  407. Andrew (re:#106) and everyone here,

    Thank you for this comment. Very good idea. No more comments from me at CTC until after Easter (on Bright Monday). I love the discussions here, and I am serious about trying to help our Protestant brothers and sisters understand Catholic Christianity (especially with my having been a *very* serious Calvinistic Protestant, myself, for years!!). However, the truth is, I need a break from commenting here, and I think that other people might need one as well (up to their discretion, of course!). God bless, everyone! Have a beautiful Holy Week! Lord willing, I’ll be back after Easter!

  408. And for what it’s worth, my wife and will be driving down on Holy Saturday to what is reputedly the most boring town on earth, to visit friends – back on on the Tuesday after Easter, and then the following week-end to Auckland’s Eucharistic Convention – and back to work on Tuesday the 17th. Blessed Eastertide to everyone!

    jj

  409. Happy Holy Week! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

    Curt

  410. Curt,

    I hope you had a blessed Easter, brother. Back to the discussion! :-)

    As Andrew observes above, in his reply to you in #106, a gloss of Biblical verses is not the same thing as Biblical exegesis. In a sense, you did reply to my exegesis of Romans 2:5-8 (which I also did in the larger context of the preceding verses), but I still don’t see how you actually *exegeted* Romans 2:5-8. Let’s look at Romans 2:1-8 again, from the ESV translation:

    1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

    6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

    (Source: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+2%3A1-8&version=ESV)

    In verses 1-5, St. Paul warns about the danger of judging (condemning, here) others when one is also guilty of serious, unrepentant sins. If one goes back to Romans 1, one can see, in verses 16-17, that Paul’s teaching (in Romans 2:1-5) is in the context of the situation between the Jews and the “Greeks,” i.e. Gentiles, although Paul is not making his point *only* for the Jews and the Gentiles.

    In verses 18-19 of Romans 1, St. Paul states that, moreover, God’s wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” All people are guilty before God because of their sin, whether they are Jewish, Greek, or of any other ethnicity/nationality.

    Therefore, in Romans 2:1-5, St. Paul warns about the folly of condemning other people when one is also guilty of serious, unrepentant sins. Then, in verses 6-8, he specifically states that *eternal judgment* will be rendered “to each one according to his works.” Notably, he does *not* frame this in terms of believers simply receiving rewards in Heaven for their works, and non-believers going to Hell. (*Not* that Paul is saying that non-believers do not have to worry at all about *going* to Hell– but that is not his explicit point in these particular verses.)

    Paul’s linking of *eternal judgment* to our *works* is clear from the fact that, in verses 6-8, he states that those who *do* certain things will either be given “eternal life” or will face “wrath and fury.” He is clearly not teaching here about Christians simply receiving eternal rewards in Heaven, on the basis of their already being *permanently justified* before God on the basis of “faith alone.”

    You stated, in an above comment, that the believer (the Christian) will not be eternally judged by Jesus. Why, then, does St. Paul clearly teach, in Romans 2:6-8, that “eternal life” or “wrath and fury” will be rendered “to each one according to his works”?

  411. Hello Brother Christopher

    In the Easter spirit, let me begin with this: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

    Praise God! And now to our discussion…

    You asked…
    “Why, then, does St. Paul clearly teach, in Romans 2:6-8, that “eternal life” or “wrath and fury” will be rendered “to each one according to his works”?”

    I respond…
    Because, as I outlined in 383, Paul is making the case that both the Jew and the Gentile are guilty of sin and therefore subject to judgement by their works. Paul is showing the need for grace, because under the law, all are condemned to damnation. Paul begins with the Jews in 1:18, then he includes the Gentiles in chapter 2, intimating that “there is no partiality with God”. Paul concludes by telling the Jews in 3:19-20… “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” So Paul is laying out his case to Jew and Gentile alike… we are all guilty of sin, and we cannot save ourselves with works of righteousness. So what are we to do? Paul continues in Romans 3…

    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    So the law established the need for a savior. We are justified by His grace through faith in Christ. Paul then continues…

