“Do You Want to Go to Heaven?”

Nov 8th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

For many Evangelical Protestants, the most important point of Christian doctrine is expressed in the affirmation: “I know for sure that I will go to Heaven when I die.” This kind of certitude about one’s eternal destiny is perhaps the biggest “selling point” for a large segment of Evangelical Christianity, as testified by innumerable gospel tracts. Of course, not all Evangelicals teach that such certitude is warranted. Lutherans, Wesleyans, Arminians, and other Protestant groups each deny the doctrine of eternal security (once saved, always saved). Calvinists sometimes insist that “eternal security” as popularly preached is quite different than “the perseverance of the saints,” theologically understood. So the difference on this point of doctrine (and all that goes along with it, experientially) is not only an issue that divides Protestants and Catholics.

However, Reformed Protestants do join chorus with the proponents of eternal security in decrying the teaching that it is indeed possible for a Christian to fall from grace by committing mortal sin, thus forfeiting his eternal inheritance. [1] Catholics in particular are supposed to compound the putative problem by imposing the “sacramental system” upon the faithful. At least a lapsed Methodist does not have to go to sacramental Confession to get right with God! The sacramental system (Confession and obligatory Mass attendance in particular) is supposed to constitute a wearisome form of toil, especially as compared to resting in the promise of Heaven (as understood by many Evangelicals) whose one condition is a one-time assent of faith.

This objection to Catholic soteriology can be brought into focus by considering the obligation of Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays, such that willful refusal to go to Mass, when it is possible to do so, is considered to be a mortal sin. “So do you mean to say that if a Catholic decides to skip Mass on Sunday, and then drops dead on Monday, he will go to Hell?” The question is sometimes asked sincerely, sometimes rhetorically, but in either case it calls for careful consideration. In what follows, I will focus on the Sunday obligation by way of responding to the more general criticism that salvation according to Catholicism fails to pass muster as “good news” due to what are supposed to be the conditions for continuing in the grace of God that brings salvation, culminating in Heaven.

Specifically, I want to respond to this criticism by answering the following questions: 1. What is the Mass? 2. What is Heaven? 3. What is the relation between going to Mass and going to Heaven? I will be answering these questions from a Catholic perspective. My goal is not to make an independent case for the Catholic view on each point, nor to exhaustively present the Catholic position. Rather, I want to suggest that Catholic soteriology, with its sacraments and obligations, makes a lot of sense if we grant that the million-dollar soteriological question is not “Do you know for sure that you will go to Heaven when you die?” but rather: “What is Heaven?” [2] Furthermore, it seems to me that once that question is answered, the most important existential question immediately becomes: “Do you want to go to Heaven?”

If Heaven is just whatever anyone happens to think is awesome, then the answer to the last question would invariably be “Yes,” and the question about knowing for sure that you are going to Heaven would perhaps be more psychologically pressing. But if Heaven is not just whatever anyone happens to think is awesome, then one cannot answer the question “Do you want to go to Heaven?” without some careful preliminary inquiry. From a Catholic point of view, the Mass is of particular relevance to that inquiry.

1. According the Catechism of the Catholic Church, what we commonly call “the Sunday obligation” is based in divine revelation, specifically in the third commandment (Deuteronomy 5:12), which is applied in the New Covenant in that the people of God are forbidden to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). [3]  The Lord’s Day, Sunday, is the particular day of the week upon which Christians are called to assemble themselves together to hear the word of God and share in the breaking of the bread, giving thanks (eucharistia) to God in the name of Jesus Christ. When we choose not to go to Mass on Sunday, we have forsaken the assembling of ourselves together, contrary to the express will of God.

Admittedly, the word “obligation” does not in itself fully convey the spirit of the eucharistic liturgy. “Fulfilling our obligation” is perhaps an unfortunately pedestrian way to refer to the assembling of ourselves together for eucharistia. But this inadequacy of phrase does not imply the falsity of the principle. Romantic love and family devotion are not reducible to a set of obligations; nevertheless, it is true that married couples are obligated to one another in many ways; parents are also obliged to care for their children, children are obliged to honor their parents, and so on. Many of the most fundamental, joyful, and mysterious things in this life are full of obligations. The phrase “Sunday obligation” specifies one aspect of our right response to the heavenly Bridegroom’s call to His Mystical Bride: we are supposed to go to Him. Just as the loving Bride comes to her Husband, we “go to Mass.” The doctrine of the Real Presence entails that going to Mass is coming to Christ, who is really, substantially present in the Eucharist. Of course, we come to Him only because He has first called us, and we receive Him only because He first comes to us in the consecrated Gifts, giving Himself to us and for us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

By going to Mass, we draw near to Christ, with the saints and angels in Heaven, praising God and proclaiming, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabbaoth, Heaven and Earth are full of your Glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” In short, the Mass is Heaven on earth. [4] This understanding of the Eucharist should give us some sense of why “skipping Mass” is a mortal sin. It is an act of spiritual adultery, in which we refuse the call of our true Lover, and run instead into the embrace of a false god (i.e., whatever it is that we prefer over going to Mass on Sunday). Such is the gist of every mortal sin.

2. Heaven, which is partly revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s liturgy, is not an amoral amusement park for persons more or less indifferent towards God. Much less is Heaven an immoral playground for persons in pursuit of sin. God requires holiness for entrance into Heaven, because He is holy, and to be in Heaven is to be in His Presence in such a way that we “shall see Him as He is.” God has provided the means for sinners to become holy, and so enter into the joy of Heaven, because He is love. God loves us. He loves us so much that He gives nothing less than  Himself to us. God’s love is so great that He gives Himself to us by becoming one of us, hypostatically uniting our nature to Himself in the Incarnation of the Son, who loves us so much that he died for us, rose again, and ascended to Heaven, taking humanity itself into the very Holy of Holies. This is the Heaven to which God calls his holy ones, once and for all at the end of time, here and now in the breaking of the bread. Our participation in the latter is a participation in, and a preparation for, the former.

3. From these considerations, it follows that to forsake the eucharistic assembly is to turn one’s back upon Heaven. When we “skip Mass” we are deciding that we would rather be elsewhere than in the presence of God the Father, with the angels and saints, in that perfect act of worship which is the presentation of the sacrificial Lamb of God to the Father in the communion of saints (Revelation 5:6). Someone who refuses to go to Mass or commits any other mortal sin and yet maintains, at the same time, that he “wants to go to Heaven” is substituting a false image of Heaven for the real thing, or else he is presuming that he will be granted repentance and reconciliation at some time in the future, though he declines fellowship with God in the present. But even as God does not force us to go to Mass, He will not force us to go to Heaven if we die with our backs turned towards Him. [5] The gift of eternal life is a present blessing and a high calling, which is essentially, in both respects, communion with the Holy Trinity. Human beings can enter into this communion because the man Jesus Christ has thrown the heavenly gates wide open, bringing to light life and immortality. He is the Way to the Father, in the Holy Spirit. God gives grace for the journey and eternal life in the end to those who abide in Christ and follow Him, seeking for glory, honor, and immortality (Romans 2:7).

So much that can seem strange and objectionable in Catholic soteriology is, I think, largely explicable if we take the nature of Heaven as the starting point of our inquiry into the doctrine of salvation. Nor is this approach arbitrary, because the best way to understand a thing is to understand its purpose, or end. The purpose of salvation is to bring us to Heaven. Abiding in charity (which is the principle of good works) and participating in the Church’s liturgy are fitting conditions for entering Heaven, because charity and divine worship are the very life of Heaven. For those who want to go to Heaven, fulfilling these obligations is not an oppressive burden, but a present blessing and a joyful preparation. The way is sometimes difficult, and the desire for Heaven sometimes wanes. But so long as we have faith, there is always hope, and so long as we have hope, the warnings against disobedience are not a reason for despair but a call to vigilance and, when necessary, repentance.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:19-27; RSV)

__________

[1] Some proponents of eternal security do affirm that a true believer can forfeit his or her eternal inheritance, but insist that “inheriting” the kingdom of Heaven is a separate matter from “entering” the kingdom of Heaven. According to this teaching, everyone who has ever been justified by faith alone will go to Heaven when they die, but they will not all inherit eternal life. Christians who fail to persevere in good works are allowed into Heaven as children of God, but like Ishmael and Esau they have no inheritance in the Promised Land. The main appeal of this school of thought is that it offers a version of “once saved, always saved” which promises not only Heaven but also the absolute certitude of going to Heaven apart from any works whatsoever, as works are not considered to be either a cause or condition of final salvation nor a necessary evidence of initial salvation. Any passage of Scripture that seems to place a condition, other than a one-time assent of faith, upon receiving eternal life (or entering the Kingdom of Heaven) is automatically treated as though it referred to a reward or inheritance as distinct from the free gift of eternal life.

[2] In taking this line of inquiry, I am not denying the importance of assurance, I am only questioning the primacy of assurance in the doctrine of salvation. For a Catholic understanding of assurance, see the post (and subsequent comments), St. Thomas Aquinas on Assurance of Salvation.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2174–83.

[4] Cf., Revelation 4–5. For more biblical-theological detail on this point, see Scott Hahn, The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth.

[5] It could be argued that Luke 14:23, particularly as interpreted by St. Augustine (Letter 173), stands as evidence against the point that God will not force anyone to enter Heaven against their will. St. Augustine thought that this passage justified using force to compel schismatics (in this case, the Donatists) to rejoin the Catholic Church; however, this forced reunion was not considered to be an end in itself. Rather, Augustine desired the forcible, external reconciliation of the Donatists in order that they might “find the feast of salvation.” But St. Augustine did not believe that everyone who finds that feast in this life (i.e., everyone who is visibly in the Catholic Church) finds it unto salvation (presently or eschatologically). Not everyone who is in the Church is ipso facto properly disposed to participate in the Heavenly banquet (the Eucharist). Catholics as well as heretics and schismatics can commit mortal sins. Mortal sin, without repentance, is a barrier to salvation and (consequently) to Heaven, and mortal sin necessarily involves a free act of the will. Thus, compelling someone to enter the Church is not the same thing as compelling them to enter Heaven. Even those who interpret Luke 14:23 as teaching that God compels people to come into the Kingdom typically maintain that He does this by monergistically changing their wills, such that they willingly enter Heaven. This interpretation is also compatible with my point that no one is forced into Heaven against their own will.

Tags: ,

184 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. So genuine question. If I choose deliberately to skip mass and die prior to confessing that…then do I go to hell? I understand the thrust of this post to be viewing the mass as a blessing and not a burden but I would still like to understand the implication of this particular mortal sin or others.

    Thank you

  2. Mike,

    Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about mortal sin:

    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.

    1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation….

    1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

    Perfect contrition obtains forgiveness of mortal sins prior to sacramental confession. According to the Catechism:

    1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”

    1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

  3. Mike,

    Before my conversion I struggled with this. It just seemed so wrong to my sensibilities. I wish I had Andrew’s excellent answer to this question at the time.

    What swayed me to complete understanding when trying to understand the whole mortal sin idea; specifically as it relates to Mass were the Ten Commandments. I realized that a good description of a mortal sin would be one that violates one of the ten. One of those commandments is the third “”Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” or “Remember the Lord’s day, to keep it holy”. Mass on Sunday certainly fits with this commandment in a Christian context. That one realization changed everything for me.

  4. Mike,

    You have 3 great responses already, but I’ll add my bit because it’s one of my favorite topics.

    For me, making sense of skipping Sunday Mass being a mortal sin is only possible when one understands what the Mass is and why Sunday is different. Firstly, the to assist at Mass is be present on Calvary and to be in communion with the whole Heavenly Host as well as to be face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ. Sunday is the day that the whole Church celebrates the resurrection. On Sunday in particular we celebrate our Communion with Jesus and through him with the whole Church.

    So deliberately skipping Sunday mass (for no serious reason) is a mortal sin because it is a purposeful rejection of participation in Christs gifts – the gift of the Mass and the Church.

    I think of it this way: would I skip Thanksgiving dinner with my whole family for a trivial reason, like going to see a movie or shopping? Would I skip my parents anniversary party? Would I make an effort to be at my sister’s wedding? Of course I always make family events a priority and I really make a great effort not to miss out. Sometimes it is truly unavoidable. If I “forgot” a family event, or just went bowling instead, my family would probably feel hurt. The real error in my ways would be that I don’t want to be with my family for family events. The skipping the event part is only the symptom. The disease is that I don’t find joy in participating in my family functions and don’t want to go.

    So it is with the Sunday Mass the way I see it. Skipping isn’t the beginning of that sin. No recognizing the true gift of the Mass and the Church and not valuing God’s plan for his people is the real problem. That I’ve let that attitude develop to the point where I casually skip Mass on Sundays is truly an indication of a very disordered faith life – mortal sin.

    God Bless

  5. Chapter Four of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to be relevant to the theme of the Mass as Heaven on earth, particularly in connection with the third commandment. If Mass is Heaven on earth because of the Presence of the Lamb, then to attend Mass is to sacramentally step into the true Eden, the true Canaan, the true Temple, God’s own “rest.”

  6. Thank you all for your responses. I appreciate that you would take the time to do so.

  7. It seems to me that if you “skip Mass” thinking, “I am skipping a worship service comparable to what I had when a Protestant — which is to say, a gathering together of persons, self-selected for like-mindedness, in which there’ll be some music and some instruction of indeterminate authority” then (a.) you haven’t yet understood what Mass is; and (b.) your culpability in the sin of skipping it is reduced to some degree.

    But if you “skip Mass” thinking, “I am skipping an opportunity to be in the presence of God in a way uniquely closer to Him than any other I will experience this side of Heaven, and the moment in which my earthly actions overlap with the worship of the seraphim and cherubim around the throne of light, and in which I can receive Jesus Christ into my soul and my body simultaneously in a fashion that fattens the former and is the medicine of immortality and the elixir of bodily resurrection for the latter….” If you say that, and skip because something else is more important (!), then it seems to me you’re either disparaging God, Heaven, Immortality, and the Resurrection…or, if something is more important to you than these things, then you’re committing idolatry.

    And there’s yet another way to look at it: You are AWOL.

    Consider: Jesus Christ, the Son of David, took His Davidic lineage and transitioned it into a never-ending Messianic Kingdom which fills the world. But like his forefathers in the royal lineage, Jesus appointed stewards in the kingdom, to administer various aspects of the kingdom’s day-to-day operations in His name. And the Church is not called “militant” for nothing; we are at war against principalities and powers, et cetera.

    Given all this, you should understand that you are a soldier, and the steward-delegate who commands over you (your church pastor) is your superior officer in the Army of God; and the steward who commands over him (your bishop) is the next-higher in the chain of command. And they have said: Report for examination, training, and proper nutrition once per week. They say this with authority on loan from Jesus Christ, the King. Will you disobey their orders?

