A Particularly Clear Statement on Salvation: St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

Nov 19th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

In today’s readings from the Divine Office, we find a particularly clear statement of the Catholic view of salvation. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe was a North African Bishop in the 5th and 6th centuries.  He was a champion of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy against the Vandal Arians, and was strongly supported by Pope Symmachus (498-514). In his Treatise on the Forgiveness of Sins, he lays forth the view that future resurrection to eternal life depends upon moral reformation, by the grace of God, in this life.

The treatise of St Fulgentius of Ruspe on the forgiveness of sins

Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death


St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye as the final trumpet sounds, for the trumpet shall indeed sound, the dead shall rise incorruptible and we shall be changed. In saying “we,” Paul is indicating that the gift of that future change will also be given to those who during their time on earth are united to him and his companions by upright lives within the communion of the Church. He hints at the nature of the change when he says: This corruptible body must put on incorruptibility, this mortal body immortality. In order, then, that men may obtain the transformation which is the reward of the just, they must first undergo here on earth a change which is God’s free gift. Those who in this life have been changed from evil to good are promised that future change as a reward.

Through justification and the spiritual resurrection, grace now effects in them an initial change that is God’s gift. Later on, through the bodily resurrection, the transformation of the just will be brought to completion, and they will experience a perfect, abiding, unchangeable glorification. The purpose of this change wrought in them by the gifts of both justification and glorification is that they may abide in an eternal, changeless state of joy.

Here on earth they are changed by the first resurrection, in which they are enlightened and converted, thus passing from death to life, sinfulness to holiness, unbelief to faith, and evil actions to holy life. For this reason the second death has no power over them. It is of such men that the Book of Revelation says: Happy the man who shares in the first resurrection; over such as he the second death has no power. Elsewhere the same book says: He who overcomes shall not be harmed by the second death. As the first resurrection consists of the conversion of the heart, the second death consists of unending torment.

Let everyone, therefore, who does not wish to be condemned to the endless punishment of the second death now hasten to share in the first resurrection. For if any during this life are changed out of fear of God and pass from an evil life to a good one, they pass from death to life and later they shall be transformed from a shameful state to a glorious one.

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  1. Fulgentius is also a strong proponent of double predestination. Sure, he may agree with the Roman view of grace as primarily transformative, but he also espouses a Reformational approach to free will and predestination.

  2. Hi Jordan,

    Thanks for the note. Are you sure you don’t mean to say, “An Augustinian view of free will and predestination?”

    Would you say that one can really hold a “reformational” view of predestination if one believes that justification conveys an infused righteousness? Isn’t predestination a determination to save the elect in a specific way?

    -David

  3. Martin Luther also taught that God’s grace produces moral renovation and only those who are so transformed by grace will be numbered among blessed on judgment day. Luther writes: “Until the last day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its fruits which He produces.” Source: The Large Catechism Part II/Article III.54; Triglotta, p. 691-93. This is not an issue with which Lutherans and Catholics are divided. What divides us is that we believe the forgivness of sins and justification logically (not temporally because they are simultaneous) prior to sanctification. All those God declares righteous He makes righteous.

  4. Hi Pastor Greg,

    Thanks for the comments.
    You are correct that Catholics and Lutherans differ on their understanding of justification, and on its temporal relation to sanctification. However, they also differ concerning the nature of sanctification itself. Luther, as you well know, believed that the justified were simul iustus et peccator and that the good deeds of the righteous “would be mortal sins” if we did not fear them as such. (Heidelberg Disp. art. 7).

    Catholics don’t believe this. We believe that the moral renovation of the just is both real and makes us pleasing to God – by the grace of God. Moreover, the just are able to cease being just even though they do not lose faith. Mortal sin and faith can coexist in the same subject.

    The point of posting on St. Fulgentius was how clearly he believed that the 2nd resurrection was a reward for the 1st. “Those who in this life have been changed from evil to good are promised that future change as a reward.” Such was not Luther’s view.

    Thanks again for posting,

    David

  5. I may be wrong but I always understood simil ustus ek peccator to me that we are “justified” at the moment of “faith” and at the same time we remain less than sinlessly perfect and morally perfect.

    Given this description, one is “justified”, or otherwise “forgiven”, because of their conversion to Christ (it’s obvious Paul would not exclude faith from baptism and confirmation) at the moment of their baptism. But the person who is baptized does not attain to full and perfect resurrection righteousness (the 2nd Adam humanity in it’s perfection in the new heaven and new earth). I am not sure how this is wrong??

    In my protestant background, I never remember any protestant teacher (in the reformed understanding) ever saying that moral renovation was not needed in order to receive eternal life in the kingdom of God. I’ve listened to many sermons on John the Baptist by many evangelicals and the basic point is “Repent!” or “Change!” in order to be “forgiven!” and so enter the coming “Kingdom!”. But then again, even in my protestant churches that I come from do not like the way some of the popular presbyterian reformed teachers explain salvation (sproul, duncan, etc,etc)

  6. This church father seems to have had a view of the Christian life like Saint Augustine, a man who both Catholics and Lutherans like to lay claim to as being his true heirs. The fact of the matter is that while Luther certainly believed that no one who had not begun to be sanctified would be saved, he would not have said, as this saint did, that “Paul is indicating that the gift of that future change will also be given to those who during their time on earth are ***united to him*** and his companions ***by upright lives*** within the communion of the Church”

    Augustine most likely would have said the same thing as this saint (and probably did – I am no expert on his writings). Again, the Lutheran Reformers (and yes, Calvinists after them) found themselves strongly identifying with Augustine (and men like St. Bernard) over and against their Roman opponents in the 16th century. We should keep in mind that at Trent, some have said the “Dominican captivity of the church” began in real force, when several more Augustinians viewpoints that had hitherto existed in the Church up to that time (original sin, for example) were basically banished (I know some dispute this).