    27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

    So the law of works is dead; our justification comes through the law of faith. This is true for the Jew and the Gentile. Paul goes on…

    31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

    In other words, the law of works establishes the law of grace, for without the law of works, there is no need for grace. Under the law of works, we are judged by our works. But we are no longer judged by the law, as Paul says in Romans 7…

    “4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

    So we are released from the law you alluded to in Romans 2, and are now under the law of grace. Paul brings this truth together in Romans 8…

    1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Blessings to you brother Christopher,
    Curt

  412. Curt (re:#411),

    I just realized that through the whole of my recent participation in this thread, I have been thinking that the comments had only gotten into the 100’s, when we’re actually into the 400’s here! Wow, I’m sorry for that little oversight on my part! :-)

    Thanks for your reply, brother. I appreciate that therein, you go more deeply into strict Biblical exegesis in this discussion. That is where I have been trying to keep things myself.

    Respectfully, I do think that you might have missed (or perhaps, did not consider in this particular discussion) two important points in Romans 1. Missing these points seems to affect your reading of Romans 2:1-8. In Romans I, St. Paul opens by addressing his letter explicitly:

    7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    St. Paul is writing to *Christian believers* here, in one specific locale– Rome. Therefore, we can expect that his points in this letter will touch upon specific situations occurring among them (as well as featuring more broadly applicable Christian themes and statements). However, these are, emphatically, *Christians* to whom he is writing, and he is making his points to them, as a Christian who is writing to Christians.

    It is that light that he writes in Romans 1:

    15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

    He then writes:

    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,5 as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+1/)

    When the first chapter, and the second, are read in light of the fact (from chapter 1, verse 7) that St. Paul is specifically writing to *Christians*, then, verses 16 and 17 of Romans 1 begin to unfold their crucial implications, both for the rest of the chapter, and for the entire letter to the Romans.

    St. Paul is addressing, *mainly*, here, Jewish and Greek (Gentile) Christians in Rome. There were problems among them, largely stemming from an early Jewish Christian tendency to look down on Greek (Gentile) Christians for not holding to the Jewish ceremonial laws/rituals, such as that of circumcision.

    It is in *that* light that Paul writes of righteousness being by faith, and not by works of the Law. He is emphasizing that the all-important, defining, common bond between Jewish and Gentile Christians is that of faith in Christ– and that, in that light, they should not allow the matter of ceremonial works of the Jewish Law to create divisions among them. Those works do not *define* Christians, either then or now. Faith in Christ defines Christians. Therefore, Paul is emphasizing faith in Christ in a locale– Rome– in which there were disagreements *among Christians* about Jewish and Gentile matters. The apostle is not teaching imputed righteousness. He is teaching about the centrality of faith in the Christian’s life– for *all* Christians, regardless of their lineage or background(s).

    The fact that St. Paul is writing his letter to *Christians*, again, in one specific locale (Rome) is very important to keep in mind when reading Romans 2:1-8:

    Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, knot knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

    6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+2%3A1-8/)

    Read in their actual, historical context, as written to Christians, there is no hint in these verses, or in the entire letter of Romans, that Christians will not be judged by Jesus, because of their being covered by Christ’s perfect righteousness. This theory of imputed righteousness originated, not in Scripture, but with Martin Luther at the Reformation in the 15oos.

    As you noted that Frank Beckwith has written, there is a forensic *aspect*, a declaratory *aspect*, to justification in the Bible, but righteousness is also infused by God, nd it is part of our justification before God. This is very clear when one reads Romans 2:1-8, especially verses 6-8, in light of the fact that St. Paul is writing to *Christians* (as is, again, clear from Romans 1:7).

    The Protestant idea of the Lutheran concepts of “faith alone” and “imputed righteousness” as being “the Biblical Gospel” completely falls apart when confronted by Romans 2:6-8– verses, which, in context, were written to *Christians*:

    6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

    St. Paul gives no hint here that he is writing about an eternal judgment that Christians *would* have to face, *if* they were not covered by Christ’s perfect righteousness. Rather, Paul states that God *will render* these respective eternal fates to people, in the judgment, which is *coming*. There is no hint of these being theoretical or rhetorical statements. For those who do certain things, there will be eternal life; for those who do opposing things, there will be wrath and fury.