    Now, an ignorant person knows none of this, thinks of none of it.

    To the extent his ignorance is innocent and invincible, he isn’t going to hell for neglecting Mass.

    But if he does know what he is about, and still does it? Well, is a disregard for God, Heaven, Immortality, the Resurrection, and the orders of your superior officers in a cosmic war sufficient reason for hellfire? I’m going to guardedly answer “yes.”

  8. On a related topic:

    Why exactly is it that those who preach “eternal security” don’t consider the fall of Adam and Eve to be sufficient proof that a person can…

    – be in a perfect relationship with God
    – choose to sin

    …and thereby experience spiritual death and the risk of hell?

    In other words, doesn’t the Fall, itself, conclusively prove the possibility of mortal sin for those already “in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Not only that, but a better such relationship than we have today, since we have to wrestle with concupiscence and the temptations of living in a fallen world, and they didn’t? If Adam, a “son of God” living in Paradise, can fall out of grace, how much more can we?

    I’ve never known quite how an “eternal security” person answers that.

    I also am not sure why it is that they ignore the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the True Vine, and Paul’s comparison to an Olive Tree, which seem to show the following pattern:

    – a person is IN (the father’s family household, the vine, the tree)
    – they can choose to go OUT in various ways (prodigality, lack of faith, lack of good works or “fruit”);
    – after repenting they can come back IN again;
    – those that don’t abide IN and never come BACK IN are “useless” and are cast aside and “burned”

    …which certainly doesn’t sound like “eternal security” to me.

    Another issue: What if a man repents his sins, claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, and is baptized: His sins are washed away, at that point, aren’t they? The man is saved, isn’t he?

    What if, thereafter, his brother sins against him, and he refuses to forgive his brother, and remains unforgiving, right until his death? Jesus admonishes, after teaching the Lord’s prayer, that if we do not forgive our brother, neither will His Father in Heaven forgive us. Can a man go to Heaven if his sins aren’t forgiven? If a Christian neglects to forgive, does he not thereby lose his salvation?

    Or what about 1st John? “If we confess our sins…” (or, “keep on confessing”; the verb construction is one of ongoing action, not one-occasion action) “…he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” (I think the “forgive” is “keep forgiving” and the “cleanse” is “keep cleansing” also, but I don’t remember for sure.) There is an “if” in the sentence. It raises the question of what the alternative is. If we don’t keep confessing our sins, what then?

    I know that the people who teach “once saved, always saved” are not ignorant of Scripture. Presumably they have other ways of looking at these passages. I’m just curious what those other ways are, inasmuch as the evidence seems pretty conclusive for the view that one can be IN the kingdom, then OUT of it by one’s own choices, and then repent and be IN it again.

    Anyone know how an “eternal security” person addresses these arguments?

  9. I have to admit, 6 years ago, as a Protestant observer of the Catholic Mass I saw in my opinion a group of people who’s religion was a burden to them. Unfortunately, I misunderstood the meaning and purpose of the Mass. A year later as a convert in RCIA, I saw all these little so called “obligations” such as fasting and Sunday Mass as privileges!! It is amazing how God’s grace shines into the heart.

    Coming from Protestantism where we were always told we could confess privately and directly to God, I was horrified of confessing my sins in front of a priest. I thought that Catholicism was a religion of guilt and burden (see post above) Yet somehow, deep in my heart I knew there was something right about confession. There was certainly nothing un-Biblical about it. In fact, if I were to stay true to my sola-Scriptura roots, I’d better confess! After my first confession, during which I was certainly fearful, I felt truly alive. Something had been awakened in my soul. I breathed the air deeper and saw the sunlight shine brighter. Even the birds chirped clearer. I was reborn in a true sense.

  10. Andrew

    I gotta tell you, brother, this is a well written thought process… and even as a lowly Protestant, I would strongly affirm what you have said about the relevance of worship to our concept of heaven, emphasizing the importance of regular worship (notwithstanding RC’s demeaning comments in #7). Particularly, I believe that all denoms need to spend more time explaining this concept. After all, we will spend eternity worshiping God. If that seems painful, we should be worried, whether Presbyterian or RC!

    In Christ, Curt

  11. Rachel (#9

    Coming from Protestantism where we were always told we could confess privately and directly to God, I was horrified of confessing my sins in front of a priest. I thought that Catholicism was a religion of guilt and burden (see post above) Yet somehow, deep in my heart I knew there was something right about confession. There was certainly nothing un-Biblical about it. In fact, if I were to stay true to my sola-Scriptura roots, I’d better confess! After my first confession, during which I was certainly fearful, I felt truly alive. Something had been awakened in my soul. I breathed the air deeper and saw the sunlight shine brighter. Even the birds chirped clearer. I was reborn in a true sense.

    I remember the day – 24 December, 1995 – when I had my first Confession, filled with the usual Protestant terrors and suspicions. I had been brought up without God at all, then had been a Protestant for the preceding 25 years.

    I walked – no, floated! – out of the Confessional, feeling that I wanted to grab all my Protestant friends and tell them they should run, not walk, to the nearest priest and beg him to receive them into the Church and hear their Confessions – “you don’t know what you are missing!”

    I go now every Saturday. I am still nervous going in; still feel so wonderful after. After the Eucharist, it is the most wonderful thing in the Church.

    jj

  12. Rachel

    If your Protestant experience only taught you “we could confess privately and directly to God”, then you were missing big part of Protestantantism that many of us experience, which contemplates these Biblical verses…

    James 5:16… “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

    1 John 1:7… “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

    Eph 4:25… “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

    Confessing in private, whether alone or to a Priest is a fine thing. But there is another level of accountability to be considered from these Scriptures. When we confess to each other and pray for each other, healing happens. A deep sense of fellowship occurs when we are mutually invested in our individual trials, tribulations, and yes sins in life.

    As the Ephesians verse points out, we are members of one another… as the body of believers, when one hurts, we all hurt. But James says we can find healing by confessing to each other. Whether Protestant or Catholic, confessing only in private misses the opportunity to walk in the light, as members of a unified body, and find the healing that comes from confessing to each other.

    Blessings
    Curt

  13. Sinclair Ferguson, in a post titled “What is the Greatest of All Protestant Heresies?”, recently posted on this topic here.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  14. Aaron (13)

    Perhaps Ferguson and Bellarmine could explain this… who are the sheep Jesus refers to in John 10:

    24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    The Father gives the sheep to Jesus… in other words, the sheep did not choose themselves, God chose them. Jesus gives them eternal life… in other words, they did not earn it… eternal life is a gift from Jesus. And no one can snatch them out of God’s hand… in other words, they have assurance… assurance that comes from God, not their own works.

    Lack of assurance denies the greatest gift of Christ… what could be more heretical?

    Blessings
    Curt

  15. Curt –

    Is it possible for a sheep to voluntarily leave the Shepherd – not by some outside force but due to a freely made decision to depart from the Shepherd’s side?

    If yes, then I think that fits with a Catholic understanding of assurance and Mortal sin. Mortal sin is a free decision to leave the shepherd’s side.

    If no, then what does that say about our freedom? Does God destroy our freedom when we say the sinner’s prayer? If I decide at a later point that I don’t want to be in heaven will God honor my freedom or will he say, “Too bad, you prayed the sinner’s prayer at summer camp when you were 11. You’re coming with me!”

  16. Fr. Bryan said

    If no, then what does that say about our freedom? Does God destroy our freedom when we say the sinner’s prayer?

    Using your logic I could ask the same thing about heaven. Can we depart from the Shepherd once we get to heaven? I think you would say no. I would also think you would agree that God doesn’t destroy us our free will either when we get to heaven.

    So the question then becomes where does God change us so that we don’t want to leave the Shepherd. Does that occur here on earth, or only later in heaven?

    I would say that God doesn’t destroy our free will (here on earth) but he does say that we are a new creation in Christ, that his Holy Spirit comes and lives in us. We aren’t the same person we once were. If we are truly his and Christ lives in us, it is impossible for us to deny him or turn our backs on him.

  17. Father Bryan (#15)
    I preface this by saying, in the interests of full disclosure, that I am a Catholic, a convert of some 19 years, and am fully in submission to Holy Church and to its teaching. Indeed, this business of assurance of salvation – which is not the same as ‘Perseverance of the Saints'” – is something I dealt with ten years before any thought of becoming a Catholic ever occurred to me. I concluded then – with Calvinist rather than Catholic reasoning – that certainty of salvation was not possible.

    Nevertheless, there is something I would like discussed on the topic. You have pointed out – correctly, of course – that if we are free, then mortal sin is always a possibility. This is certainly true under the sun, as it were.

    But it is also Catholic doctrine that in Heaven – indeed, in Purgatory – we will be – wonderful thought! – non posse peccare. Does that imply that we will, after death, if we are saved, be no longer free? And – pressed harder – does that mean God is absolutely unfree?

    These conundra are, I am sure, dealt with by St Thomas Aquinas. And I think I have my own approach to them. But I would like to know what you – and Andrew! – have to say about it.

    jj

  18. Steve G and JJ,

    Nice posts. it is an interesting “conundrum.” As you both are well aware, freedom is the ability to always choose what is good. Thus, a truly free person is unable to sin. A truly free person is unable to turn away from God who is goodness itself. Thus, protestants and Catholics agree that there is such a thing as assurance. We just disagree on when one receives this assurance. Steve was right in pointing out that when we are in heaven we can’t fall away. That should be something we can all agree on.

    Steve said:

    I would say that God doesn’t destroy our free will (here on earth) but he does say that we are a new creation in Christ, that his Holy Spirit comes and lives in us. We aren’t the same person we once were. If we are truly his and Christ lives in us, it is impossible for us to deny him or turn our backs on him.

    Let me explain my question a bit. When I asked Curt the questions above I was thinking of a very specific incidence. Somebody I care about very much was a very active member of a Presbyterian Church. He was the first person I knew who “shared the Gospel” with me. He would joyfully exclaim that he had been saved and that he was living in Jesus and that he didn’t need to worry about his salvation. Flash forward a few years and he, quite sadly and suddenly, fell into serious sin. His family and friends from Church took this to mean that he was never really saved in the first place. I asked a different friend about this and he responded, “He probably just got swept up in the emotion of Church and never really knew Jesus.”

    That’s a true story, and I don’t think I’m the only one who has experienced this. But that is my confusion over any doctrine of assurance. Steve G, how do you know that what you experience as a Christian is what you’re supposed to experience as a Christian? How do you know that you are truly saved and that you aren’t like the man I explained above who thought he was saved but fell into sin? It seems like being assured of salvation after a one time encounter is an illusion. There is simply no way to reach a certain conclusion that what one “feels” is what they are supposed to “feel.”

    As a Catholic, I approach this differently. My salvation isn’t based on a one time encounter with Jesus. Its based on an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus. The work that he has done for me in the past to prepare me for my future is being applied to my life in the present. Salvation is an ongoing, continuous process.

    Thus, I don’t have to look back at my past and wonder if my initial moment of conversion was real or not. I know that God is choosing me right now at each and every moment of my day. That is where I experience my peace with God as a Christian. It isn’t that my eternal salvation is secure, but that God is with me right now at this very moment. That is what Andrew’s article gets across, I think. That our peace doesn’t come from one moment but from the constant penetration of heaven into our hearts at every moment.

  19. Steve and JJ,

    St. Thomas and others can pinpoint the details. I’ll be content with a few broad strokes.

    My initial response to this line of inquiry is to think about freedom in relation to sin. Certainly, in bestowing actual and sanctifying grace upon us, God changes us, though in this life this change does not preclude the possibility of our continuing to commit sins, and we do in fact continue to sin. But in Heaven, where we behold God as he is, the good work that God has already begun in us will be brought to completion in such a way that we can no longer sin (Revelation 21:4, 8). Our freedom will be fulfilled in the Beatific Vision, but not taken away.

    God is supremely free, and it is impossible for him to sin. We will, in Heaven, be like God (1 John 3:2). This promise generates hope, which prompts us to sanctify ourselves in this life (1 John 3:3). So my answer to the question that Steve posed to Fr. Bryan is “both.” Here on earth this change is in some sense incomplete (“it has not yet appeared what we shall be”), as evidenced by the fact that we are still susceptible to sin; hence, the many warnings against disobedience / falling away from God, and the promise of entering into our eternal inheritance in Heaven to those who persevere.

    In the Summa contra gentiles, St. Thomas considers the human will in relation to the good, in a state of beatitude; see Question 92 in Book Four.

    St. Thomas considers God’s freedom, in the act of creation, in Question 23 of Book Two of the same work.

    Someone somewhere wrote something helpful about how man’s will is free in the beatific vision, as being able to choose between a plurality of goods, with no prejudice to divine simplicity. But I can’t remember where.

    Andrew

  20. Andrew and Father Bryan – thank you both. Yes, I was wanting some confirmation that what I thought was correct – the key is the Beatific Vision. Possessing (‘possessing’ is the word, I think, though when we say ‘vision’ it feels like less; I love Josef Pieper’s “Happiness and Contemplation” on the subject) the Good that is the source of all good, it will be impossible for us to turn aside to a lesser good. A tiny earthly analogy might be the difficulty (not impossibility!) of turning from some great earthly good – love of one’s spouse, for example – to something much less – like chocolate.

    I just thought – and Steve clearly did also :-) – it worth thinking about the non posse peccare for those who have died in friendship with God, compared with the very definite posse peccare – including mortal sin – for those of us still on earth.

    jj

  21. Fr. Bryan O. (15)

    You asked…

    Is it possible for a sheep to voluntarily leave the Shepherd – not by some outside force but due to a freely made decision to depart from the Shepherd’s side?

    In the verse I quoted, Jesus says that the sheep are given to Him by the Father and no one will snatch them out of His hand. “No one” means no one… me included. He further says that He gives them eternal life. Not “He gives them the potential” for eternal life. Not “they may get eternal life if they are good enough”. He give them eternal life… period. No one can snatch them from His hand… period. I take jesus at His word, and so the answer is “no”, I cannot unselect what God has chosen.

    If no, then what does that say about our freedom? Does God destroy our freedom when we say the sinner’s prayer? If I decide at a later point that I don’t want to be in heaven will God honor my freedom or will he say, “Too bad, you prayed the sinner’s prayer at summer camp when you were 11. You’re coming with me!”

    When Christ indwells us, what does that mean? What freedom are you referring to?

    Galations 5:1
    It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

    1 Peter 2:16
    Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

    Romans 6
    17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

    We are either slaves to sin or slaves of righteousness. So what is freedom? The truth of the Christ and the Resurrection sets us free from the death of sin… this is our freedom… a gift from Christ. Since original sin precludes me from choosing Christ on my own, I for one am very glad that God chose me and am happy to give up my perceived “freedom”.