    My hypothesis is that the Lutherans would have probably had no objection to this kind of language had Rome permitted what Luther said about confession and absolution (i.e. that the penitent person being absolved can have certainty about being in a state of grace – this would be the ideal). But, when Luther was attacked at this point, he was convinced that the very teachings that had made and kept him a real Christian were being attacked. In the midst of his struggle with sin, Luther had found St. Augustine , St. Bernard, John Gerson, and his own father-confessor, John Staupitz (who at the end of his life changed from being an Augustinian monk to being a Benedictine, much to Luther’s disappointment), to be particularly comforting, as he also saw them as providing the teachings that had given him faith and also strengthened him in faith and love (I don’t doubt that Calvin and those who followed him liked Augustine and Bernard more for what they said about predestination, as opposed to their emphasis on giving real peace to Christians desperately struggling with their sins).

    So, Lutherans would indeed reject this kind of language for reasons they deemed to be critical to the true preaching of the Gospel (i.e. comfort to terrified sinners that they, really and truly, in spite of the sin they fought against, had true “peace with God” [Rom. 5:1], and could know they had eternal life [I John 5:12,13]).

    They would do so on the basis of an argument that Augustine made himself, namely, before certain heresies (like Pelagianism, for example), became prevalent in the church, certain ways of speaking could certainly be seen as being acceptable, albeit careless. However, with the outbreak of heresy – and the heretics subsequent use of the words of these fathers – it was necessary to speak in a way refined by the experience – as the church was driven back to the Scriptures, forced to look at them more closely, and come out speaking more carefully, more accurately, and in ways that would not give a foothold to the heresies that had erupted.

    So, in sum: if, in your fear and trembling before Him, God gives you peace in His word of absolution – and others insist that knowing this is the sin of presumption – that is worth opposing heaven and earth for.

    For more about this issue of certainty of being in a state of grace see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/

    For more on my take of the Lutheran Reformation vis a vis Rome see here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/the-coming-vindication-of-martin-luther-summary-and-conclusion-part-v-of-v/

    +Nathan

  7. Dear Nathan,

    Thanks for writing. You said: “at Trent, some have said the “Dominican captivity of the church” began in real force, when several more Augustinians viewpoints that had hitherto existed in the Church up to that time (original sin, for example) were basically banished (I know some dispute this).”

    I would point you to the the 5th session of the Council of Trent on Original Sin – especially this:

    “If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema:–whereas he contradicts the apostle who says; By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.”

    I am wondering why you think Trent “banished” the doctrine of original sin when, instead, it defined it as a dogma of Catholic faith?

    Thanks,

    David

  8. David,

    The differences here are large, as you pointed out a couple posts ago (as regards the sinner-saint issue for example, as Luther went with Augustine’s interpretation of Romans 7 here).

    The main thing that I am thinking about has to do with the matter of whether or not fallen man has a free will as regards spiritual matters. Reading these should help: http://bookofconcord.org/sd-originalsin.php and http://bookofconcord.org/sd-freewill.php

    We would submit that this is the biblical teaching – and at the very least resonates strongly with the Augustinian teaching that Trent left behind.

    +Nathan

  9. Hmmm,

    Nathan – I’m puzzling over this “Augustinian teaching” that Trent supposedly left behind.

    Here’s what I read in Augustine’s treatise on Grace and Free Will:

    “There is, however, always within us a free will—but it is not always good; for it is either free from righteousness when it serves sin—and then it is evil—or else it is free from sin when it serves righteousness—and then it is good. But the grace of God is always good; and by it it comes to pass that a man is of a good will, though he was before of an evil one. By it also it comes to pass that the very good will, which has now begun to be, is enlarged, and made so great that it is able to fulfil the divine commandments which it shall wish, when it shall once firmly and perfectly wish. ”

    Here Augustine specifically states that free will – assisted by Grace – is still free, and active with respect to spiritual goods.

    I’d love to see the passages in Augustine that you think Trent left behind.

    Thanks,

    David

  10. David (#8),

    I am writing in reference to Nathan’s statement ” the matter of whether or not fallen man has a free will as regards spiritual matters”.

    As I have read Augustine I have had a problem with this aspect also. The quote you gave in comment 8, I have understood from the reformed view point . The reformed view , I think, is that man has a free will before he is saved, but that it is free to choose sin , natural good, civil good, externally religious good (as Berkhof states page 247)),but not free to choose spiritual good. Thus this free will, as Augustine says , “is free from righteousness”. Man’s will becomes free to choose spiritual good only when grace enters the picture and thus as Augustine says,
    ” the very good will, which has now begun to be”.

    Do you adhere to this, if not, how is the RC view different? Thanks, KIM

  11. David,

    As I said above, I am no expert on Augustine.

