Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig

Aug 3rd, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Nicholas Batzig is a graduate of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Richmond Hill, Georgia.


Nicholas and Anna Batzig

Recently he wrote an article titled “The Justification of Imputation,” in which he provides an exegetical argument for the Protestant conception of justification by way of extra nos imputation. Imputation is a point of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics. According to the Protestant conception of imputation, God justifies us not by infusing righteousness into us, but by crediting Christ’s obedience to our account, and our sins to His account. This forensic declaration does not make the person internally righteous during this life, hence the term extra nos (lit. ‘outside of us’). Justification is followed by a gradual process of sanctification, though a person is never in this life truly internally righteous until after death.

By contrast, according to the Catholic Church, God justifies us by infusing righteousness into our hearts at baptism. Subsequently, by growing in grace and agape, we grow in righteousness and thus in justification, not by moving from a state of imperfect justification, but from perfect justification to more perfect justification, through a greater measure of sanctifying grace and agape. Here I show how Batzig’s argument from Scripture makes use of a particular paradigm in order to reach the conclusions he reaches concerning imputation.

Batzig begins his argument as follows:

At the heart of the historical Protestant teaching on justification–as over against the Roman Catholic dogma–is the biblical teaching that God demands perfect and perpetual obedience. … The need for imputed righteousness rests squarely on God’s continued demand for perfect obedience. God is absolutely holy. In order for a Holy God to maintain His holiness He can never become lax in his demand for holiness. A general holiness will never do. Man is indebted to God as the creature to the Creator. It is unthinkable that the infinitely holy God would require less than absolute perfection. To do so would be for Him to deny Himself.

Batzig’s argument consists of two premises. The first premise is (1) God demands absolute, perpetual, and perfect obedience for entrance into heaven. The second premise is (2) no Christian is absolutely, perpetually and perfectly obedient in this life. Therefore, it follows that without an extra nos imputation of a perfect righteousness, no one would be saved.

Batzig supports the first premise of his argument from two places in the New Testament: Galatians 3:10, and Romans 10:5-6.

Concerning Galatians 3:10 he writes:

The locus classicus for the Reformed teaching on God’s demand for perfect and perpetual obedience is Galatians 3:10. There the apostle Paul cites Deuteronomy 27:26 in an attempt to prove that justification is by faith, not by works. If justification were by our law-keeping (works) then a man would have to keep the entirety of the Law. This is the reason why Paul appeals to Deut. 27:26, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things written in the Law of God to do them.” Schreiner, in his article “Is Perfect Obedience to the Law Possible,” notes the following important observation about Galatians 3:10:

It is unlikely, therefore, that in Gal 3:10 Paul cited Deut 27:26 because the latter condemned the sin of legalism. The simplest way of reading the quotation, and it is one that accords with the OT context, is that Paul is saying that there is a curse on anyone who does not observe the law entirely. Such an interpretation is strengthened when one observes that Paul, in basic agreement with the LXX, uses a Scripture text that pronounces a curse on anyone who does not abide by all things (pasin) written in the book of the law, to do them. It is very important to note that the MT does not have any word in Deut 27:26 that corresponds to the word pasin in Gal 3:10. It is fair to conclude, therefore, that Paul’s use of the word pasin clearly implies that the curse was pending if one did not observe any part of the law.

The πασιν τοις of Galatians 3:10 makes it undeniable that God demanded perfect and unbroken obedience to the Law. The legal demand for perfect obedience did not pass away with the fall of Adam. God is holy, and a holy God must continue to demand perfect obedience to His own holy standard. If God did not demand perfect obedience to His Law then He would deny His own holy nature. As Cornelius Van Til noted, “What God says is right because He says it, and He says it because it rests on His own holy nature.” Even in eternity, God will demand perfect moral obedience to His holy law.

Batzig claims that because St. Paul, quoting Deut. 27:26, includes the words πᾶσιν τοῖς [all the] in Galatians 3:10, this makes it undeniable that God demands perfect and unbroken obedience to the Law.

The second passage Batzig uses to support this first premise of his argument is Romans 10:5-6. Concerning this passage he writes:

The other significant passage to which biblical scholars have pointed in defense of the demand for perfect obedience to the Law of God is Romans 10:5-6. Citing Leviticus 18:5, the apostle Paul contrasts two different kinds of righteousness: (1) The righteousness of the Law, and (2) the righteousness of faith.” Guy Prentiss Waters, in his outstanding JETS article on this passage, charters the exegetical waters (no pun intended) of this text. He writes:

When Paul encompasses Moses’ phrase [from Lev. 18:5] “all of my decrees and all of my commands” (πάντα τὰ προστάγματά μου καὶ πάντα τὰκρίματά μου) in a single word (αυτα), he is stressing a vital point. The righteousness which is of the law (την δικαιοσυνην την εκ του νομου) is a righteousness which is based upon and demands perfect and entire obedience to all the commands of God’s law. It is the meeting of this standard that is requisite for entrance into “life.” We have, then, an important affirmation parallel to Paul’s claim at Gal 3:10 that failure to perform flawless obedience to the law results in coming under the law’s curse (“for as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is every one who does not abide in everything which has been written in the book of the law, to do them.”

Paul sums up the biblical teaching on the demand for perfect obedience in the “πασιν” of Galatians 3:10 and the “αυτα” of Romans 10:5. This alone ought to suffice as sufficient proof of the exegetical accuracy of this doctrinal assertion.

Here Batzig notes that Romans 10:5-6 contrasts the righteousness that is by law with the righteousness that is by faith. Romans 10:5 refers to Moses’ teaching in Leviticus 18:5 that the people shall keep God’s commands and ordinances, and live by doing so. Batzig, drawing from Guy Waters, claims that when St. Paul summarizes Moses’s statement regarding the righteousness which is of the law, St. Paul implies through his use of the word ‘αυτα’ (i.e. them) that such righteousness requires the keeping of all the laws, thus demanding “perfect and entire obedience to all the commands of God’s law.”

From a Catholic point of view, as I explained in “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin,” there are two different paradigms here regarding what it means to keep the law. Call one the list paradigm, and call the other the agape paradigm. In the list paradigm, perfect law-keeping is conceived as keeping a list of God given precepts. According to this paradigm, perfect law-keeping requires perfectly and perpetually keeping (and not in any way violating) every single precept in the list. In the New Covenant, we are given more gifts for growing progressively in our ability to keep the law, but nevertheless, nobody in this life keeps the list perfectly. All fall short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness. That’s the paradigm through which Batzig views God’s requirement of righteousness for salvation.

In the agape paradigm, by contrast, agape is the fulfillment of the law. Agape is not merely some power or force or energy by which one is enabled better to keep the list of rules, either perfectly or imperfectly. Rather, agape is what the law has pointed to all along. To have agape in one’s soul is to have the perfect righteousness to which the list of precepts point. Righteousness conceived as keeping a list of externally written precepts is conceptually a shadow of the true righteousness which consists of agape infused into the soul. This infusion of agape is the law written on the heart. But the writing of the law on the heart should not be conceived as merely memorizing the list of precepts, or being more highly motivated to keep the list of precepts. To conceive of agape as merely a force or good motivation that helps us better (but imperfectly, in this life) keep the list of rules, is still to be in the list paradigm. The writing of the law on the heart provides in itself the very fulfillment of the law — that perfection to which the external law always pointed. To have agape is already to have fulfilled the telos of the law, a telos that is expressed in our words, deeds, and actions because they are all ordered to a supernatural end unless we commit a mortal sin. The typical Protestant objection to the Catholic understanding of justification by the infusion of agape is “Who perfectly loves God? No one.” But this objection presupposes the list paradigm.1

Here’s my point. Does Batzig’s exegesis answer the question: Which of these two paradigms is correct? No. His exegesis presupposes, and is written entirely within, the list paradigm. It operates as if there just is no other paradigm, and therefore it does not provide any reason to choose one of these two paradigms over the other.

Batzig goes on in his article to claim that certain passages of Scripture support the notion of extra nos imputation. He points to Genesis 15:6, where God reckons Abram’s faith as righteousness. But, given the agape paradigm, if Abram’s faith was fides formata (i.e. faith informed by the supernatural virtue of agape), then God ‘reckoned’ Abram righteous because he was in fact, internally, righteous, having in his soul the gift of agape by which he was truly a friend of God. And in that case, this verse does not support the thesis of extra nos imputation. But again, Batzig does not consider the other paradigm when appealing to Gen 15:6 to support the extra nos conception of imputation. He uses the list paradigm in order to argue for the extra nos conception of imputation. Catholic doctrine, however, is formulated within the agape paradigm. So using the list paradigm to construct an argument against the Catholic doctrine of justification presupposes the Protestant position in the very methodology by which the argument is constructed. It loads the premise “Protestantism is true” into the very argument by which one attempts to show that Protestantism is true and Catholicism is false.

Similarly, Batzig argues that Psalm 32:1-2 supports the extra nos conception of imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ, because the psalmist’s use of the word ‘covered,’ he claims, implies that sins must be covered before they can be forgiven. But ‘covered’ can also refer here to our sins being atoned for, in the sense explained here.

Batzig also appeals to Jeremiah 23:5-6, in which the prophet, referring to Christ, says:

Behold the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: “The Lord our righteousness.”

Regarding this title attributed to Christ by the prophet, Batzig concludes, “It is on account of the imputation of that righteousness from the Redeemer to the redeemed that accounts for the imputation of this title.” Here too, Batzig does not consider the agape paradigm. He assumes that the only way Christ can be our righteousness is by extra nos imputation.

In the Catholic paradigm, sanctifying grace is a participation in the divine nature. But so is agape. Sanctifying grace inheres in the whole of the soul, whereas agape is the supernatural perfection of the will (which is one of the powers of the soul) by which the will is ordered above its natural end to the beatific vision. (Regarding the difference between sanctifying grace and agape, see Summa Theologica II-I Q.110 a.3-4.) But that difference does not mean that agape is not a participation in the divine nature; rather agape is a different mode of participation in the divine nature — that mode in which a created will gratuitously participates in the Good that God is as God is known to Himself. God is agape, says the Apostle John. And the agape infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is a participation in God. Hence the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. (CCC 1191)

By “rectitude of divine love,” the Catechism is referring to the righteousness had by the infusion of the supernatural gift of agape. My point is that “Christ our righteousness” does not entail extra nos imputation, because it can just as easily refer to the infusion of agape whereby we are partakers of and sharers in the God who is Agape. But Batzig’s argument ignores this paradigm.

Subsequently, Batzig uses Romans 4:9-12, to argue that Abram was justified at a particular point in time — namely, the time described in Gen 15:16. Therefore, claims Batzig:

The apostle eliminates the possibility of understanding justification as occurring after Abraham was circumcised. Our Reformed and Confessional statements on the doctrine of justification insist that it is a once-for-all ”act of God’s free grace” (WSC. 33). … This, it seems to me, is the most indisputable argument against those who would suggest that justification is ongoing. The apostle Paul clearly observed that Abraham’s justification was prior to his circumcision, and (if that wasn’t enough) explicitly states that righteousness wasn’t imputed after he was circumcised.

Batzig’s reasoning goes like this. Because Abram was justified prior to his circumcision, therefore St. Paul eliminates the possibility of his being justified after his circumcision. Therefore justification is once-for-all, and not progressive. That conclusion would follow only if justification cannot be both an event at a time, and also a process extending through time. For example, the Council of Trent teaches in Chapter IV of Session Six that there is an initial justification that takes place at baptism. It also teaches in Chapter X of that same session that subsequently, there is over time an increase of the justification received, as the believer remains in Christ, and grows in grace and agape. Batzig’s argument presupposes, therefore, that justification cannot be both initial and progressive. In that respect, Batzig’s argument in support of a Protestant conception of justification presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic doctrine of justification.

Finally, Batzig argues that the doctrine of extra nos imputation is supported by the biblical teaching on clothing. Catholics can agree with much of his description of the biblical significance of clothing. The problem, however, is that Batzig’s argument assumes that what is true of clothing (i.e. they can only be on the outside of our bodies) must also be true of that righteousness of which they are a type, much as his argument about law-keeping presupposes the list paradigm. From a Catholic point of view the righteous robes of the saints are a symbol of the agape infused into our hearts, not intended to be treated as covering over remaining filth, but as replacing sin with the gift of true righteousness. Again, the point is that Batzig’s argument presupposes his own paradigm in order to reach the conclusion that the biblical data supports his paradigm over against the Catholic doctrine. That gives an inquirer no reason to choose one paradigm over the other.

My purpose in writing this reply to Batzig is to help foster a better understanding and reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics, by helping us see more clearly the two respective paradigms, and how we make use of them in our evaluation of the data by which we construct arguments for one paradigm over another. My criticisms should not be taken as personal, but as constructive criticisms offered in charity, for the sake of unity. May God help us find agreement in the truth, through the agape that seeks unity in the truth.

  1. See the section titled “The Greatest Commandment and Venial Sin” in “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin.” []
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  1. I think another good way to describe the catholic paradigm is as that of Communion. As a simple analogy, a man would not appreciate it if his wife were to do good works for him through following an impersonal list of “things to do as a wife”. Instead, a man loves his wife who responds to him as a person, being sensitive to his changing needs and desires, and acting accordingly through personal affection, empathy, and compassion, and vice versa. This is a true exhibit of genuine agape. And God is our bridegroom through Christ, so, similarly, God desires communion, and communion with God happens when we devote ourselves personally and sensibly to the needs and desires of our neighbors, to which the law and the prophets bear witness.

    It was the degenerate mindset and downfall of many of the Jews in Jesus’s day which motivated them to act toward God and neighbor by a “things to do as a Jew” list. They misunderstood the message of Torah, and our Lord rebuked them for it. It was through the Cross and resurrection that many of those Jews finally transformed their mindset concerning Torah into a message about Christ and agape. Sadly, many of the Jews and those even in the Church have not yet stripped themselves of this mindset and, consequently, have gone so far as to interpret the Mysteries of Christ through the filter of this paradigm, resulting in the doctrine of imputation, and forgetting that Torah was a pedagogical system intended to give testimony to the person of Christ and the inner law of agape, the true sacrifice which God requires of us, and the only way through which we receive pardon and justification.

  2. Hello Bryan,

    I greatly enjoyed your explanation of how agape fits into fulfilling the Law. I think that’s a huge, huge contribution to modern Catholic apologetics. Approaching Batzig’s comments from another angle, I think the biggest misstep of Batzig’s comments on Galatians 3:10 (Deuteronomy 27:26) and Romans 10:5f (Leviticus 18:5) is the failure to recognize that the “life” that the (Mosaic) Law was promising was that of health, wealth, and large family. In otherwords, the Law promised temporal comforts and blessings. If the Mosaic Law promised eternal life for keeping it, then Paul says this would have caused God to supplant his promise to grant life through the Abrahamic covenant and transfer it to the Moasaic covenant, which God would not do (Gal 3:15-19).

    The issue of Galatians 3:10 referring to keeping “all” the commandments of the Mosaic Law is a red-herring. The point Paul is making is not that the Law has to be kept with 100% sinlessness, but rather that the Law cannot be cherry picked: if one subscribes to the Law via circumcision, they’re bound to obey all of the 613 Mitzvot that apply to laymen. The Law itself provided for the sacrifices for when the Israelites fell short and sinned, which totally disproves any idea God, Moses, or Paul saw the Mosaic Law as demanding sinlessness. But that just isn’t so, and it isn’t Paul’s concern.

    Aquinas explains the main points of all this in his commentary on Romans (I can email anyone a pdf if they want it). The key distinction is that Paul saw there were two types of righteousness: a temporal (earthly) righteousness that only the Mosaic Law gave, and an eternal (soteric) righteousness that came only through Christ. Protestants think there is only *one* type of righteousness and two ways to earn it, either by perfect obedience (works) or by faith (that Christ kept it in your place). In reality, there are two types of righteousness. So all a Catholic has to do is deny the Mosaic Law promised eternal life, even if kept perfectly, and the Protestant scheme collapses. The Protestant will search in vain for a verse that says the Law grants eternal life and will not be able to find one, the closest thing they’ll find is Leviticus 18:5, but they beg the question because – within the context of keeping the Mosaic Law – this is only speaking of “life” in the temporal sense of health and wealth blessings.

    While I agree with you that he a priori rules out any possibility that Abraham’s faith could be alive in agape, Batzig also made a dubious claim when he quoted O.Palmer Robertson who, commenting on Genesis 15:6, said,

    As Genesis 15:6 records the first occurrence in scripture of the word “believed,” so it also records the first occurrence of the term “reckoned” (חשב). Yet the construction of the phrase and the subsequent usage of the term within the Pentateuch justifies a rather specific understanding in the sense of “account to him a righteousness that does not inherently belong to him.”

    The problem here is that Robertson has not defined/analyzed the Hebrew/Greek word for “reckoned” properly, for that’s not how it’s used in Scripture. It most certainly does not mean anything along the lines of “to transfer” an alien righteousness nor does it mean “to reckon what does not inherently belong”. Since that’s sort of off topic, I’ll link to a post defending that claim (Here).

  3. Nick,

    It may be helpful to note that within Reformed theology there are those who do indeed adopt Thomas’ idea that the Mosaic Law promised only temporal blessings in the land as a typological reward for relative obedience to the Law.

    This is Westminster CA’s view for the most part, which they argue is a minority-yet-present view in the history of Reformed theology.

  4. Bryan, you stated

    Subsequently, by growing in grace and agape, we grow in righteousness and thus in justification, not by moving from a state of imperfect justification, but from perfect justification to more perfect justification, through a greater measure of sanctifying grace and agape.

    I do not understand the idea of moving from perfect justification to more perfect justification. If something is perfect it almost seems contradictory to say “more perfect”. Could explain?

    Ps. not sure if this is off topic

  5. Kim, (re: #4)

    As I explained in comment #11 of the “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End” thread, there are two ways in which something can be perfected. One is by repairing a defect. That is a movement from imperfection to perfection. That’s the kind of perfecting with which we are most familiar.

    Another kind of perfecting is not from imperfection, but from perfection to still greater perfection. The saints in heaven do not all have the same glory. Those who by grace lived lives of heroic virtue have great glory. Those who by grace made it in by ‘the skin of their teeth,’ as it were, have less glory. But none of the saints in heaven is in a condition of imperfection. Even the ones who have the least glory are still perfect in the sense that there is no defect in them. At the same time, the greater the glory, the greater the perfection, because a thing is more perfect the more it partakes of and shares in God who is all Perfection. A person who has just been baptized a moment ago is not, say, 30% righteous. He is 100% righteous, because of the infused agape he has received. But as he grows in agape, through the sacraments, prayer, and works of charity, he grows in righteousness; this is the meaning of increasing in justification (or growing in justification). In this process his ‘cup’ is enlarged, as it were, such that his 100% full small cup is now a 100% full larger cup. The growth in righteousness was not from 30% righteousness to some higher percentage of righteousness; it was from 100% to a larger 100%, from glory to still greater glory, from righteousness to still greater righteousness, from perfection to still greater perfection. The increase is in the capacity, not in the percentage of capacity. So different believers can have different shares of agape, and thus different shares in happiness, and yet each is fully righteous, and fully happy. This is how the saints in heaven are all perfectly happy, and yet some are happier than others, as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux explains in The Story of a Soul:

    One day I expressed surprise that God does not give an equal amount of glory to all the elect in Heaven–I was afraid that they would not all be quite happy. She [Thérèse's sister Pauline] sent me to fetch Papa’s big tumbler, and put it beside my tiny thimble, then, filling both with water, she asked me which seemed the fuller. I replied that one was as full as the other–it was impossible to pour more water into either of them, for they could not hold it. In this way Pauline made it clear to me that in Heaven the least of the Blessed does not envy the happiness of the greatest; and so, by bringing the highest mysteries down to the level of my understanding, she gave my soul the food it needed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. Thanks Bryan, I had forgotten about that angle on the concept. One more question. You say the Protestant viewpoint is:

    Justification is followed by a gradual process of sanctification, though a person is never in this life truly internally righteous until after death.

    How is this concept different from the RC concept stated in the CCC on Purgatory in 1030:

    All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

    Is purgatory only for those Christians who die with unconfessed venial sins? Would the difference between the CCC statement 1030 and the Protestant one above be that the RC church does believe some are internally righteous before death and that the ones who are not go to Purgatory?

  7. Kim, (re: #6)

    This goes to the difference between mortal and venial sin — see here, and the two-fold aspect of sin, explained in this section of “St. Thomas Aquinas on Penance,” wherein I explain the basis for the specific difference between temporal punishment and eternal punishment. According to the Church, those persons who die without sanctifying grace and without agape go to hell. Only persons who die in a state of grace but with a remaining debt of temporal punishment go to purgatory. But it is not necessary to die with a debt of temporal punishment. We should strive to die without any debt of temporal punishment, and it is possible to die in that state. It is not necessarily the case that if a person has an unconfessed venial sin, he must go to purgatory. What determines whether a person who dies in a state of grace goes to purgatory or directly to the beatific vision is whether he has a debt of temporal punishment, not whether he has remembered all his venial sins.

    Souls in purgatory do not grow in agape; the time for merit and growth in agape is limited to this present life. So the souls in purgatory do not grow in righteousness per se.

    Yet there are ways they can be further purified. One of these ways is relationally. The purpose of purgatory has been traditionally understood to be the removal of the debt of temporal punishment, not the debt of eternal punishment, because the debt of eternal punishment was already forgiven when these persons last repented of mortal sin before their death in a state of grace. The debt of temporal punishment is the debt owed to fellow creatures on account of injustices committed against them. As something owed to fellow creatures, this debt is relational in nature.

    Another possible way in which these souls can be purified is by the removal from the soul of dispositional attachments to sin. The obvious objection to such a suggestion is that it seems prima facie to conflict with what I said above when I said that to have agape is to be perfectly righteousness. How can a person be perfectly righteous and yet still have dispositional attachments to sin? The answer to this question applies likewise to the Church’s teaching that concupiscence, which is a disposition in the lower appetites toward sin, is itself not a sin, and is simultaneously present in persons who are righteous by the presence of agape within their soul. See Section V of “Aquinas and Trent: Part 7.” The Fifth Session at the Council of Trent declared the following:

    This concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy council declares the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin in the sense that it is truly and properly sin in those born again, but in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin. (Council of Trent, Session Five)

    We know that concupiscence is something that we are supposed to battle and overcome during this life. Hence that same session of Trent said:

    But this holy council perceives and confesses that in the one baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to sin, which, since it is left for us to wrestle with, cannot injure those who do not acquiesce but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; indeed, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned.

    (I love that phrase — “resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ”) So here’s the point. We can and must grow during this life in our mastery of concupiscence, and yet that growth is not the same as growth in agape, though the two kinds of growing may occur at the same time. Growth in our mastery of concupiscence is not growth in righteousness per se, but it is a growth in the conformity of the various powers of the soul, in their various dispositional aspects, to that agape in the will. This kind of purification is possible in purgatory. The perfection of the person who has just been baptized is perfection with respect to the essence of righteousness, but it does not entail perfection in every other respect — as I’ve just listed two additional respects in which we can be further purified in purgatory, even while not receiving a greater share of agape. Such purification should be understood not as the reception of a greater share of agape, but rather as a fuller participation by our composite nature in the measure of agape already received, as the righteousness we have received in the will extends into every facet of our complex being.

    So the person just entering purgatory is perfect with respect to the essence of righteousness, but remains yet to be perfected with respect to the conformity of his whole being to that perfect righteousness he has already received.

    Would the difference between the CCC statement 1030 and the Protestant one above be that the RC church does believe some are internally righteous before death and that the ones who are not go to Purgatory?

    No, in Catholic doctrine, everyone who dies in a state of grace is internally righteous, i.e. has the essence of righteousness within them, by the presence of agape. In Protestant doctrine, no one who dies in a state of grace is internally righteous; without the extra nos imputed righteousness of Christ, every single person would go to hell.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. I’m relatively new as a reader of this blog: I love it to death and really appreciate the work you guys do in the name of true unity and communion among Christians. Keep up the good work! This is also my first time to post a comment.

    So, a couple quick comments, thoughts …

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the differences between the RC and Protestant paradigms of justification. This article was very helpful for that. One thought I had while reading was in regards to Christ Himself being a “perfect keeper of the Law”. Would it be true to say that He himself exemplified what it means to fulfill the Law through agape? After all, He seemingly flaunted certain Mosaic/Judaic laws to the great consternation of the Pharisees and other religious authorities. But that is because his primary directive was to “Love the Lord your God … and your neighbor” as the fulfillment of the Law. Love is a personal choice, and act of the will, not an outward thing “alien” to us. (Indeed, did Christ ever talk about this imputation of an alien righteousness as the means of fulfilling the Law?)

    Second thought has to do with Abraham himself. Because the Mosaic Laws were still to come, there was no possible chance for following that “list”, which I suppose is sort of an argument for the Protestant paradigm. However, would it not be more sensible to say that Abraham’s faith was actually an agape-faith (to echo Bryan’s other posts on agape-righteousness): in other words, the imputation IS essentially the same as the fact that he filled with love of who God said He was, and trust in His promises? I realize this is kind of a “both-and” paradigm, but what I would want to explain to Protestants is that, like the white garments of baptism typology, the outward reflects, and is indeed inextricably connected to, the inner.

    Finally, I think the Protestant paradigm makes Mary’s sinlessness impossible (perhaps an all-too-obvious point). For, the only way someone can have the true grace to be sinless is by being completely filled with the love of God. In other words, from the very point of her conception, the Blessed Virgin was filled with the grace to completely and perfectly love God. Otherwise, it is truly impossible, and she is no different than any other human, who simply had sinlessness within but covered without (however perfectly) by Christ’s alien righteousness. And that is what makes the Catholic dogma of Mary’s sinless truly reprehensible to the Protestant.

  9. Isaiah, (re:#8)

    Welcome to CTC. Thanks for your comment. You wrote:

    Would it be true to say that He himself exemplified what it means to fulfill the Law through agape? After all, He seemingly flaunted certain Mosaic/Judaic laws to the great consternation of the Pharisees and other religious authorities. But that is because his primary directive was to “Love the Lord your God … and your neighbor” as the fulfillment of the Law. Love is a personal choice, and act of the will, not an outward thing “alien” to us.

    Yes, exactly.

    Indeed, did Christ ever talk about this imputation of an alien righteousness as the means of fulfilling the Law?

    No, He didn’t.

    Second thought has to do with Abraham himself. Because the Mosaic Laws were still to come, there was no possible chance for following that “list”, which I suppose is sort of an argument for the Protestant paradigm. However, would it not be more sensible to say that Abraham’s faith was actually an agape-faith (to echo Bryan’s other posts on agape-righteousness): in other words, the imputation IS essentially the same as the fact that he filled with love of who God said He was, and trust in His promises?

    Right. It was possible to approach God in the list paradigm even before the Decalogue was given to Moses, by way of mere external conformity to the natural law and civic law. But, I agree that Abram’s faith was faith-informed-by-agape, and thus God counted him righteous because he *was* in fact righteous.

    I also agree that understanding agape as infused, and as the fulfillment of the law, helps explain how Mary could be sinless from conception, by being one “full of grace,” and so therefore full of agape.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Isaiah,

    Just a little tag-along to your point about Abraham and law-keeping via agape: Isn’t it interesting that that great Patriarch is described as follows, given that he is known to have sinned repeatedly:

    And the Lord appeared to [Isaac] and said … and I will multiply your seed like the stars of heaven: and I will give to your posterity all these countries: and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my precepts and commandments, and observed my ceremonies and laws. (Genesis 26:2a, 4-5)

    Andrew

  11. Andrew,

    I’m also constantly struck by the description we get of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:

    In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

  12. Bryan (concerning comments 6, and 7),

    Thank you . I figured that last question of mine had to be incorrect after I wrote it! It is , however,difficult for me to understand that purification is needed for someone who is internally righteous. The link you gave here {http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/why-john-calvin-did-not-recognize-the-distinction-between-mortal-and-venial-sin/} did help in the section where you refer to those men that the Bible calls righteous. This quote here helped:

    This distinction between mortal and venial sin makes possible the truth of many passages in the Old Testament, such as “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time.” (Gen 6:9) This is how Job was blameless and upright. (Job 1:1,8; 2:3) This is how Joseph was a “righteous man.” (Mt. 1:19) This is how Abraham could have a discussion with God about the “righteous” and the wicked in Sodom; that conversation would not have been possible if all people are unrighteous. Does that mean that Noah never sinned? No, as Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” So Noah was both righteous and blameless, and yet not without sin. That is because though he sinned venially, he did not sin mortally. And that is true of all the Old Testament saints who died in friendship with God. They fulfilled the law not necessarily in the letter, but in the spirit of the law, which is the essence of the law. And the spirit of the law is agape. Because they had agape, they fulfilled the law, for as St. Paul teaches, agape fulfills the law (Rom 13:8, 10; Gal 5:14, James 2:8).

    I think I have been equating being righteous with being perfect in all aspects . In your comment 7 here-

    The perfection of the person who has just been baptized is perfection with respect to the essence of righteousness, but it does not entail perfection in every other respect —

    you indicate that my concept is an incorrect one . I will have to reflect more on all of this. Thank you for your help.

  13. David Pell and Andrew,

    I think I get what you’re saying in those quotes above but I want to make sure. I’m locked into my cradle Catholic perspective here and I don’t think I appreciate your comments as much as I should. Can you explain just a bit about what you find fascinating in the descriptions of Abraham and Zacharias and Elizabeth?

  14. Fr. Bryan,

    For my part, these passages are arresting because they illustrate that persons who undoubtedly have committed sins can still “walk blameless in all the commands and requirements of the Lord.” This underscores the correctness of the agape / infusion model of justification, and undermines the list-keeping / imputation model of justification.

    Andrew

  15. Kim, (re: #12)

    I should add that at baptism, both the debt of eternal punishment, and the debt of temporal punishment are forgiven, through Christ. As the Catechism teaches:

    By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

    Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (CCC 1263-1264)

    In sum, all eternal and temporal punishment for sin is removed at baptism, although concupiscence and weaknesses of character are not removed by baptism. A person who dies just after coming up out of the baptismal font, and without incurring any stain of post-baptismal sin, goes directly to heaven, as the Council of Florence taught:

    And that the souls of those, who after the reception of baptism have incurred no stain of sin at all, … are immediately received into heaven, and see clearly the one and triune God Himself just as He is. (Denz. 693)

    This is why this same Council teaches that satisfaction need not be enjoined for those who die immediately after receiving the sacrament of baptism:

    The effect of this sacrament [i.e. baptism] is the remission of every sin, original and actual, also of every punishment which is due to the sin itself. Therefore, no satisfaction must be enjoined for past sins upon those who immediately attain to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God. (Denz. 696)

    This suggests that the requirement of purgatory is directly dependent on the debt of temporal punishment incurred after baptism, not on concupiscence or disordered dispositions per se, because those are not removed by baptism, and yet the person who dies immediately after being baptized does not need to go through purgatory on account of them. Baptism does not remove all vices (i.e. dispositions toward sin). In this way the baptized believer can grow in this present life not only in agape, but also in the other virtues. He can grow in virtue even through temporal punishment endured in this present life. From the quotations just cited, insofar as temporal punishment in purgatory involves the removal of disordered dispositions or stains within the soul, it would seem to be those disordered dispositions and stains resulting from post-baptismal sin.

    We know that the souls of the saints in heaven suffer no disordered dispositions, and will suffer no concupiscence when they receive back their resurrected, glorified bodies (for concupiscence arises from lower appetites dependent on the body, when not accompanied by the preternatural gift of integrity). How God effects that transformation of disordered dispositions to perfectly ordered dispositions, and how exactly that is related to purgatory, we simply do not know. Moreover, continuing with the subject of purgatory would take us off the topic of this thread, which is imputation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Jason (comment 3),

    I appreciate this nuance, however, I would stand with the majority view in the history of Protestantism. I think that Vos has best articulated the place of the law in the Covenant scheme in his chapter on revelation during the Mosaic period in his Biblical Theology. No one here has answered my exegetical point about God demanding perfect obedience because He is absolutely holy. That is the crux (no pun intended) of the matter. If God did not demand absolute perfection of His image bearers, because He is absolutely Holy, He would be denying His holy nature. I really believe that you know and agree with that Jason. Would I be right in stating that you do?

  17. Jason/JJS (#3)

    I am aware of those Reformed who say the Mosaic Law promised temporal blessings but they include in this that the Mosaic Law also “republishes” the Covenant of Works, and thus also includes the promise of eternal life if kept perfectly. Is this what you mean? If you mean that they hold the ML only promised temporal with no ‘strings’ attached with the CoW, then I don’t see how they could maintain their faith vs works paradigm. (I take it this group is not the same as the minority of Reformed who deny the imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience.)

  18. Nick Batzig,

    Yes, I never doubted you were aware of that view of the law. I was addressing my comment to the Catholic Nick who commented right above me.

    I can tell this is going get confusing….

  19. Andrew and David (#10 and #11), I too am struck by the way this agape/infusion model illuminates the verses you mentioned. Never once in my time as a Protestant did I meet a person who believed Abraham and Zacharias and Elizabeth to be truly blameless by living without sin. To accept the list paradigm would be to dismiss the idea of “walking blamelessly” as a mere figure of speech, would it not?

    I was a Reformed Christian before converting to Catholicism, so I’m afraid I’m still trying to shake certain presuppositions when thinking about Catholic doctrines. I really enjoyed this post because I understand the differences between infusion/imputation with more clarity. I do grapple with the question posed by Nick (#16) because the idea that God demands perfect obedience (and that it can only be “credited” to us through Christ) is something that still makes sense to me. I’m interested to know the Catholic response to this line of thought.

  20. Dear Bryan Cross,
    You wrote:

    By contrast, according to the Catholic Church, God justifies us by infusing righteousness into our hearts at baptism. Subsequently, by growing in grace and agape, we grow in righteousness and thus in justification, not by moving from a state of imperfect justification, but from perfect justification to more perfect justification, through a greater measure of sanctifying grace and agape.

    Says the Lord God Almighty:

    Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land: But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword, for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isaiah 1 verse 18 thru 20.

    Both Adolph Hitler and Al Capone were formally water baptized as Roman Catholics in their infancy. Joseph Stalin was baptized in the Russian Orthodox faith, and as a young man studied for the priesthood. If the baptism of these three murderous men is true, then how do you judge the true relational promises of God, without genuine repentance on the part of the adult one, who was baptized in H2O as a babe?  You imply in the above quote, that they are justified in the Roman Catholic paradigm? Do you really think that these infamous men are justified before God, while continuing in their willful wickedness? Then again, does the Roman Church’s human Magisterium speak for the Infinite God? Later in his life, Benito Mussolini was baptized a Roman Catholic, but what was the fruit of his water baptism? Death and destruction followed in the wake of all of these baptized men.

    Correction is grievous unto him that forsakes the way: and he that hates reproof shall die. Proverbs 15 verse 10.
    Robert Glenn

  21. Christina, (re: #19)

    Yes, in the ‘list paradigm’ there is no basis for a distinction between mortal and venial sin. Therefore in that paradigm all sin is mortal, which entails [in that paradigm] that “walking blamelessly” must be a mere figure of speech.

    I do grapple with the question posed by Nick (#16) because the idea that God demands perfect obedience (and that it can only be “credited” to us through Christ) is something that still makes sense to me. I’m interested to know the Catholic response to this line of thought.

    The article above is the [or at least a] Catholic response to this line of thought. In the agape paradigm, what makes obedience perfect, is agape; that’s just what perfect obedience is in essence.

    To be clear, I am not at all saying that as Catholics we do not meditate on the Decalogue. We do, and we should. This is one way in which we examine our conscience daily. (And for this reason, I reflect on the Decalogue far more now as a Catholic than I did as a Protestant.) Agape therefore does not do away with the law, and the agape paradigm does not do away with the list of laws, which is the Decalogue. But in the agape paradigm, agape is not merely an aid for doing better at keeping the law. Agape is the fulfillment of the law. Agape is the perfect righteousness that is required for communion with God, and for entrance into eternal communion with Him in heaven. We meditate on the law to deepen our understanding of and further conform our lives to the agape that is already within us. This is precisely why venial sin as such does not entail a loss of righteousness, because by its very nature it does not drive agape from the soul, as does mortal sin. (See “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin.”)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  22. Robert, (re: #20)

    If the baptism of these three murderous men is true, then how do you judge the true relational promises of God, without genuine repentance on the part of the adult one, who was baptized in H2O as a babe? You imply in the above quote, that they are justified in the Roman Catholic paradigm? Do you really think that these infamous men are justified before God, while continuing in their willful wickedness?

    Your objection seems to be treating the Catholic doctrine of justification through Reformed lenses, as though justification once acquired cannot be lost. But according to Catholic doctrine, a person through mortal sin can lose the agape received in baptism, and therefore lose his justification. I’m sorry if I failed to make that clear. St. Paul teaches that those in mortal sin cannot inherit the kingdom of God:

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; either fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:8-10)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. Thank you, Bryan. I appreciate your clarification (though it was actually quite clear in your article and I simply failed to put it together at 3 AM this morning). Nick’s exegetical point re: God demanding perfect obedience has been addressed then, it would seem.

  24. In December of 2010, I wrote a response to Darrin Patrick in which I offered a Catholic critique of the law-gospel theology taught among Lutherans and many Reformed. But in my criticism I did not say in what way the law-gospel distinction is correct. This present post provides an opportunity to explain a Catholic way of understanding the distinction between law and gospel.

    The Lutheran-Reformed way of distinguishing law and gospel is this: the law is what God commands us to do, and the gospel is what God has done for us. All imperatives belong to the law category, and all indicatives belong to the gospel category. The purpose of the law is to help us understand the gospel. We could not understand fully what God has done for us in Christ, and how much we needed Him to do this for us, without first understanding the righteous requirements of His law. So the gospel message that God kept the law in our place (and we receive His obedience by extra nos imputation) is the answer to the problem arising from our awareness of the law and our inability to keep the law. In this way the law-gospel relation is that of problem and solution. Our obligation to keep the law is not part of the gospel, but is the problem for which the gospel is the solution.

    The Catholic way of understanding the relation of law to gospel is not best understood as problem-solution, but as type-antitype. The law written on stone is the type or shadow of the gift of the gospel in which the law is written on the heart, by the infusion of agape. Just as circumcision was of the flesh, and was a type of the baptism in which our soul is cleansed such that our conscience is clear (1 Pet 3:21), so the writing of the law on stone was a type of the gospel in which the law is written on the heart, by the infusion of agape. The God who is Agape cannot be reduced without remainder to a set of propositions. Hence the law written on stone was only a shadow of Agape. But by infusion of grace and agape (Rom 5:5) we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4); we eat the flesh of Agape (see here). This agape which is our participation within our hearts in Christ who is Agape is the antitype of the Decalogue written on stone, just as the manna is the type of the Eucharist. Thus in Catholic doctrine our obligation to keep the law is part of the gospel, but is now elevated and transformed by the gift of infused agape which is the fulfillment of the law now written on the heart.

  25. What I do not understand about the Protestant view of justification is their example of Abraham and their insistence that Abraham was only justified at one point in time ( Gen 15, Rom. 4:3). Protestants say that Abraham was justified by faith alone and it was at this point in Gen 15. The thing that confuses me about this statement is the fact that Hebrews 11:2 says in speaking of faith,

    For by it the men of old gained approval.

    Then it lists the fact that Abraham had this faith (the faith that gained approval) before Genesis 15. Heb 11:8 says

    By faith Abraham , when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out , not knowing where he was going.

    Last of all , also, James states that Abraham was justified after Genesis 15 when he offered up Isaac on the altar. So I would think the life of Abraham would exemplify the Roman Catholic idea of continued justification.

    What is the difference between the Protestant’s and Roman Catholic’s view of Abraham’s earlier faith which he displayed in this Hebrews’ quote ? If faith is what justifies, why would the Protestant insist that he was not justified at the point where Hebrews refers to his faith in Hebrews 11:8?

  26. Dear Bryon,

    Your reply (ref #22) to my post (ref #20)

    Your objection seems to be treating the Catholic doctrine of justification through Reformed lenses, as though justification once acquired cannot be lost.

    Contrary wise. Actually, my reply addressed you’re incomplete inference to a Roman Catholic dogma of an ongoing justification, once water baptism has taken place. Your paragraph, although not conclusive, implied a once saved always saved dogma, that is no different than many protestant interpretations of the Holy Scriptures. While I believe that God gives amnesty to all that answer His call, His call is for repentance from the self idolatry that is innate to the human persona. After all every one is right in their own eyes. The denial of self is a prerequisite to that repentance, and the taking up of the cross on a daily bases is a necessity to overrule the self idolatrous sin that so easily entraps us. The Lord is our Righteousness and the Justifier of those who answer and follow after His in Christ Jesus to Love (Agape) God with all of our hearts and to Love (Agape) our fellow man as our self.

    When we are following the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet fail in love (agape), then the confused will of man is to be subjugated to God’s New Blood Covenant where the Perfect Love of God in Christ Jesus, is faithful to separate from the soul of the new creation, our confessed sins of the old man of flesh, so that the new man in following the Spirit of God remains in God’s justification in Christ Jesus. It is the Holy Blood of Jesus Christ that sanctifies the repentant soul, and our Communion in His Blood is our very Life: For the life of the flesh is in the Blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: For it is the Blood that makes an atonement for the soulLeviticus17 verse 11. It is the Spirit that makes alive your flesh does not profit. The Words that I speak to you they are Spirit and they are Life. John 6 verse 63

    Robert Glenn

  27. Hello Kim (#25),

    If nobody else has addressed your question yet, I’ll briefly share my thoughts on your questions about how Protestants address Abraham in Genesis 15 when the Bible says he had saving faith as early as Genesis 12. The answer is that there is no good and satisfying solution from the Protestant side on this ‘dilemma’, at least not one that I have seen. Some of them argue that Genesis 15:6 was the first time (and only time) Abraham was justified, and that every interaction with God prior to that did not involve saving faith but a general human faith (James White has argued this). Others have said that Abraham was justified once (and for all time) as early as Genesis 12, and that Genesis 15:6 is merely a description of how one is justified and not an actual historical moment of justification. Obviously, both ‘solutions’ have serious problems, which I’ll now talk about.

    Those who say everything from Genesis 12-15 was not about Abraham having saving faith and being in a relationship with God run the risk of Pelagianism and torturing the text. Abraham was clearly said to have been in God’s favor from Genesis 12-15, as well as details that could never apply to an unregenerate and faithless heathen. Those who say that Abraham was justified in Genesis 12 are then forced to de-historicize the event of Genesis 15:6 as no longer an actual historical event in Abraham’s life and real history. But this is simply unsupportable by the text, especially Paul’s argument in Romans 4:9-12 that Abraham was saved by faith “before he was circumcised,” which would be nonsense if Genesis 15:6 was not concerned with a historical reference. To make matters worse, since Protestants believe Sanctification follows Justification and that good works ‘prove’ one was saved, this would mean that after Abraham was justified in Genesis 12, the Protestant would be forced to say Genesis 15:6 fell into the category of Sanctification, for the same reason they say James 2:21ff & Genesis 22:9-12 falls into the category of Sanctification.

  28. RE. Post # 25

    Kim, I would recommend this article by Catholic apologist James Akin:

    THE JUSTIFICATIONS OF ABRAHAM
    James Akin

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/abraham.htm

  29. Nick (re: #26) or anyone else,

    As you and others have explained, the problems for Protestants in regards to the multiple references to justification (Gen. 12/Heb. 11; Gen. 15/Rom. 4; Gen. 22/James 2) are evident and their solutions unsatisfying, but, while acknowledging that justification is to be understood more in terms of a process (a beginning, middle, and end) as opposed to a once-for-all event, is there not still a problem for Catholics in resolving an alleged difficulty?

    Let me explain. Even for Catholics, there is a moment when one is first or initially justified, and in the present situation regarding Abraham, I’m assuming that initial justification took place in Gen. 12. However, if St. Paul is discussing initial justification in Rom. 4 as opposed to ongoing justification, then Gen. 15 would not seem to fit as nicely as Gen. 12 as a historical reference that describes Abraham’s initial faith/justification. Yet St. Paul seems to be using Gen. 15 as the historic backdrop for his arguments concerning initial justification in Rom. 4. As a Catholic how do you resolve this? Does one argue that St. Paul is not using Gen. 15 as the initial moment of justification for Abraham, which may then lead to the notion that St. Paul is discussing ongoing justification as opposed to initial justification in Rom. 4? Or is there some other way of resolving the alleged difficulty from a Catholic perspective?

  30. Robert, (re: #26)

    You wrote:

    Your paragraph, although not conclusive, implied a once saved always saved dogma,

    I agree with you that displacing ourselves from the position of God-to-ourselves is required for repentance, and I also agree that we must take up our cross daily. But, in no place have a stated that once-saved-always-saved [OSAS] is true, and in no way have I intended to imply that OSAS is true. I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. Hello Brian M (re#29),

    I think the best passage to consult for your question of how Genesis 15 ties to Genesis 12 is to examine Galatians 3:6-9, where Paul makes that very link. I have written some very brief reflections on that issue (Here on Galatians 3:9b and Here on Romans 4:18-22).

  32. Brian M (re: #29),

    The point of St. Paul’s usage of Genesis 15 in Romans 4 is not to designate the time when Abraham was first justified, but to show that Abraham was already justified by faith, prior to being circumcised (cf. Romans 4:10-11). His argument in Romans 4 does not depend on whether Abraham was first justified in Gen 12 or justified for the first time in Gen. 15.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  33. Thanks, Bryan and Nick.

  34. Bryan Cross–in reference to comment 32. Gen 15:6 actually states,

    Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

    So it is stated that in response to Abram’s belief here at this point that God responded with this reckoning. Furthermore near the end of Romans 4 it refers to this when it says:

    19 And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness .

    Would this not then indicated that it was at this point in time that he was first reckoned righteous? Or not? Could he have been reckoned so earlier and it not have been stated? I am still wondering. In your comment (32) how do we know that he was actually reckoned so earlier then this instant which is described specifically in both Gen 15 and the latter part of Rom 4 (other than inference from Heb 11)?

  35. oh, and thanks Nick 27 and Mateo 28. These comments were good and helpful–I just have the added question in comment 34.

  36. Hello. I’ve been lurking here for about six months without commenting. I’m also struggling with the justification debate. My question: doesn’t the agape paradigm resolve into yet another list (i.e. avoid the mortal sins enumerated by the church)?

    So far, I have found the case against scripture alone to be compelling. To me, it’s the weak link in the chain. But I’m struggling with the Catholic idea of justification. In a very reductionist form, it sounds a lot like “be a good person and God will reward you.” Isn’t that the essence of every world religion that I have rejected up to this point?

    Protestants make a big deal about distinguishing Christianity from every other religion on this basis — the primacy of grace. I know that the Catholic church also teaches that we can obtain justification only through the initial act of God, who freely offers forgiveness through the cross. But the emphasis on our subsequent involvement seems to muddy the waters.

    “Stay out of mortal sin” ends up feeling like “follow the five pillars.”

  37. Kim, (re: #34),

    You wrote:

    Would this not then indicated that it was at this point in time that he was first reckoned righteous? Or not?

    No, the meaning here is that he put his faith in the Lord’s promise regarding his descendants being as numerous as the stars, and the Lord counted this faith as righteousness, because it showed what was in Abraham’s heart, namely that he loved and trusted the Lord, even when what was promised seemed impossible from a human point of view. The passage does not mean that this was the first time that Abraham believed in the Lord. Genesis 12-14 shows that Abraham was already a man of faith.

    Could he have been reckoned so earlier and it not have been stated?

    Yes, there is no obligation on the part of the author to state when Abraham was first justified. But as I said above, the evidence in Genesis 12-14 shows that Abraham already was a man of faith.

    Getting into the question of when Abraham was first justified might take us off the topic for this thread, which is the subject of the two paradigms of imputation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. Mark (re: #36)

    Welcome to CTC.

    My question: doesn’t the agape paradigm resolve into yet another list (i.e. avoid the mortal sins enumerated by the church)?

    No, the agape paradigm does not resolve into a list, because agape does not reduce to a list. In comments #21 and #24 I tried to explain how in the agape paradigm, the Decalogue is related to agape. Receiving agape does not mean doing away with the law. The law teaches us how live out the agape we have received. But it is not just a list of do’s and don’t’s, just as marriage is not a list of dos and don’ts. It is a relationship, a communion. There are do’s and don’ts in a relationship, but that doesn’t reduce the relationship to a list of rules. Same with the agape paradigm, because marriage is a type of Christ’s union with His Church.

    In a very reductionist form, it sounds a lot like “be a good person and God will reward you.”

    That notion, without any further qualification, is the heresy of Pelagianism. No man can by his own effort and power work his way to heaven. We need grace, and without grace we can’t even begin to approach God. And agape too is a supernatural gift, not a natural power or natural virtue. But the agape paradigm is not about ‘getting rewards,’ but about giving everything we can to God, out of love for God, just as you would give everything you owned, to help a person you loved very much. God Himself is our reward. This is the heartbeat of the Catholic, to live so as to love God as much as possible in this present life. And the Decalogue helps us know how to love. So to see it as merely a list of rules is to see it *apart* from the agape paradigm.

    But the emphasis on our subsequent involvement seems to muddy the waters.

    What kind of relationship would it be if were not reciprocal? Not a genuine relationship. See “The Gospel and the Meaning of Life.” Most Protestants also believe that we cooperate in sanctification, in “working out our salvation in fear and trembling,” as St. Paul says. So that’s not something unique to Catholics. We don’t get to make theology or doctrine as we would design it; Catholicism is a received religion. We receive what Christ has handed down, and we accept it out of love for Him, even if in places it seems ‘muddy’ to us. In such a case we can know that the problem is in our vision, not in what God has given.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  39. Bryan,

    Forgive me if you’ve already covered this. I have a question about the agape paradigm vs. the list paradigm. My question is this: can you briefly distinguish agape from prudence, or could you point me toward some resources that do? I ask because I wonder whether prudential law-keeping falls into the “list” paradigm or not.

    Best,
    Paul Weinhold

  40. Mark,

    In Catholicism, the saints (following Christ) show us just how radically different the agape paradigm is from the list paradigm. Far from list followers, the saints show us what radical commitment to Christ means: making oneself a complete gift to the other — the other being both God and neighbor.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  41. Paul, (re: #39)

    Prudence is a natural virtue, that is, a virtue that man can acquire by his own efforts, as are courage and temperance. More precisely, prudence is the disposition of the practical intellect to act in accord with right reason, so as to attain the good. Hence a grasp of the good is intrinsic to (and necessary for) attaining this virtue. As a natural virtue, however, prudence is not directed in itself to man’s supernatural end, but to the good as it can be known by human reason alone. (I recommend the lecture on man’s supernatural end here.) Agape, by contrast, is a supernatural virtue, in the will, by which man loves God as God loves Himself, for God’s sake. Man cannot acquire agape by his own efforts; it is a gift of divine grace, and ordered not merely to the good as can be known by human reason alone, but to the good as known by God, i.e. to the beatific vision of God Himself.

    I ask because I wonder whether prudential law-keeping falls into the “list” paradigm or not.

    That’s interesting because one of the differences between the ‘list paradigm’ and the agape paradigm is that in the list paradigm, the rules are external, whereas in the agape paradigm, the law is internal (on the heart). And a virtue theoretical understanding of morality is internal, as in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. So in that respect, the prudential way of conceiving morality is like the agape paradigm, and unlike the list paradigm. At the same time, prudence and agape differ not only in that the former is a virtue of the practical intellect while the latter is a virtue of the will, but much more, the former is a natural virtue, while the latter is a supernatural virtue. So prudence is directed to the good of man as that good can be known by the power of human reason alone, whereas agape is directed to the beatific vision, i.e. man’s supernatural end, and this supernatural end cannot be known by human reason alone, but only by gift of grace, by which God discloses Himself to man, and the invitation to participate in His own perfect, internal Trinitarian Life.

    In the concrete, the prudent person will not neglect the motives of credibility, since these are accessible to human reason and of the highest importance. The prudent person without agape is not truly righteous, but this does not entail that everything he does is sinful. St. Thomas explains:

    The act of one lacking charity may be of two kinds; one is in accordance with his lack of charity, as when he does something that is referred to that whereby he lacks charity. Such an act is always evil: thus Augustine says (Contra Julian. iv, 3) that the actions which an unbeliever performs as an unbeliever, are always sinful, even when he clothes the naked, or does any like thing, and directs it to his unbelief as end. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.27 a.7 ad 1)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Bryan Cross (#24),

    I don’t think your characterization of the law-gospel distinction is accurate, at least as it relates to Reformed theology (it does seem to be a fairly accurate description of the Lutheran view, as far as I understand it anyway). Though there are some (perhaps Kline and those in line with him) who would fit your description more closely, it certainly isn’t the language of the Reformed confessions. Typically the law-gospel distinction is expressed in terms of the Covenant of Works-Covenant of Grace distinction. The Law itself is good and is an expression of God’s own moral character. Although it is intended for personal and perfect obedience before (WCF 19.1) and after (WCF 19.2) the fall, it serves somewhat different purposes for the unregenerate and the regenerate. For the believer, for instance, it doesn’t merely “help us understand the gospel”. It does so, but it also is used to “express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.” (WLC 97).

    The Westminster Confession of Faith lays this out very clearly in chapter 19 – Of the Law of God. Notice that the law isn’t merely the problem for which the gospel is the solution. Rather, we would say that in the gospel (in the Covenant of Grace), not only are we saved from God’s wrath because of Christ’s bearing the punishment for our sin (transgressions of the law – including Love!) imputed to him and Christ’s own Law-keeping (including the Law of love!) imputed to us. In the gospel, we are also restored to a right relationship with the good and holy Law. We are enabled by the Spirit to obey the Law. So, we don’t merely see law as the problem and gospel as the solution. We see sin as the problem and the gospel as solution: a gospel which gives pardon for sins but also the ability and desire to obey the law.

    Titus 2:11–14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    The Reformed believe that regenerate men and women have the new covenant promise of the law written in their hearts, and the spirit aiding their growth in keeping the law (summarized by Love). So, almost ironically, we confess that those who seek to merit God’s favor by keeping the Law are doomed to fail because of sin, but those who admit this, abandon their own self-reliance and trust in Christ’s finished work and imputed righteousness are transformed and enabled to keep the law better than they could when they lived under the law, attempting to keep it to be justified by it. The gospel does not nullify or overthrow the law, but establishes and fulfills it.

    As an aside, this is a problem with the view of law-gospel as type-antitype as you have expressed it. The Law has always been able to be summarized by love. The Law is love. So – the ten commandments may be perfectly summarized by love of God and love of neighbor. This was always the case – a summary is not an antitype. The only way to keep the law now and ever is to love.

    In summary, you said, “Thus in Catholic doctrine our obligation to keep the law is part of the gospel, but is now elevated and transformed by the gift of infused agape which is the fulfillment of the law now written on the heart.” So too in Reformed theology!

  43. Jerry, (re: #42)

    I agree that the way of conceiving the Law-Gospel relation I described in #24 is not that of the Reformed confessions. I was unfortunately ambiguous in my use of the term “Lutheran-Reformed,” because I didn’t mean “Lutheran and Reformed,” but rather those Reformed who share the Lutheran conception of the law-gospel relation — think, for example, Michael Horton and other Reformed persons who hold that same position regarding the relation of law and gospel. I should have been clearer.

    In the gospel, we are also restored to a right relationship with the good and holy Law. We are enabled by the Spirit to obey the Law.

    Except that in Reformed theology, we’re not. That’s why without extra nos imputation of Christ’s obedience, all would be damned. In Reformed theology, no Christian’s level of sanctity in this present life is in conformity with the Law. Every Christian’s level of sanctity, even after seventy years of growing in sanctification, is as filthy rags, and worthy of damnation before an infinite and perfectly holy God who demands nothing less than perfect conformity to His law.

    The gospel does not nullify or overthrow the law, but establishes and fulfills it.

    Except that in Reformed theology, it doesn’t. Hence the need of every person, including the holiest saint, for the extra nos imputation of the obedience of Christ.

    The Law is love. So – the ten commandments may be perfectly summarized by love of God and love of neighbor. This was always the case – a summary is not an antitype. The only way to keep the law now and ever is to love.

    You’re ignoring the external/internal distinction in my comment #24. The law as external propositions, is not love, but is a shadow of love. Hence the law as external written on stone was a type of the law as internal written on the heart.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  44. You have misunderstood reformed theology. For an unregenerate person, all that you say is true. But of regenerated persons, those who have received the extra nos imputation of Christ’s obedience, we are enabled by the Spirit to obey the Law.

    Yes, in Reformed theology, the gospel and covenant of grace offers more than a mere external, alien righteousness. Through union with Christ and the work of the Spirit in the believer, we confess that regenerate men are indeed able to fulfill the Law more and more as they are sanctified. You do realize the reformed have a doctrine of sanctification, right? And that such doctrine could in no way be charged with being a “legal fiction” because it is indeed a form of infused grace. The difference is that under reformed theology, justification (as legal verdict – a different debate) comes before sanctification.

    What I’m trying to say, regardless of the external/internal distinction you were making, is that Reformed protestants give the amen to your statement:

    “our obligation to keep the law is part of the gospel, but is now elevated and transformed by the gift of infused agape which is the fulfillment of the law now written on the heart.”

    That is true of Reformed theology, my friend. You don’t have to take my word for it. We confess these things publicly:

    For true believers, the law serves to really “restrain their corruptions,” “show God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance of the Law”. It goes on to say that a regenerate man can do good and refrain from evil (though this is because of grace and not because they are under the law).

    WCF 19.7 explicitly teaches that the law is not contrary to the grace of the Gospel, “the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.” I’m not sure how much more explicitly that can be said. How does this not contradict your statements about Reformed theology?

    WCF 20 says of believers that Christian liberty under the Gospel icludes “their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind.”

    We could go on and on…

    WCF 11 (Of Justification) says of faith that ” is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.”

    WCF 13 (Of Sanctification) says:

    I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

    II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

    III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

    WCF 14.2 (Of Saving Faith) says, “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

    WCF 15.2 (Of Repentance unto Life) says, “By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.”

    Then theres a whole chapter of said confession on “Good Works” (WCF Chapter 17).

    Please review that chapter, and it should settle any confusion on whether or not the Reformed believe that regenerate men / true believers may and do obey God’s commandments in love. Is the WCF not Reformed? I mean, it has a whole section which describes the righteousness God works in the believer!

    “These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith.” “their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

  45. Hello Bryan.

    Scripture and the Church Fathers affirm both the list paradigm and the agape paradigm.

    List Paradigm
    As the Scripture says in Psalms 143:2 [Psalm 142:1, 2 Douay-Rheims] Hear, O Lord, my prayer: give ear to my supplication in thy truth: hear me in thy justice. [2] And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight no man living shall be justified.

    St. Augustine notes in his work Man’s Perfection in Righteousness:
    Chp 17
    “…For in Your sight shall no man living be justified (Psalm 143:2). The meaning of these words is plain enough, receiving as it does additional light from the preceding clause: Enter not, says the Psalmist, into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight shall no man living be justified. It is judgment which he fears, therefore he desires that mercy which triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 For the meaning of the prayer, Enter not into judgment with Your servant, is this: Judge me not according to Yourself, who art without sin; for in Your sight shall no man living be justified. This without doubt is understood as spoken of the present life, while the predicate shall not be justified has reference to that perfect state of righteousness which belongs not to this life.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1504.htm

    And as St. Augustine notes in his commentary on this passage:
    Enter not then into judgment with me, O Lord my God. How straight soever I seem to myself, You bring forth a standard from Your store-house, Thou fittest me to it, and I am found crooked.
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801143.htm

    Thus, the need to be accounted perfectly righteous/innocent according to God’s perfect standard (noted by St. Augustine above) apart from the true deserving of works. This occurs in the remission of sins as we receive the covering of Christ’s Perfectly Righteous Blood. Through the Blood of Christ being applied to our account we are reckoned as having perfectly fulfilled all the commandments of God (i.e. we are reckoned as perfectly righteous/innocent before God apart from the true deserving of our works).

    As St. Augustine notes in his Retractions (Book 1, 19:3): “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”

    —-

    Agape Paradigm

    The truth and necessity of the Agape Paradigm is affirmed by the Reformers themselves in the doctrine of sanctification/third use of the Law–especially the leading Anglican and Lutheran Reformers who affirmed that those who fall into mortal sin extinguish infused agape and thus lose Salvation (no longer having a true/living faith “that worketh by love”–which alone partakes freely in the remission of sins).

    Since I’ve already discussed this issue in posts 7 and 23 of the St. Irenaues on Justification thread I’ll leave off a fuller discussion here:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/#comment-35935

    Copy and Paste from that thread-
    Additionally, the reformers noted that the term dikaioun could be used more broadly than in the strictly forensic sense (e.g. Calvin applied a non-forensic sense to dikaioun in his commentary on Romans 6:7 ). However, as the ARCIC joint Roman Catholic/Anglican statement notes:

    Roman Catholic interpreters of Trent and Anglican theologians alike have insisted that justification and sanctification are neither wholly distinct from nor unrelated to one another. The discussion, however, has been confused by differing understandings of the word justification and its associated words. The theologians of the Reformation tended to follow the predominant usage of the New Testament, in which the verb dikaioun usually means “to pronounce righteous”. The Catholic theologians, and notably the Council of Trent, tended to follow the usage of patristic and medieval Latin writers, for whom justificare (the traditional translation of dikaioun) signified “to make righteous” Thus the Catholic understanding of the process of justification, following Latin usage, tended to include elements of salvation which the Reformers would describe as belonging to sanctification rather than justification.

    http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/arcic/doc/e_arcicII_salvation.html

    Of course, everyone must agree that we are “dikaioun” or “justified” on the basis of infused agape if the term is being used in the broader sense that the Church Fathers typically use it.

    Finally, although different terms are used all parties agree:
    1. With the absolute necessity of forensic justification [clearing of guilt before the Throne through the covering of Christ's Righteous Blood--so that we are reckoned as perfectly innocent/righteous apart from the true deserving of our work]
    2. With the absolute necessity of sanctification or being “justified” (in the sense of “made internally righteous”) by infused agape.

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

  46. Jerry, (re: #44)

    You wrote:

    But of regenerated persons, those who have received the extra nos imputation of Christ’s obedience, we are enabled by the Spirit to obey the Law.

    Except not sufficiently enabled to be actually, internally righteous. Every single word, deed and action done by the regenerate, according to Reformed theology, is still tainted at least by imperfect motives, because it is never done purely out of perfect love for God. And since “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all,” (James 2:10) it follows that in every thought, word, and deed, the regenerate person is guilty of violating the whole law, since the law commands that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

    we confess that regenerate men are indeed able to fulfill the Law more and more as they are sanctified.

    Right, but you’re not understanding my point. This “more and more” is always still “imperfect and imperfect.” It is still, in itself, damnable in the eyes of God, because it is impure and imperfect, not perfectly in keeping with the requirements of God’s holy law. There is no one [internally] righteous, not one — and that applies (in Reformed theology) not just to the unregenerate, but also to the regenerate. The fact that Reformed theology has a doctrine of sanctification is fully compatible with, and in no way refutes, all that I have said.