    More Romans 6…

    20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    This sounds like something God does… not me. Where is the “free will” here? It was God that freed us from sin, and enslaved us to Himself. The result? Sanctification and eternal life. My choice? No… God’s choice.

    Romans 9

    9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?

    God chooses whom He will… it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs. Who are we to question?

    Curt

  22. Curt –

    You quoted Galatians: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” I don’t think Paul would say that if he thought that the salvation of followers was secure. Why would he tell them that they could be subject “again” to the yoke of slavery. In order for Paul to say that he would have to believe that the Galatian Christians were once slaves to sin, set free from sin and, able to again be a slave to sin. That’s the only way that verse makes sense.

    But this isn’t the only occurance. Look at 2Peter 2:20-22. It reads,

    “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

    Again, this does not makes sense if Peter believed that salvation occurs in a moment in time. Peter clearly believes that you could go from being trapped by defilements, to being set free from them, to being again entangled in them. Peter also clearly believes this to be a bad thing.

    There are, of course, other verses that prove these people did not understand eternal security as you do, but enough with the proof texting. I’m really very curious what you make of the situation I explained in my previous comment, #18. As I said, when I asked those questions I was really interested in a real life example. Perhaps I should have been up front about that. But how do you know that you aren’t like the man I described in that comment. He was a man who said the exact same things that you have said about eternal security. He fell into sin, and now everyone – including him – doubts that he was really saved in the first place. How do you know what you feel is really what you’re supposed to feel if you’re “Saved?”

  23. “Steve G, how do you know that what you experience as a Christian is what you’re supposed to experience as a Christian?’

    Scripture tells me what I should experience. Does my life show the fruits of the Spirit? Am I growing in my Christian walk day by day? Am I growing more Christ like? Not that I am perfect and won’t have struggles but what is the arc of my Christian life?

    ” How do you know that you are truly saved and that you aren’t like the man I explained above who thought he was saved but fell into sin?”

    See the problem here is I can’t speak for this other man. Did he really feel saved? Or did he know/suspect the truth, and was just play acting? I can only speak for myself.

    “It seems like being assured of salvation after a one time encounter is an illusion. There is simply no way to reach a certain conclusion that what one “feels” is what they are supposed to “feel.””

    My assurance is not based upon how I feel, any more than the love of a husband is based merely upon how he feels at any one time for his wife. Feelings come and go. My assurance is based upon God’s promises to complete in me the work that he had already begun as he promises through Paul in Philippians and other places in the NT.

    “As a Catholic, I approach this differently. My salvation isn’t based on a one time encounter with Jesus. Its based on an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus. The work that he has done for me in the past to prepare me for my future is being applied to my life in the present. Salvation is an ongoing, continuous process.”

    I was saved, I am being saved and I will be saved. It’s not that the work was completed when I say I am “saved”. Again, it is my confidence that God will finish the work he began, that he will not abandon his own, that the deposit of His Holy Spirit in us guarantees “what is to come”.

    “Thus, I don’t have to look back at my past and wonder if my initial moment of conversion was real or not. I know that God is choosing me right now at each and every moment of my day. That is where I experience my peace with God as a Christian. It isn’t that my eternal salvation is secure, but that God is with me right now at this very moment. That is what Andrew’s article gets across, I think. That our peace doesn’t come from one moment but from the constant penetration of heaven into our hearts at every moment.”

    I can agree with much of this. I just apparently have confidence that God will continue to work in me, while you seem to doubt that he can keep you as his own short of heaven. It seems that Catholicism short changes the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit in this life, apparently unable to believe that God will finish what he began in each of us.

  24. RC said:

    “Why exactly is it that those who preach “eternal security” don’t consider the fall of Adam and Eve to be sufficient proof that a person can…

    – be in a perfect relationship with God
    – choose to sin

    …and thereby experience spiritual death and the risk of hell?

    In other words, doesn’t the Fall, itself, conclusively prove the possibility of mortal sin for those already “in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Not only that, but a better such relationship than we have today, since we have to wrestle with concupiscence and the temptations of living in a fallen world, and they didn’t? If Adam, a “son of God” living in Paradise, can fall out of grace, how much more can we?

    I’ve never known quite how an “eternal security” person answers that.”

    RC, the problem with this is that the same logic could be applied to those in heaven. They are in a perfect relationship with God, yet choose not to sin. But according to you, they could sin because Adam did sin.

    I’ll also add that “sinning” does not equal “losing one’s salvation”.

    In the end, your analogy proves either too much or too little.

  25. Somehow lost what I was writing!!!!

    Curt, much briefer version (you will be glad :-)) of what I was writing:

    Does the perseverance of the saints mean that a man who has truly believed cannot be lost, no matter what he does, or does it mean he will never commit serious sin in fact?

    I have known Reformed ministers who have argued either – though the tendency is towards the second. But I have known more than one person who seemed for many years to be fervent, in love with the Lord, faithful – and then – in one case, suddenly, through the death of a loved one (and the person in question actually became a Satanist – by his own statement) – but in several other cases drift into complete infidelity, atheism, living in gross sin – in one case dying that way.

    The standard comment is to say they never ‘really believed.’ I just wonder if this isn’t more or less tautological, though. A true believer is one who will not fall into persistent serious sin. In that case, of course , we only know if he is a true believer when he dies in (apparent) faith – which is phaenomenologically pretty much the same as the Catholic view.

    But I knew one minister who said – concerning, to be sure, a hypothetical case; he didn’t know the person I mentioned who eventually died in years-long persistent deep sin – but who said that an act of saving faith (his term) meant you were permanently and ineluctably saved. You would, perhaps, have no rewards in Heaven; but you would be in Heaven.

    As a Calvinist, I just wonder what your take is on the business.

    jj

  26. jj

    Hey brother… Allow me to avoid speculating beyond the plain meaning of Jesus’ words in John 10…

    27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    So, if …

    1. The sheep are the one’s who belong to Jesus
    2. They are given to Him by the Father
    3. They know Him and follow Him
    4. No one can snatch them from the hand of the Father or the Son
    5. Jesus gives them eternal life

    What do we know from this? The sheep are given to Jesus by the Father. I do not hear “free will” in this statement. I hear divine providence. As in Romans 9, God chooses whom He will. No one can snatch them from the hand of God or Jesus. Jesus emphasizes that the Father is greater than all. I hear divine omnipotence. What God chooses cannot be hijacked by any other. The sheep know Jesus and follow Him. Jesus gives the sheep eternal life.

    Therefore, to your hypothetical and real examples, it would seem to me that a person who stops following Jesus (or seeming to follow Jesus) is not a sheep, as defined by item 3 in the list. Since eternal life is given to sheep, it would follow that a “not sheep” would not be eligible for eternal life. Referring back to John 10, this was explicitly said to the Pharisees who were the “followers” or the “church fathers” of the time. Jesus told them they were not sheep, and from the obvious meaning of the verse, they were not in line for eternal life.

    To be clear, though, this does not mean that sheep never wander or sin. But the shepherd loves His sheep and keeps them in His hand. Luke 15:4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?”

    Jesus does not let go of those who were chosen by the Father… in fact, He loves us so much, He gave His life as a ransom for ours. Would He then let the evil one snatch us away?

    Blessings to you!

    Curt

  27. Curt (#26
    Thanks – but not quite what I was asking. Probably I’m not clear. I am just asking if you think that perseverance of the saints means the person will not fall into, and die in, persistent obvious gross sin, including a denial of Christ, atheism, etc – or that, even if he does, if he really believed in the first place, he will be saved despite his obvious ultimate apostasy?

    I gather your answer is the first – that Christ will not let him fall into and die in such a state. Is that right? Just wondering, because I have heard Calvinist (well, they said they were Calvinists!) preachers say the latter. Once saved, always saved means what it says. If you believed, but spend the last twenty years of your life a Satanist, or whatever, you will be saved.

    Or do we just have to say that the latter sort of person never truly believed in the first place, even if he seems to have thought he did?

    jj

  28. jj (27)

    Yes the former… that Christ will not let him fall into and die in such a state. Perhaps Augustine can shed some light here: Chapter 33 Anti Pelagian Writings

    “From all which it is shown with sufficient clearness that the grace of God, which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end, is not given according to our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called,’ with that calling of which it is said, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”‘

    I think that sums it up pretty well.

    Blessings
    Curt

  29. Hi Curt (28)

    Sorry to jump in the middle of this but I wanted to respond to this last post.

    I appreciate you quoting St. Augustine here. I want to point out that this is in harmony with Catholic teaching. Predestination is, after all, de fide in the Catholic Church. It must be believed. How it actually works out in eternity has not been defined infallibly.

    This quote is very comfortably affirmed buy any Catholic who leans Augustinian or Thomistic in their understanding of Predestination. While the Molinist position may be the most common these days it has mostly not been the case in Church history and it could certainly swing back.

    All who will be finally be saved were predestined by God to be saved. The difference, I think, is the level of speculation we are allowed as to how that works out.

  30. “Eternal life” doesn’t mean “a promise of eternal salvation” or “a promise of resurrection.” It means a present share of the divine life in God, just as it is used in John 6. That mode of life can be gained or lost. It is also true that anyone who is saved will be resurrected (raised on the last day) and will therefore not perish. They do not need to worry about some demonic power snatching them away from Jesus. Jesus will place all creation in subjection to Him or that He cast out those faithful to Him, so that nothing will be lost. But that passage is about Jesus’s reliability to judge the *entire* world in response to those who deny it. Neither John 6 nor John 10 are promises to individual believers; they are statements of Jesus’s power and divinity, power to give eternal life now and to bring all of creation back to Him in the resurrection.

    Augustine’s interpretation of John (Tractate 48 on John) was not all that helpful. He sees eternal life in the Church (the pasture), but he mistakes “eternal life” for “eternal salvation,” much like you do. This idea was never accepted by the Church as a whole; St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Leo the Great are both more reliable interpreters on this.

  31. Fr. Bryan O. (22)

    You quoted Galatians: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” I don’t think Paul would say that if he thought that the salvation of followers was secure. Why would he tell them that they could be subject “again” to the yoke of slavery.

    Are you saying that after salvation, one never sins? I don’t think you are. So, of course, Paul encourages us to stand firm against our sinful desires. You are assuming that sin after salvation jeopardizes salvation. But the believer is protected through confession and the promise of forgiveness. Nonetheless, we should stand firm against sin.

    Regarding 2 Peter 2, this chapter is speaking of false prophets who have knowledge of salvation through Christ, but continue to live in rejection of God’s gift. Knowledge of Christ is not salvific… even satan knows who Christ is. And knowledge of Christ without repentance brings on the worst form of judgment.

    And now, going back to your thoughts in #18, and the man who apparently fell from grace… you asked, “how do you know that you aren’t like the man I described in that comment (18)… How do you know what you feel is really what you’re supposed to feel if you’re “Saved?”

    What you are asking is how do we know we are not deceived? We could, of course, ask the same question about many things including our theological understandings on various doctrinal issues. Philosophically speaking, one could argue that we cannot know anything for sure. But setting all that aside, let me respond. I believe that Scripture accurately represents God’s revelation to us. When John says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”, I believe that is exactly what God meant for him to say… and for me to understand.

    So what was it that John wrote that gives us this assurance? If we back up a few verses, he says, “11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

    He concludes, “20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Now… either this is true and accurate or it is not. You said the following:

    My salvation isn’t based on a one time encounter with Jesus. Its based on an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus. The work that he has done for me in the past to prepare me for my future is being applied to my life in the present. Salvation is an ongoing, continuous process.

    I believe verse 20 contemplates this very thought, but I would rephrase it this way…

    God chose me for salvation from the beginning of time. Through the work of Christ on the cross, my sins are forgiven and I have been given eternal life. I know this because Scripture tells me so, and it is confirmed through an ongoing personal relationship with Christ who indwells me, working in and through me to accomplish His will.

    John also says in 1 John 4:

    15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

    We are perfected in the love of Christ. We should not fear for our eternal salvation, for that very fear would imply a lack of faith in Christ. There is no punishment… the grace of Christ is complete… our sins are forgiven. Thus we may have confidence in the day of judgement… not confidence in ourselves, but confidence that Christ has perfected us through His holy and loving grace.

    So… what of your fallen friend? If Christ is in us, we are a new creation. The old has passed away, and the new has come. It seems to me there are many possibilities (unless your friend is dead): One is that he may still be redeemed… it ain’t over until its over. The other is that he never knew Christ… and thus he was never saved. In any case, we cannot judge how God will reckon with him, nor can we impute his situation to our own. We cannot know what was in his mind or his heart… or what he knew or did not know … what he felt or did not feel. We can only know and trust what Scripture tells us. We cannot trust our feelings, but rather, we trust the truth of God’s Word. It says we can know that we have eternal life.

    Blessings
    Curt

  32. Jonathan (30)

    You said: “Eternal life” doesn’t mean “a promise of eternal salvation” or “a promise of resurrection.” It means a present share of the divine life in God, just as it is used in John 6. That mode of life can be gained or lost.

    Hmmm….

    Mark 16
    19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.]

    [And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.]

    2 Tim 2
    8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. 10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

    Hebrews 5
    8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

    Blessings
    Curt

  33. Curt (#28)

    Yes the former… that Christ will not let him fall into and die in such a state. Perhaps Augustine can shed some light here: Chapter 33 Anti Pelagian Writings

    “From all which it is shown with sufficient clearness that the grace of God, which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end, is not given according to our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called,’ with that calling of which it is said, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”‘

    I think that sums it up pretty well.

    Thanks, Curt. Yes, that seems to me the only sensible answer. I confess I shuddered at the idea that the person who fell into, and remained in, serious, God-denying, sin for years, then died, but who had had an apparent real and deep conversion that lasted for years prior to this time – that such a person – and, alas, they do exist! – would just be, willy-nilly, taken up into Heaven.

    So what one would have to say, in such a sad case, would be that the person’s conversion was apparent only – that he never had living faith.

    But then don’t you think this reduces, again, speaking phaenomenologically, to the Catholic position? That such a person believes in his own conversion I don’t see how we can deny. So that, although it may be true – and, I think, one must tautologically true – that a true believer can never be lost, yet no one can be certain, short of a private revelation from God, that he is one of the elect who can never be lost. Isn’t that right?

    IOW, strictly from the human point of view, the Catholic, and any reasonable Reformed, position on certainty of salvation come down to the same.

    jj

  34. jj

    You conclude: “yet no one can be certain, short of a private revelation from God, that he is one of the elect who can never be lost. Isn’t that right?” To agree with this would require that we disagree with John when he says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” I’m not quite ready to disagree with the Scripture. If we believe in Christ, we know that we have eternal life.