    The passage in question – is Augustine talking about a Christian or a non-Christian?

    +Nathan

  12. David, thanks for your kind response. You are right that Lutherans do not believe that God’s gift of faith can coexist with mortal sin. Indeed Luther writes in the Smalkald Articles:” 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. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, … and he cannot sin. ”
    So as you can see we also believe in a real moral renovation. It is because we believe that faith and mortal sin do not co-exist which shows to what degree we do in fact believe in the renovation of the new man. In saying that the good works of the saints are sins we are not saying that they are not in themselves good. We are saying that we who do those works still have a sinful nature that we strive against and fight with daily repentance. The presence of our sinful nature taints our good works before the blazing holiness of the living God. Our good works do in fact please Him because He cleanses them with the blood of His Son and receives then in union with Christ great Sacrifice. So we are renewal is real and on account of the sacrifice of Christ our works do please Him.

  13. Hi Nathan (and Kim),

    Before we go any father, I want to ask you about your view of Augustine and the Catholic Church.
    You have made the claim that the council of Trent departed from Augustine.
    What is your basis for this statement? Are you making this claim based on your reading of Augustine and Trent, or are you making it based on hearsay?

    I know that when I was in the Protestant seminary, I heard an awful lot about Augustine being a great guy, a proto-Protestants, and what not. But then I actually sat down to read him. Low and behold, I found that he was thoroughly Catholic and, indeed, Tridentine.

    We’re got a lot of articles on the site that treat Augustine’s views and Trent. I recommend you take a look at some of them. For example, you might state here:

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

    -David

  14. Also I see nothing contrary to the Lutheran faith in the comment of Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe when he says: “Paul is indicating that the gift of that future change will also be given to those who during their time on earth are united to him and his companions by upright lives within the communion of the Church.” For Lutheans those on earth who are united to Paul and his companions are those who have God’s gift of faith. For Lutherans all those united to Christ through faith are united also to all the Saints of God in the communion of saints. All so united to Christ and the saints through God’s gift of faith do in fact live ” upright lives within the communion of the Church.” As a Lutheran Pastor I have no qualms with this statement.

  15. David,

    I have read more than half of the confessions and bits and pieces of other things Augustine wrote. I have probably read more secondary sources than is healthy here….

    Why is Augustine claimed by so many? It is for this reason I wonder whether we are going to get anywhere in our conversation by going in this direction… many serious Lutherans I know do read Augustine and are convinced he is more on our “side” than yours…

    For instance, a few years ago, I asked my pastor about Augustine and free will. First he quoted this:

    “Luther’s challenge was more profound than many of his peers realized at first. The two systems were at complete odds with each other. In Augustine’s model of the human will, the affective component is primary, so that the love of God is the motivating feature of salvation-God draws the elect ot himself apart from any initiative on their part towards God. This was a thoroughly unilateral model of salvation. In the Aristotle/Aquinas model, by contrast, the will is self-moved. The is, the will works most effectively apart from any influence of the affection. In adopting this model, Aquinas assumed tha thte sel-moved will is a necessary feature of salvation which, in turn, led him to adopt a cooperative doctrien of salvation-a doctrine that Luther refected. The was the “hinge” of Luther’s reformation activism.” Aristotle’s Ethics: The Real Reason for Luther’s Reformation? Trinity Journal, Fall 1997, available at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3803/ is_199710/ai_n8776993.

    Then he asked: “Is this simply a theological debate? Hardly. In his Inventing the Middle Ages (New York: Quill, 1991), Norman F. Cantor discusses at length Etienne Gilson’s attempts to bring Augustine and Aquinas together”.

    He then shared this quote with me:

    “Throughout his life Gilson agonized over the question of whether or not Thomism represents a break with the thought of St. Augustine. He shilly-shallied back and forth on this issue. Indeed, he said various things about it at different times. Whether Thomism is an intellectual revolution against Augustinianism or a reinterpretation of Augustinian doctrine in a new Aristoteliasn intellectual ambiece and language remains one of the persistent conundrums of medieval studies. It is my view that Thomism was an almost clean break with Augustinianism and that Gilson leans much too far in trying to picture a continuity between these two great medieval intellectual and religious systems. This is still a perticularly difficult issue for Catholic scholars to deal with because Rome wants continuity, not rupture, within the development of Catholic theology. Regarding medieval thought as conditioned by conflict between the Augustinians and the Thomists gives legitimacy to intellectual dissent within the Catholic Church today. That is the Roman conviction. Therefore, for all this vanguard liberalism as a Catholic thinker in his day, Gilson in trespect as a Romanist-leaning convservative who did not appreciate the full extent of the intellectual upheaveal of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.” p. 332-33.

    So… even if Augustine seems to have not excluded the idea of our cooperation in initial conversion, should that convince a person that he and Thomas/Aristotle line up completely?

    For our Lutheran view of initial conversion is really that of an infant / child, which simply receives via trust (even if it is dead in sin) what is given to it, without rational or “volitional” powers really being in the picture at all (where only from there do these powers grow…)

    In any case, I’m regretting going down this road, because my statement in #5 could have stood just fine without my talking about the Dominican captivity of the church. I’m quite sure the issue of the Reformation comes down to confession/absolution, which means it comes down to the Roman penitential system, which means it comes down to Rom. 4:7,8 and 5:1 being null and void.