    You do realize the reformed have a doctrine of sanctification, right?

    If you read my article above, you’ll see mention of it.

    You wrote:

    What I’m trying to say, regardless of the external/internal distinction you were making, is that Reformed protestants give the amen to your statement:

    “our obligation to keep the law is part of the gospel, but is now elevated and transformed by the gift of infused agape which is the fulfillment of the law now written on the heart.”

    That is true of Reformed theology, my friend.

    This shows that you don’t yet understand what I’m saying. What I’m saying, regarding the agape paradigm, is that agape is the fulfillment of the law, is the righteousness of Christ. To have agape is to be righteous internally. But Reformed theology denies that. Reformed theology acknowledges that regenerate persons have agape, but denies that regenerate persons (even though having agape) are righteous internally. They are partially sanctified internally, according to Reformed theology, but never in this life truly righteous internally. None of the WCF quotations you cite denies that, because they are speaking of the partial, incomplete, imperfect sanctification in the regenerate in this present life, as even one of the quotations states:

    This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part

    The sanctification is always imperfect in this life, and for this reason no regenerate person is, during this present life, ever truly internally righteous.

    Please review that chapter, and it should settle any confusion on whether or not the Reformed believe that regenerate men / true believers may and do obey God’s commandments in love.

    But not perfectly. In Reformed theology, no regenerate person does any action, word, or deed out of perfect love for God. In the regenerate, during this life, love for God is always imperfect, and thus no regenerate person, during this present life, is ever truly righteous internally.

    “their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

    In Reformed theology God accepts the works of the regenerate not because they are truly good (they’re not — they are always blameworthy in some respect, on account of some imperfection or stain of sin in the motivations, at least) but only for the sake of Christ.

    The point is that in Reformed theology no regenerate person is truly righteous internally during this present life. But in the agape paradigm I’m describing in this article (and in this thread), a person is made internally truly righteous at the moment of baptism, by the infusion of agape, which is the righteousness of Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  47. Ahh – now I see your point (I think). So a person gains an infusion of agape at baptism. When they commit venial sins, are they still righteous? Do they still have agape?

    Can a person infused with agape commit sin and remain righteous/justified?

    Jerry

  48. Jerry, (re: #47)

    You wrote:

    So a person gains an infusion of agape at baptism. When they commit venial sins, are they still righteous? Do they still have agape?

    Yes and yes. That’s precisely what distinguishes mortal sin from venial sin, namely, that the former drives agape [and sanctifying grace] from the soul, while the latter does not. See “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin.”

    Can a person infused with agape commit sin and remain righteous/justified?

    If the sin is only venial, yes, because venial sin is not incompatible with agape. But if the sin is mortal, no, because mortal sin is incompatible with agape.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. Bryan said:

    Every single word, deed and action done by the regenerate, according to Reformed theology, is still tainted at least by imperfect motives, because it is never done purely out of perfect love for God.

    This reminded me of what Heidelberg Catechism 114 says:

    … even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.

  50. Bryan,

    Thanks. I’m much more familiar with the language in your most recent comment. My only reason for commenting at all was to correct the language you used in #24 to clarify that the Reformed do not see the gospel as a solution to a law problem. We see the gospel as a solution to a sin problem, and that the gospel includes promises to sanctify; to enable believers to obey God’s Law with a new heart.

    I’ll have to leave it at that. In the Reformed system, believers can and do sin, but are also enabled to more and more die to sin and walk in holiness by God’s transforming grace. This is all done while they are legally righteous because of the imputation of Christ’s obedience extra nos, and because their sins have been sufficiently punished in Christ’s substitutionary atoning sacrifice. They are gradually made more and more like Christ until in glory they have no sin at all.

    In the Roman system, believers can and do sin, but they are still called righteous, but not on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. On what basis does God call them righteous? Because they still have agape formed within? How is this not a legal fiction? How does this not drive a wedge between loving God and doing what He commands (John 14:15, , 21, 23; 1 John 2:3; 5:3; 2 John 1:6)? Doesn’t this make the actual deeds of the Law optional for Christians, so long as they have “agape”?

    Just some thoughts and questions that are beside my initial point of correction.

  51. One more addition to my last comment: How does this view of agape as fulfillment of Law, despite violations of the actual law (venial sins) comport with the promises of the New Covenant:

    Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

    It appears that John, Ezekiel (and the Psalmist, but I digress) all identify the one (love) with the other (keeping God’s commandments, statutes, and rules).

  52. Bryan (re: #41),

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I found your response quite helpful, especially the two distinctions between intellect/will and natural/supernatural.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  53. Jerry, (re: #50-51)

    You wrote:

    In the Roman system, believers can and do sin, but they are still called righteous, but not on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.

    Care is needed here not to conflate the distinction between mortal and venial sin. In Catholic doctrine, believers in a state of grace do still commit venial sin, and when they do so they still are righteous (not just “called” righteous), because they still retain agape, which is righteousness, a righteousness they did not merit, but was given to them from God on the basis of the satisfaction made by Christ’s sacrifice. If a believer commits a mortal sin, then until he repents and returns to a state of grace and agape, he is not righteous, period.

    On what basis does God call them righteous? Because they still have agape formed within?

    God only speaks truth, because God is truth, and cannot lie. He calls persons who, though having committed venial sin still retain agape, righteous because they are still righteous, because they still have agape within them.

    How is this not a legal fiction?

    Because God never calls them something they are not. He calls righteous only persons who are internally righteous.

    How does this not drive a wedge between loving God and doing what He commands (John 14:15, , 21, 23; 1 John 2:3; 5:3; 2 John 1:6)?

    Those who have agape will do what He commands; agape fulfills the law. I’m guessing that what is making this difficult for you to grasp is that from your point of view, there seems to be no basis for a distinction between mortal and venial sin. To understand the agape paradigm, you have to see how certain sins are compatible with agape. And that is explained at the link in #48.

    Doesn’t this make the actual deeds of the Law optional for Christians, so long as they have “agape”?

    Not at all. Love transcends the law, but does not negate the law; rather, it fulfills the law. Violations of the law are violations of love.

    How does this view of agape as fulfillment of Law, despite violations of the actual law (venial sins) comport with the promises of the New Covenant:
    Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
    It appears that John, Ezekiel (and the Psalmist, but I digress) all identify the one (love) with the other (keeping God’s commandments, statutes, and rules).

    Yes, John and Ezekiel do identify love with keeping God’s commandments. Exactly. That prophecy refers to the present age. What’s tripping you up here is thinking that venial sins are violations of God’s law. So you’re not yet seeing the basis for the difference between mortal and venial sins. Venial sins are not violations of the law; they are not violations of love. They are deficiencies or defects in carrying out the love that is the spirit and principle of the law. So to view venial sins as merely more rule violations is to approach the whole question through the list-paradigm, rather than through the agape paradigm, which gets ‘behind’ the list to the spirit or principle (i.e. agape) of the law, thus allowing for a distinction between actions that violate this spirit, and those that are still ordered by this principle but fall short of its perfect expression.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  54. Just to add briefly to the post 45 before I call it quits on this blog because of schedule (for at least the next couple of weeks).

    Bryan said:

    In the regenerate, during this life, love for God is always imperfect, and thus no regenerate person, during this present life, is ever truly righteous internally.

    But this is the historic Catholic faith–as St. Augustine notes in his work On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness. [St. Augustine speaks here of the imperfect internal righteousness of all Christian's in this life (where "God is by no means loved with all one's soul") that will give way to "that perfect state" in the life to come--when we will be truly righteous internally]:

    Chp 18
    …”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” For while there remains any remnant of the lust of the flesh, to be kept in check by the rein of continence, God is by no means loved with all one’s soul. For the flesh does not lust without the soul; although it is the flesh which is said to lust, because the soul lusts carnally. In that perfect state the just man shall live absolutely without any sin, since there will be in his members no law warring against the law of his mind, Romans 7:23 but wholly will he love God, with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind Matthew 22:37 which is the first and chief commandment. For why should not such perfection be enjoined on man, although in this life nobody may attain to it?
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1504.htm

    p.s. …One last thing–Bryan said to Jerry:
    “I’m guessing that what is making this difficult for you to grasp is that from your point of view, there seems to be no basis for a distinction between mortal and venial sin. To understand the agape paradigm, you have to see how certain sins are compatible with agape. And that is explained at the link in #48.”

    As was noted previously in this thread and the thread you linked to in post 48–leading English and Lutheran Reformers did affirm the distinction between mortal sins that extinguish agape (and thus bring loss of Salvation) and lesser or venial sins that do not.

    This distinction is certainly not a reason for kicking out the Scriptural and Historic Catholic faith reflected in the “List Paradigm” anymore than the imperfection of the internal righteousness in all Christians (as the Scriptures and Church Fathers taught) is a reason for kicking out the “Agape Paradigm” if rightly understood.

    Thanks everyone for the interesting discussion

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

  55. Bryan et al,

    I ask this with all seriousness. If the Roman Catholic system is built on the assumption that fallible men cannot understand an infallible Bible without a living infallible interpreter, and the only infallible interpreter is the Pope because he’s the only said infallible being (and only when he speaks ex cathedra) then aren’t you wasting your time telling us we’re wrong since you’re fallible and we know that you don’t know that what you claim to be true is the truth at all? In fact even if you tell me you went to your bishop and your bishop told you what he believes to be the correct interpretation of Scripture and tradition concerning justification, it doesn’t matter because he’s fallible and he studied under fallible men. So for instance did your bishop study under Schnakenberg or Rhaner. Certainly that would affect his interpretation. Bryan, there are numerous Catholics on this post who disagree with one another. Why would you correct them since you are not an infallible interpreter of Scripture. Unless you go straight to the Pope is the only supposedly “living infallible being” then you can’t say that you have gained the right interpretation because you’ve learned your interpretation from other infallible men. In fact even if you do go to the Pope and ask him 50 questions concerning the biblical teaching on justification you still can’t assert that you have the right interpretation because you’re fallible. You see, this is why we believe in Sola Scripture because it is infallible and it contains the infallible interpretation it.

  56. Bryan,

    You say venial sins are not violations of the law. Then why are they called “sins?” The Bible itself defines sin as violations of the Law. 1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You claim venial sins do not violate the law, and do not violate agape.

    You seem to contradict the Catechism of the Catholic church on this matter:

    II. THE DEFINITION OF SIN

    1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

    1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.

    IV. THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN

    1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

    1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

    Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

    1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

  57. By the way, on the definition, nature, and consequences of sin, consider the words of St. Anselm:

    CHAPTER XI
    What it is to sin, and to make satisfaction for sin.

    Anselm. We must needs inquire, therefore, in what manner God puts away men’s sins; and, in order to do this more plainly, let us first consider what it is to sin, and what it is to make satisfaction for sin.
    Boso. It is yours to explain and mine to listen.
    Anselm. If man or angel always rendered to God his due, he would never sin.
    Boso. I cannot deny that.
    Anselm. Therefore to sin is nothing else than not to render to God his due.
    Boso. What is the debt which we owe to God?
    Anselm. Every wish of a rational creature should be subject to the will of God.
    Boso. Nothing is more true.
    Anselm. This is the debt which man and angel owe to God, and no one who pays this debt commits sin; but every one who does not pay it sins. This is justice, or uprightness of will, which makes a being just or upright in heart, that is, in will; and this is the sole and complete debt of honor which we owe to God, and which God requires of us. For it is such a will only, when it can be exercised, that does works pleasing to God; and when this will cannot be exercised, it is pleasing of itself alone, since without it no work is acceptable. He who does not render this honor which is due to God, robs God of his own and dishonors him; and this is sin. Moreover, so long as he does not restore what he has taken away, he remains in fault; and it will not suffice merely to restore what has been taken away, but, considering the contempt offered, he ought to restore more than he took away. For as one who imperils another’s safety does not enough by merely restoring his safety, without making some compensation for the anguish incurred; so he who violates another’s honor does not enough by merely rendering honor again, but must, according to the extent of the injury done, make restoration in some way satisfactory to the person whom he has dishonored. We must also observe that when any one pays what he has unjustly taken away, he ought to give something which could not have been demanded of him, had he not stolen what belonged to another. So then, every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God.

    St. Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, Chapter XI.

  58. William, (re: #54)

    You wrote:

    St. Augustine speaks here of the imperfect internal righteousness of all Christian’s in this life (where “God is by no means loved with all one’s soul”) that will give way to “that perfect state” in the life to come–when we will be truly righteous internally]:

    Chp 18
    …”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” For while there remains any remnant of the lust of the flesh, to be kept in check by the rein of continence, God is by no means loved with all one’s soul. For the flesh does not lust without the soul; although it is the flesh which is said to lust, because the soul lusts carnally. In that perfect state the just man shall live absolutely without any sin, since there will be in his members no law warring against the law of his mind, Romans 7:23 but wholly will he love God, with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind Matthew 22:37 which is the first and chief commandment. For why should not such perfection be enjoined on man, although in this life nobody may attain to it?

    He speaks there of concupiscence, which he says is not sin proper, but is referred to as sin because consenting to it would amount to sinning. Overcoming concupiscence is part of the task of this present life for the believer, as I explained in comment #7. But the presence of concupiscence in the lower appetites is compatible with agape in the will, and thus righteousness in the will. And having agape in the will is the essence of righteousness. So the perfecting he speaks of there is not movement from not having righteousness to having righteousness, but from (a) having complete righteousness in the will, but not conformity to it in the lower appetites, to (b) having complete righteousness in the will, and the perfect submission to it by the lower appetites. In the same work he is also saying that venial sin would no longer be present in heaven, because we will see Him face to face. Love is perfected when the object of love is seen directly.

    In that same work he says:

    He, however, is not unreasonably said to walk blamelessly, not who has already reached the end of his journey, but who is pressing on towards the end in a blameless manner, free from damnable sins, and at the same time not neglecting to cleanse by almsgiving such sins as are venial.

    Damnable sins are sins making one worthy of damnation, i.e. mortal sins that drive agape from the soul. He contrasts these with venial sins which can be cleansed through prayer and almsgiving. Mortal sin cannot be cleansed by prayer and almsgiving, because man not in a state of grace cannot get grace through any work.

    Overall, so far as I can tell, nothing he says here in this work is incompatible with what I said in my post and in the thread. One last thing, in future comments, if you would address me in the second person, rather than the third person, I would be grateful, for the sake of fostering a more charitable, personal dynamic.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. Nick, (re: 55)

    Thanks for the note.

    You wrote:

    I ask this with all seriousness. If the Roman Catholic system is built on the assumption that fallible men cannot understand an infallible Bible without a living infallible interpreter, and the only infallible interpreter is the Pope because he’s the only said infallible being (and only when he speaks ex cathedra) then aren’t you wasting your time telling us we’re wrong since you’re fallible and we know that you don’t know that what you claim to be true is the truth at all?

    No, because recognizing that I have no divine charism protecting me (personally) from error is not the same thing as, nor entails, embracing skepticism either about myself or others, such that presenting and weighing evidence and argumentation thereby becomes pointless.

    In fact even if you tell me you went to your bishop and your bishop told you what he believes to be the correct interpretation of Scripture and tradition concerning justification, it doesn’t matter because he’s fallible and he studied under fallible men.

    True. But, none of my arguments or evidence is based on my own bishop’s personal interpretation of Scripture.

    Bryan, there are numerous Catholics on this post who disagree with one another.

    Such as?

    Why would you correct them since you are not an infallible interpreter of Scripture.

    Infallibility is not a necessary condition for pointing out an error in someone’s claim or position or argument. You believe this already, surely, since you do not believe you are infallible, and yet you are, it seems, attempting to correct me. (Which is fine, by the way.)

    Unless you go straight to the Pope is the only supposedly “living infallible being” then you can’t say that you have gained the right interpretation because you’ve learned your interpretation from other infallible men.

    I take it you mean “learned your interpretation from other fallible men.” Again, the conclusion of your conditional statement does not follow from the protasis. Just because I learn something directly from fallible men, it does not follow that I cannot believe or state or demonstrate that what I have learned is true.

    In fact even if you do go to the Pope and ask him 50 questions concerning the biblical teaching on justification you still can’t assert that you have the right interpretation because you’re fallible.

    And again, the conclusion of that conditional does not follow from the protasis. Just because I am fallible, it does not follow that I cannot know, claim, or show that this interpretation is correct.

    You see, this is why we believe in Sola Scripture because it is infallible and it contains the infallible interpretation it.

    But, as I realized shortly after seminary, sola scriptura does not somehow bypass the fallible reader and interpreter. You, the fallible reader, must fallibly interpret Scripture. So if, as you seem to be saying in this comment, fallibility in one link of a process leaves persons in a state of skepticism at the end of that process, then since you the fallible interpreter are necessarily a link in the process by which the inerrant word of Scripture comes into your mind and you interpret it, then at the end of that process you don’t have “an infallible interpretation,” but only a mess of skepticism.

    The very line of reasoning you’ve laid out here, by which, supposedly, I “don’t know that what [I] claim to be true is the truth at all,” and “can’t say that [I] have gained the right interpretation,” and “can’t assert that [I] have the right interpretation,” applies no less to yourself, and thereby undermines your capacity to step into a pulpit. If, as you claim, my fallibility necessarily places me in a position of skepticism regarding the meaning of infallible magisterial teachings, then your fallibility likewise places you in a state of skepticism regarding the meaning of the inerrant Scriptures, because there is no way to avoid using your fallible reasoning when deriving your interpretation of Scripture.

    For the reasons I’ve explained above, my fallibility does not place me in a state of skepticism. However, you have a coherency problem requiring special pleading insofar as you claim that my fallibility necessarily places me in a position of skepticism, while living as though your own fallibility does not land you in skepticism regarding the meaning of the inerrant Scriptures.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Jerry, (re: #56)

    You wrote:

    You say venial sins are not violations of the law. Then why are they called “sins?”

    Strictly speaking, venial sin is not a violation of the law, because it is not contrary to the agape which is the spirit of the law. In answer to your “then why are they called ‘sins'” question, St. Thomas Aquinas explains:

    The division of sin into venial and mortal is not a division of a genus into its species which have an equal share of the generic nature: but it is the division of an analogous term into its parts, of which it is predicated, of the one first, and of the other afterwards. Consequently the perfect notion of sin, which Augustine gives, applies to mortal sin. On the other hand, venial sin is called a sin, in reference to an imperfect notion of sin, and in relation to mortal sin: even as an accident is called a being, in relation to substance, in reference to the imperfect notion of being. For it is not “against” the law, since he who sins venially neither does what the law forbids, nor omits what the law prescribes to be done; but he acts “beside” the law, through not observing the mode of reason, which the law intends. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.88 a.1 ad1)

    Mortal sin is sin proper. Venial sin is not sin proper, but called ‘sin’ analogously, in relation to mortal sin. Venial sin is not “against the law,” as is mortal sin. Rather in venial sin a person acts “beside” the law, neither perfectly conforming to the law, nor acting contrary to it, but deviating from the mode of attaining the end intended by the law.

    You wrote:

    The Bible itself defines sin as violations of the Law. 1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

    Again, properly speaking, this is referring to mortal sin.

    You seem to contradict the Catechism of the Catholic church on this matter:

    1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

    What I’m saying is fully compatible with this. The “standard prescribed by the moral law” is the standard of complete conformity to the principle of agape. So if a person in action or omission does not conform completely to the principle of agape, but does not act so as to drive agape from the soul, he sins venially. By contrast, a violation of the law does violence to the principle of the law, and drives agape from the soul. Violation of the law does not mean simply non-conformity to the letter; that would be the list-paradigm way of conceiving violations of the law.

    As for the selection from St. Anselm, that is true, and compatible with what I’ve been saying.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. Bryan,

    You say, “Venial sin is not “against the law,” as is mortal sin. Rather in venial sin person acts “beside” the law, neither perfectly conforming to the law, nor acting contrary to it, but deviating from the mode of attaining the end intended by the law.” This is sophistry when compared to the language of the catechism:

    1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

    Back to a previous point, can you point to some passages in scripture where we might find the infusion of agape as a cause of justification or at least in close proximity to language about justification. As this language about “agape” is a central theme for you here, I’d like to review some of the passages you think lend credibility to your view.

  62. Jerry, (re: #61)

    It is not sophistry. To accuse St. Thomas of sophistry is a bit much. At least let’s follow the general rule that in ecumenical dialogue, we show each other the respect and courtesy of allowing each party to define and articulate his own position. If venial sin and mortal sin both violated the law in the same sense, then nothing would differentiate them. So the Catechism’s distinction between mortal sin and venial sin depends ontologically upon the underlying distinction that St. Thomas makes here. Hence St. Thomas says that venial sin is neither against the law [non enim est contra legem], nor is it, obviously, in perfect conformity to the law. Hence he describes the person committing venial sin as acting “beside the law” [facit praeter legem], using a spatial metaphor to indicate that venial sin is neither contrary to the law (as is mortal sin) nor perfectly conformed to the law.

    The statement in the Catechism is fully compatible with what St. Thomas says. The Catechism is saying that in venial sin, the person either does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law in a less serious matter, or disobeys it in a grave matter but without full knowledge or complete consent. Both cases are cases of failing to conform perfectly to the law. But in both cases, the person does not do violence to the law, and therefore does not violate the law (in that sense), because either the matter is not serious, or he disobeyed without full knowledge or complete consent. In this way venial sin is not contrary to the spirit of the law, but is compatible with retaining and acting from agape as the principle of the action, i.e. that from which the action derives, even though the action deviates from perfect conformity to agape in the manner in which it attempts to attain the goal of agape.

    Venial sin in relation to God is very much like doing something minor or unintentional that troubles one’s spouse but does not break the friendship with one’s spouse (say, failing to remember to readjust the seat in the car, so that it is easier for the other person to get in). It is not a violation of the law of love. When you get into the car and find the seat not readjusted, you don’t justifiably turn to your spouse and say, “You violated the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.” That would obviously be way over the top, because the failure was not purposely chosen out of spite or apathy; the spouse loved and loves you, and the inaction did not destroy that love or indicate its absence. But neither is failing to readjust the seat, if one’s spouse has requested that one do so, a perfect conformity to love for one’s spouse. And in our friendship with God there is a similar kind of distinction between two types of sins: mortal and venial.

    can you point to some passages in scripture where we might find the infusion of agape as a cause of justification or at least in close proximity to language about justification. As this language about “agape” is a central theme for you here, I’d like to review some of the passages you think lend credibility to your view.

    Answering that question properly would require writing another article, rather than throwing out a list of prooftexts. But in the mean time, there is a justification section on our Suggested Reading page, and you could find some relevant resources there.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  63. Ok, Bryan I am still trying to grasp all of this. You have said,

    My point is that “Christ our righteousness” does not entail extra nos imputation, because it can just as easily refer to the infusion of agape whereby we are partakers of and sharers in the God who is Agape.

    and

    . From a Catholic point of view the righteous robes of the saints are a symbol of the agape infused into our hearts, not intended to be treated as covering over remaining filth, but as replacing sin with the gift of true righteousness

    I think you then equated (somewhere) true righteousness with agape because this agape is the fulfillment of the law.

    So would it be correct to say that this love within us is accepted as true righteousness not only because it is the fulfillment of the law, but also and perhaps more importantly because it is tied to us being partakers and sharers in God who is love —Would it be correct to say that we are considered righteous because we are in Him, because we are partakers of his divine nature?

    In Bouyer’s book the Spirit and Forms of Protestantism he states:

    If the Church has rejected the doctrine of extrinsic justification, according to which Christ alone is , properly speaking holy, and covers with his holiness our indelible sinfulness, she has not thereby proclaimed a holiness inherent in the just, which they would possess independently of Christ, however this word, independently, may be understood. On the contrary, if the justice of the justified is real, not imputed, it does not exist, is not even conceivable, in Catholic theology, apart from our incorporation with Christ by Baptism and our actual adhesion to him by living faith in his grace For this reason, the merits of the saints are not, either in patria or in via, by any means additional to the merits of Christ in his Passion, but are a participation in these and nothing more.”

    Would you agree with that statement and furthermore would you see our righteousness as being the love that comes from being in Christ? Would this love be accepted even if it has not grown to its full potential because it is our participation in the one who is love and that all we do is done through his grace and through his strength and through our abiding in Him and thus although not perfect our relationship with him makes it acceptable? Or is there something fuller that I am missing?

  64. Kim, (re: #63)

    You wrote:

    So would it be correct to say that this love within us is accepted as true righteousness not only because it is the fulfillment of the law, but also and perhaps more importantly because it is tied to us being partakers and sharers in God who is love

    Yes, that’s just what true righteousness is, the God who is Agape. Agape within us is not just “accepted as true righteousness;” it is true righteousness.

    Would it be correct to say that we are considered righteous because we are in Him, because we are partakers of his divine nature?

    Not just “considered” righteous; truly righteous. The considered-righteous-while-not-actually-righteous is the extra nos conception of imputation, not the Catholic doctrine. But, yes, to have agape in one’s soul is to be a partaker in the God who is Righteousness.

    Would you agree with that statement and furthermore would you see our righteousness as being the love that comes from being in Christ?

    Yes and yes.

    Would this love be accepted even if it has not grown to its full potential because it is our participation in the one who is love and that all we do is done through his grace and through his strength and through our abiding in Him and thus although not perfect our relationship with him makes it acceptable? Or is there something fuller that I am missing?

    Characterizing this love as “not grown to its full potential” isn’t quite right. We’re the ones with potential to grow in agape, by receiving more. The agape we have received is not imperfect or incomplete or deficient. This notion of God accepting this love because we’re in Christ, even though this love isn’t perfect, isn’t right. Agape is perfect. It is righteousness. To have agape is to be righteous.

    In this life we still have vices and concupiscence and commit venial sins. But nevertheless, so long as we remain in a state of grace, and retain agape, then we are truly righteous with the essence of righteousness, even if we have vices, concupiscence, and commit venial sin.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  65. Nick Batzig (re: #55 & 59):

    I’d like to discuss this a bit myself, though it is NOT my intention to supersede Bryan’s response at all. In fact, I’m not entirely able to wrap my mind around his philosophical explanation. What I’d like to do is couch this in the specific discussion of the competing understandings of justification (i.e., the topic of this post), and how sola scriptura, as an interpretive approach, does not seem to contribute to resolution of issue. For, we all seem to agree that there is a correct interpretation.

    First, it is important to note that I grew up Protestant (and more-or-less Calvinist at that), then spent about nine years in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and only very recently made my way, with my wife and two children, into the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until after reading about Catholic theology, and its comparison to both Orthodox and Protestant theology, that I realized I had only an implicit understanding (at best) of how this “extra nos” imputation-righteousness thing actually works (or rather, how Protestants believe/think it works). It is also important to note that I’ve never been much into reading and digesting theology (I’m a language guy, mostly). However, that has changed since getting embroiled in the whole “justification by faith” debate.

    Of course, the notion of sola scriptura (something I took totally at face value until about nine years ago) is part and parcel to how justification works. Why? Because, it seems to me that unlike, say, Mary’s sinlessness (defensible by Scripture, but more obviously informed by Holy Tradition), the Catholic understanding of justification and faith can be easily defended by and through the Scriptures alone. Now, I would insist, as a Catholic Christian, that we require the witness of the Church (the other early writings, the Fathers, the official Church teachings and councils, the “cloud of witnesses” both earthly and heavenly, etc.) to properly read what the Bible is saying. But let’s just say we ignore those for now.

    Is it not true to say that the Scriptures do not ever say that Christians are “justified by faith alone” (in those words) – and in fact, we understand the witness of St. James to explicitly contradict that supposition. We also don’t have (from what I know) an explicit mention of Christ “imputing an alien righteousness as a mere covering of our sinfulness”. This means both of these theological positions must be derived interpretations, and not some “plainly-obvious-if-you-would-just-read-your-Bible” kind of situation. Put differently, would a reader of the Bible without any context, history, community, teachers, commentaries or otherwise come away with anything like a Calvinist or Lutheran understanding of imputation-righteousness by faith alone? Well, perhaps we can’t entirely answer that question (though I think they wouldn’t).

    In fact, Luther and Calvin themselves developed their position (or positions) partially as a reaction against the Catholic Church, and informed by a selective reading of St. Augustine.

    How does this relate to the aside about infallible-fallible interpretation? Well, I guess my point is this: the Protestant tends to say “The Bible teaches thus-and-so on justification and faith” as if it were the correct – and obvious – interpretation (never mind whether it is “infallible” or not). Until, that is, the Catholic comes along and says “Actually, you are reading that through Calvinist/Evangelical glasses, whereas you should be interpreting St. Paul and the other NT writers through the lens of the Ancient Church.” At which point the Protestant either cries foul and says, “Ha! You are no better than Protestants in purporting your personal interpretation (which is fallible by default because you aren’t the Pope)!” or perhaps “Well, you just aren’t reading the Scriptures right.”

    So my retort is: If you think you are right, how do you prove it? Can you show that your interpretation is of greater authority and validity? Can you possibly take your infallible Bible (which is, by the way, as perfectly infallible as ours) and promulgate an infallible interpretation? If not, then why act like it is the correct interpretation? In other words, if, at the end of the day, we are both left with only our Bibles, and you say “justification sola fide” and I say “justification by agape-faith,” and then we “agree to disagree,” because we admit that it is irresolvable with only our Bibles, then why act like your way is the correct interpretation and Catholics are simply “not reading their Bibles (the right way)”?

    On the other hand, you could say “Actually, this is the interpretation of the great reformer Calvin, not my own” (and this would be a reasonable tack, since Calvin had a rather high opinion of his Biblical interpretations). To which we could respond, well, neither is our interpretation ours, but instead, the theological understanding of the ancient witness, i.e. the Church.

    I do not say all this as an attack. Remember that many of the readers and writers of calledtocommunion.com come from some kind of Protestant background. They are quite familiar with your mode of thinking. If we left it behind it was because we realized that there was something so frustratingly irresolvable about sola scriptura, and that there had to be a better way.

    For what it is worth, my investigations in these matters, and my increasing revelation of how the Catholic Church understands our salvation in and through the Church as Christ’s own body, have only proven to increase my love (dare I say, agape) for the world, fellow Christians (both Catholic and Protestant), and most importantly, Our Lord Jesus. There is a testimony for you, for what it is worth.

    In Christ,

    Isaiah.

  66. Bryan,

    As to your comment (# 32) in response to my exegesis of Romans 4:9-10, you are denying what the text explicitly says. I noted that the main point of the passage is to show how Gentiles, who do not have the law, are still justified by the same faith that Abraham had because he was justified prior to being a Jew. Now, as a secondary point to the text, St. Paul does affirm that righteousness was imputed (reckoned, accounted, credited) to Abraham prior to his being circumcised (once-for-all in time), “not while circumcised.” Paul says that Abraham did not have righteousness imputed while circumcised. Your attempt to refute this indisputable point was to say:

    “The point of St. Paul’s usage of Genesis 15 in Romans 4 is not to designate the time when Abraham was first justified, but to show that Abraham was already justified by faith, prior to being circumcised (cf. Romans 4:10-11). His argument in Romans 4 does not depend on whether Abraham was first justified in Gen 12 or justified for the first time in Gen. 15.”

    But Paul explicitly says that “righteousness was imputed to Abraham while uncircumcised…not while circumcised.” Abraham was circumcised in Gen. 17 (not in 12 or 15). You are simply wrong and this wins the exegetical argument for the once-for-all imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer. I don’t need tradition or the Magisterium to know that I have just given you the right interpretation of the infallible Scriptures. “You do err not knowing the Scriptures…”

  67. Bryan,

    As to my question to you (#55), am I correct in understanding the RC teaching on the Magisterium to be as follows?

    “Fallible men cannot understand an infallible Bible without a living infallible interpreter, and the only living infallible interpreter is the Pope because he’s the only said infallible being (and only when he speaks ex cathedra).”

  68. Bryan—oh, thanks for that clarification in comment 64—this comment was extremely helpful for me!

    In regards to the comment 61 by Jerry, I see you (Bryan) have explained it would need another whole article to answer the question in regards to a list of Scripture. I also see that Isaiah’s comment (65) helps to explain that we could basically throw (my word) Scripture back and forth at each other supporting our own interpretations. I do think this comment by Isaiah is what has led a lot of us to become Catholics. I do believe Catholics and Protestants are constantly doing this—one side gives their Biblical texts, and the other side then gives their supporting texts and it becomes a duel that never seems to end and comes to be this continuous circling of each other. This is why much of CTC posts deal with the framework we need to approach Scripture. However, I would say, personally, I need the both and approach which I think tends to happen here. I need to understand the framework (or paradigm) and the Biblical Texts.

    So, I thought I would throw out one Bible passage that perhaps ties in with this whole discussion on love as righteousness :

    and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

    (1 Thess. 3:12-13)

    PS. Thanks, Isaiah, that comment of yours was also helpful for me!

  69. Nick, (re: #66)

    You wrote:

    Now, as a secondary point to the text, St. Paul does affirm that righteousness was imputed (reckoned, accounted, credited) to Abraham prior to his being circumcised (once-for-all in time), “not while circumcised.”

    I agree.

    Paul says that Abraham did not have righteousness imputed while circumcised.

    At least the reckoning for this act of faith was before his circumcision. Nothing St. Paul says there entails that Abraham could not have additional righteousness imputed subsequently, as, for example, when St. James says “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac” (James 2:21), an event occurring in Genesis 22, after Isaac was born.

    Your attempt to refute this indisputable point was to say …

    Actually, I was showing not that this was the only time his faith was counted as righteousness, but that it was not the first time he had faith, since his actions in Gen 12-14 show that he already had faith.

    But Paul explicitly says that “righteousness was imputed to Abraham while uncircumcised…not while circumcised.”

    I agree.

    Abraham was circumcised in Gen. 17 (not in 12 or 15).

    I agree.

    You are simply wrong and this wins the exegetical argument for the once-for-all imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer.

    You have provided no argument, let alone exegetical argument, showing that righteousness is imputed only once to each believer, let alone only once to Abraham. You are simply assuming that if the righteousness imputed to Abraham for this act of faith (in Gen 15:1-6) was not imputed to him while circumcised, then righteousness was imputed to him only once in his life. But that conclusion does not follow. If you presume as a starting assumption that righteousness can be imputed only once in a person’s lifetime, then yes, your conclusion would follow. But in that case, your argument would have presupposed precisely what you’re attempting to show, and so begged the question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  70. Nick, (re: #67)

    You asked:

    [A]m I correct in understanding the RC teaching on the Magisterium to be as follows?

    “Fallible men cannot understand an infallible Bible without a living infallible interpreter, and the only living infallible interpreter is the Pope because he’s the only said infallible being (and only when he speaks ex cathedra).”

    No, that would both oversimplified and incorrect. If you want to know what is the Catholic teaching on the magisterium, I recommend drawing from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    I’ll be away for the next three days, so I may not be able to respond for a while.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Bryan , I know you are going to be away, but I just read this by De Sales and wanted to ask you about it before I forget.

    When divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace and makes us pleasing to His Divine Majesty. When it gives us the strength to do good, it is called charity. But when it arrives at that degree of perfection by which it not only makes us do good, but also work diligently, frequently, and readily, then it is called devotion.

    I know this is a devotional work (Devout Life, pg 18) and not a theology book, but would this agree with what you have been saying?

  72. Bryan,

    I wanted to comment on your interaction with Nick Batzig briefly. I’ll respond later on the law and sin.

    So, Abraham was justified by faith in Gen. 15, we already know that God justifies (or at least has justified) through faith, apart from any sacramental act. Regardless of your speculation that this passage is concerned only with this one particular act of faith and when it was imputed, doesn’t this at least present a problem with the Roman view that God justifies through the sacraments of baptism and penance?

  73. Jerry,

    The relation between justification by faith, before baptism, and justification by being united to Christ by the sacrament of baptism has been discussed beginning at this point in the comment thread following another of Bryan’s posts on justification. You might also take a look at the blog post, “Baptism Now Saves You: Some (More) Prolegomena.”

    Andrew

  74. Jerry,

    That is a profoundly biblical point about the role of faith alone in the act of justification. Abraham didn’t even have the sacrament to justify him. How wonderful that God’s word clearly protects against all perversions of it even when others seek to illogically pervert that clear teaching. Point for the God of Scripture!

  75. Jerry (re: #72),

    You wrote:

    doesn’t this at least present a problem with the Roman view that God justifies through the sacraments of baptism and penance?

    No. In addition to what Andrew said, it is important to understand that the sacramental economy under the New Covenant is not the same as it was under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant sacraments (e.g. circumcision) did not confer grace, but were signs of faith. Because the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant (Heb. 7:22; 8:6), the New Covenant sacraments are greater than the Old Covenant sacraments, and effect what they signify. The assumption in your question is that the New Covenant sacramental economy is identical to that of the Old. And that’s just not a safe assumption (nor is it true ;-).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  76. Jerry and Nick Batzig (re: 72 & 74) …

    Jerry wrote:

    So, Abraham was justified by faith in Gen. 15, we already know that God justifies (or at least has justified) through faith, apart from any sacramental act.

    Nick wrote:

    Abraham didn’t even have the sacrament to justify him.

    But additionally for Abraham, the Cross (which is the greatest Mystery/Sacrament) was still a future event. If it is simply trust-faith that is necessary for justification, what is the trust-faith in without knowledge of Christ’s redemption?

    To piggyback on Bryan’s Old vs. New Covenant distinction, and according to what I’ve read elsewhere (e.g., the Catechism), we are ordinarily bound by the Sacraments, but God is not.

  77. Guys,

    The problem for the Roman view is that Abraham’s justification by faith-imputed-righteousness is paradigmatic for the New Covenant in Romans 4 and Galatians 3. Paul uses him as the example par excellence of the way a believer is justified in the New Covenant.

    Furthermore, if God was able and willing to justify Abraham by faith-imputed-righteousness, then why suddenly in the NT are we required to believe God added a further restriction that now, in addition to faith, one absolutely must have the sign working ex opere operato. Before, our father Abraham could be justified by faith in the Lord, but now we need baptism and penance before a priest. Odd how God could forgive and justify Abraham and our other spiritual forebears in the church under age without sacraments, but now they are absolutely necessary. Is the New Covenant really greater than the Old?

  78. Isaiah,

    If it is simply trust-faith that is necessary for justification, what is the trust-faith in without knowledge of Christ’s redemption?

    I would encourage you to continue reflecting on that question in light of John 8:5-6; Hebrews 11:26; and even Luke 24:27. They trusted in Christ, typified in the OT sacrifices, prophetically announced to God’s people with each successive revelation.

  79. Jerry (re #77),

    It is important that we pay close attention to what the New Testament actually discloses about the nature and effects of baptism, carefully reflecting upon this data in relation to what Sacred Scripture has to say about faith and justification. To that end, I suggest that you read the material to which I linked in comment #73, particularly the discussion thread following Bryan’s post on Galatians. There you will find that your questions, and more besides, are addressed. In order to keep this thread on topic (i.e., the nature of fulfilling the law), I suggest that you direct to that thread (after having read the comments) any further questions or statements concerning the role of baptism in the justification of sinners.

    Andrew

  80. Andrew, Jerry , Nick, Bryan (etc),

    I am wondering if this discussion in these last few comments doesn’t relate to our view of the Covenants. In particular the Abrahamic and the the covenant of grace in the New Testament. Abraham entered into the covenant of grace–or it was sealed with him when he was circumcised. Berkoff states, “At the time of Abraham, however, circumcision was instituted as a sealing ordinance.” Would not Baptism be the same? Circumcision was and Baptism is when we come into a formal living relationship with God and enter into the covenant. If so would this not tie into the thread–the nature of fulfilling the law? Is it not because we have entered into a covenant relationship (in particular a covenant of grace) that our supernatural love (or works done in and from this love) can fulfill the law? We are now in relationship to God and no longer are under the curse of the”law” [we have been cleansed]. This love poured into our hearts by his grace when we enter the covenant through baptism is the beginning of a relationship that has a covenant at its root . The relationship transforms how God accepts our works done through love. Most reformed people view the Mosaic covenant as still being a part of this covenant of grace. The law is seen , however as increasing the consciousness of sin and being a tutor unto Christ (per Berkoff). Now the covenant of grace has been extended, beyond the family , beyond the nation of Israel, and extends to all nations.Now in the New Testament we see God giving what he demands because he not only gives grace but gives us the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit who in turn sheds love into our hearts. All of this is why love is the fulfillment of the law or why it can be a fulfillment, because we are in a covenant relationship which has promises attached.

  81. Jerry (re: #77)

    You wrote:

    The problem for the Roman view is that Abraham’s justification by faith-imputed-righteousness is paradigmatic for the New Covenant in Romans 4 and Galatians 3. Paul uses him as the example par excellence of the way a believer is justified in the New Covenant.

    Your argument here goes like this. Paul used Abraham as the example par excellence of the way a believer is justified in the New Covenant. Abraham was justified without baptism. Therefore, St. Paul is teaching that baptism is not needed for justification in the New Covenant.

    The problem with this argument is that the first premise trades on an ambiguity, because it can be taken in various ways. St. Paul uses the example of Abraham not as the example in every respect of the way a believer is justified in the New Covenant, but to show that justification has always been by faith, and is so also in the New Covenant into which Gentiles are now incorporated without circumcision, but rather by the New Covenant sacrament of faith, which he describes in Romans 6. Otherwise, this would nullify what Jesus and the other New Testament authors said about the necessity and efficacy of baptism under the New Covenant.

    Next you wrote:

    Furthermore, if God was able and willing to justify Abraham by faith-imputed-righteousness, then why suddenly in the NT are we required to believe God added a further restriction that now, in addition to faith, one absolutely must have the sign working ex opere operato. Before, our father Abraham could be justified by faith in the Lord, but now we need baptism and penance before a priest. Odd how God could forgive and justify Abraham and our other spiritual forebears in the church under age without sacraments, but now they are absolutely necessary. Is the New Covenant really greater than the Old?

    In claiming that Catholic doctrine adds a further restriction under the New Covenant than was placed upon Abraham, you’re overlooking the requirement of circumcision under the Abrahamic covenant. (Recall what happened to Moses in Exodus 4.) Which would you prefer: baptism, or snip-snip? Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, but circumcision was not optional for him.

    In addition, this same argument you make here would undermine the Abrahamic covenant itself, because those righteous men of faith who preceded Abraham did not need even to be circumcised. But that did not nullify God’s command to Abraham and his offspring to be circumcised. So the problem with your argument is that it uses what was sufficient under the pre-Abrahamic covenant as the criterion to determine what is required of us by God for justification under the New Covenant. Christianity, however, is a revealed religion. If Christ revealed that baptism is necessary under the New Covenant, then we must be baptized, receiving the “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” And if the Church He founded teaches that the sacraments of the New Covenant are greater and more efficacious than those of the Abrahamic covenant, we must believe that too. That’s what it means to have faith, the kind of faith Abraham had. (See “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church.”)

    My purpose in this post, however, is not to address the relation of baptism to justification, but to lay out side by side the two paradigms of imputation. So any further comments on the relation of baptism to justification should go under the thread Andrew mentioned in #73.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  82. Mr Batzig and Jerry,

    I think it is far more important and critical to determine whether Abraham was saved by an imputed (legal list-keeping) righteousness or an infused (agape) righteousness than if/how baptism applied.

  83. What about James 2:10?” For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Isn’t that implying a kind of list paradigm?

  84. Kim (re: #80),

    You wrote:

    Is it not because we have entered into a covenant relationship (in particular a covenant of grace) that our supernatural love (or works done in and from this love) can fulfill the law? … The relationship transforms how God accepts our works done through love. … All of this is why love is the fulfillment of the law or why it can be a fulfillment, because we are in a covenant relationship which has promises attached.

    Christ of course has made a New Covenant, through His blood. And under this New Covenant we receive forgiveness and righteousness by the infusion of agape. It is not the case, however, that this infused agape is less than true righteousness, but is treated by God as true righteousness because of our inclusion in the covenant. That would imply that we are not actually made righteous in baptism, but only treated as if we are righteous, on account of an extrinsic [covenantal] relation to Christ. That would be another version of the legal fiction, extra nos conception of justification. But here’s the good news of the gospel: we are actually made righteous, truly righteous, not just treated as if righteous while left unrighteous.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  85. Bryan, in reference to 80 and 84,

    Sorry, I was not meaning to infer that the infusion of love was not a true righteousness. I meant that the righteousness that is infused is true and accepted because it comes to us from God himself and through the covenant in which we have been incorporated. The reason this is true righteousness is because he said so when he established the new covenant {the signs of which include the initiating sign of baptism and the continuing sign of the Eucharist}. Love is the fulfillment of the law because he said it was when he made this new covenant. This is what I was trying to say.

  86. The same would be true of the Old Covenant—obedience had to come from love in the heart. The pharisees did not have this love from the heart. They honored God with their lips , but their heart was far from him. So this aspect of love being a fulfillment was true then as well. This true righteousness being love in the heart is true under the covenant of grace in Old and New Testaments, no? Therefore incorporation into a covenant relationship means there are demands, and God tells us what fulfills these demands.

    In both cases—there had to be an inward change of the heart—not an imputation. This inward change of love toward God was key.

  87. Kim, (re: #85)

    You wrote:

    The reason this is true righteousness is because he said so when he established the new covenant …. Love is the fulfillment of the law because he said it was when he made this new covenant. This is what I was trying to say.

    If you mean that we know that love fulfills the law because He told us, then yes. But if you mean that love fulfills the law only because He said it does, as if it wouldn’t do so unless He had stipulated that it be treated as the fulfillment of the law, then again, this would be an implicit denial that agape actually is righteousness, but is only stipulatively defined as the fulfillment of the law. And that too would be another version of the extra nos conception of justification.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  88. Reading over Bryan’s article again, another thought comes to mind. If his characterization of “imputed-righteousness as presupposing the list paradigm” is correct, then it seems to me that it is almost as if Christ died for nothing — or at least that His death is somehow a separate and unrelated event from His righteous life. In other words, it seems as if the Protestant perspective (via Nick’s article and/or Bryan’s reading of the same) suggests that our imperfect keeping of the Law is covered over by Christ’s perfect keeping of the Law, which is synonymous with his Divine Righteousness, but NOT (necessarily) by His death on the Cross. This would then imply (taken to its logical conclusion) that anyone could have come along and fulfilled the law perfectly and been the one who could trade singular perfection for infinite imperfection.

    Granted, that conclusion is safe-guarded by the other presupposition that Christ was the only human being (since Adam) actually capable of doing so. [In this way, I can understand why A) classic Protestantism comes across as oddly Pelagian, especially when considering pre-fall Adam's implied ability to fulfill the Law perfectly; and B) it is nigh unto blasphemy that the Mother of Jesus lived an actually blameless life -- i.e. perfectly kept the law from conception to death. However, the Catholic interpretation on this is that she was perfectly kept from the stain of original sin by God's perfect grace, and thus was perfectly infused with agape from conception, further implying that the Law was written on her heart from birth.]

    Drawing these conclusions from the definitions provided by Bryan (and, indirectly, Nick B.), what is the connection between Christ’s righteousness — which is, again, necessary for the forensic swap with our unrighteousness — and His death on the Cross? Was that just a completion of it? Does it play some part in the perfect and final fulfillment of the Law?

    Cum veritate amoreque,

    ih.

  89. Bryan,

    St. Paul uses the example of Abraham not as the example in every respect of the way a believer is justified in the New Covenant, but to show that justification has always been by faith, and is so also in the New Covenant into which Gentiles are now incorporated without circumcision, but rather by the New Covenant sacrament of faith, which he describes in Romans 6.

    Paul’s entire point in Romans 4:1-12 is precisely the fact that Abraham was justified before circumcision, apart from circumcision, apart from works, by faith and not by works. Now, notice that circumcision is the OT corollary of NT baptism. It too was the sacrament of faith according to Paul in 4:11. It symbolizes the same spiritual reality and serves the same purpose as baptism in the New Testament. But circumcision was not an Old Covenant sign. It predates the Mosaic Covenant. It is certainly not part of the Covenant of Works. It is a sign of the Covenant of Grace in its Old Testament dispensation, but I digress. The major point is that the God of grace justified people in the church (and not just people, but the father of the faith) by faith, apart from works of the Law, before the administration of the sacrament of faith & regeneration, and without any kind of ceremonial act.

    In claiming that Catholic doctrine adds a further restriction under the New Covenant than was placed upon Abraham, you’re overlooking the requirement of circumcision under the Abrahamic covenant.

    No, I’m not. I’m not suggesting in any way that circumcision was optional for Moses or Abraham, nor that it was optional for any OT believer, nor that baptism is optional for any NT believer. All I said was the fact that Abraham was justified by faith apart from the sacrament of faith, apart from the sacrament of regeneration, apart from the sacrament which signified cleansing of sin, is not only an issue that mitigates against the Roman view of justification, but that St. Paul himself uses it in this way, highlights it for this purpose, and intends to rebuke the ideas which underpin the Roman doctrine here.

    I still have more to say about Paul’s use of imputation in Rom. 4 and the meaning of sin, but will do so, Lord willing, in another comment.

  90. Bryan,

    Venial sin in relation to God is very much like doing something minor or unintentional that troubles one’s spouse but does not break the friendship with one’s spouse (say, failing to remember to readjust the seat in the car, so that it is easier for the other person to get in). It is not a violation of the law of love. When you get into the car and find the seat not readjusted, you don’t justifiably turn to your spouse and say, “You violated the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.” That would obviously be way over the top, because the failure was not purposely chosen out of spite or apathy; the spouse loved and loves you, and the inaction did not destroy that love or indicate its absence.

    These comments evince a low view of sin and holiness. If something is a sin, it is certainly a violation of the law of love. If something doesn’t violate God’s law in any way, it may be unwise, it may be foolish, but it isn’t sin, and requires no repentance or confession to God or men, nor does it require punishment of forgiveness from God or man. The law of love is summarized perfectly by Christ:

    Luke 10:25–27 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

    Bryan, if something you or I do doesn’t meet that standard, it is sin (and worthy of condemnation). If it does, it is not sin. That doesn’t mean there are no degrees of sin; there certainly are. But away with the fanciful idea that there are sins which a person can commit and still be inherently righteous and called such by God on the basis of their own holiness. If the Protestant view in which God declares the sinner as “righteous” on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ is a “legal fiction,” then this Roman view in which God declares a venial sinner as “righteous” on the basis of his own inherent righteousness is a downright lie. A sinner, venial or otherwise, is not inherently righteous. This is tautological.

  91. Tim-Christian (re:#83),

    James 2:10 is only an example of “list paradigm thinking,” when it’s read from *within* the “list paradigm” way of understanding Scripture on righteousness. Read in context of the passage, St. James is simply telling his readers to be careful and mindful, if or when they strongly call out people for particular sins, that they (the ones doing the calling out) are not showing partiality, given that they are very likely guilty of *other* sins on which they could be called. (He is also not telling his readers to *not* call people on sins but simply to be careful and mindful when doing so.) If St. James were operating from a list paradigm, he would be contradicting the Old Testament passages, mentioned by others in this thread, which speak of certain people being “righteous” and walking “blamelessly” before God.

  92. Christopher,

    This is what is so silly about the debate about the “agape paradigm” versus the “list paradigm” – it’s a false dichotomy. The “list paradigm” and the “agape paradigm” go together as perfectly. Consider our perfect example: Jesus Christ. He obeyed the letter of the Law perfectly and not outwardly but inwardly with love. He tells us we can summarize all the prophets with pure love of God and love of others. He says if you love me, keep my commands. God intended the works of the law to be done out of love. St. Paul makes this plain in the second part of Romans 2. This isn’t something new that Paul is teaching – it’s always been true. God has never wanted outward obedience but heart obedience in love.

    Never make enemies of friends. It’s speculative, and could be seen as uncharitable, but I really think the driving factor in pushing this “agape paradigm” is to allow us to affirm something we know can’t really be true. We know God can’t rightly declare a sinner righteous if he’s looking at his heart. Yet we know God does declare sinners righteous. So we have two options:

    1. God is basing His declaration on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (and we are en Christo which undergirds this imputation and protects it from accusations of “legal fiction” – they are righteous in Christ!).

    2. God is basing His declaration on a reduced standard: so-called “agape” infused within the sinner but allows him to continue sinning (venially) while being called “righteous” on the basis of some inward kernel of imparted agape which every honest person must admit does NOT lead experimentally to Jesus’ description of agape in action: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” If we love Him perfectly, we will keep his commandments.

    The primary question is which of those solutions is taught in the Word of God? The secondary question is which one makes sense of our practical experience of God, love, sin, etc.?

  93. Jerry (re:#90)

    You wrote to Bryan:

    But away with the fanciful idea that there are sins which a person can commit and still be inherently righteous and called such by God on the basis of their own holiness. If the Protestant view in which God declares the sinner as “righteous” on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ is a “legal fiction,” then this Roman view in which God declares a venial sinner as “righteous” on the basis of his own inherent righteousness is a downright lie. A sinner, venial or otherwise, is not inherently righteous. This is tautological.

    If the Catholic Church taught that people could be inherently righteous, in and of themselves, you would have a point against the Church’s understanding of righteousness, especially as it relates to venial and mortal sin. However, the Church’s teaching is that of *infused* righteousness, not inherent righteousness. A person can only become righteous in God’s eyes *through God’s grace*, which enables and empowers him or her to act righteously. This is not “works-righteousness,” because again, the works do not spring from the person’s supposed “inherent holiness,” but from the fact of God’s grace enabling and empowering them to act in holy ways.

    If you want to argue that a person who commits venial sins cannot be counted righteous by God *at all*, other than through the imputed righteousness of Christ, then you have to answer the Old Testament passages which speak of certain people as being “righteous” and “blameless” before God, such as Noah in Genesis 6, Job in Job 1 and 2, Joseph in Matthew 1, and Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1.

  94. Jerry (re:#93),

    I was happily surprised, just after addressing #93 and #94 to you, to see that you had just addressed me in #92 (which I did not see until after I posted my comments to you). My comment #93 should answer your #92 (even though I was actually addressing your writing to Bryan in #90). If not, please tell me how I failed to do so.

  95. Jerry,

    I should have written “Old *and* New Testament passages,” in the last sentence of #93 to you. Infused, grace-enabled and empowered righteousness is a reality in the Old and New Testaments. The Catholic Church’s teaching fits better with the most straightforward readings of the descriptions of Noah in Genesis 6, Job in Job 1 and 2, Joseph in Matthew 1, and Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1. It is exegetically torturous to try to find “imputed righteousness” in those descriptions of Biblical people being “righteous” and “blameless.”

  96. Hello Jerry,

    Re your #92, you asked: “The primary question is which of those solutions is taught in the Word of God?”

    This is a very important question to answer, and I think in fairness the Protestant side needs to be as objective as possible when considering the Biblical evidence on Imputation. Many Catholics here have been objective when it comes to looking at both of the options you put forth, so I would hope for some reciprocation. When you say things like “God is basing His declaration on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us,” I am aware of only one place where the NT could be taken to be teaching this, Romans 4:3-5. Outside of that passage, this cornerstone Protestant dogma seems invisible. When it comes to analyzing this text, I don’t even see Protestants using the principle (or dogmatic rule) of Scripture-interprets-Scripture, since Romans 4:6-8 and 4:18-22 are almost universally ignored when exegeting it.

    On top of that, the Protestant interpreting of Romans 4:5, where Paul says God “justifies the ungodly,” is self-refuting. Here’s why. Protestants read it as saying “God declares legally righteous the man who is legally unrighteous,” which is not at all what they actually teach, namely that God can only make such a declaration if it is based on truth, in this case Christ’s imputed righteousness. So in the Protestant scheme, God is *never* declaring the legally unrighteous to be legally righteous. To add to that, if forgiveness is included at all in the Protestant definition of justification, then “justify” cannot simply mean “declare righteous” and the believer cannot properly be termed legally unrighteous but rather (after forgiveness) is more accurately “legally neutral”.

  97. Christopher (#93),

    I didn’t say anything about works righteousness. I know Rome teaches “infused” righteousness (but does said infused righteous not inhere in the believer?). It doesn’t affect my point at all. I’m saying it’s absurd to critique the Protestant doctrine as a “legal fiction” (it isn’t) because it has God declaring sinners righteous, but then to have a doctrine that God declares righteous people righteous because he made them so, despite the fact that they can continue to act like sinners, committing venial sins without losing the status of “righteous”.

    It’s like a joke I once heard about seahorses. Apparently male seahorses have the babies. So the joke says two scientists were looking at two seahorses, and one says, “See that one there? He’s the male!” The other scientist replies, “Uhh, that one’s having a baby.” The first scientist replies “Uhh… In Seahorses the males have the babies!”

    This is how it has to work for Rome to explain how supposedly objectively “righteous” people continue to commit sin. And in the case of venial sin, it has the audacity to claim the sinner is still “righteous” without any imputation. That seems worse than a legal fiction. It’s saying God calls a (venial) sinner righteous because of infused righteousness, so God must have lowered His standard quite a bit.

    I don’t have time now to look at those passages. I would say the most important passages in this question are the ones whose context is the method by which God justifies sinners. Not the ones that say someone is justified. Romans 4 is explicit on this matter, and it contradicts the Roman view.

  98. Tim-Christian (re: #83)

    You wrote:

    What about James 2:10?” For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Isn’t that implying a kind of list paradigm?

    What makes this verse intelligible is the agape paradigm. Otherwise, how would it follow that a person who has coveted, has also murdered and committed adultery and not kept the Sabbbath, etc.? It wouldn’t follow. That’s James’ point two verses earlier, when he says,

    “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” (James 2:8)

    From a Reformed point of view, James is speaking entirely hypothetically, since in that theological system, no one fulfills the royal law. But in the agape paradigm, the law is summed up in agape, such that he who is loving, is fulfilling the the whole law, and who does not love, is acting contrary to the principle underlying all the laws (James 2:10).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  99. Isaac (re: #88)

    In Reformed theology, the purpose of Christ’s suffering and death was to bear the full punishment for all the sins of all the elect, so that these sins could be forgiven. (See “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.”) If He had only lived a life of perfect obedience, but not suffered the penalty for all our sins, we wouldn’t be able to receive the double imputation (our sins placed on Him, and His obedience placed on us).

    But, I agree with two of your points, first, that Reformed theology is Pelagian in its understanding of the relation of nature and grace, as Barrett argued in “Pelagian Westminster?.” Second, I agree that Reformed theology makes Christ’s incarnation, suffering, and death unnecessary, for the reason I explained in “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark,” where I wrote:

    If mere covenantal (and not ontological) union were our eschatological end, such that we are not made partakers of the divine nature, then Christ did not need to take on human flesh. If we were not called to partake of the divine nature, Christ would not have needed to partake of our human nature. Given the Reformed notion of imputation, all that is needed for salvation is a double imputation. For example, instead of sending Christ, God could have created another group of humans equal in number to the elect, made no promise of reward to them (since for Clark God didn’t have to make such a covenant of works with men) monergistically ensured their just obedience to God, and then imputed their obedience to the elect, and imputed the sins of the elect to them. From the divine point of view, it would just be another form of supralapsarianism, except without the incarnation. Of course the notion is far-fetched, but the point is that if man is not ordered to a supernatural end, then Christ did not need to become incarnate.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  100. Jerry (re: #90)

    You wrote:

    These comments evince a low view of sin and holiness.

    In the list-paradigm, yes, but not in the agape paradigm. From the perspective of the agape paradigm, the persons operating in the list-paradigm are actually treating venial sin as though it is mortal sin, and are in that respect mistaken.

    If something is a sin, it is certainly a violation of the law of love.

    In the list-paradigm, yes. But in the agape paradigm, as explained above (in comments #60 and #62), there are two ways in which sin can be related to agape: violation of the principle, and failure to conform to the means intended by the principle.

    Bryan, if something you or I do doesn’t meet that standard, it is sin (and worthy of condemnation). If it does, it is not sin. That doesn’t mean there are no degrees of sin; there certainly are. But away with the fanciful idea that there are sins which a person can commit and still be inherently righteous and called such by God on the basis of their own holiness. If the Protestant view in which God declares the sinner as “righteous” on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ is a “legal fiction,” then this Roman view in which God declares a venial sinner as “righteous” on the basis of his own inherent righteousness is a downright lie. A sinner, venial or otherwise, is not inherently righteous. This is tautological.

    What you are doing here in this paragraph is asserting that there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin. You are asserting that venial sin is mortal sin. And yes, in the list-paradigm there is no basis for distinguishing between them. But in the agape paradigm there is, as I have explained above. So your assertion that there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin, and that all sin makes one unrighteous, presupposes that list-paradigm. And that was part of the purpose of my post, not only to show the difference between the two paradigms regarding imputation, but especially to show that the Reformed argument simply presupposes the list-paradigm, in making its case against the agape paradigm.

    Similarly, you wrote in #92:

    God is basing His declaration on a reduced standard: so-called “agape” infused within the sinner but allows him to continue sinning (venially) while being called “righteous” on the basis of some inward kernel of imparted agape which every honest person must admit does NOT lead experimentally to Jesus’ description of agape in action: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” If we love Him perfectly, we will keep his commandments.

    This caricature of the agape paradigm presupposes the list-paradigm, because it presupposes that the person having agape within is not truly righteous, whereas in the agape paradigm agape is the righteousness of God, and therefore the person having agape within is truly righteous. In the agape paradigm, agape is not a “reduced standard;” it is the standard of righteousness. So again, you’re presupposing the list-paradigm, in your criticism of the agape paradigm.

    Likewise, in #97 you wrote:

    And in the case of venial sin, it has the audacity to claim the sinner is still “righteous” without any imputation. That seems worse than a legal fiction. It’s saying God calls a (venial) sinner righteous because of infused righteousness, so God must have lowered His standard quite a bit.

    Once again, your criticism presupposes that agape is not true righteousness and/or that venial sin is not distinct from mortal sin. And when you say that “God must have lowered His standard quite a bit,” you are presupposing the list-paradigm, by presupposing that agape within is not the standard, but instead that perfect list-keeping is the standard. So again, you’re presupposing precisely what is in question. What is in question is which paradigm is correct. But your argument against the agape paradigm presuppose the list paradigm. Such question-begging doesn’t actually give one any reason to choose one paradigm over the other, as you would agree concerning the unhelpfulness of my arguments, I think, if all my arguments for the agape paradigm over the list-paradigm presupposed the agape paradigm.

    I’ll be away the rest of the day. But I’ll try to check back in tomorrow.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  101. Bryan,

    (Side question out of curiosity – If God uses the agape paradigm to judge guilt and righteousness, do you think it would be acceptable for human judges to attempt to use this same paradigm in law-courts? I know they can’t see the heart, or change it, but perhaps they could judge a person by character witnesses? )

  102. Question for Protestants: if we become partakers of the divine nature, how can we not have an internal righteousness, since God’s nature is righteous?