    It’s important to note that, read in light of Romans 1, these are clearly not Pelagian, or semi-Pelagian, statements from St. Paul– because it is faith in Christ, and Christ Himself, empowering these good works. Without the works, flowing from the faith, though, there is the threat of wrath and fury at the judgment– even for professing Christians. St. Paul makes it very clear in Romans 1 and 2, *when* they are read in context.

  413. Hey Brother Christopher

    I hope this evening is finding you well. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    I do not deny that Paul is speaking to both Gentile and Jewish Christians… indeed he spends a fair amount of time sorting through the “sameness” as Christians, ie that all are sinners and all are dead under the law… while also dealing with the substantially different world views that they each brought to their new faith.

    You conclude with…
    “Without the works, flowing from the faith, though, there is the threat of wrath and fury at the judgment– even for professing Christians. St. Paul makes it very clear in Romans 1 and 2, *when* they are read in context.”

    I fail to see the context to which you refer. Are we reading Romans 1 and 2 in the context of Romans 1 and 2? If so, the message is this… we are all condemned under the law, for we are all sinners. Romans 1 and 2 can only be understood if we examine all of Romans as I outlined above. The first two chapters only set the table for what follows.

    You said…
    “St. Paul gives no hint here that he is writing about an eternal judgment that Christians *would* have to face, *if* they were not covered by Christ’s perfect righteousness.”

    You are correct… Paul gives no hint here (Chapters 1 and 2). He does go way beyond hints in subsequent verses leading up to the slam dunk in Romans 8…

    1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Read the words… Jesus (NOT our works) has set us free from the law of sin and death. The law was weak because our flesh was weak. God knew this and bridged the gap for us by sending His Son as a sin offering. We are not the sin offering. Our works are not the sin offering. Jesus is the sin offering. In this, the law is fulfilled for us… ie, justice has been fulfilled and we are justified by Christ.

    Thanks be to God our Father who loves us so much!

    Blessings to you my brother
    Curt

  414. Curt (re:#413),

    Thank you for your reply, brother. I truly appreciate your sticking with me through this lengthy discussion! :-)

    The “context” to which I was referring in #412, and which you say that you fail to see (and I agree with you there) is that when Paul writes Romans 2:1-8– and specifically, for our discussion, verses 6-8– he is literally *addressing (writing to) Christians*. That is the context of Romans 2:6-8. Again, this is clear from verse7, and also, verse 8, of Romans 1– and while you do acknowledge this in #413, respectfully, brother, it seems to me that you are missing the very serious *implications* of the fact that he *is* addressing Christians, *because* you are misunderstanding St. Paul, elsewhere (in Romans 8, with which I will deal here), to teach imputed righteousness, wherein Christians cannot and will not face eternal judgment for our works by Jesus. (The astericks here only for emphasis– I’m not shouting at you or haranguing you, brother. Please know that.)

    Let’s look first at Romans 1:7-8 ( as I didn’t include verse 8 last time, which is a bit more emphatic than verse 7):

    7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+1/)

    Obviously, in light of the above verses, St. Paul is literally writing his letter *to Christians*– but happily, it seems that you and I agree on that, so we can move on to other considerations! :-)

    Because of whom Paul is addressing here, there is a continuity of thought that stretches from Romans 1:7-8 to Romans 2, and up through verses 6-8– in which he states that *when* (not *if*, theoretically, if not for the imputed righteousness of the believer!) judgment is rendered to “each one,” works will play a significant role.

    However, the bite of these verses, for the Christian, is greatly diminished in your interpretation, because of your understanding of Romans 8:1-4– so let’s look at these verses:

    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+8%3A1-4/)

    Curt, this statement might surprise you (or maybe not, I can’t say), but Catholics believe in the God-inspired, infallible truth of Romans 8:1-4 every bit as much as Reformed Protestants. We don’t *understand* them in exactly the same way that Reformed Protestants do. That much is obvious!