    I also am reminded here of the parable about the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). The workers who labored all day were unhappy because they were paid the same amount as the workers who showed up late in the day. The moral of the story is that God can do as He wishes, and His gifts may not be proportional to our labor or faithfulness. One might conclude from this that God will save the one who, in our view, has fallen away simply because it is His will and His right to do so. This may seem unfair to us, but, as the parable points out, who are we to judge God’s actions?

    Blessings
    Curt

  35. Steve G (re #24),

    RC’s logic, reasoning from the Fall of Adam and Eve, does not apply to the saints in Heaven, as I pointed out in comment #19. See especially the link to Aquinas’ discussion of the will in a state of beatitude (i.e., in Heaven).

    Andrew

  36. Andrew said:

    ‘RC’s logic, reasoning from the Fall of Adam and Eve, does not apply to the saints in Heaven, as I pointed out in comment #19. See especially the link to Aquinas’ discussion of the will in a state of beatitude (i.e., in Heaven). ‘

    Actually, it does, based upon his premises. He states that they had a perfect relationship with God. If the Beatific Vision in heaven trumps that, then I’d argue the relationship wasn’t perfect to begin with.

  37. Cur (#34

    You conclude: “yet no one can be certain, short of a private revelation from God, that he is one of the elect who can never be lost. Isn’t that right?” To agree with this would require that we disagree with John when he says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” I’m not quite ready to disagree with the Scripture. If we believe in Christ, we know that we have eternal life.

    OK, but then if knowing that I have eternal life is the same as knowing that I can never lose it – of course I don’t think it is – but if they are the same, then I have not got eternal life, for I do not know that I can never lose eternal life. And on the other hand, I think there are some who would say they know they have eternal life and can never lose it – who will prove to be mistaken.

    jj

  38. Curt (re #32),

    There is one verse in the Bible that explicitly says what “eternal life” is. That verse is John 17:3.

    And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

    As can be appreciated by reading further in the Gospel and especially the First Epistle of St. John, “knowing” God involves much more than knowing or believing things about God. In fact, believing, for St. John, is not simply assent (although it includes assent), as can be discerned by marking the way that the Apostle describes faith throughout his Gospel; e.g., as obedience, coming to the light, eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Christ. The latter act of faith, eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, is of course particularly relevant to the topic of this post.

    It is unclear how the verses that you quote, without comment, are related to Jonathan’s claim about eternal life. But it is clear that his claim tracks pretty well with the Gospel of John, in that eternal life is not reducible to a set of propositions, but is rather, as suggested by the word “life” itself, a dynamic participation in God’s own life. Of course, among the propositions set forth in the Gospel is the promise of eternal life. It is a wonderful promise, appropriated in living faith. But the propositional promise of a thing is distinct from the thing promised, right? I think that that is the distinction that Jonathan is making at the beginning of his comment.

    I do think that the promise of eternal life is for individual believers. After all, Jesus was addressing actual people when he made those promises, namely, that those who would come to him, believing on his name, would have eternal life. The promise of eternal life, along with faith in the mercy and goodness of God, is what gives rise to the assurance of hope, which, along with faithful participation in the sacraments and obeying the commandments of God / abiding in love, is how one knows that he or she has eternal life (cf. 1 John 2:3-6; 3:10, 18-19). The assurance of hope, as understood by St. Thomas Aquinas, is discussed here.

    This assurance is distinct from the certainty of faith. It is in the latter sense that we cannot know we are in a state of grace (or, in St. John’s phrase, that we “have eternal life abiding in us”) apart from special revelation, because faith corresponds to special revelation. Protestants typically think about assurance of salvation under the rubric of the certainty of faith, so when Catholics deny that we can typically enjoy that kind of assurance, it can seem that we are denying any sort of assurance, and thus falling afoul of St. John’s claims that we can indeed know that we have eternal life. But this is not the case, as I try to show in the post on St. Thomas and the assurance of hope.

    Andrew

  39. Steve (re #36),

    Your response implies that it is not possible to move from perfection to greater perfection. But a thing or state of affairs that is perfect in itself can still be incomplete relative to an even greater goal. For example: Our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross was perfect, or complete, in that it made satisfaction for our sins. The subsequent resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session of Christ do not suggest that the Cross was not perfect, but that its perfection was part of an even greater goal–bringing humankind to heavenly glory. Likewise, man’s perfection in the Garden was complete, in the sense that he lacked nothing that he should have had in that state. But Adam and Eve were at the same time ordered to an even greater perfection, of which their life in the Garden was supposed to have been a part. That greater perfection is represented by the Tree of Life, and is realized in the Beatific Vision, not, now, through the Garden of Eden (we have fallen from that state), but through the Garden of Gethsemane.

    Andrew

  40. Andrew

    I try really hard to follow you logic, but confess I am struggling with it. Correct me if I am wrong, but the distinction you seem to be drawing is (Prot) “the assurance of salvation” in contrast to (Cath)”the assurance of hope” (of salvation, I assume is understood here). If I have that much right, then I find the assurance of hope to be diminutive to the point of being nearly meaningless. It is somewhat akin to a teacher telling a student, “I assure you that you can hope you got a good grade on the test.” Of course the student can hope, but the assurance is meaningless in terms of his/her actual grade. Likewise, saying that I am absolutely sure that God can and might save me is no assurance at all in terms of my own salvation… particularly if it relies on my feeble attempt at good works. If, after all that Christ has done for me, my hope for salvation is reduced back to works of righteousness by a sinner, then the entrance to heaven will truly be narrow. Conversely, a Protestant can have assurance of salvation because that salvation relies solely on the power, grace and mercy of God in Christ, His completed gift to us, and thus it is not reduced to “assurance of hope” based on my works.

    Blessings
    Curt

  41. Curt:
    Exactly. “Eternal life” is something we have now; “eternal salvation” and “eternal glory” are what we will have if we maintain the life of the Spirit (eternal life or divine life). Bodily resurrection (being raised on the last day) is yet another concept. All are distinct; all are present in Scripture.

  42. Curt (re #40),

    Concerning Catholic and Protestant versions of assurance, the relevant distinction is between the certainty of hope and the certainty of faith.

    You wrote:

    Correct me if I am wrong…

    Your characterization of the certainty of hope is wrong. For what I believe to be the correct understanding of this assurance, see the post to which I referred in my last comment, St. Thomas Aquinas on Assurance of Salvation.

    Andrew

  43. Jonathan

    I get the distinction of eternal glory (I think, anyway). How is eternal life distinct from eternal salvation? Where is that distinction drawn in Scripture?

    Thanks
    Curt

  44. Andrew (42)

    Yes, I read the post on Aquinas and Assurance. It presents an interesting thought stream, however, it is frustrating that there is virtually no reference to any supporting Scripture for the myriad concepts conveyed. Thus to a Luddite like me, it just reads as an interesting concept.

    “Faith is the beginning of hope, hope is the beginning of charity, and charity perfects faith and hope by directing them to their goal, which is eternal happiness in friendship with God.”

    Statements like these (one of many) are definitive and are used to draw conclusions. Where did it come from? Can we weave in some references Scriptural and otherwise from which these statements derive? Or are we just to read them and agree?

    Thanks
    Curt

  45. Curt,

    St. Thomas bases his discussion of the certainty of hope on 2 Timothy 1:12 and Philippians 1:6. The discussion of the virtues of faith, hope, and love is likewise based on sacred Scripture, which speaks of these individually and in relation to one another (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13).

    Andrew

  46. Curt –

    I still don’t think any of the scriptures you have cited are as clear as you think they are, but it looks like the conversation has progressed since I’ve posted. Your conversation with Andrew should be more fruitful anyway, because he has a better grasp on what exactly you mean by assurance. So I’m going to let your comment above be the final say on our sub thread. Thanks for the discussion.

    FrB

  47. Curt:
    If you mean apart from the fact that zoe, soter, and doxa all refer to different things, I would also note that the Johannine corpus where the term is used as I suggest repeatedly refers to eternal life in the present tense. You can’t just grab references to other authors, particularly other authors using a different term, and assume they are saying something identical. That is precarious exegesis even leaving aside that we are talking about supernatural mysteries here.

    The Bible is not written to make things easy and clear for you. It is written to clearly proclaim the glory of God. Keep your eyes on Christ, Who is the Good News, rather than interpreting “good news” in terms of what would be good for you to hear. Now, Christ does bring eternal salvation, so the news is good in that sense, but that is a result of Who Christ is and what He does. In that regard, Scripture is clearer when you realize that it is not intended to give you instruction personally; we have the Church for that (hence, the sending of the Apostles in Mark 16:20 that you quoted).

  48. Curt,

    Regarding the quotation from St. Augustine in #28, you seem to assume that if St. Augustine taught predestination, then he must have believed that persons who are once regenerated, can never lose their justification. But that’s not what he believed. He writes:

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

    Predestination to glory is hidden, known to God alone. It wouldn’t be hidden if, for all those who have faith, they could ipso facto know they were predestined for glory.

    In #31 you wrote:

    I believe that Scripture accurately represents God’s revelation to us.

    No one in this discussion denies that, so far as I can tell. The question, however, has to do with interpretation, i.e. what is the authentic interpretation of Scripture.

    When John says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”, I believe that is exactly what God meant for him to say… and for me to understand.

    Of course God wants us to understand that passage. But that does not establish which interpretation of that passage is authentic, and therefore does not establish how the verse is to be rightly understood. If St. John is there writing to Catholics, or means his words to be understood according to the Catholic Tradition his readers had already received, then the words he has written in this verse do not mean that whoever reads them and believes them has grounds for knowing he has eternal life or is elect to glory.

    You wrote:

    He concludes, “20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Now… either this is true and accurate or it is not.

    Yes, it is either true and accurate, or it is not. But that naively sidesteps the question of interpretation, i.e. which interpretation is true and accurate. Does the “us” include “Curt” or not? The verse itself does not say that “Curt” is among the “us.” You’re reading that into your interpretation of the verse, perhaps without even realizing that you are doing so. So what remains to be determined, when interpreting this verse are, among other things, the conditions necessary for the reader to be included among the “us.” If you falsely or presumptively assume that you are among the “us,” the “assurance” you derive from the verse is false and unjustified.

    God chose me for salvation from the beginning of time. Through the work of Christ on the cross, my sins are forgiven and I have been given eternal life. I know this because Scripture tells me so, and it is confirmed through an ongoing personal relationship with Christ who indwells me, working in and through me to accomplish His will.

    Scripture never mentions you. So what you are saying is based on an interpretation according to which you meet necessary conditions you believe (by your interpretation) are presented in Scripture in order to be forgiven. As long as you ignore the interpretive acts and underlying inferences at work in your interpretation and application of these passages, you can say things like “my sins are forgiven … I know this because Scripture tells me so.” And then when you appeal to the internal witness of the Spirit, you presuppose that that too is infallible, as though no one who has that internal witness (or thinks he has it), has ever fallen away from the faith and died in that condition. But you don’t know that other people (who eventually fall away) never had that same internal witness. So you don’t know that this internal witness is infallible.

    We should not fear for our eternal salvation, for that very fear would imply a lack of faith in Christ.

    That conclusion would follow only if Christ has promised that once a person has been forgiven, he can never lose his salvation. But for fifteen hundred years no one in the Church believed “once saved always saved.” Moreover, look at the terrifying ‘treadmill’ component of that way of thinking, that one must keep out any and all fear for one’s eternal salvation, because any fear one countenances would be a sign of a lack of faith in Christ, and thus a possible indication that one is not elect to glory. Concerning that sort of notion I wrote in comment #47 on a different thread:

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

    You go on to say the following:

    There is no punishment… the grace of Christ is complete… our sins are forgiven. Thus we may have confidence in the day of judgement… not confidence in ourselves, but confidence that Christ has perfected us through His holy and loving grace.

    Again, all this presupposes that you are among the ‘us,’ ‘our,’ and ‘we.’ You’re simply pounding the table, asserting that these things are true of you. But the question is how do you know that they are true of you. Merely pounding the table and asserting that they are true of you does not establish their truth, or provide reason to believe that they are true. You are reading yourself into the passages of Scripture, and the reliability of that hermeneutic is precisely what is in question.

    So… what of your fallen friend? If Christ is in us, we are a new creation. The old has passed away, and the new has come. It seems to me there are many possibilities (unless your friend is dead): One is that he may still be redeemed… it ain’t over until its over. The other is that he never knew Christ… and thus he was never saved. In any case, we cannot judge how God will reckon with him, nor can we impute his situation to our own. We cannot know what was in his mind or his heart… or what he knew or did not know … what he felt or did not feel. We can only know and trust what Scripture tells us. We cannot trust our feelings, but rather, we trust the truth of God’s Word. It says we can know that we have eternal life.

    Here again, in your appeal to Scripture you treat your particular interpretation of Scripture as if it is Scripture itself, glossing over the fact that it is an interpretation of Scripture, in which you by fallible inference have inserted yourself as one of the elect to glory. In addition, you dismiss the account of the friend who fell away. I myself have similar experiences, including a fellow seminarian from my Reformed seminary, who later (after graduation) became an atheist. I agree with you that we cannot know what was inside the hearts of such persons. But that’s just the point. If such persons had within them the very same ‘internal testimony’ and assurance of being elect that you have, then your present internal testimony and personal assurance of being elect is no guarantee that you are elect for glory, and thus not a reliable basis for assurance of being elect to glory.

    You also infer from the use of the term “eternal salvation” in Mark 16, “eternal glory” in 2 Tim 2, and “eternal salvation” in Heb 5, that these passages are teaching that once one has received the gift of salvation, he cannot lose it, because it is eternal. But that fails to distinguish between eternal life as it is presently possessed by the Church Militant, and eternal life as it possessed by the Church Triumphant. Your interpretation of these passages assumes (naively) that there is no such distinction, and thus reads into these passages more than they actually say. You overlook the possibility of being wrong (and thus artificially drum up ‘absolute assurance’) by ignoring the alternative interpretations to your own.

    Then in #40 you write:

    then I find the assurance of hope to be diminutive to the point of being nearly meaningless. It is somewhat akin to a teacher telling a student, “I assure you that you can hope you got a good grade on the test.” Of course the student can hope, but the assurance is meaningless in terms of his/her actual grade. Likewise, saying that I am absolutely sure that God can and might save me is no assurance at all in terms of my own salvation… particularly if it relies on my feeble attempt at good works. If, after all that Christ has done for me, my hope for salvation is reduced back to works of righteousness by a sinner, then the entrance to heaven will truly be narrow.