  103. Nick (#96),

    Let’s think first about how St. Paul uses imputation, beginning with how our sin becomes Christ’s (if you do agree that Christ had to come, and that He is a sin-bearer). How did that happen? Assuming God punished His Son (Isa. 53:4,6,10), and that He did so without being unjust, then on what basis did He do this? Did God infuse sin into Jesus, so that He was now inherently sinful? No – he was considered, numbered with the transgressors.

    Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

    Now, one of the articles in the recommended reading section of this site uses this verse to claim that logizomai always means to reckon something as it actually is in reality, and to reckon something contrary to reality is a mistake. Now, the Reformed believe that God reckoned Christ in this way, and that God is not mistaken. If you don’t believe God reckoned Christ as a transgressor, then on what basis did he crush Him? Look at the passage Jesus quotes as being fulfilled: Isaiah 53. Although He had done no violence and there was no deceit in His mouth (Isa. 53:9), he bore our sin (vv. 4,11,12), was punished for them (5, 12). How did this occur? He was numbered with the transgressors (v. 12) because the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (v. 6). Did God make Jesus a sinner? Then on what basis, apart from imputation, did He do so? Was this imputation a legal fiction? Was the punishment of the suffering servant for our sins despite the fact that he had done no violence or deceit a legal fiction? How could God do anything other than justify Jesus, the inherently righteous and loving one?

    In a later comment, we’ll consider how St. Paul uses imputation (and non-imputation) in Romans 4.

  104. Isn’t James merely saying that he who commits adultery is as guilty of transgressing the law as the one who murders? I can’t see him saying that the adulterer, because of his adultery, is a murderer is a thief is a liar etc.

    Since the law contains the commandment “Love your neighbour” we are not only transgressing a single commandment but the whole divinely given framework of the law when we don’t love our neighbour. Should we love our neighbour and keep all the law commands? Absolutely. Is God helping us to grow in holiness and lawkeeping. Yes. Does our salvation depend on keeping every single command all the time? No. For by grace you have been saved through faith.

    Regarding the hypotheticalness: “Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:10.11) Peter could have put the circumcision party to silence by saying that the gentiles are already fulfilling the law in an agape- paradigm-sense. Yet he referred to grace.

  105. Jerry (re:#97),

    I understand that you don’t have the time now to look at the Biblical verses which I mentioned about certain people being “righteous” and “blameless” before God. However, it is vital to this discussion that, when you *do* have the time, you seriously consider those verses. Unless your Reformed paradigm of reading Scripture is *presupposed*, these descriptions from the Bible directly refute your contention that without imputed righteousness, people cannot be objectively righteous before God, by His grace, in view of Christ’s sacrifice, enabling and empowering them to live righteously, *while* still continuing to (venially) sin. To be very specific, please read what Scripture tells us about Noah in Genesis 6:9, Job in Job 1:1 and 8:2-3, Joseph in Matthew 1:19, and Zacharias (or Zechariah) and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-6.

  106. Nick (#96) (continued),

    Now look at Romans 4. St. Paul begins by describing Abraham’s faith-imputed-righteousness. There’s a lot of imputing going on in this passage. Try reading it with the “agape” paradigm. I want to discuss two exegetical problems I see for the Roman view.

    First, why does Paul keep saying that Abraham’s faith/belief was imputed/credited to him/reckoned/counted as righteousness? Under the agape paradigm, shouldn’t he be saying that Abraham’s love or infused righteousness was credited to him as righteousness? That’s what Bryan is asserting God does with regard to the “agape” paradigm. He considers the presence of agape infused within us and declares us righteous on that basis. But here Paul keeps focusing on belief and faith, not on love. Odd.

    Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

    It seems to me that the Roman reading is this: “And to the one who does good work by infused agape and believes in him who infuses agape into the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

    Is my proposed reading unfair in any way? If so, I will gladly correct it. But it still reads like Paul is very confused. Why is it faith that is counted, and not the infused righteousness or law written on the heart that is considered in this justification (declaration of righteousness)?

    Second, as soon as Paul makes this statement he turns to a second OT example of this faith-imputed-righteousness: David. What he says is devastating to the Roman position. He says David speaks of the same thing – God declaring righteousness apart from works. He describes these blessed people, blessed with justification (the ones whom he just referred to as “ungodly”) as those:
    1. whose lawless deeds are forgiven (v. 7)
    2. whose sins are covered (v. 7)
    3. against whom the Lord will not count his sin (v. 8)

    Why does he do this if the Roman position is true, or if he shares Bryan’s “agape” paradigm? Why doesn’t he refer to their inward righteousness, their infused agape? Instead, he refers to God’s non-imputation of their sin! Notice that very clearly. It isn’t that God transforms them and makes them righteous first, and then considers that as their righteousness. It isn’t that they are “sinless” or merely “without mortal sin.” No – they are described as having lawless deeds and sins! But the Lord forgives their sins, covers over them, does not count/credit them to them, even though they are theirs inherently (they are inherently ungodly!). Is this a legal fiction? The Lord is overlooking their sin! He’s not considering them as they really are!

    Please see this: Paul describes justification (Rom. 4:6) in precisely this way – that God does NOT consider them as they truly are in themselves! This being the case, Rome calls this a legal fiction, a mistaken declaration. Reformed protestants call it the grace of God. Our only hope is in the justification of ungodly sinners by the non-imputation of their sin to themselves, the imputation of their sin to Christ, and His righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21), received by faith apart from works (even though such true and saving faith always is accompanied by such works).

    Now read Isaiah 53, and see if it makes sense.

  107. Christopher (#105),

    I didn’t mean to imply I hadn’t read them. I have read them, and considered them in this context. I simply deny that they refute the Protestant/Reformed view. I don’t see what you see, apparently. As you haven’t made an exegetical argument as to why they do, I can’t respond to it. I will be happy to carefully consider any argument you put forward about those passages.

    Jerry

  108. Pio (#102),

    We do. At least in the Reformed camp, we have a doctrine of sanctification (both definitive and progressive). Along with Chapter 13 in the Westminster Confession, the following questions from the Westminster Larger Catechism should be very helpful in understanding the Reformed position:

    Question 75: What is sanctification?

    Answer: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

    Question 77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

    Answer: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ;in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued:the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

    Question 78: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    Answer: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

  109. Hello Jerry,

    Thank you for your responses in post 103 and 106.
    In your response (#103), you asked:

    Let’s think first about how St. Paul uses imputation, beginning with how our sin becomes Christ’s… How did that happen? Assuming God punished His Son (Isa. 53:4,6,10)…

    This is an excellent starting point. First of all, the Greek word for “reckon” is used 40 times in the NT and about 120 times in the OT, yet never – never – is it used in reference to imputing sin to Christ (or anyone else in any situation). Our sin never “becomes Christ,” but Christ does atone for our sin (1 Jn 2:2). Since the Biblical term “Atonement” never refers to transferring a punishment, this means Jesus wasn’t punished, especially by His Father.

    If you don’t believe God reckoned Christ as a transgressor, then on what basis did he crush Him? Look at the passage Jesus quotes as being fulfilled: Isaiah 53.

    Your understanding of Isaiah 53 is seriously flawed, as the Hebrew words used in it point directly away from Penal Substitution (See the article “Is Job the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?“. Your quote of Luke 22:37, speaking of Jesus being “reckoned with the transgressors” confirms the Catholic point, since what is being spoken of is the Jews sinfully having Jesus arrested and treated like a criminal, which is why this very text of Isaiah 53 is quoted in Mark’s Gospel when it says Jesus was crucified between two thieves. In otherwords, they acted sinfully in reckoning Jesus and treating Him other than the way they should have.

    First, why does Paul keep saying that Abraham’s faith/belief was imputed/credited to him/reckoned/counted as righteousness? Under the agape paradigm, shouldn’t he be saying that Abraham’s love or infused righteousness was credited to him as righteousness?

    Paul gives the answer to that question of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:18-22, a passage I keep bringing up but is ignored by Protestants exegeting 4:3-5. With the ‘trained eye’, it is understood that this is what is meant, as Genesis 15:6 is not a quote from a systematic theology text but rather a narrative with deep significance to terms like “righteousness”. In the Jewish mind, the term “righteousness” never means “keep the law perfectly,” that’s a foreign (Western) concept. This is why God can say: “in your [Isaac's] offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen 26:4f), without implying Abraham was sinless. That’s because all this obedience was done in the context of a relationship and not a SAT test. That’s the agape paradigm.

    It seems to me that the Roman reading is this: “And to the one who does good work by infused agape and believes in him who infuses agape into the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

    First, you’re equivocating with the term “work” here; Paul is talking about the Works of the Law – he is not talking about any and every work done under any circumstance in any context. So the term “works” in 4:5a is not ‘good works’. All Paul is saying here is the one who “believes in him” will have their faith “reckoned as having a righteous quality about it”. This is why Paul uses a similar phrase in 4:24, that the one who “believes in Him who raised Jesus,” their faith will be reckoned as righteousness. In this context, the phrase “justifies the ungodly” should be read as “saves those outside the Mosaic covenant”.

    Why does [Paul quote David as an example in Roms 4:6-8] if the Roman position is true, or if he shares Bryan’s “agape” paradigm? Why doesn’t he refer to their inward righteousness, their infused agape? Instead, he refers to God’s non-imputation of their sin! Notice that very clearly. It isn’t that God transforms them and makes them righteous first, and then considers that as their righteousness. … But the Lord forgives their sins, covers over them, does not count/credit them to them, even though they are theirs inherently (they are inherently ungodly!). Is this a legal fiction? The Lord is overlooking their sin! He’s not considering them as they really are!

    Here is precisely where the Catholic side will be vindicated and the Protestant side shown to be untenable. You just need to go one step further. First, David is said to have been justified here (since he’s not converting at this point in life, nor was Abraham), and thus it means David lost his justification through grave sin. This fits perfectly with the Catholic agape model but is impossible in the Protestant model. Second, the text of Ps 32:2b says “in who’s spirit there is no deceit,” which means an inner sanctification took place, since the alternative is that Paul selectively quoted David out of context (which nobody believes). This conforms to David’s description of being forgiven elsewhere, such as being “upright of heart” (32:11) and “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (51:2,7). Again, fully in line with the agape model but in the Protestant mind is illogical since they think it would be conflating justification and sanctification (though Paul never makes such a distinction). Thirdly, when it says Blessed is the man to whom “the Lord will not reckon sin,” this can only mean God will not reckon him a sinner because his sins have been forgiven, as the context clearly speaks of forgiveness. The term “reckon” here puts the Protestant in another serious bind, since it’s the same term Paul uses throughout the chapter. The term cannot mean “to transfer,” since it would then mean “Blessed is the man who God will NOT transfer his sin” – rather, the term “reckon” can only mean to ‘evaluate as’. This means when Paul speaks of faith “reckoned” as righteousness (in the very same context), he cannot be speaking of transferring an alien righteousness, but rather ‘evaluating faith as righteousness’. Fourthly, in this passage Paul equates “righteousness reckoned to him” with “does not reckon sin”. This is huge and effectively refutes double-imputation, since it’s impossible now to say “reckon righteousness” [especially Christ's Active Obedience imputed] is one half of the picture and “not reckon sin” is the other half, since they are synonyms here. To buttress this point, Luther and Calvin made this same claim I’m making on this last point, which is also why they didn’t believe in Active Obedience of Christ.

    Now do you see how things change when context is considered? See how “justifies the ungodly” cannot mean “declare righteous” in light of David framing this in terms of being forgiven?

    Our only hope is in the justification of ungodly sinners by the non-imputation of their sin to themselves, the imputation of their sin to Christ, and His righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21), received by faith apart from works.

    I’m in the process of writing an article called “The third most important passage in Protestantism,” which will focus on the unwarranted assumptions (with massive theological implications) that are read into 2 Cor 5:21. You read three huge imputations into a passage that doesn’t even use the term “impute”. That’s a dangerous hermeneutic: basing all your soteriology on a narrow reading of Romans 4:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 is not sound exegesis.

  110. Jerry,

    One more thing (sorry for the long response, this is much shorter). I wanted to say that a good analogy for grasping the mortal-venial distinction is to look at the example of a family. If a child misbehaves, they can receive various punishments, depending on the misbehavior, ranging from a simple rebuke for lite things all the way up to a spanking or grounding for serious things. However, there is an objective ‘line’ which can be drawn between those deeds which result in rebukes, spanking, grounding, versus a misdeed that results in the punishment of being disowned and kicked out of the house. So while venial sin is still serious in it’s own sense (don’t mistake it to be harmless or no big deal), as it impedes growth in holiness and fosters the path to a future mortal sin (nothing to be glossed over), none the less venial sin still preserves your status as an adopted child in the family. Mortal sin is, in effect, renouncing your place at the family table and home, making yourself disowned. Another good analogy is comparing veinal and mortal to a knife cut versus death. There is a clear distinction between death and a cut wound, yet nobody would argue that a knife wound is no big deal and that we should get all the cut injuries on our body we can so long as it’s not fatal.

    In the Torah, a Jew could commit any number of sins and still remain in the covenant, but some sins were so severe that they caused one to be cut off from the covenant. This is why when Paul spoke of the “ungodly” in Romans 4:5, he most likely mean “outside the Mosaic Covenant,” because Abraham was not in due to uncircumcision and David was out due to his sin which caused him to lose his circumcision (Cf Rom 2:25).

  111. Jerry (re:#107),

    Prior to returning to the Catholic Church, I was a five-point-Calvinist (of the “Reformed Baptist” variety) for several years. I am very familiar with the Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist way(s) of understanding the verses which I mentioned to you in #105. Those ways of understanding the verses now seem to me to be eisegesis– a forcing of those verses into a Reformed framework, rather than a clear, straightforward reading of them. This observation is from having been on both sides, in terms of Biblical interpretation– the Protestant/Reformed side, and the Catholic side.

    The Catholic view of the verses is fairly straightforward. The people mentioned therein actually *are* objectively righteous and blameless before God, as the verses *literally say* that they are, even though they are also still (venial) sinners. They are considered objectively “righteous” and “blameless” before God, by His enabling and empowering grace, which ultimately sees its fullest expression in Christ.

    Your Reformed paradigm involves discerning imputed righteousness in those verses, where it is nowhere mentioned or even implied. In that light, I am asking you to please demonstrate to me, if possible, how the Reformed interpretations of said verses, which I accepted myself for years, do not involve eisegesis.

  112. Hello Jerry

    Let me clarify. If we have become partakers of the divine nature how does the nature of God within us not also justify us since this nature in us is God’s righteousness?

  113. Tim-Christian (re:#104),

    In chapter 2, St. James is dealing with the problem (sin) of partiality among Christians– specifically, the partiality of certain Christians (more financially prosperous ones) being treated in a preferential way above other Christians (who are less financially prosperous), *and*, also, a sort of “negative partiality” wherein certain Christians are harshly condemning other Christians for committing certain *types* of sins, while, it seems, those who are condemning are not deeply concerned about the sins in their own lives.

    St. James is exhorting the whole lot of them, so to speak– all of the above Christians– to keep the royal law by loving their neighbors as themselves. (Obviously though, truly loving involves actually *doing* certain things and *not* doing other things, which underlines the importance of works in the faith and lives of Christians, as the author goes on to emphatically emphasize later in the chapter.) He is not saying that anyone who has stolen has also literally murdered or literally committed adultery. He is saying that we all fail, in different ways and, at times, we fail in *serious* ways to love our neighbors as we should– and, when we fail in these ways, we are accountable for not keeping the law. The Christian who has murdered cannot harshly condemn, with no mindfulness of his/her own sin, the Christian who has committed adultery. To all who are sorrowful and repentant, mercy is to be shown over judgment.

    In reading James 2, one does not get the impression that the communities St. James is addressing are necessarily communities which are full of a.) widespread and serious reflection upon their own sins and b.) mercy toward those in the communities who have committed serious sins but who are repentant. This is the context of the chapter.

    James 2 does not speak to imputed righteousness other than to refute it. Faith alone, apart from works, is “useless,” St. James writes. It is “dead.” A “faith alone” that is “apart from works” is “useless” and “dead,” but it is still faith (contrary to Reformed interpretations, which assert that St. James is not writing about a real faith here at all). However, it not a *faith that justifies*. The faith that justifies cannot be “faith alone,” but rather, faith formed (and informed) by love of God and of neighbor, which necessarily involves grace-enabled and grace-empowered works.

    This above view on justification– the Catholic view– is actually very close to historic Reformed views on the subject. This is so much the case that it seems absurd to me, now, when some Reformed Christians deny that the Catholic Church “has the Gospel,” based on the Church’s teaching on justification (which is the Biblical teaching).

  114. Christopher,

    You misunderstand the Reformed position on justification (sola fide). We do not confess that the faith that justifies is alone – that is not what we mean by sola fide. We mean this:

    1. The faith that justifies is never alone, but always accompanied by all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love. We can add that it is formed and informed by love. We can agree that it necessarily involves grace-enabled and grace-empowered works.
    2. However (and this is the key point of difference as I understand it), we confess that God’s declaration in justification is not based in any way on these other accompanying graces or works. They play no part whatsoever in justification. Yes, they must be there, but they are totally irrelevant in justification. God considers the faith, receiving and resting on Christ alone, in justification. Why? Not because faith is somehow a better virtue than love or hope or anything else. But because faith has a humility that receives and rests. You see, the ground of justification is not faith itself, but the object of faith: Christ and His atoning sacrifice and perfect righteousness. The empty hand of faith is the instrument which lays hold of / appropriates that to ourselves. By faith, we receive and rest upon Christ and His righteousness.

    The sola in the phrase “justification sola fide does not refer to the nature of saving faith, but the fact that faith is the alone instrument of justification.

    Westminster Confession of Faith 11.2

    Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

  115. Pio (#112),

    I think this discussion is beyond the scope of this thread. Our participation in the divine nature doesn’t mean we share every one of God’s attributes. Some are communicable, some are not. It also depends on the framework in which we understand this participation. Suffice it to say for now, God doesn’t declare us righteous because we have a divine nature which is righteous.

  116. Christopher (#111),

    Your Reformed paradigm involves discerning imputed righteousness in those verses, where it is nowhere mentioned or even implied.

    This is not the case. There are several ways to understand some of these passages which do not require the infused righteousness perspective. First, in Gen 6:9, it merely says that Noah was a righteous and blameless man. It may merely mean that he was justified by imputation, since in verse 8 it says he found favor in God’s eyes. However, it’s probably much more natural to read this verse as simply a description of Noah in the whole. In other words, while he is not a sinless man, having committed (and yet to commit) many sins, nevertheless his life could be accurately summarized by the adjectives “righteous” and “blameless.” You see, the Reformed hermeneutic doesn’t take a theological definition and then artificially reads it into the text every time the word appears.

    In our local church, the Session will often ask a similar question about a potential elder: is he above reproach? Does he meet the qualifications in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1? No man on earth meets every qualification without a single exception in their life. That isn’t the point, and isn’t what Paul intended. He’s asking if a man can be fairly called “above reporach” or “self-controlled.” I could go on, but I trust you see the point. When we come to verses in which people are called righteous or blameless or a man after God’s own heart, we do not need to assume that justification is the context.

    Despite all this, I would simply reiterate that in each of the verses you have mentioned, we have descriptions of people as righteous or just, and the context is not about the method by which they became righteous. Such verses prove absolutely nothing. One could read them as you do, that the people were infused with righteousness and therefore are righteous. One could read them as being described as righteous because they have an imputed righteousness and an inherent righteousness which God has grown in them through sanctification.

  117. Nick (#110),

    With all due respect, I don’t think the analogy fits at all. The setting of a home (family room) and how discipline is applied has no bearing whatsoever on the discussion of justification. I agree with everything you wrote, and believe that that is indeed how God treats His adopted children. He disciplines them in various ways as he deems best.

    But consider this: in the Protestant system, nothing the child does, once a member of the family, can cause his removal from the family. In the Roman system, some sins allow the child to remain and receive some discipline, others may be overlooked, but some get him put out of the family and back into the streets. He gets unadopted.

    Justification is a legal question. It’s a declaration about the guilt or non-guilt of the one in the dock. To “justify” means to declare the person “not guilty” (and doesn’t mean to make the guilty person good). The antonym for justification is condemnation, which means to declare the person “guilty” (and doesn’t mean to make the innocent person guilty).

  118. Jerry, (comment 114), I think we may be off topic (but while Bryan is away, the mice will play, lol)

    Would you say, then that the only area you would disagree with the following statement by the council of Trent is the formal cause?

    The causes of this justification are:
    the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies[31] gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,[32] the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies,[33] for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,[34] merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith,[35] without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,[36] and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,[37] and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation.

  119. Hello Jerry,

    If I have deviated from the scope of this thread I apologize, it just seems directly relevant to this thread since it seems to undermine the imputation paradigm.

    You wrote “Our participation in the divine nature doesn’t mean we share every one of God’s attributes. Some are communicable, some are not.”

    Why do you assume that the righteousness of God is an incommunicable attribute?

    You wrote “Suffice it to say for now, God doesn’t declare us righteous because we have a divine nature which is righteous.”

    Why not? Why do you assume this, other than because it undermines your view?

    Thanks,

    Pio

  120. Nick (#109),

    Since the Biblical term “Atonement” never refers to transferring a punishment, this means Jesus wasn’t punished, especially by His Father.

    What is your view of the atonement and what it accomplished? God didn’t punish Jesus?

    Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;…

    Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

    Acts 4:27–28 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

    Again, fully in line with the agape model but in the Protestant mind is illogical since they think it would be conflating justification and sanctification (though Paul never makes such a distinction)

    Sigh… Nick, you know the Reformed have a publicly available confession which documents our doctrine of regeneration, right? Our understanding of regeneration is that it precedes faith and repentance. You really need to do some research on this matter. Your statement is incorrect and is likely to merely confuse others who read it.

    The other major points you raised (on what “works” means in Rom. 4, and on how imputation works in the same passage) I’ll have to take up at a later time. The argument that “works” in Romans 4 only means “works of Torah” has been weighed and found wanting – but it’s also outside the scope of this thread. I hope to respond to your points about imputation later.

  121. Pio (#119),

    I’m done talking about this particular question unless you can show me that this doctrine is held by the RCC. I don’t believe any orthodox church holds this view (unless I am merely misunderstanding you). I just don’t see any support for the idea that God makes us divine, and then justifies us because we have the divine attribute inherently. As I said, if you show me I’m wrong, I’ll reconsider.

    Jerry

  122. Kim (#118),

    No, I would disagree at least with the instrumental and formal causes given there.

  123. Kim (#118),

    By the way, this is one of the most absurd things I believe I have ever read:

    the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified finally

    I’m thinking of Abraham, all other OT saint, the thief on the cross, etc. I’m also thinking that this pretty much contradicts Paul’s entire point in Romans 4 about how Abraham was justified before and apart from the sacrament of faith in the Old Testament.

  124. Jerry,

    You are reading too much into my argument. I agree there are some incommunicable attributes. I am merely asking why do you assume the righteousness of God is one of them?

    Where does the Catholic Church teach us this is a communicable attribute?

    The Catechism says in paragraph 1987 “The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:” http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm

    Again, we both agree some attributes are incommunicable, but why do you assume the righteousness of God is one of them?

    Pio

  125. Jerry,

    I should have mentioned one more thing.

    You wrote “I just don’t see any support for the idea that God makes us divine”

    He does not make us divine in the way Mormons would say, but have you never heard of the doctrine of Theosis or divinization in the patristic tradition? It is common both to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. For example, St. Athanasius said “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”

    I do think this is a little off topic but it is imortant you are aware of the doctrine of Theosis.

  126. Hey everyone,

    Just wanted to say I doubt I’ll have time to sustain another volley of that magnitude. I’ll try to limit my responses to those I think are most on-target and advance the discussion, as well as those that won’t take much time or thought to do so.

    Thanks!

  127. Jerry and all, (re: #126)

    I’m going to start restricting the number of Catholic participants on this thread, to keep the conversation focused, and to avoid the pile-on problem. So if you’re a Catholic, and your comment doesn’t make it through moderation, that’s why. Those who are whitelisted, please exercise restraint. The thread is still fully open for comments from Protestants.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  128. Pio (#124),

    I don’t, and don’t recall saying I did. Righteousness is a communicable attribute – God possesses it in perfection and humans may possess it in some degree.

    If you want to argue that God infuses perfect righteousness into His people, you’ll have a pretty tough time dealing with the fact that people continue to sin.

    If you want to argue that God infuses into His people increasing righteousness I have no problem with that at all – it fits well into a Reformed doctrine of sanctification (definitive and progressive).

    I really think this is off-topic.

  129. Bryan,

    Thanks for that. I think I’ve made all the points that are worth making here, so I’m hoping to only answer responses to my responses as an exit strategy from this discussion. I don’t expect much new ground to be covered here, but I just want to point out that I’m not trying to get the last word and run.

    I think it’s been a fruitful discussion and I’m thankful for the interaction and your posting and responding to Rev. Batzig’s article. I think the “agape” paradigm is not exactly traditional Roman Catholicism, and is much closer to a New Perspective reading of Paul. Nevertheless, I think it can lead to a false dichotomy, as I’ve said earlier. I also think it simply can’t bear the weight of the Scriptural concepts of righteousness, Law, and sin, nor can it speak very accurately to the human condition of those in relation to God.

  130. Tim-Christian, (re: #104)

    You wrote:

    Isn’t James merely saying that he who commits adultery is as guilty of transgressing the law as the one who murders?

    He says more than that. Here’s the verse: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:10) He isn’t saying that the person who breaks one commandment is as guilty as the person who breaks another commandment. He is saying that the person who keeps the whole law except fails in one point, is guilty of transgressing the whole law. And that’s because by violating agape, one violates the principle that underlies the whole law.

    Since the law contains the commandment “Love your neighbour” we are not only transgressing a single commandment but the whole divinely given framework of the law when we don’t love our neighbour.

    In order to reach that conclusion, there must be a unified principle that underlies all the laws. Otherwise, the adulterer would have broken only two laws (thou shall not commit adultery, and love your neighbor as yourself), but James says “has become guilty of all of it.”

    Does our salvation depend on keeping every single command all the time? No. For by grace you have been saved through faith.

    In the Protestant framework, this verse means that faith alone is sufficient to save us, because through this belief God irrevocably imputes extra nos the obedience of Christ to us, so that it doesn’t ultimately matter how much or how little we keep His commands the rest of our earthly lives. Our degree of sanctification at death does not determine whether we are saved or not. We’re covered.

    But in the Catholic understanding, this verse means that God gives us the grace through the gift of living faith (faith informed by agape) which is the righteousness to which the law points, and by which we keep His commands. Grace is not an alternative to keeping the law; it is precisely that divine gift through which the law is truly fulfilled in us.

    Regarding the hypotheticalness: “Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:10.11) Peter could have put the circumcision party to silence by saying that the gentiles are already fulfilling the law in an agape- paradigm-sense. Yet he referred to grace.

    Right, because in the agape paradigm grace is that by which we fulfill the law, not that by which we get a pass from the law, or only need to attempt with some unspecified degree of effort to keep, but do not ultimately need to keep in order to be saved.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  131. Jerry (or anyone),

    You said, “nor can [the agape paradigm] speak very accurately to the human condition of those in relation to God.”

    I’ve been trying to follow the discussion, and haven’t seen where you made this point. I just skimmed it again and I couldn’t find it. Which comment should I focus on to read your thoughts on this?

  132. Jerry,

    Here’s my response to some of your recent comments.

    In comment #101 you wrote:

    If God uses the agape paradigm to judge guilt and righteousness, do you think it would be acceptable for human judges to attempt to use this same paradigm in law-courts? I know they can’t see the heart, or change it, but perhaps they could judge a person by character witnesses?

    You seem to think that in the agape paradigm, God does not judge actions; He only looks to see whether a person has agape. But the agape paradigm does not mean or entail that God does not judge us for our thoughts, words and actions. Those thoughts, words, and actions are righteous that come from agape. But when they violate agape, they are unrighteous. Agape is God’s righteous standard.

    But in civil law, agape is not the standard. The standard is much lower. Citizens are not required by civil law to have agape. Not all violations of the civil law are violations of the moral law. And not all violations of the moral law are violations of the civil law. So even if human judges could see perfectly into the human heart, merely determining whether agape was present in the accused at the time of the alleged ‘crime’ wouldn’t be sufficient to determine whether the person had or had not violated the civil law.

    In comment #103 you wrote:

    Let’s think first about how St. Paul uses imputation, beginning with how our sin becomes Christ’s (if you do agree that Christ had to come, and that He is a sin-bearer). How did that happen? Assuming God punished His Son (Isa. 53:4,6,10), and that He did so without being unjust, then on what basis did He do this? Did God infuse sin into Jesus, so that He was now inherently sinful? No – he was considered, numbered with the transgressors.

    Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

    Now, one of the articles in the recommended reading section of this site uses this verse to claim that logizomai always means to reckon something as it actually is in reality, and to reckon something contrary to reality is a mistake. Now, the Reformed believe that God reckoned Christ in this way, and that God is not mistaken. If you don’t believe God reckoned Christ as a transgressor, then on what basis did he crush Him? Look at the passage Jesus quotes as being fulfilled: Isaiah 53. Although He had done no violence and there was no deceit in His mouth (Isa. 53:9), he bore our sin (vv. 4,11,12), was punished for them (5, 12). How did this occur? He was numbered with the transgressors (v. 12) because the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (v. 6). Did God make Jesus a sinner? Then on what basis, apart from imputation, did He do so? Was this imputation a legal fiction? Was the punishment of the suffering servant for our sins despite the fact that he had done no violence or deceit a legal fiction? How could God do anything other than justify Jesus, the inherently righteous and loving one?

    I agree that God did not infuse any sin into Jesus. But in the Catholic understanding God the Father did not retributively punish the Son for sins we committed. Rather, God the Father delivered Him over into the hands of wicked men, so that through their wickedness, the Son as priest and victim could make satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. The phrase “pleased to crush Him” does not mean that the Father enjoyed beating the life out of His Son. It means rather that this providential plan by which the Son would redeem us from sin by becoming our priest and atoning sacrifice, was pleasing to God. He bore our sin (Is. 53:12) not by being retributively punished by God, but by carrying the knowledge of and grief for each sin in His heart in solidarity with us as our High Priest, and offering Himself as sacrifice to God to make reparation to God for each of these sins. Hence the conclusion of the verse, “and made intercession for many.” That’s the sense in which the Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” not by making Him guilty, but in the way that the sins of the people are laid upon the priest who bears them when he goes in to make intercession for them. Likewise Isaiah 53:5 does not mean that God punished Christ as retribution for our sins. Rather, God handed Him over to men who cruelly mistreated and executed Him, and yet in God’s providential plan this was the means by which Christ would make satisfaction for our sins. Regarding Luke 22:37, and Isaiah 53:12, the verse “He was numbered with the transgressors” does not mean that God considered Christ a transgressor. It means that we humans numbered Him among the transgressors. We discussed the Catholic understanding of Isaiah 53 in the “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement” thread.

    So overall, the problem with your attempt to support the list-paradigm conception of imputation by appealing to Isaiah 53 is that you are presupposing the list-paradigm conception of imputation in your way of interpreting Isaiah 53.

    In comment #106 you wrote:

    First, why does Paul keep saying that Abraham’s faith/belief was imputed/credited to him/reckoned/counted as righteousness? Under the agape paradigm, shouldn’t he be saying that Abraham’s love or infused righteousness was credited to him as righteousness? That’s what Bryan is asserting God does with regard to the “agape” paradigm. He considers the presence of agape infused within us and declares us righteous on that basis. But here Paul keeps focusing on belief and faith, not on love. Odd.

    It is not odd if the faith in view is living faith, fides caritate formata, i.e. faith informed by agape. See “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?.”

    You also wrote:

    Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

    It seems to me that the Roman reading is this: “And to the one who does good work by infused agape and believes in him who infuses agape into the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

    That’s not the Catholic understanding of the verse. The Catholic way of understanding “does not work” is not that such a person remains unemployed or does no good deeds. It means rather that he “does not attempt by his own power to win God’s approval.” St. Paul is not enjoining that those in a state of grace should do no work. He is essentially condemning a Pelagian conception of salvation, according to which man can attain salvation and divine approval through his own effort, apart from the gift of grace. Likewise, “believes in Him” is understood as referring to living faith, i.e. fides caritate formata.

    You wrote:

    Why is it faith that is counted, and not the infused righteousness or law written on the heart that is considered in this justification (declaration of righteousness)?

    It is not an either/or. The faith in view here is living faith, i.e. fides caritate formata.

    Regarding Romans 4:6-8 you wrote:

    Second, as soon as Paul makes this statement he turns to a second OT example of this faith-imputed-righteousness: David. What he says is devastating to the Roman position. He says David speaks of the same thing – God declaring righteousness apart from works. He describes these blessed people, blessed with justification (the ones whom he just referred to as “ungodly”) as those:

    1. whose lawless deeds are forgiven (v. 7)
    2. whose sins are covered (v. 7)
    3. against whom the Lord will not count his sin (v. 8)

    Why does he do this if the Roman position is true, or if he shares Bryan’s “agape” paradigm? Why doesn’t he refer to their inward righteousness, their infused agape? Instead, he refers to God’s non-imputation of their sin! Notice that very clearly. It isn’t that God transforms them and makes them righteous first, and then considers that as their righteousness. It isn’t that they are “sinless” or merely “without mortal sin.” No – they are described as having lawless deeds and sins! But the Lord forgives their sins, covers over them, does not count/credit them to them, even though they are theirs inherently (they are inherently ungodly!). Is this a legal fiction? The Lord is overlooking their sin! He’s not considering them as they really are!

    You claim that these verses (Romans 4:6-8) are “devastating to the Roman position.” Your argument here goes like this. God here declares ungodly people righteous apart from works. St. Paul doesn’t say anything here (in vss. 6-8) about infused agape. If he believed in justification by infused righteousness, he would have mentioned that here. These people have “lawless deeds” and sins, and yet are declared to be righteous at the same time.

    What makes your argument devastating, however, is its presupposition of the list-paradigm. From the agape paradigm, the passage reads quite differently. St. Paul is talking here about forgiveness and being reconciled to God. He quotes from Psalm 32:1-2. When we look at the entirety of this Psalm, we see that it is about how David received forgiveness of sin when he confessed his sin to God in humility and repentance. In the agape paradigm, what David is describing in this psalm is the forgiveness of sin and the recovery of sanctifying grace and agape. His sins are forgiven, and he is restored to friendship with God. He becomes one of those who can shout for joy because he is “upright in heart” (Ps 32:11). He became upright in heart by the recovery of agape, when he repented and confessed his sins to God. In what sense are his sins ‘covered’? Not by his remaining in a state of mortal sin, but in the sense that these past sins, from which he has turned away in repentance, are forgiven [through the satisfaction made Christ], and thus no longer counted against him.

    When we take that context and that paradigm back with us to Romans 4:6-8, we see that St. Paul is quoting David here to show that this blessing for those whose sins are forgiven through repentance and restoration to friendship with God is not only for the circumcised, but also for the uncircumcised. (Rom 4:9) God justifies the ungodly, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, through the gift of grace and living faith, by which He counts them righteous because they are (through this gift) made truly righteous at the level of the heart, not by looking at their external status [i.e. are they circumcised or uncircumcised]. In this way, the passage is in no way teaching extra nos imputation, or simul iustus et peccator.

    You wrote:

    Please see this: Paul describes justification (Rom. 4:6) in precisely this way – that God does NOT consider them as they truly are in themselves! This being the case, Rome calls this a legal fiction, a mistaken declaration.

    Here’s the verse: “So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works.” In no place does it say that God does not consider them as they truly are in themselves. You’re bringing that presupposition to the verse. Rather, in the context, St. Paul’s point is that God considers repentant persons as they truly are in the heart, not by their circumcision or lack thereof.

    Our only hope is in the justification of ungodly sinners by the non-imputation of their sin to themselves, the imputation of their sin to Christ, and His righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21), received by faith apart from works (even though such true and saving faith always is accompanied by such works).

    The meaning of 2 Cor 5:21, as St. Augustine explains (see comment #29 here), is not that Christ became sin, or that our sin was imputed to Him, but that He became a sin offering — that is, one who offered Himself to God on our behalf, to make satisfaction for our sin, as explained in “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.”

    In comment #117 you wrote:

    Justification is a legal question. It’s a declaration about the guilt or non-guilt of the one in the dock. To “justify” means to declare the person “not guilty” (and doesn’t mean to make the guilty person good). The antonym for justification is condemnation, which means to declare the person “guilty” (and doesn’t mean to make the innocent person guilty).

    What you are presupposing here is that the meaning of terms in Scripture is determined quite entirely by how those terms are used elsewhere by contemporaries. So if men contemporary to the biblical writers used this term translated as ‘justify’ to mean only “declare righteous, not make righteous,” then the biblical authors must mean the same thing when they write about God justifying us. But that presupposition is not theologically neutral; it presupposes a Protestant way of conceiving the relation of Scripture to Tradition, and of Scripture to the Church, as I explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    So again, it seems to me that all your arguments so far for the Protestant position presuppose either the list-paradigm, or the broader Protestant hermeneutical conception of the relation of Scripture to Tradition and the Church. In that respect, these reduce to question-begging arguments. And that’s my point. To approach the task of Catholic-Protestant reconciliation, we have to step back, in a way, from in-house arguments, and attempt to understand the disagreement as paradigmatic in nature. This requires that we attempt, insofar as possible, to compare the paradigms themselves, and seek to avoid trading arguments that presuppose one paradigm or the other.

    Again, I’ll be away at least until tomorrow.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  133. Bryan (comment 127)–I understand what you are saying. I am a newbie Catholic and I think this is not just helpful for Protestants, but for those of us trying to understand these things. (I will understand if you don’t publish this ;-) ).

    I think that in contemplating the the 2 paradigms–the list and the agape paradigms, part of what enters the play is how sin has to be dealt with in the person. Basically you have said the list one involves a perfect keeping of the law which would necessitate an imputation, and that the agape one sees the list and an external keeping of the law as a shadow of true righteousness while real righteousness is infused agape with the writing of the law on the heart. Part of these paradigms is concerned with how can sin (a transgression of law) be dealt with to make one righteous. The Catholic Encyclopedia , in discussing this says, we can not accept imputation —

    In considering the effects of justification it will be useful to compare the Catholic doctrine of real forgiveness of sin with the Protestant theory that sin is merely “covered” and not imputed. By declaring the grace of justification, or sanctifying grace, to be the only formal cause of justification, the Council of Trent intended to emphasize the fact that in possessing sanctifying grace we possess the whole essence of the state of justification with all its formal effects; that is, we possess freedom from sin and sanctity, and indeed freedom from sin by means of sanctity. Such a remission of sin could not consist in a mere covering or non-imputation of sins, which continue their existence out of view; it must necessarily consist in the real obliteration and annihilation of the guilt.

    It goes on to give Scripture and then makes a summary statement–here is part:

    . Thus it follows from Holy Writ that by the infusion of sanctifying grace sin is destroyed and blotted out of absolute necessity, and that the Protestant theory of “covering and not imputing sin” is both a philosophical and a theological impossibility. Besides the principal effect of justification, i.e. real obliteration of sin by means of sanctification.

    So , it would seem, in this discussion this aspect needs to be considered. The aspect of the need for a true blotting out and destroying of sin and not just a covering over sin and not imputing sin.

  134. Jerry (re:#114 and #116),

    First, I want to say thank you for engaging in this discussion with me and with many others here. I love and respect you as my brother in Christ, and I respect the time and effort that you have put in here, in terms of exegesis and dialogue. I hope that you and I can continue this discussion, as you are able, but I do understand the pressing nature of earthly responsibilities and limited time.

    In #114, you wrote to me,

    You misunderstand the Reformed position on justification (sola fide). We do not confess that the faith that justifies is alone – that is not what we mean by sola fide. We mean this:

    1. The faith that justifies is never alone, but always accompanied by all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love. We can add that it is formed and informed by love. We can agree that it necessarily involves grace-enabled and grace-empowered works.
    2. However (and this is the key point of difference as I understand it), we confess that God’s declaration in justification is not based in any way on these other accompanying graces or works. They play no part whatsoever in justification. Yes, they must be there, but they are totally irrelevant in justification. God considers the faith, receiving and resting on Christ alone, in justification. Why? Not because faith is somehow a better virtue than love or hope or anything else. But because faith has a humility that receives and rests. You see, the ground of justification is not faith itself, but the object of faith: Christ and His atoning sacrifice and perfect righteousness. The empty hand of faith is the instrument which lays hold of / appropriates that to ourselves. By faith, we receive and rest upon Christ and His righteousness.

    The sola in the phrase “justification sola fide does not refer to the nature of saving faith, but the fact that faith is the alone instrument of justification.

    For several years, I believed that the Bible teaches everything which you have articulated above here. After making a conscious decision to re-read and re-study the Bible’s teaching on justification and righteousness *without* assuming a Reformed, “justification by faith alone, but not a faith that *is* alone, with our righteousness being the imputed righteousness of Christ” paradigm, I came to be very shocked by just how much Biblical evidence there is *against* that paradigm.

    There are so, so many Biblical passages to which one needs to add major qualifications within a Reformed paradigm– qualifications which do serious violence to the most straightforward readings of the verses/passages. One must qualify all of the verses/passages which I mentioned in #105, one must qualify most of Jesus’s warnings, not only to non-Christians, but also to believers, that their works (or lack thereof) play a major role in whether they will go to Heaven or Hell ( a point made strongly in the parable of the sheep and the goats), one must qualify the “warning passages” in Hebrews, and the qualifications continue on and on throughout the Bible, when it is read from within the Reformed paradigm which you espouse.

    It is true that within the Catholic paradigm of reading Scripture, certain verses and passages need to be qualified too. The Bible contains some complex teachings which can be understand and hard to square with certain verses/passages– such as the Trinity. However, I have been on different “interpretive sides/paradigms” of the Bible– Arminian “free-will,” five-point-Calvinist “Reformed Baptist” (who could affirm most of the Westminster Confession”), the Catholic side– and I have found, through serious, good-faith attempts to read the whole counsel of Scripture objectively, particularly on the matters of justification and righteousness, the Reformed paradigm does the most damage to the most straightforward readings of the Biblical passages on justification, works, and righteousness. I say this respectfully, with no intention to offend Reformed Christians, because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and also because their basic paradigm of reading Scripture is that to which I held myself for years. However, comparatively speaking, within the Catholic paradigm, the passages on justification, works, and righteousness can be read so much more straightforwardly, with so many less serious qualifications needing to be made for them to “fit,” as compared to reading the same passages from within a Reformed paradigm.

    As a “Reformed Baptist” Christian, much of the time, when I wanted to show people the “Biblical Gospel,” I went to the writings of St. Paul (often, unknowingly and unwittingly, misinterpreting and/or reading out of context many of his passages). As a Catholic, when I want to show people the Biblical Gospel, I start with Jesus’s words and read St. Paul in the context of *all* that Jesus said, rather than the opposite.

    I didn’t misunderstand the Reformed position(s) on “justification by faith alone, but not by a faith that *is* alone,” and on “the righteousness of believers before (the earthly ministry of) Christ being that of imputed righteousness.” I fully understood these positions and accepted them for years. I rejected them, finally, with quite a bit of pain, because I could no longer convince myself that Scripture taught them, in the face of so much competing evidence *from* Scripture itself, and in the face of the fact that the early Church Fathers (circa 100-500 A.D.) did not teach these “Protestant/Reformed” doctrines, but rather, the Catholic ones (on these and other matters).

  135. a question on this part of the post,

    From a Catholic point of view the righteous robes of the saints are a symbol of the agape infused into our hearts, not intended to be treated as covering over remaining filth, but as replacing sin with the gift of true righteousness.

    If we have this true righteousness why then the need for confession of sin and continued cleansing? How does this tie in to everything discussed? Also with the list framework and the imputation of righteousness , why the need to confess sin since it has all been forgiven? In both of these frameworks we have a freeing from the guilt of sin (or am I missing something?) so if sin has been either covered or eradicated and we have righteousness either imputed or true righteousness how come a need for on going cleansing? Is there any difference between these two frameworks in this regard? (I am off topic—but I would like an answer )

  136. Christopher,

    Have you read Dr. John Fesko’s book on Justification?

    I don’t believe Reformed theology requires any qualification to Jesus’ warnings or comments about the role of works in the final judgment. Reformed theology confesses that the final judgment will be according to works. Without holiness no one will see the Lord, and the Bible is absolutely clear that only those who have remained faithful to the end will be saved.

    Jerry

  137. Jerry,

    In #123, regarding the Council of Trent’s statement that “the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified finally,” you wrote, “this is one of the most absurd things I believe I have ever read.” But the remainder of your comment made it clear that you thought the antecedent of “which” in “without which no man…” was “sacrament.” But it’s not: it’s “faith.” The gender of the relative pronoun in the Latin makes this unambiguous: “instrumentalis item sacramentum baptismi, quod est »sacramentum fidei«, sine qua nulli umquam contigit justificatio.” I trust that will make it seem less absurd to you.

    best,
    John

  138. If that’s the case, it does indeed seem less absurd.

  139. John, (137) thanks for that comment, I was going to explain that to Jerry, but figured someone would respond.

    As far as my question on 135 , I see the Catechism deals with this a bit in 1427 and following. So no response is needed.

  140. Presbyterian pastor Lane Keister, who writes at the site titled “Green Baggins,” has replied to this post. His reply is titled “List Paradigm vs. Agape Paradigm.” It might be helpful to go through his comments and offer a considered reply.

    Lane writes:

    First point … : one can turn this argument right on its head. A Romanist paradigm assumes the Romanist position in the very methodology by which the argument is constructed. Without actually arguing for the paradigm itself, Cross is simply saying that there are two different paradigms. No doubt he would say that he has argued for it. Does he argue with exegesis? Well, his point concerning “Christ our righteousness” doesn’t have any exegesis to go along with it. He only quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. In answering Batzig’s exegesis on Romans 4, he only quotes Trent. That is not exegesis. Again, read Batzig and Koerkenmeier’s comments and you will find some exegesis.

    Here Lane says that “A Romanist paradigm assumes the Romanist position in the very methodology by which the argument is constructed.” Just to be clear, in this post I have not offered an argument for the agape paradigm. I have merely presented the two paradigms, and showed how Nick’s exegetical arguments presuppose the list-paradigm.

    Then Lane says “Does he argue with any exegesis?” Again, Lane assumes that I have offered an argument for the agape paradigm, when I haven’t. I do think the agape paradigm better explains the biblical data, but in my post I have not offered an argument for that thesis. No exegesis is necessary to lay out the two paradigms and show that Nick’s exegetical arguments presuppose the list-paradigm. So here Lane criticizes my post for not doing something it does not need to do in order to do what I intended it to do. It’s like criticizing a car repair manual for not including cupcake recipes.

    Next Lane writes:

    Secondly, even if his description of the two paradigms is true, that does not make the Protestant position circular. This is because assuming a list paradigm is simply not the same thing as saying or assuming that “Protestantism is true.” Those are two completely different statements. Again, assuming the list paradigm is true for the moment, that hardly constitutes the totality of Protestantism. Cross is here guilty of extension.

    Protestants and Catholics agree that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves (1 Jn. 1:8). But given the list-paradigm, it follows that there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin. For this reason, given the list-paradigm, justification can only be by extra nos imputation. The only Christian theological system that holds justification by extra nos imputation is Protestantism. That’s the reasoning underlying my claim that

    “using the list paradigm to construct an argument against the Catholic doctrine of justification presupposes the Protestant position in the very methodology by which the argument is constructed. It loads the premise “Protestantism is true” into the very argument by which one attempts to show that Protestantism is true and Catholicism is false.”

    Next Lane writes:

    Third point, and this point regards the whole list paradigm-agape paradigm: this is, quite simply, a false dichotomy. What Protestant fails to recognize that the heart of the law is love? Isn’t this what Jesus says when asked which is the greatest commandment? He says that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest is to love neighbor. Protestants have almost universally understood this to mean that the first four commandments have as their heart the love of God, while the second six commandments have as their heart the love of neighbor. So, law-keeping has NEVER been solely about keeping a list of commandments, although it certainly includes that, as I think even Cross acknowledges. Law-keeping has always been about loving God and loving neighbor. That is the heart of the law. It is also a clear reflection of the character of God, Who is love. The moral law, therefore, is an expression of the very character of God.

    In the first sentence of his paragraph Lane claims that I have presented a false dichotomy, but then everything else he says in this paragraph is fully compatible with what I said in my post. So far, therefore, he doesn’t show that I have presented a false dichotomy.

    Lane continues:

    The point, then, is that the Protestant position has NEVER assumed what Cross says it assumes. Imputation is NOT just about Christ’s obedience to a list of commands, which obedience is then imputed to us. It is also about Christ’s love for His Father, and His love for His neighbors, which is imputed to us. It is, therefore, BOTH Christ’s obedience to a list (which the TEN Commandments certainly are!), AND His love for God and love for neighbor that is imputed or reckoned to us. It is the fulfillment of everything the law is, including its very heart of agape. Quite frankly, Cross has not understood the Protestant position very well here. On other occasions, I have seen him do fairly well describing the Protestant position, but I don’t recognize ANY Protestant position in what he describes.

    First he says that Protestant position has never assumed that imputation is just about obedience to a list of commands; Christ’s obedience was done in love for His Father and for us. I agree that Protestantism affirms as much. I never said otherwise, nor does Lane quote me saying otherwise. Then he claims not to identify with the list-paradigm as I have described it. That may be true, but the distinguishing characteristic of the list-paradigm is its denial of the notion that the agape we have been given is the fulfillment of the law, the righteousness required by God’s holy law. Because in Protestantism “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation” (WCF XV.4), and sanctification is “yet imperfect in this life” (WCF XIII.2), it follows that according to [traditional] Protestant theology no regenerate person is, during this present life, ever truly internally righteous, as I explained in comment #46. The agape within the believer is not sufficient to make him truly righteous before God, at least not in this present life.

    The list-paradigm denies that the agape we have been given is in itself the righteousness required by God’s holy law. It does this by implicitly positing two forms of agape: perfect agape and imperfect agape. Only perfect agape is the fulfillment of the law, but in this present life no one receives perfect agape. In this present life we’re given only imperfect agape, and imperfect agape is not the fulfillment of the law. This entails that agape in itself is not the righteousness required by God’s law. The list-paradigm conceptually defines “perfect agape” in terms of perfect law-keeping, rather than defining perfect law-keeping in terms of agape. The agape paradigm, by contrast, defines perfect law-keeping in terms of agape, holding agape itself to be God’s standard to which the law as external only points, as to something greater than itself.

    Lane then adds:

    The real question is this: does the Protestant doctrine of imputation itself assume a list paradigm? How can it? The idea of imputation doesn’t directly address the question of how Jesus obeyed the law. It rather addresses the question of how Christ’s righteousness becomes ours. So, Jesus could have obeyed the law any number of ways, and that would be immaterial to whether we get that righteousness by imputation or infusion. What Cross has not even remotely demonstrated is that imputation itself assumes a list paradigm. This, I would think, would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

    First, Catholics believe in imputation. God forgives our sins, and in that sense does not impute our sins. (Rom 4:8) God also imputes righteousness to us (Rom 4:5), by counting as righteousness the living faith He has given us, by which we truly are righteous. From a Catholic point of view, the problem is not imputation per se, but the extra nos conception of imputation, which, from a Catholic point of view makes God out to be either a liar or self-deceived.

    Lane claims that the Protestant doctrine of imputation does not assume the list-paradigm. But, here’s why it does. If agape were recognized as the fulfillment of the law, there would be no need for extra nos imputation. God would count us as righteous because we are (by His doing) truly internally righteous. So in this way, the need for extra nos imputation depends on the list-paradigm notion that agape is not the fulfillment of the law.

    Lane writes:

    In looking at the comments, there are a couple more things necessary to say. Firstly, though this is indeed debated in Protestantism, I would disagree with Cross’s claim that Protestants do not believe that a person can be truly righteous internally. … This does not mean that we are ever perfect. Perfection is for eternity. However, it does mean that we can be really righteous internally, the imperfection also being covered by the blood of the Lamb.

    Lane claims that in this present life we can be internally righteous, but not internally perfect. That would make perfection a higher standard than righteousness, and would make righteousness itself imperfect. I have explained in the comments above a way in which Catholic doctrine understands righteousness to be in the will, even while concupiscence and vices remain in other powers of the soul. If that is what Lane too is saying (regarding this distinction between being truly righteous internally, and being perfect internally) then our respective positions are closer than might initially appear. However, if Lane is saying that that within us by which God judges us to be righteous is at the same time imperfect, or that that within us by which God judges us to be perfect is at the same time unrighteous, then his position is both theologically and philosophically problematic, because it entails either two ultimate standards, or the worthlessness of perfect righteousness.

    Lane then adds

    Cross’s claim that when Paul uses Abraham as a paradigm for believers in Romans 4 and Galatians 3, that it was not in every respect that Abraham was a paradigm is an evasion. The particular aspect in which Abraham is a paradigm is with regard to imputed righteousness apart from any aspect of his own law-keeping and apart from any ceremony or sacrament! This is explicitly true in Romans 4:11

    Merely asserting that what I said is “an evasion” does not show it to be false. Likewise, merely asserting that the particular aspect in which Abraham is an example is with respect to [extra nos] imputed righteousness is question-begging, in that Lane presupposes that the imputation going on in Gen 15:6 is extra nos imputation, and not imputation by way of infused living faith. Nothing about Romans 4:11 is incompatible with the Catholic doctrine, as was explained in the comments above.

    Lastly, Lane claims that Abraham was justified only once, and that it took place at the time recorded in Gen 15:6. He writes:

    Secondly, Abraham was not reckoned righteous before God in the justificatory sense more than once. … So, in Abraham’s case, he was declared to be justified in Genesis 15.

    The purpose of my post was not about demonstrating how many times Abraham was justified or when he was justified. So this is a bit of a rabbit trail. But it is worth considering. In Reformed theology, the unjustified person is said to be dead in sin, bereft of faith, hope, agape, living only in sin, having “wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation,” and “being altogether averse from that good.” (WCF IX.3) In Reformed theology, unregenerate man is “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” (WCF VI.4)

    However, that’s not the picture we get of the man Scripture calls ‘Abram’ in Genesis chapters 12-14. Scripture says in Gen. 12:1-4 that God spoke to Abram and that Abram obeyed the Lord’s call to leave Ur. Then the Lord appeared to him at the oak of Moreh, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” How did Abram respond? “So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.” (Gen 12:7) The verse doesn’t say that he worshipped the Lord there, but in the context (as shown below) we can presume that he did. (Why else does one build an altar to the LORD?) Abram’s worshipful response to God’s promise is one of trust in the Lord’s promise, just as he responded to God’s promise in Gen 15:6.

    Then in Gen 12:8, on the mountain east of Bethel, Abram “built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.” Is this really the picture of a man dead in trespasses and sins, “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good”? How is a man who is completely dead in trespasses and sins responding to the Lord’s promises by building altars to Him, and calling upon His Name? Was Abram faking it, merely pretending to worship God, while actually hating God in his heart? There is no sign at all in the text of such a thing.

    Then in Gen 13:4 Abram returns to the altar on the mountain east of Bethel, and there again he calls on the name of the LORD. That’s not the behavior of one dead in sins. Ten verses later God speaks to Abram again in Gen 13:14-17, promising him and his descendants the land. Abram accepts God’s promise, and moves to Hebron, letting Lot have the seemingly better land. Does a man dead in trespasses and sins trust God’s word in this way?

    Then in Gen 14, Melchizedek says, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High.” Melchizedek was not merely saying that Abram was one more piece of God’s property, as are trees and flowers and birds. Abram was “of God” in the sense that he was a man of faith, a friend of God. Abram then participates in a proto-typical Eucharist, receiving the bread and wine from the priest Melchizedek. Should we think that the proto-typical Eucharistic event involves the reception of this prefigurement of the sacrament by an unregenerate man dead in sins? Then Abram, this man allegedly dead in sin, with no faith and no agape, pays a tithe to Melchizedek, “the priest of God Most High.” Abram then reveals that he has made an oath to God, and keeps his oath. (Gen 14:22) Should paying his tithe to the Lord, and keeping his oath to God be construed as the activity of one dead in sins and at enmity with God, “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good”? Which is more difficult to believe, that Abram is only faking love for God in all this, or that he is in fact a man of faith? On top of that, Hebrews 11:8 tells us that “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” So Scripture itself explicitly states that Abraham left Ur by faith. If justification is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and faith is sufficient for justification, then Abraham was already justified when he left Ur, and thus couldn’t have been justified by the act of faith described in Gen 15.

    How does Lane respond to all this biblical data that points to Abram already having faith in Gen 12-14? He writes:

    I am not sure what Abraham’s doings in Genesis 12-14 have to do with the discussion, either. Chronology is tricky in those chapters.

    Lane believes firmly in the Reformed system of doctrine, because he believes that it is the biblical system of doctrine. He is so committed to this system, according to which justification can happen only once within a given person’s lifetime, and that faith is the sole instrument of justification, that in the face of all the data in Genesis chapters 12-14 indicating that Abram was already a man of faith in God, Lane suggests (implicitly) that the chapters in Genesis have not been placed in chronological order, and that the justification event described in Gen 15:6 might have occurred before the events of Genesis 12-14, or at least before all the events in Gen 12-14 indicating that Abram had faith, even though the inerrant Scripture explicitly states that the events narrated in Genesis 15 temporally followed those of the preceding chapter(s) when the author writes in Genesis 15:1, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision.”

    In philosophy, Lane’s [implicit] suggestion that the chapters are out of chronological order, based on no internal evidence but only to save the paradigm, is what we sometimes call “adding epicycles.” The paradigm must be saved at all costs, even if it means positing a rearrangement of the chapters of the Bible, based on an assumption that the author must not have put them in chronological order. It seems to me, however, that a better response is to allow the biblical data to revise the paradigm. If Abram was already a man of faith in God prior to Genesis 15:6, then our conception of justification must be made compatible with that. Genesis 15:6 then can be understood as an increase in justification, as described in Trent VI.10, through the act of faith whereby Abram believed the promises God made to him in Gen 15:1-5.

  141. Why is the paradigm distinction important? One very common belief among Reformed persons is the notion that if justification depended on sanctification, no one would be saved. In fact, when Reformed persons become Catholic, Reformed critics typically respond by, among other things, claiming that such persons have abandoned the gospel by making their justification dependent on their sanctification. And because in the Reformed view no one’s sanctification meets the standard of God’s holy law, therefore, such persons are doomed, by trusting in their own works to save them, rather than by trusting in Christ’s finished work as [extra nos] imputed to them once and for all. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard and read Reformed leaders say something equivalent to “if our justification depends on our sanctification, we’re all doomed.” Or, “if it depends at all on me, I’m doomed, in which case it cannot be good news.” This is in large part, I think, the reason why many Reformed leaders have objected so strongly to FV or NPP conceptions of faith as faithfulness.

    The line of solas is taken to mean that my salvation depends entirely on Christ, not at all on me. There is no minimal level of sanctification I must attain, in order to be saved. If I am justified, then by the grace of God I will manifest some level of sanctification, but my salvation does not depend in any way on my degree of cooperation with grace in sanctification. What makes the good news good news is precisely and fundamentally that my salvation does not depend at all on me, that Pelagianism (including Warfield’s “semi-semi-Pelagianism”) is false. Hence when a Reformed person becomes Catholic, he is seen by Reformed critics as having abandoned the good news for a ‘raw deal’ in which his salvation depends (to some unknown degree) on his performance on the ‘treadmill’ of good works and sacraments. Therefore, these critics conclude, he must have never known the good news of the gospel, in order to make such an irrational and foolish exchange.

    Given the notion that Christ does it all for me and that I can rest entirely in that, what sounds downright terrifying about “Rome’s gospel” from the Reformed point of view is the notion that my eternal salvation depends in some way on me, that on Judgment Day God’s decision to let me in to heaven or eternally exclude me from heaven depends in some way on my level of obedience, rather than entirely on the active imputation of Christ’s obedience, as depicted so clearly in the Good-o-Meter video below. That’s why Machen’s alleged last words (or maybe last words telegraphed to Murray) were “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” No hope without it. From Machen’s point of view, the impossibility of internal righteousness in this present life is precisely why “Rome’s gospel” leaves us with no hope at all. And I think that most Reformed leaders agree with Machen on this point.

    I say all that because it seems to me, having lived within both paradigms myself, that what underlies these lines of reasoning among the Reformed, is precisely a list-paradigm way of conceiving of righteousness. That’s what underlies the notion that if justification depends on sanctification, no one would be saved. That’s what underlies the terror and hopelessness at the thought of God’s decision on Judgment Day depending on anything other than the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. That’s what underlies the notion that any Reformed person who becomes Catholic must have never known the good news of the gospel in order to make such an irrational exchange. From within the list-paradigm perspective, moving from Reformed to Catholic would indeed be to trade in hope for hopelessness. But the Reformed critics who use this line of reasoning to argue that Reformed persons who become Catholic must never have understood the good news of the gospel only show that they (i.e. the Reformed critics) haven’t yet grasped the agape paradigm. Such criticisms are, from the point of view of the Reformed-to-Catholic convert, criticisms of a straw man, and just more evidence that these Reformed critics haven’t even grasped the Catholic position, in which case they can’t possibly have refuted it. And so, rather paradoxically, such criticisms only serve to confirm the convert’s decision.

    Because of a failure to grasp the paradigmatic dimension of the Protestant-Catholic disagreement regarding justification, and particularly a failure to grasp this difference between the list-paradigm and the agape paradigm, we end up talking past each other, by speaking only from within our own paradigm, and not grasping (let alone engaging) the perspective from the other paradigm. So my hope in writing this post was to provoke a greater awareness of the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement, and a greater awareness of the two paradigms themselves.

  142. Bryan said (in #141):

    ..what sounds downright terrifying about “Rome’s gospel” from the Reformed point of view is the notion that my eternal salvation depends in some way on me, that on Judgment Day God’s decision to let me in to heaven or eternally exclude me from heaven depends in some way on my level of obedience, rather than entirely on the active imputation of Christ’s obedience…

    Compare Bryan’s words here to those of Canon 32 in Trent’s treatment of Justification:

    CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

  143. Bryan …

    First of all, I very much appreciate this article and the discussions we’ve had. Suffice it to say that I’ve learned much about both sides of the discussion.

    Also, I’d like to discuss briefly a couple Bible passages that seem pertinent to the discussion.

    The first, and the more pertinent, is the story of the rich young ruler (Mt. 19.16-26) who asks Jesus, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” The dialogue that follows the question is interesting in that it seems the man has a “list-paradigm” in mind, which Jesus responds to in kind, listing off the things he must do. What’s more, the young man has done all these things (which raises the question of whether he was perfectly righteous via his works), and yet acknowledges – knowing in his heart – that he still lacks something! Jesus’ response to this seems on the surface to indicate “Well, there are still more things to do in order to be actually perfect.” Now, surely Jesus knew that this would be difficult, if not impossible (!) for the young man, but later says (when challenged by the disciples) that with God, nothing is impossible (calling to mind Mary’s interaction with the angel at the Annunciation).