    +Nathan

  16. Pastor Greg,

    I myself, recently wrote the following:

    “Regarding the final judgment, Christians will judge the world as Jesus says and Paul echoes. That said, prior to the final judgment, Christians of course were to judge as God judges: showing mercy – both pity in the form of physical assistance and the forgiveness of God Himself through Christ – to all, first to the believer and then to the terrified unbeliever. Come the separating of the sheep and the goats, Christ and His Church will show mercy to those who have been merciful. In other words, to those who have shown themselves to be His children (after all, sons of God act like sons of God and it is right that they should be found with their father and brother). This means those who have forgiven much – echoing the forgiveness, or reconciliation of God Himself – will be forgiven. This means that those who opened up the Kingdom of Heaven to others will have the Kingdom of Heaven opened up to them. Like Christ, they eagerly gave the promise of paradise to those enemies of God dying to the left of them (and to the right, if they would only have it) who had nothing to give, and could pay nothing back. God’s people, like God Himself, are profligate with pity, mercy, and grace.”

    …and this basically goes with what you are saying. God knows us by our faith and men know Christians also by their love. Still, I think that the statement can easily be misunderstood by some to think that the upright life is that which makes a person acceptable in God’s eyes and hence merits their justification before Him.

    +Nathan

  17. Hi Paster Greg,

    Thanks for the note. I’m glad to see that you find deep accord with this statement of St. Fulgentius.

    However, I”m wondering if you have understated Luther’s view on the “wickedness” of our good works. You wrote,” In saying that the good works of the saints are sins we are not saying that they are not in themselves good. We are saying that we who do those works still have a sinful nature that we strive against and fight with daily repentance. ”

    Catholics, as you know, hold that the just still have concupiscence – that is, they “strive and fight,” as you say. But surely you think Luther meant more than this? Melanchthon wrote in the apology of the Augsburg confession:

    “But they [Catholics] contend that concupiscence is a penalty, and not a sin . . . Luther maintains that it is a sin. ”

    And, again, in the Triglot Concordia edition of 1917 we read:

    “The adversaries are right in thinking that love is the fulfilling of the Law, and obedience to the Law is certainly righteousness. [Therefore it would be true that love justifies us if we would keep the Law. But who in truth can say or boast that he keeps the Law, and loves God as the Law has commanded? We have shown above that God has made the promise of grace, because we cannot observe the Law. Therefore Paul says everywhere that we cannot be justified before God by the Law.] But they make a mistake in this that they think that we are justified by the Law.”

    Clearly, more here is meant than that Christians simply experience concupiscence. But, rather, that the good deeds of the righteous are, in fact, actual sins – though not regarded as such by God, on account of the righteousness of Christ.

    This differs from the Catholic view and, I believe, from St. Fulegntius, who holds that the regeneration wrought by the Holy Ghost does in fact fulfill the greatest two commandments by way of infused agape. This, as I understand, the Lutherans deny.

    But, again, I am pleased that you find such harmony and concord with the writings of this Church fathers. May God richly bless you and continue to bring such unity and harmony to light.

    Yours,

    David

  18. David,

    “Clearly, more here is meant than that Christians simply experience concupiscence. But, rather, that the good deeds of the righteous are, in fact, actual sins.”

    Yes, but. They are also *objectively good works* (there are objective good works and objective bad works, which are always sin through and through) that are done in a perfect way externally, but are still tainted with sin, even if the motivations behind those works are largely good.

    In any objectively good work, God contributes the good, which we reject to varying degrees. Also although we do cooperate with God (i.e. there is synergism in sanctification), in general, we don’t put much emphasis on ourselves here, but talk about Him working things in us… “What do we have that we have not received?” is a good watchword.

    With that, I’m going to need to retire from this conversation for about 5 days. God’s grace to you all!

    +Nathan

  19. Re: Nathan (#16)

    You seem to be saying that God knows us by our faith whether or not that faith works through love. But loveless faith is dead faith. To the person who believes in God but does not love, Matthew 7:23 applies:

    Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

  20. Hi David and Nathan- First of all Nathan I don’t think we are in theological disagreement. Yes it is possible to construe that statement in a way that we would not support but it also can be construed in a way that is consistent with our faith. David, let me use the example of a half filled glass of water. Perfect love which manifests the glory of God in all its blazing holiness would fill and maybe overflow the glass. This is loving with the same perfection that Jesus loved. For those without the grace of charity/agape the glass would be empty. For those in a state of grace and yet lacking the perfect holiness of Jesus the glass maybe a quarter full, half full, three quarters full. The degree that the glass is empty that is falls short of Jesus perfection it is sin. The degree that the glass is full, that is participates in God’s love that is righteousness. Our good deeds are sins in that they fall short of the perfection we see in Jesus. Thus we need the righteousness of Christ. The fact that we have concupiscence means that we are not loving God with the total love that God demands in the great commandment. But we do love God, and in the believer this love of God and our neighbor is what predominates and not concupiscense as I have already quoted Luther as saying that it is the Holy Spirit that dominates in the believer and not sin. We truly love God yet not perfectly that is what we Lutherans are claiming with our simul. If St Fulgentius of Ruspe is claiming that we love God with the same perfection and totality of love with which our Lord Christ loved God then you are right there is a definate difference between what we are saying and he is claiming. Unless I am missing something this excerpt did not claim that level of perfection. What I read I felt a deep accord with… sometimes we overlook how much we have in common. There is a tendency to focus on the differences. Those diffrences are real but if they are overemphasized they overlook the great commonality that actually exists. Yours in the Christ we both love and trust..I have thanksgiving eve service in a hour and a half, God bless you all.