    That’s quite a straw man, unintentional I assume, but a straw man nonetheless. The assurance we can have as Catholics is (a) a moral certainty of our being in a state of grace, (b) that God will provide all the graces we need to remain in and die in state of grace, so long as we cooperate with those graces, and (c) that if we die in a state of grace, Christ will give to us the object of our hope, i.e. the promised eternal life which is the Beatific Vision. (See my comment #178 in the “Reformation Sunday 2011″ post.) The supernatural virtue of hope is not mere wishful thinking; it is an infused disposition of the will grounded in the promises of Christ affirmed by faith, and oriented by anticipation to its promised end. But we can, at one and the same time, hope for heaven and work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Hope and fear are not mutually exclusive.

    Conversely, a Protestant can have assurance of salvation because that salvation relies solely on the power, grace and mercy of God in Christ, His completed gift to us, and thus it is not reduced to “assurance of hope” based on my works.

    If you were a universalist, we could begin to talk about the plausibility of your claim. But since you are not a universalist, you have to determine that *you* are one of the elect to glory, in order to have assurance of being elect to glory. From God’s monergistic activity one cannot justifiably deduce that one is elect-to-glory. Merely assuming that you are one of the “us” (in “His completed gift to us”) is not enough to establish that you are one of the elect to glory, and therefore undermines the basis for assurance that one is elect-to-glory.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. Jonathan (47)

    You said…

    In that regard, Scripture is clearer when you realize that it is not intended to give you instruction personally; we have the Church for that (hence, the sending of the Apostles in Mark 16:20 that you quoted).

    Well, that certainly worked well for the Pharisees and their tribes… but I guess I’m not supposed to know that.

    Thanks
    Curt

  50. Bryan (48)

    Thanks for your lengthy response. You and I look at Scripture differently, which explains why you reject my use of words like “me, we, us, etc” when speaking of assurance. Here is my view: Scripture speaks specifically to two groups of people: believers and non-believers. Every person is one or the other. As believers, we take Scripture to be God’s revelation to man. When Scripture sets forth certain promises and assurances, it is God who is revealing those promises and assurances to man. If I am a believer and Scripture says something like “all believers are going to heaven”, I believe I am going to heaven. I do not believe that we have to ask some man behind the curtain, or wait to see if it turns out to be true… I think the meaning is clear enough for me to receive and respond to it. So when you ask, “how do you know this or that?” I know because I can read and understand the promises and assurances God has provided to believers in Scripture, and I am a believer.

    John 8:47 say, “He who is of God hears the words of God”.

    Blessings
    Curt

  51. Curt
    I suppose this:

    I know [I will go to Heaven] because I can read and understand the promises and assurances God has provided to believers in Scripture, and I am a believer.

    raises a couple of questions – I mean, thinking of the way in which, as a Reformed person, I used to account for apparent believers going off the rails and dying that way – that they hadn’t got true faith – and reflecting on the whole once-saved-always-saved business:

    1) Can you be certain you have true faith?

    2) Can you be certain you will never cease to be a believer?

    As you know, from our private conversation, I concluded, in 1984, that the answer to 1) could not be, with certainty, ‘yes.’ I quoted, in a conversation with my minister and several others: ‘the heart is desperately wicked; who can know it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9). I was sure I was a believer – but could I be self-deceived? Indeed, some of my Reformed friends now tell me that, indeed, I was self-deceived. I was never a true believer (“wasn’t a Christian” is the way some of them put it), because if I had been, I could never have gone off, wholeheartedly – and for some 19 years now – to the evil that is Rome.

    2) might then reduce, not to ‘stop being a believer,’ but ‘discover that you never had true faith.’ I have certainly known a number of persons who certainly were convinced they had true faith – and who, at a certain point in their lives, decided they didn’t believe it. Some reached that point suddenly, some gradually; one has died in that state.

    So if you are convinced that being a believer means you will without fail go to Heaven – on what do you base your certainty that you are a true believer, and will remain so until you die?

    jj

  52. jj

    The answer to your question… “on what do you base your certainty that (1) you are a true believer, and (2) will remain so until you die?”

    1. First, I know I am a believer because I believe (the Apostles’ Creed would be a good statement of my faith). Secondly, I can honestly say I have no doubts about God’s love for me and His integrity regarding matters of faith. There has been so much evidence of God’s impact on my life, I could not doubt… I have been truly blessed in many, many ways. Now, I have plenty of theological questions, as we have seen, but these are only to help me give “my utmost for His highest” as Oswald Chambers coined it, not because I am doubting my faith. I am certain that God is active in my life daily and is the shepherd that I follow. The evidence is considerable fruit in and around my life, which Scripture tells us is the sign of those who believe. For the record, I’m not sure what a “true” believer is. Scripture only mentions “believers”.

    2. I believe I will remain so until I die predominantly because of John 10:27-28 where Jesus says… “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” Since I established in “1” that I am a believer, that makes me one of Jesus’ sheep. Because I believe in the integrity of God, and because I hear His voice, and because I know Him, and because I follow Him, therefore, I trust Him when He says I have eternal life, and I will never perish, and no one will snatch me out of His hand. I further believe that God chooses whom He will and protects whom He chooses. Romans 9:16 says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” and verse 18, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Finally, there is comfort in Paul’s words the the believers at Thessalonika (2 Thess 3), “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” God is certainly capable of protecting us. As Jesus also said in John 10;29, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

    I cannot answer for others who appear to be believers and then fall away. Were they actually believers, or were they like Judas? How… and why should we judge? We are not held to account for them. We are only held to account for the gift God has given us, the truth of His Word, and our response to it.

    Blessings
    Curt

  53. Curt (#52)

    … I know I am a believer because I believe…

    Well, there’s no arguing with that. And this:

    The evidence is considerable fruit in and around my life, which Scripture tells us is the sign of those who believe.

    is the sort of thing a Catholic makes reference to for his own assurance that he is in a state of grace. But it does seem to me that your assurance that you are a true believer is not itself based on any external testimony, but on an internal.

    jj

  54. Curt, (re: #50)

    You wrote:

    If I am a believer and Scripture says something like “all believers are going to heaven”, I believe I am going to heaven…. So when you ask, “how do you know this or that?” I know because I can read and understand the promises and assurances God has provided to believers in Scripture, and I am a believer.

    You have great confidence not only in your ability to read, but also in your ability without any ecclesial aid to interpret rightly a sacred, ancient, and divinely inspired text, from which others with no less confidence than yourself come away with interpretations far different from your own. But, you did not address the objections I raised in my previous comment to your interpretations. Merely asserting that you can read and understand the text does not address those objections. You seem to be treating your interpretation as de facto infallible, impervious to objections on the basis of the fact that you can read. If your ability to read is the sufficient rejoinder to all objections to your interpretations, then if your interpretations were mistaken, how could you even know this, without first losing your ability to read?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  55. jj (53)

    But it does seem to me that your assurance that you are a true believer is not itself based on any external testimony, but on an internal.

    Again, I don’t know what you mean by “true” believer. There is no such distinction that I am aware of between believers and “true” believers. Further, we know that “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Thus, both external testimony and internal testimony are influenced by Christ. 1 Cor 2 comes to mind:

    10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

    14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

    David, one of the great recurring sinners of all time, says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” How did David know this? He knew because he believed God’s promise.

    Blessings
    Curt

  56. Bryan (54)

    If Scripture says “the sky is blue” and I accept that at face value, I do not feel a tremendous burden to listen to someone try to convince me that it really means “green”. Yes it is my interpretation; yes there may be others who agree that green is possible, perhaps even plausible. True, there is plenty of Scripture that does benefit from interpretation. However, there is plenty of Scripture that has obvious meaning at its face value. For example, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I think the meaning of this verse is straight forward. It says what it means. You may disagree and that is fine.

    You believe that the RC church is the only ecclesial authority. I believe Scripture interprets Scripture. So, for example, when you say, “Predestination to glory is hidden, known to God alone.” I disagree, not because of my own opinion, but because it disagrees with Scripture. As I quoted in my post to jj above, David says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So apparently David knew he was predestined to glory. Now, I suppose one could make a tormented case that David did not really mean what he said, but it would unlikely be convincing to me. David was the quintessential example of a sinner who believed in, marveled at, and trusted the promises of God. He had no compunction about his assurances, nor do I thanks to David’s testimony.

    Blessings
    Curt

  57. Curt (#49, 50, and 52):
    The authorities you cite are your own undoing.

    For example, the Apostles’ Creed proclaims “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Those two are not even the same in the creed you profess to believe, nor are they the same in Scripture. Thus, it reinforces my earlier point, which you have yet to answer in any way except sarcasm (a fruit that is bitter and not good). Your reliance on John 10 for eternal security is, as I have noted above, unfounded; the promise is that God will prevent others from seizing you by force, not that He will prevent you from leaving with them by your own evil will.

    And speaking of the sarcasm, a similar blindness darkens your understanding of John 8. Your mocking response to my suggestion that the preaching of the Church, not Scripture directly, conveys the Gospel to you personally was “Well, that certainly worked well for the Pharisees and their tribes… but I guess I’m not supposed to know that.” But the very authority you cite, John 8:47, is specifically addressed to the Pharisees’ error, which was not having a tradition but failing to follow it. Note that the passage says “He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God,” not “he who is of God correctly reads and interprets the words of God.” Jesus is in no way teaching against the need of preaching and proclamation in the collective body of the Church to individual believers.

    The Pharisees’ error was not in having a tradition, but failing to follow it out of sin (Jn. 8:43-44), for if they had faithfully followed their own tradition, they would have acknowledged the divinity of Christ. That is why the passage repeatedly refers to the Pharisees’ descent from Abraham, i.e., their Jewish heritage (e.g., Jn. 8:37, 39, 41); indeed, the entire exchange takes place in the Temple where the Scriptures are read (Jn. 8:59)! Yet again, you are taking a passage that is about God and treating it like it was written to you personally, rather than reading it something Jesus said to the Pharisees to correct their beliefs about Him (specifically, their denial of His divinity). In doing so, you are ignoring St. John’s stated purpose in writing the Gospel, which is first that “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 20:21a), which in turn results in believing unto the possession of life in His name (Jn. 20:21b; cf. 1 Jn. 5:13).

    Nor does St. Paul help you in this regard. The error of the Pharisees was in slavery to sin, and St. Paul writes extensively on this point in Romans 6 [RSV]:
    [16] Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
    [17] But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
    [18] and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
    [19] I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
    [20] When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
    [21] But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.
    [22] But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.
    [23] For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    (Note “eternal life” in Rom. 6:23 is the end, not the Johannine present tense usage.)

    Unlike the passages you cite elsewhere (like John 8), this is written specifically to believers who do recognize the divinity of Christ (Rom. 6:8-11) in order to instruct them, and it links back to the error for which Jesus chastised the Pharisees in John 8: slavery to sin. Paul’s injunction in Rom. 6:12, “[l]et not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions” is senseless if believers, those “under grace” and those capable of understanding his words, cannot again make themselves slaves to sin. Moreover, even in the consolation he offers to those same believers (2 Thess. 3:3), he repeatedly enjoins them to hold fast to the faith and traditions he taught (2 Thess. 2:15-17, 3:5-7). The comfort in 2 Thess. 3:3 is the same as the comfort in John 10:28: those who keep the faith have nothing to fear from anyone else.

    Now, you may wonder why I am being so tenacious about this point on the proper interpretation of Scripture. As I noted, correct faith in Jesus is the prerequisite to the belief that gives eternal life and leads unto eternal salvation. The Pharisees, despite adherence to the Jewish tradition and their knowledge of the Scriptures, denied Christ’s divinity in their pride and lost the great gift of God’s grace, and they were confident in their own salvation based on the Scripture as well. I fear, Curt, that you may be in the same situation. Like the Pharisees, you claim to know the Scripture, but based on your tradition, you also deny the divinity of Christ in some ways. An example is given in John:41-71, where His proclamation of His miraculous power to deliver grace via the Eucharist, to give us His Body to eat, was not accepted. All of the Church Fathers accepted this, but it seems that you do not.

    If you proclaim your belief and confidence in Scripture but deny His divine power,as the Pharisees did, is your confidence not misfounded? Do you really believe in the Son of God, true God and true man, which belief *then* leads to proper understanding of the Scriptures and eternal salvation (Jn. 20:31)? Or is your confidence like that of the Pharisees in their denial of Christ’s divinity? I cannot claim to know your heart, but I hope that you will at least listen and think on what it is that I say.

  58. Curt (#55

    Again, I don’t know what you mean by “true” believer. There is no such distinction that I am aware of between believers and “true” believers.

    Sorry, I thought we had agreed (you and I, in separate e-mail conversations), that God would not let a believer die in a state of long-term committed unbelief who had once believed – i.e. that those who died in that state, having once been apparent believers, had not, in fact, had genuine faith. In fact, I think you referred to such an idea in 52 above:

    Were they actually believers, or were they like Judas?

    But maybe you meant that all such really know they are hypocrites, that they only say to outsiders that they believe, but they know very well that they do not.

    I find this hard to accept. I have known persons whose testimony was absolutely convincing – who, indeed, when they had, later, done what they called ‘lost faith,’ or, in one man’s case, ‘had a deconversion experience,’ have said that they believed every word of the Gospel, believed they were going to Heaven – and now believed that the whole thing was a myth. In the case of that man, he had concluded that religion was all just a way of getting money and obedience out of people.

    If you are saying that such persons were lying all the time and knew it, then, of course, your not knowing what I mean by ‘true believer’ is understandable. But … I dunno, I don’t think you would say – would you?? – that you have never met persons who had convincing testimonies, later denied it, and said they believed before?

    I personally don’t think it is quite enough to say, well, I don’t judge others, that is up to the Lord, I just know about myself. Sounds rather solipsistic to me!

    But if, on the other hand, there are those who are not hypocrites, who do, indeed, really think they are believers, live like it, changed lives, etc, for years, and then abandon the whole business, think they were mistaken, and die like that – I assume that must mean you can have – and do have! I am not for a moment challenging that! – moral certainty that you are ‘in the faith’, that you are not simply living with what James calls ‘dead faith’ – but it is, in fact, moral certainty – not based on an external infallible testimony.

    I hasten to add that that is what the Catholic can have – moral certainty that he is in a state of grace. Barring a private revelation from God – which, perhaps, you say you have and that that is why you know you are a believer – but, barring that, I do not know how you can say otherwise. There have, surely, been persons who thought they were believers but who have died in infidelity. You have explicitly said, to me, privately, that you do not think that anyone simply saying to himself “I believe” is, ipso facto, saved, no matter whether his life shows any change, etc – and I don’t really think you want to accuse all those ones who fall away of conscious hypocrisy!

    jj

  59. Curt (re: #56)

    For example, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I think the meaning of this verse is straight forward. It says what it means.