    So, my thinking is that Jesus is digging deeper here, challenging those who would follow Him to think past the list-paradigm and have agape as the foundation for true perfection. Now, this may be reading the text with the Catholic presupposition/paradigm you have given here. Nonetheless, I think it breathes life and clarity into the passage, such that it has never truly made sense until now.

    The second passage I wanted to call to mind was Rom. 8.8-11, which, admittedly, might not be explicitly related to your article. Here’s the text:

    So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

    Here St. Paul states that both Christ and the Holy Spirit are in us, and by implication His righteousness, which is life in order to counteract the death that the sin of the flesh brings. This to me sounds an awful lot like being infused with agape-righteousness. Now, elsewhere I’ve read that Protestants do not necessarily connect “being filled with the Spirit” with infused righteousness.

    Could you possibly comment on these passages and the conclusions I’ve drawn in my reading of them (if you feel that it is pertinent to the discussion, of course)?

    Thanks!

    In Christ,

    Isaiah.

  144. Jerry (re:#136),

    Thanks for your reply, brother. You wrote to me:

    Have you read Dr. John Fesko’s book on Justification?

    I don’t believe Reformed theology requires any qualification to Jesus’ warnings or comments about the role of works in the final judgment. Reformed theology confesses that the final judgment will be according to works. Without holiness no one will see the Lord, and the Bible is absolutely clear that only those who have remained faithful to the end will be saved.

    I am aware of J.V. Fesko’s book and, when I was discerning whether or not to return to the Catholic Church, I did look over it, but I did not read the entire book. I will order it and do so though. From what I read, I remember that my concerns were not assuaged regarding Reformed thinking about the Biblical passages on justification, works, and righteousness. However, I did not read the entire book, and it is possible that I missed some helpful clarifying passages.

    I must say, however, as a Catholic, that I don’t think I missed anything which would, if I read it, lead me to leave the Catholic Church and return to Reformed theology/eccelesiology. I no longer believe that God intended for us to choose the church which we will join, and the confession we will affirm as a member of that church, based on our interpretation of the Bible. I do know well that “Sola Scriptura” is a different, more nuanced position than “Solo Scriptura,” but I no longer believe that either concept is actually taught in the Bible. However, I will still order and read J.V. Fesko’s book, because I want to be in touch with, and conversant with, the most thoughtful Reformed thinking that is out there, and because I know that the book is highly regarded by many Protestants.

    In terms of Reformed thinking on the place of works in the final judgment, I am aware that many Reformed people do hold to a more vigorous view on this subject than others. There is a strongly Lutheran influence, on works, sanctification, and salvation, in some Reformed circles, and this influence does not seem, to me, to be in line with historic Presbyeterian/Calvinist thinking. However, my time as a member of the first “Calvinistic Baptist” church which I joined, after coming to embrace the “five points,” showed me that some people, both in the “broadly Reformed” and the “historic Reformed” theological streams, do have a very strong grasp on both the temporal and the eternal importance of works in the Christian life.

    With that said, even the most careful, rigorous Reformed exegesis which I have encountered has not, to my mind, even from a “Sola Scriptura” standpoint, sufficiently dealt with passages such as the “warning passages” in Hebrews. In my experience of reading it for years, the bottom line in Reformed exegesis always seems to come down to (and/or return to) the belief that a “true Christian” cannot truly walk away from God and forfeit his/her salvation for eternity.

    However, the book of Hebrews does strongly warn about the possibility of falling away from God. I know that Reformed exegetes claim that those who finally fall away, in the final analysis, only “appeared” to be Christians (no matter how many years they “seem” to have trusted in Christ alone and “seem” to have been loving and serving Him)– that such people were never “truly saved.” If this is so though, how can these people truly fall away from the God in whom they never truly trusted in the first place? A person cannot truly leave his/her spouse, if there was never truly a marriage.

  145. Isaiah (143), and Bryan,

    I would like to add to Isaiah’s verses (comment 143) the first part of Romans where it speaks of no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and the setting us free from “the law of sin and of death”, and then verses 3 and 4

    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, in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

    Would not these verses also be stipulating the actual righteousness being fulfilled in us (not imputed), since it refers to walking according to the Spirit? When (and if ) commenting on Isaiah’s quotes could you include these?

  146. Kim (#145):

    I would agree that this is further support for an infused type of righteousness. Maybe it is overly hypothetical to suggest that, if he had wanted to drive the imputation-righteousness point home, St. Paul should have said something like, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are covered by Christ’s perfect righteousness, so that we are considered righteous, though still living in sin.” Even so, what St. Paul did say seems rather difficult to reconcile with a merely “reckoned” righteousness. Indeed, the law being fulfilled in us seems to run contrary to the notion that it was actually Christ who fulfilled it (perfectly) for us so that we don’t have to.

    But, those are perhaps Catholic presuppositions talking. What say the Protestants among us about these verses (or generally, all of Romans 8)?

  147. Jerry (re: #142),

    What specifically were you hoping we would notice by comparing the excerpt from Bryan’s comments in #141 with the excerpt from Canon XXXII of the Council of Trent?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  148. The question I asked in 137 which I commented on in 139 is dealt with in a post by Brian called Reformed Imputation and the Lord’s Prayer found here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/reformed-imputation-and-the-lords-prayer/

  149. @ all Catholics

    Some years ago revert Francis Beckwith wrote:

    “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.”

    What do you think about that approach?

    And what do you think about the several ‘duplex iustitia’ approaches (Contarini, Bucer, Vermigli) that have been discussed in the past?

    If Catholics would concede that there is imputation of righteousness and Protestants would concede that Sanctification (at least to some degree) is part of Justification, then ….

    Thx

  150. Hello tim

    I think the Catholic position does allow for imputation, just not imputation extra nos. In a comment above Bryan wrote “Catholics believe in imputation. God forgives our sins,and in that sense does not impute our sins. (Rom 4:8) God also imputes righteousness to us (Rom 4:5), by counting as righteousness the living faith He has given us, by which we truly are righteous. From a Catholic point of view, the problem is not imputation per se, but the extra nos conception of imputation, which, from a Catholic point of view makes God out to be either a liar or self-deceived.”

  151. @Pio

    Ok, that’s a non-imputation of sin plus imputation in the sense of a recognition of inherent, infused righteousness.

    But why then is the non-imputation, i.e. the forgivness of sin, not a legal fiction as well? From the Catholic point of view God forgives our sins based on the atoning death of Christ on the cross, right? If the non-imputation can be based on the merit of a sacrifical deed of another without it being a legal fiction, why then can’t the merit of the righteous life of another be credited to our account?

    Of course, that’s the kind of imputation we as Protestants are interested in. Therefore the question: Are Catholics allowed to believe in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as long as they confess that Justification is not by that imputation alone? Or is there no place for that kind of imputation within the framework of Catholic theology at all?

  152. Jerry (re: #136)

    You wrote:

    Reformed theology confesses that the final judgment will be according to works.

    I think it would be helpful to clarify that statement. Are you claiming that according to Reformed theology, on the Day of Judgment God’s decision either to let you into heaven or exclude you from heaven will be based on how good your works have been, or how many good works you have done? If so, then how good do those works have to be (or how many do you have to do) in order to be judged worthy to enter heaven?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  153. Hey Tim,

    I am by no means an expert on this. I’m a recent convert so I’m still a young padawan compared to the guys on here so I will stand corrected by any of my fellow Catholic brethren if they detect error in my response, but insofar as I understand the issue right now I would say it is possible as a Catholic to believe that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us BUT this imputation actually makes us righteous and therefore is not a legal fiction. It is given to us because of Christ and what he has done for us but it actually transforms us into being internally righteous so that our righteousness doesn’t remain extra nos but is actually within us. So I would say righteousness comes to us extra nos but doesn’t remain extra nos but immediately transforms us into inherently righteous.

    To my Catholic brethren, if I have said anything that is contrary to the Catholic position, I humbly stand corrected.

  154. Isaiah, (re: #143)

    Regarding the rich young ruler, I agree. I recommend St. Clement of Alexandria’s work titled “Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?

    Regarding Rom. 8.8-11, being “in the flesh” doesn’t mean being embodied, but means living according to the desires of the flesh, according to concupiscence. Being in the Spirit is, as you said, to be in (by participation) the communion that is that of the Trinity. As Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (Jn. 14:23) Wherever there is agape, there is the fellowship of the Trinity, because agape is a participation in the divine nature, as explained in the comments above. It is never the case that there is agape within and no indwelling of the Trinity. So the person “in the Spirit” has, by the gifts of sanctifying grace and agape, set his mind on things above (i.e. is ordered to the beatific vision), and is no longer living according to his bodily appetites. The Spirit infuses agape (Rom 5:5), but the indwelling of the Spirit, though contingent on our being righteous, is not our righteousness. See the second to last paragraph in comment #174 of the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  155. Pio,

    The Catholic position is that grace perfects the individual from the inside out, and by doing so lives up to Jesus’ command to “be perfect.”

    Sometimes a contrast is best for displaying something. Luther, by analogy, saw grace as snow wrapped around dung. It was something external to us, hiding what we are and giving God cover for accepting us.

    Internal or external. Be perfect or snow covering dung.

    Welcome home.

    Cordially,

    dt

  156. Tim-Christian (re: #149)

    Regarding justification the Council of Trent taught the following:

    the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,[36] and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,[37] and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation. (Council of Trent, Session Six, chapter 7)

    Notice first that there is only one formal cause of justification, not two. This is restated in Canon 10 of that same session:

    CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

    The first part of the canon anathematizes the claim that any man is justified without the justice of Christ by which He merited for us to be justified. That’s talking about the obedience of Christ in His human will, and the meriting is referring to the way in which Christ through His human will made atonement, by giving to the Father in loving sacrificial obedience that which is more pleasing than all our sins, such that we can be forgiven and made righteous by the gifts of sanctifying grace and infused agape (see “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement“).

    The second part of canon 10 is anathematizing the claim that the formal justice of the redeemed is Christ’s obedience. It is anathematizing the claim that our righteousness is Christ’s obedience [in His human will] imputed [extra nos] to us.

    Now look back at chapter 7 of Session Six, to the section I quoted at the very beginning of this comment. It says, “the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just.” What is being referred to there (in “that by which He makes us just”) is infused agape, as becomes evident from the rest of the paragraph. And this single formal cause is “not that by which He Himself is just,” which rules out it being either God Himself or the obedience of Christ’s human will.

    As I explained in the comments above, infused agape is a participation in the divine nature. And participations are created, and thus not God Himself, as I explained in the second paragraph of comment #7 in the “A Reply to R.C. Sproul Regarding the Catholic Doctrines of Original Sin and and Free Will” thread. But even though participations are created, when the participation is a participation in the divine nature, that in which the creature is participating is uncreated. So Christ is our righteousness in these two ways, by meriting for us the gifts of sanctifying grace and agape, and by being the righteousness in which we participate by infused agape, which we receive through incorporation into His Mystical Body, which is the Church. But according to Trent, Christ’s obedience is not imputed [extra nos] to us.

    You wrote:

    If Catholics would concede that there is imputation of righteousness

    There is an imputation of righteousness. As I said in commment #140, “God also imputes righteousness to us (Rom 4:5), by counting as righteousness the living faith He has given us, by which we truly are righteous.” You seem to be assuming that the only kind of imputation is extra nos. But in the Catholic paradigm God counts or reckons us righteous by making us actually righteous, so that His counting/reckoning is true (since God is the Truth and cannot lie).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  157. Tim-Christian (re: #151),

    You wrote:

    But why then is the non-imputation, i.e. the forgivness of sin, not a legal fiction as well? From the Catholic point of view God forgives our sins based on the atoning death of Christ on the cross, right? If the non-imputation can be based on the merit of a sacrifical deed of another without it being a legal fiction, why then can’t the merit of the righteous life of another be credited to our account?

    St. Thomas Aquinas explains:

    [B]y sinning a man offends God as stated above (Question 71, Article 5). Now an offense is remitted to anyone, only when the soul of the offender is at peace with the offended. Hence sin is remitted to us, when God is at peace with us, and this peace consists in the love whereby God loves us. Now God’s love, considered on the part of the Divine act, is eternal and unchangeable; whereas, as regards the effect it imprints on us, it is sometimes interrupted, inasmuch as we sometimes fall short of it and once more require it. Now the effect of the Divine love in us, which is taken away by sin, is grace, whereby a man is made worthy of eternal life, from which sin shuts him out. Hence we could not conceive the remission of guilt, without the infusion of grace. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.113 a.2)

    Forgiveness of sin requires the infusion of grace and agape, whereby the soul of the offender is made to be at peace with God. Sin creates a debt of punishment. If a person is still in sin, then He is still contributing to the debt. That is why God cannot declare him to be debt-free, so long as he is continuing to add to the debt. The person must no longer be contributing to the debt, in order to be forgiven. Hence the requirement of repentance for forgiveness.

    When by the grace of God a person repents and receives sanctifying grace and agape, God, by cancelling the debt of punishment for those sins is not merely calling him something he is not. Our debt is something relational, a debt owed to God. He can therefore cancel it, because it is owed to Him. By contrast extra nos imputation of the obedience of Christ involves calling a person righteous while that person remains actually unrighteous, and that is contrary to truth. So what makes the two cases different is that debt is by its very nature relational, whereas righteousness is by its very nature intrinsic. That’s why calling something righteous while it remains unrighteous is contrary to the truth, whereas forgiving someone actually cancels the debt he owes, such that then calling him ‘forgiven’ then corresponds to reality, and is thus not contrary to the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  158. This actually came from something passed onto me from a Catholic who first got it from Steve Ray, but it fits with Bryan’s Post #140.

    In Genesis 13:4 (and 12:8) it says Abraham “called upon the name of the Lord”.
    Yet in Romans 10:13 it says: “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
    Thus, it’s impossible that Abraham was not saved if he called upon the name of the Lord.

    Here is the Greek (same words):
    Gn 13:4 ἐπεκαλέσατο ἐκεῖ Αβραμ τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου
    Rm 10:13 ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου

  159. Jerry,

    [I realize Bryan said he was going to limit the number of Catholic commenters. However, I'm coming to this thread late and I was hoping someone would continue the discussion of the family analogy made by Nick in #110. Since no one else did, here is my attempt at a reply to your response to Nick.]

    You said in #117:

    With all due respect, I don’t think the analogy fits at all. The setting of a home (family room) and how discipline is applied has no bearing whatsoever on the discussion of justification.

    Then what about the parable of the prodigal son? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this parable universally understood to be a picture of repentance and forgiveness, which are at least closely related to the concept of justification?

    But consider this: in the Protestant system, nothing the child does, once a member of the family, can cause his removal from the family. In the Roman system, some sins allow the child to remain and receive some discipline, others may be overlooked, but some get him put out of the family and back into the streets. He gets unadopted.

    Certainly “nothing can separate us from the love of God”. God will never stop loving us or “unadopt” us. God will never disown us or kick us out of his family. However, we have free will and we can choose on our own to leave the family: we can ask for our share of the inheritance and set off for a far country. When we make that choice (i.e. commit mortal sin), God is not kicking us out, we are running away from home. When you say, “nothing the child does, once a member of the family, can cause his removal from the family” this means that once the prodigal son returns home, he can never leave again. Since we both agree that the father will never kick him out, this must mean that the son can also never leave by his own free will. Unfortunately, this destroys the parable because it means that after welcoming back his long-lost son, giving him his robe and ring, and slaughtering the fatted calf, the father then takes the son back up to his room and locks the door, saying, “Now that you have returned, I’m going to make sure you can never leave again.” But now the house has become a prison and the father has become a tyrant.

    So it seems to me that the image of a family is a very appropriate (even divinely chosen) analogy for salvation (and thus justification?), and that this image reinforces the agape as opposed to the list paradigm. I am (as someone else described themselves) a lowly “padawan” here, so if this is on-topic and gets posted, I would welcome corrections or clarifications.

  160. Faramir (#159),

    I didn’t say the family is a bad analogy for salvation. Much of the Bible does so and we are indeed the household of God and the family of faith. After all, we call God “Father,” Christ “brother,” the church our “mother” and other believers “brothers and sisters” as well.

    The point is how the parable applies. I would suggest the parable of the prodigal son is not about a believer who leaves and then returns to the faith. The idea is that every man and woman is the prodigal, already alienated from God. There’s much more which could be said here, and I won’t get into the prison and tyrant comment, because it’s too simplistic (once in Heaven can we get out? Is that a jail? If we can’t get out, is God a tyrant? Or will we not want to get out?). Reformed theology teaches that God regenerates the elect, changes their wills, and thus they no longer want to “get out” and will not do so.

  161. Nick (#158),

    So what? Abraham was justified prior to Genesis 15:6. Yet God continues to reckon His faith as righteousness. Some may disagree, but it seems inescapable that Abraham believed/trusted prior to that time, worshiped God, etc. The point Paul makes in Romans 4 is that he was justified before circumcision, apart from any works on his part.

  162. Donald Todd (#155),

    Yes, the snow-covered dunghill versus the infused work of God. I have found James White’s words very appropriate in this regard:

    From Rome’s viewpoint, the ‘grace of justification’ actually changes the dunghill into a pile of gold, so that, since it is now pleasing to God, it merits eternal life. As we noted from Karl Keating,

    “The soul becomes objectively pleasing to God and so merits heaven. It merits heaven because now it is actually good.” (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, 1998, pp.167-168)

    Now surely it would seem that such an illustration is far more attractive than Luther’s dunghill. However, if we probe a bit further, we realize the subtle danger that Luther saw so clearly. In Rome’s concept, that pile of gold can, by the commission of a mortal sin, be instantly transformed back into a pile of dung! Through the commission of venial sins and through the imperfect performance of penances, the pile of gold can become impure, so that spots of dung again cling to its shiny surface.
    White, James R., The Roman Catholic Controversy, Bethany House Publishers, 1996, p. 157

    Note too that Reformed theology does not teach that God merely covers the offensive (sinful) believer with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, but that He simultaneously changes the believer as well, and progressively changes the believer in this life, though never perfectly until glorification.

  163. Bryan (#152),

    It isn’t too controversial, I think. In the final judgment, God’s decision will not be based on any merit in our works, but it will be according to them (“in accord with,” “in a manner corresponding to”). The believer is justified on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to him and received by the instrument of faith alone. But this faith is never alone, but always accompanied all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love. The believer is God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. The believer is known by his fruit, just as wisdom is justified by her children and her deeds (James teaches this very clearly).

  164. Jerry, (re: #163)

    So when in #136 you say:

    Reformed theology confesses that the final judgment will be according to works.

    what you really mean is that the final Judgment will not be according to our works (since if it were, we would all be damned), but “on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to [us] and received by the instrument of faith alone.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  165. Bryan,

    No, that isn’t what I mean.

  166. Jerry,

    I’m not seeing how to reconcile your two statements:

    Reformed theology confesses that the final judgment will be according to works. (#136)

    and

    In the final judgment, God’s decision will not be based on any merit in our works, (#163)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  167. On the Prodigal Son (for all interested parties) …

    And the brother who never left: who is he supposed to be if not the child of God who never left the family (i.e. the Church), and spurns the forgiveness the father has for the prodigal son? (Which is also a very important part of that parable: calls to mind Peter’s “How many times should I forgive my brother: seven times?”)

    And let’s not forget that the prodigal son freely chose to come back to the family after he reached the end of his wantonness.

    But, perhaps I’m pushing the metaphor too far.

  168. Bryan,

    Jerry has set out standard Post-Reformation Reformed Scholastic formulation about the final judgment. We will not be judged “based on” our works. Rather we will be judged “in accord with” our works. This is a vital distinction. The RC believes we are judged based on our works. IT’s all about what you have done for your right standing with God. The Protestant position is that good works are the “necessary evidence” that we were justified in time. This is the big distinction. The RC position, based on some sort of notion of congruous merit, teaches that you merit life. The Protestant (biblical) position is that Jesus merited life for His people. By faith alone (not because of the other graces that do always accompany it [i.e. love, repentance, etc.]) we receive His perfect righteousness by imputation for a right standing before God. If God justifies a sinner, He also sanctifies a believer. On judgment day believers will be shown to have had sincere faith by the witness of the good works that that faith produced.

    Bryan, one thing that I have often struggled to understand in the RC system is how you all can believe that certain saints could be so godly as to store up works of supererogation for those who need some extra good works; but Jesus was not good enough–as the infinite God–to merit all the righteousness necessary for His people. That makes absolutely no sense.

  169. “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by ALL things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'” (Gal 3:10)

    I think this verse is a strong indicator for the truth of the list paradigm. Even though, of course, it does not prove untrue the agape paradigm. But that’s because the two aren’t mutually exclusiv.

    Mark A. Seifried writes: “For Paul, to violate one commandment is to violate the whole law. In viewing the requirement of the law in this way Paul is in full agreement with the Hebrew Scripture, particularly Deuteronomy. To listen to God’s voice, to fear God, and to LOVE him is to keep ALL of his commandments. Anything less is disobedience. It is precisely this unqualified love toward God and neighbour of which the fallen human being is incapable.”

    Assuming the list paradigm, it is still true that every transgression ultimately is rooted in the insufficiency of our love towards God. Now what’s the remedy? Infusion? Partly, for “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” But does that mean, that we’re able to perfectly keep ALL of the commandments ALL of the time? I think, Scripture as well as experience deny that. Or has there ever been a sinless saint post conversion (and no immaculate conception, please; for the sake of the argument)? Even confession isn’t much of a consolation when every sin, and not just mortal ones, means that you are cursed.

    “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”

  170. Nick (re: #168)

    You wrote:

    We will not be judged “based on” our works. Rather we will be judged “in accord with” our works….The Protestant position is that good works are the “necessary evidence” that we were justified in time. On judgment day believers will be shown to have had sincere faith by the witness of the good works that that faith produced.

    What I see not that infrequently in Reformed theology is the use of phrases the meaning of which no one knows, to cover over theological problems or holes. People who don’t stop to ask what these phrases mean are pacified by such phrases, and repeat them. Being “judged in accord with” our works is one such phrase. If even the best of our works are deserving of hell, since “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation” (WCF XV.4), and even the best of our works are contaminated by sinful motives, then even the best of our works aren’t truly good, in which case there is no one who has the “necessary evidence” of justification, because there is no one who has “the witness of good works,” since no one, not even one person, has even one truly good work.

    Bryan, one thing that I have often struggled to understand in the RC system is how you all can believe that certain saints could be so godly as to store up works of supererogation for those who need some extra good works; but Jesus was not good enough–as the infinite God–to merit all the righteousness necessary for His people. That makes absolutely no sense.

    Of course it makes no sense. I would struggle with that too, if that’s what Catholics believed. But in the participation paradigm [according to which part of Christ's gift to us is that we get to participate in Christ's work, His sufferings, His life, His family, His joy, we even get to eat His flesh and blood], the merits of these “certain saints” are themselves participations in the grace merited by Christ, as explained in the first six comments in the “Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit and the Communion of the Saints” thread. It is not an either/or. The gift of God in Christ is not only what Christ alone did for us, but also what He in us does through us by what He alone did for us.

    In this way the meritorious works of the saints are part of Christ’s gift to us, because they are His gift of allowing us to participate in His gift, as instruments through which His gift is shared and extended to the whole world. Just as God’s act of creating does not add to being or goodness (as if overall there is more being and goodness than ‘before’ God created), but is a gift by which creatures live and move and have their being in Him, so Christ’s act of making saints out of sinners does not add to the grace and merit that comes from Christ (as if afterward, there is more than what came from Christ), but is a gift by which the saints live, and move and have their supernatural being in His infinite divine life that He joyfully poured out for us on the cross in complete self-giving love. The saints contribute truly within that love and grace, not ‘without,’ as more numbers in a list to be summed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  171. Hello Jerry,

    You asked me a question in post #161,

    So what? Abraham was justified prior to Genesis 15:6. Yet God continues to reckon His faith as righteousness. Some may disagree, but it seems inescapable that Abraham believed/trusted prior to that time, worshiped God, etc. The point Paul makes in Romans 4 is that he was justified before circumcision, apart from any works on his part.

    I would respond by saying that I see three significant problems this claim poses for Sola Fide:

    (1) Genesis 15:6 is not speaking of Abraham’s faith prior to that time in his life, but rather speaking about that very moment. If he was already justified, then this means by the time Genesis 15:6 came about he was in the process of being Sanctified, and thus his faith was “vindication” (i.e. proof he was saved) rather than justification itself. As I noted earlier, this is precisely how Protestants interpret Genesis 22 and the “vindication” they say James spoke about. The problem is, Romans 4 does not describe the moment of Genesis 15:6 as “vindication” but rather a true justification.

    (2) To say that Abraham was ‘without works’ of any kind from Genesis 12-14 is untenable in light of the Scriptural evidence. His “faith” is repeatedly referred to as faithful obedience, so I don’t see how any good case can be made for faith as an empty hand in Genesis 12-14. It is one thing to say Genesis 15:6 doesn’t mention works or obedience, only faith, but it is quite another to suggest each time faith is mentioned in 12-14 that works/obedience is not included.

    (3) You said: “God continues to reckon His faith as righteousness”. I don’t see how this is possible, given that Justification in your view is a one-time event, based on a one-time imputation of Christ’s righteousness. There is no “continuing” here. This is not so say faith loses sight of Christ after Justification, but rather it cannot be said to be continually reckoned as righteousness, since that would contradict your very understanding of what it means to be Justified. Thus, the only way you could read 15:6 is as looking back to a singular moment in Abraham’s life prior to then, namely his conversion, but that’s not how the text of 15:6 itself reads.

  172. So in comment 168 Nick is states:

    We will not be judged “based on” our works. Rather we will be judged “in accord with” our works. This is a vital distinction……and good works are the “necessary evidence” that we were justified in time.

    So my question to Nick is are you saying that the judgment is for determining if we have a saving faith? Are our works looked at by God to see if the faith was real or sincere? Does this mean that our works decide or prove whether or not we have saving faith and if we don’t have them or we don’t have enough, we will be judged as unsaved?

    Or do you believe as Berkof states in his Systematic Theology:

    For all those who appear in judgment entrance into, or exclusion from, heaven, will depend on the question, whether they are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But there will be different degrees, both of the bliss of heaven and of the punishment of hell. And these degrees will be determined by what is done in the flesh, Matt.11:22,24; Luke 12:47,48; 20:47; Dan 12:3; II Cor. 9.6.

    So , I am asking any Protestant here, what are the works being judged suppose to do? Prove our faith? Determine degrees in heaven? How would the aspect of the necessity of works to prove the sincerity of our faith (if this is what you believe) be different from the RC who would state in CCC 2011 that our merits are pure grace?

  173. Tim-Christian (re:#169),

    In relation to Galatians 3:10, what do you think that St. Paul is referring to by “works of the law”? I believe that the surrounding verses (preceding and following) provide some helpful clarification as to what he is referring to, but I’d like to hear your understanding on the issue.

  174. I just read a quote which ties in with my question in comment 172. I would like an answer to this question from any of the Protestants who comment. But here is the quote from a Protestant:

    “Not only is holiness the goal of your redemption, it is necessary for your redemption. Now before you sound the legalist alarm, tie me up by my own moral bootstraps, and feed my carcass to the Galatians, we should see what Scripture has to say. . . . It’s the consistent and frequent teaching of the Bible that those whose lives are marked by habitual ungodliness will not go to heaven. To find acquittal from God on the last day there must be evidence flowing out of us that grace has flowed into us.” (26)

    “On the last day, God will not acquit us because our good works were good enough, but he will look for evidence that our good confession was not phony. It’s in this sense that we must be holy.” (29)

    [Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness]

  175. Christopher,

    Not just ‘Jewish national boundary-markers’. Paul’s “usage indicates that the expression ‘works of the law’ refers to deeds done in obedience to the law of Moses’, and differs from the simpler term ‘works’ only in its designation of the source of the divine demand” (Moo).

  176. Bryan,

    In the agape paradigm, by contrast, agape is the fulfillment of the law. Agape is not merely some power or force or energy by which one is enabled better to keep the list of rules, either perfectly or imperfectly. Rather, agape is what the law has pointed to all along. To have agape in one’s soul is to have the perfect righteousness to which the list of precepts point. Righteousness conceived as keeping a list of externally written precepts is conceptually a shadow of the true righteousness which consists of agape infused into the soul. This infusion of agape is the law written on the heart. But the writing of the law on the heart should not be conceived as merely memorizing the list of precepts, or being more highly motivated to keep the list of precepts. To conceive of agape as merely a force or good motivation that helps us better (but imperfectly, in this life) keep the list of rules, is still to be in the list paradigm. The writing of the law on the heart provides in itself the very fulfillment of the law — that perfection to which the external law always pointed. To have agape is already to have fulfilled the telos of the law, a telos that is expressed in our words, deeds, and actions because they are all ordered to a supernatural end unless we commit a mortal sin. The typical Protestant objection to the Catholic understanding of justification by the infusion of agape is “Who perfectly loves God? No one.” But this objection presupposes the list paradigm.

    I honestly don’t understand what you are talking about this “agape” thing. I understand that this is a greek word for “love”. But, the concept of “agape” as you describe it is very mysterious to me.

    1. Are you saying that this “agape” is equivalent to perfect righteousness?
    2. What do you really mean by “infusion of agape”? When you say “infuse” — what does that really mean?
    3. When do you have “agape”? Is having “agape” a process? If so, what does fallen man need to do to have this “agape”?
    4. How do you know you have “agape”?
    5. When do you lose “agape”? If you lose it, when do you gain “agape”?

    I am also very suspicious whether you understand the protestant doctrine of justification and sanctification.

    According to the Protestant conception of imputation, God justifies us not by infusing righteousness into us, but by crediting Christ’s obedience to our account, and our sins to His account. This forensic declaration does not make the person internally righteous during this life, hence the term extra nos (lit. ‘outside of us’). Justification is followed by a gradual process of sanctification, though a person is never in this life truly internally righteous until after death.

    It is very confusing (deceiving) when you say that “this forensic declaration does not make the person internally righteous during this life”. The word “righteous” here must be defined. If we define “righteous” as being in the “right” –> having a right standing with God based on His standard revealed in the Law, the person is indeed internally righteous. He possesses a righteousness not his own but that of his Redeemer. The declaration of union between what Christ did in behalf of the sinner on Calvary reverses the guilty verdict given that Christ (out of His mercy and love) fulfilled what the sinner failed to do and that God accepted His obedience in behalf of the sinner (in short the sinner is forgiven of his sin because of what Christ did for him). It is never the case that such justification by/of God of the condemned does not make the that person “internally righteous” — if the term “righteous” is being defined properly.

    What do you really mean by “internally righteous” then? If what is meant by this is that the person never comes to a point where out of his efforts he redeems himself or that he never comes to a point where his “good works” even if aided by grace would merit the justification of God, then I agree with you. We do not believe that fallen man can redeem himself and can point to his inherent righteousness (gained through the performance of participative or cooperative acts) as the basis of his justification before God. We do not believe that fallen man would reach a point that he can merit for himself and for others justification.

    We do believe that fallen man will be righteous as the Lord promised that He will mold the redeemed to the image of His Son. The justified will exhibit the “faith that works through love” as the Lord sanctifies them. It is not true that the justified are never “internally righteous” in this life if this phrase meant the absence of an obedient faith working through love. We do affirm that the justified is sanctified. We will never affirm though that the sanctified can then merit justification out of his acts of righteousness such that he will point to his inherent righteouness (not Christ’s) as the ground of his being just before God. In other words, though we possess real righteousness in sanctification, this inherent righteousness will never be that Righteousness that redeemed us from sin and reverses the guilty verdict that hanged on our head being a transgressor of God’s Law. We would always point to what Christ has done for and in our behalf — that perfect righteousness of/from God through the faithfulness of Christ.

    I can only hope that you confess the same truth as we do…

    Regards,
    Joey

  177. JoeyHenry, (re: #176)

    I don’t have time right now to provide complete answers to all your questions, and also I want to keep the thread on-topic. So my reply will be very brief.

    I honestly don’t understand what you are talking about this “agape” thing. I understand that this is a greek word for “love”. But, the concept of “agape” as you describe it is very mysterious to me.

    I have explained this in more detail in the “Why Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin” article.

    1. Are you saying that this “agape” is equivalent to perfect righteousness?

    In its essence, yes.

    2. What do you really mean by “infusion of agape”? When you say “infuse” — what does that really mean?

    Pouring into our soul, as referred to in Rom 5:5; the Holy Spirit supernaturally implants the virtue of agape in the soul.

    3. When do you have “agape”?

    Whenever you are in a state of grace.

    Is having “agape” a process? If so, what does fallen man need to do to have this “agape”?

    Having agape is not a process. To receive agape, fallen man needs to be baptized.

    4. How do you know you have “agape”?

    An informed examination of conscience is sufficient to show whether one does or does not have agape.

    5. When do you lose “agape”?

    When you commit mortal sin.

    If you lose it, when do you gain “agape”?

    When you repent, with true contrition.

    It is very confusing (deceiving) when you say that “this forensic declaration does not make the person internally righteous during this life”. … What do you really mean by “internally righteous” then?

    If you don’t know what I mean by “internally righteous,” then you’re not in a position to claim that I’m being deceptive. On our lack of internal righteousness in this present life, according to the Reformed confessions, see comments #43 and #46 above. In Reformed theology, no one in this present life is *internally* righteous. The believer’s righteousness, in Reformed theology, is the extra nos [outside of us] obedience of Christ that has been imputed to our account. Our sanctification in this present life always still leaves us less than righteous internally.

    Michael Horton says the following:

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

    On that same page of that book, Horton has a cartoon of a man sweating and trembling, holding a sign that says ‘Sin!’. The man is standing in the shadow of the cross, with an arrow showing that from “God’s View,” the man is hidden, because the man is standing behind the cross. Here’s the cartoon:

    In the Reformed view, that cartoon is true of every believer for every moment of his life as a believer, even in his moments of greatest sanctification.

    R.C. Sproul makes the same claim in the following video:

    In Reformed theology no one is internally righteous in this present life, because no one in his thoughts, words, and deeds meets the demands of God’s perfect holy law.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  178. Bryan,

    Insofar the cartoon above (#177) depicts justification, it expresses some truth. Yet, one should add, that according to the Reformed view, the sinner in the picture is also in Christ, an heir of the promise, adopted to be a beloved child of God, indwellt by the Holy Spirit, and in a process of constant repentance and sanctification that leads to glorification and eternal life.

  179. Tim-Christian, (re: #178)

    True. But that is compatible with everything I’ve said, both in the post and the comments.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  180. Tim-Christian –

    Insofar the cartoon above (#177) depicts justification, it expresses some truth. Yet, one should add, that according to the Reformed view, the sinner in the picture is also in Christ, an heir of the promise, adopted to be a beloved child of God, indwellt by the Holy Spirit, and in a process of constant repentance and sanctification that leads to glorification and eternal life.

    Where in your mind does the Catholic view of salvation differ from the reformed view?

  181. Bryan,

    That’s definitely the case. I wasn’t critizing your presentation of the Protestant view. It’s just that sometimes, when the Catholic and the Protestant view get compared, the Protestant view often seems a bit anaemic and less compelling. The comparison always should be between the Catholic doctrine of justification and the Protestant doctrine of justification + sanctification.

    Thanks

  182. Tim-Christian (#181)

    That’s definitely the case. I wasn’t critizing your presentation of the Protestant view. It’s just that sometimes, when the Catholic and the Protestant view get compared, the Protestant view often seems a bit anaemic and less compelling. The comparison always should be between the Catholic doctrine of justification and the Protestant doctrine of justification + sanctification.

    FWIW, I have watched this conversation for some time and I must admit – no doubt I will get both the Catholics and the Protestants jumping down on me for this :-) – that in my opinion, viewed as men really look at things, the differences between the Catholic and Protestant views of salvation are unreal – I mean from the practical point of view.

    When I was a Reformed Protestant, when I would hear of someone who was supposedly ‘saved’ but who lived without any sign of it, that he had not really believed. A person who became evidently apostate had never really believed in the first place. As a Catholic I now view such a person as having rejected the grace of God and as being in mortal sin.

    I must say that the Catholic view seems to me to make more sense in terms of how people really live – and in particular makes sense of persons who seem clearly to me to have faith – genuinely to believe the articles of the Christian faith – but who have, for now, at least, given up any attempt to live it. There are, to be sure, enormous theological differences between the Protestant and Catholic understanding of justification. I think the Protestant theologically wrong, the Catholic right.

    But I really do not see, for any sane Protestant, much actual practical difference. When, as occasionally happens, I meet some Protestant who appears really to believe that Joe Bloggs over there came forward at an altar call 30 years ago; who now lives as though there were no God in Heaven; but the Protestant thinks Joe will certainly go to Heaven – then I argue with him – based, really, on the Bible’s words about holiness being necessary for salvation. But I am no theologian, don’t feel competent to get into the theological arguments.

    In terms of practically helping a Protestant to see the importance of being a Catholic, I think this (and most other theological differences) a red herring. I think the real difference is ecclesiological – what is the Church.

    jj

  183. Fr. Bryan,

    I think the main differences are infusion/imputation when it comes to justification and synergism/monergism when it comes to the doctrines of grace. All other differences sort of derive from these.

  184. JJ,

    My thoughts exactly. Average Joe in the pew does not spend time contemplating extra nos imputation versus infused grace. But I would guess that nearly every layman, Catholic or Protestant, has some notion that at some level what I do impacts my salvation, and also have the basic idea that it is all a gift of grace. A quick re-read of the parable of the sheep and the goats sharpens this to a fine point. Whether works of love are an integral part of true faith or a necessary sign of true faith seems to make very little practical difference.

    Burton

  185. Bryan,

    We’ll it’s confirmed then. Your understanding of “internally righteous” is inaccurate and deceiving. I do not mean to say that you are intentionally deceiving your readers. I only meant that the way you phrased your sentence can lead someone to the wrong conclusion. And, in fact, now that you quote Horton, you did indeed got it wrong.

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

    What is the “righetousness” that is being talked about here? It is a righteousness that is owned by the believer that merits the justification of God. It is not saying that the believer is not “righteous” in the sense that he does not have the “faith that works through love” or that he does not possess and exhibit the “fruits of the Spirit” in this lifetime. Far from it! Horton and the “simultaneously justified and sinful” of the reformation are actually expressing the fact that no “righteousness” can be possessed by the believer that merits for him the justification of God knowing that he has transgressed the Law in his life. The believer is indeed “righteous” in sanctification but that “righteousness” is not the payment or the satisfaction that reverses the guilty verdict. In Horton’s words, “he knows he can’t clean up his act to the degree that he can make enough progress to be accepted or approved by sanctification.” In other words, in view of the standard of the Law upon which the world is measured (Romans 3:20) our “righteousness” in sanctificaton can not reverse the guilty verdict of our transgression. We need Jesus Christ’s Righteousness in our behalf (climaxing in his death and resurrection) in order to declared righteous. That is, what Christ accomplished at Calvary, we accomplished as God accepted His sacrifice and obedience to be ours by faith. That is why the act that justifies us is the act of Christ for us and therefore Horton can say of the believer, “He lives each day as though he had fully satisfied the requirements of the law. And to enjoy this promise, he does not have to meet certain criteria for growth in grace. Before he can be confident in this promise, he need not “clean up his act.””

    I’ll comment on each answer you gave on my question. I find it very interesting and I still have to say that this “agape” thing you are talking about is very mysterious. But you’ve clarified a bit clarified at some points.

    Regards,
    Joey

  186. Joey (re: #185),

    You wrote:

    Your understanding of “internally righteous” is inaccurate and deceiving. I do not mean to say that you are intentionally deceiving your readers. I only meant that the way you phrased your sentence can lead someone to the wrong conclusion.

    The word ‘deceptive’ connotes the intention to deceive. So if you only mean ‘misleading,’ then that’s the more appropriate term to use here.

    If I remember correctly, you are in the Reformed Baptist tradition, so it is possible that you might have a different view than the one laid out in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Three Forms of Unity. But as I pointed out in comments #43 and #46 above, according to the traditional Reformed confessions, no believer is internally righteousness in this present life. In this present life, every thought, word and deed of every believer is impure because it is contaminated by impure, selfish motives. No one, in any act, is loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. And therefore, according to the Reformed tradition, even the very best of our acts is still wicked in the eyes of God, as Horton states, because a holy God demands absolute perfection. It cannot be the case that even our best acts are wicked, and that we are internally righteous. So if you believe that believers are internally righteous, fully and perfectly conforming to the command to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, then in that respect you are not in agreement with the Reformed tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  187. Bryan,

    It cannot be the case that even our best acts are wicked, and that we are internally righteous. So if you believe that believers are internally righteous, fully and perfectly conforming to the command to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, then in that respect you are not in agreement with the Reformed tradition.

    I am surprised at your level of understanding of the Reformed Tradition and the WCF. If you take a good look at Chapters regarding Good Works and Sanctification. Let me quote it for you:

    V. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servantsand because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit, and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

    VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

    VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.

    This statement that you wrote is very inaccurate:

    “even the very best of our acts is still wicked in the eyes of God”

    The believers best acts are not “wicked”. They are “righteous” accepted and rewarded by God. But these are not able to pay or redeem man from his guilty verdict. Meaning the “righteousness” that we have in sanctification can not “merit pardon of sin or eternal life at the hand of God.” It is only the work of Christ at Calvary in our behalf that can.

    This statement, therefore, portrays a deficient albiet erroneous understanding of the Reformed tradition:

    So if you believe that believers are internally righteous, fully and perfectly conforming to the command to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, then in that respect you are not in agreement with the Reformed tradition.

    Believers are indeed “internally righteous” doing the works of righteousness and exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit. According to Paul, they are ordained to do good works (Eph 2:10). They have the gift of “faith that works through love”. The word “fully and perfectly” should be defined. In the area of sanctification where one is given the grace to love God and neighbor, there is no question that we can do it “fully and perfectly” per the context of Romans 13. But that, “fully and perfectly” does not mean that we are going to have acts and deeds that are able to merit justification (see section V).

    Regards,
    Joey

  188. JJ, Burton,

    It’s true that in a theoretical, theological debate the sometimes fine differences can get overemphasized. But then, how we answer these question (f.e. imputation/infusion) can have a huge impact on our practical, pastoral, and everyday behaviour (especially evangelism!). Compare, for example, the following Youtube clips. One is from a Piper sermon on imputation, the other is an Orthodox answer to the often annoyingly careless and superficially asked question “Are you saved?”.

    Youtube – “John Piper – Glory of Christ”:

    Youtube – “Are you saved? – an Orthodox Christian answer.”:

    (I don’t know, whether it’s allowed to post these links here. If not, I beg your pardon.)

  189. Bryan (#186),

    With respect, I believe you have misunderstood the Reformed position. WCF 16 points out that although our good works cannot merit God’s favor, and cannot justify us, and that even our best works are defiled in this life:

    6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

    This is something like your “agape” paradigm, as it works in the life of the believer who has received the imputed righteousness of Christ. Because we are accepted in Him – because He has kept the whole law (obeying every command in the list by loving God and man perfectly) for us, our good works are accepted. Reformed theology teaches that God both imputes righteousness to the believer in justification, and that he works righteousness within them progressively in sanctification.

    And therefore, according to the Reformed tradition, even the very best of our acts is still wicked in the eyes of God…

    This is simply not accurate.

    Re: (#177),

    Having agape is not a process. To receive agape, fallen man needs to be baptized.

    And yet, Paul in Romans 4 highlights the fact that our father in the faith was justified apart from works, apart from and before the sacrament of faith.

    Re: (#186 – followup to #187),

    I think the Belgic Confession is even more helpful on the Reformed doctrine of sanctification and holiness:

    Article 24: The Sanctification of Sinners

    We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,” causing him to live the “new life” and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

    Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

    So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,” which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.

    These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

    So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” — thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ ”

    Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

    Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.

    Just because the good works of the believers are imperfect in this life, does not mean they are not good. In sanctification, believers are practically, not merely positionally, made righteous and holy.

    The 39 Articles state this clearly as well:

    XII. Of Good Works.
    Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

  190. Jerry, (re: #189)

    Reformed theology does not recognize two standards of righteousness. In Reformed theology there is only one standard of righteousness. It is perfect conformity to God’s holy law. That is why there is no recognition of a distinction between mortal and venial sin. All sin is a violation of God’s holy law. In this present life, according to Reformed theology, sanctification is always imperfect because there always remain “remnants of corruption in every part” of the soul (WCF XIII.2). Therefore, in Reformed theology no believer during this present life is internally righteous, because no believer during this present life perfectly conforms internally (in his thoughts/motives) or externally (in his words and actions) to the law of God. And there is no other standard of righteousness than perfect conformity to God’s law, which is why we are believed to need the extra nos imputed obedience of Christ, since no one’s righteousness meets God’s one holy standard.

    For this same reason, as I pointed out in comment #46, according to Reformed theology every work the believer does in this present life is tainted by the corruption that remains in him, and therefore every work he does in this life falls short of the glory of God, and falls short of God’s holy standard of righteousness.

    Here’s Question 78 in the Larger Catechism:

    Question 78: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    Answer: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

    Our best works are “imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.” Therefore, they are not righteous, again, because God doesn’t have two standards of righteousness, only one. Because “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation,” (WCF XV.4) and because even our best works are defiled by sinful motives and corrupt intentions, therefore (in Reformed theology) during this earthly life even the holiest person’s best works deserve damnation.

    That’s precisely why the WCF includes the following:

    their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections. (WCF XVI.6)

    God treats these imperfect, defiled, filthy, damnable works of Christians as acceptable not because these works are actually or truly good, but by “looking upon them in His Son,” much as the cartoon in #177 depicts above. So by “looking on them in His Son,” He treats them as if they were good works, even though in actuality they are defiled by sinful motives, fall short of His perfect standard, and are in themselves therefore worthy of eternal hell fire.

    You wrote:

    This is something like your “agape” paradigm, as it works in the life of the believer who has received the imputed righteousness of Christ. Because we are accepted in Him – because He has kept the whole law (obeying every command in the list by loving God and man perfectly) for us, our good works are accepted.

    No, not at all. In Catholic doctrine, our good works, done by those having sanctifying grace and agape, are truly good. They are not defiled or corrupted or damnable. God doesn’t have to look through a cross-shaped lens to see them as good. These works are good and holy because through the Cross baptized believers have been given the sanctifying grace and agape by which they are truly righteous internally, and by which their works done in agape are truly good.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  191. Tim-Christian (re:#175),

    Replying to my question about St. Paul, Galatians 3, and “works of the law,” you wrote:

    Not just ‘Jewish national boundary-markers’. Paul’s “usage indicates that the expression ‘works of the law’ refers to deeds done in obedience to the law of Moses’, and differs from the simpler term ‘works’ only in its designation of the source of the divine demand” (Moo).

    This is Douglas Moo’s exegetical view of the question of “works of the law”– but in terms of Biblical exegetes/commentators, there are much, much earlier ones who sharply disagree with him, such as St. Irenaeus, writing in his “Against Heresies” circa *189 A.D.* The following section from Bryan’s article on Irenaeus contains several excerpts from his writing which show the early Christian view of faith, works, and justification. It doesn’t resemble the specifically Protestant view of the “perfect imputed righteousness of Christ being counted to the believer by God”: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/#natureofjust

    Examining the passages surrounding Galatians 3:10, St. Paul is addressing a dispute among the Galatian Christians, as to whether Gentiles had to be circumcised, in order for them to properly be considered as Christians. In our time, of course, we hardly think of the Body of Christ in this way, but in Paul’s time, the Church was still largely composed of Jewish converts to Christ. However, more and more Gentiles were being converted too, and as they were, the Jewish Christians were debating over how to handle the matter of circumcision. Obviously, all of them had been circumcised, and many of them wanted to make circumcision mandatory for the Gentiles too. St. Paul addresses this matter, stating that circumcision or uncircumcision is not the vital issue for Christians, but rather, faith in *Christ alone*, which unites both Jewish *and* Gentile converts. This understanding of Galatians 3 makes perfect sense when compared with James 2: 14–24, which also stresses the crucial importance of faith in Christ alone– but not “justification by faith alone,” as apart from *any and all* good works, because, as St. James so clearly states in this passage, “faith without works is dead.”

    The early Christian (Catholic) view of Galatians 3 and James 2 also makes perfect sense, exegetically, when compared with Jesus’s parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. It is not “faith alone” by which the sheep are justified, but faith formed by love, which entails a faith lived out in works of love. Simply put, in Jesus’s framing of the issue in Matthew 25:31-46, if one does not have works of love for God and neighbor, then one is not right with God. Faith alone does not justify. Faith in *Christ alone*, formed by love for God and neighbor, does justify. Whether one goes to Heaven or Hell has more than a bit to do with one’s works (or the lack thereof)– works *because* of faith. This is quite clear in Our Lord’s parable:

    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 them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of 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, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘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, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    (Source: http://m.biblestudytools.com/rsv/matthew/passage.aspx?q=matthew+25:31-46)

  192. Bryan,

    Reformed theology does not recognize two standards of righteousness. In Reformed theology there is only one standard of righteousness. It is perfect conformity to God’s holy

    Wrong. Reformed theology does not recognize two standards of righteousness IN JUSTIFICATION. That is, only the perfect righteousness of Christ in behalf of his people can reverse the guilty verdict of the sinner. Yet, reformed theology never denies the reality of righteousness gained in sanctification which conforms the believers to the image of Christ, the Son. This righteousness can not justify but this righteousness imparted as the gift/fruits of the Spirit marks the believers lives as holyand set apart.

    That is why there is no recognition of a distinction between mortal and venial sin. All sin is a violation of God’s holy law. In this present life, according to Reformed theology, sanctification is always imperfect because there always remain “remnants of corruption in every part” of the soul (WCF XIII.2)

    The reason reformed theology does not buy into the mortal and venial sin of Romanism is this: We believe the biblical revelation that says the wage s of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We believe that there are degrees of sin, one act graver than the other, but we don’t believe that lesser degrees of sin does not merit the condemnation of God. All sin (great and small) merits God’s condemnation and needs to be forgiven by the Cross. We further deny, that those who have lesser sins are able to merit justification than those who have done graver sins.

    Sanctification is not the dissolution of existence. Since, we exist as creature having sinned against God, sanctification does not dissolve that reality. We have sinned but we are being sanctified from the moment we are saved. Therefore, the context of imperfection is not that sanctification fails to make us righteous but that we have not existed in a state where we are righteous from start to finish therefore disbarring us from claiming that our righteousness is able to merit justification. And even after we have been reconciled to God by faith, we still exhibit this imperfection (1 John 5:8) though we progress in holiness.

    ). Therefore, in Reformed theology no believer during this present life is internally righteous, because no believer during this present life perfectly conforms internally (in his thoughts/motives) or externally (in his words and actions) to the law of God.

    Reformed theology recognizes that believers are internally righteous as they will bring about the fruits of the Spirit and possess the gift of faith that works through love in sanctification. Reformed theology denies that this our good works though good and righteou accepted by God and Sprit wrought is able to merit pardon of sin or justification.

    And there is no other standard of righteousness than perfect conformity to God’s law, which is why we are believed to need the extra nos imputed obedience of Christ, since no one’s righteousness meets God’s holy standard.

    In justification this is true. But you failed to distinghuish justification and sanctification therefore the erroneous conclusion that since we need the Righteousness of Christ in Justification that we are not made righteous in sanctification. Such view is erroneous and a distortion of the reformed faith.

    Our best works are “imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.” Therefore, they are not righteous, again, because God doesn’t have two standards of righteousness, only one. Because “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation,” (WCF XV.4) and because even our best works are defiled by sinful motives and corrupt intentions, therefore (in Reformed theology) during this earthly life even the holiest person’s best works deserve damnation.

    The conclusion is erroneous and ill-informed. The catechism/confession never said that since our best works are imperfect that they are not righteous. This is your own misreading of the text. It is even far fetch to derive from the catechism/confession that our best works “deserve damnation”. The imperfection of our best works does not denote “damnation” but that they are in fact good and righteous accepted by God because of Christ but that these works are not able to merit eternal life or justification or the pardon of sin. These works is not the work that reverses the guilty verdict of the sinner.

    God treats these imperfect, defiled, filthy, damnable works of Christians as acceptable not because these works are actually or truly good, but by “looking upon them in His Son,” much as the cartoon in #177 depicts above. So by “looking on them in His Son,” He treats them as if they were good works, even though in actuality they are defiled by sinful motives, fall short of His perfect standard, and are in themselves therefore worthy of eternal hell fire.

    This is a farfetch interpreation of the confession/catechism. It never said that the good works wrought by the Spirit are “filthy and damnable”. You’ll never find that in the confession. The confession never says that “good works” are treated AS IF they were good works and are in themselves worthy of eternal hell fire. These is a gross misreading of the text. Rather, “good works” are Spirit wrought and because these proceeds from God, these are good and accepted. Good works are not stand alone acts apart from the gracious acceptance of God of its value. Since they are performed by people who deserve his judgment because of sin, all works are seen in the eyes of grace. The confession therefore states that without the grace, our works can not have rewards. Our works therefore has value and reconized by God and rewarded only because of the Cross. They are not able obligate God to reward nor are they able to merit justification and pardon of sin. It is not our works, even our holiest works, that can pay for our sin. As Paul said, “we are saved not by our righteous deeds but because of his mercy”.

    They are not defiled or corrupted or damnable. God doesn’t have to look through a cross-shaped lens to see them as good. These works are good and holy because through the Cross baptized believers have been given the sanctifying grace and agape by which they are truly righteous internally, and by which their works done in agape are truly good.

    This statment is oxymoronic. You said “God doesn’t have to look through a cross-shaped lens” to see them as good. And yet you turn 360 degrees by saying “These works are good and holy BECAUSE THROUGH THE CROSS”… Everything goes to the lens of the cross. And yet, our confession says, and I assert the Bible saids, that though they are “good” only the good work of the Son at Calvary in our behalf is the one accepted by God to have reversed his guilty verdict for the sinner — not the sinner’s work or cooperation nor anyone’s elses but the work of the Son in behalf of the sinner at that historical event at Calvary.

    Regards,
    Joey

  193. Joey (re: #192)

    You wrote:

    Reformed theology does not recognize two standards of righteousness IN JUSTIFICATION.

    For future comments, please do not use all-caps. By your qualification “in justification,” you seem to be implying that in Reformed theology God does have two standards of righteousness: one standard of perfect righteousness in justification, and a lower standard of quasi-righteousness in sanctification. But that idea, that God has two standards of righteousness, is foreign to the Reformed tradition. What makes the believer’s works good, in Reformed theology, is not the perfection of the works themselves (they aren’t perfect), but the covenantal union of the believer with Christ, whose righteousness does meet God’s only standard of righteousness. On account of this covenantal union, God treats our imperfect, defiled works as if they are good and holy.

    Yet, reformed theology never denies the reality of righteousness gained in sanctification

    Such statements in the Reformed confessions mean that during this present life believers make gains in righteousness, though never in this life attaining internal righteousness. In Reformed theology no one in this life is truly internally righteous. The remnants of sin still contaminate and defile all our thoughts, words, and actions, and therefore in every thought, word, and deed we fall short of God’s perfect and only standard of righteousness.

    This righteousness can not justify but this righteousness imparted as the gift/fruits of the Spirit marks the believers lives as holyand set apart.

    In Reformed theology God does not have two standards of holiness. True holiness, in Reformed theology is true righteousness, and therefore believers are holy only by the extra nos imputation of the righteousness of Christ, precisely because no believer is truly holy within, not during this present life. This is why the remaining required sanctification is said to occur instantly at the moment after death, during glorification. If believers were already completely sanctified in this present life, no additional sanctification would be needed after death.

    We have sinned but we are being sanctified from the moment we are saved. Therefore, the context of imperfection is not that sanctification fails to make us righteous but that we have not existed in a state where we are righteous from start to finish therefore disbarring us from claiming that our righteousness is able to merit justification. And even after we have been reconciled to God by faith, we still exhibit this imperfection (1 John 5:8) though we progress in holiness.

    None of the authors of the Reformed confessions believed that the only imperfection believers have during this present life is the property of having sinned prior to their justification. If you believe that believers are already perfectly sanctified, you are in something close to the Wesleyan “perfectionist theology” Methodist tradition, not the Reformed tradition, and therefore my post does not apply to you. My post is directed to the broader Reformed tradition, according to which at every moment of a believer’s earthly life his sanctification is imperfect. “Wesleyan perfectionism provides a brief description, as well as some external links to articles written by Calvinists (e.g. Hodge and Dabney) critiquing the notion of perfectionism. And these Calvinists are representative of the standard Reformed rejection of perfectionist theology.

    You said “God doesn’t have to look through a cross-shaped lens” to see them as good. And yet you turn 360 degrees by saying “These works are good and holy BECAUSE THROUGH THE CROSS”… Everything goes to the lens of the cross.

    Again, please refrain from all caps. If you had finished the citation you would have seen the difference. In the Reformed tradition the ‘good works’ of the believer are still “defiled” by sinful motivations, and therefore in themselves damnable because “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation” (WCF XV.4). Hence in themselves these works are not “unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight” (WCF XVI.6), but God is pleased to accept and reward them because of the covenantal union of the believer with Christ. God sees them through the lens of Christ’s perfect atonement on account of the believer’s covenantal union with Christ, and therefore God treats the believer’s works as if they are good, even though in themselves these works are imperfect, defiled, blameworthy, reprovable, and deserving of damnation.

    In Catholic doctrine, by contrast, the cross is not a lens through which God looks at us or our works, but the sacrificial means by which Christ merited sanctifying grace for us, the grace we receive in the sacraments, and by which we are transformed, so that God doesn’t have to look through a lens to see imperfect, defiled, reprovable works as good. Instead, by this grace within us, the believer and his works are made truly good, so that without any lens God sees these works as good.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  194. Bryan,

    You said:

    Instead, by this grace within us, the believer and his works are made truly good, so that without any lens God sees these works as good.

    This makes so much sense in relationship to the “new creation” concept. What did God do after He created the first time? He said it was “good”. That is what he does in the second creation. And, this is not some creative fiction — some narrative He believes about us in spite of us. He believes we are “good”, and our works are “good”, because they are. The cause of which is the life of His Son.

    We are truly in Christ — not behind Him.

    God bless,

    Brent

  195. Bryan, do you have any book or post or audio to refer us to that would go into more detail on the Catholic view of the agape paradigm? (other than ones already referred here?)

  196. 1. Bryan,

    By your qualification “in justification,” you seem to be implying that in Reformed theology God does have two standards of righteous: one standard of perfect righteousness in justification, and a lower standard of quasi-righteousness in sanctification. But that idea, that God has two standards of righteousness, is foreign to the Reformed tradition.

    You seem to confuse the context and nature of the two acts of God (i.e. Justification and Sanctification) in the reformed perspective. It is true that there are no two standard of righteousness able to merit the justification of God for those who have been declared guilty. There is only that perfect work of Christ at Calvary that is accepted by God able to satisfy the justification of God for the ungodly. That is the context of justification. Please note, that this concept, and I sound like a broken record, does not preclude nor deny the reality that those who are justified exhibit real and internal righteousness in sanctification. The righteousness needed for justification and righteousness that is the result of sanctification mutually exists in the Reformed perspective. These are not two standards of righteousness as the nature and context of the two divine acts does not demand this interpretation.

    What makes the believer’s works good, in Reformed theology, is not the perfection of the works themselves (they aren’t perfect), but the covenantal union of the believer with Christ, whose righteousness does meet God’s only standard of righteousness. On account of this covenantal union, God treats our imperfect, defiled works as if they are good and holy.

    Contrary to your assertion above, the confession actually asserts that works are good since “they proceed from His Spirit”. These works though “good” as they are Spirit wrought are imperfect in the context that these are done by people who are transgressors of God’s holiness. Any work that proceeds from them are not able to merit justification. It seems that you interpreted the text to the effect that the good works performed by the believer are really not good and holy but then considered to be good and holy. This is not the context of the confession. Rather, the confession says that such works are good but the goodness and value of these works cannot pay or redeem or merit the pardon of sin or eternal life. The goodness of these works can not merit eternal life because they are done by people who have at one point in their life sinned against God and continually do so (1 John 1:8). Read the confession again:

    “We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit , and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.”

    Such statements in the Reformed confessions mean the during this present life believers make gains in righteousness, though never in this life attaining internal righteousness.

    How can one affirm that we make gains in righteousness by God’s gracious sanctification and then not attain internal righteousness at the same time? The sentence above makes no sense to me. But if I have to contextualize your statement so that it will understandable to the reformed view, it will read like this:

    “Such statements in the Reformed confessions mean the during this present life believers make gains in righteousness, though never in this life attaining internal righteousness that will merit justificaiton of the wicked, the pardon of sin and eternal life.”
    Meaning, we do have internal righteousness but this righteousness is not sufficient to pay for our transgression of the Law and the guilt of sin. Only the sacrifice of the Son, Hs righteousness for our unrighteousness, is able to do that — not our works of righteousness.

    True holiness, in Reformed theology is true righteousness, and therefore believers are holy only by the extra nos imputation of the righteousness of Christ, precisely because no believer is truly holy within, not during this present life.

    Wrong. This conflates justification and sanctification. The righteousness of Christ imputed to the sinner to justify him does not imply that the sinner is not made righteous in sanctification. Both are true realities. The difference is that, righteousness obtained in the divine act of sanctification is not the ground of satisfaction that justifies the sinner. Yet it is never true that the sinner is not internally righteous when he is sanctified by God. The confession says:

    “They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness , without which no man shall see the Lord.”

    In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

    John Calvin, summarizes:

    “Christ was given to us by God’s generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ’s blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by Christ’s spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.”

    None of the authors of the Reformed confessions believed that the
    only imperfection believers have during this present life is the property of having sinned prior to their justification.

    I did not say “only”. My actual statement is this: “We have sinned but we are being sanctified from the moment we are saved. Therefore, the context of imperfection is not that sanctification fails to make us righteous but that we have not existed in a state where we are righteous from start to finish therefore disbarring us from claiming that our righteousness is able to merit justification. And even after we have been reconciled to God by faith, we still exhibit this imperfection (1 John 1:8) though we progress in holiness.”

    The confession actually says this:

    “Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

    If you believe that believers are already perfectly sanctified, you are in something close to the Wesleyan “perfectionist theology” Methodist tradition, not the Reformed tradition, and therefore my post does not apply to you. My post is directed to the broader Reformed tradition, according to which at every moment of a believer’s earthly life his sanctification is imperfect. “Wesleyan perfectionism provides a brief description, as well as some external links to articles written by Calvinists (e.g. Hodge and Dabney) critiquing the notion of perfectionism. And these Calvinists are representative of the standard Reformed rejection of perfectionist theology.

    We cannot call a perfect cat to be a perfect horse. You may have equivocated my use of “perfection” as when “Wesleyan” use it in the context of their doctrine of perfectionism. My position and that of the confession is not anywhere near Wesley’s perfectionism.

    If you had finished the citation you would have seen the difference. In the Reformed tradition the ‘good works’ of the believer are still “defiled” by sinful motivations, and therefore in themselves damnable because “there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation” (WCF XV.4).