  21. David (#12),

    I am just following up on my question in comment 9. I asked the question because of the quote you gave of Augustine. I do not feel that quote disagrees with Trent. I think these two partial quotes from Trent about man’s will agrees with Augustine:

    … free will, weakened as it was in its powers and downward bent,[8] was by no means extinguished in them.

    …..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.

    The CCC also states:

    1739 Freedom and sin. Man’s freedom is limited and fallible. In fact, man failed. He freely sinned. By refusing God’s plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom.

    So this would also agree with Trent and Augustine. My question, (which may be off topic), then is concerning what the Catholic means by free will. It appears it may agree with what Berkhof was saying. It is free in different respects , but it is not free to choose spiritual good without grace. Is this what the correct teaching of the Catholic faith is in regards to free will.?

  22. PS on my comment 17,

    I know Berkhof would not agree with Trent’s position on being able to reject salvific grace—but that is not what my question is dealing with—I am trying to understand what the Catholic means by free will. It does seem by the quotes in Augustine, Trent , and the CCC that it is free in some respects , but has some limits ; one of the limits is needing grace to choose spiritual good—I just want to know what is the correct Catholic teaching on this.

    Thanks, Kim

  23. David,

    This topic of the “good works” of believers is also distinguished in Calvin and Aquinas. Calvin himself also believes that our “good works” are not worthy of eternal life and that they are tainted, and must be atoned for by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice. Aquinas believed that because God is the principal mover in the human being (who co-operates with this grace) that God ends up adoring the good works He himself performs in the person (while at the same time truly judging the works as performed by the person alone).

    As a protestant (reformed baptist) as I was, I really did view the “fruits of righteousness” of believers to be truly that, and I did not try to heighten the grace of God more by maintaining that “good works” are still not really “good” and that they must also be viewed through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice, but I think it even more heightens the grace of God to know He can actually work what is truly “good” into our lives, something worthy of entering into the kingdom of God. ‘

    I really do not think Aquinas’ view of “good works” conflicts with the Reformed protestant schema of redemption. If one maintains Calvin’s insistent of the dual simultaneous grace of being externally justified by the cross of Jesus securing the remission of sin and the internal renovation of the human being into the image and likeness of Christ in order to do “good works”, what problem is there here?

  24. Jonathan @ #19 – those persons did not have true faith. So yes, God knows us by faith and man can imperfectly know other Christians by their fruit.

    Here’s how I’d expand on that, in question form (I’m not looking for you to answer all these, but feel free to do so – or take a couple of these on – if you like):

    Read Luke 7:36-50.
    1) What does Jesus say saved the woman?
    2) What does he say her love showed?
    3) The Scriptures tell us that God knows those who are His own. If this is the case, is the woman’s love evidence for God or the Pharisees that she possesses a true faith in God?

    Read Matthew 25:31-46.
    4) Does the judgment according to works occur before or after the separation of sheep and goats?
    5) What do the words “inherit” indicate?
    6) Note the “When did we…?” Do the sheep seem to have been keeping track of “good deeds”? The goats?

    Re-read the James passage, this time along with all of chapter 2
    7) Does James primary concern seem to be what justifies a person before God or what justifying faith looks like? Explain your answer.
    8) How do you think James is defining faith? (see v. 19) When other New Testament authors define faith, what do they seem to be talking about? (see Hebrews 11, for example).
    9) Respond: James is clearly concerned that faith which justifies be real, i.e. that it shows itself before the world with evidence (does God need this to know who really casts themselves on Him and clings to Him? – again, see Luke 7) – generally speaking (thief on the cross here as exception) faith without fruit is not real faith.

    +Nathan

  25. Re: Nathan (#19)

    I’m not sure I can answer your questions about “true” faith until you define what you mean by “true” faith. You also used the word “real” faith. Is this “true” faith or “real” faith different from what I mean by “living” faith? (By “living” faith, I mean the kind of faith which is not “dead”)

  26. David,

    This post I did this morning goes along with what I had brought up here (i.e. the Dominican captivity of the church):

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/a-church-within-a-church/

    Regarding Thomas being compatible with Augustine, it seems to me that you have made this more simple than it is. Augustine seems to have been eager to give Christians certainty that they were in a stable relationship with God. His writings are constantly talking about the mercy and grace of God in Christ that gives us peace with God and confidence before Him. Augustine did not need to deal with the oppressive Roman Catholic penitential system that Luther dealt with (see this: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/the-coming-vindication-of-martin-luther-mystic-induced-doubt-part-ii-of-v/ ).

    +Nathan

  27. Hi Nathan,

    Here is what Augustine has to say about assurance and the “oppressive Roman Catholic penitential system:”

    “You have [this article of] the Creed perfectly in you when you receive Baptism [I believe in the forgiveness of sins]. . . When you have been baptized, hold fast a good life in the commandments of God, that you may guard your Baptism even unto the end. . . For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins, without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. . . Only, do not commit those things for which you must needs be separated from Christ’s body: which be far from you! For those whom you have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins, to blot out these daily prayer would suffice. In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance.”