    Of course it means what it means. No one denies that. But you are bringing many assumption to your act of interpreting this verse, all while presupposing that you are simply reading the meaning right off the page. Among your assumptions are that you are referred to by the “we,” and that this teaching was not intended to be understood within any sacramental or ecclesial context, and that the verse itself was to be interpreted without any context or qualifications provided by Tradition. Etc. And these assumptions are not theologically neutral. So you are bringing a theology to the text, all while assuming that you are deriving your theology entirely from the text. And when I raise this problem, by challenging you to justify the theology you are bringing to the text, you simply pound the table (i.e. asserting that you can read). But that just ignores the substance of the objections.

    So, for example, when you say, “Predestination to glory is hidden, known to God alone.” I disagree, not because of my own opinion, but because it disagrees with Scripture. As I quoted in my post to jj above, David says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So apparently David knew he was predestined to glory.

    Here’s another example where the theology you are bringing to the text is determining what you derive from the text. In your act of interpreting this verse, you are assuming that David’s statement is not implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God. By assuming that there is no implicit condition, you guarantee the interpretive outcome, namely, that David believes he can never fall away again, or fail to attain heaven. So you find in the verse the theology you want to believe, by bringing that very theology to your act of interpreting the verse. Another word for this is ‘fundamentalism.’ It is creating theology in your own image.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Hi Bryan, (re:#48)

    Responding to this:
    When John says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”, I believe that is exactly what God meant for him to say… and for me to understand.

    You wrote:
    Of course God wants us to understand that passage. But that does not establish which interpretation of that passage is authentic, and therefore does not establish how the verse is to be rightly understood. If St. John is there writing to Catholics, or means his words to be understood according to the Catholic Tradition his readers had already received, then the words he has written in this verse do not mean that whoever reads them and believes them has grounds for knowing he has eternal life or is elect to glory.

    Viewed within Catholic Tradition, what is the authentic interpretation of this passage ?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  61. Jonathan (57)

    When you say things like:

    “For example, the Apostles’ Creed proclaims “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Those two are not even the same in the creed you profess to believe, nor are they the same in Scripture.”

    I have no idea what you mean. So why don’t you tell me what creed I profess to believe, and what Scripture you think I am reading???

    Perhaps the “blindness that darkens my understanding” of your comments is the condescension by which they are sometimes delivered.

    Regarding John 8, Jesus never says anything about tradition. The Pharisees lived by the law yet did not know God. They had placed themselves and their corrupt temple above God by using God’s law and the temple for their own purposes of power and wealth… a bit like another church back in the day.

    I have never denied the divinity of Christ, though I may have denied your interpretation of it.

    Thanks
    Curt

  62. Bryan

    In your act of interpreting this verse, you are assuming that David’s statement is not implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God. By assuming that there is no implicit condition, you guarantee the interpretive outcome, namely, that David believes he can never fall away again, or fail to attain heaven.

    I made no such assumption. I merely observed that David had absolute assurance that he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I made no assumption about how David came by his assurance. Your argument was that one could not have that assurance. I merely pointed out that your argument was incorrect.

    Blessings
    Curt

  63. Curt – it might help if I said briefly what the point of my comments is. God knows, I am notorious, with my children and amongst my coworkers, for unclarity!

    My point is only that, as seems obvious to me – as obvious as the blueness of the sky is to you! – that many persons come to faith and then fall away, apparently permanently. Now the Catholics have an explanation for this: one may be in friendship with God, and then deny that friendship, by mortal sin – whether with loss of faith, or simply by loss of charity.

    Every sane-sounding Protestant I have ever talked to acknowledges that there are persons who have apparent faith, whose lives, even, appear to exhibit it, and who seem not to be consciously hypocritical when they say they believe – and yet who, one must say, later on seem to have abandoned the whole business.

    Given the common – though by no means universal – Protestant believe called ‘once-saved-always-saved,’ some explanation is needed for these. Sometimes people say they didn’t really believe; that they weren’t really Christians; that they had dead faith: something along those lines.

    If you accept that there are such persons – those who honestly think they believe but may be mistaken – then, it seems to me, you must acknowledge that the Protestant is in no better position, regarding certainty of salvation, than the Catholic. Both may – should, indeed – have moral certainty. The person’s life shows it; his affections show it; his thoughts show it. But, short of private revelation, he cannot be certain that he is not one of those self-deceived persons. He must – as I once advised a Protestant friend (at a time when I myself was a Protestant) – cast himself on Christ. He must ask God to tell him if he is self-deceived. But at bottom his certainty is what we call ‘moral certainty’ rather than absolute extraneous certainty.

    Does that make clearer what I am saying? And do you agree – I mean, do you agree that your certainty is an inner moral certainty? And, if not, what external thing tells you, not that ‘whoever believes is saved,’ but that ‘Curt is saved?’

    jj

  64. Curt:
    You said that your statement of faith was the Apostles’ Creed. That creed distinguishes “the resurrection of the body” from “life everlasting,” as Scripture does. That was all I was saying. Since you are evidently not interested in seriously discussing this or Scripture (e.g., John 8, the passage about David), I cannot see any good to come of further discussion.

    Finally, as to “interpretation” of the divinity of Christ, that is not subject to interpretation, any more than the distance from the Sun to the Earth is a matter of interpretation. It is a fact; one accepts that fact (by faith), or one denies it. My concern is that you have an “interpretation” that does not conform to the facts, but as I said, I can see no positive avenue of discussion on this point.

    May God’s mercy rest on you.

  65. Curt (re #62),

    In response to Bryan, you say that you are not assuming that David’s eternal beatitude is not implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God, nor that he could not fall away again and fail to obtain heaven. In that case, it seems that you might hold a Catholic understanding of assurance, in which we can enjoy the kind of certainty that is expressed by David in the psalm that you quote, while also acknowledging, in filial fear, that we can and indeed sometimes do fall from grace, such that in addition to praying with David in Psalm 23, we pray with David in Psalm 51:

    10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
    11 Cast me not away from thy presence,
    and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

    Andrew

  66. Andrew (64)

    You point out most excellently that David prays in Psalm 51… that God would:

    Create in me a clean heart, put a new and right spirit within me.
    Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
    Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

    David rightly realized that his hope was in the work of God, not his own will. He does not question his salvation, but asks God to restore the joy of his salvation. He further asks God to give him a willing spirit… thus a willing spirit is a gift from God, not something inherently available to us on our own human initiative. This explains David’s assurance in Psalm 23… he relies solely on God’s grace, not his own will, and thus he has God granted assurance of his salvation based on the perfect will of God, not the imperfect will of man.

    Sola gratia!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  67. Curt,

    In this psalm, David is praying to God. Most of what you say, in your gloss on verses 10-12, follows from that fact. Given that we agree on this point, and given that you are not assuming that David’s eternal beatitude is not implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God, nor that he could not fall away again and fail to obtain heaven, then I don’t see any disagreement between us on Psalms 23 and 51. Christians should rejoice in the certainty of hope, as expressed by David, while from filial fear we should pray with David that we would not be cast away from God’s presence and sundered from the Holy Spirit. I realize that you are probably suggesting that there is a distinction between salvation and the joy of salvation, such that one could be saved but be deprived of the joy of salvation, but I don’t think that this interpretation fits very well within the context, unless we assume that someone in a state of grace could be, while in that state, joyless, with an unclean heart and without a right spirit within him. But I don’t think that those are biblical assumptions. So I don’t think that it is right to interpret “joy of thy salvation” in a way that divorces joy from salvation, as though God’s salvation could be something joyless.

    Andrew

  68. jj (63)

    Does that make clearer what I am saying? And do you agree – I mean, do you agree that your certainty is an inner moral certainty? And, if not, what external thing tells you, not that ‘whoever believes is saved,’ but that ‘Curt is saved?’

    I think you have framed the question as succinctly as it can be framed. What it boils down to is this: how can one be certain that they are not self-deceived? The end of Hebrews 5 and all of 6 shed some light on the two classes we are studying: the believer who perseveres, and “those” who have fallen away.

    Hebrews 5-12-14 through 6:1-3 (Speaking to “you”, the believer)

    5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.

    In these verses, the believers are chastised for their lack of maturity (elementary teaching). They are encouraged to move beyond rote and routine basics of practice. The author promises to help them move toward maturity.

    And then Hebrews 6:4-5 (Written to “those”, ones who have tasted but fallen away)…

    4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

    In these verses, the author does not address “you”, but rather “those”, drawing a distinction between believers and “those” who have fallen away. Notice the verbs… tasted, partakers, tasted, and then fallen. These are all verbs of taking, not verbs of giving. Hold that thought.

    And then, back to “you”, the believer in Hebrews 6:9-20…

    9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

    Notice here, the author returns to “you” the believer. He speaks of ” your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” These are all verbs of giving outwardly… signs of the believer (fruit). So the author draws a very clear distinction: those who have fallen away were merely consumers of grace, while those who are believers are reflectors of grace… loving, working, ministering… even if they are still immature in the faith.

    The author continues…

    13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

    So for the believers, there is an unchangeable promise. That promise is the new covenant which Jesus as the high priest, which is further outlined in subsequent chapters…

    Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

    Hebrews 10:8-10 After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    Hebrews 10:11-17 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

    16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    After those days, says the Lord:
    I will put My laws upon their heart,
    And on their mind I will write them,”
    He then says,

    17 “And their sins and their lawless deeds
    I will remember no more.”

    And on and on. So the author lays out the promises of the new covenant for the believer. Regarding “those” who fell away, the distinction is drawn that they never really embraced the faith… never really reflected God’s grace. They were merely caught up in the excitement of this new church… an emotional experience which had no roots. The author states at the end of chapter 5 … “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

    Certainly here, the parable of the sower comes to mind. We are also reminded that there are tares among the wheat. In the parable of the sower, the seed that falls on good soil… “this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” So again, the sign of the believer is fruit.

    In closing, God requires us to continue to believe until the end… to persevere. God promises that the believer will persevere to the end.

    Philippians 1:6
    For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

    Romans 8
    28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

    31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

    “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
    We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

    37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Scripture further points out that believers can be identified by their fruit. So to answer your question… I know that Curt is a believer because of fruit in my life. This gives me confidence, as David had confidence, not because of what I have done, but because of what God has done and is doing though me… and trustworthiness of His promises pertaining thereto. As to your friend who fell away… I cannot judge.

    Blessings
    Curt

  69. Andrew (66)

    In your gloss of my gloss, you said:

    Christians should rejoice in the certainty of hope, as expressed by David, while from filial fear we should pray with David that we would not be cast away from God’s presence and sundered from the Holy Spirit. I realize that you are probably suggesting that there is a distinction between salvation and the joy of salvation, such that one could be saved but be deprived of the joy of salvation, but I don’t think that this interpretation fits very well within the context, unless we assume that someone in a state of grace could be, while in that state, joyless, with an unclean heart and without a right spirit within him.

    Wow… are you saying that believers live every day in joy, with a clean heart and a right spirit? What’s heaven like up there? Seriously, I and the believers I know have good days and bad, just like David. And like David, we pray for renewal and strengthening of God’s presence, His wisdom and his joy in our lives. I don’t think this means our salvation is in jeopardy or is somehow missing. In our weakness, he is made strong!

    Blessings
    Curt

  70. Curt, (re: #62)

    I had written: “In your act of interpreting this verse, you are assuming that David’s statement is not implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God.”

    You replied:

    I made no such assumption.

    Actually, you did. Otherwise, from this verse you could not justifiably arrive at the conclusion that David possessed “absolute assurance.” That’s because if David’s statement is implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God, then his statement does not justify the conclusion that he had absolute assurance (i.e. that he was elect-to-glory). So you have to make to make this assumption [i.e. that his statement is not implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God] in order to arrive at the interpretive conclusion [i.e. that he had absolute assurance] you inferred from the verse. What should concern you is the fact that you are not even aware that you are bringing theological assumptions to the interpretive process. When we don’t even see the assumptions we are bringing to the interpretive process and the work those assumptions are doing in determining our interpretive conclusions, we can remain under the illusion that we’re deriving our position entirely from Scripture alone.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Bryan (69)

    Perhaps we are both making assumptions. Here is exactly what I said:

    David says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So apparently David knew he was predestined to glory.

    David says surely. This means he is sure. He does not say “maybe” or “if this or that”… he says surely. He further says “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He does not say “I might” or “if I do this or that”. These are David’s words… direct and unambiguous.

    You said…

    … if David’s statement is implicitly conditioned on fidelity to God, then his statement does not justify the conclusion that he had absolute assurance (i.e. that he was elect-to-glory).

    By saying that you are assuming that God does not protect those whom He has chosen. You are also implying something that is not said by David, and thus you are bringing your own interpretive paradigm into the discussion. Now that’s fine… just allow me the same courtesy without the condescending ad hominem.

    Blessings
    Curt

  72. Curt,

    I wasn’t glossing your interpretation of Psalm 51 so much as I was pointing out on which points I agree with you, and why, and on which point I disagree with you, and why.

    In this psalm, David is repenting from the mortal sins of adultery and murder. Where I am from, committing adultery and then murdering your lover’s spouse is not considered to be simply “having a bad day.”

    But, yes, where I am from, and all around the world, believers who are in a state of grace have a clean heart and a right spirit within them.

    Andrew

  73. Curt (#67)
    Thanks – I really do think we are saying basically the same thing. I am glad to get something clear!

    jj

  74. Andrew (71)

    Point one taken. As to your conclusion, I want to live where there is no spiritual warfare… can you point me in the right direction? I’m be facetious here, but I can’t help but recall the disciples …

    Luke 9:46 An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

    So… If are you saying “believers who are in a state of grace have a clean heart and a right spirit within them”, are you then saying that the disciples were not in a state of grace? Do we move in and out of grace every time we stub our toe? Are I’m getting a vision of grace that flickers on and off like a bad light bulb powered by the ups and downs of our daily spiritual battles.

    This is different than the grace I know…

    Romans 8
    26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

    Philippians 4
    6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    Hebrews 4
    15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    Grace does not leave us hanging in the wind. Grace flows from perfect love… grace knows our weakness and wants us to survive the spiritual battles… grace does not kick us when we are down… grace helps us in times of need.

    Blessings
    Curt

  75. Curt,

    I am indeed saying that believers who are in a state of grace have a clean heart and a right spirit within them (Romans 5:5). There is a distinction between mortal sin, such as adultery and murder, which is unto death (1 John 5:16), and venial sin, which is not unto death (1 John 5:17). Most of us commit venial sins every day. But these sins do not amount to falling away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).

    On the other hand, to commit a mortal sin is to fall away from God and to abide in death. For example, we know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15). But, yes, God does give grace in a time of need. David, although not in a state of grace, had faith in God, and on this basis he cried out to God to restore him to the joy of salvation, which he had lost by committing mortal sin.