    The confession never says that the defilement of the “good works” are because of “sinful motivation” or defiled by “sin” therefore damnable. The confession says otherwise: “because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit”. However, the confession also recognizes that since these works are done by people whose existence has been and is marked by sin (1 John 1:8; Romans 3:23), the works we do “are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.” Meaning, although we perform “good works” by His Spirit, the people who does them cannot claim merit for justification because of these “good works”. “Good works” cannot reverse the guilty verdict or satisfy the “severity of God’s judgment” for those who have transgressed His holiness.

    Hence in themselves these works are not “unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight” (WCF XVI.6), but God is pleased to accept and reward them because of the covenantal union of the believer with Christ. God sees them through the lens of Christ’s perfect atonement on account of the believer’s covenantal union with Christ, and therefore God treats the believer’s works as if they are good, even though in themselves these works are imperfect, defiled, blameworthy, reprovable, and deserving of damnation.emphasis added.

    The confession never says that these works are blameworthy, reprovable and deserving damnation. The works are imperfect and defiled in the context that these works are not able to merit pardon of sin and eternal life.

    Please note that the phrase “unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight” are not referring to “good works” but the people who do them. Here’s the confession:

    “Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

    Firstly, the confession really says that believers who do “good works” are accepted not because their performance of “good works” made them “unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight”. In other words, our “good works” does not and can not offset the guilt of sin.

    Secondly, although “good works” are performed even by “progressively sanctified” saints therefore not perfect in every way, God rewards these works. Not because these “works” obligate God to reward it but that because of His grace alone in Christ. It is not also the case that though these works does not obligate God to reward it, that it is not therefore good and righteous. Rather, these are good and righteous as they are the fruits of the Spirit.

    Thirdly, if we performed perfectly all good works, it does not obligate God to reward the people who do them. The confession says, if “we have done all we can, we have done but our duty” as creatures of the Living God. Yet, God in his grace is pleased to “reward” His people who do these works “sincerely”.

    In Catholic doctrine, by contrast, the cross is not a lens through which God looks at us or our works, but the sacrificial means by which Christ merited sanctifying grace for us, the grace we receive in the sacraments, and by which we are transformed, so that God doesn’t have to look through a lens to see imperfect, defiled, reprovable works as good. Instead, by this grace within us, the believer and his works are made truly good, so that without any lens God sees these works as good.

    If you realize the depth of the Reformation Theology, the right understanding of justification and sanctification, you will be surprised that what you say above is fully expounded and upheld. The doctrine of sanctification in the reformed perspective has never asserted that “God has to look through a lens to see imperfect, defiled, reprovable works as good”. Rather, the good works that are Spirit wrought are good simply because these are fruits of the Spirit. Let me close with John Calvin’s succinct summary of all my points:

    Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God. Yet you could not grasp this without at the same time grasping sanctification also. For he ‘is given unto us for righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:30). Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify. These benefits are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond, so that those whom he illumines by his wisdom, he redeems; those whom he redeems, he justifies; those whom he justifies, he sanctifies. But, since the question concerns only righteousness and sanctification, let us dwell upon these. Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker of his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces (1 Cor. 1:13). Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.

    Regards,
    Joey

  197. Kim (re: 195),

    Unfortunately, I do not.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  198. Joey, (re: #196)

    You recognize that you “sound like a broken record,” which is a good indication that the conversation has run its course. So with this, let’s wrap it up.

    As I pointed out in my previous comment, your position on sanctification is not the Reformed position. In Reformed theology, the reason why even the best works of believers are not truly righteous is not because these believers were once unregenerate, but because in Reformed theology God has only one standard of righteousness, and believer’s present good deeds fall short of that standard. Your position posits two standards of righteousness: one that merits eternal life, and one that doesn’t. But that’s not the Reformed position. In Reformed theology the good works of believers are considered good before God only because by union with Christ (and the extra nos imputation of Christ’s obedience) the believer is under the grace (favor) of God.

    the confession actually asserts that works are good since “they proceed from His Spirit”.

    That takes the statement out of its fuller context. The fuller context is this:

    because, as [these good works] are good, they proceed from His Spirit,[18] and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment. (WCF XVI.5)

    That is, insofar as they come from the Spirit, they are good, and insofar as they come from us, they are defiled. But in no one do these good works come entirely from the Spirit, at least not in this present life. In this present life, according to Reformed theology, there is always some degree to which our works come from us, and so they are always “defiled” and “mixed with imperfection.”

    It seems that you interpreted the text to the effect that the good works performed by the believer are really not good and holy but then considered to be good and holy. This is not the context of the confession. Rather, the confession says that such works are good but the goodness and value of these works cannot pay or redeem or merit the pardon of sin or eternal life.

    What the WCF means by “they are good” is that they are considered good by God, on account of the believer’s union with Christ, and therefore being under God’s favor. These works in themselves are not truly good, because in themselves they are imperfect and defiled, and there are not two standards of moral goodness. The reason these ‘good’ works are non-meritorious is precisely because they are not truly good, not merely because the person who did them was once unregenerate.

    The goodness of these works can not merit eternal life because they are done by people who have at one point in their life sinned against God and continually do so

    The “continually do so” is the kicker. According to Reformed theology believers continually sin even in the very doing of the works alleged to be good. And that’s precisely why these works are not truly good, because the very act in which the believer does them includes sin against God, at least in thought or motives, in some way falling short of the command to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

    How can one affirm that we make gains in righteousness by God’s gracious sanctification and then not attain internal righteousness at the same time? The sentence above makes no sense to me.

    It makes no sense to you because you have a Wesleyan, not a Reformed conception of sanctification. In Reformed theology, sanctification is progressive. During this life we move from imperfect sanctification to less imperfect sanctification, from unrighteousness within to less unrighteousness within. But in this life no one is truly righteous within: only the saints in heaven have been made perfect within.

    Therefore, the context of imperfection is not that sanctification fails to make us righteous but that we have not existed in a state where we are righteous from start to finish therefore disbarring us from claiming that our righteousness is able to merit justification. And even after we have been reconciled to God by faith, we still exhibit this imperfection (1 John 1:8) though we progress in holiness.”

    Again, no one in the Reformed tradition believed that the only imperfection in believers was that they had sinned prior to being regenerate. The “imperfection” of believers’ good works, in Reformed theology, is not that these works come from a person who once sinned. (In that case, all the good works of the saints in heaven would also be imperfect.) The imperfection of believers’ good works is, according to Reformed theology, in the works themselves.

    We cannot call a perfect cat to be a perfect horse.

    Ok. I’m not sure how that helps resolve the disagreement.

    My position and that of the confession is not anywhere near Wesley’s perfectionism.

    I beg to differ. Your position (on sanctification) is very Wesleyan, and not Reformed. Here’s what the Reformed confessions say:

    Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva (1545):

    Q121 But after we have once been embraced by God, are not the works which we do under the direction of his Holy Spirit accepted by him?

    They please him, not however in virtue of their own worthiness, but as he liberally honours them with his favour.

    Q122 But seeing they proceed from the Holy Spirit, do they not merit favour?

    They are always mixed up with some defilement from the weakness of the flesh, and thereby vitiated.

    Q123 Whence then or how can it be that they please God?

    It is faith alone which procures favour for them, as we rest with assured confidence on this — that God wills not to try them by his strict rule, but covering their defects and impurities as buried in the purity of Christ, he regards them in the same light as if they were absolutely perfect.

    According to Calvin, our good works please God not because they are worthy in themselves; they’re not. They are corrupted by defilement from weakness of the flesh. Because we have faith in God, and are in Christ, therefore God looks favorably upon them, covering their defects and impurities, burying them in the purity of Christ, regarding them “as if they were absolutely perfect,” even though they are not actually absolutely perfect.

    Scottish Confession of Faith (1560)

    For God the Father, beholding us in the body of his Son Christ Jesus, accepts our imperfect obedience, as it were perfect, and covers our works, which are defiled with many spots, with the justice of his Son.” (Scottish Confession of Faith, 15)

    Note again, that God “accepts our imperfect obedience as [if] it were perfect.” Our works are defiled with many spots, but God covers them with the extra nos imputed righteousness of His Son.

    Belgic Confession:

    “Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment.” (Belgic Confession, art. 24)

    All our good works are in themselves worthy of punishment.

    Synod of Dordt

    “blemishes cling to even the best works of God’s people” (Dordt, V. art. 2)

    Irish Articles of Religion (1615)

    The regenerate can not fulfill the law of God perfectly in this life. For in many things we offend all; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (Irish Articles of Religion, 43)

    The reason we “cannot fulfill the law of God perfect in this life” is not because we sinned prior to regeneration, but because presently we still sin in thought, word, and deed, and thus fall short of the one and only standard of God’s perfect and holy law.

    As I pointed out in #193:

    This is why the remaining required sanctification is said to occur instantly at the moment after death, during glorification. If believers were already completely sanctified in this present life, no additional sanctification would be needed after death.

    The notion that believers are already, at the initial moment of faith, completely sanctified, is a Wesleyan, not a Reformed notion of sanctification. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, for example states:

    Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?

    A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

    Similarly, the Larger Catechism:

    Q. 86. What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?

    A. The communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness

    At death, the souls of believers are made perfect in holiness, precisely because in this present life these souls are not perfect in holiness. That doesn’t mean that in heaven, God makes it to be the case that saints have never sinned. Nor does it mean that in this present life, according to Reformed theology, believers did not have the extra nos imputation of Christ’s obedience, which is only finally imputed to them when they die. No. It means that their imperfect sanctification in this present life is transformed immediately after death, to perfect sanctification; they are finally perfected internally only at that moment. That would be impossible if they were already perfectly sanctified during this present life.

    Again, the Larger Catechism:

    Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

    A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

    The Reformed position is not that in this present life believers are able perfectly to keep the law, but that their obedience is not meritorious because they were once sinners. No. That’s not the Reformed position at all. The Reformed position is that no one in this present life perfectly keeps the commands of God, but “doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.” In this present life no one internally (in thoughts/motivations) or in words, or deeds, is righteous according to God’s one and only standard.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  199. Hello Bryan, (post #58)

    I’m back very briefly from a couple weeks away from theology blogs (I had so much more time to read the Scripture and pray–what a blessing–my schedule and conscience dictate that I will need to return to my hiatus very soon). I apologize for addressing you in the third person in my post. It was definitely not my intent to be rude. You’ve raised a good point on how it comes across–I’ll be careful not to use the third person in my responses from this point onward.
    We agree on the effect of mortal sin (it drives out agape and thus renders faith dead and unable to partake freely of Christ and the covering of all our sins by His Blood). We agree on the effect of venial sin in the believer (although it weakens our faith and love–it does not kill a living faith and thus we still partake freely of Christ and the covering of all our sins by His Blood).

    The English Reformer Latimer said in 1552 (when the 42 Articles–later shortened to 39 Articles were being completed):
    I see a fair woman, I am moved in my heart to sin with her, to commit the act of lechery with her : such thoughts rise out of my heart, but I consent not unto them; I withstand these ill motions, I follow the ensample of that godly young man, Joseph ; I consider in what estate I am, namely, a temple of God, and that I should lose the Holy Ghost; on such wise I withstand my ill lusts and appetites, yet this motion in my heart is sin ; this ill lust which riseth up ; but it is a venial sin, it is not a mortal sin, because I consent not unto it, I withstand it ; and such venial sins the just man committeth daily. For scripture saith, Septiea cadit Justus, ” The righteous man falleth seven times;” that is, oftentimes: for his works are not so perfect as they ought to be. For I pray you, who is he that loveth his neighbour so perfectly and vehemently as he ought to do? Now this imperfection is sin, but it is a venial sin, not a mortal : therefore he that feeleth his imperfections, feeleth the ill motions in his heart, but followeth them not, consenteth not unto the wickedness are to do them ; these be venial sins, which shall not be unto us to our damnation
    http://books.google.com/books?id=EFoJAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA8&dq=latimer&ei=Y-tOSeCdM6TCMYOenY0M#PPR5,M1

    [Of course, as the Reformers note elsewhere--lust/spiritual fornication/spiritual adultery can certainly be a mortal sin--which is why Christ said that it is better to gouge out the eye than be cast into hell]

    Where we differ is on the eternal punishment that is due to all sin without the covering of Christ’s Blood. The Scriptures in the Old Testament are clear that blood must be shed not only for the forgiveness of great but also for small (venial) sins–all sins required an atoning sacrifice. This pictures how all sins require the Blood of Christ for payment. No temporal payment that we make can pay for the eternal debt that all sin incurs. Every sin is an infinite crime deserving eternal punishment because it is against the Infinite God and violates His Eternal Law. Further, every sin nailed our Infinite and Eternal Lord to the Cross.
    You provided a good quote St. Augustine–here’s the fuller quote:
    He, however, is not unreasonably said to walk blamelessly, not who has already reached the end of his journey, but who is pressing on towards the end in a blameless manner, free from damnable sins, and at the same time not neglecting to cleanse by almsgiving such sins as are venial. For the way in which we walk, that is, the road by which we reach perfection, is cleansed by clean prayer. That, however, is a clean prayer in which we say in truth, “Forgive us, as we ourselves forgive.” Matthew 6:12 So that, as there is nothing censured when blame is not imputed, we may hold on our course to perfection without censure, in a word, blamelessly; and in this perfect state, when we arrive at it at last, we shall find that there is absolutely nothing which requires cleansing by forgiveness.
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1504.htm

    St. Augustine is certainly correct that we must walk blamelessly and thus put away venial sins by the clean prayer “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And the eternal punishment due for venial sins is payed for only by the Blood of Christ.

    [Further, as Christ makes painfully clear, unforgiveness is a deadly sin which chokes and renders faith ineffective so that we may not partake in forgiveness (and forgiveness is only found in the Blood of Christ and only received through the open hand of a living faith (that "worketh by love"). (In fact, as some of the English Reformers powerfully noted--we are telling God to damn us whenever we pray the Lord's Prayer without forgiving anyone who has wronged us).]

    [Continued]

  200. [Continued]

    You said:
    “He speaks there of concupiscence, which he says is not sin proper, but is referred to as sin because consenting to it would amount to sinning. ”

    But in the passage you are referencing St. Augustine says that not only does everyone have concupiscence–but the Christian also consents at least in some degree to it (and thus has sin proper). Thus, he expresses his belief that our lack of perfect righteousness in this life includes the continuing presence of sin proper. As he notes, if this was not the case, it would unnecessary to say “forgive us our debts” every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.

    (Chp 21 of Man’s Perfection in Righteousness):
    He, moreover, who says that any man, after he has received remission of sins, has ever lived in this body, or still is living, so righteously as to have no sin at all, he contradicts the Apostle John, who declares that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 Observe, the expression is not we had, but ” we have.” If, however, anybody contend that the apostle’s statement concerns the sin which dwells in our mortal flesh according to the defect which was caused by the will of the first man when he sinned, and concerning which the Apostle Paul enjoins us “not” to obey it in the lusts thereof, Romans 6:12 — so that he does not sin who altogether withholds his consent from this same indwelling sin, and so brings it to no evil work—either in deed, or word, or thought—although the lusting after it may be excited (which in another sense has received the name of sin, inasmuch as consenting to it would amount to sinning), but excited against our will—he certainly is drawing subtle distinctions, and should consider what relation all this bears to the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we say, “Forgive us our debts.” Matthew 6:12 Now, if I judge aright, it would be unnecessary to put up such a prayer as this, if we never in the least degree consented to the lusts of the before-mentioned sin, either in a slip of the tongue, or in a wanton thought; all that it would be needful to say would be, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13 Nor could the Apostle James say: “In many things we all offend.” James 3:2
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1504.htm

    Baptismal regeneration
    Finally, I’ve noticed that Baptism has been raised as a contradiction of sola fide by some on this thread–but it shouldn’t be. First, everyone acknowledges that it’s possible to partake in Salvation outside of Baptism (and St. Aquinas affirmed that the remission of the eternal punishment of sins and the infusion of agape may be received prior to Baptism through the desire of Baptism that is implicitly present in one all who has truly turned to Christ).

    Further, leading English and Lutheran reformers affirmed Baptismal regeneration (most notably, Luther himself). As the Anglican Homily of Justification notes–belief in the bestowal of grace in Baptism on the infant (for the remission of original sins, etc) fits together completely with the necessity of seeking a perfect righteousness apart from the true deserving of our works in this life:
    As the Anglican Homily of Justification notes with St. Bernard (cited in Article 11 of the 39 Articles):
    …we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues, of faith, hope, charity, and all other virtues and good deeds, which we either have done, shall do, or can do, as things that be far too weak and insufficient, and imperfect, to deserve remission of our sins, and our justification, and therefore we must trust only in GODS mercy, and that sacrifice which our high Priest and Savior Christ Jesus the son of GOD once offered for us upon the Crosse, to obtain thereby GODS grace, and remission, as well of our original sin in Baptism, as of all actual sin committed by us after our Baptism, if we truly repent, and turn unfeignedly to him again.
    http://www.anglicanlibrary.org/homilies/bk1hom03.htm

    (My personal belief is that the infants of believers likely begin to partake from the womb in the grace which is consummated in their Baptism)

    Imputed Alien Righteousness of Christ.
    How can we say that the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness is a legal fiction to those who have become the sons of the New Adam if we acknowledge the imputation of Adam’s alien guilt to all his sons. Through imputation we all transgressed God’s Law in Adam (whom we are united to through the flesh)–is it not equally true that through imputation we all fulfilled God’s Law in Christ (Whom we are united to through the Spirit). Again, this truth that we are covered by the perfectly righteous Blood of Christ for the remission of sins is expressed well by St. Augustine: “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.” Retractions (Book 1, 19:3).

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

    p.s. This is probably it for me–I will likely be unable to justly set aside the time necessary to make any further responses for the next few months. Thanks again for the discussion.

  201. Sorry, I accidentally forgot to omit the following comment from the above post (it was accidentally copied and pasted with the primary quote taken from another post I wrote).
    “:As the Anglican Homily of Justification notes with St. Bernard”

    Thanks.

  202. ok–one last post before I’m out for the Fall

    Legal Fiction
    I do have a problem with “legal fiction” being applied in a pejorative way to the theological issues being discussed here—but a “legal fiction” is anything but a “fiction” in the eyes of the court (e.g. the new birth certificate that lists the adoptive parents as the parents of a child is a “legal fiction”). Although the word “fiction” has negative implications the term may be validly applied (in a non-pejorative way) to describe some of the central truths of the Gospel. St. Bernard notes the blessedness of the “legal fiction” of being accounted to have never sinned (i.e. being accounted as never falling short of God’s standard of immaculate agape–and thus as perfectly righteous through the immaculate righteousness of Christ’s Blood covering our sins).

    St. Bernard: Oh, truly and alone “blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.” For there is no one without sin, “because all have sinned and do need the glory of God.” Yet ” who shall accuse against the elect of God ? ” It suffices me unto all justice, that He alone be propitious to me against Whom alone I have sinned. Whatever He wills not to impute to me, is as if it never had been. God’s righteousness is freedom from sin, but the righteousness of man is the forgiveness of God. Canticle of Canticles Sermon 23 http://archive.org/stream/stbernardssermon01bern/stbernardssermon01bern_djvu.txt

    Thus, St. Augustine says: “Our very righteousness, too, though true in so far as it has respect to the true good, is yet in this life of such a kind that it consists rather in the remission of sins than in the perfecting of virtues.”[Book 22 Chp 27 City of God] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120119.htm
    Or, as St. Augustine summarizes this blessed “legal fiction” (as quoted numerous times in this and other threads): “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.” Retractions (Book 1, 19:3).

    Righteousness As A Filthy Rag
    St. Bernard states that even the righteousness of the Christian who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is a filthy rag if strictly judged (i.e. by God’s standard of immaculate agape). Thus, we must always plead with the Psalmist in Ps 143:2 for mercy and not judgment. St. Bernard:

    Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. But what can all our righteousness be before God? Shall it not, according to the prophet, be viewed as a filthy rag: and, if it be strictly judged, shall not all our righteousness turn out to be mere unrighteousness and deficiency? What, then, shall it be concerning sins, when not even our righteousness itself can answer for itself? Wherefore, vehemently exclaiming with the prophet, Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, let us, with all humility, flee to mercy; which alone can save our souls, and let us consider carefully what follows: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. [IN FESTO OMNIUM SANCTORUM. SERMON I]
    Sermon in Latin: http://www.binetti.ru/bernardus/72.shtml

    St. Bernard’s exposition in relation to Psalm 143:2 agrees with St. Augustine who states that according to God’s Perfect Standard every person at their best (whether in a state of grace or not) is found crooked. See Quotes and Link on Post 45 of this thread and Post 22 of the St. Irenaeus and Justification thread http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/comment-page-1/

    God Bless and thanks again everyone for the interesting discussion (and please excuse all the messed up punctuations, typos, etc in my posts).

  203. Someone recently sent me this video of Sinclair Ferguson talking about the Reformed conception of imputation, at the Desiring God conference in 2008:

    In a certain respect, almost everything he says here could be said by someone holding a Catholic understanding of imputation by infusion of agape. At one point, however, Ferguson says that because of [extra nos] imputation, “in the sight of God, we are as righteous as Jesus Christ.” (See the cartoon in comment #177.) A Catholic would not say such a thing. We are not as righteous as Jesus Christ. But, in the Reformed paradigm, if we are not as righteous as Jesus Christ, then we are lost, because God has only one standard, i.e. the standard of perfect adherence to His holy law. Not to be “as righteous as Jesus Christ” is to be unrighteous, and there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation. So in Reformed theology the perfect righteousness Jesus has is the only standard God has, and anything short of that standard cannot enter into heaven.

    In the agape paradigm, by contrast, one saint can have a greater participation in agape than another, even in heaven. But even the saint having a lesser participation in agape is nevertheless righteous, because he has agape. And even the greatest saint (i.e. Mary) did not have as great a participation in agape as Christ did (and does) in His human will. Even Mary, who according to Catholic dogma never had original sin and never committed a single sin (mortal or venial) was not as righteous as Jesus. This exemplifies precisely the difference between the two paradigms. In the list-paradigm, if Mary never had original sin, and never committed a single sin her whole life, she would therefore be no less righteous than Jesus, because she kept the list of commands no less perfectly than did Jesus, never in the slightest way deviating from the requirement of each command. And according to that paradigm, if she was not as righteous as Jesus, then she must have sinned in some way. But in the agape paradigm, two or more persons who never in the slightest way deviated from the requirement of each command of the law could still differ in righteousness, according to the difference in their participation in agape. The person with the greater participation in agape is more righteous, because agape is righteousness, but that does not mean that the person with a lesser participation in agape is unrighteous.

  204. Bryan,

    Your last post would explain how 1 John 3:7 is to be properly understood: “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”
    This passage makes no sense whatsoever in an imputation framework, since the person who does what is “right” cannot be someone who is not internally righteous, nor can it be said the works are sinful but merely reckoned as having value in light of Christ. So the “just as” must be taken to mean the individual has the full ‘capacity’ according to the measure they’ve been given of righteousness, and not meaning to say righteous in the exact same measure/degree as Jesus.

  205. Nick, (re: #204)

    This passage makes no sense whatsoever in an imputation framework

    The verse can be accommodated to the extra nos imputation framework by interpreting it as meaning that the one who does good [but imperfect] works, shows himself to have received the extra nos imputed righteousness of Christ, and this extra nos imputed righteousness makes him righteous, just as Jesus is righteous.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  206. But it seems like they would be torturing the text, particularly since the root word for “right” is the same: he who does righteousness (dikaiosune) is righteous (dikaios). Thus, it’s not fair for them to say the “right” works are imperfect (and thus not truly ‘right’) but the “right” status he holds is a perfect one. It’s similar to when Protestants say that dikaiosune in James 2:23 is a soteric/legal “right” but the dikaioo in James 2:24 is a vindicating/moral “right”.

  207. Nick, (re: #206)

    it seems like they would be torturing the text, particularly since the root word for “right” is the same: he who does righteousness (dikaiosune) is righteous (dikaios).

    Those holding the extra nos imputation position would respond by claiming that you are falling into what D.A Carson, in his book Exegetical Fallacies, calls “The Root Fallacy,” namely, the assumption that the meaning of a term is based on the original meaning of its root, or that terms having the same root have the same meaning.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  208. Bryan’s #205 fascinates me. I’ve noticed that this kind of interpretation is a key difference between Catholics and Protestants. I apologize for the tangent, but maybe someone could help me understand this better.

    As an example of what I mean, think of the sentence, “If I wake up early, then I will get to work on time.” Catholics might interpret this as, “I get to work on time because I wake up early. Arriving on time is contingent upon waking on time.” Protestants might say, “People get to work on time because they are punctual. Punctual people also wake up early. I got to work on time because of my punctuality, not because I got up early.”

    I’m not making an argument here , only an observation. Can anyone develop this theme further?A great example in the Bible is Colossians 1:23 where Catholics interpret “if” as “if” and Protestants often interpret it as “since”.

    I apologize this isn’t the right thread.

    Thanks!

  209. Bryan at 203:

    Thanks for elucidating the difference you see. Especially for us reformed folk.

    One question though. Under your agape scheme, you say two hypothetical people can be pitted against one another, and apparently, ranked, according to how much “participation in agape” they have. Do these two people compare, in some way, to the agape that Christ himself exercised, in his earthly life? What I mean is, let’s say I am one of your hypothetical people. Whether I am the one who participated in more, or not, is irrelevant. Is the one who participated in more, materially closer to the agape we see Jesus exhibiting? If Jesus’ score is 100, does one person score 80, and another 40? Or does on person score 1.2, and other 1.1? My point is not to get all mathematical. I just wonder what you think someone’s hypothetical participation in agape compares to what Jesus set as example for us, especially in his law keeping, and in his sacrifice on the cross. Thank you.

    Regards,
    Andrew

  210. Andrew (#209)

    Interesting speculation! Hadn’t thought of it this way, but it does instantly call to my mind Matthew 13:8:

    But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

    jj

  211. As a reformed person, the 30/60 distinction does reveal how strong a person’s faith is. Good trees produce good fruit. Better trees produce better fruit.

    But as regards justification, I think maybe something should said. There’s only good and bad trees. There may be gradation, in terms of how good. But both are good, all the same.

    Further, the reformed person, on a scale of 1 to 100, might argue that he/she himself scores a zero. See Ephesians two. What score does a dead person get? Well, when the Holy Spirit animates a person, that person becomes 100. And thus, perhaps, is imputation, put into, at least, how I see it. I’m a big Ferguson fan, just fyi… Peace, Roman Catholics. -AB

    Thanks, jj.

  212. Andrew (#211)

    Sure, don’t think I disagree. I was just struck by your percentages to think of that Parable of the Sower.

    jj

  213. Back in 1995, R.C. Sproul was on the John Ankerberg show, discussing the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document. Here’s a video clip from that program, with the transcription below:

    Now to get to the heart of that let me jump down the funnel to the bottom line of the controversy, historically, between the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelicals that provoked the Reformation.

    I will try to say this in a way, that my mother, God bless her if she were still alive, would be able to understand it, and I hope that she understands it now far more clearly than I do, in her felicity in heaven. In any case, if my mother were here I would say, “Mom, here’s my problem” “God is just, God is righteous, and I’m not! How can I possibly survive a tribunal before a just and holy God? Since I know that that God requires and demands perfect righteousness for Him to justify anyone.” And so the issue in the 16th century was, not whether God demands righteousness in order for Him to declare somebody just, but the issue is: “Where do we get that righteousness?”

    The Protestant view was this: that the only righteousness that has the merit necessary to meet the requirements of the holiness of God, is that righteousness that was achieved and performed by Jesus Christ—and by Jesus Christ “alone!”

    There is where the word “alone” comes in John, because all Protestants have acknowledged, historically, that the phrase, “justification by faith alone,” really means, it’s shorthand for, “Justification by the righteousness of Christ alone—that only His righteousness is sufficient to save us.” The Roman Catholic Church said that the only way God will ever declare me righteous, or you righteous, or anybody else righteous, is if they have a righteousness that inheres within them, an intrinsic righteousness, a righteousness that really belongs to John Ankerberg. They would say that you can’t be righteous, John, apart from the help of Christ, and the grace of Christ, and the infusion of His power and so on, with which you must assent and cooperate (assentare, cooperare, is the language they use) And so you can’t be saved without the help of Christ, or without grace, or without faith. But, added to that faith, added to that grace, added to that Christ—must be the contribution of John Ankerberg, without which God will not declare you just.

    Now, that is all the difference in the world! The word “alone” is trying to draw a line in the sand and say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ says that, “The only way that a person can be saved is by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith.”

    Sproul believes he cannot “survive” a tribunal before a just and holy God, because “God requires and demands perfect righteousness for Him to justify anyone.” Then he attempts to describe the Catholic doctrine of justification. When he says that according to Catholic doctrine God declares a person righteous only if that person is righteous within, he is correct. But when he says that according to Catholic doctrine a person is not just before God unless, in addition to the faith and grace he has received within from Christ he must add his own contribution, he caricatures the Catholic position. In Catholic doctrine the person coming up out of the baptismal font is already completely just; he does not then need to do something to add his own contribution in order to make himself fully just before God. He does not come out of the font 60% righteous, or 70% righteous, or any percentage less than 100%.

    So where is Sproul getting the idea that according to Catholic doctrine God does not declare a person righteous until he adds to the infused righteousness God has given him? When Sproul says that according to Trent we must “assent and cooperate,” and attempts to use the Latin terms [the actual Latin terms used in the Sixth Session of Trent are assentiendo and cooperari], he is referring to chapter 5 of Session Six and Canon 4 of that same session. (That is confirmed in another talk Sproul gives on this same topic: see here.) That chapter of the Sixth Session of Trent (and that canon) are about what is necessary (for those who have attained the age of reason) to prepare for baptism. That paragraph reads:

    It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight. Hence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are reminded of our liberty; and when we reply: Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we need the grace of God. (Session Six, Chapter 5)

    The “predisposing grace” is actual grace by which God moves us to Himself. Because God acts first, without us, this actual grace is called “operative grace.” But then, if we respond by cooperating with this grace, it becomes what is called “cooperative grace.” All this is before justification. I won’t go through this, because I have discussed it in much more detail in “A Reply To R.C. Sproul Regarding the Catholic Doctrines of Original Sin and Free Will.” Sproul’s mistake is thinking that the Catholic requirement that we assent to and cooperate with the actual grace we receive prior to baptism somehow adds some additional righteousness to the infused righteousness we receive in baptism, which, without the additional righteousness provided by our assent and cooperation, would fall short of the perfect righteousness required by a just and holy God.

    But that is not what Trent is teaching. Our cooperation with actual grace prior to baptism, while necessary, is entirely unmeritorious. The righteousness of persons coming up from the baptismal font is not composed of some percentage from God, and the remainder from the persons themselves. Their righteousness is entirely from God, none of their righteousness is from themselves. Moreover, any good thing a justified person subsequently does in a state of grace, by which he grows in grace and faith and agape and righteousness, is not accurately described as “his own contribution,” as if done from himself alone, but is the grace of Christ at work within him, as St. Paul says, “On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Cor 15:10)

    St. Paul is not saying that Christ acts within him the way a demon acts in a demon-possessed person, such that the person is not freely consenting, and the evil spirit moves the person’s body the way a puppeteer moves a puppet. That would be monergism. Nor is Christ working through St. Paul a case where each provides a portion that adds up to the whole. Rather, the work is both fully St. Paul’s (“I worked harder”) and fully Christ’s, because St. Paul is freely participating in the work of Christ. Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects and elevates it. So St. Paul’s entire natural faculties and freedom are entirely preserved as he is elevated into participation with the life and operation of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

    This is why even our post-baptismal acts done in agape, though causing us to grow in agape (and thus in righteousness) do not make our resulting righteousness some percentage from God, and the remaining percentage from ourselves. In the Catholic paradigm, even the most righteous saint’s righteousness is entirely from God; human nature cannot produce agape. But God graciously gives us an opportunity to participate in means by which we grow in agape and thereby to merit, as explained in “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers.”

    So why does Sproul believe that he cannot “survive” a tribunal before a just and holy God? Why does he joke with Mark Driscoll (at 2′ 55″ff in the video) that they might as well jump out of the window (of the tall building they are in) right now, if he has to stand before a holy God based on his own performance? The answer, fundamentally, is that he holds a list-paradigm conception of perfect righteousness, not a conception of righteousness as infused agape. That is what underlies the absolute impossibility, in his mind, of being counted truly righteous by God in any other way than by the extra nos imputation of the obedience of Christ.

  214. Bryan,

    This will be my last post on Called To Communion. I want to address these words of yours:

    “The “predisposing grace” is actual grace by which God moves us to Himself. Because God acts first, without us, this actual grace is called “operative grace.” But then, if we respond by cooperating with this grace, it becomes what is called “cooperative grace.” All this is before justification”

    This is somewhere, as a reformed Christian, I balk, Why? God’s grace can not be bifurcated. God is either gracious to me, or He isn’t. You say, “but then, IF we respond…” There is no “IF.” God chose us, His people, before the foundation of the world. The principle of election is pervasive. You can not deny. When God chose me, before the foundation of the world, through nothing that, in and of myself, I posses, but as a sole act of Mercy, the grace that he would later bestow upon me, as I understood who He is, through study of His Word, would be sufficient and efficient towards my salvation. God’s grace is sufficient for all,. But only efficient for the elect.

    How do I know I am elect?

    Well, h3re again, I rest upon God’s goodness alone. If my salvation is in any way conditioned on something I DO, then, per my view, God is not sovereign. Yes, this is where Free will / predestination shows up. And where, anyone who is interested in Sproul, should read his, “Chosen by God.” It was after reading that book, 10 years ago, that God revealed who He was, in His fullness. My heart would melt, and it has been in subsequent devotional times, reading Scripture and praying daily, that my God has continued to reveal Himself, in all his long suffering and loving kindness. I wish the Roman Catholic church all the best. But those of us who are truly reformed will never assent and listen to this websites, “call to communion.” Communion is what I enter into with my Holy God. And no church, no, man, is necessary for for the communion. Only God – as he is the sole agent in procuring my salvation.

    Peace,
    Andrew

  215. Andrew B (re: #214)

    Thanks for your comment. Vertical communion with God, and horizontal communion with His people, are tied together. If we love Him, we will love His Body, the Church, and seek the reconciliation of Christians now separated by schism and disagreements concerning the faith. To love Him, we must love His family and the unity of His family. So, I hope that despite our present disagreements, you will continue to pursue agreement in the truth with Catholics.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  216. well, Bryan, you told me you’d golf with me, if I’m ever in town. that’s enough for me to say, that yes, there is still hope.

    It’s nice getting to know you. Best to you.

    Gotta run,
    Andrew

  217. The Protestant notion of justification by the extra nos imputation of the righteousness of Christ conceives of the “righteousness of Christ” as the sum total of Christ’s acts of obedience during His earthly life. Every action He willed, whether thought, word, or deed, over the course of His entire life, was obedient, and therefore according to this Protestant doctrine, all His actions taken together constitute the “righteousness of Christ” that is imputed to our account at the moment of justification. Of course all these acts of obedience were done out of love, but what His righteousness is, according to this Protestant teaching, is not the love He had for the Father, but the whole sum of all His willed actions during early life. In order to receive the righteousness of Christ, according to this view, it is not enough to receive the agape Christ possessed in His soul while on earth. Rather, one must receive in one’s account the sum total of Christ’s obedient actions.

    This shows that the very notion of justification by the extra nos imputation of the righteousness of Christ presupposes the list-paradigm. But it also raises a problem. If righteousness were, in essence, loving obedience, then because God (being God) in His divine nature obeys no one, God in His divine nature would neither have righteousness nor be righteous, at least not until Christ in His human nature obeyed the Father.

    Of course someone might claim that within the Trinity the Son obeys the Father, and the Holy Spirit obeys the Son. The teaching of the Sixth Ecumenical Council entails that there is numerically only one divine will, not three divine wills. (See comment #2 in “Social Trinitarianism and the Catholic Faith.”) So the divine Persons do not obey each other (excepting Christ in His human nature, which is created), because that would imply three divine wills. But even if, contra the Sixth Council, the Son in His divine nature obeyed the Father, and the Spirit obeyed the Son, that would leave the Father without any righteousness. And the notion that the three Persons are righteous by obeying each other does not make sense, because it requires the members of the Trinity to issue commands or requests to each other, and thus conceives of God both in time, and as righteous by way of ‘external’ acts, thus making God dependent on creation for His own righteousness. That’s a mess.

    By contrast, if God in His divine nature is righteous not by acts of obedience, but by being Agape itself, and thus being righteousness itself, then the righteousness of Christ is fundamentally and essentially agape, which is then expressed in His loving obedience in His human nature. And this supports the agape paradigm, over the list-paradigm.

    Underlying the Protestant conception of imputation and righteousness is the idea that Christ as the Second Adam, must attain for us the righteousness the first Adam failed to attain. Adam, by his obedience under the Covenant of Works, was supposed to attain a righteousness by which he would merit eternal life. According to this Protestant viewpoint, after Adam’s fall God made a Covenant of Grace under which He sent a Second Adam to do what the first Adam failed to do, to obey where the first Adam disobeyed.

    But conceiving justification through this framework confuses merit with righteousness. God the Father has no merit (from whom would He merit?), but He is righteous. Therefore merit and righteousness are not the same. Adam was created with sanctifying grace and agape, and thus was already righteous (see “Lawrence Feingold on Original Justice and Original Sin“), but had no merit. God gave him an opportunity to merit. Conceiving of merit as righteousness per se leads to the list-paradigm. N.T. Wright says something similar at the end of his answer to this question about imputation:

  218. Bryan (#217) – thanks so much for this. This has helped me a great deal in thinking about a lot of my old Protestant baggage.

    jj

  219. Here’s another video of Sproul that confirms what I said in #217 about conceiving of righteousness as merit.

    From 2’40 to 3’45” Sproul explains that if Christ only took our sins, but His obedience was not transferred to us, we would be innocent, but unable to go to heaven, because we would not be righteous. He says,

    “Remember, it is not simply innocence that gets me into the Kingdom of God; it’s righteousness. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you’ll never get into the Kingdom of God. And so we can talk about maybe I’m not guilty of anything, but I haven’t done anything. I haven’t merited anything that whereby justice would give a reward.”

    For Sproul, in order to be righteous, either we must have obeyed (perfectly) and thus merited, or someone else must have done so, and that obedience be transferred to our account. Clearly he is conceiving of righteousness as merit, not as agape.

    I should note here that in response to the “legal fiction” objection Sproul claims that if the imputation were fictional, it would be a case of legal fiction, but the imputation is real. The problem, of course, is that this attempts to solve a theological problem by way of mere semantics. Merely putting the term ‘real’ in front of extra nos imputation does not make it any different, or distinguish it from ‘fictional’ extra nos imputation. What makes extra nos imputation a legal fiction is not that it is a fictional version of extra nos imputation, but that it is extra nos. That’s because our ‘account’ in God’s eyes is not something separate from us like a safe-deposit box in a bank, such that God can swap the contents of our box and Christ’s box. Our account before an omniscient God who is Truth is always and only what is actually in us. So for there to be a “real” double imputation, there would have to be a double infusion. But Reformed theology denies that any of our sin was infused into Christ, and denies that the fullness of Christ’s righteousness was infused into us. That’s why the only difference between Reformed theology’s “real” extra nos imputation and a fictional extra nos imputation is the addition of the word ‘real.’ And that’s why Sproul’s response does not solve the legal fiction problem.

  220. Anyone who attended Mass today heard this Gospel, which seems to apply here:

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26)

  221. A common Protestant objection to the Catholic doctrine of justification is the “How do you know you have done enough?” objection. I’ve seen it used by many Protestant leaders. The objection is rooted in the notion that in Catholic doctrine justification is by faith+works. Those works include baptism and faithful participation in mass, reception of the Eucharist, and making use of the sacrament of confession. So the objection commonly characterizes the Catholic position as a sacramental treadmill, or a treadmill of works-righteousness. The objector points to the discomforting condition of never knowing in this life whether one has “done enough.”

    The objector does not merely say “Protestant theology is better, because you never have to worry about that question; Christ’s work is sufficient.” That would be a crass example of ecclesial consumerism — simply picking the theology that seemingly offers the better deal. Instead, there is an implicit argument here that Christ wouldn’t leave His sheep in a position of never knowing whether what they had done was enough to be declared “just” in the eyes of God, and thus to merit eternal life, all while dangling over the threat of burning in eternal hell fire if they fall short.

    As an argument, that’s not a bad argument. Surely the Good Shepherd wouldn’t leave His sheep in that condition, running faster and faster on the performance treadmill, but never knowing whether they had done enough to merit heaven, and always knowing that at any second they could die instantly of a heart attack or a ruptured aneurysm, and if by that moment they hadn’t yet merited eternal life by a sufficient number of good works and mass attendances, etc., they would burn in hell forever. Yes, that’s not a bad argument at all.

    The problem with the argument is not the structure of the argument, but its claim that the position it is criticizing is the Catholic position. This is why it has traction only for persons unaware that it is a caricature of the Catholic position. The argument is framed within the list-paradigm conception of righteousness, in that it confuses merit and righteousness. It presupposes that prior to reaching some unspecified point on a post-baptismal performance treadmill, the Catholic is unrighteous, and therefore hell-bound, and must do some certain number of good deeds in order to become justified.

    But as explained above (in comment #213) the person coming out of the baptismal font is already righteous, already completely justified. If he were to die at that moment, he would go to heaven. And if he remains in a state of grace, he remains righteous, because he retains agape within his soul. Aha, says the Protestant. See, that’s where he doesn’t know whether he is in a state of grace, and must jump back on the performance treadmill for an indeterminate length of time.

    Again, however, that’s a caricature of the Catholic position. It is not difficult to determine whether one is in a state of grace. A simply examination of conscience is sufficient to determine whether one is in a state of grace. Mortal sin is not something one does unaware, because it requires full knowledge and complete consent. If upon an examination of conscience one determines that one is not in a state of grace, then one simply needs to make an act of contrition — being sorry for having offended God, not merely for fear of hell — with the intention of making use of the sacrament of penance as soon as one can, within reason, to know that one is immediately restored to a state of grace, and to the inheritance of eternal life. Thus a good daily practice, for a Catholic is an examination of conscience by which one examines one’s actions and motivations, and confirms that one is in a state of grace.

    Meriting eternal life does not mean moving from a condition in which one will not receive eternal life to a condition in which one will receive eternal life. Meriting eternal life is moving from a righteous condition (itself a gift of grace through Christ) in which upon death one would receive eternal life without having done anything at all, to a more righteous condition in which by God’s gracious plan and grace working within oneself, and one’s cooperation with God’s grace and agape within oneself, it is true that the rightful reward for one’s actions is eternal life. Even a cup of cold water given out of agape merits eternal life.

    So the performance treadmill picture in which one never knows whether one has one enough merit to be justified, is an utter caricature of the Catholic doctrine. It confuses righteousness (which is by infusion of agape) with merit, by mistakenly supposing that some unspecified amount of merit must be accrued in order to be justified. In that respect the objection presupposes the list-paradigm. But although merit is possible while in a state of grace (i.e. while justified), and while growth in justification accompanies merit (because God rewards acts done in agape with a greater participation in agape), the notion that from a condition of being unjustified one could merit justification would be Pelagianism, which the Catholic Church has always condemned. So the performance treadmill picture is a form of Pelagianism, not Catholicism.

    The Catholic examines his conscience daily to make sure he is in a state of grace (and thus justified), and then embraces the opportunity God has given him in this present life to express love for Him by serving Him and glorify Him by taking up his cross daily, living according to His commands and the precepts of His Church, and doing His will. This isn’t a performance treadmill anymore than a loving union between spouses is a performance treadmill. But in our case this is the engagement period in which we see only through a glass darkly, looking forward to our reward which is a greater share in (and thus greater union with) the Bride Groom Himself, for eternity.

  222. Here is what baffles me: I totally understand the reasoning for why a ‘positive righteousness’ (Christ’s Active Obedience) is conceived of as far Adam needed to go from a legally neutral to a legally righteous state by perfect obedience (i.e. the Covenant of Works). However, I repeatedly hear many Reformed say that for Christ to forgive our sins (including future sins) would only put us back in Eden where Adam began, in a neutral state, which is why Christ’s Active Obedience is still needed. But if a Christian is in a state where all his sins are forgiven and he can never be sent to hell, then it would not seem like he really is in a state comparable to Adam. The Christian is in no potential ‘jeopardy’ as Adam was. The way I see it, this would entail that Active Obedience is more about God “saving face” (which is an abominable thought) than about Christians having “no hope without it”. The corollary to that would mean that the Reformed side is saying the The Cross was insufficient to save, since it only provided ‘half’ of the salvation.

  223. …one (really) last quick exception from my post writing break for the Fall. Anyhow, the point I would make (if I had time) on the idea of the remission of sins only making us “innocent” but not “righteous” is in the St. Irenaeus on Justification thread post 8 and the end of post 7: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/

  224. In reference to NT Wright’s video in comment 217, what would be the difference between what a Catholic means by “being in Christ” and by what a Protestant would mean by “being in Christ”. How would being in Christ (from a Catholic perspective) differ from having Christ’s righteousness because one is joined or united to him ?

  225. I’ve loved this discussion. Thank you all for your participation.

    I think that the infusion paradigm helps us make sense of the lives of the saints. From the early Martyrs, right up to more modern saints like Maximilian Kolbe, Theresa Benedicta of the Cross and Mother Theresa, we see people who loved God and loved the world in a supernatural way – they loved in a way that is beyond nature. I’m not sure we can make sense of this with a paradigm that simply says God’s righteousness is merely imputed onto us.

    The saints weren’t simply people who were talented at religion. Often times they were not talented at all. The saints were people of Grace. Their lives witness that grace works, and their lives witness to the agape paradigm in a particular way. It also shows us the amazing things that grace really does in the world if it is viewed as a participation in the divine life. The very same God that filled Mother Theresa’s heart with the agape to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta is available to each one of us – which is a sobering thought.

  226. Kim,

    Prayers for you in your journey with the Lord and thanks for your comments and questions here. I’m sure someone else will answer, probably better than me, but I’ll jump in.

    As a cradle Catholic I think there is a cultural difference here between most Catholics (ones who aren’t converts of conscience) and Protestants. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Catholic talk about “being in Christ.” Certainly we do talk about “in Christ” (ex. “life in Christ; “walk in Christ”) but not about person “being in Christ.” So it is a bit of an extrapolation to try to explain what Catholics would mean by “being in Christ.” Myself, I would simply translate the question as “Being in a state of Grace.” As Bryan has already explained that is the same as having Agape.

    Blessings

    GNW_Paul

  227. GNW_Paul (#226

    Perhaps it’s because I’m a convert from Protestantism, but my feeling is, in a way, the opposite of yours. As a Protestant I don’t think I often heard references to being in Christ – it was rather more the idea of having Christ in me that I recall. As a Catholic, it now seems to me that being in Christ is, at heart, exactly what salvation is. But I may not be either very clear or even correct on the matter :-)

    jj

  228. PS to my 227 – what I think I mean is that as a Protestant, I think I was really thinking of Christ out there – and also in me, as a kind of directing influence. Now it seems to me this is wrong. To be in Christ is rather the analogue of our being in Adam. It seems to me it is our union with Him that is our salvation.

    Again, I would like comment from someone more theologically sophisticated than I about whether I have the wrong angle on this.

    jj

  229. John and Paul–thanks for your input. I found a 21 paged paper that deals with the differences here: http://www.isi.edu/~chiang/personal/union.pdf I hope to read it soon and may get back to you.

  230. Kim (#)229) – thanks so much for this, Kim. I have printed it out and will be reading it on the ‘bus. I think this says also what I have thought – and at the end of the article, the writer says something like what Ronald Knox says about Mary: that the problem with issues between Catholics and Protestants about Mary – the saved person above all – is not that Catholics have too high a view of Mary, but that Protestants have too low a view of union with Christ.

    jj

  231. 225:

    You say you are not sure whether an imputation scheme accounts for seemingly super-human acts of love? Well, yes, it does. Because its out of understanding what imputation means, that I am able to truly run and not grow weary…see Isaiah 40. And come read and post on greenbaggins.WordPress.com. we’d love to have you over in our house. Please post this comment, yo! Peace. AB

  232. AB –

    No, its having good endurance that allows you to truly run and not grow weary. If God imputed Usain Bolt’s athletic ability onto us by an extra nos imputation, it would not allow an un-athletic person to run the 100 meter dash without growing weary. Something deeper – something better is needed.

    I do not see how Isaiah 40 supports the extra nos imputation paradigm. To me, it seems as though Isaiah is saying we need a real participation in God’s strength to not grow weary. He says it pretty clearly, actually: “He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak.”

    And no, I’m not going to post my comment over at Green Baggins because this discussion is being had here and, for simplicity’s sake and so we can follow this discussion more easily, I think its best to keep it in one place. I’d love to know your response, I just don’t want to have to follow two different websites in order to find it.

  233. Lemme get this straight: Reformed Christians insist that God imputes righteousness to us without infusing it into us? It seems pretty clear to me that He has infused some of them with agape righteousness: It’s visibly there in their goodness, in their love for one another and for the needy.

    That being the case, aren’t they in the position of either saying, “No, we’re doing that on our own, purely out of our gratitude for what Christ did for us, apart from any agape He might theoretically infuse into us,” which makes it sound like they’re saying they don’t need the assistance of God’s grace in order to love God, or else saying, “Yes, that agape-righteousness comes out of us only because God first put it into us…” which is an admission that God has infused them with agape-righteousness?

    I’m not trying to be tricky or glib here; it just seems to me that saying God doesn’t infuse righteousness is a way of saying any righteous deeds we do are not works of grace but works of the flesh; and surely they don’t mean that. Surely, of all folk, the Reformed Christians aren’t the Pelagians?

    I’m sure the misunderstanding is mine, but could someone help me clear it up?

  234. John (230) –I am going to read it today.

    Also this whole topic of imputation is something Protestants hold as essential to the gospel. I listened to a youtube from Ligonier Ministries today that was posted in June from their West Coast Conference . This 5 minute video is answering the question,” What is the Gospel?” Dr. Lawson calls the Catholic gospel a damnable gospel (around minute 3.10). He says the Catholic Gospel is a bridge that doesn’t get you to the other side and that salvation is not a reward for the righteous , but a gift for the guilty. He also speaks of the addition of human works as a corruption. He does not understand the Catholic concept of the works issuing forth from grace; nor does he differentiate natural works from supra-natural works. Protestants state, as here, that Catholics don’t believe in Christ alone or grace alone . Here is the link: http://youtu.be/vc588PMfWks

  235. Andrew (#231),

    I don’t know whether or not you are one of the moderators at GreenBaggins, but I want to offer a few thoughts about “your house”. As a Reformed Prot. questioning some of my presuppositions and examining the RCC claims, I have been reading and posting at GreenBaggins for a few weeks. There are a couple of commentors who really need to be reined in. Their responses to sincere questions/comments are at best juvenile and at worst deeply offensive. There is a line being consistently crossed and for the life of me I can’t figure out why it is tolerated. I am sure the level of conversation and the number of people from both perspectives (Reformed Prot. and RCC) willing to contribute would both elevate if the moderators did a better job.

    Burton

  236. 222:

    The way I see it, this would entail that Active Obedience is more about God “saving face” (which is an abominable thought) than about Christians having “no hope without it”.

    The fair comment, Nick, is that yes, we can no sooner bifurcate what Christ has done for us, than we can bifurcate God’s grace (as I have mentioned in comment 214).

    If you really want to know, you could say a lot more against Christian doctrine if you really wanted to. There’s many ways to tear down things that some of us find valuable in articulating a Gospel message.

    Many people do.

    But your motivation for attacking a doctrine which has helped me understood how God deals with me, and therefore, has power, within the confines of my experience, baffles me. I’ve said here, “go visit the blog of a PCA minister.” I’m not actually sure that’s wise. I see a lot more Romans 14:1-4 talk, than 1Thess5 encouragement going on, on these blogs.

    I don’t feel personally attacked. But I’ve asked before, and I will ask again – what are the motives?

    Someone today sent me an Mp3, which he says, helps explain the “bent” of the particular kind of thought promulgated here at calledtocommunion. I will be listening and reading, friends.

    We have an ex-PCA minister posting on that blog I mentioned. His actions seem loving. A little more than I am seeing around here, but that’s just me.

    It actually makes me sad.

    Peace,
    AB

    Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
    And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!
    (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)

  237. Folks,

    As the moderator of this particular thread, I’m going to ask that we stick to the topic of this post (imputation and the two paradigms), and refrain from rabbit trails about peoples’ motives, other websites, etc. Thanks.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  238. No, I’m no moderator. Just a dude. Thank you, kind Roman Catholics, for letting express myself here. Goodbye.

  239. Bryan,

    Pope Benedict XVI. said: “Luther’s phrase: ‘faith alone’ is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love.”

    Would it be in accord with Catholic teaching to say, that faith in Christ is like a (permanent) channel through which God infuses agape into the believer? What about “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22)? If one views that righteousness as a result of agape infused through or via faith, is it okay, then, to say that justification is by faith alone?

    Thanks

  240. To all:

    What Tim-Christian asked about in #239 is something I too am quite curious about. I have something that I’d like to add to this that I hope doesn’t muddy the waters.

    I was curious about the issue of Catholic ongoing justification vs. Protestant sanctification. It has been pointed out elsewhere that perhaps these are different terms for the same thing. Or perhaps, they originally were but later were realized to be fundamentally different in that the Protestant notion of sanctification had no instrumental effect on our actual salvation in the end. Then I came across this quote from a book by a couple Evangelicals discussing the differences/similarities between Catholics and Protestants:

    Amid the Protestant stress on Luther’s discovery [viz. “the just shall live by faith” and sola fide] it is sometimes forgotten that Luther also believed in a progressive sense of the word “justification.” For example, he said: “For we understand that a man who is justified is not already righteous but moving toward righteousness (WA 391, 83; LW 34, 152).” Further, “Our justification is not yet complete. . . . It is still under construction. It shall, however, be completed in the resurrection of the dead (WA 391, 252).” This sense of progressive justification is what many Protestants call “sanctification,” the process by which we are made righteous, not an act by which one is declared righteous. Toon adds, “Justification by faith is both an event and a process. What later Protestants were to divide, Luther kept together. He is quite clear that there is a moment when a sinner is actually justified by faith. He then has the righteousness of another, the alien righteousness of Christ, imputed to him.” However, “this is the beginning of a journey toward a time (following the resurrection of the dead in the age to come) when he will in fact possess a perfect righteousness created in him by the Spirit of God.” [Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 222-23. italics original, bold mine]

    So, please feel free to address this, especially in light of Tim-Christians query about the real differences that still remain between what a Catholic understands to be “faith alone” (namely, a life of faith working through love), as opposed to the more instrumental/forensic kind of faith the Protestants connect with a one-moment-in-time justification.

    Thanks, and in Christ,

    isaiah.

  241. Hello Tim-Christian, (re: #239)

    You wrote:

    Would it be in accord with Catholic teaching to say, that faith in Christ is like a (permanent) channel through which God infuses agape into the believer? What about “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22)? If one views that righteousness as a result of agape infused through or via faith, is it okay, then, to say that justification is by faith alone?

    That’s a good question. What you are asking about is the Catholic understanding of the relation of faith, agape, and justification. In his commentary on Galatians, St. Thomas says,

    but faith, not unformed, but the kind that worketh by charity: “Faith without works is dead” (Jam 2:26). For faith is a knowledge of the word of God—“That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts” (Eph 3:17)—which word is not perfectly possessed or perfectly known unless the love which it hopes for is possessed.

    And here’s the fuller context of the quotation you cited from Pope Benedict:

    Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14). (General Audience from Nov., 2008)

    Notice that he says that “Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love.”

    In some languages there are different words for different kinds of knowing: knowing about something or someone, and knowing someone personally or intimately. In the first way, something or someone can be known externally, impersonally, non-relationally, dispassionately, disengaged, known merely as information or object or data. In addition, however, we can also know someone in a relational way, directly, internally, in some form of friendship, at the level of the heart, in a union of heart. And this is a deeper, more perfect way of knowing someone than merely knowing about them. But we cannot have that personal relationship with someone without knowing about him or her, because it is impossible to love what we do not know, or to be friends with someone about whom we know nothing at all.

    In answer to the question “What is faith?,” the Baltimore Catechism answers, “Faith is the virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths God has revealed, on the word of God revealing them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.” Faith in itself is the supernatural virtue of the intellect whereby we assent to what God has revealed. Because it is supernatural, it can only be a gift from God, not like a natural virtue, say, temperance, which we can acquire through discipline. But faith by itself, without agape, is still only knowing about God. This is called “dead faith.”

    According to St. Thomas, even the demons have faith, but they despise the Object of faith (i.e. God), because there is no agape within them. So even though Christ is the Truth, and in that respect the demons have Christ in their intellects because they believe what is revealed about the Truth, yet this Truth is, as St. Thomas says above, “not perfectly possessed or perfectly known” in them, because they do not have agape within them. They know about Christ, but they do not know Christ; there is no union or bond between them and Christ at the level of the heart, through agape. For this reason, though truths about Him are present in their intellects, Christ does not dwell in their hearts. Only when agape is present does Christ dwell in our hearts, i.e. only when faith is made alive by agape.

    So when Pope Benedict says that faith “unites us to Christ” and conforms us to Christ, he is talking about living faith. Living faith joins our heart with Christ’s heart. Living faith is not only knowledge of God’s Word, but is a participation by the gift of the Spirit in the Father’s own love for His Word, and the Word’s reciprocal love for the Father.

    At the end of that General Audience, Pope Benedict says,

    Paul knows that in the twofold love of God and neighbour the whole of the Law is present and carried out. Thus in communion with Christ, in a faith that creates charity, the entire Law is fulfilled. We become just by entering into communion with Christ who is Love. We shall see the same thing in the Gospel next Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What he asks is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you give me food to eat when I was hungry, did you clothe me when I was naked? And thus justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel we can almost say: love alone, charity alone. But there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St Paul. It is the same vision, according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the fulfilment of communion with Christ. Thus, we are just by being united with him and in no other way.

    At the end, we can only pray the Lord that he help us to believe; really believe. Believing thus becomes life, unity with Christ, the transformation of our life. And thus, transformed by his love, by the love of God and neighbour, we can truly be just in God’s eyes.

    What Pope Benedict says in that General Audience as a whole is a good description of the agape paradigm. Being just simply means being with Christ, and in Christ, and the kind of “with” and “in” in view here are at the level of the heart, not just the head.

    So, regarding the first part of your question, is faith a ‘channel,’ in a sense yes. Because we cannot love what we do not know, faith is necessary in order to have agape. In this way faith is that through which and by which we are able to receive agape. In answer to the question, “Does faith have the effect of purifying the heart?” St. Thomas says:

    A thing is impure through being mixed with baser things: for silver is not called impure, when mixed with gold, which betters it, but when mixed with lead or tin. Now it is evident that the rational creature is more excellent than all transient and corporeal creatures; so that it becomes impure through subjecting itself to transient things by loving them. From this impurity the rational creature is purified by means of a contrary movement, namely, by tending to that which is above it, viz. God. The first beginning of this movement is faith: since “he that cometh to God must believe that He is,” according to Hebrews 11:6. Hence the first beginning of the heart’s purifying is faith; and if this be perfected through being quickened by charity, the heart will be perfectly purified thereby. (Summa Theologica II-II Q.7 a.2.)

    Notice that faith is the first beginning of this movement to purification, because it raises our minds to that which is above us, and away from a distorted preoccupation with that which is below us. If this movement be perfected (i.e. by the presence of agape), the heart is thereby “perfectly purified.” But the presence of agape is not entailed by faith, otherwise everyone who had faith would also have agape, and the only mortal sin would be apostasy. So faith prepares the way for agape, but it does not guarantee agape. The problem of sin is, at its root, not a head problem, but a heart problem. That’s why even believing everything God has revealed does not guarantee love for God, or guarantee the inability to commit a mortal sin.

    Regarding the second part of your question, “What about the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom 3:22)?” the “faith” referred to there is living faith, i.e. faith informed by agape. You asked, “If one views that righteousness as a result of agape infused through or via faith, is it okay, then, to say that justification is by faith alone?” If we say justification is by faith alone, and we are talking about dead faith, then the statement is false, because justification is not by “dead faith” alone. But if by “faith” we mean living faith, i.e. faith informed by agape, then yes, because living faith is the union with Christ in which our heart is (instantly) conformed to His (literally con-formed), sharing in the same form, i.e. agape, which is the righteousness of God.

    I hope that helps answer your question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  242. @Tim-Christian #239

    If one views that righteousness as a result of agape infused through or via faith, is it okay, then, to say that justification is by faith alone?

    I will add to Bryan Cross’ comment #241 by quoting some NT passages that make crystal clear that even the initial faith required to be justified and be infused sanctifying grace and agape at baptism is not merely “intellectual” faith. Let’s start with Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, right at the very beginning of Gospel preaching:

    Peter said to them, “Repent (metanoesate), and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

    Though usually translated as “repent” in English (but to “convert” in Spanish), a better rendering of “metanoesate” is “change your mind”. That the change of mind meant by the use of this word by Peter is not merely at the intellectual level is quite clear in his following speech:

    “Therefore repent (metanoesate) and turn (epistrepsate), so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19)

    and even more clear in his words to Simon the magician:

    “Therefore repent (metanoeson) of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” (Acts 8:22)

    Paul is also quite clear on the subject in his address to Agrippa and Festus:

    “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent (metanoein) and turn (epistrephein) to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance (metanoias).” (Acts 26:19-20)

    More NT passages that leave no doubt that the verb metanoeo involves a change of life and conduct can be found at:

    http://www.teknia.com/greek-dictionary/metanoeo

  243. @Isaiah #240

    In RC doctrine, justification, usually at baptism, makes a person righteous and “ontologically” holy. It is a new creation, a “birth from water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Thus justification involves an initial sanctification.

    IMV this is most easily seen in the case of a baby. At baptism, a baby is made “ontologically” holy, i.e. the Holy Spirit infuses sanctifying grace and the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity in his soul, whereby the baby is inhabited by the Holy Spirit (actually the Trinity) and made participant of divine life, of divine nature. Once the (former) baby reaches use of reason, he, through the reception of sacraments and the practice of charity, will grow in sanctification, that is in sanctifying grace and charity, in “ontological” holiness, while by the practice of charity he will also grow in “moral” holiness.

    So, commenting on the staments in your quote:

    A person who is justified is already righteous (or better yet, ontologically holy) and at the same time moving toward ever greater righteousness (or better yet, ontological holiness).

    When a person in sin (just original or original + personal) is justified by faith (which, as I said in my previous comment, is not merely intellectual), he is made righteous (and ontologically holy) exclusively by the merits of Jesus Christ. When later on the justified person practices charity (which always requires the gratuitous divine help, “actual grace”), he, in the words of Trent Session 6 Canon 32 put in positive terms, by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, truly merits an increase of sanctifying grace.