    I am wondering where you are getting your characterization of both Augustine and of medieval Catholicism. It seems to me that you are dealing in Protestant stereotypes without actually dealing in what Augustine and the Church actually teach.

    -David

  28. David,

    I hardly think that is the case.

    If you see posts # here you will see where I discuss how penitential practices radically changed from the days of Augustine to the days of Aquinas and beyond.

    See this post:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/

    …particularly this comment in this very long conversation:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/#comment-29661

    In it is this comment: “Further, all of the specific details [about the Lutheran view of the Roman Catholic penitential system] are found in the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, and the Smalcald Articles. I think the R.P.S. posts are more or less a tight summary of the more detailed evidences and arguments those Confessional documents contain.”

    You can get to those posts on the Roman penitential system (RPS) here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-extra-1/

    +Nathan

  29. “If you see posts # here you will see where I discuss how penitential practices radically changed from the days of Augustine to the days of Aquinas and beyond.

    See this post:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/

    should say:

    “If you see the following post you will see where I discuss how penitential practices radically changed from the days of Augustine to the days of Aquinas and beyond:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/

  30. Hi Nathan,

    I’m well aware of how the sacrament of penance has changed over the centuries. But your claim was that the Dominicans through out St. Augustine’s teaching on original sin, grace, and assurance.

    I am still waiting for your textual evidence to support this claim.

    Thanks,

    David

  31. David,

    “But your claim was that the Dominicans through out St. Augustine’s teaching on original sin, grace, and assurance.”

    Yes, that’s roughly right.

    “I am still waiting for your textual evidence to support this claim.”

    Actually, I think post #15 will have to suffice for now.

    If you’d like my documentation that the RC church in Luther’s day certainly did not offer assurance of salvation however, you need only read these posts (rather than the long conversation with Andrew):

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/joan-of-arc-faith-vs-infant-faith-part-1-of-2/
    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/joan-of-arc-faith-vs-infant-faith-part-2-of-2/

    As I said above, “my statement in #5 could have stood just fine without my talking about the Dominican captivity of the church. I’m quite sure the issue of the Reformation comes down to confession/absolution, which means it comes down to the Roman penitential system, which means it comes down to Rom. 4:7,8 and 5:1 being null and void.”

    One need not believe, as I do, that the R.P.S. necessarily makes any supposed certainty given in the absolution null and void to see that since Thomas (at least) Rome has neither allowed for nor encouraged the faithful to have certainty of their salvation.

    +Nathan

  32. Nathan,

    I would like to point out that post #15 above consists in quotation from a secondary source with absolutely no documentation from either Augustine or any Dominican theologian.

    However, I am perfectly willing to concede that neither the Medieval Church, nor St. Augustine, nor ante-Nicene Christianity, nor modern Catholicism, nor the New Testament offers the kind of “assurance of salvation” promised (spuriously) in Lutheranism.

    Still waiting for something other than secondary sources offering spurious summaries of Augustine . . .

    -David

  33. David,

    “I would like to point out that post #15 above consists in quotation from a secondary source with absolutely no documentation from either Augustine or any Dominican theologian.”

    Of course. Obviously, we all agree that persons who have read vast amounts of Augustine and Aquinas are capable of producing trustworthy summaries or representations of their thought, and of fairly comparing and contrasting them as well. The primary issue here is trust. None of us has time to turn over every rock for one’s self. That said, it seems to me that more reading of primary sources such as Augustine on my part would be a good investment of time – as I am able.

    “I am perfectly willing to concede that neither the Medieval Church, nor St. Augustine, nor ante-Nicene Christianity, nor modern Catholicism, nor the New Testament offers the kind of “assurance of salvation” promised (spuriously) in Lutheranism.”

    If you would be so kind, would you be willing to explain to me your understanding of the kind of “assurance of salvation” Lutheranism offers?

    +Nathan

  34. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for responding. I’m a bit intrigued by your position on the reliability of secondary sources. Your statement: “persons who have read vast amounts of Augustine and Aquinas are capable of producing trustworthy summaries or representations of their thought.” Taking you at face value, I’ll say that I have read a pretty good chunk of Augustine and Aquinas, and I have produced summaries of their thoughts. And, in fact, it was the writing of St. Augustine that first moved me to consider the claims of the Catholic Church – especially when I discovered that Augustine had much more in common with Aquinas than he did with Luther. Especially on the nature of justification, grace, free will, original sin, predestination, perseverance, and assurance of salvation. I’ve also offered you some select portions of Trent and Augustine to substantiate my claims.

    If you think otherwise, and if you’re going to assert this in the combox here, I really urge you to provide some evidence. Just saying, “You’re wrong because Norman Cantor says so” is not much of an argument.

    In answer to your question, classical Protestantism suggests that there is an absolute assurance of salvation available to the elect. The Westminster Confession (which, I know, is not Lutheran, but Reformed) even promises an “infallible assurance.” The ground of this assurance is the doctrine of justification by faith alone – via the imputed righteousness of Christ. Those to whom the Spirit witnesses their adoption as sons can know with infallible certainty that they will inherit eternal life.