    Andrew

  76. Curt, (re: #70)

    You wrote:

    David says surely. This means he is sure.

    The Hebrew word is אַךְ which is an adverb, and in this context it is likely being used in the asseverative sense not to state anything about David’s epistemic condition (i.e. his level of certainty) but as a poetic literary device to emphasize what follows it, in this case possibly as emphasizing what follows with respect to the future from the good character of the Lord as a Shepherd as set down in the previous verses.

    He further says “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He does not say “I might” or “if I do this or that”. These are David’s words… direct and unambiguous.

    The vav immediately preceding the word שַׁבְתִּי (which is translated “I will dwell”) can have various senses, including not only “and” but also “then” or the voluntative sense “so that,” or in the inferential sense “such that” or “therefore.” There are some guidelines concerning how to determine the sense, but these are not hard and fast rules of translation, and require some subjective judgment on the part of the translator, based on the context. St. Augustine, for example, interprets this word to mean “so that,” i.e. “Your mercy shall follow me not here only, but also that I may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” as expressing the teleological end to which the present pursuit of David by God’s goodness and mercy is directed. And all that is fully compatible with David being capable in the remainder of his temporal life of committing mortal sin, and dying in such a condition. What you are doing is ignoring all the various translational and interpretive options, and saying ‘and’ means ‘and’ and ‘will’ means ‘will.’ But in actuality translation and interpretation is much more complicated, and requires many more subjective judgments than what you are acknowledging.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. Curt,
    My wife and I were married on June 17th, 2000. On that day I can imagine myself thinking or saying something like: “Surely we’ll be together forever. This is the first day of our life together and we will certainly never part! Our love is forever!” People say and think things like this all the time, do they not? Is it really appropriate for us to read particular Scriptural passages as though they are intended to conclusively speak to whatever particular theological questions we have in mind as we consider them?

    Further, even if David did have the assurance of which you speak, does it follow that a like assurance is rightly claimed by all people who, over the centuries, have access to the words penned by David so long ago and who fancy themselves inheritors of the same promises granted to the Israelites?

  78. Bryan (75)

    But in actuality translation and interpretation is much more complicated, and requires many more subjective judgments than what you are acknowledging.

    That’s why I leave the translation to the scholars of that field, and why I chose the NASB translation, thought by many to be the most literal translation of the bunch. I agree you can make words mean what you like if you are willing to go down the path of “in this case possibly” or “can have various senses”. I confess I am relying on the experts’ translation here… which says what it says.

    However, your comment…

    …in this case possibly as emphasizing what follows with respect to the future from the good character of the Lord as a Shepherd as set down in the previous verses.

    simply reinforces my point… that because of who the Lord is, David believes that he will “surely” dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

    Blessings
    Curt

  79. Andrew

    David, although not in a state of grace, had faith in God,

    How is it possible to have faith without being in a state of grace?

    Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”

    Rom 12:3 “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

    On the other hand, to commit a mortal sin is to fall away from God and to abide in death.

    Yet to the thief on the cross (mortal sinner) Jesus says… “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” No baptism… no communion… no clean heart… no right spirit… just guilty of mortal sin… and … saved by … grace… alone.

    Blessings
    Curt

  80. Curt (#(78)

    How is it possible to have faith without being in a state of grace?

    A fair bit of misunderstanding may be generated by the different use of language between Protestants and Catholics. Without its being fully explicit, the Protestant tends to mean by ‘faith’ what the Catholic means by ‘faith informed by charity.’

    Faith is the gift of God – and, although it can be rejected, it is not infrequently the case that one finds people who certainly do believe – but have neither hope nor charity. This might be a person, brought up a Christian, thinks it all true – but is living with a boy- or girlfriend, unable to bring himself to break free, doesn’t really want to – but thinks that, one day, he or she will return to the Lord. You are welcome to pray for one of my children, who is in precisely that state. The child in question certainly believes; wants – in the way that St Thomas calls a velleity – that is, would like to, if it weren’t for this, that or the other thing – wants to get right with God, wants to start living as a Christian, knows that this is right – thinks that, one day, this will be the case. But for right now … well, it would be enormously difficult; there are those things that would have to stop, these others that have to start. There are all the obstacles one knows of.

    That child of mine – I have avoided even indicating the sex – has genuine faith. The child was given the gift of faith at baptism; was brought up a Christian; will, I hope and pray, one day turn to God, be forgiven, and have the life of agape rekindled in its heart.

    But right now … the child lacks charity. Not quite lacking in hope, I thank God. But charity is not there. Human affection, yes; charity, no. There is no question here of anything but grace. God is holding out His hand to the child – through my and my wife’s prayers, amongst other ways, and, it may be, yours. The child will, I pray, respond. When the child does, it will be absolutely sola gratia that will be at work. No work of the person’s can earn the tiniest grain of favour with God. It is all of grace. (You should read Ste Thérèse of Lisieux on the subject :-).

    That is what is meant by not being in a state of grace. It is not lacking faith; it is lacking (supernatural) love.

    jj

  81. John,

    You have explained yourself very well throughout this thread. Your words above have helped me with some particular questions today. Thank You!
    Lifting up your dear child in prayer.

    Love to you and your Susan

    ~Susan

  82. jj

    Thanks for sharing (what I know is painful to you) for my benefit… and having had many discussions with you, I know that you do this as charity toward me. I appreciate that very much. I hope my words in response are taken as one father to another for edification, and not in any way otherwise. I know the struggles of your child because I lived a similar struggle for a number of years before God grabbed me by the collar and pointed me back toward home. I believe this struggle for me resulted from a lack of faith… that is, I had intellectual knowledge about God and His saving grace, but I did not truly believe He had a better life for me. I thought that I could best make decisions for myself and was the master of my own destiny. I had to hit bottom with sex, drugs and alcohol before I cried out to God to take control. When I did, He did. That was 30+ years ago. At 57, I can truly say that God’s plan was infinitely better than I could have ever hoped, and the change in my life was dramatic. But before any of that could happen, I had to trust, believe and acknowledge that God’s plan was better… that living a life following Christ with charity toward all really was better. I believe that it is faith that takes us there, and faith is granted to those who seek it earnestly, trusting that God will be faithful.

    If we are obstinate, and fortunate, God will knock us down to build us back up in His way to serve His purposes and bring glory to His kingdom. So my prayer is this… and I will pray this daily… Dear Lord, please bring John’s child down just enough to get his/her attention forever. Give him/her the faith to believe that a life in Christ is not just the best life, but it is the only life that makes sense. Father, I pray this to bring joy to John’s heart and glory to your kingdom. Amen.

    I’m no pastor or priest, so I’ll just trust that God will answer this simple prayer.

    Blessings
    Curt

  83. Herbert (76)

    Hey Herbert

    Your point, I believe, is that David’s assurance is a “hopeful” assurance as opposed to an “absolute” assurance. I think Bryan was alluding to this in some of his comments as well. Certainly this Scripture and others like it could be read that way… in fact, I’ll even accede to that reading (with amplification below).

    You stated…

    Further, even if David did have the assurance of which you speak, does it follow that a like assurance is rightly claimed by all people who, over the centuries, have access to the words penned by David so long ago and who fancy themselves inheritors of the same promises granted to the Israelites?

    David’s assurance, whether hopeful or absolute, was based on who God is, not who David was. If we re-read the 23rd Psalm start to finish, the verses preceding the “assurance” verses speak of God in His role as faithful shepherd. So when you ask, “…does it follow that a like assurance is rightly claimed by all people who, over the centuries, have access to the words penned by David so long ago…?” the answer is absolutely! … because the assurance is based on who God is, not on who I am. God is the same yesterday, today and forever! Thus for the believers in this generation, or any generation, we can join David in saying, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”

    Amen!

    Curt

  84. JJ (re:#79),

    I will pray for your child too, and for you and your wife in this painful situation. As long we are still breathing, there is always hope for conversion (and/or deeper conversion, if that is what is needed for your child). God bless you, brother.

  85. Curt (#81 and 82) – Yes, thanks. My point was not only to ask for prayer – for which, thanks! – but to explain what Catholics mean when they say you can have faith whilst not in a state of grace. You said that you had intellectual knowledge … but did not truly believe He had a better life for you. What a Catholic would say was, regarding the belief in a better life for you, was that you lacked hope. You may or may not have believed – intellectually, as you would put it, but I think it may be deeper than that – that it was all true. I think it is possible – common, even – for a person brought up as a Christian to think it true – so there is more than intellectual knowledge here – but to have no supernatural hope and supernatural charity.

    Just trying to clarify language matters!

    jj

  86. jj

    Got it. Faith, to me, is believing and trusting God at His word. While I had come to believe that Christ was indeed the son of God, I did not have the faith to put my life in His hands. I had intellectual knowledge without faith. That position is spiritual nowhereville… not grace. The faith that subsequently came to me is faith that comes from God and is, I think, part of His grace. It is the kind of faith that let’s us take our hands off the steering wheel and put God in control. Its the kind of faith that moves us from God is (intellectual assent), to God is my co-pilot (weak faith), to God is my pilot (absolute trust in God). When I was wandering, I believed intellectually that God was God and Christ was savior, but, had I really had faith, I would have believed to the point of commitment. But I really didn’t have faith… I merely had intellectual knowledge. It was God who gave me the faith that moved me into a state of grace. And that faith empowered me to hope and growing charity in Christ. So I guess what I am saying is that, to me, faith is the first step in the process of grace. Faith, hope and charity are all components of, and empowered by grace. That is why faith without grace seemed out of step with my vernacular. I’m reminded of the story of the tightrope walker who pushes the wheelbarrow across the canyon and then queries the spectators as to whether they think he will be able to successfully return from whence he came. Several people raised their hand in the affirmative, and then he offered that one of them should get in the wheelbarrow and ride back. No takers. True faith is belief that gives up control.

    Blessings
    Curt

  87. Curt (re83):
    Thanks for your response. You’re right. By likening David’s comments to those I might have made on my wedding day I was getting at the idea that *implicit* in all that talk of forever, assurance, etc. there indeed is a presumption on the part of the speaker that, as far as his statements are concerned, they rest on the faithfulness of both parties involved in the covenant. Since we agree that God is faithful, the only thing that could bring about a rupture in one’s relationship with Him would be one’s willful rejection of His undying love. That’s something that Catholic soteriology accounts for in its acknowledgement both of God’s undying love and the capability that we have as humans to willfully abandon the love offered to us and choose self over God.

    On that 2nd point, as far as a reader adopting David’s confidence for his own goes, it seems that you’re reading too much into the text. Certainly Catholics agree with you concerning God’s immutability. However, we do not see God’s immutability as sufficient theological grounds for an unconditional confidence in our own perseverance in faith.

    Thanks for responding to me, Curt!

  88. Hey Herbert (87)

    Thanks for continuing the dialog…

    Since we agree that God is faithful, the only thing that could bring about a rupture in one’s relationship with Him would be one’s willful rejection of His undying love. That’s something that Catholic soteriology accounts for in its acknowledgement both of God’s undying love and the capability that we have as humans to willfully abandon the love offered to us and choose self over God.

    Yes, but it goes beyond that… because God knows we as humans are weak and His love will not let us go… which Protestant soteriology keeps in view as well.

    John 10 (sorry to keep beating this drum!)
    27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

    2 Corinthians 12 (sufficient means enough… His power overcomes our weakness)
    9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

    2 Corinthians 13 (And again, it is His power that gives us life)
    4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

    And then there is the whole “being chosen” thing… being predestined to become conformed to His image…

    Romans 8 (Foreknew… predestined… called… justified… glorified! This He did… not me!)
    29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

    2 Corinthians 5 (No greater love!)
    21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    Paul sums up the extent of God’s love … the timeless nature of His love … the depth of His suffering on our behalf … and the glory of His grace which He freely gives. Through His adoption, we have obtained an inheritance according to the counsel of His will … and most of all, for His glory…

    Ephesians 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

    The believer is “sealed in Him” through the Holy Spirit who is given as a “pledge of our inheritance”. We are God’s possession for His glory. …. In regard to saving grace, could we possibly add to, or subtract from, what God has done through His infinite love? And having done so much to save us, even unto the cross, would He leave the last little bit to our sinful “free will” which caused our need for salvation in the first place? No, we were saved by His grace alone according to His purpose, and thus the glory belongs to Him alone.

    1 Peter 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    Our inheritance is protected by the power of God.

    Blessings to you!
    Curt

  89. Hi Curt,

    I’ve been following this conversation and would like to comment on your interpretation of the scripture verses in #88. It seems to me that you are assuming that believers, after they once believe, cannot subsequently reject God and fall away after they once believed. This implies we have freedom until we believe, and we lose that freedom to reject Him after we once believe. But the verses you’re quoting simply don’t say this. Here’s some specifics:

    Romans 8:29-30 – Catholics agree that the elect, the chosen, whom He foreknew, will end up in heaven. And with these chosen ones, He predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies them. But notice that Paul doesn’t say that He glorifies all who are at some point justified, nor does it say He justifies all whom He calls, nor that He glorifies all whom He calls. On the contrary, Jesus says “Many are called, but few are chosen”. Similarly, Catholics believe that it’s possible to lose one’s justification (state of grace) through mortal sin, or the rejection of God. It’s also possible to recover that same justification.

    John 10:27 – Catholics agree that He will not allow the sheep (the elect) to be snatched away or lost. But this verse says nothing about the goats in His flock. Note that the goats also call him “Lord” in Matthew 25:44.

    2 Cor 12:9 – Catholics agree that We can’t get to heaven without sufficient grace. But sufficient grace does not mean I will for certain go to Heaven, because I can reject His grace. For example, I can have sufficient gas to get to work, but choose not to go to work. The sufficiency of His grace is compatible with our freedom to reject Him at any point along the journey. This is why we can believe that because of His perfect goodness and mercy, He offers _all_ men sufficient grace to get to Heaven.

    1 Peter 1 – Catholics agree that God protects us – as long as we have faith. “you, who are protected by the power of God through faith“. Such protection is not guaranteed for those who reject Him and lose faith.

    1 Ephesians 1 – The Holy Spirit is indeed a pledge to eternal inheritance, but it is also possible to “resist” the Holy Spirit, or blaspheme against that same Spirit.

    When He saves us, He grafts us onto the vine of Christ. But if we don’t “remain” in Him, we wither and die. Dead faith is “dead” precisely because it was once alive, but is no longer so.

    Luke 8 – “they believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away”
    Rev 2:4 – “you have forsaken the love you had at first”.