    However, part of the *reason* that Catholics don’t understand Romans 8:1-4 in the general manner of Reformed Protestants is the *historical fact* that the Lutheran concept of the perfect, imputed righteousness of the Christian– in which he is “counted” or “viewed,” by God, as having Christ’s perfect righteousness, based on “faith alone” in Christ– was not taught, by any Church Father (the Christian Biblical exegetes of their times) for the first 1, 500 years of the Church. This view was advanced by Luther– I believe, due to his excessive scrupulosity over even his venial sins. (I know that Protestants don’t hold to the concept of mortal and venial sins. For some thinking on why *one* famous Reformer did not see that distinction, and why Protestants have generally followed him in that, see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/why-john-calvin-did-not-recognize-the-distinction-between-mortal-and-venial-sin/)

    Curt, I understand your thinking on Romans 8:1-4, because I held to it myself, as a Calvinist Protestant (Reformed Baptist) for years. In #413, you exhort me to “read the words” of these verses, and I understand your desire, in writing as such, for me to understand the verses in the same way that you do– but I can’t. I can’t return to an interpretation of those verses which was not taught by serious Biblical exegetes for 1,500 years. I can provide evidence for you of this, here, but it will be a very, very, very lengthy comment. (Let me know if you want some though.)

    To my exegesis of the actual verses though! :-) Here they are again, from the ESV translation:

    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    As a Catholic, I absolutely affirm that “the law of the Spirit of life” which has “set (us) free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” has done what the law could not do. Under the Mosaic law, obviously, believers did not have the same degree of power, and one might argue, they did not necessarily always have *exactly the same *motivating* power, that Christians have in fighting sin and living out the Christian life in other ways. Christians have the love of Christ, poured out into our hearts, and we have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. These realities are much greater and more powerful than what devout, believing Jews had under the Mosaic law.

    *Now*, by the grace of God, through the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the sacraments of the Church (through which real grace from God comes!), Christians actually have the power (again, all by, and through, God’s grace!) to be on the right side of that eternal judgment St. Paul warns us about in Romans 2:6-8.

    To be absolutely clear, this is not “salvation by works,” because both our faith and our works are due to *God’s grace* at work in us. As a Catholic, I affirm wholeheartedly that, in St. Paul’s words, we walk, “not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    In a much earlier comment, you asked for some evidence from Scripture that Jesus teaches that believers will be judged eternally, in part, according to our works. To that end, I would direct you to the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31–48– as a *beginning*. (There is much, much more from Jesus on the place of works in our eternal judgment, but I will have to get to that in my next comment here, Lord willing.) This passage, featuring the words of Our Lord, simply do not support justification and imputed righteousness by faith alone. Consider, especially, the number of times that Jesus uses the word “for,” and consider, also, the words both preceding and following the “for’s” (i.e. the context). Blessings to you, brother.

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,6 you did it to me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    (Source: http://www.esvbible.org/Matthew+25/)

  415. Hello Brother Christopher

    We are very close and yet there is a very important distinction between us. Let me begin by saying something I have not said lately in my posts: Works are a very important part of the Christian life. Scripture teaches that works are a sign of, and the result of, our salvation… a result of God’s grace working in us. The distinction between us is that, as I understand your view, our salvation is the result of God’s grace operating in conjunction with our works.

    You said…

    However, part of the *reason* that Catholics don’t understand Romans 8:1-4 in the general manner of Reformed Protestants is the *historical fact* that the Lutheran concept of the perfect, imputed righteousness of the Christian– in which he is “counted” or “viewed,” by God, as having Christ’s perfect righteousness, based on “faith alone” in Christ– was not taught, by any Church Father (the Christian Biblical exegetes of their times) for the first 1, 500 years of the Church.

    First, Scripture is the record of the earliest Church Fathers, and it teaches that salvation is a “gift from God, not the result of works that none should boast”. I personally believe that Scripture is sufficient to make my case… but if you want to appeal to the Church Fathers, let’s do it.