    Luther does not use exactly the same language, but I find the same doctrine essentially communicated in his writings. He makes much of the fact that one can be certain that one is in the state of grace, has found favor with God, and that no work, sin, or external thing can alter one’s justification before God – which depends entirely on faith. In Freedom of a Christian, Luther says,

    “Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its husband Christ. ”

    Now, this is not the doctrine of Augustine. He insists that faith alone does not save, and that those in the church who commit gross sins must “wash it away in penitence,” or “redeem it by almsgiving.”
    I would direct you to his Enchiridion, chapter 67. And, For Augustine’s contention that faith without works does not justify, see also De Fide et Operibus, PL 40: 14.21

    Nor does Augustine believe that assurance of salvation is absolute. In his treatise on Predestination and perseverance he writes,”Let not men say, then, that perseverance is given to any one to the end, except when the end itself has come, and he to whom it has been given has been found to have persevered.”

    In other words, the only way to know that one has attained the gift of perseverance is, in fact, to persevere.

    You have charged that Aquinas and Trent departed from Augustine’s teaching on original sin, free will, and assurance of salvation. I have supplied ample evidence that is is not the case.

    Why is it so important to you to argue the contrary? Is it very important to you that Augustine be enlisted as an ally in your rejection of Trent? What if Augustine is actually Catholic in his understanding of salvation (as I believe that he is)? Would this be threatening to you? If you are a Protestant, why not just say, “Augustine got it wrong, along with everyone else up until Luther?” What view of Christian history are you bringing to the table, here?

    -David

  35. David,

    I don’t usually respond this way, but it seems to me a good idea to respond to this post piece by piece. I won’t have time to do this again today.

    First of all, it is a pleasure to discuss this with you.

    “Thanks for responding. I’m a bit intrigued by your position on the reliability of secondary sources. Your statement: “persons who have read vast amounts of Augustine and Aquinas are capable of producing trustworthy summaries or representations of their thought.””

    Me: Question: do you disagree with me then?

    “Taking you at face value, I’ll say that I have read a pretty good chunk of Augustine and Aquinas, and I have produced summaries of their thoughts. And, in fact, it was the writing of St. Augustine that first moved me to consider the claims of the Catholic Church – especially when I discovered that Augustine had much more in common with Aquinas than he did with Luther. Especially on the nature of justification, grace, free will, original sin, predestination, perseverance, and assurance of salvation. I’ve also offered you some select portions of Trent and Augustine to substantiate my claims.”

    Me: Yes, and others (like those above and others as well) who have purportedly read comparable amounts of Augustine say that this is what convinces them that Augustine had much more in common with Luther than he did with Aquinas. After all, the whole point of Luther’s reform was that it was based on “the Bible and Augustine”.

    “If you think otherwise, and if you’re going to assert this in the combox here, I really urge you to provide some evidence. Just saying, “You’re wrong because Norman Cantor says so” is not much of an argument.”

    Me: I’m just being honest when I say it’s about trust. I personally, can’t. (I’ve told you that I haven’t read that much of Augustine, though what I have read resonates with me).

    “In answer to your question, classical Protestantism suggests that there is an absolute assurance of salvation available to the elect. The Westminster Confession (which, I know, is not Lutheran, but Reformed) even promises an “infallible assurance.” The ground of this assurance is the doctrine of justification by faith alone – via the imputed righteousness of Christ. Those to whom the Spirit witnesses their adoption as sons can know with infallible certainty that they will inherit eternal life.”

    Me: False. This is diametrically opposed to Lutheran doctrine. Full stop. I *can* provide you for citations for this. Our Confessional documents, to which all faithful Lutheran pastors subscribe, say that persons who have come to faith do indeed lose their salvation, not only the practice of their faith. This is basic Lutheran doctrine which most in Confessional churches learn very early on.

    “Luther does not use exactly the same language, but I find the same doctrine essentially communicated in his writings.”

    Me: Then your selection of reading has not been complete enough. Reading through these blog posts will help you: http://www.justandsinner.com/#!blog/cee5 (I recommend subscribing to this excellent blog).

    “He makes much of the fact that one can be certain that one is in the state of grace, has found favor with God, and that no work, sin, or external thing can alter one’s justification before God – which depends entirely on faith. In Freedom of a Christian, Luther says,

    “Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its husband Christ. ”

    Me: Yes, but we can still lose our salvation. Luther did say that we could have certainty of salvation in the present – by trusting in the external means of grace when they give us God’s salvation.

    “Now, this is not the doctrine of Augustine. He insists that faith alone does not save, and that those in the church who commit gross sins must “wash it away in penitence,” or “redeem it by almsgiving.”
    I would direct you to his Enchiridion, chapter 67. And, For Augustine’s contention that faith without works does not justify, see also De Fide et Operibus, PL 40: 14.21”

    Me: Thank you for the reference. I hope to take a look at this specifically.

    “Nor does Augustine believe that assurance of salvation is absolute. In his treatise on Predestination and perseverance he writes,”Let not men say, then, that perseverance is given to any one to the end, except when the end itself has come, and he to whom it has been given has been found to have persevered.”

    In other words, the only way to know that one has attained the gift of perseverance is, in fact, to persevere.”

    Me: Right. That is Lutheran doctrine. Persevere in true faith. Trust the external word of promise outside of yourself.