  244. Bryan,

    Thanks, that helped a lot.

    To a certain degree the differences are, I think, due to terminology. When Protestants say ‘faith’ they mean the same thing as Catholics when they say ‘faith, hope, love’.

    Would you say that the following statements are a correct description of the commonalities and differences when it comes to Justification?

    Catholics and Protestants agree that Justification is by faith alone, if it is made clear that that faith is more than mere intellectual assent and is not seen in opposition to the Sacraments.

    Catholics and Protestants agree that the sinner is not only declared righteous but also made righteous. But while Catholics would say that the infused agape-righteousness is the basis on which God declares just, Protestants would say that, even though we are inwardly sanctified and increase in agape-righteousness, we nevertheless remain imperfect in this life and are thus in need of extra nos imputation.

    Catholics and Protestants agree that Salvation is by grace alone. Yet, Catholics would say that our initial Justification enables us to cooperate with God’s grace: Works done in love are at the same time viewed as gifts of divine grace and meritorious. This is not semi-pelagian, because it’s not seen as a 50/50 in effort. God alone is the enabler, giver and rewarder, but He wants and enables our participation.

    @Johannes

    I think Protestant theology agrees that repentance is not only an intellectual rethink but involves a constant and active turning away from sin and a turning towards God and the things and deeds God loves.

  245. Tim-Christian (re: #244)

    You wrote:

    To a certain degree the differences are, I think, due to terminology. When Protestants say ‘faith’ they mean the same thing as Catholics when they say ‘faith, hope, love’.

    I agree that the differences are partly terminological, and I agree that at least some Protestants mean “faith, hope, and love” when they say ‘faith.’ But traditional Protestant theology excludes agape from the definition of the “living faith” by which we are justified, maintaining instead that agape necessarily follows living faith, but is not a constituent of living faith. As an example, in response to Pope Benedict’s statement, “For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love,” R. Scott Clark, professor of Church History & Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary wrote the following:

    That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg. Why? After all, Protestants affirm that faith alone is not opposed to charity (love) or sanctification. That’s certainly true, but the question here is whether [...] Benedict means by “faith” what we mean by it and whether we’re talking about the same justification and the same role of faith? For us Protestants, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification. Is it so for Benedict? If so, he’s abandoned his own catechism and magisterial Roman dogma since 1547. That would be remarkable indeed!

    [This was originally on his blog titled the Heidelblog, which blog is now deleted; but you can find the article here]

    In my initial response to Clark, I wrote:

    When Calvin claims that “faith alone first engenders love in us”, there is a certain *qualified* sense in which a Catholic can agree, because faith precedes charity in the order of generation. But the question is whether faith without charity simultaneously co-present, is living, and thus justifying, faith. In his article, Clark cites Calvin’s commentary on Galatians, where Calvin writes: “When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle.” (Commentary on Galatians 5.6, 1548). By “the exclusive particle” Calvin means the term ‘alone’, as in “faith alone”. So we see here Calvin at least implicitly denying that charity is necessarily simultaneously co-present with justifying faith.

    In that move right there, Calvin separated himself from St. Augustine and the patristic tradition regarding what makes faith living.

    You wrote:

    Would you say that the following statements are a correct description of the commonalities and differences when it comes to Justification?

    Catholics and Protestants agree that Justification is by faith alone, if it is made clear that that faith is more than mere intellectual assent and is not seen in opposition to the Sacraments.

    The agreement in that statement is based on open-ended qualifications (i.e. “more than” and “not seen in opposition to”), which is agreement by way of putting on blurry glasses. So, I don’t think this is helpful wording.

    Catholics and Protestants agree that the sinner is not only declared righteous but also made righteous.

    Let’s make the ‘when’ specific. In Catholic doctrine this “made righteous” takes place at the moment of justification, through baptism. In Protestant doctrine, this takes place at the moment after death.

    But while Catholics would say that the infused agape-righteousness is the basis on which God declares just, Protestants would say that, even though we are inwardly sanctified and increase in agape-righteousness, we nevertheless remain imperfect in this life and are thus in need of extra nos imputation.

    Correct.

    Catholics and Protestants agree that Salvation is by grace alone.

    If by “grace alone” monergism is implied, then neither side believes in salvation by “grace alone.” But if by “grace alone” one means that salvation is all by grace, such that our cooperation is initiated by grace and is a participation in grace, then Catholics and Protestants could agree that salvation is by grace alone in that sense.

    Yet, Catholics would say that our initial Justification enables us to cooperate with God’s grace: Works done in love are at the same time viewed as gifts of divine grace and meritorious. This is not semi-pelagian, because it’s not seen as a 50/50 in effort. God alone is the enabler, giver and rewarder, but He wants and enables our participation.

    That’s quite accurate. We can cooperate with actual grace even prior to justification, but only our cooperation while in a state of grace (i.e. while justified) is meritorious, because only then is it done out of agape.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  246. Jerome’s Commentary on Galatians 3:6 may be relevant here and interesting to some.

    Now “Abraham believed God” by leaving his homeland to go to a land he did not know; by trusting that Sarah, who was ninety years old and sterile, would give birth; and by offering Isaac as a sacrifice, after he had heard God’s promise that in Isaac his seed would be called, and yet without doubting the Lord’s promise. To such a man faith is rightly reputed for justice because, having gone beyond the works of the law, he earned God’s approval (Deum promeruit), not from fear but from love.

  247. Bryan,

    #241

    In Catholic theology, can one attribute anything d i r e c t l y to (love-informed) faith, i.e. the act of faith, the actual trusting and believing? Like in Rom 3:25 when Paul speaks about “propitiation by his blood, to be r e c e i v e d by faith”? Sometimes it gives the impression that Catholics merely view faith as the beginning of justification (Trent) and a “mere” prerequisite? “Hence the first beginning of the heart’s purifying is faith.” (St. Thomas) Yet, isn’t it more than the first beginning? “… and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9) “… that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18) Could one say that love-informed faith upholds the status of being cleansed/sanctified?

    #245

    I think, Calvin (and Clark) — even though they seperate love and faith — have in mind a kind of justifying faith that is different from mere knowledge or intellectual assent, namely a trusting faith (fiducia), a faith that trusts in God and his promises (unlike the demons do). But I agree that it would have been better to maintain the ‘fides caritate formata’-formula in the first place, especially in light of 1 Cor 13:2.

  248. Tim-Christian (#244)

    Catholics and Protestants agree that Justification is by faith alone, if it is made clear that that faith is more than mere intellectual assent and is not seen in opposition to the Sacraments.

    One book that helped me become a Catholic was Louis Bouyer’s The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism . This is, in a way, about his own conversion (he was a Lutheran). He defends the formula ‘faith alone’ if understood in this way. It is a superb book, talks also about sola Scriptura and about the sovereignty of God in Protestantism and Catholicism. I recommend it.

    jj

  249. Tim-Christian (re: #247)

    You wrote:

    In Catholic theology, can one attribute anything d i r e c t l y to (love-informed) faith, i.e. the act of faith, the actual trusting and believing?

    For the sake of clarification, an act of faith is not the same as the virtue of faith, because an act and a virtue are not the same. An act of faith comes by hearing, and then the virtue of faith comes by baptism.

    Like in Rom 3:25 when Paul speaks about “propitiation by his blood, to be r e c e i v e d by faith”?

    This may well be referring to the act of faith preceding justification but leading to it, as in the first paragraph of the chapter 6 of the Sixth Session of Trent, which reads:

    Now, they [the adults] are disposed to that justice when, aroused and aided by divine grace, receiving faith by hearing,[21] they are moved freely toward God, believing to be true what has been divinely revealed and promised, especially that the sinner is justified by God by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;[22] and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves from the fear of divine justice, by which they are salutarily aroused, to consider the mercy of God, are raised to hope, trusting that God will be propitious to them for Christ’s sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice, and on that account are moved against sin by a certain hatred and detestation, that is, by that repentance that must be performed before baptism;[23] finally, when they resolve to receive baptism, to begin a new life and to keep the commandments of God.

    Next you wrote:

    Sometimes it gives the impression that Catholics merely view faith as the beginning of justification (Trent) and a “mere” prerequisite? “Hence the first beginning of the heart’s purifying is faith.” (St. Thomas) Yet, isn’t it more than the first beginning? “… and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9) “… that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18) Could one say that love-informed faith upholds the status of being cleansed/sanctified?

    Again, we have to distinguish the virtue of faith on the one hand, from living faith on the other hand. The singular virtue of faith is the beginning of justification, in the way I have explained in the preceding couple comments. But the singular virtue of faith does not itself justify. By itself, it is dead faith. So likewise, the act of faith does not itself justify, without the virtues of faith and agape. So it is not as though living faith upholds a cleansing already effected by the singular virtue of faith or by an act of faith without the virtues of faith and agape. The purification of the heart is by living faith, i.e. faith informed by agape.

    I think, Calvin (and Clark) — even though they seperate love and faith — have in mind a kind of justifying faith that is different from mere knowledge or intellectual assent, namely a trusting faith (fiducia), a faith that trusts in God and his promises (unlike the demons do).

    I completely agree. It treats living faith as faith informed by hope, rather than as faith informed by agape.

    But I agree that it would have been better to maintain the ‘fides caritate formata’-formula in the first place, especially in light of 1 Cor 13:2.

    Right, I agree here too.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  250. Hello all,
    I wanted to address some points while I’ve got a short break in my Fall schedule for Labor’s Day.

    Post 246.
    Hello Craig,

    Jerome is applying the common patristic usage of the term “imputed for righteousness”/”reputed for justice” in this passage–namely in a manner that encompasses the real though imperfect internal righteousness or “sanctification” of the believer in this life.

    Post 45 of this thread and the posts in the St. Irenaeus and Justification thread further address the different usage of terms like “justified” (see especially the quote and link to the ARCIC joint Roman Catholic/Anglican statement on this issue in those posts).

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

  251. In response to a conclusion made by Tim-Christian about Calvin and Clark’s view of justifying faith (see #247), Bryan stated:

    I completely agree. It treats living faith as faith informed by hope, rather than as faith informed by agape.

    Well, unsurprisingly, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger would wholeheartedly agree. In recent research I discovered a book by the once Cardinal, now Pope, called Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology. In a chapter called “Luther and the Unity of the Churches,” Ratzinger answers the question “Are there still any serious, divisive differences between the Catholic Church and the Reformed churches, and, if so, what are they?” Here is a portion of the answer that he gives:

    [Luther concluded that] faith assures, above all, the certainty of one’s own salvation. The personal certainty of redemption became the decisive center of Luther’s ideas. Without it, there would be no salvation. Thus, the importance of the three divine virtues, faith, hope, and love, to a formula for Christian life underwent a significant change: the certainty of hope and the certainty of faith, though hitherto essentially different, became identical. To the Catholic, the certainty of faith refers to that which God has wrought, to which the Church witnesses. The certainty of hope refers to the salvation of individuals and, among them, of oneself. Yet, to Luther, the latter represented the crux without which nothing else really mattered. That is why love, which lies at the center of the Catholic faith, is dropped from the concept of faith; Luther goes so far as to formulate this polemically in his large commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: maledicta sit caritas, down with love! Luther’s insistence on “by faith alone” clearly and exactly excludes love from the question of salvation. Love belongs to the realm of “works” and, thus, becomes “profane”. [p. 111, bold text mine]

    I found this helpful in understanding where the Protestant notion of “fiducial faith” came from – it is essentially the Christian virtue of hope with a different name (though, that conclusion might be a bit simplistic)!

    In that vein, I’m curious if it could be said by a Calvinist that, along with the right kind of faith (i.e. fiducial, or trust-faith), one can only be saved by correctly believing and trusting that God will save you by the extra nos imputed righteousness of Christ, and that by believing otherwise (namely, by believing that our righteousness, even if by Christ’s merit and God’s grace, has some kind of outcome on our justification and salvation), will forfeit a person’s “free ticket” into heaven?

    In Christ’s love,

    isaiah.

  252. William,
    (re: 250)
    I’m not quite sure what to make of your comment regarding Jerome, but I think Jerome’s point is that caritas is what pleases God. As for the distinction between justification and sanctification, if you are applying that distinction in Reformation terms then I think it should be pointed out that Jerome also held the patristic view which saw sanctification as an aspect of justification such that justification was not a one-time only event. In other words, Jerome made clear his belief that sin could destroy faith as well as the grace of Christ. But this point may be straying too far from the main topic under discussion.

  253. Isaiah (#251),

    the following John Owen quote comes to mind:

    “Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed.”

  254. In the following talk (source), Fr. Barron describes the Catholic way of understanding the relation of law and grace.

    Fr. Barron “The Dilemma of the Law”

    Notice how it relates to St. Augustine’s understanding of the relation of law and grace, and the two paradigms described above.

  255. Hello Craig, I agree that the terms “justified” and “sanctified” are typically used in a different sense by the Church fathers than they were by the Reformed (see post 45).

    Despite different terminology the Church Fathers and Reformers (and most importantly–Scripture) all affirm:
    1. An “absolute” righteousness and 2. A “relative” righteousness.

    Breaking it down a little more for “1.”
    1. “Absolute” righteousness or fulfillment of the Law (i.e. immaculate agape/sinlessness) is the perfect reflection of God’s Nature. It is what Christ had (as the Law of God made flesh) and what we will have in the life to come. In this strict or absolute application of God’s Law we will always stand condemned as St. Augustine notes (commenting on Psalm 143:2):

    Judge me not according to Yourself, who art without sin; for in Your sight shall no man living be justified. This without doubt is understood as spoken of the present life, while the predicate shall not be justified has reference to that perfect state of righteousness which belongs not to this life.[Man’s Perfection in Righteousness Chp 17] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1504.htm
    Enter not then into judgment with me, O Lord my God. How straight soever I seem to myself, You bring forth a standard from Your store-house, Thou fittest me to it, and I am found crooked.[Homily on Psalm 143] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801143.htm

    In this life we can only have absolute righteousness or fulfillment of the Law “extrinsically” through the remission of sins/covering of Christ’s Righteous Blood. By this we are seen as perfectly righteous or sinless in God’s eyes (as St. Bernard notes–see post 202) despite our continual inward imperfection. St. Augustine describes this blessed “legal fiction” wherein God reckons that we have perfectly kept all the commandments though contrary to “reality”:

    …Likewise, when I was explaining the passage: “Not one jot and one tittle shall pass from the law till all things be accomplished,” I said that nothing else can be understood except a strong expression of perfection. With regard to this, one may justly ask whether this perfection can be so understood that it is true, however, that no one who now has free choice of will lives here without sin. For by whom can the law be fulfilled up to one tittle except by a man who observes all the commandments of God? But among these very commandments is, in truth, one which we are ordered to say: “Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors,” a prayer the entire Church will say until the end of the world. Therefore, all the commandments are considered fulfilled when whatever is not fulfilled is forgiven.[Retractions Book 1, 19:3]

    http://books.google.com/books?id=DikZ4GEmgUIC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=forgiven&f=false

    Righteousness in this “absolute” sense especially corresponds with the continuing 1st use of the Law in Reformed/2nd Use of the Law for Lutherans and the “List Paradigm” described by Bryan.

    2. “Relative” righteousness or fulfillment of the Law (i.e. non-immaculate agape) is what all believers with a saving faith have. Typically this is called “justification” by the Church fathers (e.g. Jerome) while it is called “sanctification” in Reformation lingo. This corresponds more with the 3rd Use of the Law by Reformed and Lutherans and the “Agape Paradigm” described by Bryan.

    You said:

    Jerome also held the patristic view which saw sanctification as an aspect of justification such that justification was not a one-time only event. In other words, Jerome made clear his belief that sin could destroy faith as well as the grace of Christ.

    Mortal sin and the subsequent loss of Salvation (and Baptismal regeneration) was affirmed by leading English and Lutheran reformers (including Luther himself–although he affirmed the concept without using the typical mortal/venial sin terminology).
    See post 199, 200 above and post 7 of the Calvin on Mortal and Venial Sin Thread http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/why-john-calvin-did-not-recognize-the-distinction-between-mortal-and-venial-sin/

    God Bless,
    W.A. Scott

  256. William, (re: #255)

    Regarding the first two quotations you cite from St. Augustine, as I explained in comment #58 above, St. Augustine is referring there to venial sin. But that does not mean that he is affirming any sort of extra nos imputed righteousness. Nor for St. Augustine does the righteousness of the believer during this present life consist only in the forgiveness of sins. See “St. Augustine on Law and Grace” in which I showed that for St. Augustine, we are made righteous by the infusion of agape. That is the essence of righteousness. The imperfections that remain in the will during this present life, so long as we avoid mortal sin, are venial sins, not because God overlooks them, or because some alien righteousness is extra nos imputed to us, but because they are imperfections in the expression of agape, not rejections of agape, as I explained in “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Moral and Venial Sin.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  257. Hello Bryan

    Regarding the first two quotations you cite from St. Augustine, as I explained in comment #58 above, St. Augustine is referring there to venial sin

    I agree.

    Nor for St. Augustine does the righteousness of the believer during this present life consist only in the forgiveness of sins. See “St. Augustine on Law and Grace” in which I showed that for St. Augustine, we are made righteous by the infusion of agape. That is the essence of righteousness.

    I agree. As I noted before St. Augustine shows (and the reformers agree) in this life the believer has fulfillment of the Law/righteousness in the “relative” sense (non-immaculate agape) by infusion and in the “absolute” sense by remission of sins (so that the Law according to St. Augustine is reckoned as perfectly kept when it’s not in actuality).

    The imperfections that remain in the will during this present life, so long as we avoid mortal sin, are venial sins, not because God overlooks them, or because some alien righteousness is extra nos imputed to us, but because they are imperfections in the expression of agape, not rejections of agape, as I explained in “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Moral and Venial Sin.”

    St. Augustine called this venial sin that all believers have “sin proper” (see the quote from Ch 21 of Man’s Perfection in Righteousness on post 200). While venial sin, unlike mortal sin, doesn’t extinguish agape (and therefore doesn’t kill a living faith and bring loss of Salvation) St. Augustine affirms that it is a true violation of the Immaculate Agape of God’s Law and Nature. This is why St. Augustine shows (in the quotes in post 255) that intrinsically in this life we will always stand condemned rather than justified according to the perfect “standard from Your store-house.”

    Again, this condemnation according to the standard of God’s “absolute” righteousness is resolved by St. Augustine in the “extrinsic” fulfillment of the Law/righteousness that the believer has imputed to him in the remission of sins (as noted in the quote from his Retractions in post 255).

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

  258. Hello William (re: 255)

    First, one minor corrective note, the quote you gave is from Retractions, book 1, chapter 18.3 (rather than 19,3).

    Anyhow, I don’t agree with your assessment of the quote you provided from Retractions and here’s why. The divine accounting of the man having perfectly fulfilled the law is based precisely on what Bryan Cross has been arguing – the presence of agape/caritas which fulfills the law (Romans 13:8-10). Since the law has been perfectly fulfilled by agape/caritas, rather than by perfectly keeping the law, there is no legal fiction and nor is there a list paradigm. Although I admit that it does indeed seem as though Augustine has embraced a list paradigm when he said in that quote:

    “For by whom can the law be fulfilled up to one tittle except by a man who observes all the commandments of God?”

    his other works make it clear that a mere keeping of the list cannot have any salutary value, that is unless the person has the divine gift of agape/caritas infused in him.

    Alister McGrath nicely explains Augustine’s view on this matter.

    The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us in justification. The appropriation of the divine love to the person of the Holy Spirit may be regarded as one of the most profound aspects of Augustine’s doctrine of the Trinity. Amare Deum, Dei donum est [Serm. 297, 1]. The Holy Spirit enables man to be inflamed with the love of God and he love of his neighbor – indeed, the Holy Spirit is love [de Trin. XV, xvii, 31]. A man who has faith and not love – and this is perfectly possible, given Augustine’s strongly intellectualist concept of faith – is nothing. Faith can exist without love, but is of no value in the sight of God [de Trin. XV, xviii, 32]. God’s other gifts, such as faith and hope, cannot bring us to God unless they are accompanied or preceded by love. The motif of amor Dei dominates Augustine’s theology of justification, just as that of sola fide would dominate that of his later interpreters. Faith without love is of no value. So how does Augustine understand those passages in the Pauline corpus which speak of justification by faith (e.g., Romans 5.I)? This question brings us to the classic Augustinian concept of ‘faith working through love’, fides quae per dilectionem operatur, which would dominate western Christian thinking on the nature of justifying faith for the next thousand years. The process by which Augustine arrives at this understanding of the nature of justifying faith illustrates his desire to do justice to the total biblical view on the matter, rather than a few isolated Pauline gobbets. In de Trinitate, Augustine considers the difficulties arising from I Corinthians 13.1-3 [de Trin. XV, xviii, 32], which stipulate that faith without love is useless. He therefore draws a distinction between a purely intellectual faith (such as that ‘by which even the devils believe and tremble’ (James 2.19)) and true justifying faith, by arguing that the latter is faith accompanied by love. Augustine finds this concept conveniently expressed within the Pauline corpus at Galatians 5.65: ‘In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith that works through love.’ Although this is open to a Pelagian interpretation, this is excluded by Augustine’s insistence that both the faith and love in question are gifts of God to man rather than man’s natural faculties. Augustine tends to understand faith primarily as an adherence to the Word of God, which inevitably introduces a strongly intellectualist element into his concept of faith, thus necessitating its supplementation with caritas or dilectio if it is to justify man. Faith alone is merely assent to revealed truth, itself adequate to justify. It is for this reason that it is unacceptable to summarize Augustine’s doctrine of justification as sola fide iustificamur – if any such summary is acceptable, it is sola caritate iustificamur. For Augustine, it is love, rather than faith, which is the power which brings about the conversion of man. Just as cupiditas is the root of all evil, so caritas is the root of all good. Man’s justification, is brought about by love, and not by faith.
    (Iustitia Dei; A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, Second Edition, pp. 29-30)

    I think it’s well known that Augustine believed that man is actually made ontologically righteous rather than merely being seen as legally righteous irrespective of his actual ontological condition. So the question becomes how could that be for Augustine if the man has not perfectly kept the law (Retractions 1.18.3), and did so with caritas? The answer is found in Romans 13:8-10 in that caritas fulfills the law. So when Jerome said that Abraham “earned God’s approval (Deum promeruit), not from fear but from love” it’s the caritas at work which pleased God as opposed to the keeping of a list. I think this explains why both Jerome and Augustine did not hold to the list paradigm even if at times one or the other may have used language which at first glance may have appeared to suggest that they did. I think Jerome provides further confirmation of this view in his commentary on Galatians 5:6.

    Thus both the faith which is reputed to Abraham as justice is proven, and every work of faith in love is placed on those who hang by love from the whole law and the prophets. For indeed, the Savior claims that the law and the prophets “consist” in these two commands: “You shall love your God and you shall love your neighbor.” And Paul says in another passage, “for ‘you shall not commit adultery,’…and if there is any other commandment, it is summarized in these words: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” So, if every commandment is summarized in what is said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” but “faith working through love” has more value, then it is manifest that the working of faith through love contains the fulfillment of all the commands. But just as, according to the apostle James, faith without works is dead, so without faith, works are reckoned as dead, even though they may be good. Consequently, do those who do not believe in Christ and who are of good character have anything more than virtuous works? That prostitute from the gospel may offer an example of “faith that works through love.” When the Lord was reclining in the house of the Pharisee, she washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and soothed them with ointment. When the Pharisee murmured about this, the Lord set forth the parable of the debtor of fifty and five hundred denarii and added, “Therefore I tell you, her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much.” And turning to the woman herself he said, “Your faith has saved you: Go in peace.” For it is openly shown in this passage that this woman had “faith working through love,” which “had” much “value in Christ.”
    (St. Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus, and Philemon, translated by Thomas P. Scheck, pp. 203-204)

    Jerome provides the following commentary on Galatians 5:13-14.

    Fasting feels like an injury to the body; vigils wear down the flesh; almsgiving is sought by effort; blood is not shed in martyrdom without fear and grief, even though one’s faith may be fervent. There are those who do all these things; love alone is without effort, and, since it alone makes the heart clean, the devil attacks it within us, in order to prevent us from seeing God with a pure mind.
    (ibid, pp. 225-226)

    I think these commentaries from Jerome show that he believed along with Augustine that caritas fulfills the law and thus has salutary merit. For Jerome, good works performed without caritas have natural virtue, but not super-natural merit. So, it seems that for Jerome, a person could theoretically perfectly fulfill the list paradigm and still not have any super-natural righteousness. If so, then the list paradigm seems to be an erroneous concept. I think this is precisely what Bryan has been arguing for.

  259. Hello Craig,

    You said:

    The divine accounting of the man having perfectly fulfilled the law is based precisely on what Bryan Cross has been arguing – the presence of agape/caritas which fulfills the law (Romans 13:8-10). Since the law has been perfectly fulfilled by agape/caritas, rather than by perfectly keeping the law, there is no legal fiction and nor is there a list paradigm.

    According to the Scriptures and Church Fathers only immaculate agape perfectly fulfills the Law. The non-immaculate agape of believers fulfills the Law in a “relative” sense but not perfectly. Otherwise, the statement of Psalm 143:2 and St. Augustine that the believer (despite infused agape) stands condemned according to God’s Perfect Standard would make no sense.

    Although I admit that it does indeed seem as though Augustine has embraced a list paradigm when he said in that quote:“For by whom can the law be fulfilled up to one tittle except by a man who observes all the commandments of God?”
    his other works make it clear that a mere keeping of the list cannot have any salutary value, that is unless the person has the divine gift of agape/caritas infused in him.

    I agree. Without the infusion of agape we can have no fulfillment of the Law. This was the position not only of St. Augustine but also the reformers (all of whom affirmed that through the infusion of God’s grace we have a non-immaculate agape that fufills the Law in a “relative”/imperfect sense) .

    The point St. Augustine makes in the Retractions is that the perfect keeping of God’s Law (which is only done through immaculate agape) is accomplished “extrinsically” and not “intrinsically.” That is, the “legal fiction” of God reckoning through the remission of sins that we’ve perfectly fulfilled the Law of Immaculate Love when we haven’t.

    As for the quote from Alistair McGrath–it reflects different uses of the term “Justification” by the Church Fathers and the Reformers as I noted in post 255. When the term “justified” is used in a broader sense (as typically done by the Church Fathers) which encompasses both the extrinsic (remission of sins) and intrinsic (infusion of agape) aspects of Salvation everyone would agree that love “justifies” (i.e. in Reformation terminology it “sanctifies” or makes holy/internally righteous). See posts 7 and 23 of the the Irenaeus and Justification thread: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/

    You said:

    So the question becomes how could that be for Augustine if the man has not perfectly kept the law (Retractions 1.18.3), and did so with caritas? The answer is found in Romans 13:8-10 in that caritas fulfills the law.

    Actually, St. Augustine says that no one in this life has the immaculate agape that perfectly fulfills the Law:

    Therefore the first commandment about righteousness, which bids us love the Lord with all our heart, and soul, and mind Matthew 22:37 (the next to which is, that we love our neighbour as ourselves), we shall completely fulfill in that life when we shall see face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12 But even now this commandment is enjoined upon us, that we may be reminded what we ought by faith to require, and what we should in our hope look forward to, and, “forgetting the things which are behind, reach forth to the things which are before.” Philippians 3:13 And thus, as it appears to me, that man has made a far advance, even in the present life, in the righteousness which is to be perfected hereafter, who has discovered by this very advance how very far removed he is from the completion of righteousness.(Ch 64 On the Spirit and the Letter)
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1502.htm

    And hence St. Augustine says our righteousness consists in “extrinsic” righteousness and not merely imperfect “intrinsic” righteousness:
    “Our very righteousness, too, though true in so far as it has respect to the true good, is yet in this life of such a kind that it consists rather in the remission of sins than in the perfecting of virtues.”[Book 22 Chp 27 City of God] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120119.htm

    The quotes from Jerome reflect the same truths expressed by St. Augustine (i.e. 1. “absolute” righteousness/fulfillment of the Law (immaculate agape) for which intrinsic righteousness is insufficient and 2. “relative” righteousness/fulfillment (non-immaculate agape) which we have intrinsically through infusion).

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

  260. Further thoughts regarding the Alistair quote. I did not read the quote as carefully as I ought when I wrote my last post. The focus of the quote is on the nature of a justifying faith rather than on the definition of justification. The reformers certainly agreed with St. Augustine that only those with a faith “that works by love” partake in extrinsic (remission of sins) and intrinsic (infusion) righteousness. Likewise, they affirmed with St. Augustine that faith without love is dead and does not justify (this is especially true in the case of those leading reformers who affirmed the concept of mortal/venial states of sin).

  261. Craig (258),

    Was this part of McGrath’s quote a correct quotation:

    Faith alone is merely assent to revealed truth, itself adequate to justify.

    Did he actually say “adequate to justify”?

  262. William, (re: #259)

    You wrote:

    According to the Scriptures and Church Fathers only immaculate agape perfectly fulfills the Law. The non-immaculate agape of believers fulfills the Law in a “relative” sense but not perfectly.

    In Scripture and the Church Fathers, agape is immaculate. There are not two different species of agape: immaculate agape and “non-immaculate” agape. Venial sin is not having some lesser species of agape. Rather, it is a failure on our part to express perfectly the agape we already have. You are positing two types of agape because you’re misunderstanding the basis for the distinction between mortal and venial sin.

    Otherwise, the statement of Psalm 143:2 and St. Augustine that the believer (despite infused agape) stands condemned according to God’s Perfect Standard would make no sense.

    Except neither the Psalmist nor St. Augustine say that the believer stands condemned. The meaning of “for in thy sight no man living shall be justified,” according to St. Augustine, is not that no one has the righteousness of Christ, for in the previous paragraph he says, “For it is a commendation of grace, that none of us think his righteousness his own. For this is the righteousness of God, which God has given you to possess.” Rather, the meaning is that before the eyes of God, there is no one who is without at least venial sin. No one can stand before God and say that he is without sin.

    The point St. Augustine makes in the Retractions is that the perfect keeping of God’s Law (which is only done through immaculate agape) is accomplished “extrinsically” and not “intrinsically.” That is, the “legal fiction” of God reckoning through the remission of sins that we’ve perfectly fulfilled the Law of Immaculate Love when we haven’t.

    St. Augustine does not say anything about an “extrinsic” fulfillment of God’s law. That’s something you are imposing on what he said, by taking one line out of the larger context of his theology. Again, this goes back to the basis for the distinction between mortal and venial sin. If perfect law-keeping is the standard, then, asks St. Augustine, how can it be true that no one having free will lives here without sin, for in that case [goes the unspoken conclusion] no one could be saved. The prayer “forgive us our debts” is for venial sins, as he explains elsewhere. So he is not saying that so long as we say the words “forgive us our debts,” then even if we are committing mortal sins, “all the commands are considered fulfilled.” Nor is he saying that our righteousness consists in being forgiven. Rather, he is saying that so long as we are in a state of grace, and retain agape, we are fulfilling the law according to the telos of the law, which is why even the jot and tittle of the commandments are considered fulfilled when our venial sins are pardoned, not because of some extra nos imputed righteousness, but because agape is the telos of the law as explained in the article above, and the subsequent comments.

    And hence St. Augustine says our righteousness consists in “extrinsic” righteousness and not merely imperfect “intrinsic” righteousness:

    “Our very righteousness, too, though true in so far as it has respect to the true good, is yet in this life of such a kind that it consists rather in the remission of sins than in the perfecting of virtues.”[Book 22 Chp 27 City of God]

    Again, you’re taking one line out of the larger context of St. Augustine’s theology. St. Augustine is not saying that our righteousness consists merely in being forgiven. He means that concupiscence and vices (i.e. tendencies or dispositions toward sin) remain in this present life. So even though we have agape as a gift of grace, and therefore have the very essence of righteousness, yet not until the age to come will the other powers of the soul fully conform to that agape, and will we never fail to express perfectly the agape within us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  263. Darryl Hart, Adjunct Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California, has written a critical reply to this article; his reply is titled “The Sin Paradigm.” There he writes:

    What I find hard to fathom is the plausibility of the so-called agape paradigm if human sinfulness really is as profound as Christianity and Judaism have taught. If human beings really are dead in trespasses and sins, as Paul describes them in Ephesians 2, the agape paradigm doesn’t make a lot of sense. We might cooperate with grace all we want, we might do works that show a genuine faith, but what if we still have a sinful nature? This was part of the doubt that haunted Luther.

    Hart claims that “if human beings really are dead in trespasses and sins, as Paul describes them in Ephesians 2, the agape paradigm doesn’t make a lot of sense.” However, he doesn’t explain how the apodosis of that conditional follows from the protasis.

    He seems to think that “having a sin nature” is somehow problematic for the agape paradigm, but he doesn’t explain how or why.

    Then he goes through some comparisons of selections from the Baltimore Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism. He claims that “Rome’s own teaching on the fall would suggest the implausibility of the agape paradigm.” However, he never shows how anything from the Baltimore Catechism is incompatible with or contrary to the agape paradigm.

    After the quotations from the respective catechisms, Hart writes:

    This may seem fairly elementary to anyone who knows the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants. But the extent and depth of sin seems to be a category not sufficiently considered in the ongoing debates about how we become right with God, whether by faith alone or by a faith that has within it charity of love which will produce good works and will unite us with God.

    Here his criticism is a kind of ad hominem, namely, that we haven’t sufficiently considered something. He doesn’t show how anything we have said is untrue or contrary to the Baltimore Catechism, to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or to Scripture.

    Hart concludes:

    Those wonder-working aspects of the agape paradigm do not address the real problem of sinfulness and God’s just demand for a perfect righteousness. We may love till we’re blue in the face, but given our sinfulness and the ongoing sin in believers’ lives, how do we know if we have really loved enough? Maybe the agape paradigm is right. If it is, we’re all toast.

    I addressed that objection in comment #221 above.

  264. Kim (re: 261) and William (re: 259 & 260)

    Yes, that’s exactly what the original book has. I scanned not only the page that has the line in question but a few others as well which I think are interesting and relevant to this discussion. The line that you asked about is about 10 to 15 lines from the bottom of page 30 and accompanied with footnote 55. You can view the scan here.
    If you look on pages 31 through 32 you’ll see the following:

    Man’s righteousness, effected in justification, is regarded by Augustine as inherent rather than imputed, to use the vocabulary of the sixteenth century. A concept of ‘imputed righteousness’, in the later Protestant sense of the term, would be quite redundant within Augustine’s doctrine of justification, in that man is made righteous in justification. The righteousness which man thus receives, although originating from God, is nevertheless located within man, and can be said to be his, part of his being and intrinsic to his person. An element which underlies this understanding of the nature of justifying righteousness is the Greek concept of deification, which makes its appearance in the later Augustinian soteriology. By charity, the Trinity itself comes to inhabit the soul of the justified sinner, although it is not clear whether Augustine can be said to envisage a ‘state of grace’ in the strict sense of the term – i.e., a habit of grace, created within the human soul. It is certainly true that Augustine speaks of the real interior renewal of the sinner by the action of the Holy Spirit, which the later expressed in terms of participation in the divine substance itself…God has given man the power both to receive and participate in the divine being. By this participation in the life of the Trinity, the justified sinner may be said to be deified. Augustine’s understanding of adoptive filiation is such that the believer does not merely receive the status of sonhood, but becomes a son of God. A real change in man’s being, and not merely his status, is envisaged in his justification, so that he becomes righteous and a son of God, and is not merely treated as if he were righteous and a son of God.

    Now it’s one thing argue whether or not McGrath has correctly understood Augustine, but I cannot understand how the Lutheran conception of an extra nos righteousness which always remains extra nos and thus alien to the justified man can be reconciled with McGrath’s analysis of Augustine. In other words, I can’t image Augustine accepting Luther’s famous snow-covered dunghill analogy. If for Augustine, justification is an interior renewal which includes a participation in the life of God Himself, how can this participation of divine life which is infused into the very being of man from the beginning of justification be reconciled with an interior state of a dunghill? Frankly, it makes me shudder to even draw this comparison.

    McGrath goes on to address, I think, the very claims made by William. (I apologize for not directly addressing you, William, but to do so seems awkward to me since I originally addressed this comment to both Kim and you. Hopefully the moderators will cut me some slack here.)

    For Augustine, justification includes both the beginnings of man’s righteousness before God and its subsequent perfection, the event and the process, so that what later became the Reformation concept of ‘sanctification’ is effectively subsumed under the aegis of justification. Although Augustine is occasionally represented, on the basis of isolated passages, as understanding justification to comprise merely the remission of sins, it is clear that he also understands it to include the ethical and spiritual renewal of the sinner through the internal operation of the Holy Spirit. Justification, according to Augustine, is fundamentally concerned with ‘being made righteous’.

    I guess the question can be asked, William, is whether or not you agree with McGrath on this particular issue?

  265. Prof. Hart may think that the Protestant paradigm of “Justification by faith alone” is all it takes but St. Paul answered that in 1Cor. 13 :

    [What if I could speak all languages of humansand of angels? If I did not love others,I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
    2 What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith
    that moved mountains? I would be nothing,unless I loved others. 3 What if I gave away all that I owned
    and let myself be burned. I would gain nothing unless I loved others....... For now there is faith, hope and love. But of these three the greatest is love.]

    Without love there is no forgiveness of sins. Without love there is no Justification. Without love all would be lost. God is love. We must also be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect in love. We cannot pretend. It must be through Agape (love) if we are to win the crown.

    Blessings
    NHU

  266. NHU,

    Love is an evidence (Gal. 5:22), never the ground of justification.

    Without love there is no Justification. Amen! And w/o justification (w/ regeneration, the whole package) there is no true, Spirit-given love.

    God is love. We must also be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect in love. We cannot pretend. It must be through Agape (love) if we are to win the crown.

    NOW we’re getting somewhere. NHU, does your deity grade on a curve? Are ‘attempts’ @ love sufficient?

    Search the Scriptures you quote so well – the Sermon on the Mount especially speaks not of partial love, righteousness, or forgiveness, but perfection as our heavenly Father is perfect.

    You call God your Father by virtue of your being in the right church, but his Son threatens to disown you if you do not perfectly forgive, love, be as righteous as He is righteous.

    We Bible Prots find grace through faith (alone).

    You find it through…
    the BVM’s intercession?
    sacraments?
    priestly absolution?
    Do these really salve your conscience?!

    Yours,
    Hugh

  267. Hugh McCann

    re: 266 : All attempts at love are sufficient. Sin is a lack of love on our part. If we sin we do not love. But in Christ through the Holy Spirit all of our small attempts at love are magnified. Yes we falter and sometimes fall, but we get up and continue to strive for perfection. Forgiveness of sins is ours for the asking. The Creed and the Church says “ I believe in the forgiveness of sins” and so I believe.

    Our Deity grades neither one of us on a curve. He grades us on the love in our hearts. We were put on this earth to learn how to love. Jesus came to teach us how to do that. If I am in Christ, then He is in me. It is Christ working within me that loves. Perfection comes as the Holy Spirit moves us. The more we strive for the prize the more perfect we become. This is not to say that our perfection is a matter of our own works but is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

    I call God my Father by virtue of being in Christ as a brother and being a member of His body the Church. If I were not His brother I would not have God as Father. If I do not love to the best of my ability I have not Christ within me. Will I fall most certainly. Will Christ forgive me , also most certainly. Will he bring me to perfection, absolutely. My brother will never disown me, unless I reject His love, and even then if I return to Him he will forgive.

    You say that “We Protestants find grace through faith ( alone) “ Well, so be it then. If you find that you can sit on your faith and find grace with God very well. But I think God expects a little more from us than resting on our faith.

    As to your other questions they are not for this thread but have been answered elsewhere.

    Blessings
    NHU

  268. Craig (261), your link is broken where you say , “here”. I would like to read it. Hope you fix it!

    Thanks for the other quotes–very helpful!

  269. RC (#233): Lemme get this straight: Reformed Christians insist that God imputes righteousness to us without infusing it into us?

    No, not at all. Protestants insist that both infusion and imputation happen, but only the latter is the ground for God declaring us righteous, making us His children, and receiving us to live with Him.

    The infused grace of sanctification, which is given after God has made us His children, enables us to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.” All Christians have grace infused. The difference with RCs is whether or not that infused grace is the basis for our adoption as sons.

    Hope that clears things up. If you are interested, the Westminster Larger Catechism Qn 65 – 79 deal with this at length.

  270. Hugh McCann (re #266)

    I don’t think that was very fair to say that grace comes through the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession, the sacraments, priestly absolution, etc. as if these were the sources of grace in the Catholic Church. The source of grace is God Himself, instrumentally through the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the Crucifixion. This Catholics and Protestants can agree on. However, the fact that God brings grace about in Sacraments or through persons ought not be very controversial as God brought about miracles and grace through material objects which touched St. Paul:

    Acts 19:12
    So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons: and the diseases departed from them: and the wicked spirits went out of them.

    And of course by baptism, grace received:

    Acts 19:4-6
    4 Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance saying: That they should believe in him, who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. 5 Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them: and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

    You are right that Galatians 5:22 states that charity is a gift of the Holy Spirit:

    “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, 23 mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.”

    However 1 Corinthians 13 still stands to state that without love there can be no justification, but there can be no love where the Holy Spirit has not poured it into our hearts (cf Romans 5:5) to make our bodies a temple of the God (2 Corinthians 6:16, For you are the temple of the living God: as God says: I will dwell in them and walk among them. And I will be their God: and they shall be my people.) The fulfillment of the law is love, not simple love, but the love given over to us by the Holy Spirit, and that same love by which Jesus walked and offer Himself up to the Father. It is called agape, self-sacrificing love where we love God above every other thing. This is what God desires from us.

    With regards to God not being able to accept sinfulness in the life of our souls, He accepted sinners to eat at His table so long as they came to join and share His company. Jesus took 12 Apostles who were far from perfect but said of them that the Father gave them to Him and He gave to them the words of the Father (cf John 17:6). Jesus prays that everything is shared between the Father and the Son, and that Jesus is glorified in them, the Apostles (cf John 17:10). The Son is glorified in His chosen people, not because of their perfection, but because they loved, and God desires a contrite heart above all things.

    A contrite heart covers all the iniquities which make our soul unpleasant to God. And this can only be done in the spirit of love, which can only be done with the grace of the Holy Spirit. This grace and communion with the Trinity was only possible through Christ’s Atonement which opened the gates of Heaven, and by His Resurrected Body which breathed new life upon mankind through the reception of the Holy Spirit. God did not decide to simply end with the Crucifixion, but rather His salvation is captured through the entire Paschal Mystery, the Crucifixion, Holy Saturday, and the Resurrection on Easter. In the Crucifixion He offers Himself in place of sin, His love is sufficient to expiate all sin. On Holy Saturday He completes His atonement and begins His liberation of mankind from death. On Easter He completes His liberation from death and sin by rising up and granting His grace upon the Church, His Apostles, whom He charges to go out and grant what they received.

    I do not know what you mean by attempts at love being sufficient, but salvation is of mercy and grace, of which attempt at love shows that His mercy works in our heart. He accepts every sinner if He is contrite: “I tell you that in the same way, 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)

    Regarding the Son disowning those who do not love perfectly, I do not see how that is compatible with Luke 15, or parts where St. John tells us that if we say we have not sinned we are lying. He does not disown those who have love or life in the Spirit, but sin we will always have, whether we knowingly committed it, or have sins that are forgotten and not asked for mercy.

    Perhaps this is simply foreign to me, but I do not quite understand why God’s holiness cannot allow for a true Christian in unity with Him to have sin. Sin is where we have fallen away from God. But if we make the distinction that there are some sins that cause us to fall away from God but not totally from His love, apart from sins that cause us to fall completely from God’s love, I think this discussion might be easier. St. Paul lists sins which Christians cannot have on their consciences if they want to go to Heaven (i.e. idolatry, fornication, adultery, etc.), but not all sins are given as breaking Christians away from God. Given this dichotomy does the Catholic schema make sense in which a contrite heart filled with God’s love is always able to calm God’s wrath against sin because it is above and beyond love for Him as the highest good that He desire and finds righteous in us? And then in which certain sins make our souls cease being temples of the Holy Spirit because they are not filled with the contrition and love that comes from the Holy Spirit?

    I can somewhat see an understanding of imputation from the Protestant schema, but I have admit that penal substitution is repugnant to the Scriptures which call Jesus’ Crucifixion an act of love that Christians must walk in (Ephesians 5:2, ” And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and has delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.”).

    Apologies if I have not cleared anything up or tried to move the conversation further.

    God bless,
    Steven Reyes

  271. I am currently re-reading Polycarps’s letter to the Philippians. I came across the following passage which is, methinks, pretty much the Catholic view presented here:

    “(…) ye shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you, which is the mother of us all, while hope followeth after and love goeth before–love toward God and Christ and toward our neighbor. For if any man be occupied with these, he hath fulfilled the commandment of righteousness; for he that hath love is far from all sin.”

  272. In Scripture and the Church Fathers, agape is immaculate. There are not two different species of agape: immaculate agape and “non-immaculate” agape.

    In a sense I agree with you. Anything less than immaculate agape is not fully agape. Likewise, anything less than immaculate righteousness may be said to not be righteousness. However, as you must be aware there are many instances where the Scriptures and Church fathers use the terms “agape” and “righteous” for that which is not immaculate. Hence the “absolute” vs. “relative” distinction made previously (or “perfect” vs. “imperfect” or “immaculate” vs “non-immaculate” etc). [Also, there are many other examples of other terms being used in Scripture in "relative" vs "absolute" fashion--e.g. when Christ told the teacher of the law "Why do you call me good, there is none good except God" (e.g. speaking of "goodness" in the "absolute" sense)]

    Now, if the term agape is only immaculate as you say–then those who (by infusion) have agape in their heart also have immaculateness in their heart (or, as you said previously, that are “perfectly righteous” intrinsically). Clearly, St. Augustine should say that when those who have agape and thus are inwardly immaculate are judged by God’s perfect standard of righteousness they stand justified (as those who are immaculate or have perfect righteousness–as you said earlier) and not condemned (as though they were not immaculate within). Of course St. Augustine says the opposite–he says we will never in this life have this perfect or immaculate righteousness/agape that God’s perfect standard requires (but only in the life to come).

    Venial sin is not having some lesser species of agape. Rather, it is a failure on our part to express perfectly the agape we already have. You are positing two types of agape because you’re misunderstanding the basis for the distinction between mortal and venial sin.

    No one denies that the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer and all His motions within us are Perfect Agape (as the Scripture says, “God is love”). Nevertheless, the presence of continuing sin proper in every believer (as St. Augustine notes–see post 200)–that is, the failure to express/be conformed inwardly (in our heart) to this indwelling PURE AGAPE of the Holy Spirit and His working–declares that our heart is not perfectly righteous. Therefore in this life we never have the perfect, unblemished agape required in our heart and life by God’s Perfect Standard (see quotes from St. Augustine post 259). Instead, we always stand condemned rather than justified when our heart (and the works that proceed from it) are judged strictly according to God’s Awesome Holiness (Perfect Agape) as St. Augustine and Psalm 143:2 make clear (see post 255).

    Except neither the Psalmist [Ps 143:2] nor St. Augustine say that the believer stands condemned.

    To not be justified is to be condemned.

    The meaning of “for in thy sight no man living shall be justified,”according to St. Augustine, is not that no one has the righteousness of Christ, for in the previous paragraph he says, “For it is a commendation of grace, that none of us think his righteousness his own. For this is the righteousness of God, which God has given you to possess.” Rather, the meaning is that before the eyes of God, there is no one who is without at least venial sin. No one can stand before God and say that he is without sin.

    I agree. To be unable to say you are without sin whenever you stand before the Great Judge is to acknowledge yourself at all times to be deserving of the sentence of “guilty” (and thus condemned and not justified) when one’s intrinsic state is judged strictly according to God’s Awesome Holiness/Agape (Side Note: All sin is “unrighteousness” and “un-agape”–or “missing the target” of perfect, unblemished agape/righteousness).

    As you note here in your quotation from the Homily on Psalm 143–St. Augustine says that our righteousness is not our own–it is completely the result of God’s grace (granting forgiveness and transforming us inwardly). And he immediately goes on to say that the righteousness we have intrinsically in this life is insufficient to justify when God applies His perfect standard of righteousness/agape. Therefore, St. Augustine says we can’t be justified before God’s Perfect Standard based merely on our inward state. We need something outside of our instrinsic righteousness/agape to be fully justified and not condemned. According to St. Augustine this “external” righteousness is obtained through the remission of sins (thus he immediately follows the discussion of our condemnation before God’s Standard in the Homily with the discussion of our need to call out for the forgiveness of our sin/unrighteousness/lack of unblemished agape). As he notes elsewhere: “Our very righteousness…consists rather in the remission of sins than in the perfecting of virtues.”

    St. Augustine does not say anything about an “extrinsic” fulfillment of God’s law. That’s something you are imposing on what he said, by taking one line out of the larger context of his theology.

    The lack of the term “extrinsic” is not a valid argument. No one believes that a concept represented by a particular term could not have been taught simply because that term is not used (e.g. “Trinity” in Scripture). As for “imposing on what he said” or “taking one line out of the larger context” this is a conclusory opinion.

    Again, this goes back to the basis for the distinction between mortal and venial sin. If perfect law-keeping is the standard, then, asks St. Augustine, how can it be true that no one having free will lives here without sin, for in that case [goes the unspoken conclusion] no one could be saved. The prayer “forgive us our debts” is for venial sins, as he explains elsewhere. So he is not saying that so long as we say the words “forgive us our debts,” then even if we are committing mortal sins, “all the commands are considered fulfilled.”

    I agree completely that he is not saying that “all the commands are considered fulfilled” if we ask forgiveness when we are committing mortal sins (please see post 199). All the leading reformers who affirmed the concept of mortal/venial sin (including Luther himself) affirmed that the true faith that receives forgiveness (and thus extrinsic fulfillment of the Law) is not present in those who are in a state of mortal sin (and therefore they have no forgiveness). Luther notes time and time again in his writings (without using the mortal/venial terminology used approvingly by Melancthon in the Apology of Augsburg) that “mortal” sin drives out the Holy Spirit, true faith, and the remission of sins. Just one of many examples from Luther (Luther’s Smalcald Articles–also see other examples from reformers in post 199 and post 7 of Calvin and Venial Sin Thread):
    It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present.
    http://bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#repentance

    he is saying that so long as we are in a state of grace, and retain agape, we are fulfilling the law according to the telos of the law, which is why even the jot and tittle of the commandments are considered fulfilled when our venial sins are pardoned, not because of some extra nos imputed righteousness, but because agape is the telos of the law as explained in the article above, and the subsequent comments.

    Perfect, unblemished agape is the telos of the Law and is itself the fulfillment of the Law. Of course, we are only fulfilling the Law according to the telos of the law when we have this perfect agape. St. Augustine makes clear that perfect righteousness/fulfillment is perfect, unblemished agape and that we only have impefect agape/righteousness (and thus the perfect fulfillment of the Law according to the telos of the Law) in this life (see post 159). This is because we will always have sin proper in this life (lack of perfect agape/blemishing of our agape) and thus our intrinsic fulfillment (in heart and life) of this telos is only “relative” or imperfect (see post 200). Thus, St. Augustine shows that in this life we stand condemned according to the Perfect Standard of God which is only fulfilled by perfect, unblemished agape (see post 255).

    Again, if we intrinsically have the perfect agape/telos of the Law (which is the fulfillment of the Law) then it would be absurd for St. Augustine to say (as he does) that the God’s perfect standard of righteousness still condemns us rather than justifying us.

    St. Augustine clearly says in his Retractions is that we aren’t perfectly fulfilling the Law in actuality. However, through the remission of sins (i.e. the remission of blemishes on our agape/righteousness/fulfillment of the Law) we are accounted as though we are perfectly fulfilling it.
    Breaking it down:
    1. A “fiction” (i.e. that we have perfectly fulfilled the Law) is reckoned as true.
    2. The perfect fulfillment is not inward–rather (as noted above) it is reckoned apart from (or outside of or external to) our imperfect inward state. Thus, it is an “extra nos” imputed agape/righteousness/fulfillment of the Law.

    Again, you’re taking one line out of the larger context of St. Augustine’s theology. St. Augustine is not saying that our righteousness consists merely in being forgiven.

    I never said that St. Augustine holds our righteousness to consist merely in being forgiven. I’ve noted many times that St. Augustine includes includes our “relative”/imperfect intrinsic righteousness in the definition of justification. Thus, he says throughout his writings that our righteousness consists:
    1. inward transformation whereby we intrinsically have righteousness/agape that he describes as imperfect in this life because of sin proper (see post 200) and 2. the remission of sins whereby our imperfections are covered so that we are reckoned (as St. Augustine says in the Retractions) in this life to have perfectly fulfilled the Law when we haven’t.

    He means that concupiscence and vices (i.e. tendencies or dispositions toward sin) remain in this present life. So even though we have agape as a gift of grace, and therefore have the very essence of righteousness, yet not until the age to come will the other powers of the soul fully conform to that agape, and will we never fail to express perfectly the agape within us.

    Again, St. Augustine says that our continuing sin (lack of righteousness/lack of agape) inwardly is not merely “tendencies or dispositions toward sin.” Rather, he says that it consists in sin proper as was shown in post 200. According to St. Augustine and Scripture–to not be fully conformed/perfectly expressing agape means to not be in possession of “perfect righteousness” (or “perfect agape”–see post 259) and therefore to stand condemned rather than justified before God’s perfect standard of righteousness (as I have shown sufficiently above).

  273. Hello Craig,

    Not to speak ill of a great Church historian like McGrath but there have been other great historians and theologians (including many of the Reformers themselves) who would disagree with his analysis of St. Augustine. The problem is that his analysis over simplifies the data and leans too much on the the obvious “external” differences between Luther and St. Augustine in terminology, interpretation of certain passages, and emphasis while failing to see the underlying substantive parallels in their theological thought.

    Despite these clear differences in terminology, emphasis, etc between Luther and St. Augustine a careful examination of their works shows that they both agreed on many of the most fundamental points on justification. In particular, they both explicitly affirm that we have a “relative” righteousness by infusion. Also, they both affirm that according to God’s Perfect Standard of Righteousness those granted the infusion of righteousness/sanctification still stand (as St. Augustine says) “crooked” and condemned rather than justified (this “crooked” corresponds to Luther’s “dung” analogy). [St. Bernard goes further in matching Luther's "dung hill" language in saying that not only the sin but also the righteousness of a Christian is as a filthy rag when judged strictly according to God's perfect righteousness--see post 202]. Therefore according to both Luther and St. Augustine we must rely on the remission of sins–that is, the extra nos righteousness of being reckoned as perfectly fulfilling God’s Perfect Standard apart from our actual “crooked” inward state that is not perfectly fulfilling the Law of God (i.e. the Law of Agape).

    Also both Luther and St. Augustine held that one could not have one without the other. That is, one cannot have remission of sins (extrinsic righteousness) without having infusion/sanctification (intrinsic righteousness) and vice-versa.

    In sum: Both affirm the “relative” righteousness by infusion and “absolute” righteousness (which our inward righteousness is insufficient to satisfy). (Of course, there were other areas of agreement–i.e. the concept of mortal/venial sin, Baptismal regeneration, etc.)

    For Augustine, justification includes both the beginnings of man’s righteousness before God and its subsequent perfection, the event and the process, so that what later became the Reformation concept of ‘sanctification’ is effectively subsumed under the aegis of justification. Although Augustine is occasionally represented, on the basis of isolated passages, as understanding justification to comprise merely the remission of sins, it is clear that he also understands it to include the ethical and spiritual renewal of the sinner through the internal operation of the Holy Spirit. Justification, according to Augustine, is fundamentally concerned with ‘being made righteous’.

    I guess the question can be asked, William, is whether or not you agree with McGrath on this particular issue?

    I actually agree with most of what McGrath says here. As I noted above I agree that St. Augustine subsumes remission of sins and intrinsic righteousness under the term justification and that he tends to use the term primarily in relation to the latter. Therefore, I agree that any reading of St. Augustine which says that he understands the term justification as merely referring to the remission of sins is incorrect. The nuance I would add is that “being made righteous” for St. Augustine in its fullest sense always has two components: intrinsic righteousness (through infusion) and extrinsic righteousness (through remission of sins)

    Well my Labor Day weekend is over (I wrote these last two sloppy posts primarily on Labor Day) and I will be either unable or extremely limited in writing further responses in the future. God Bless.

  274. One quick p.s. on Polycarp:
    “(…) ye shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you, which is the mother of us all, while hope followeth after and love goeth before–love toward God and Christ and toward our neighbor. For if any man be occupied with these, he hath fulfilled the commandment of righteousness; for he that hath love is far from all sin.”

    This is the exact truth that the reformers themselves affirmed. And as St. Augustine notes we are never fully “occupied with these”/in possession of love so as to “fulfill the commandments of righteousness” and be “far from all sin” in this life but only in the life to come (hence he says we only have this perfect fulfillment of the commandments in this life through through the remission of sins but not in actuality). Blessings in Christ.

  275. William (re: #272)

    Your comment, and the arguments in your comment, all presuppose the list paradigm, and illustrate both reasoning from within the list-paradigm, and interpreting the Church Fathers through the list paradigm. (This is why there is no principled basis in your position between mortal and venial sin.) But arguing from within the list paradigm misses the point of this thread, because it doesn’t compare the two paradigms, but presupposes one of them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  276. Stephen Reyes 270:

    You say thus:

    “It is called agape, self-sacrificing love where we love God above every other thing. This is what God desires from us.”

    I do not think the Protestant denies that God is delighted when we live as we ought. However, what we bring to the table is filth rags. A quick google search yielded where we think Luther correct the RC church:

    ” Martin Luther said, “The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man is that somehow he can make himself good enough to deserve to live forever with an all-holy God.””

    “http://www.gotquestions.org/filthy-rags.html”

    Sorry I don’t know how to do block quotes. And I really don’t want to post anymore here, as a protestant. I don’t want to casue grief. But I don’t think there was a full wrestling with what I was saying in comment 209. The point of my 40/80 vs. 1.1 and 1.2 is to stress how we as protestants fall far short before a Holy God. I appreciate the RC’s stress on the Christian to have more sacraficial love. I want to believe it is not just my upbringing in Pelagianistic settings that cause me to balk at these RC ideas, but rather it’s as I understand what it is Scripture to be saying. I wouldn’t be typing if I didn’t feel that’s the case.
    Peace,
    AB

  277. Andrew, (re: #276),

    The Catholic Church does not teach that man can “somehow make himself good enough to deserve to live forever with an all-holy God,” but rather that by the infusion of supernatural agape at baptism, Christ has already made us righteous, according to the essence of righteousness, which is that to which the law points as its telos. This righteousness is the supernatural gift of God, not something that comes from ourselves. And we are given the opportunity to walk in this righteousness, and thus grow in it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  278. Bryan, to suggest that “performance treadmill picture in which one never knows whether one has one enough merit to be justified, is an utter caricature of the Catholic doctrine” is itself a caricature of what I call the sacramental treadmill. This is not merely not knowing whether one has enough merit to be justified. Simply put, it is just “stuff you gotta do for the rest of your life”. Over and over again. Of course, if you look at the chart, it does correctly identify, in algorithm form, all the things one must “do” as a Roman Catholic — the “precepts of the church” — in addition to mere “good works performed out of love”.

  279. Bryan (277),

    “Christ has already made us righteous.”
    In the sacramental grace of baptism, correct?
    And that baptismal grace is lost upon sinning, correct?
    Is all righteousness lost, or just a bit? I am serious here.

    The baptized Roman babe was given an “infusion of supernatural agape at baptism,” along with all other fruits of the Holy Spirit: joy, peace, kindness, self-control, etc.. Correct?

    Are all the fruit lost upon sinning, or just a bit? I am serious.

  280. Bryan at 277:

    Thank you for clarifying. As I think I made aware, over e-mail or otherwise, I am new to the “RC Position” on many matters. Right now, you are kind of the “face” of the RC church to me, the life-long and happily placed protestant.

    Any further questions I have about what this website represents will be directed towards your e-mail. I appreciate the discussion about justification you are engaging with me, here. Your labors are appreciated.

    Kind regards,
    Andrew

  281. Nelson (267), Thanks.

    All attempts at love are sufficient.
    My contention was that Christ in the Sermon on the Moutn demands perfection, not attempts (no matter how whole-hearted or well-intentioned) – you have God grading on a curve.

    Sin is a lack of love on our part. If we sin we do not love.
    True enough, the 2nd sentence. But St John describes sin as “transgression of the law,” certianly inclusinve of a lack of love, but broader than that.

    But in Christ through the Holy Spirit all of our small attempts at love are magnified. Yes we falter and sometimes fall, but we get up and continue to strive for perfection.
    Striving is not attaining, not having, of course. God & Christ don’t merely call us to strive, they demand that we attain/obtain perfect righteousness in every area of life. Hence, the need for imputation.

    Our Deity grades neither one of us on a curve. He grades us on the love in our hearts. We were put on this earth to learn how to love. Jesus came to teach us how to do that. If I am in Christ, then He is in me. It is Christ working within me that loves. Perfection comes as the Holy Spirit moves us. The more we strive for the prize the more perfect we become. This is not to say that our perfection is a matter of our own works but is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
    These statements are contradictory. You say it’s not a graded curve, then you say God grades based upon the love in your heart. Isn’t it what you DO with that love that determines your “grade” in Roman theology?

    We maintain that to attain the kingdom, the standard is absolute perfection/ righteousness, and that in Christ Jesus, all who truly believe are granted that righteousness merely by God’s good grace [alone] through faith alone.

    You say that “We Protestants find grace through faith ( alone) “ Well, so be it then. If you find that you can sit on your faith and find grace with God very well. But I think God expects a little more from us than resting on our faith.
    Nay, he expects perfection, which perfection is only found in his Son. Hence, all who are truly in his Son,* (trusting him alone, not one’s piety, sacraments, or works) are freely granted that perfection by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. That’s what the Reformation is all about, Charlie Brown.

    * Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 {Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.}

  282. Thanks, Steven (@270).

    I don’t think that was very fair to say that grace comes through the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession, the sacraments, priestly absolution, etc. as if these were the sources of grace in the Catholic Church. The source of grace is God Himself, instrumentally through the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the Crucifixion. This Catholics and Protestants can agree on. However, the fact that God brings grace about in Sacraments or through persons ought not be very controversial

    Right. Grace is from God (we agree there). I understand that you do not believe that the source of grace is in the means themselves. I did not mean to imply that. But we are agreed that Rome teaches -as you have said here- that Mary’s prayers, the sacraments, & priestly absolution are all instruments through which God’s grace is mediated, conveyed, conferred to the pious Roman Catholic, no?

    I believe your other concerns are addressed in my comments to Nelson in #279. I’d respectfully challenge you (all) to meditate on Christ’s requirements in the Sermon on the Mount.