    St. Augustine: Homilies on the Gospel of John…

    12. “For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him may be saved.” So far, then, as it lies in the physician, He is come to heal the sick. He that will not observe the orders of the physician destroys himself. He is come a Saviour to the world: why is he called the Saviour of the world, but that He is come to save the world, not to judge the world? Thou wilt not be saved by Him; thou shalt be judged of thyself. And why do I say, “shall be judged”? See what He says: “He that believeth on Him is not
    judged, but he that believeth not.” What dost thou expect He is going to say, but “is judged”? “Already,” saith He, “has been judged.” The judgment has not yet appeared, but already it has taken place. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.

    The wording of this is a bit herky jerky, but Augustine confirms what Jesus and the apostles have plainly told us; namely, that the sheep have been chosen by God, that the sheep were given to Christ, that Christ knows who they are, that the judgment has already occurred, that those who are saved by Christ belong to Christ, and that the rest are doomed. Augustine does not mention our works as part of the equation.

    Augustine again…
    De gratia Christi 25, 26: “For not only has God given us our ability and helps it, but He even works [brings about] willing and acting in us; not that we do not will or that we do not act, but that without His help we neither will anything good nor do it”

    Augustine affirms my view that we can do nothing good apart from God’s will working in us. Again, not my will, but God’s will in me. No merit for me, all glory to Him.

    Augustine again…
    107. Accordingly, even the life eternal, which is surely the wages of good works, is called a gift of God by the apostle. “For the wages of sin,” he says, “is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now, wages for military service are paid as a just debit, not as a gift. Hence, he said “the wages of sin is death,” to show that death was not an unmerited punishment for sin but a just debit. But a gift, unless it be gratuitous, is not grace. We are, therefore, to understand that even man’s merited goods are gifts from God, and when life eternal is given through them, what else do we have but “grace upon grace returned”?

    Again, according to Augustine, even man’s “merited goods” are a gift from God. How then can they then be merited or ascribed to me? Simply put, they can’t. All glory goes to God. I cannot earn even one little part of my salvation. My salvation is 100% God’s grace. My good works are simply an outward sign of what God is doing inside.

    Regarding the Scripture from Matthew … how does Jesus separate the people? “He will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left”. Who are the sheep?

    John 10
    27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    So the selection process is made based on God’s will… the one’s He gave to Jesus. To those, Jesus says, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” He does not say, “Come those of you who did good works.” The election of the sheep is made at the beginning of time, well before the good works of the saints that He goes on to mention. Those good works were the result of God’s prevenient saving grace. But salvation to eternal life was solely the result of God’s election.

    So, yes, good works are evidence of God’s grace in us, but, no, His grace is not dependent on our works. He chooses whom He will, then works His will in us. Those who are chosen, therefore, will exhibit works of righteousness.

    Blessings
    Curt

  416. Curt (re:#415),

    Thank you for your reply, brother.

    We may be at an impasse here; I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to throw in the towel on this discussion. I am hoping and praying that we will reach a point of mutual understanding and agreement. On the subject of the early Church Fathers, though, and specifically, St. Augustine, I must say, that having spent many, many hours in the Fathers (because, being physically disabled, unable to drive, and unemployed can allow one that time, even if it is unwanted time, in some sense!), it seems to me that you are reading the Lutheran view of the imputed righteousness of the Christian *back into* St. Augustine’s writing.

    The reason that this seems so to me is that, if you are familiar, at any real length, with Augustine’s writing, then you know that he *cannot* hold to the concept of imputed righteousness, partially due to the fact that his writings clearly attest to his belief in Purgatory, which is *utterly incompatible* with the perfect, imputed righteousness of the Christian. Therefore, you must be (although purely unintentionally) reading your *interpretation* of Scripture, from which you have your convictions on imputed righteousness, back into Augustine– because he, himself, did not hold to imputed righteousness. He emphatically did not hold that Christians will not be judged by Christ for our works. Here is St. Augustine on Purgatory:

    “Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment” (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).

    That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 [A.D. 421]).

    “The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or of hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church. But these things are of profit to those who, when they were alive, merited that they might afterward be able to be helped by these things. There is a certain manner of living, neither so good that there is no need of these helps after death, nor yet so wicked that these helps are of no avail after death” (ibid., 29:109).