    “You have charged that Aquinas and Trent departed from Augustine’s teaching on original sin, free will, and assurance of salvation. I have supplied ample evidence that is is not the case.”

    Me: This is what I believe. Things like this, like I saw this morning, reinforce and solidify this belief: http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=24852

    “Why is it so important to you to argue the contrary?”

    Me: Truth.

    “Is it very important to you that Augustine be enlisted as an ally in your rejection of Trent?”

    Me: If it is true.

    “What if Augustine is actually Catholic in his understanding of salvation (as I believe that he is)?”

    Me: For me, it comes down to this: is his thought *more in line* with the core things the Lutherans said were important, or *more in line* with what Trent said was important?

    “Would this be threatening to you?”

    Me: I’m not threatened at all. Well, God may slay me with the truth, but He does so only to raise me up with it as well.

    “If you are a Protestant, why not just say, “Augustine got it wrong, along with everyone else up until Luther?””

    Me: Because I don’t believe that is true.

    “What view of Christian history are you bringing to the table, here?”

    Me: reading this series (at least part IV and V) should help: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/the-coming-vindication-of-martin-luther-summary-and-conclusion-part-v-of-v/

    Also here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/

    (alternatively, you could read what Flacius, Chemnitz, and Gerhard said on the topic, but my long post above [to Dave Armstrong] will be faster)

    Blessings in Christ,

    Nathan

  36. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the detailed response. So what exactly are you objecting to in St. Thomas? Is it that Luther thought you could have certainty that you were in sanctifying grace, and Thomas disputes this? Is this the doctrine you think Augustine taught and which Aquinas rejected?

    Thanks,

    David

  37. David,

    OK, I can pop in here real quick and handle this one.

    Well, for all the detail, see my ongoing conversation with Andrew Preslar noted above. In it, I say:

    “Your quote from Trent about “peace and serenity of conscience with an exceedingly great consolation of spirit” deals with the Sacrament of penance as a whole and would not preclude the interpretation of Thomas above. Good workers will be rewarded with the knowledge that even they to, can have a firm hope that they *will* obtain the grace of God if they consistently strive – by the grace He provides (“omnipotence and mercy”) to achieve perfect love for God and neighbor. Such is this promise that Rome insists gives peace of conscience and consolation of spirit.

    It seems rather clear to me that in Rome the emphasis is almost always on this and not where you think it should be. Of course you are right. From where I sit, that’s why your article stands out like a bright shining light in a sea of darkness.”

    Andrew’s position is (was? – he has not commented in a while now) that RC Christians could have (relative) certainty that they are in a state of grace in the present *because of* the absolution that they receive as a part of the sacrament of penance.

    What did you think about the blog post I linked to above?: http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=24852

    +Nathan

  38. Hey David I wonder If you can help me out with this. Its from Alister McGrath’s history of Justification book. I don’t have the exact quote but he basically says that Thomas Aquinas distinguished between the infused habit which is the formal cause of our justification and our personal rightousness that we acquire during or progressive justification. He says that Trent upheld this distinction between infused righteousness (which comes from God) and acquired righteousness which we personally develop in our lifetimes, the former being the sole reason of our acceptance before God. The problem with this is that it contradicts the newadvent quote which says, The Catholic idea maintains that the formal cause of justification does not consist in an exterior imputation of the justice of Christ, but in a real, interior sanctification effected by grace, which abounds in the soul and makes it permanently holy before God (cf. Trent, Sess. VI, cap. vii; can. xi). Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification (causa meritoria), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness (causa formalis). So apparently Trent contradicted Aquinas and the common medievel consensus regarding justification if the above quote is indeed true. I am very confused right now so I would appreciate if you can clear some things up for me. Hope to hear from you soon. On a plus note the summa also says that justification is an event that happens in an instant and not a process, though i’m sure Thomas is taking about initial justification. I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this David.

  39. Hi Vincent,

    I’ll take a crack at answering your question, but I may not have exactly grasped your dilemma. If I misrepresent you, please feel free to correct me.

    Unless I misunderstand you, I don’t see the contradiction. You said, “The Catholic idea maintains that the formal cause of justification does not consist in an exterior imputation of the justice of Christ, but in a real, interior sanctification effected by grace, which abounds in the soul and makes it permanently holy before God.”

    But this is what Thomas believes, also. The ” infused habit which is the formal cause of our justification” is not an imputation at all, but a real righteousness. Formal does not mean imputed.
    When we consider the formal cause of a triangle being “three-sidedness,” we are hardly saying that triangularity is merely something “imputed” by geometrical fiat. Rather, it is a real cause, inhering in the subject. But it inheres formally, not materially.

    Does this get at your question?

    Thanks,

    David

  40. Thanks for responding David, I have been asking other people on ctc this question and you’re the first You have sort of answered my question, but you have missed a crucial part. My point is that Aquinas made a crucial distinction between our infused righteousness or grace which we receive in baptism which is the ground of our justification and our acquired righteousness which we acquire through our moral renewal throughout the course of our spiritual lives. He also states that justification is instantaneous and an event, though i assume he is talking about initial justification. But my whole point to you is that this looks to be contradicting Trent.

  41. Hi Vincent,

    In order to do justice to your question, I’m going to have to ask for a reference on this “crucial distinction.”
    Could I get some citations from Thomas and/or Trent to illustrate?

    Thanks,
    David

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