    Hugh

  283. Follow-up to Jeff @ 269 – from the Westminster Larger Catechism:

    The concept of imputation is given here:

    Question 70: What is justification?
    Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

    The concept of infusion is given here:

    Question 77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    Answer: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

  284. Bryan,

    Reading the last 10 posts (or so!) it looks like Protestants confuse the non-imputation of sins to the believer with the imputation of righteousness to the believer. They seem to equate the two and assume that non-imputation of the sins is imputation of righteousness.

    Secondly , in your posts you stress the Agape theme, but we can not hold to this alone (is this correct?). We do have to have 2 things. The non-imputation of sins (the forgiveness) and the infusion. I see St. Augustine referring to both of these quite continually in his work, On the Spirit and the Letter. He stresses the idea that works are not accepted if one believes these work to come from themselves rather then from “His giving the increase within”. Here are some examples:

    “This then is the sole distinction, that the very precept, You shall not covet, Exodus 20:17 and God’s other good and holy commandments, they attributed to themselves; whereas, that man may keep them, God must work in him through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. Romans 10:4 That is to say, every one who is incorporated into Him and made a member of His body, is able, by His giving the increase within, to work righteousness. It is of such a man’s works that Christ Himself has said, Without me you can do nothing. John 15:5”

    — St Augustine,from chapter 50 On the Spirit and the Letter

    “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. And why? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works Romans 9:31-32 — in other words, working it out as it were by themselves, not believing that it is God who works within them. For it is God which works in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. Philippians 2:13”

    — st augustine On the Spirit and the Letter from chapter 50

    “there is not a man living in it who is absolutely free from all sin; and that it is necessary for every one to give, that it may be given to him; and to forgive, that it may be forgiven him; Luke 11:4 and whatever righteousness he has, not to presume that he has it of himself, but from the grace of God, who justifies him, and still to go on hungering and thirsting for righteousness Matthew 5:6 from Him who is the living bread, John 6:51 and with whom is the fountain of life; who works in His saints, while labouring amidst temptation in this life, their justification in such manner that He may still have somewhat to impart to them liberally when they ask, and something mercifully to forgive them when they confess.”

    — St Augustine from chapter 65 On the Spirit and the Letter

    So do we not need to stress that along with this Agape paradigm we have to include the second part which is the continual non-imputation of our sins which comes from the cleansing by the forgiveness we find in Christ’s blood/ confession/reconciliation?

  285. Andrew B. (re:#276),

    You wrote:

    I do not think the Protestant denies that God is delighted when we live as we ought. However, what we bring to the table is filth rags.

    I understand your perspective, as expressed above, largely because I shared it, myself, for years, as a Calvinist who had left the Catholic Church. I left the Church with many misunderstandings of her actual teachings. This state of affairs left me open to very persuasive-sounding exegetical arguments from well-meaning Reformed Protestants.

    As I read the Bible and, specifically, many of the passages to which the Reformed appealed, it did, indeed, seem as though all of the works of even Christians are seen by God as “filthy rags.” In time, I became quite convinced of the basic five-point Calvinist understanding of Scripture and, in turn, also became quite anti-Catholic (in regard to the Church’s teachings, that is, not toward Catholics themselves as people). I was sure that the Catholic Church taught an objectively damning form of “works-righteousness,” rather than the Biblical Gospel of grace.

    Even though I was convinced of the five-point Calvinist paradigm as being the most Biblically faithful one, certain Biblical passages periodically came up in my mind as posing serious problems to said paradigm. I would diligently study, comparing Scripture with Scripture. I would read works of Reformed exegesis and apologetics which claimed to resolve the “difficult passages.” It was not until years later, when I encountered serious Catholic Biblical exegesis and then, finally made a conscious decision to read Scripture outside of a Reformed paradigm, that the “difficult passages ” began to truly seem less difficult.

    Scripture obviously does *not* teach that any believer can live righteously through his/her own power. However, Scripture is also very clear that some people *have*, in fact, lived righteously before God, and interestingly, the Biblical authors seem to feel no need to add the qualification that these people were/are “righteous, only through the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ” that my Reformed elders added in their exegetical sermons. To be very specific, there is what Scripture tells us about Noah in Genesis 6:9, Job in Job 1:1 and 8:2-3, Joseph in Matthew 1:19, and Zacharias (or Zechariah) and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-6.

    No amount of works alone (from anyone, including the professing Christian) is ever sufficient to merit salvation. No amount of faith alone, apart from obedience to God in love, is ever sufficient to finally justify a professing Christian. James 2:14-24 is clear. Works alone do not justify, but neither does faith alone, apart from the good works that flow from a faith formed by love for God and neighbor. The good works do not take any glory away from God, as He is the Source of them, the Power behind them, and the Reason for them.

    Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to engage at much greater length for now, as I have just begun studies at the graduate level and am pretty busy. I hope, though, that this comment has been helpful in some way. Thank you for your comments and questions, brother.

  286. Christopher Lake,

    I want to thank you for sharing your history.

    I want to tell you something.

    I am not saved by John Calvin. Or Martin Luther. Or by St. Paul. Rather, I am saved by Jesus, and Him alone.

    Some of us find help in seeing Jesus, through the teaching of John Calvin.

    Some of us find help in seeing Jesus, through the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

    I will leave you with a quote from the famous Lutheran Theologian of the 20th century, Rudolf Bultmann’s essay, “The Crisis of Faith,” found in this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Rudolph-Bultmann-Making-Modern-Theology/dp/0800634020/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1346791630&sr=8-4&keywords=bultmann

    “For Christianity’s love is not something that can be presented by programs, and implemented in organizations. It is rather something which always belongs to the moment, to my particular moment. It is quite true that in regard to particular ills and sufferings of the present, just such a love may demand a program of aid and an organization. Yet love is not exhausted and assured in them. On the contrary, programs, organizations and institutions can actually become a cloak for lovelessness, and can blind me to the real demand ofthe moment, and to the concrete “You” who encounters me. ”

    I would refer you back to my comment 214, which are my sincere feelings about the relationship between myself and any particular church. My home right now is in a reformed church. I am glad you feel at home in yours. But I think that as both Protestants and Roman Catholics learn to hear one another, to listen to the “you” that encounters me, we can find reconciliation and peace between these great traditions. But with websites like this one that I am posting on, I feel only division is fostered.

    Peace and love,
    Andrew

  287. Chris Lake 285,

    You’ve been sold quite a bill of goods. Plus, you probably did not get very clear Calvinism, sad to say.

    The Scripturalist position is diametrically opposed to Rome’s.

    …in turn, also became quite anti-Catholic (in regard to the Church’s teachings, that is, not toward Catholics themselves as people). I was sure that the Catholic Church taught an objectively damning form of “works-righteousness,” rather than the Biblical Gospel of grace.
    Right – and with her sacramental / penitential system, what better term by which to name it?

    It was not until years later, when I encountered serious Catholic Biblical exegesis and then, finally made a conscious decision to read Scripture outside of a Reformed paradigm, that the “difficult passages ” began to truly seem less difficult.
    Did you also make a decision to join Rome? You who convert are doing something anyone can do. We who have been born from above did not choose to be so. We were unilaterally converted by the sovereign Spirit of God.

    … Scripture is also very clear that some people *have*, in fact, lived righteously before God, and interestingly, the Biblical authors seem to feel no need to add the qualification that these people were/are “righteous, only through the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ” that my Reformed elders added in their exegetical sermons.
    Perhaps b/c no one need be tempted that their works contribute to their justification as argued the Pharisees, Judaizers, and (as we Prots contend), the Latin Church.

    Noah, Job, Joe, Zach, Liz and even the blessed Virgin Mary were all righteous folk. Good people, pious.
    We even all agree that they were saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ!
    But we contend it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
    None of the aforementioned folks had a whit of justifying righteousness in them (Spirit-aided or not).

    No amount of faith alone, apart from obedience to God in love, is ever sufficient to finally justify a professing Christian. James 2:14-24 is clear. Works alone do not justify, but neither does faith alone, apart from the good works that flow from a faith formed by love for God and neighbor. The good works do not take any glory away from God, as He is the Source of them, the Power behind them, and the Reason for them.
    The works justify us before men, but not before God. The justification of sinners by God is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    Chris, no amount of faith if mingled with works of love (even in the strictest, most pious attempts of obedience to God), is ever sufficient to finally justify a professing Christian! Romans & Galatians are clear. Works do not justify, nor contribute one whit to justification before God – not even the good works that flow from a faith formed by love for God and neighbor! Only by faith in only Jesus is man justified before a holy God.

  288. Hello Bryan,

    I’ve taken the time to give one final response before my post-Labor day schedule demands a total cease and desist.

    As per your comments on paradigms–I’m arguing in favor of the general truth of the “list paradigm”* you have described because I am fully convinced of the truth represented by this paradigm based on the weight of evidence from the Church fathers and above all Sacred Scripture. Likewise, you have consistently been arguing for the truth of the paradigm you have accepted as true (and have done an excellent job of articulating) and you are interpreting the Church fathers and Scriptures through the paradigm you have embraced (as seen in this thread and elsewhere). No doubt you feel equally convinced that the evidence of God’s Word and the Church fathers are on the side of this paradigm. The issue is not that one of us is arguing from a presupposition while the other is not (which is definitely not the case). Rather, you and I have a different position on which of the two paradigms the weight of the evidence presented in the Church Fathers and Sacred Scripture favors. Unsurprisingly, the paradigm we have embraced (based on the evidence) drives our respective interpretations of the Church fathers and Scripture (until or unless a time when the weight of the evidence causes us to reject our respective paradigm in favor of another).

    *One important qualification on my agreement with the “list paradigm.” The “list” of the “list paradigm” as held by the reformers (and I firmly believe that St. Augustine, etc also held) is not merely an “external””list of rules” as some descriptions in the article and thread present it. Rather, as St. Augustine notes–there is an eternal standard of absolute sinlessness/holiness/righteousness/pure agape which belongs to God’s Nature–before which our intrinsic righteousness in this life (no matter how great through the infusion of agape) is still “crooked” and condemned (see post 255, 257, 259, 272, etc). This eternal standard is, of course:
    1. inscripturated in Holy Writ (summed up in the two great commandments of agape), and 2. embodied in our Immaculate Lord. (Of course, it preexisted both Holy Writ and the Incarnation).

    You contrast the list paradigm and agape paradigm earlier in the thread as follows:

    What I’m saying, regarding the agape paradigm, is that agape is the fulfillment of the law, is the righteousness of Christ. To have agape is to be righteous internally. But Reformed theology denies that. Reformed theology acknowledges that regenerate persons have agape, but denies that regenerate persons (even though having agape) are righteous internally. They are partially sanctified internally, according to Reformed theology, but never in this life truly righteous internally.

    The list paradigm as described here is precisely the position that St. Augustine holds (as shown in posts 45, 54, 199-202, 255, 259, 272, etc.). Just as the reformers did St. Augustine notes time and time again that in this life we are only partially rather than perfectly sanctified/righteous internally–and thus are “crooked” and condemned before God’s perfect standard. Likewise, both affirm that through the infusion of agape the perfect standard of God is really (though imperfectly) being written in our hearts in this life. i.e. in this life through infused agape we are being truly “sanctified”/”being made (internally though imperfectly) holy” in Reformation terminology or being truly “justified”/”being made (internally though imperfectly) righteous” in St. Augustine’s terminology.

    On venial/mortal sin. Those leading reformers who affirmed the Scriptural and patristic concept of mortal/venial sin (as shown in post 7 of the Calvin and Venial/Mortal Sin thread) were under no necessity to reject the equally Scriptural and patristic “list paradigm.” On the other hand, the Scriptural and patristic “list paradigm” does require the rejection of an articulation of venial sins that excludes sin proper as dictated by your paradigm (again, the assertion that venial sin is not sin proper was explicitly rejected by St. Augustine as shown in post 200).

    All the above said, I agree with the agape paradigm (as noted in post 45 and post 255) to the extent it is understood in a manner which coincides (rather than conflicts) with the list paradigm. (On the other hand, I realize that such a reinterpretation of the “agape paradigm” would largely cause it to cease to be the unique and exclusive paradigm that you have presented in the article–so I won’t belabor this point).

    I realize that you will not agree with these points. While there are a number of other points I would like to raise if I had time–my Labor’s Day break is over and I don’t have time for any further substantial posts. Further, given the firm convictions you and I have regarding the truth of the paradigm we embrace I don’t believe that further discussion is likely to be fruitful. Thanks for the discussion. W.A. Scott

  289. Andrew B. (re:#286),

    Thank you for your reply. I never believed, for a moment, that you saw yourself as being saved by Luther or Calvin. I happily affirm, along with you, the teaching of the Bible that salvation is found in and through Christ alone.

    My return to the Catholic Church had little to do with “feeling at home.” It had to do with the finding of some unexpected and sometimes, unwelcome, but finally, unavoidable answers to some very serious questions, questions which Catholics and Protestants do answer differently– though not always as differently as many Catholics and Protestants think!

    I honestly don’t see how division is being fostered on this website– *unless*, that is, the proper, Biblical default mode for Christians is actually today’s contemporary doctrinal reductionism, which ultimately agrees to disagree, within Protestantism’s own ranks, broadly speaking, on the issues of eternal security, baptism, the nature of the sacraments, the visibility and structure of the Church, which issues are and are not “essential,” which issues are and are not “perspicuous,” and so on.

    Such denominational “agreeing to disagree was” not the way of Christianity for the 1, 5oo years before the Reformation, and it was also not the way of the original Reformers. That being the case, it is quite difficult for me to believe that such agreeing to disagree is how God actually wants His people think and act. It both perpetuates and fosters division among Christians in the form of denominations and “non-denominational” churches. After 500 years, there is no logical end in sight, *within* Protestantism, *to* that division. I write that with no rancor to my Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ at all but rather as a statement of the situation as it logically appears to me.

    Before I returned to the Catholic Church, a Reformed friend said to me that one major way for the divisions within Christendom to truly be healed would be for the Pope to basically renounce the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Papacy. I wish that I had thought, at the time, to ask my friend what he believed the road forward would/should be from that point– because if the road forward were to resemble the 500 years after the Reformation, there would be no logical reason to think that the dissolving of the Papacy would do anything but *contribute* to the divisions with Christendom, rather than aid in healing them.

    I appreciate your heart for reconciliation and peace among “the great traditions.” I have that same heart’s desire. If I did not, I would not be commenting here. Alas, I must go now to attend to my formal studies. Pax Christi, brother.

  290. John B (re: #278)

    You wrote:

    Bryan, to suggest that “performance treadmill picture in which one never knows whether one has one enough merit to be justified, is an utter caricature of the Catholic doctrine” is itself a caricature of what I call the sacramental treadmill. This is not merely not knowing whether one has enough merit to be justified. Simply put, it is just “stuff you gotta do for the rest of your life”. Over and over again. Of course, if you look at the chart, it does correctly identify, in algorithm form, all the things one must “do” as a Roman Catholic — the “precepts of the church” — in addition to mere “good works performed out of love”.

    If I had been intending to address a conception of “the sacramental treadmill” defined only as “stuff you gotta do for the rest of your life,” then my description would indeed be a caricature. But I was addressing the conception of “the sacramental treadmill” according to which one never knows if one has done enough to be justified.

    A notion of the ‘treadmill’ reducible to “stuff you gotta do for the rest of your life” would apply likewise to the Reformed system because one must keep the Decalogue for the rest of one’s life, forgive seventy times seven, turn the other cheek, pray, confess one’s sins, repent of one’s sins, not forsake the assembling of oneself together with other believers, take communion as often as you do it, give to the poor, visit those in prison, (e.g. Mt 24), submit and obey those in authority, provide for one’s family, honor one’s parents, work (or not eat), continue to believe and affirm the gospel, not disbelieve any aspect of the gospel, etc. If one does not show enough love, or one lingers too long in any serious (where serious is only vaguely defined) sin, then one’s faith is shown to be not genuine faith, and one is thereby shown not to have been justified. So one has to produce enough love to show that one’s faith is genuine. But one never can produce sufficient love to show this, prior to the moment of death, because if one ever stops producing love, this will show that one never had it in the first place, and was faking it (and/or self-deceived) the whole time. So the sacramental treadmill defined in the weak sense you propose offers no advantage to the Reformed position over the Catholic position.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  291. Hugh (re: #279),

    Concerning mortal sin, you wrote:

    Is all righteousness lost, or just a bit?

    All righteousness is lost, because agape is lost.

    The baptized Roman babe was given an “infusion of supernatural agape at baptism,” along with all other fruits of the Holy Spirit: joy, peace, kindness, self-control, etc.. Correct?

    Correct.

    Are all the fruit lost upon sinning, or just a bit?

    All are lost.

    But just so you know, questions about apostasy are off-topic for this post, which is about the two paradigms discussed in the article above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  292. Hugh McCann (re:#287),

    The answers with which you responded to my comment are exactly the answers that I would have given when I was a convinced five-point-Calvinist Protestant (believing that theology to accurately reflect the teaching of the Bible). Mark Dever and the other elders of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (a strongly “Reformed Baptist” community), and the exegetical books to which they and others pointed me, largely taught me to read Scripture seriously. I am still very grateful for all of the truth about God and His ways that I learned therein. However, unfortunately, almost none of the Reformed preaching, teaching, and reading that I encountered deeply engaged *serious* Catholic Biblical exegesis at all– and that was/is a serious deficiency.

    Respectfully, I have not been “sold a bill of goods.” I have rejected the “Sola Fide” and “Sola Scriptura” of Reformed Protestantism, because they are both unBiblical and not reflective of the understanding of the early Christians, who followed from the first apostles, who were taught by Christ Himself.

    On Romans, Galatians, and salvation by faith, apart from “works of the law,” I recommend the exegetically thorough book, “The Salvation Controversy,” by James Akin.

    I would like to write more, but as I said to Andrew above, my graduate studies beckon, with deadlines, all for and to the glory of God! :-)

  293. Chris (292),

    I wish I could wish you well. But if the best going is probable purgatory, then all’s pretty well lost. The myths you’ve inherited just so cloud the debate!

    I’m sorry to learn that Dever & Co. were so pathetic: None deeply engaged *serious* Catholic Biblical exegesis at all?! Goodness – very sad to read.

    But you had a paradigm shift, Chris. Rejecting the solas, you opted for the apparently nicer variety of religion offered by Rome. I am sorry that Scripture spoke so little and so ineffectually to you.

  294. Thank you, Bryan (291).

    I need to go back get the list of mortal sins vs. venial.

    And try to understand how one loses and regains the requisite righteousness over and over and over and over and over and over and

  295. p.s. Before I go I just had to comment on your the excellent post Kim.
    One comment–you said:

    Reading the last 10 posts (or so!) it looks like Protestants confuse the non-imputation of sins to the believer with the imputation of righteousness to the believer. They seem to equate the two and assume that non-imputation of the sins is imputation of righteousness.

    Because sin is not only commission but also omission (i.e. failure to perfectly fulfill God’s Standard of Agape) to have sin not imputed is to have the blessed “legal fiction”* of being being reckoned as though you had never sinned–and therefore, reckoned as though you had never failed to perfectly fulfill the Law.
    i.e. non-imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness are two sides of the same coin–as St. Augustine notes “All the commandments are fulfilled when that which is not done is forgiven.” And it is the covering of Christ’s righteous Blood (and thus His righteousness) before the Throne that accomplishes all of this. Of course, as the Church Fathers and reformers note–none of this omits the necessity of the real internal (though imperfect) writing of God’s Law on our heart (which always accompanies the remission of sins).

    *”Legal Fiction” is no mere “fiction” in the eyes of the Judge (e.g. the wonderful “legal fiction” of having an adopted child accounted by the Court as the child of the adoptive parent).

    I figure Bryan will have a different opinion (coming from a different paradigm and all ;-) )–but that’s my two cents worth.

    God Bless and I’m out of here.
    W.A. Scott

  296. Hugh McCann re: 281

    I stated that all attempts at love are sufficient because those attempts are through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Alone we can do nothing. All of our works of love without the power of Christ is as nothing. It is Christ who works through us. We are justified ( made right) in the eyes of God through our faith in Christ, but it is a faith tempered with love. In the sermon on the mount Jesus says that we must love our enemies as we love our own brethren and be perfect in our love even as our Father is perfect. Jesus does not presuppose that we are already perfect or will be by having faith in Him alone. God`s imputing to us Christ`s goodness to cover our filth does not change us from being filthy. We are made right ( justified) not only in appearance but in spirit as well, by the infusion of the Holy Spirit that justifies ( makes right) our love in Christ. It is our response to the spirit, or lack of it that convicts us at the judgement.

    Jesus says , also in the same sermon. Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. But only he who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven. What is the will of the Father?

    25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
    1. 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
    27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
    28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

    So it is more than faith that makes us right in the eyes of God. It is faith tempered by love.

    I stated that all sin is a lack of love. You say that sin is certainly inclusive to a lack of love but is broader than that. Broader in which way? All sin is a lack of love on our part whether it is against our brother, God or our self. If we truly love with the love of God (agape love) we will not sin. But if we do sin due to our lack of love ( lack of perfection) we have one to whom we can turn for the forgiveness of our sin. Perfection is strived for in our works of love. Works commanded by God Himself.

    Imputation does not grant us perfection. If it did we could just sit on our “faith” and do nothing, We would already be perfect. No. Our life on earth is a learning experience in love. A learning experience guided by God through our love of Christ. I suppose I used the wrong word when I stated that God “grades” us on our love. It should have been God judges us on our love or lack of it. It all comes down to LOVE. In the end that is all that really matters.

    “Nay, he expects perfection, which perfection is only found in his Son. Hence, all who are truly in his Son,* (trusting him alone, not one’s piety, sacraments, or works) are freely granted that perfection by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. That’s what the Reformation is all about, Charlie Brown.”

    You are right. We are perfected through the son, but not by faith alone. It is through the son by doing the will of the Father. God’s grace all the way. We are made perfect in love, love of God and love of our fellow man. We cannot have one without the other and we must work towards that love it is not imputed to us but grows in us by the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Our perfection is not a facade that covers us but is a growth of the Holy Spirit’s life in us.

    Blessings
    NHU

  297. Nelson (296),

    Man, without perfect obedience, we are lost. Without perfect love, we are lost.

    Jesus didn’t keep the law so we could keep the law and maybe make the grade (or, failing it, do our Purgatory time). Jesus kept the law for us to save us.

    His legal requirements are diminished in your system – made doable – so that you might feel satisfied in your own righteousness.

    But the Sermon on the Mount is damning, not life-giving. See Mt. 5:20, 29f, 48, 6:14f, 25, 34, 7:1. Including the denoument that you reference!

    Doing his will (Mt. 7:24, 26), doing His Father’s will (Mt. 7:21), means “to perfection”- perfect obedience, not your best efforts on your best day.

    As you point out, it’s loving God with all you have. No one has EVER done this, except Jesus. Not even the BVM!

    I stated that all sin is a lack of love. You say that sin is certainly inclusive to a lack of love but is broader than that. Broader in which way? All sin is a lack of love on our part whether it is against our brother, God or our self. If we truly love with the love of God (agape love) we will not sin. But if we do sin due to our lack of love ( lack of perfection) we have one to whom we can turn for the forgiveness of our sin. Perfection is strived for in our works of love. Works commanded by God Himself.

    Good! And sin we invariably will.

    Imputation does not grant us perfection. If it did we could just sit on our “faith” and do nothing, We would already be perfect.

    No, Nelson. We are motivated by gratitude, not fear (as in your new-found system), knowing that we have been redeemed by Christ alone. We “rest” on our faith (from our works to justify us), to be sure, but we also work hard because he worked so hard for us as to completely accomplish our redemeption.

  298. Hugh (re:#293),

    It is not true that the best that Catholics can hope for is “probable purgatory.” Given that a Calvinist can appear (to both him/herself and others) to trust in, worship, and serve God faithfully for decades, only to potentially prove, eventually, by apostatizing, that he/she was never really saved at all, I have actually found more of a basis for “assurance of salvation” (assurance, not certainty) within Catholicism than within Reformed Protestantism. In Catholicism, one either is or is not in a state of grace at a given time, and it is fairly easy to know the case therein. However, in Calvinism, one can fool oneself about one’s even being a *Christian at all* for virtually the entirety of one’s life (if one finally apostatizes). What kind of assurance of salvation is that?

    Respectfully, you misconstrued what I wrote about Reformed preaching and teaching, as related to the issue of serious engagement with Catholic exegesis. However, maybe I was not sufficiently clear. I did not intend to claim that merely the *particular elders* of my particular former Protestant communities failed to deeply engage serious Catholic Biblical exegesis. My *intent* was to claim (based upon my experience) that in my years as a Calvinist, almost none of the Reformed preaching and teaching that I encountered, *period*, deeply engaged serious Catholic Biblical exegesis. This goes for most of the widely published, popular Reformed authors who deny that the Catholic Church teaches the Gospel, and who believe that it teaches serious heresy.

    Almost to a person, in my experience, these popular Calvinist authors and preachers deal in *caricatures* of Catholic teaching, even when they seem to be *sincerely trying* to be fair to the Church. Having said that, I want to clarify that I do not doubt their good intentions. R.C. Sproul, Sr. at least *tries* to represent Catholic teaching accurately, and he is better at this than many Protestant polemicists. One of the more exegetically thoughtful anti-Catholic apologists, James White, also seems to want to understand Catholic teaching.

    In the end though, even the most thoughtful of these men simply do not seem to have spent much prolonged time with serious Catholic Biblical exegesis. Perhaps their seminary formation did not prepare them to do so. From the accounts that I have read from many Reformed seminarians, their exposure to Catholic exegesis, from the early Church Fathers to the most recent Popes, was quite limited. This was also my experience as a non-seminary-trained Protestant.

    It is not at all fair for you to characterize the exegetical preaching and teaching that I received from Mark Dever and others as “pathetic.” I emphatically disagree with you there. The limited exposure to serious Catholic exegesis that I encountered, as a Protestant, was quite probably due to the limited exposure to such exegesis that *many Reformed seminarians* seem to have. However, they should not be characterized as “pathetic.” Their training is apparently often severely lacking, insofar as an accurate grounding in Catholic exegesis. That is not altogether surprising though, given that they are attending *Reformed* seminaries, rather than Catholic ones.

    You wrote to me:

    But you had a paradigm shift, Chris. Rejecting the solas, you opted for the apparently nicer variety of religion offered by Rome. I am sorry that Scripture spoke so little and so ineffectually to you.

    I opted for the Christianity of Jesus, the first disciples, and their immediate successors, and the selfsame Christianity that was eventually written down and collected into a New Testament canon by the Catholic Church. Scripture spoke very clearly and effectually to me. It led me back to the Church that wrote and canonized it.

    This will have to be my last comment here for a while. My graduate studies need my full attention. Thank you for the conversation, Hugh, and God bless you.

  299. Kim (re: #284)

    You wrote:

    We do have to have 2 things. The non-imputation of sins (the forgiveness) and the infusion. … So do we not need to stress that along with this Agape paradigm we have to include the second part which is the continual non-imputation of our sins which comes from the cleansing by the forgiveness we find in Christ’s blood/ confession/reconciliation?

    Yes, the forgiveness of sins (mortal and venial) is part of the agape paradigm.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  300. William (re: #288)

    I agree that you are operating in (and interpreting through) the list paradigm, and I’m operating in and interpreting through the agape paradigm. The advantage of the agape paradigm is that it explains everything the list paradigm explains, and much more, including, for example, St. Augustine’s distinction between mortal and venial sin. That’s something that cannot be explained according to the list paradigm.

    You wrote:

    The list paradigm as described here is precisely the position that St. Augustine holds

    Except that St. Augustine distinguished between mortal and venial sins, and the list paradigm has no possible basis for such a distinction. Your attempt to solve this problem is to claim that for St. Augustine this was only a semantic distinction, not an ontological distinction (because you say in #288 that venial sin is, like mortal sin, sin proper), and you point back to comment #200 as allegedly supporting your claim that for St. Augustine venial sin is sin proper. But in #200, regarding venial sin you wrote:

    St. Augustine says that not only does everyone have concupiscence–but the Christian also consents at least in some degree to it (and thus has sin proper). Thus, he expresses his belief that our lack of perfect righteousness in this life includes the continuing presence of sin proper.

    So in your mind, because St. Augustine distinguishes between concupiscence and the sin of consenting to concupiscence, therefore venial sin is sin proper. But that is a non sequitur. Just because consenting to concupiscence is distinct from concupiscence, and every Christian consents at least in some degree to concupiscence, it does not follow that the venial sin committed is “sin proper,” as is mortal sin.

    But St. Augustine was both a truth loving man, and an intelligent man. To suggest that he was making a semantic distinction between mortal and venial sin when there was no underlying ontological distinction is to make him out to be either an idiot or a liar. And that does not save the list paradigm. It was Pelagius who denied the distinction between venial and mortal sin, claiming that every sin is mortal. You make St. Augustine out to be holding the same position as Pelagius on this doctrine, except that you make St. Augustine falsely retain the semantic distinction between mortal and venial sin, and you suggest that by affirming the extra nos imputation of the righteousness of Christ, St. Augustine avoids the problem (that all sin is mortal). But St. Augustine in no place in all his writings claims (in word or concept) that believers receive justification by extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness; only by infusion of agape.

    In #295 you wrote:

    i.e. non-imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness are two sides of the same coin–as St. Augustine notes “All the commandments are fulfilled when that which is not done is forgiven.”

    St. Augustine’s statement, given the list-paradigm, would entail a heresy worse than Pelagianism. If the Pelagian heresy is the notion that [innocence + natural works] can fulfill the commands and merit heaven, then a fortiori it is even more heretical to claim that mere innocence alone fulfills the commands and merits heaven. And we all know that St. Augustine was the chief opponent of Pelagianism. He surely would not be endorsing a position more Pelagian than that of Pelagius. The proper interpretation of this one line from St. Augustine, as I explained in #256, is only against the background of the righteousness already had by infused agape. That’s the reason why the commands are fulfilled, because agape fulfills the law, and so for the one having agape the removal of venial sin entails that the law is perfectly fulfilled. The notion of an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness, however, is entirely foreign to St. Augustine’s theology. This is why this one line from the Retractions is the only thing you can point to as supposed evidence that St. Augustine held to an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. But the agape paradigm of righteousness by infusion is supported by hundreds of statements; see the link in #256.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  301. Christopher (298) –

    It is not true that the best that Catholics can hope for is “probable purgatory.” Given that a Calvinist can appear (to both him/herself and others) to trust in, worship, and serve God faithfully for decades, only to potentially prove, eventually, by apostatizing, that he/she was never really saved at all, I have actually found more of a basis for “assurance of salvation” (assurance, not certainty) within Catholicism than within Reformed Protestantism. In Catholicism, one either is or is not in a state of grace at a given time, and it is fairly easy to know the case therein. However, in Calvinism, one can fool oneself about one’s even being a *Christian at all* for virtually the entirety of one’s life (if one finally apostatizes). What kind of assurance of salvation is that?

    I disagree there is as much difference as you claim between ‘assurance’ & ‘certainty,’ but so be it.

    Another thing we’ll disagree on.

    True certainty/ assurance is found only by faith alone in Christ alone.

    Certainly, some professing believers from all sides do fall away.

    And they die in a state of non-grace and go to hell.

    Almost to a person, in my experience, these popular Calvinist authors and preachers deal in *caricatures* of Catholic teaching, even when they seem to be *sincerely trying* to be fair to the Church. Having said that, I want to clarify that I do not doubt their good intentions. R.C. Sproul, Sr. at least *tries* to represent Catholic teaching accurately, and he is better at this than many Protestant polemicists. One of the more exegetically thoughtful anti-Catholic apologists, James White, also seems to want to understand Catholic teaching.

    R.C. Sr’s book, Are We Together?, while it no doubt answers its title in the negative, hopefully also rightly portrays your faith. I look forward to C2C’s review! You don’t specify which works you found wanting, but do you include Armstrong’s (ed.) and Geisler/ MacKenzie’s books in that bunch?

    In the end though, even the most thoughtful of these men simply do not seem to have spent much prolonged time with serious Catholic Biblical exegesis. Perhaps their seminary formation did not prepare them to do so. From the accounts that I have read from many Reformed seminarians, their exposure to Catholic exegesis, from the early Church Fathers to the most recent Popes, was quite limited. This was also my experience as a non-seminary-trained Protestant.

    It is not at all fair for you to characterize the exegetical preaching and teaching that I received from Mark Dever and others as “pathetic.” I emphatically disagree with you there. The limited exposure to serious Catholic exegesis that I encountered, as a Protestant, was quite probably due to the limited exposure to such exegesis that *many Reformed seminarians* seem to have. However, they should not be characterized as “pathetic.” Their training is apparently often severely lacking, insofar as an accurate grounding in Catholic exegesis. That is not altogether surprising though, given that they are attending *Reformed* seminaries, rather than Catholic ones.

    Thank you for your gentle correction. I misread your criticism.

    Glad you don’t find Dever & Co. pathetic, however limited their exposure and severely lacking their training.

    One would not, however, expect ministerial candidates (Baptist or Presbyterian or ?) to have time or interest for deep study of another faith. I know enough Catholic priests who know next-to-nothing of Evangelical faith beyond caricatures. It works both ways.

    “Severely lacking, insofar as an accurate grounding in Catholic exegesis,” however, sound pretty pathetic. Not merely lacking, but inaccurate?! Sorry, but that’s a pretty serious allegation and makes them sound, well, pathetic.

    But understandable, as these men and their Reformed/ Evangelical institutions are training men in our Reformed/ Evangelical faith.

    They have little time to devote to other religions.

    (No doubt an Eastern Orthodox convert would make the same complaint as you do.

    Or a Mormon, or any who leave the Reformed/ Evangelical faith for another in which they were not deeply trained.)

    I wrote to you: “But you had a paradigm shift, Chris. Rejecting the solas, you opted for the apparently nicer variety of religion offered by Rome. I am sorry that Scripture spoke so little and so ineffectually to you.” You replied:

    I opted for the Christianity of Jesus, the first disciples, and their immediate successors, and the selfsame Christianity that was eventually written down and collected into a New Testament canon by the Catholic Church. Scripture spoke very clearly and effectually to me. It led me back to the Church that wrote and canonized it.

    Again, you opted for you religion. I was converted. You chose your religion. I was born from above. I note the disparity between RC testimonies in such books as Madrid’s and Grody’s versus ex-RCs in Bennett/ Buckingham. The former are like you all @ C2C – folks who converted. The latter (ex-priests), were converted.

    Thank you for your time, Christopher!

  302. Hugh McCann re# 297
    I have already told you that our union with Christ sanctifies us and makes us holy, and thus our works of agape love are the works of Christ in us . The works of Christ are already Perfect, therefore our works are perfect as long as we are united with Him. Every sin that we commit does not necessarily end our union with Christ but does show a lack of love on our part, There is a sin unto death and a sin not unto death. but if we repent and confess our sins Christ will remain in us.

    “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life – to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that” (1 John 5:16-17)

    Our striving to do works of perfection is a continuation of Christ’s works in us and all of those works are works of perfection. Do some work more than others? For certain. Will they attain a greater reward in heaven, yes. But there are those who ignore Christ or have fallen away in sin that is mortal, works done in those instances would avail absolutely nothing

    “Christian perfection is the supernatural or spiritual union with God which is possible of attainment in this life, and which may be called relative perfection, compatible with the absence of beatitude, and the presence of human miseries, rebellious passions, and even venial sins to which a just man is liable without a special grace and privilege of God. This perfection consists in love, in the degree in which it is attainable in this life (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 12:31, and 13:13). This is the universal teaching of the Fathers and of theologians. Love unites the soul with God as its supernatural end, and removes from the soul all that is opposed to that union. “God is love; and he that abides in love abides in God, and God in him” ( Catholic encyclo.)

    Christ’s requirements are not reduced in the Catholic system of Agape Love but are fulfilled precisely because they are fulfilled in Him.

    “Doing his will (Mt. 7:24, 26), doing His Father’s will (Mt. 7:21), means “to perfection”- perfect obedience, not your best efforts on your best day.”

    But you see it is doing His will and doing the Father’s will “to perfection” when we give our best effort on our best day as you put it, because we are in Christ and Christ is in us. It is His works not ours only.

    “No one has EVER done this, except Jesus. Not even the BVM!”
    You are right no one has ever done this except Jesus AND all those who abide in Jesus. Especially His Mother.

    No, Nelson. We are motivated by gratitude, not fear (as in your new-found system), knowing that we have been redeemed by Christ alone. We “rest” on our faith (from our works to justify us), to be sure, but we also work hard because he worked so hard for us as to completely accomplish our redemeption.

    I hate to say this but I am not motivated by fear and it is not a “ new found system” I am motivated by love and that system has been around from the beginning. You admit that you “rest” on your faith and need no work to perfect you. Remember St. Paul said, “ Work out your faith in fear and trembling”. My work is in the Lord and it is a work of love. If Christ is only imputed to you and only covers you. You remain the same as you always were and are not a new creature in God, sanctified and made perfect in Christ.

    Blessings.
    NHU

  303. Gentlemen,

    On this thread, please keep the topic of discussion on the subject discussed in the article above (i.e. the two paradigms). This is not an open thread, in which just any topic related to Protestant-Catholic disagreement may be discussed. The purpose of disciplining ourselves in this way is to have a more fruitful and focused discussion of the subject above, and for the sake of readers who do not necessarily want to sort through many comments about other questions or topics, but want to follow a focused Protestant-Catholic discussion of the article’s topic. So for the sake of readers who want to discuss the subject of the article, as a courtesy to them, please refrain from raising or discussing other topics in this combox. Thank you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  304. In 2010 I wrote a critical evaluation of the law-gospel hermeneutic (in its Lutheran-Reformed form) which can be read here. But in this present thread it is worth considering what is the relation between the law-gospel hermeneutic and the list paradigm described above. The law-gospel hermeneutic is captured well in Michael Horton’s essay titled “The Law & The Gospel.” According to this hermeneutic, the whole of Scripture is summarized in these two words: law and gospel. All the imperatives in Scripture belong to the law category, and all the indicatives of Scripture belong to the gospel category.

    In that article Horton writes:

    The Law “is written by nature in our hearts,” while “What we call the Gospel (Good News) is a doctrine which is not at all in us by nature, but which is revealed from Heaven (Mt. 16:17; John 1:13).” The Law leads us to Christ in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own “righteousness.” “Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel,” Beza wrote, “is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity.”

    Luther made this hermeneutic central, but both traditions of the Protestant Reformation jointly affirm this key distinction. In much of medieval preaching, the Law and Gospel were so confused that the “Good News” seemed to be that Jesus was a “kinder, gentler Moses,” who softened the Law into easier exhortations, such as loving God and neighbor from the heart. The Reformers saw Rome as teaching that the Gospel was simply an easier “law” than that of the Old Testament. Instead of following a lot of rules, God expects only love and heartfelt surrender. Calvin replied, “As if we could think of anything more difficult than to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength! Compared with this law, everything could be considered easy…[For] the law cannot do anything else than to accuse and blame all to a man, to convict, and, as it were, apprehend them; in fine, to condemn them in God’s judgment: that God alone may justify, that all flesh may keep silence before him.” Thus, Calvin observes, Rome could only see the Gospel as that which enables believers to become righteous by obedience and that which is “a compensation for their lack,” not realizing that the Law requires perfection, not approximation.

    To show how this relates to the list paradigm, it is essential to make some initial observations. First, the natural law which is written on all men’s hearts by the very fact of our nature as rational animals made in God’s image is distinct from the New Law infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit through grace. (On the New Law of Christ, see Summa Theologica II-I Q.106, as well as Questions 107 and 108 in that same section.) St. Thomas writes:

    There are two ways in which a thing may be instilled into man. First, through being part of his nature, and thus the natural law is instilled into man. Secondly, a thing is instilled into man by being, as it were, added on to his nature by a gift of grace. In this way the New Law is instilled into man, not only by indicating to him what he should do, but also by helping him to accomplish it. (Summa Theologica II-I Q.106 a.1 ad 2)

    The natural law is not a gift of grace, because it is a gift of creation; it belongs to all humans by nature. No one can be saved merely by adherence to the natural law, because Pelagianism is false. (See the Pelagianism section here.) But the New Law is a supernatural gift of grace ordered ultimately to man’s supernatural end. The New Law is not “written by nature in our hearts.” It is written in our hearts only by grace. So it is important not to conflate these two (i.e. the natural law, and the New Law). Stipulatively defining ‘law’ as what is written by nature on our hearts rules out the very possibility of the New Law as something distinct from the natural law, and as something received by grace.

    Horton construes the Catholic doctrine as one in which Christ is a “kinder, gentler Moses” who “softens” the Law by reducing to loving God and neighbor. “Instead of following a lot of rules, God expects only love and heartfelt surrender.” Calvin’s response, notes Horton, is to point out that loving God and neighbor with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, is much more difficult than anything else, perhaps even more difficult than keeping the precepts of the Old Law. Compare Calvin’s comment to St. Thomas’s answer to the question “Whether the New Law is more burdensome than the Old [Mosaic] Law.” St. Thomas writes:

    I answer that, A twofold difficult may attach to works of virtue with which the precepts of the Law are concerned. One is on the part of the outward works, which of themselves are, in a way, difficult and burdensome. And in this respect the Old Law is a much heavier burden than the New: since the Old Law by its numerous ceremonies prescribed many more outward acts than the New Law, which, in the teaching of Christ and the apostles, added very few precepts to those of the natural law; although afterwards some were added, through being instituted by the holy Fathers. Even in these Augustine says that moderation should be observed, lest good conduct should become a burden to the faithful. For he says in reply to the queries of Januarius (Ep. lv) that, “whereas God in His mercy wished religion to be a free service rendered by the public solemnization of a small number of most manifest sacraments, certain persons make it a slave’s burden; so much so that the state of the Jews who were subject to the sacraments of the Law, and not to the presumptuous devices of man, was more tolerable.”

    The other difficulty attaches to works of virtue as to interior acts: for instance, that a virtuous deed be done with promptitude and pleasure. It is this difficulty that virtue solves: because to act thus is difficult for a man without virtue: but through virtue it becomes easy for him. In this respect the precepts of the New Law are more burdensome than those of the Old; because the New Law prohibits certain interior movements of the soul, which were not expressly forbidden in the Old Law in all cases, although they were forbidden in some, without, however, any punishment being attached to the prohibition. Now this is very difficult to a man without virtue: thus even the Philosopher states (Ethic. v, 9) that it is easy to do what a righteous man does; but that to do it in the same way, viz. with pleasure and promptitude, is difficult to a man who is not righteous. Accordingly we read also (1 John 5:3) that “His commandments are not heavy”: which words Augustine expounds by saying that “they are not heavy to the man that loveth; whereas they are a burden to him that loveth not.” (Summa Theologica II-I Q.107 a.4.)

    The Old Law (of Moses), claims St. Thomas, was more burdensome than the New Law (of Christ) in two ways. First, the Old Law prescribed many more precepts and outward observances than does the New Law. Second, although the precepts of the New Law are, considered in themselves, more burdensome because they govern more extensively the interior movements of the soul (e.g. lust, envy, greed, hate, bitterness, anger, pride), nevertheless, because the New Law is written on the heart an the virtue of agape, and because what is done by one having virtue is done with promptitude and pleasure, therefore, in this way too the New Law is less burdensome than the Old Law. What is done out of love is not a burden, just as Jacob worked 14 years for Rachel, but it seemed like nothing to him because of his love for her. (Gen. 29:20)

    So when Calvin says that the law of love is more burdensome than the Old Law, he is missing this second point made by St. Augustine and St. Thomas, namely, that if the law of love were left external to us, as one more all-encompassing law-to-sum-all-laws, then of course it would be more burdensome. It would be another version of the list paradigm, except that the list would be compressed into two laws (i.e. love God, and love neighbor), and these two are even more comprehensive in what they require than the whole list of external precepts. But part of the good news of the gospel, for St. Augustine and St. Thomas is that by Christ’s passion and death He won for us the grace by which the New Law of agape is written on our heart, and precisely thereby is not burdensome.

    Hence when Calvin says, “[For] the law cannot do anything else than to accuse and blame all to a man, to convict, and, as it were, apprehend them; in fine, to condemn them in God’s judgment,” he fails to recognize the very possibility of the New Law as agape infused. It is as if that possibility is not even on his conceptual horizon. His conception of ‘law’ is limited to law-as-external. In other words, his reasoning presupposes the list paradigm, and he is seemingly unaware of (or unable to see the data through) the agape paradigm. And the additional statements by Calvin in Horton’s article only confirm that. The reason Calvin could not see a basis for the patristic distinction between mortal and venial sin is the same reason Calvin divides the entirety of Scripture into law and gospel: namely, he conceived of law from the perspective of the list paradigm, and love as a mere summary of the list, rather than as the telos of the list by which the law is fulfilled in us.

    Horton claims that according to Luther, Calvin and the other Reformers, this separation of law and gospel “marks the difference between Christianity and paganism.” But in saying this, Horton and the Reformers reduce not just St. Thomas and St. Augustine to pagans, but the first 1,500 years of Christianity to paganism, since no Fathers or Doctors of the Church had ever made law and gospel two mutually exclusive categories. The writing of the New Law upon the heart, by grace, had always been understood as part of the good news of the gospel, the fulfillment of the promise God made through the prophet Jeremiah:

    Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:31-33)

  305. Will read #304 with interest, Bryan, & see whether you’re abiding by your own rule… :)

    Chris or Nelson, you’re welcome to email me at

    HUGHMC5 at HOTMAIL

  306. Hugh (re:#301),

    Out of respect for the general rule of conversation at CTC (expressed by Bryan in #303) that comments stay on-topic (regarding the topic of the post in question), I am going to bow out of our discussion. (I’m also going to do so for the sake of my graduate studies.)

    I appreciate your time and effort spent here. I have noticed, though, that often, you have simply made bare assertions, such as that Reformed Protestants were “converted from above,” whereas Catholic converts “chose their religion.”

    I am very, very familiar with these sorts of assertions, Hugh. I used to make them myself, as a Calvinist Protestant, against Catholics. However, bare assertions are *not* arguments. In order to have productive conversations with those of differing beliefs/paradigms, at least sometimes, one must make actual arguments. Assertions can only go so far.

    By the way, when I was a Calvinist Protestant, I had what I honestly believed was a Spirit-inspired zeal to evangelize Catholics out of the Church and into “5 Solas” Protestant Christianity, so I do understand your concerns expressed here. I will say no more though, so that this thread can stay on-topic. Thanks again for the conversation, brother.

  307. Hi Kim,

    Here is the link to the pages from Alister McGrath’s Iustitia Dei. I don’t know what went wrong with the previous link. I hope this one works.

  308. Hello Bryan–sorry for the delay in responding, it’s been hard for me to get the time to write this post.

    So in your mind, because St. Augustine distinguishes between concupiscence and the sin of consenting to concupiscence, therefore venial sin is sin proper. But that is a non sequitur. Just because consenting to concupiscence is distinct from concupiscence, and every Christian consents at least in some degree to concupiscence, it does not follow that the venial sin committed is “sin proper,” as is mortal sin.

    I apologize for the non sequitur—I was careless and misunderstood what you were intending to convey by the term “sin proper” in post 58.

    But St. Augustine was a both a truth loving man, and an intelligent man. To suggest that he was making a semantic distinction between mortal and venial sin when there was no underlying ontological distinction is to make him out to be either an idiot or a liar. And that does not save the list paradigm.

    Of course, this entails that anyone who affirms the difference between venial and mortal sin while embracing the list paradigm rather than your paradigm is “either an idiot or a liar.” Again, it is not necessary to affirm your paradigm’s particular distinction (derived from the Summa) between venial and mortal sin in order to affirm a real distinction. The leading reformers who affirmed the concept of venial/mortal sin follow more closely the pattern of Scripture which doesn’t generally present the rigid/formulaic distinctions and radical dichotomy (e.g. saying that venial sin is not “sin proper” or just “beside the Law” rather than against the Law) that the Summa and your paradigm presents. The reformers aren’t alone on this—many if not most Eastern Orthodox follow this same pattern and deny the mortal/venial sin distinction described in the Summa and your paradigm—of course, the EO all affirm the general concept (like many of the leading reformers) inasmuch as they affirm the possibility of falling from grace.

    INTRINSIC DESERVING
    I realize this is an oversimplification—but your paradigm is essentially “deserts” oriented. That is, we stand perfectly righteous and justified rather than condemned before God (and thus going to heaven rather than hell) because we truly deserve these things through the undeserved infusion of agape. Therefore, you look at venial and mortal sin through this “deserts” perspective. That is, your paradigm is founded on “grace causing intrinsic deserving.”

    The “list” paradigm, however, focuses on the undeserved mercy rather than strict justice God applies in His approval of us and our good works now and at the final judgment (looking through the “Cross-shaped” lense that you spoke of previously rather than our true deserving). In doing so it acknowledges with the Scripture (Ps 143:2) and the Church Fathers that even after we have the undeserved infusion of agape we still stand “crooked” and condemned rather than justified according to the strict judgment/true deserving of our present works and are therefore unworthy of eternal glory. Consequently, even in a state of grace we seek the covering of our intrinsic undeserving with the deserving of Christ. That is, the undeserved perfect justification before the Father through the remission of sins in Christ’s Blood. It is only through His Blood that we truly deserve to inherit eternal glory even according to God’s strictest judgment. So, the list paradigm is founded on “mercy apart from intrinsic deserving.”

    INTRINSIC DESERVING IN RELATION TO VENIAL/MORTAL SIN
    Of course, the leading reformers who affirmed the mortal/venial sin distinction saw it through the “mercy apart from intrinsic deserving” lens rather than the “grace causing intrinsic deserving” lens.

    Therefore, for these reformers the mortal/venial distinction tied to the effects according to Scripture of certain sins/states of sin on our partaking freely through faith on an entirely undeserved Salvation. And while all sins render us unworthy of eternal glory according to true deserving and damage our relationship with God–not all sin (or, states or degrees of sin/degrees of sins dominion) so drive out living faith and the Holy Spirit as to leave us destitute of the Salvation deserved only by Christ’s Perfect Life and Death on our behalf. In contrast, your paradigm’s belief maintains that a fundamental compenent of the distinction is that mortal prevents us from truly deserving Salvation through the undeserved mercy of infused agape while venial sin doesn’t.

    In summary, the mortal/venial sin distinction: 1.applies in the “list paradigm” particularly to the various degrees of damage done through sin to the means/instrumentality (i.e. a true, living faith with the indwelling of the Spirit) by which we partake in the Salvation “deserved” by Christ’s Life and Death on our behalf. 2. applies in your paradigm particularly to the loss from mortal but not venial sins of the intrinsic “perfect righteousness” (from an undeserved infusion of agape which perfectly fulfills God’s Law and deserves eternal life).

    Common Ground
    Finally, while your paradigm disagrees with the “list paradigm” on the perfection and deserving of our infused state of apage–both can agree that the infused agape is fatally harmed or extinguished by “mortal” sins/states of sin (and thus the saving faith which is always accompanied with agape and the good works of agape is lost). Further, both sides are in essential agreement on the immediate consequences to the believer of falling into serious or mortal sin and the ultimate damnable consequences of such sin if we remain in it.

    It was Pelagius who denied the distinction between venial and mortal sin, claiming that every sin is mortal.

    As you aware the views of Pelagius on sin bears no comparison to those who hold the “list paradigm.” His view on sin is tied to his beliefs that we could be perfectly righteous internally and that we could do so without infusion of grace. St. Augustine maintained contra Pelagius that 1.it was only through infusion that we have internal righteousness is and 2.that the internal righteousness the Christian has is imperfect and thus we are continually in need of the remission of sins.

    I said:
    i.e. non-imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness are two sides of the same coin–as St. Augustine notes “All the commandments are fulfilled when that which is not done is forgiven.”
    You said:
    St. Augustine’s statement, given the list-paradigm, would entail a heresy worse than Pelagianism. If the Pelagian heresy is the notion that [innocence + natural works] can fulfill the commands and merit heaven, then a fortiori it is even more heretical to claim that mere innocence alone fulfills the commands and merits heaven. And we all know that St. Augustine was the chief opponent of Pelagianism. He surely would not be endorsing a position more Pelagian than that of Pelagius.

    Innocence for a man or woman is contrasted with Guilt in the Scripture. A man or woman has guilt whenever they fail to perfectly fulfill God’s Perfect Standard (i.e. sins of omission and not just commission). Consequently they are innocent of all transgression (free from guilt) only when they have perfectly fullfilled the Perfect Standard of Love that God requires of all. Thus, to be innocent is to have the positive perfect righteousness without which one would have guilt. The remission of sins does not give mere “neutrality” as some modern reformed like Sproul have incorrectly surmized—in contradiction to what the reformers (who held the remission of sins to be the whole of our forensic/extrinsic justification—that is the Righteous Blood of Christ covering our lack of righteousness)). Also, see St. Irenaeus on Justification thread post 8 and the end of post 7: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/07/st-irenaeus-on-justification/

    The proper interpretation of this one line from St. Augustine, as I explained in #256, is only against the background of the righteousness already had by infused agape. That’s the reason why the commands are fulfilled, because agape fulfills the law, and so for the one having agape the removal of venial sin entails that the law is perfectly fulfilled. The notion of an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness, however, is entirely foreign to St. Augustine’s theology. This is why this one line from the Retractions is the only thing you can point to as supposed evidence that St. Augustine held to an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. But the agape paradigm of righteousness by infusion is supported by hundreds of statements; see the link in #256.

    I’m familiar with the writings from St. Augustine that you’ve quoted from in your article and I’ve also looked through your article (despite my disagreement with the ultimate conclusion it is a well done article). Everything St. Augustine says in those quotes reflect the exact points I’ve made in post 255–i.e. Real though imperfect righteousness internally and perfect righteousness only through the remission of sins.
    The line from the Retractions is not the one thing I can point to. I’ve provided numerous quotes from St. Augustine that reflect the same point he’s making in the Retractions (i.e. imperfect righteousness by infusion (that leaves us “crooked” before God’s Perfect Standard) such that for perfect righteousness we must always rely on something apart from (or, “alien” to) the true deserving of our intrinsic righteousness. St. Augustine speaks time and time again not only of what he calls our imperfect internal righteousness/fulfillment of the Law but also of the perfect righteousness/fulfillment of the Law/freedom from all condemnation that we have through the forgiveness of sins (accomplished through the righteous covering of Christ’s Blood). Thus St. Augustine notes this two-fold means (imperfect intrinsically and perfect extrinsically) by which Christ fulfills the Law in us:
    “As the law brought the proud under the guilt of transgression, increasing their sin by commandments which they could not obey, so the righteousness of the same law is fulfilled by the grace of the Spirit in those who learn from Christ to be meek and lowly in heart; for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Moreover, because even for those who are under grace it is difficult in this mortal life perfectly to keep what is written in the law, You shall not covet, Christ, by the sacrifice of His flesh, as our Priest obtains pardon for us. And in this also He fulfills the law; for what we fail in through weakness is supplied by His perfection, who is the Head, while we are His members. Thus John says: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not; and if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: He is the propitiation for our sins.’” 1 John 2:1-2
    [Contra Faustum Book 22, Chp 27] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/140619.htm

    The Law is fulfilled in us 1. imperfectly through the inworking of the Spirit intrinsically and 2. perfectly in the remission of sins by the supplying Another’s (that is, Christ our Head’s) perfect righteousness or “perfection” for our lack of intrinsic righteousness (i.e. extrinsic perfect righteousness covering/filling in for our lack of intrinsic righteousness—so that we are reckoned apart from the true deserving of our intrinsic righteousness as having fulfilled that perfect righteousness of God’s Law in Christ).

    God Bless,
    W.A. Scott

  309. I’ve been coming much closer to agreement with the Catholic teaching on justification through close reading of James 2, but one snag I’ve come up against is the following.

    As far as I know, the term “justify means” “make righteous” in Catholic theology. If so, that seems to create a conundrum. Abraham had good works before he was justified (made righteous), according to James 2. If that was the case, what need was there to make him righteous, since he already had faith working through love? How can you make someone righteous if he already is righteous?

    The Catholic response would probably be something like, “Abraham was made *more* righteous, since he had had previous justification events in his life.” The problem with this kind of answer, though, is that even in Catholic theology, the term justify does not mean “make more righteous” but simply “make righteous.”

    This is something I am currently trying to resolve regarding the Catholic position on justification. any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thanks, and God bless!

    Jeremy

  310. Jeremy (re:#310),

    Have you read this CTC article on Sola Fide? If not, I think that it might answer your concerns. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/09/does-the-bible-teach-sola-fide/

    I would like to be able to write more to help you, but I can’t spend more time here today than I already have. I hope and pray that the article will help you! Pax Christi, brother!

  311. Jeremy (re: #309)

    You wrote:

    The Catholic response would probably be something like, “Abraham was made *more* righteous, since he had had previous justification events in his life.” The problem with this kind of answer, though, is that even in Catholic theology, the term justify does not mean “make more righteous” but simply “make righteous.”

    No, in Catholic theology ‘justification’ can refer to an increase in righteousness, in addition to the translation from mortal sin to a state of grace. See chapter X of Session 6 of the Council of Trent.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  312. Hello William, (re: #308)

    In #275 I pointed out that in the list paradigm “there is no principled basis … between mortal and venial sin.” Here you acknowledge that according to the list paradigm “all sins render us unworthy of eternal glory according to true deserving,” but you also claim that “not all sin … so drive[s] out living faith and the Holy Spirit as to leave us destitute of … Salvation.” In Reformed theology, there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin; all sin is mortal, and covered by the extra nos imputed alien obedience of Christ. Moreover, in Reformed theology no sin by a believer ever leaves him “destitute of … Salvation.” Having once received the extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness, no sin can leave a believer “destitute of … Salvation.” So the position you are advocating is neither Catholic nor Reformed. It is not Catholic, because it treats venial sins (committed while having agape within) as damnable but covered; and it is not Reformed, because it treats certain sins as not covered by Christ’s imputed righteousness. (If, however, you do think that all a believer’s sins are covered, and that no sin can leave him destitute of Salvation, then, as I said above, there is no principled distinction between mortal and venial sin in your position.) So, if you would like to discuss this further, let’s do so by email.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  313. Hello Bryan,

    You are certainly correct that for Calvin and those who followed his position it was impossible to lose Salvation and therefore there was no distinction made either expressly or conceptually of mortal/deadly and venial sins or states of sin (as I have noted in this and other threads). And if the term “Reformed” is defined narrowly then you are correct that no one who is “reformed” holds that there is any sins that can cause the loss of Salvation–which is why I wasn’t using the term “reformed” in relation to those who affirmed the distinction.

    However not all reformers in the reformation were in lock step with Calvin on this point and there were many leading reformers and leading reformation documents (e.g. the apology of augsburg) that in addition to affirming the “list paradigm”/”extra nos alien righteousness” also affirm the distinction/effects of venial and mortal sins as I have described above (if you don’t believe me–just check with any confessional Lutheran). This point is shown in brief on post 7 of the Calvin Did Not Recognize the Distinction Between Venial/Mortal Sin Thread
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/why-john-calvin-did-not-recognize-the-distinction-between-mortal-and-venial-sin/

    it is not Reformed, because it treats certain sins as not covered by Christ’s imputed righteousness.

    All sins are equally covered through a true faith–but as these reformers taught serious/mortal sin (until repented of) drives out the true faith which alone partakes in this covering of Christ’s imputed righteousness

    As the Apology of Augsburg notes in brief (for fuller quotes and more links please see post 7 of the Calvin on Mortal/Venial sin thread as noted above)
    “Wherefore, the faith which receives remission of sins in a heart terrified and fleeing from sin does not remain in those who obey their desires, neither does it coexist with mortal sin.”
    http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgdefense/5_love.html

    If I had time I could provide further examples but I don’t know when or if I’ll have time to discuss these points further (by post or email). Thanks for the discussion.

    God Bless,
    WA Scott

  314. @Bryan and Christopher:

    Thanks for your answers and pointing me to those pages. I’ll check them out.

  315. Bryan, I’ve been thinking about your response, but I still have a question. Your response really answered my question only in regard to Abraham. Abraham wasn’t made righteous again in the James 2 passage, in the sense of losing justification because of mortal sin and then regaining that justification; he was made more righteous. He couldn’t have been made righteous again during that event because he had good works before his justification, as the text clearly states. IOW, what I’m thinking is that Abraham had to be in a state of grace to perform his good work by which he was justified; otherwise he couldn’t have performed such a work. But what about those for whom justification is a transfer from mortal sin to a state of grace? If someone is justified by works and not by faith alone when in a state of mortal sin, then those works by which he is justified must be good works. But how can one do such good works before one is in a state of grace?

    Sorry if this question seems silly, but I’m really struggling with this issue right now. Thanks for your help.

  316. Jeremy (re: #315)

    You wrote:

    But what about those for whom justification is a transfer from mortal sin to a state of grace? If someone is justified by works and not by faith alone when in a state of mortal sin, then those works by which he is justified must be good works. But how can one do such good works before one is in a state of grace?

    That’s not a silly question at all. That’s a very important question. Prior to justification, a person can do good works on the natural order, but not on the supernatural order. Prior to justification, a person does not have agape, and so does not act for the sake of love for God as Father. Such a person can, however, be generous to others, show courage in the face of danger, care for his children, be faithful to his spouse, etc. But because these good acts are not done out of love for God as Father, they are not ordered to a supernatural end, and are not meritorious for justification or for heaven. I highly recommend the lecture at “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers,” because it explains precisely the distinction between natural good works, and works done in agape, and why natural good works (purely human works) cannot merit anything on the supernatural level. Natural good works are good on the natural order, but cannot merit in the supernatural order because they are not ordered to our supernatural end, because they are not done out of love for God. But heaven is a supernatural end (see “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark,” and “Seeing Him Just as He Is: The Beatific Vision.”) So a person who is not in a state of grace cannot be justified by works. Another way of saying that is that no works can translate a person from a state of mortal sin to a state of grace. Such a person needs living faith by the infusion of sanctifying grace and agape, and these are received through the sacrament of baptism, or the sacrament of penance in the case of someone who has committed mortal sin after baptism.

    So the key to understanding the answer to your question is understanding the difference between good works on the natural order, and good works on the supernatural order, and why the former cannot merit a supernatural end, and the latter can. And in order to understand that, one must understand the fundamental distinction between nature and grace, and why exactly Pelagianism is false, namely, because it conflates nature and grace, by treating nature itself (nature alone) as capable of meriting a supernatural end.

    If after reading the links I pointed you to here, you still have questions, feel free to ask.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  317. In the following talk (source), building on the one I linked to in comment #254, Fr. Barron describes the Catholic way of understanding the relation of faith and love, in light of the second chapter of the letter of St. James, and the writing of Martin Luther.

    Fr. Barron: “Faith Perfected by Love”

    This perhaps explains more clearly the way faith is the beginning of our justification, as I explained in comment #241.