    (Source: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/salvation/purgatory/)

    If these passages seem contradictory (to you) to the *other* passages from Augustine which you quoted, in #415, the possible reason could be that you are reading him from outside of the 2,000-year faith and tradition of the Catholic Church, which he *explicitly credited* for his accepting of, and believing in, the Gospel in the first place. Here is St. Augustine’s explicit statement thereof, from his “Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental”:

    Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichaeus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichaeus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you;-If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichaeus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel (Ch 5 §6).

    (Source: http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/articles/augustine_DTK.htm)

    As for good works being merely the “evidence” of that we have already been permanently justified before God, by “faith alone” (I accept *grace* alone, as the source of both our faith and and our works!), is made highly problematic by many, many Scriptural passages.

    I know, from my own experience, that it is very difficult to see this, when one is holding to a framework of imputed righteousness, but the “good works as mere evidence” view is *very* Scripturally problematic. James 2:14-26 is a stunning example of this, *when* the passage is not forced into the framework of imputed righteousness– which Calvinists virtually must do in order to make sense of the passage from within their theological paradigm. I have been there– I was a Calvinist!

    Curt, I wrote, above, in this comment, that your belief in imputed righteousness comes from your *interpretation* of Scripture. To be very clear and fair, I must state that all readings of Scripture are *interpretations*, including mine, though I am not ultimately *subject* to my own interpretation, as I was when I was a Protestant. (Again, sorry for all of the asterisks here– they are only for emphasis, not to indicate shouting or haranguing.)

    The question must ultimately become, then, *whose* interpretation of Scripture is correct, and how can we *know* that it is correct? The hard fact is that, praying, reading Scripture at length, comparing Scripture with Scripture, consulting commentaries, and even learning Hebrew and Greek, by which to better read the Bible, has not brought unifying clarity to Protestantism– such that after 500 years, Protestantism, and Protestants, still cannot present a unified doctrinal *and* practical Christian witness to the world, in even, simply, a Catechism common to *all* Protestant belief worldwide– as the Catholic Church has done, worldwide, with her Catechism.

    Are we all ultimately left to our own best understanding and interpretation of the Bible, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit– even though Protestants cannot agree, among themselves, as to whether one or another Protestant branch is being illuminated by the Holy Spirit, deceived by Satan, or simply, doing poor exegesis, on multiple Biblical issues?

    I have quoted these passages, repeatedly, before at CTC, even in *this* thread, but they are still apropos here. St. Irenaeus pointed the way out of the above described confusion in 189 A.D., and this way out is as true in our time as it was in his:

    “It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).

    (Source: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/apostolic-succession/)

  417. Hello Brother Christopher

    Thanks for your post regarding Augustine. Since you are clearly a scholar of the Fathers, you then must surely know that Augustine recanted his theological view later in life from a synergistic view of salvation to a monergistic view in his Treatise of the Predestination of the Saints. Before I get to that, we should also note that Luther was an Augustinian monk and Calvin quoted Augustine more than any other theologian. It’s not like these guys were unaware of Augustinian teaching.

    So, Augustine explains in the following that he was wrong in his synergistic view of salvation and affirms a monergistic view, arguing that due to our fallen state, we are not partly dependent upon Christ for our conversion but totally dependent upon Christ.

    From the Catholic EWTN library website:

    Chap. 7 [III.]—Augustine confesses that he had formerly been in error concerning the grace of God.

    It was not thus that pious and humble teacher thought—I speak of the most blessed Cyprian—when he said “that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own.” And in order to show the, he appealed to the apostle as a witness, where he said, “For what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why boastest thou as if thou hadst not received it?” And it was chiefly by this testimony that I myself also was convinced when I was in a similar error, thinking that faith whereby we believe on God is not God’s gift, but that it is in us from ourselves, and that by it we obtain the gifts of God, whereby we may live temperately and righteously and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God’s grace, so that by its means would be given to us what we might profitably ask, except that we could not believe if the proclamation of the truth did not precede; but that we should consent when the gospel was preached to us I thought was our own doing, and came to us from ourselves. And this my error is sufficiently indicated in some small works of mine written before my episcopate. Among these is that which you have mentioned in your letters wherein is an exposition of certain propositions from the Epistle to the Romans. Eventually, when I was retracting all my small works, and was committing that retractation to writing, of which task I had already completed two books before I had taken up your more lengthy letters,—when in the first volume I had reached the retractation of this book, I then spoke thus:—”Also discussing, I say, ‘what God could have chosen in him who was as yet unborn, whom He said that the elder should serve; and what in the same elder, equally as yet unborn, He could have rejected; concerning whom, on this account, the prophetic testimony is recorded, although declared long subsequently, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated,”‘ I carried out my reasoning to the point of saying: ‘God did not therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge of what He Himself would give them, but he chose the faith, in the foreknowledge that He would choose that very person whom He foreknew would believe on Him,—to whom He would give the Holy Spirit, so that by doing good works he might obtain eternal life also.’ I had not yet very carefully sought, nor had I as yet found, what is the nature of the election of grace, of which the apostle says, ‘A remnant are saved according to the election of grace.’ Which assuredly is not grace if any merits precede it; lest what is now given, not according to grace, but according to debt, be rather paid to merits than freely given. And what I next subjoined: ‘For the same apostle says, “The same God which worketh all in all;” but it was never said, God believeth all in all;’ and then added, ‘ Therefore what we believe is our own, but what good thing we do is of Him who giveth the Holy Spirit to them that believe: I certainly could not have said, had I already known that faith itself also is found among those gifts of God which are given by the same Spirit. Both, therefore, are ours on account of the choice of the will, and yet both are given by the spirit of faith and love, For faith is not alone but as it is written, ‘Love with faith, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.’ And what I said a little after, ‘For it is ours to believe and to will, but it is His to give to those who believe and will, the power of doing good works through the Holy Spirit, by whom love is shed abroad in our hearts,’—is true indeed; but by the same rule both are also God’s, because God prepares the will; and both are ours too, because they are only brought about with our good wills. And thus what I subsequently said also: ‘Because we are not able to Will unless we are called; and when, after our calling, we would will, our willing is not sufficiently nor our running, unless God gives strength to us that run, and leads us whither He calls us;’ and thereupon added: ‘It is plain, therefore, that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy, that we do good works’—this is absolutely most true. But I discovered little concerning the calling itself, which is according to God’s purpose; for not such is the calling of all that are called, but only of the elect. Therefore what I said a little afterwards: ‘For as in those whom God elects it is not works but faith that begins the merit so as to do good works by the gift of God, so in those whom He condemns, unbelief and impiety begin the merit of punishment, so that even by way of punishment itself they do evil works’—I spoke most truly. But that even the merit itself of faith was God’s gift, I neither thought of inquiring into, nor did I say. And in another place I say: ‘For whom He has mercy upon, He makes to do good works, and whom He hardeneth He leaves to do evil works; but that mercy is bestowed upon the preceding merit of faith, and that hardening is applied to preceding iniquity.’ And this indeed is true; but it should further have been asked, whether even the merit of faith does not come from God’s mercy,—that is, whether that mercy is manifested in man only because he is a believer, or whether it is also manifested that he may be a believer? For we read in the apostles words: ‘I obtained mercy to be a believer.’ He does not say, ‘ Because I was a believer.’ Therefore although it is given to the believer, yet it has been given also that he may be a believer. Therefore also, in another place in the same book I most truly said: ‘ Because, if it is of God’s mercy, and not of works, that we are even called that we may believe and it is granted to us who believe to do good works, that mercy must not be grudged to the heathen;’—although I there discoursed less carefully about that calling which is given according to God’s purpose.”

    It is not the Protestant who is projecting “imputed righteousness” back through 2000 years to St. Augustine. It is rather St. Augustine who is projecting “imputed righteousness” forward (around the dogma of the Catholic Church) to the Protestants.