  318. Bryan,

    In comment 245 you say,

    When Calvin claims that “faith alone first engenders love in us”, there is a certain *qualified* sense in which a Catholic can agree, because faith precedes charity in the order of generation

    Is this what Father Barron is saying in the link you give in 317? How is this different from what you said in comment 245 ,

    But traditional Protestant theology excludes agape from the definition of the “living faith” by which we are justified, maintaining instead that agape necessarily follows living faith, but is not a constituent of living faith

    Can you explain how faith preceding charity in the order of generation differs from agape necessarily following living faith?

    Thanks, Kim

  319. Kim (re: #318),

    You asked:

    Is this what Father Barron is saying in the link you give in 317?

    Correct. That is what I was explaining in the penultimate paragraph of #241.

    You next asked:

    How is this different from what you said in comment 245 ,

    But traditional Protestant theology excludes agape from the definition of the “living faith” by which we are justified, maintaining instead that agape necessarily follows living faith, but is not a constituent of living faith

    Can you explain how faith preceding charity in the order of generation differs from agape necessarily following living faith?

    In the Reformed system “we are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” In other words, justifying faith is always followed by or accompanied by agape and good works. According to Catholic doctrine, by contrast, agape does not only follow living faith; agape is part of the very essence of living faith. In Catholic doctrine we are justified by living faith, which is not merely faith that is always followed by agape, but is fides caritate formata, i.e. faith informed by agape. We are not justified by faith alone, even if that faith is accompanied by or will be followed by agape. Agape makes faith alive, and thus justifying. That’s what Fr. Barron means in saying that agape “perfects” faith. Both Protestant and Catholic doctrine recognizes that faith precedes agape in the order of generation, because one cannot love what one does not know. But according to Protestant doctrine faith alone justifies, though that faith must be accompanied by agape, whereas in Catholic doctrine faith alone does not justify; only faith made alive by agape justifies. It is a subtle but important difference. And the point of my “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” post was to challenge Protestants to demonstrate that the Bible teaches the Protestant position on this question, because, as I explained there, they have the burden of proof, and a knock-down case from Scripture is necessary in order even to begin to attempt to justify forming a schism from the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  320. Bryan (#319)

    But according to Protestant doctrine faith alone justifies, though that faith must be accompanied by agape, whereas in Catholic doctrine faith alone does not justify; only faith made alive by agape justifies.

    This is fascinating to me, because it shows how ignorant I was of Protestant doctrine, though I was a Protestant – and one who sought to dig deeply into his understanding of the faith – for 25 years – 20 of them as Reformed.

    I had always believed that when the Protestant differentiated between dead faith and living faith, he meant precisely this: that living faith was faith informed by love. From what you say, what was meant – or what the well-educated Protestant ought to have meant – was that living faith was faith that was inevitably followed by the growth of love in the believer – but that his justification was based on bare faith.

    If that is correct – do you think I have understood it correctly? – it begins to seem a little difficult to know what this living (bare) faith is actually like. You can only know it by its fruits. Would that be right?

    Again, though, I do affirm that I knew (and still know, I think) Protestants who would say that bare faith is saving, even though there may be no slightest trace of love that follows. I know that hearing that, and knowing how completely impossible, and unScriptural, it was, was one of the things that led me to the Reformed faith. But of course, as I said, what I thought was meaning, when I was Reformed, by living faith, was precisely fides caritate formata.

    jj

  321. J. Ratzinger on faith and love in “Introduction to Christianity” (p. 270, 2004 Ignatius Press):

    “Of course, the principle of love, if is is to be genuine, includes faith. Only thus does it remain what it is. For without faith, which we have come to understand as a term expressing man’s ultimate need to receive and the inadequacy of all personal achievement, love becomes an arbitrary deed. It cancels itself out and becomes self-righteousness: faith and love condition and demand each other reciprocally.”

    He says this after affirming love as the center of the Christian faith. Clearly, the Catholic understanding of faith and love as Ratzinger expresses it is aware of the emptiness of faith without love, as well as the fruitlessness of love that has no anchor in faith.

  322. John, (re: #320)

    You wrote:

    I had always believed that when the Protestant differentiated between dead faith and living faith, he meant precisely this: that living faith was faith informed by love. From what you say, what was meant – or what the well-educated Protestant ought to have meant – was that living faith was faith that was inevitably followed by the growth of love in the believer – but that his justification was based on bare faith.

    If that is correct – do you think I have understood it correctly? – it begins to seem a little difficult to know what this living (bare) faith is actually like. You can only know it by its fruits. Would that be right?

    From what you say, it seems to me that you were previously mistaken about what living faith is for Protestants (traditionally). See the article at the link at footnote 6 of the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” post. Then, in that article (“Justification: Divided Over Charity”) make sure to read the R. Scott Clark article linked to from there. In response to the Pope’s 2008 statement on justification (linked to in both those articles), Ligon Duncan (of Reformed Theological Seminary) says, “And if my justification is based, in any way, on my love – I have no hope.” That’s the typical, standard Protestant way of thinking about this question, as I’ve been pointing out repeatedly in this very thread, because that way of thinking presupposes the list-paradigm.

    Bare faith, in Reformed theology, is notia and assensus (or notia alone). Living faith, in Reformed theology, is [notia and assensus and fiducia]. (See, for example, here.) In Reformed theology we are justified by [notia and assensus and fiducia] alone. The mistake there is substituting the theological virtue of hope for agape, with respect to what makes faith living, as I explained in comment #249 above, and Isaiah responded to helpfully in comment #251. The concept of fiducia involves assent with hope, but not agape.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  323. Bryan (319),

    I just wonder if the Reformed might actually believe in this living faith. I notice the Belgic confession of 1561 states in 24:

    Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith that worketh by love, which excites man to the practice of those works, which God has commended in his Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by his grace: howbeit they are of no account towards our justification.

    So here they are actually talking about a faith that worketh by love. However it is in their section on sanctification. Their section on faith (in 22) does not define the faith. But here in 24 they are saying it is a faith that worketh by love. Are you saying this is really different? Are they actually saying or would they actually mean that the faith that saves is one without love? I just don’t get this sense out of this article 24…..but I may be misunderstanding.

  324. Kim, (re: #323),

    Of course every Protestant affirms that faith works through love for sanctification. But in Protestant theology justification and sanctification are distinct, and we are justified by faith alone. So when you say “the faith that saves” you are glossing the distinctions between justification, sanctification, and salvation. Every traditional Protestant would say that the only faith that *saves* is faith *with* love. But every traditional Protestant would also say that what justifies is “faith alone.” Remember, the Reformed principle is “we are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” In Protestant theology no one who has no agape is saved. But love in us does not in any way contribute to justification. Please read the links I referred John to in comment #322 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  325. Thanks, Bryan (#322) – It sounds like I was a Catholic all along and didn’t know it (some of my still-Reformed friends would probably nod their heads and say, “Yep – you were!”) :-)

    jj

  326. Bryan (324),

    Thanks. When I asked my questions in 323 I did not have your current comment 322 up on my screen. I then saw your comments and read the article linked to footnote 6. It sometimes seems like semantics as you did mention in the article. But then you say it is not entirely semantics. I think I would agree. [This is frustrating!] Anyways, thanks again, Kim

  327. More, Bryan – in that footnote, you say:

    6.One possible response here is that agape always is co-present with justifying faith, but that justification is nevertheless not dependent on the presence of agape. But if we agree that agape is always co-present with justifying faith, then there is no reason to hold imputation-but-not-infusion, and hence no reason to remain in schism over the issue. See my previous post on this general subject, titled “Justification: Divided over Charity.”

    Yes, this is what I was trying, clumsily, to say to Hugh in that thread – that if saving faith always is accompanied by agape – then the difference between Protestants and Catholics on this point seems to me only a matter of the theoretical understanding, not the substance, of saving faith. To be sure, the Reformed understanding seems to me incoherent and without any motivation, if the only faith that saves is the faith that results in agape – a distinction without a difference. Sola fide seems to come down to a slogan rather than anything with any real content.

    I have been told – don’t know if it is true – that at least Luther himself denied that saving faith must result in agape – that it was precisely possible for a man to have faith that God had saved him, that such a man would be saved, and that he might never be in any sense different in behaviour from the greatest un-saved sinner in the world. It was that idea, amongst others, in Lutheranism and its absolute law-vs-Gospel idea (as I understood it – possibly misunderstood it) that was why I became Reformed in the first place, after having messed with evangelicalism and Lutheranism for the first few years of my becoming a Christian.

    jj

  328. PPS – I may say, too, that when, during the process of my becoming a Catholic, I learnt that God really did want to make me righteous – not just consider me righteous – I was moved to tears. The awfullest awfullest awfullest burden had been believing that I had no choice but to go on actually being sinful – and just knowing that God had forgiven me for Christ’s sake, and being told, in effect, not to worry about it.

    The most incredibly wonderful promise of Purgatory is non posse peccare. In my first year as a Christian – and I didn’t become a Christian in any sense at all until I was 27 – I read C. S. Lewis on Purgatory. The desire to be clean is heart-rendingly wonderful:

    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 never have known what Protestants say about the necessity of our being actually righteous in Heaven. Do they believe in a kind of instant Purgatory at death??

    jj

  329. Bryan (324) ,

    You wrote:

    …the Reformed principle is “we are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” In Protestant theology no one who has no agape is saved. But love in us does not in any way contribute to justification

    This is the problem I run into in discussions with Protestants. At times they seem to separate justification and salvation and at other times they are one and the same thing. This gets confusing when looking at sanctification. If justification is all we need to be saved then why do we need sanctification? Then they say sanctification will flow out of justification. Ryle in his book on Holiness states:

    If the Bible is true, it is certain that unless we are sanctified, we shall not be saved. There are three things which , according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom. These three are justification, regeneration and sanctification. All three meet in every child of God: he is both born again and justified and sanctified. He who lacks any one of these three things is not a true Christian in the sight of God and, dying in that condition, will not be found in heaven and glorified in the last day…………………………In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith works by love.

    [from my kindle book at around 9 percent]

    Therefore if love in us (according to the Protestant view) does not contribute to justification, but we need it for sanctification then we need it for salvation. But then justification needs something to be added to it in order to attain salvation. Yet they then say , no, it flows out of justification and is not an addition. Huh? It seems circular .. Can you explain to me if this is how they reason (for this is how I see it) and if so what kind of reasoning would this be? KIM

  330. John, (re: #328)

    You wrote:

    I never have known what Protestants say about the necessity of our being actually righteous in Heaven. Do they believe in a kind of instant Purgatory at death??

    Yes, instantaneous and painless. See Chapter 33 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Question #86 in the Westminster Larger Catechism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  331. Wow.

    “In response to the Pope’s 2008 statement on justification (linked to in both those articles), Ligon Duncan (of Reformed Theological Seminary) says, “And if my justification is based, in any way, on my love – I have no hope.” That’s the typical, standard Protestant way of thinking about this question, as I’ve been pointing out repeatedly in this very thread, because that way of thinking presupposes the list-paradigm.”

    It sounds very much like Mr. Duncan’s argument is simply a theological tool for denying any need to identify Christ with the poor and needy. Because in the context of what he’s replying to (see his own link here: http://www.zenit.org/article-24302?l=english) that is the substance of what he’s denying (and BXVI is quoting literally from the Gospel, BTW).

    These 3 remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love [and it's damned inconvenient, so let's try to justify removing that from our theories and practice - gloss of the last 600 years of lived Christianity].

  332. “Therefore if love in us (according to the Protestant view) does not contribute to justification, but we need it for sanctification then we need it for salvation. But then justification needs something to be added to it in order to attain salvation. Yet they then say , no, it flows out of justification and is not an addition. Huh? It seems circular .. Can you explain to me if this is how they reason (for this is how I see it) and if so what kind of reasoning would this be? KIM”

    Nope, it actually is circular. Because at a certain point you put your faith in an idea rather than Someone Who is actually present hic et nunc in front of you (through a human relationship but not fully identical with that relationship).

    It’s the desire to negotiate with the Mystery which is normal in any highly religious culture; but Christianity is something more than just religious culture. This is why Catholicism develops; it’s the development of the actual historical encounter with Christ; it’s not a theory.

  333. Father Wojciech Giertych, theologian of the papal household, gave an excellent lecture on September 16, 2011 at St. Thomas Aquinas College On Aquinas’ Vision of Christian Morality in which he touches on many issues, including the infused divine virtue of charity, the Christology of icons and how they all tie in together. The link includes a transcript of the lecture.

    Rev. Wojciech Giertych, O.P., on Aquinas’ Vision of Christian Morality

  334. I noticed over at the Green Baggins site that it was pointed out that “justify” in James has the meaning of only “show one to be righteous.” While that provides a Protestant-friendly explanation of what James meant by being justified not by faith alone but also by works, I have my doubts about whether it’s correct. I know that the word for “justify” can have meanings other than “make righteous,” but I’m not sure that particular meaning fits the context of James 2. Thoughts? (Sorry if this was already answered over on Green Baggins’ site and I missed it.) Could James have really intended the meaning show one to be righteous rather than make righteous?

  335. Dear John, my friend (re#327)

    You made me laugh by saying that your Reformed friends would have said that you always were Catholic! I think people would say the same about me ;) I’m afraid I have always been a suspect, following around behind my pastor, timorously (could he sense some latent heresy?) inquiring whether or not I *actually* received something from Christ when I became a Christian. What did it mean to have “Christ in you, the hope of glory” or in what way was I to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”? That may sound childish, but if I were, by election, a special object of God’s grace, how was I to know given that other faiths claim a relationship with God too?
    I also knew people who seemed to manifest a closer union with Jesus than I did. I was told not to pay attention to another’s sanctification because fruit inspection is a trap being that we can’t really know what is going on in another’s heart. Now I thank that this is good advice in that every Christian is not exactly at the same place and then there are personality differences to take into account. I’m prone to pessimism myself, and even my self-abasement is upside down pride. This is probably why sola fide has such an appeal…..to say that you are yielding entirely to Christ feels so freeing and makes one appear entirely humble( and I think the desire to be humble is truly present) because “self” seems absolutely removed from the equation. At the same time I was not receiving explicit instruction( I was being spurred on to keep the law ; antinomianism is consciously avoided) about how to help my own sanctification. So, sanctification, as a category, was acknowledged intermittently, but in no way is it defined as progressive salvation. Along the way, I began to think spirituality was just weird poppycock and Pharisaical one-upping, and since zeal and fervency didn’t seem to matter any longer, because that would be a measure of one’s love, the only thing one needed to pay attention to was the articulation of the gospel. Of course, if you were seriously doing wrong you might want to examine yourself in the light of God’s word, and confess your sin, which depending on the severity of the sin, would make one wonder whether or not he were even elect. When you did confess, it was the “gospel” that supposedly refreshed you and not confession of sin and receiving forgiveness. The gospel was always spoken of as being external, so sanctification which is an internal change also needed to be monergistic, again, to keep it straightly Christocentric, but ultimately that did damage to the sacraments. What was going on in the sacraments? If I were receiving Christ by faith, where was it being deposited exactly? Besides, didn’t I already have Christ by faith, what more did I need? If I were getting a super addition of the grace of Christ was this beneficial to my overall salvation or merely a sign? If it is not beneficial to my salvation why hadn’t we done away with it? Call me a trouble maker, but I guess I was always Catholic only I didn’t know it.

    ~Susan

  336. Question for Reformed/formerly Reformed Christians:

    I’ve been thinking a bit about Dr. Ligon Duncan’s statement from Michael’s comment 331 above. This statement reminded me of the video from a different thread which Bryan Cross alluded to in comment number 213 above in this thread. Both Duncan and Sproul comment, in all humility, about how if they have to be a certain degree of loving then their situation must be hopeless because they can’t live up to the standards of love as they see it. Sola Fide attracts them because it makes sense of this observation that they can’t love perfectly yet can still be saved.

    My question for the Reformed and formerly Reformed is whether or not an imperfect act of faith alone can justify as understood in Reformed Theology. Am I to conclude that Sproul and Duncan have perfect faith – faith free of any defect? If not, then what reason is there to distinguish faith and love such that imperfect faith alone justifies but imperfect love does not justify?

    Are faith and love held to the same standards in the Reformed? To me, it appears that they are not and I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t be, except of course for some arbitrary reason. It seems like if faith were to be held to the same standard as love than it would logically follow that perfect faithfulness to God’ (perfect knowledge of the object of faith as well as our fidelity to all the commandments) is what justifies us.

    Is my question clear?

  337. Susan (#335)

    I told my Reformed pastor that in becoming Catholic, I had rejected nothing that I had believed as a Protestant. I had only ceased rejecting certain things – the essence, I think, of Protestantism is this business of deciding what we don’t believe.

    Naturally, he doesn’t think I am right :-)

    jj

  338. Jeremy (#334),

    Some time ago I posted a brief analysis of the verb “to justify” on this site: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/08/δικαιόω-a-morphological-lexical-and-historical-analysis/

    It’s not meant to say what the word “means” in all cases, but simply to explain what’s possible. That post should really be read together with Bryan’s post “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

  339. Bryan,

    I have been enjoying your article and discussion but am still having trouble wrapping my mind around the agape paradigm. Let me see if I’m understanding this:

    In the list paradigm, perfect adherence to the law = salvation, but we can never achieve perfect adherence because of our fallen nature, therefore Christ’s righteousness and perfect obedience is imputed on the elect.

    In the agape paradigm, perfect adherence to the law =/= salvation. God does not demand a perfect adherence to the law. We receive an infusion of Christ’s righteousness at baptism. Since this grace of God in us is the fulfillment of the law, and God does not expect perfect adherence to the law, Christian life is not a treadmill of legalism, works, and sacraments. God looks on our faith and charity flowing from infused righteousness as the fulfillment of the two greatest commandments (love God and neighbor), even though we don’t always perfectly love our neighbors and God. Through agape, we become partakers in the divine nature, we have communion with god, and through continued justification and sanctification, we become “like God.” If I understand correctly, this is called divinization or theosis. Or salvation is due first to our communion with God, not our strict adherence to moral standards.

    I’m not sure I’m understanding this, so correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, your post #141 was excellent. I know the purpose of this article isn’t to defend the agape paradigm, but it sounds like that post is the beginning of a great article doing so. I would love to see you finish that thought, explaining why the agape paradigm is correct from scripture and tradition. You do a good job of explaining the Reformed fear of Catholic soteriology, but I’m having trouble grasping how to explain why these fears are unfounded.

  340. Chris,

    God looks on our faith and charity flowing from infused righteousness as the fulfillment of the two greatest commandments (love God and neighbor), even though we don’t always perfectly love our neighbors and God.

    Not to speak for Bryan, but I have a strong suspicion he is going to say that the infused agape that the believer receives is not just “looked upon” by God as the fulfillment of the law, but is in fact the fulfillment of the law.

    As Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus… for what the law could not do, God did… in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk after the Spirit.”

  341. Fr. Bryan (#336),

    I hope that I understood your questions correctly. Is an “imperfect act of faith” synonymous with an imperfect act of *contrition*? I’m not familiar with the first term (my convert/revert roots are showing here, no doubt!), but I know well the meaning of the latter: a prayer prayed, concerning one’s sins, about which one is “sorrowful,” in a sense, but not in the sense of one’s having offended God– only in the sense of one’s fear of going to Hell.

    In the basic thinking of Reformed Christianity, when one professes faith in Christ alone for one’s salvation, one’s driving *motivations* (that is, *if* the faith is truly saving faith, and not just notional, intellectual assent) are, by definition, that of true love for God, deep sorrow for one’s sins (because, in sinning, one has offended God), and the desire to be reconciled to God. The fear of Hell is there too, but it is really only a motivation insofar as to be in Hell is to be forever separated from the one true God whom one has come to love by His grace.

    In Reformed thinking, a person who has come to have true, saving faith would not likely profess faith in Christ *only or primarily* because of the simple fear of the pains of Hell. At least as I understood it, in the Reformed paradigm, true love for God must be present in one’s initial profession of faith in Christ, or one’s faith is not true faith.

    Also, in Reformed theology, one’s initial, saving profession of faith in Christ is *not* the same thing as an “act of contrition” in Catholic theology. In a perfect act of contrition, faith in Christ alone is certainly present. A *Reformed* profession of faith in Christ, though, is a profession (upon one’s regeneration and conversion) to trust in Christ alone, that through His sacrifice on the cross, one’s sins have been forgiven *and* that one is “covered” by that sacrifice *for the entirety of one’s life*– in that the perfect, obedient righteousness of Christ Himself is now “counted” by God to the believer, period, full stop. In other words, in Reformed thinking, after a person truly comes to faith in Christ, God now chooses to view that person *as though* he/she were just as righteous as Christ Himself. However, if the person faith has true faith, this “imputed righteousness” will not lead to antinomianism, because true faith is accompanied by love for God, the genuine desire to obey Him, and a genuine showing of fruit (through works) in a person’s life– even as, in Reformed theology, that love, desire, and fruit do not justify a person before God.

    Again, I hope that I understood your question(s) correctly, Father. Please do let me know whether or not my answers were helpful.

  342. Thanks, David, for that link. I’ve been doing more thinking about the justification issue as it appears in James 2, and I’ve posted my thoughts over on my blog, but I’ll post the entire thing here rather than try to direct traffic to another site. I’m not sure how clear I am, or how confusing, but any feedback on it would be appreciated. I’m really trying to nail down this justification issue, and in the process I tried to break down the relevant parts of James 2 so that I could make sense out of it (hopefully). Anyway, here it is:

    I recently read on another blog that the word justified in James 2 means “to show to be righteous” rather than “make righteous.” If this is true, then it strongly upholds the Protestant view that all James meant to teach in this passage was that works demonstrate saving faith and nothing more. I went back and read the passage in James 2 carefully, though, and I concluded otherwise, namely, that James has in view the meaning “make righteous”—not merely “show to be righteous.” Admittedly, I am still working through this issue, but as of right now this is my take on James 2. I’ll go through it in parts to show how I arrived at my conclusion.

    14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

    So James is asking whether a certain faith is saving. This is important because the entire explanation that follows is written to answer that question. James is concerned with the issue of salvation, not whether others see our faith as genuine. He does not set out to answer the question, “How can someone know whether my faith is genuine?” but rather “What makes saving faith saving?” Certainly the former question gets answered in the process, but it’s vital to remember that James’ goal in this passage is to answer the rhetorical question he poses in v. 14: Can faith devoid of works save? And his answer is no because:

    17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    He is defining saving faith, not trying to explain what makes it look genuine in the eyes of others.

    18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.”

    Here he presents a hypothetical objection from someone who attempts to separate faith from works, claiming that it’s possible to have saving faith without works.

    Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

    He now responds to the hypothetical claim that saving faith can exist apart from works. Note that his answer to this hypothetical objection is just part of his process of defining saving faith. This provides further proof that he is not primarily interested in whether works validate faith as saving in the eyes of other men. He’s not chiefly concerned with outward appearances—even though that does come up—but rather with what makes saving faith saving.

    19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

    A mere intellectual belief is not enough for faith to be genuine, for even the demons believe but have no good works.

    20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?

    Here he brings up an example from the OT, Abraham, saying he was “justified by works.” Remember from v. 14 that he is mainly addressing whether a person’s faith is saving, not whether other people see it as such. James has salvation in view in this explanation, not the demonstration of genuine faith to others. So when he uses the phrase “justified by works” in reference to Abraham, what else can we make of it but that works played a role in Abraham’s justification and, therefore, did more than merely show him to be righteous?

    22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;

    It is impossible for true saving faith to exist without works, since faith and works are equally active, and faith is completed by works.

    23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    If James means “justified” here as “show to be righteous,” then the meaning would be: “You see that a person is shown to be righteous by works and not [shown to be righteous] by faith alone.” But again, this flies in the face of the issue he is seeking to resolve, as made plain in v. 14: whether faith without works saves. So he must be using the term justified in the same sense that Paul used it, i.e., in a manner connoting salvation. Since that is the case, how can works, according to James, be limited to a merely demonstrative role that takes place after justification?

    25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

    If justified here means “show to be righteous,” then Rahab was a poor example to use, since she lived among pagans and thus her good works would not have shown her to be righteous to anyone.

  343. Chris Leman, (re: #339)

    You wrote:

    In the list paradigm, perfect adherence to the law = salvation, but we can never achieve perfect adherence because of our fallen nature, therefore Christ’s righteousness and perfect obedience is imputed on the elect.

    In the agape paradigm, perfect adherence to the law =/= salvation. God does not demand a perfect adherence to the law. We receive an infusion of Christ’s righteousness at baptism. Since this grace of God in us is the fulfillment of the law, and God does not expect perfect adherence to the law, Christian life is not a treadmill of legalism, works, and sacraments. God looks on our faith and charity flowing from infused righteousness as the fulfillment of the two greatest commandments (love God and neighbor), even though we don’t always perfectly love our neighbors and God. Through agape, we become partakers in the divine nature, we have communion with god, and through continued justification and sanctification, we become “like God.” If I understand correctly, this is called divinization or theosis. Or salvation is due first to our communion with God, not our strict adherence to moral standards.

    JJS rightly anticipated what I would say. One of the difficulties regarding paradigms is not realizing that one doesn’t see the other paradigm. But then, once you see it, the picture falls into place.

    So in order to grasp the agape paradigm, replace the word ‘righteousness’ with the word ‘agape;’ agape is righteousness. Agape is the fulfillment of the law. So it is not true that in the agape paradigm God lowers His standard, from perfectly keeping every law, to something less, counting agape as if it is righteousness, even though the person is not actually truly righteous. That’s still thinking within the list-paradigm, and then trying to conceive the agape paradigm from within the list-paradigm. Agape was the fulfillment of the law the whole time. Agape is what the law pointed to the whole time. Agape has always been the perfect standard, what righteousness is. The law was the shadow. The law pointed to true righteousness, but was not itself that righteousness, because true righteousness is God Himself, and the law cannot without remainder (to say the least) contain God. So although the law points to true righteousness by way of precepts, the law is not the essence of true righteousness. Agape is the true essence of righteousness. So to define agape in terms of the law is to define the real thing by way of its shadow. And that’s what the list-paradigm does.

    So it is not the case that in the agape paradigm “God does not demand a perfect adherence to the law” or “God does not expect perfect adherence to the law.” Infused agape is the fulfillment of the law, because infused agape is a participation in the God who is our Righteousness. Likewise, it is not the case that in the agape paradigm “God looks on our faith and charity flowing from infused righteousness as the fulfillment of the two greatest commandments (love God and neighbor), even though we don’t always perfectly love our neighbors and God.” Agape is the perfect fulfillment of the law. You’re still trying to define righteousness by way of the law, rather than by way of that to which the law points. So you’re trying to conceive of the agape paradigm from within the list-paradigm. The agape paradigm is a different paradigm altogether, not something that fits in the list-paradigm.

    When the Catechumen is baptized, he is given a white robe, representing the righteousness that he has received in baptism, by the infusion of sanctifying grace and faith, hope, and agape into his soul. The priest (or bishop) then says to him, “Receive this baptismal garment and bring it unstained to the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that you may have everlasting life.” What it means to bring it unstained to the judgment seat of Christ is never to commit a mortal sin for the rest of your life, i.e. never to drive from your soul the agape the Holy Spirit infused into you at baptism. The confessor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux said that St. Thérèse never committed a mortal sin. That’s the life to which all baptized persons are called. In the early Church you see controversy between Catholics on the one hand, and Montanists and Novatians on the other, regarding the forgiveness of post-baptismal mortal sins. The controversy only makes sense if it was absolutely expected of baptized Catholics that they never commit a mortal sin, and thus never lose the righteousness they have received in baptism by the infusion of sanctifying grace and agape. But this distinction between mortal and venial sin is intelligible only in the agape paradigm, not in the list paradigm, which has no non-arbitrary basis for the distinction of mortal and venial sin. Protestants like R.C. Sproul somewhat mockingly report that in the early Church penance was a kind of “second plank” of salvation for those who after baptism committed mortal sin. But this whole idea of “second plank” makes no sense in the list paradigm, not only because in Calvinism you can’t lose your justification, but also because it presupposes the mortal-venial distinction, which has been there from the beginning, because from the beginning Christians prayed the Lord’s prayer daily (in which we ask God to forgive us our daily sins), and believed the first epistle of St. John, according to which only liars say they have no sin.

    Venial sin is compatible with agape, for the reasons I’ve explained in the comments above. The list-paradigm must treat venial sins as unrighteousness in essence, because in the list-paradigm there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin. In the agape paradigm venial sin is not unrighteousness itself, but is a deviation from the perfect expression of the true righteousness one possesses as infused agape. From the list-paradigm, “deviation from the perfect expression of the true righteousness” can be nothing other than unrighteousness. And that shows the limitation of the list-paradigm. In the agape paradigm, the person in a state of grace who commits a venial sin does not lose any righteousness strictly speaking; he does not go from 100% righteous to 99% righteous. So long as he retains agape he remains 100% righteous. But through venial sin he may accrue a debt of temporal punishment and have disordered attachments to created things. These, however are not the essence of righteousness. Remember: agape in the will is the essence of righteousness. The removal of the debt of temporal punishment is strictly speaking not a gain in righteousness; nor is the removal of disordered attachments to created things, nor is the removal or diminishing of concupiscence. These are secondary ways in which different aspects of our being participate in agape, but righteousness itself is the supernatural virtue of agape in the will. That is why it is possible to be truly righteous (by the infusion of agape in the will), and yet still have vices and dispositions toward sin. Because, again, agape [in the will] is righteousness.

    I hope that’s helpful in clarifying the distinction between the two paradigms. Some of this was explained in my comments above, but the comments are rather long now, so it is quite understandable if you didn’t read through them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  344. Friends,

    What degree of perfection is possible in your best Catholic life now?

    We’re told in Bryan’s post #343, “The confessor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux said that St. Thérèse never committed a mortal sin. That’s the life to which all baptized persons are called.”

    Is this possible? In his #328, jj says, “The most incredibly wonderful promise of Purgatory is non posse peccare.”

    Here & now in your theology, or only in (or through) Purgatory? We of course say it’s only in the eternal glorified state that one can never sin.

    But on the flip-side, we find all believers’ sins completely remitted at the cross of Christ. Now. In Him we HAVE redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. {Eph. 1:7, NKJV; cf. Col. 1:9-14.} St Paul says we ARE blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, holy and without blame before Him, predestined to adoption as sons, accepted in the Beloved. {Eph. 1:3-6.}

    Full forgiveness of all sins, past present, and future. The righteousness of Christ irrevocably reckoned to sinners, who cannot lose that righteousness through sin.

  345. Hugh (re:#344),

    Thanks for your question, brother. In regard to Catholics and possible degrees of perfection in this life now, I assume that you know what Catholics believe about the Immaculate Conception of Mary– and if you don’t know, please see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/12/mary-without-sin-scripture-and-tradition/– but obviously, Mary is seem as a very special case within Catholic theology, due to her special role as the bearer of the Incarnation.

    St. Augustine wrote that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for man to live in this world without committing at least some venial sins. This accords with the Biblical statement that if any man (other than Christ) claims to be without sin (utterly without sin, as in, never having committed a sin), then that person is a liar. (I know that you don’t believe in the distinction between venial and mortal sin.) Yet Christ did say, “Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” He didn’t say, “Admit that you can never *become* perfect in this life, due to your depravity, and trust in me, be covered by my sacrifice and my perfect obedience, and have my perfect righteousness counted to you by faith alone.” He never said or taught such concepts anywhere in the Gospels. He did say, “Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

    In light of Christ’s actual words, we should ask, would He command something of us that, even *with* all of the regenerating, enabling power of God’s grace, is *absolutely impossible* for us to attain in this life?

    This is simply my personal opinion/conjecture here, but I don’t believe that even most Christians come close to perfect obedience in this life. (I include myself here, sadly.) Thus, my belief that most Christians do spend varying degrees of time in Purgatory before going on to Heaven. I suspect that I will be in Purgatory for a good while– though I do *aspire* to “capital-S” Sainthood and going straight on to Heaven when I die. All Christians are called to be Saints– to believe and live as Saints do– in the Catholic Church’s teaching.

    About the concept of “imputed righteousness,” I used to fervently believe in it myself. However, there are simply too many statements from Christ about the necessity of obedience for salvation, and the lack of obedience leading to Hell, *even* for professing believers, for the Reformed teaching of “imputed righteousness” to truly be reconciled with the teaching of the Bible. Given that you don’t believe that this is so, I would be interested in how you would explain the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, in which *obedience to God*, and *not* “faith alone,” is shown by Our Lord to be the difference between Heaven or Hell.

    If you give what used to be my explanation of the text, as a Reformed Christian– that Christ is simply speaking of those who were predestined to be saved, and those who were not, as “evidenced” through their works–, then I will have great difficulty in *not* seeing that as an example of Reformed eisegesis, because Christ says *nothing at all* about works as mere “evidence” of justifying faith in the Gospels, and St. James explicitly refutes “justification by faith alone” in James 2:14-24. As for St. Paul’s statements about believers being justified apart from “works of the law,” please see my reply to you here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/09/does-the-bible-teach-sola-fide/#comment-37678

    Regarding the Reformed teaching that *all* of the sins committed by believers, throughout their lives, are forgiven, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, when they come to trust in Him, via “faith alone,” this teaching does logical violence to the very words of The Lord’s Prayer. Please see this article for why this is the case: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/reformed-imputation-and-the-lords-prayer/

    As always, don’t feel that you need to reply quickly. I sincerely want you to have the time to carefully read and consider the material at these links, and then reply, so that our discussion can be most productive. Thanks again for your question, brother.

  346. Hugh (re:#345),

    The first link in my reply to you doesn’t work, due to an apparent formatting issue of some sort. Here’s the link again (it should work this time): http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/12/mary-without-sin-scripture-and-tradition/

  347. R. Scott Clark writes:

    The medieval and Tridentine Roman church taught (falsely) that we are accepted by God on the basis of the Spirit’s work in us and our cooperation with that grace. The ground of our acceptance with God was said to be “inherent righteousness” (iustitia inhaerens) or sometimes “charity poured forth into our hearts.” This is what some Romanist apologists are now calling the “Agape” model, as if exchanging the Latin “caritas” (charity) for the Greek Agape makes a substantial difference.

    I haven’t see any Catholic claim that using the term agape rather than the term caritas makes any substantial difference to the paradigm.

    He continues:

    In contrast to the Romish doctrine, Perkins wanted to be clear that, relative to acceptance with God, Christ’s righteousness is truly extra nos (outside us) but he himself does not remain so. Again, one hears Calvin saying: If Christ remains outside of us, he is of no benefit to us. By virtue of Sprit-wrought union with Christ, we become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.

    This ends up being a Cheshire cat conception of justification: Christ is within the believer, but His righteousness is not within the believer. When Christ comes into the believer, He leaves His righteousness outside the door of the believer’s soul. Of course this would entail that the Christ in the believer is unrighteous, or at least that His righteousness is external to Him as well, at least when and where He is in the believer. It would imply that the righteousness of the Christ within the believer is alien not only to the believer, but also to the Christ in the believer. The problematic character of these implications need no explanation.

    This position presupposes the list paradigm of righteousness, according to which it is not the case that Christ is our supernatural Righteousness and we are made righteous by the gift of participation in Him, but that Christ’s righteousness is something that can be separated from Him, because it is a set of acts of obedience to the law by Christ in His human will. In the agape paradigm, by contrast, Christ in His human nature was righteous from conception because of sanctifying grace and infused agape, before [logically] in His human will He obeyed the Father. Implicit within the list paradigm is a rejection of the traditional distinction between nature and grace, and between the natural order and the supernatural order. Barrett shows as much in his discussion of the Reformed conception of the Covenant of Works, in his article “Pelagian Westminster?.”

    Another difficulty for Clark’s position is that it has no means of coherently distinguishing between the sense in which Christ is uniquely in the believer, and the sense in which Christ is everywhere by His omnipresence. If Christ is truly united to us internally, then so is His righteousness, because He is nowhere unrighteous. If, on the other hand, Christ’s righteousness is not united to us internally, then Clark’s claim that Christ is in us is reduced to the equivalent of Christ’s omnipresence in bees, trees and rocks. “Vital union” is not an option for Clark, because ‘vital union’ does not cohere with the conjunction of (a) the rejection of participation in the divine nature and (b) affirming the Creator-creature distinction, as I explained in “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark.” The problem Barrett explained with the notion that Adam and Eve’s pre-Fall fellowship with God in the cool of the day was by unaided human nature and not by infused grace, is the same problem with the notion that without infused grace (see comment #3 in the “Pelagian Westminster?” thread) believers can have “vital union” with Christ.

  348. Bryan,
    You wrote:

    This ends up being a Cheshire cat conception of justification: Christ is within the believer, but His righteousness is not within the believer. When Christ comes into the believer, He leaves His righteousness outside the door of the believer’s soul. Of course this would entail that the Christ in the believer is unrighteous, or at least that His righteousness is external to Him as well, at least when and where He is in the believer. It would imply that the righteousness of the Christ within the believer is alien not only to the believer, but also to the Christ in the believer. The problematic character of these implications need no explanation.

    Of course Christ’s righteousness is in the believer; it’s simply not mixed with our nature to produce a justifiable person.

    In your system, when a Catholic sins mortally, and s/he loses their righteousness (Christ’s + theirs) does Jesus then cease to be resident, since the mortally sinful (prior to penance, absolution, etc.) has lost Christ’s righteousness? Is Christ and “His righteousness outside the door of the believer’s soul”?

  349. Hugh (re: #348)

    You wrote:

    Of course Christ’s righteousness is in the believer; it’s simply not mixed with our nature to produce a justifiable person.

    That doesn’t solve the problem with Clark’s claim. If what it means for Christ to be in us while His righteousness remains extra nos is that His righteousness does not “mix with our nature,” then when Christ comes into a believer He mixes Himself (minus His righteousness) with the believer’s nature. But because Reformed theology denies participation (i.e. theosis, deification), there is no such thing in Reformed theology of Christ coming into a believer by mixing with the believer’s nature. Christ took on human nature in the incarnation, but both believers and unbelievers share human nature, so if taking on human nature is what Christ’s indwelling the believer means, that would entail that Christ indwells believers and unbelievers alike. That’s a conclusion Clark would not accept. If, however, when Christ indwells a believer neither He nor His righteousness “mixes with” the believer’s nature, then your statement does not explain how Christ can be in us without His righteousness also being within us.

    In your system, when a Catholic sins mortally, and s/he loses their righteousness (Christ’s + theirs) does Jesus then cease to be resident, since the mortally sinful (prior to penance, absolution, etc.) has lost Christ’s righteousness? Is Christ and “His righteousness outside the door of the believer’s soul”?

    Yes and yes.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  350. Thanks, Bryan @349,

    If what it means for Christ to be in us while His righteousness remains extra nos is that His righteousness does not “mix with our nature,” then when Christ comes into a believer He mixes Himself (minus His righteousness) with the believer’s nature.

    Don’t know how that follows. All of Christ is in us per Gal. 2:20 (“it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”). But we are not Christ; Christ is not us. The Apostle Paul (or others) never says “I am Christ,” or, “Christ is me.” Yes, we reject theosis! As you say, But because Reformed theology denies participation (i.e. theosis, deification), there is no such thing in Reformed theology of Christ coming into a believer by mixing with the believer’s nature. Amen.

    Then, Christ took on human nature in the incarnation, but both believers and unbelievers share human nature, so if taking on human nature is what Christ’s indwelling the believer means, that would entail that Christ indwells believers and unbelievers alike.
    Nay, does not follow (DNF). Why does Christ have to indwell unbelievers?
    You say: “He took on human nature;
    “Both believers and unbelievers have human natures;
    “therefore, Christ is in all men?”
    That syllogism is invalid.

    Christ only indwells believers: Col 1:27 = “Christ in you, the hope of glory;”
    This is by faith (Rom. 5:2, et. al.).
    Sans faith, God is not pleased with man (Heb. 11:6);
    Not all men have faith (2 Thes. 3:2)
    therefore, these w/o faith do not please God, nor do they have Christ.

    If, however, when Christ indwells a believer neither He nor His righteousness “mixes with” the believer’s nature, then your statement does not explain how Christ can be in us without His righteousness also being within us.

    Christ and all his glorious attributes ARE in us! As I said above, “Christ’s righteousness is in the believer.”

    But none of these attributes count as our righteousness. His perfection is ours as he stands as our proxy, not because he’s in us of a truth.

  351. Bryan,

    Hugh asks a very good question and I have wondered this too. What then of the work in the soul so far accomplished? It makes union have no actual ontological basis if change in the recipient is undone. I know there should not be a list paradigm, but what happens to all the work done in a soul before they sin mortally. Also, does this mean that virtuous habits that man acquired by the Spirit’s guidance also removed? If one is given the chance to repent does all that was accomplished come flooding back in or does he start from square one?

    Susan

  352. Chris @345,

    I’m still trying to reply to you over @ “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?”!!!

    On the Lord’s prayer: It was given prior to Calvary, the cutting of the cov’t. See how Paul refers to the finished work of Christ in his epistles (esp. Ephesians and Colossians).

    Now we needn’t beg for sins forgiven: Eph 4:32 ~ And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. We’re now kind b/c ultimate kindness has been shown us (reconciliation with God); we are to forgive because God has forgiven us all sins in Christ Jesus. Our motive is now not TO BE forgiven, but because WE HAVE BEEN forgiven!

    We can’t go down Marian rabbit trails, but I do hope to give you your due next week.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  353. Hugh, (re: #350)

    In #347 I was responding to Clark’s claim that “Christ’s righteousness is truly extra nos (outside us) but he himself does not remain so.” I’m pointing out that claiming that Christ is in us, while claiming that His righteousness is only outside of us, separates Christ from His righteousness. In defense of Clark’s claim you replied in #348 by claiming that “Christ’s righteousness is in the believer; it’s simply not mixed with our nature to produce a justifiable person.” I pointed out in #349 that your statement would defend Clark’s only if Christ is mixed with our nature, so that there there is a difference between our union with Christ [i.e. 'mixed with our nature'] and our union with His righteousness [i.e. 'not mixed with our nature]. But there are only two relevant ways Christ can be ‘mixed’ with our nature, and Clark rejects them both. One is theosis. The other is claiming that the ‘mixing’ with our nature is the incarnation. And as we know, the incarnation does not entail that Christ is within every human person as He is within believers. So therefore your statement doesn’t defend Clark’s.

    Christ and all his glorious attributes ARE in us! As I said above, “Christ’s righteousness is in the believer.” But none of these attributes count as our righteousness. His perfection is ours as he stands as our proxy, not because he’s in us of a truth.

    As I explained in #347, by denying that Christ’s righteousness is united to us internally, the claim that Christ is within us is reduced to the equivalent of Christ’s omnipresence in bees, trees and rocks. All His glorious attributes are in trees, flowers, bees, etc., because all His attributes are present where He is present, and He is present everywhere. So you’re just talking about divine omnipresence, which is amazing, but nothing unique in relation to believers.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  354. Thanks, Bryan.

    I apologize if I appeared to be defending R.S. Clark. Such was not my intention. (It rarely is.)

    With all due respect, you mistakenly write: In defense of Clark’s claim you replied in #348 by claiming that “Christ’s righteousness is in the believer; it’s simply not mixed with our nature to produce a justifiable person.” Such is hardly a defense of R.S. Clark’s position! You report that he says, “Christ’s righteousness is truly extra nos (outside us)…”

    Once again, I say: All of Christ is in us; Christ and all his glorious attributes ARE in us! As I said above, “Christ’s righteousness is in the believer.” But none of these attributes count as our righteousness. His perfection is ours as he stands as our proxy, not because he’s in us of a truth.

    Then, you say, I pointed out in #349 that your statement would defend Clark’s only if Christ is mixed with our nature… And finally, So therefore your statement doesn’t defend Clark’s.

    You thrtice erroneously charge me with defending Scott Clark.
    So I say thrice:
    I’m not defending Clark.
    I’m not defending Clark.
    I’m (still) not defending Clark.

    Sorry if I was unclear.

    Your terminal list-paradgimer,
    Hugh

  355. Hugh (re:#352),

    I didn’t mean to upset you by replying to you here. I am truly sorry if I did upset you. I thought the fact that you have been posting comments on numerous threads recently meant that it was okay for me to reply to some of those comments. I look forward to your reply (as you have time and are able) to my #192 to you over at “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?”

    To clarify, I didn’t post the Marian link with any intention to go down a rabbit trail. It was intended to be a partial answer to your question in #344, concerning degrees of possible perfection in a Catholic’s life on this earth. In the Catholic understanding, God chose to do something very, very special (i.e. the Immaculate Conception) for Mary in her “Catholic life on this earth,” so to speak. As I mentioned above though, she *is* a special case, and while she is (in the teaching of the Church) the first Christian, and the most obedient Christian who ever lived, God’s very specific work in her life is obviously not exactly the case for other believers. Therefore, I’m happy to not go down any kind of a Marian rabbit trail here.

    Briefly, as to what degree(s) of perfection Catholics can or should expect to attain in this life– simply, as much as we will allow God to work in us by His grace. We do not have to be resigned to being “snow-covered dung,” to use Luther’s phrase, to the end of our days, because Jesus commands us to be perfect, as Our Father in Heaven is perfect. Christ means what He says, and the Holy Spirit truly can make us increasingly righteous by God’s grace working in us, as we cooperate with that grace. This transformation requires our cooperation with His grace, though, because God is love, not sheer Will or Force.

    On Ephesians 4:32 (which you quoted), it is completely compatible with the Catholic (historically Christian) understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. God *does* forgive us when we repent and ask for forgiveness. We *have* been forgiven at that point. That is the reason for the specific wording of The Lord’s Prayer.

    Ephesians 4:32 only implies a “once-and-for-all” forgiveness of all past, present, and future sins in a believer’s life, *when* interpreted through the lens of the Protestant teaching of imputed righteousness, a concept that is utterly foreign to the teaching of Christ in the Gospels– including in His teaching of the original disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer. They asked Him how they should pray, and He taught them. He did *not*, at any point in His life, tell them, “After I die on the cross and rise again, you can reinterpret or leave out ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.'” That prayer stands to this day, for all Christians, all who claim to be followers of Christ. It is how Our Lord wants us to pray, as He gave us no indication to the contrary, and the concept of imputed righteousness cuts against the very words of His prayer.

  356. Susan, (re: #351)

    Prior merit, the theological virtues, and the infused moral virtues are restored through the sacrament of penance to those who have fallen into mortal sin. Acquired moral virtues are distinct from infused moral virtues. The infused moral virtues are lost immediately by mortal sin. The acquired moral virtues remain, unless by repetition in evil those acquired moral virtues to are gradually lost.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  357. Chris — No upset at all — just swamped and wanting to give you a valid reply!

    God *does* forgive us when we repent and ask for forgiveness. We *have* been forgiven at that point.
    > Surely! We Prots just believe it’s total and complete!

    Ephesians 4:32 only implies a “once-and-for-all” forgiveness of all past, present, and future sins in a believer’s life, *when* interpreted through the lens of the Protestant teaching of imputed righteousness,
    > AMEN!

    a concept that is utterly foreign to the teaching of Christ in the Gospels– including in His teaching of the original disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer. They asked Him how they should pray, and He taught them. He did *not*, at any point in His life, tell them, “After I die on the cross and rise again, you can reinterpret or leave out ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’” That prayer stands to this day, for all Christians, all who claim to be followers of Christ. It is how Our Lord wants us to pray, as He gave us no indication to the contrary, and the concept of imputed righteousness cuts against the very words of His prayer.
    > Amen – kinda. And he also said that your forgiveness of others has to be perfect: if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matt. 6:14f ; see also 5:48, etc.

    Hence, the need for the cross and complete forgiveness!

    Blessings,
    Hugh

  358. Hugh, (re: #354)

    Ok, you weren’t defending Clark’s position; my mistake. Nevertheless, it seems to me that what I said in the last paragraph of #353 still applies to your claim in #348 that “Christ’s righteousness is in the believer.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  359. Bryan,

    I thank you for your help. I’m currently reading Von Balthasar on Maximus the Confessor and so many questions begin to plague my thoughts, but I know that I have found the Truth, it’s just a matter of trying t o make what has been revealed, revealed to me;) Faith seeking understanding is definately what’s driving me. What glorious beauty!
    Thank God for this site.

    Susan

  360. In comment #217 I pointed out the difference between righteousness and merit, and in the thread as a whole I’ve pointed out the difference between on the one hand conceiving of righteousness as agape and on the other, conceiving of righteousness as behavioral conformity to the law. I think it is not an accident that the latter conception of righteousness is found in voluntarist theologies. In voluntarism, righteousness is fundamentally what God decrees preceptively, rather than who God is. In this respect it seems to me that voluntarism cannot but lead to a list-paradigm conception of righteousness, and thus (for the reasons explained in this thread) naturally leads to a notion of justification by extra nos imputation. If that is true, then to the degree that Protestantism arose from and was formed by the philosophical milieu of late medieval voluntarism advanced within the via moderna, it may have been an important factor in the appearance of the Protestant conception of justification. Luther, for example, was the second faculty member hired at the University of Wittenberg to represent the via moderna.

  361. “righteousness as agape

    I asked @ 348, In your system, when a Catholic sins mortally, and s/he loses their righteousness (Christ’s + theirs) does Jesus then cease to be resident, since the mortally sinful (prior to penance, absolution, etc.) has lost Christ’s righteousness? Is Christ and “His righteousness outside the door of the believer’s soul”?

    Bryan said in #349, “Yes and yes.”

    Then Susan asked (@ 351), “What then of the work in the soul so far accomplished? It makes union have no actual ontological basis if change in the recipient is undone. I know there should not be a list paradigm, but what happens to all the work done in a soul before they sin mortally. Also, does this mean that virtuous habits that man acquired by the Spirit’s guidance also removed? If one is given the chance to repent does all that was accomplished come flooding back in or does he start from square one?”

    And Bryan replied in 356: “Prior merit, the theological virtues, and the infused moral virtues are restored through the sacrament of penance to those who have fallen into mortal sin. Acquired moral virtues are distinct from infused moral virtues. The infused moral virtues are lost immediately by mortal sin. The acquired moral virtues remain, unless by repetition in evil those acquired moral virtues to [sic?] are gradually lost.”

    So, upon mortal sin, the Catholic loses all prior merit, theological virtues, infused moral virtues.

    Three questions arise:
    (1) Is righteousness/ agape an infused moral virtue or an acquired moral virtue?
    (2) How much repetition in evil is needed for one to lose his/ her acquired mortal virtues?
    (3) Are there lists defining and distinquishing infused moral virtues & acquired moral virtues?

    Thank you.
    Happy St Mike’s!

  362. Susan (359) , Just wanted to say that Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott is a helpful book for those wanting a summary of some of Catholic theology. It can be found second hand on line for 50 or so bucks depending on where you find it. It is worth the money. I was used to Berkhof’s book as a Protestant and I wanted something in a similar line. Ott’s book is a helpful reference and has been very helpful to me.

    Kim

  363. Kim (re#362)

    I too was used to Louis Berkhof. Thank you. I will look for Dr. Ott’s book on Catholic Dogma.
    P.S. I wrote you through email, but maybe you didn’t get it?

    Susan

  364. Hugh (re: #361)

    You wrote:

    Three questions arise:
    (1) Is righteousness/ agape an infused moral virtue or an acquired moral virtue?
    (2) How much repetition in evil is needed for one to lose his/ her acquired mortal virtues?
    (3) Are there lists defining and distinquishing infused moral virtues & acquired moral virtues?

    Regarding (1), agape is an infused theological virtue, not a moral virtue. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and agape. They are called “theological virtues” because, as the Catechism teaches, they

    adapt man’s faculties for participation in the divine nature:76 for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object. (CCC 1812)

    Concerning the theological virtues St. Thomas writes:

    I answer that, Man is perfected by virtue, for those actions whereby he is directed to happiness, as was explained above (Question 5, Article 7). Now man’s happiness is twofold, as was also stated above (Question 5, Article 5). One is proportionate to human nature, a happiness, to wit, which man can obtain by means of his natural principles. The other is a happiness surpassing man’s nature, and which man can obtain by the power of God alone, by a kind of participation of the Godhead, about which it is written (2 Peter 1:4) that by Christ we are made “partakers of the Divine nature.” And because such happiness surpasses the capacity of human nature, man’s natural principles which enable him to act well according to his capacity, do not suffice to direct man to this same happiness. Hence it is necessary for man to receive from God some additional principles, whereby he may be directed to supernatural happiness, even as he is directed to his connatural end, by means of his natural principles, albeit not without Divine assistance. Such like principles are called “theological virtues”: first, because their object is God, inasmuch as they direct us aright to God: secondly, because they are infused in us by God alone: thirdly, because these virtues are not made known to us, save by Divine revelation, contained in Holy Writ. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.62 a.1)

    In the life to come, there will be only one theological virtue, because faith and hope disappear when their object is attained.

    Regarding (2), the same repetition in well-doing that was needed to acquire that moral virtue, though it seems also to be true that a good disposition can be destroyed more easily and quickly than it can be established, as a house can be destroyed more quickly than it can be built.

    Regarding (3), the list of infused moral virtues is the same as the list of acquired moral virtues. What distinguishes the infused and acquired virtues is not the power of the soul in which each is located (each virtue is in a power of the soul), but that end to which the virtue is ordered, and the rule to which it is ordered thereby. St. Thomas explains why there must be infused virtues in addition to the theological virtues:

    I answer that, Effects must needs be proportionate to their causes and principles. Now all virtues, intellectual and moral, that are acquired by our actions, arise from certain natural principles pre-existing in us, as above stated (1; 51, 1): instead of which natural principles, God bestows on us the theological virtues, whereby we are directed to a supernatural end, as stated (62, 1). Wherefore we need to receive from God other habits corresponding, in due proportion, to the theological virtues, which habits are to the theological virtues, what the moral and intellectual virtues are to the natural principles of virtue. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.63 a.3)

    The acquired moral and intellectual virtues arise from natural principles within us; they are ordered to our natural end, and grace is not required for attaining them, as grace is not required for learning how to play baseball or fly an airplane or conduct chemistry experiments. But because the theological virtues are ordered to our supernatural end, we need in each power of the soul a virtue that corresponds to that supernatural end. But we cannot produce within ourselves from ourselves anything ordered to our supernatural end; to deny that would be to affirm the Pelagian heresy. God therefore gives with baptism infused virtues that are ordered to our supernatural end.

    So the acquired virtues are distinct from infused virtues because the former are ordered to our natural happiness while the latter are ordered to our supernatural happiness, and because the object of each acquired virtue is the good provided by that virtue according to the rule of reason, while the object of each infused virtue is the good provided by that virtue according to the Divine rule supernaturally revealed through Christ. St. Thomas provides a helpful example concerning the difference between acquired temperance and infused temperance:

    The formal aspect of this object is from reason which fixes the mean in these concupiscences: while the material element is something on the part of the concupiscences. Now it is evident that the mean that is appointed in such like concupiscences according to the rule of human reason, is seen under a different aspect from the mean which is fixed according to Divine rule. For instance, in the consumption of food, the mean fixed by human reason, is that food should not harm the health of the body, nor hinder the use of reason: whereas, according to the Divine rule, it behooves man to “chastise his body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27), by abstinence in food, drink and the like. It is therefore evident that infused and acquired temperance differ in species; and the same applies to the other virtues. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.63 a.4)

    Notice how the rule of reason concerning the object of temperance is not the same as the Divine rule concerning the object of temperance. This is one more example of the distinction between nature and grace, between the natural order and the supernatural order.

    All the moral virtues are grouped under the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, courage and temperance. The Catechism describes these in paragraphs 1805-1809. When the Catechism refers (in 1810) to grace elevating these acquired virtues, it is referring to infused virtues. The acquired virtues are not lost upon the reception of grace, because grace does not destroy nature. Nor does God have to instantaneously re-create the acquired virtues when a person sins mortally and immediately loses the infused virtues. To see a list of the virtues that fall under the headings of the four cardinal virtues, see Questions 47-169 of the Second Part of the Second Part of St. Thomas’s Summa Theologica.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  365. Susan (re:#363),

    Ott’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” is available new, in hardcover, for a relatively reasonable price (less than $50) here: http://www.aquinasandmore.com/catholic-books/fundamentals-of-catholic-dogma/sku/18880

  366. Susan and Christopher (363), Susan I did not get your email. Here is my email again: kimwdavies@hotmail.com

    It is davies and not davis ….wondering if you put it in wrong. Christopher–wow–I wonder if it is really available! I tried ordering a new copy a year ago and it was still not ready! This is good to know ! Thanks, Kim

  367. Hugh (re:#357),

    Thanks for your reply and the clarification, brother. I will try not to reply at *too great* a length to you right now, as I don’t want to add to a “pile-on effect” here, and I know that you already want to reply to my comment at the other thread.

    About the verses which you quoted (Matthew 6:14-15), we are simply told that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others, concerning their sins against us. The New Testament command for us to forgive others, when they sin against us, could not be more clear. The NT does not indicate *anywhere* that this is one of the “works of the law” apart from which we are justified and right with (in friendship with) God.

    As for our forgiveness needing to be “perfect,” it certainly must be freely given and genuine, or otherwise, there is no point to it. However, God knows that, even as believers, we are wounded by original sin and subject to many temptations. “List paradigm” thinking does demand that every work we do be utterly perfect, but God does not demand *utter perfection* from us, in our works, before we can be in friendship with Him (and after we are in friendship with Him). He *does* expect an honest, genuine intent, resolve, and effort in turning away from sin. Rightly, we should recoil from sin as if from a poisonous snake. However, the idea that our works must be perfect for God to accept them *at all* is simply part of the list paradigm– which is refuted by the words of The Lord’s Prayer and the parable of the sheep and the goats.

    If sinful anger or resentment happen to present themselves again as *temptations*, after we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us, then we must remind ourselves that we *did* forgive, and that Christ has done so much more for us, than we have done for those who have hurt us, and then, we must either move on, or if necessary, forgive again, if we find ourselves *giving in* to the anger or resentment. In honesty, I’ve had to do each of these many times over my Christian life. This is a part of spiritual warfare. (The possibility of being *tempted* towards anger or resentment does not *necessarily* mean that our *original* forgiveness of people who sinned against us was altogether illusory. It is a matter of discernment though. Good spiritual direction can be helpful here.)

  368. Kim (re:#366),

    The book seems to be available at “Aquinas and More,” but after I wrote to Susan, I did notice that the page claims the shipping will take 8-12 weeks. That is a good while to wait, but personally, I would choose to wait that long for it myself. Especially for Catholic books, I try to order new books when I can, so that the author(s) and/or publisher will actually see a profit from it. Used books are certainly helpful, when money is very tight (I know, as I live well below the U.S. poverty line!), but as far as I know, the only person who makes a profit from a used book is the seller. It’s not always possible, but I try to buy new when I can.

  369. Dear Bryan & Chris,

    Thank you for your patience with this recalcitrant Protestant. I am still quite busy with a number of things, and while the drive-bys are fun,* I need to honor your thoughtful and thorough replies to my posts (both those above and those @ the Batzig thread).

    Hopefully this week sometime, as God wills.

    Still believing I am yours in Christ,
    Hugh
    * Stellman warrants more than that!

  370. I’ve not been reading along, but I’ve found something that really renders the whole “list paradigm” concept — applied to Protestants — to be extremely disingenuous:

    Roman Catholic List Paradigms

  371. John, (re: #370)

    First, you wrote:

    That’s because the Roman Catholicism I grew up with simply amounted to following rules and understanding what was the minimum I needed to do so I wouldn’t get into trouble

    If it were true that the Catholics you grew up with conceived their practice of the Catholic faith merely as following rules (and not as loving Christ by obeying His law and that of His Church), this would only show that they never truly understood Catholicism or rightly practiced the Catholic faith. The truth of the distinction between the list and agape paradigms, and the Catholic faith being understood rightly through the agape paradigm, does not depend on never experiencing Catholics who treat the Catholic faith as mere rule following.

    Second, you refer to the precepts of the Church and the holy days of obligation, as if those are somehow incompatible with the claim that Catholic theology is rightly understood by way of the agape paradigm. And from this you conclude that the distinction between the two paradigm is disingenuous. But, as I have explained above, the agape paradigm does not exclude rules, precepts, or laws. The difference between the two paradigms is not that one has rules, precepts, and laws, while the other doesn’t. The difference is that in the agape paradigm but not in the list paradigm, love is the fulfillment of the law, that by which the law is accomplished in us, by the infusion of supernatural agape won for us by Christ. So the existence of rules, precepts, and laws in the agape paradigm does not show that the distinction between the two paradigms is disingenuous.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  372. Bryan 371: If it were true that the Catholics you grew up with conceived their practice of the Catholic faith merely as following rules (and not as loving Christ by obeying His law and that of His Church), this would only show that that they never truly understood Catholicism or rightly practiced the Catholic faith.

    Right, nobody understood Catholicism properly until you came along. My pre-Vatican II era parish priest certainly didn’t understand it, as you say.

  373. Bryan,

    But, as I have explained above, the agape paradigm does not exclude rules, precepts, or laws. The difference between the two paradigms is not that one has rules, precepts, and laws, while the other doesn’t.

    I think this makes perfect sense in light of the mariage analogy. Rules, precepts and laws are certainly a part of a good mariage. Rules, precepts and laws are a part of relationships that do not constitute love, but that does not mean that love relationships are devoid of them. That is a lie (most recently) of the 1960’s.

    Right, nobody understood Catholicism properly until you came along. My pre-Vatican II era parish priest certainly didn’t understand it, as you say.

    John,

    I highly recommend, among others, Ross Douthat’s book Bad Religion. He points out just how abysmal the Catholic Church in America was in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s — a manifestation of disease growing in the 1940’s and 50’s (think Pope Pius X’s “synthesis of all heresies”). Much like Bavaria of the 15th century, it could be said that Catholicism in America was a nominal, cultural expression of immigrants (list followers) — which opened it up to a liberal hijacking that is slowly receding (something that has occurred in various Western fronts as well). I would ask you to compare your experience of Catholicism to that of someone like Archbishop Sheen, as a way of examining the claim of your alleged experience of Catholic orthodoxy.

    To put it analogically, I freely admit that my Pentecostal upbringing in no way represents the experience of “Protestant orthodoxy”.

    Warmly,

    Brent

  374. John,

    I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and experienced exactly the same thing. I had 12 years of Catholic school and couldn’t understand the basics of loving Christ. It wasn’t until my twenties in the 90’s that I experienced a conversion and really started to understand what true Catholicism is. The members of the Catholic Church in the United States suffered from poor catechesis during the 70’s and 80’s.

  375. Not infrequently the Reformed (or broadly Protestant) conception of justification by faith alone is presented as a choice between two possible ultimate objects of trust for salvation: Christ alone, or something other than Christ. Ultimately, you’re either ultimately trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, or you’re trusting in some created thing for your salvation (e.g. your faith, your works, your love, your sanctification, your baptism, your church membership, etc.). To trust in anything in addition to Christ for salvation is to deny the sufficiency of Christ’s work, and make the real (i.e. ultimate) object of trust that other thing one is trusting. Moreover, if you’re trusting in anything other than Christ for salvation, you are lost (i.e. damned) and on your way to hell, not only for committing idolatry by raising that created thing above Christ, but also bec