    Regarding your statement…

    Curt, I wrote, above, in this comment, that your belief in imputed righteousness comes from your *interpretation* of Scripture. To be very clear and fair, I must state that all readings of Scripture are *interpretations*, including mine, though I am not ultimately *subject* to my own interpretation, as I was when I was a Protestant. (Again, sorry for all of the asterisks here– they are only for emphasis, not to indicate shouting or haranguing.)

    The question must ultimately become, then, *whose* interpretation of Scripture is correct, and how can we *know* that it is correct? The hard fact is that, praying, reading Scripture at length, comparing Scripture with Scripture, consulting commentaries, and even learning Hebrew and Greek, by which to better read the Bible, has not brought unifying clarity to Protestantism– such that after 500 years, Protestantism, and Protestants, still cannot present a unified doctrinal *and* practical Christian witness to the world, in even, simply, a Catechism common to *all* Protestant belief worldwide– as the Catholic Church has done, worldwide, with her Catechism.

    First, if you were subject to your own interpretation of Scripture in the PCA church, then you misunderstood the PCA denomination which has a very clearly defined theology.

    Secondly, the Presbyterian Church is an apostolic church… that is, we believe that we are a continuation of the apostolic order established by Christ. As such, we have a laying on of hands when we ordain elders and pastors, just as the Acts churches did. The difference is that we govern the church with an oligarchy of elders, as the early churches did, not a monopoly, as the Roman Church evolved into.

    Finally, the Catholic Church continues to refine its theology to this day. Why should not the Protestant Church do the same? That Protestant churches may disagree on relatively minor points is no more a sign that they are wrong than saying the Catholic and Orthodox churches disagree, so they too must be wrong. Refering to the Church Fathers as absolute arbitors of theology is also risky as we see in Augustine’s change above. While there is great wisdom in much of what they said, they were not always right. Scripture, therefore, becomes our arbitor. If tradition conflicts with Scripture, the Word of God must take precedent over the words of man.

    Blesings to you brother
    I hope you’re feeling well tonight!

    Curt

  418. “Monergists, i.e. Calvinists and some Lutherans, claim that man cannot cooperate with God in salvation, because that would detract from God’s glory.”

    Someone else may have mentioned this in the comments–I did not read them all–but I want to clarify what monergists really claim, because the above statement is not totally accurate. Monergists believe man cannot cooperate with God, not because it would detract from God’s glory, but because man is morally incapable of cooperating until God regenerates him. Why is this? Because until a man is regenerated he is flesh (dead) and does not have the Spirit (alive). Which is why 1 Cor 2:14 says,

    “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

    And Jesus says in John 6:63,

    “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” John 6:63

    Your analogy of pushing on the rock best fits the post-regeneration Christian experience. After God does His sovereign and independent act of making the dead man alive, the man will joyfully and willingly push on the rock as a little child.

    Hope that clears things up!

  419. Robby,

    I agree that the monergism versus synergism debate primarily focuses on regeneration. I also agree that monergists typically appeal to passages that teach that before being made alive in the Spirit, we were dead in our tresspasses–the inference being that we were unable to cooperate with the grace of God.

    But in this post, I was pulling the lens back a bit, to more broadly consider the issue of grace and cooperation with grace in relation to the glory of God. As I mentioned in comment #6, this post makes the same point that Tim Troutman made in his article Soli Deo Gloria: A Catholic Perspective. In that article, Tim cites Reformed luminaries, notably John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, to the effect that, for them, the glory of God is very much relevant to question of monergism/synergism.

    Also, if you read the comments in this (admittedly very long) thread, you will find Calvinists who deny that sancitfication is synergistic, and who therefore deny that my pushing the rock analogy fits the post-regeneration Christian experience.

    In any event, if it is the case that the process of sanctification is synergistic but does not therefore detract from God’s glory, then it is (to say the least) not obvious that synergism in regeneration would detract from God’s glory. Of course, as you note, synergism in regeneration might be objectionable in other ways. But those were not the topic of this post. Regarding the objection to synergism that you mentioned, see the post, “A Reply to R.C. Sproul Regarding the Catholic Doctrines of Sin and Free Will.”

    Andrew

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