    The tension in this conversation is between God’s will that all men be saved, His sufficient grace which He gives to all men, and the free will which He gives to man to reject Him for some worldly desire which we may come to love more than Him. Rejection of God is possible not because God predestines some to be saved and some to reject Him. Turning our back on Him is possible because God has given all men the freedom to do so. His perfect love for all men, and His will to save all men, is contingent on our freedom to accept that gift of love (cooperate), or reject it. Neither justification, adoption, nor the gift Holy Spirit change this freedom. If freedom is good, then God must want us to have it even as His adopted children. But if freedom is not good, then He would not have given it to us in the first place.

    What I would not do is assume you are one of the elect (the sheep). Don’t assume that if you put God to the test and willingly and knowingly disobey Him that He will somehow override your free will and force you to repentance. Rather, “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” , while knowing that nothing can separate you from His love.

  90. Jonathan (89)

    Thanks for jumping in! Before I get to your specifics, let me make one observation. Human freedom and freedom in Christ are not the same thing. Human freedom leads to death. Freedom in Christ leads to life. Here are some supporting verses:

    Romans 6
    16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

    So here Paul points out that we are either slaves to sin, or slaves to righteousness. He thanks God for freeing us from sin… and speaks of the human weakness of the flesh, recognizing overtly that we could not free ourselves from sin. He continues…

    20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. [what I call human freedom] 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [freedom in Christ]

    So, when we speak of “freedom” being a good thing, I hope we mean freedom in Christ. John 8:36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” This does not mean freedom to choose right and wrong, it means freedom from from the death of sin… a gift of God by His grace, through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. None of us should want the human freedom that leaves us wallowing in the death and misery of sin. We should want the freedom of the gospel… freedom empowered by God for His purposes… freedom that conquers sin and death… freedom that empowers acts of love and good will… freedom that will not let us fail… free indeed!

    Now to some of your specific comments…

    Romans 8:29-30 – Catholics agree that the elect, the chosen, whom He foreknew, will end up in heaven. And with these chosen ones, He predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies them. But notice that Paul doesn’t say that He glorifies all who are at some point justified, nor does it say He justifies all whom He calls, nor that He glorifies all whom He calls.

    If the elect that God chose before the foundation of the world will end up in heaven, then how can they also be free to de-select themselves? Who is in charge? God or man? You cannot make the first assertion, and then tack on free will. The logic does not work. Romans 9:16, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” God chose… mercifully! Also, I’m not sure you can make much of an argument on what Paul does not say … as if to postulate that unsaid things are somehow true… or not. Since Paul says plenty, let’s focus on his words, not his silence.

    John 10:27 – Catholics agree that He will not allow the sheep (the elect) to be snatched away or lost. But this verse says nothing about the goats in His flock. Note that the goats also call him “Lord” in Matthew 25:44.

    Of course my friend, everyone will call Jesus “Lord” on judgment day. A clearer verse might be…

    Matthew 7:21-23
    21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    Jesus says, “I never knew you”. Therefore… they were not the ones God foreknew… they were not elect… they were not empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the will of God. They were goats, not sheep. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” The operative concept: God knowing us and choosing us from the beginning of time all the way through to judgment and into eternity. Those are the sheep. “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” These are the ones He will “know” at judgment… the sheep. God is sovereign … these will not be snatched along the way.

    2 Cor 12:9 – Catholics agree that We can’t get to heaven without sufficient grace. But sufficient grace does not mean I will for certain go to Heaven, because I can reject His grace. For example, I can have sufficient gas to get to work, but choose not to go to work. The sufficiency of His grace is compatible with our freedom to reject Him at any point along the journey. This is why we can believe that because of His perfect goodness and mercy, He offers _all_ men sufficient grace to get to Heaven.

    Again, we are back to “human freedom” versus “freedom in Christ”. If our salvation is, in any part, depending on human freedom … my human ability to choose rightly… then I am lost. For…

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

    So what do we depend on? What is the good news? It is this…

    John 3:16-18
    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    Our salvation depends on the saving grace of Christ… not the rags of our good works. His grace is completely sufficient, both for salvation and sanctification… thus we are truly saved.

    1 Peter 1 – Catholics agree that God protects us – as long as we have faith. “you, who are protected by the power of God through faith“. Such protection is not guaranteed for those who reject Him and lose faith.

    You speak of faith as though it is humanly generated. Faith is a gift from God… a part of His grace. It is not something we create from the depths of our bowels. Romans 12:3 “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Jesus is the source of our faith… Hebrews 12 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” Our faith is just as much a part of grace as anything else. 1 Peter 1 continues… “20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” My faith is not in myself. My faith and hope are in God. Thus, while you have lack of assurance based on your own weakness, I have complete assurance based on God’s promises.

    The tension in this conversation is between God’s will that all men be saved, His sufficient grace which He gives to all men, and the free will which He gives to man to reject Him for some worldly desire which we may come to love more than Him.

    If God’s grace is sufficient, then it overcomes our weakness… otherwise it is not sufficient… it leaves us right back at trying to earn our salvation by works of the law. This is the very reason Christ came… to save us from our own wretchedness.

    His perfect love for all men, and His will to save all men, is contingent on our freedom to accept that gift of love (cooperate), or reject it.

    This, of course, makes us sovereign… and God’s will subservient to our own. I don’t think so. Again, Romans 9:16, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” It is His will, chosen from the beginning.

    What I would not do is assume you are one of the elect (the sheep). Don’t assume that if you put God to the test and willingly and knowingly disobey Him that He will somehow override your free will and force you to repentance.

    I don’t have to assume. I can know. 1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” The elect believer is empowered by God not to put Him to the test.

    Rather, “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” , while knowing that nothing can separate you from His love.

    Absolutely! Thanks for your thoughts!

    Blessings, Curt

  91. Hello again, Curt (re88)-

    In response I will just echo what Jonathan pointed out so eloquently above. I have little to add, I guess. And though I certainly understand why you appeal to Scripture, from my perspective, it does very little to speak to our differences b/c of the fact that a catholic sees nothing in the scriptural passages you cited which would incline him to reconsider his position. Indeed, his position is, in his opinion, entirely consonant with the principles expressed in those passages of Scripture. I would recommend something to you, though. I have really appreciated a man by the name of Fr. Sebastian Walshe who is a teacher out West who occasionally finds himself on Catholic Answers radio. You might find a particular episode of his to be a worthwhile listen. It speaks to some of what we are touching upon here in this thread. Find the episode here: http://www.catholic.com/radio/shows/are-you-predestined-4713

  92. Herbert (91)

    Thanks for the heads up… I’ll take a look.

    Howerever, regarding this statement…

    And though I certainly understand why you appeal to Scripture, from my perspective, it does very little to speak to our differences b/c of the fact that a catholic sees nothing in the scriptural passages you cited which would incline him to reconsider his position.

    … I guess that would depend on whether or not you believe that the elect can be snatched away from the hand of Christ… and whether or not you believe Paul when he says, “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”… or whether or not we are saved by grace, not as a result of works, etc etc. These and many other Scripture I have quoted tell me that we are saved by grace alone… that’s what makes it “a gift”. I have not heard an explanation of these Scriptures that says otherwise.

    Thanks again
    Curt

  93. Curt (#(92)

    Howerever, regarding this statement…

    And though I certainly understand why you appeal to Scripture, from my perspective, it does very little to speak to our differences b/c of the fact that a catholic sees nothing in the scriptural passages you cited which would incline him to reconsider his position.

    … I guess that would depend on whether or not you believe that the elect can be snatched away from the hand of Christ… and whether or not you believe Paul when he says, “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”… or whether or not we are saved by grace, not as a result of works, etc etc. These and many other Scripture I have quoted tell me that we are saved by grace alone… that’s what makes it “a gift”. I have not heard an explanation of these Scriptures that says otherwise.

    That’s not the only possibility. There seem to me two questions being begged here:

    1) That all those who think they are elect really are, in fact, elect

    2) One implied by your use of the passive voice – your phrasing it as ‘…can be snatched…’ rather than ‘…can voluntarily leave…’

    No Catholic believes that the elect can be snatched from Christ’s hand. But we do think the elect can choose damnation – depending, of course, on the meaning of ‘elect.’ If ‘elect’ means ‘those who persevere,’ then, of course, to say the elect will persevere is tautologous; we have defined the elect as those who will persevere. If it means those who actually had the saving grace of God at one time, then, of course, we believe they can throw it away. But I don’t think it would be fair to say they have been snatched from Christ’s hand. That does not seem to me a reasonable use of the English language.

    But more to the point here is your belief that, since you believe, you are elect. You and I have discussed this before. We agree there are those who say they believe, yet are not, ultimately saved. I think you agree that it is possible that some such persons really and truly think their faith is genuine, but that they may be self-deceived. If you do not agree to that, then, I suppose, you must be saying that all those who claim that is what they believe are consciously lying. But this seems to me a bit far-fetched, and to amount, again, to a tautology: we know who had true faith and was not lying by who persevered.

    jj

  94. Curt (re92)-

    You wrote:

    … I guess that would depend on whether or not you believe that the elect can be snatched away from the hand of Christ…

    Like jj said, you’re speaking of someone being snatched from the hand of Christ. Whereas, we are arguing for the possibility of a person willfully rejecting His love and thereby choosing death over life. There is quite a difference between the two ideas!

    You continued, saying:

    and whether or not you believe Paul when he says, “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

    Indeed. I believe what St Paul is saying here. And I can certainly say that “it” depends on God’s mercy, ALL of it. Our salvation rests entirely on God’s mercy. That truth, however, doesn’t preclude the fact that we actually participate in this mystery. Christ’s model is one of a vine and its branches. Certainly all of the life enjoyed in the branches comes by virtue of their relationship to the vine. But through that association life flows outward and goodness comes through the branches. One needn’t dismiss the role of the branches for the sake of his consideration of the vine anymore than one must dismiss (graced) human participation in Christ’s work in light of the fact that all gifts flow from Christ.

    You also said:

    … or whether or not we are saved by grace, not as a result of works, etc etc.

    No catholic should deny that we are saved by God’s grace, 100%. But salvation isn’t a zero-sum game. And in the comments following Casey Chalk’s article (particularly in comment #54) Bryan Cross speaks to the subtle (yet important) differences that separate your interpretation of what it means to be “saved by grace” from one that might be presented by a catholic.

    Finally, you wrote:

    These and many other Scriptures I have quoted tell me that we are saved by grace alone… that’s what makes it “a gift”. I have not heard an explanation of these Scriptures that says otherwise.

    Catholics, too, believed we are saved by “grace alone.” But our acknowledgement of this fact, once again, does not preclude our (graced) participation in this mystery. And the fact that you haven’t heard an explanation that satisfies your intellect concerning these serious matters doesn’t indicate that there isn’t one to be found.

    Again, thanks for the response!

  95. Herbert – (Follow up to 91, 92)

    Herbert, I listened to Fr Walshe. To be honest, there wasn’t much there, theologically speaking. Not trying to downplay it, but the radio call-in format did not really permit much depth. He spent some time at the end discussing (and disagreeing with) Balthasar’s thesis on possible universal salvation. I found this interesting as Pope John Paul II called Balthasar his favorite theologian, and was awarded the Paul VI Prize for theology.

    I did get a few points that have basically been discussed already here, though the radio discussion was less clear. I was hoping for some depth on the doctrine of election and the whole “foreknew / predestined / called / justified / glorified” concept. Other than defining the Elect as “those who are chosen by God for eternal beatitude” and discussing foreknowledge in the sense of “God’s eternal presence”, there wasn’t much more discussion of theology per se. Just a few “Catholics believe this” and “Calvinists believe that” with “predestination is complicated” sprinkled in.

    Thanks for the reference, though!

    Blessings
    Curt

  96. jj (93)

    No Catholic believes that the elect can be snatched from Christ’s hand. But we do think the elect can choose damnation – depending, of course, on the meaning of ‘elect.’ If ‘elect’ means ‘those who persevere,’ then, of course, to say the elect will persevere is tautologous; we have defined the elect as those who will persevere.

    Since Herbert pointed me to Fr Walshe’s discussion, I’ll use his definition… “the elect are those who are chosen by God for eternal beatitude”… so can we agree that the elect are those who will persevere?

    Regardless of how we define the elect, let’s move on to your implicit question…

    If it means those who actually had the saving grace of God at one time, then, of course, we believe they can throw it away. But I don’t think it would be fair to say they have been snatched from Christ’s hand. That does not seem to me a reasonable use of the English language.

    Jesus says that His sheep cannot be snatched from his hand. Who is the “snatching party” Jesus is referring to? Is there someone else who could snatch the sheep from His hand? That would imply that our “free will” was not really free… that there is a third party involved. You have defined salvation as God’s grace with our cooperation… no third parties included. So, if salvation boils down to God and the elect person, and Jesus says no one can snatch the elect from His hand, that logically means that the elect cannot (or in my view, simply will not because of God’s grace) de-select themselves.

    John 6
    38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

    Jesus says that all of the sheep will make it… that is God’s will… He is sovereign!

    And now to your “one more time” question… :-)

    But more to the point here is your belief that, since you believe, you are elect.

    First, do you believe that one can one be a believer without being elect? If there are believers who are not of the elect, then that distinction would create two classes of people: Those who chose to be believers of their own free will, and “the elect” who were chosen outside of their own free will. I don’t think you are saying that, so I’ll assume that we can agree that believers are elect.???

    Your question refers back to the conversation… ‘can we know that we are saved’? As I have stated before, I cannot speak to what was in the heart or mind of one who appears to fall away. I can only speak to my relationship with God. If we wanted to get grossly philosophical, we could argue that we cannot know anything for sure… everything is just a perception. I’m not a subscriber to such philosophy, so I hope we can move beyond that concept. The next level might question what we can know from history. The commonly accepted method of ascertaining historical truth is to regard the testimony of witnesses. In court, we have the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. I once sat on a jury for a serious case, and the judge explained that “beyond a reasonable doubt” did not mean beyond any doubt. He said this: if you had to bet the title to your house that this person was guilty or innocent, how would you bet? That made sense to me. So where does that leave me regarding salvation? I believe that Scripture is true. I believe God’s promises contained in Scripture are true. I believe I am a believer, and thus elect. I believe God is empowering me to persevere until the end.

    Now I will ask you… who is Paul speaking to when he says…

    1 Peter 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    Who is the “us” and “you” he is referring to, and how does he or they know they are elect? Verses like this make no sense if we are kept in the dark regarding our faith.

    Blessings always
    Curt

  97. Curt (#96

    Since Herbert pointed me to Fr Walshe’s discussion, I’ll use his definition… “the elect are those who are chosen by God for eternal beatitude”… so can we agree that the elect are those who will persevere?

    I don’t mind – we are talking about how we want to define the terms we use. If you wish to say ‘elect=those who will persevere’ then we can use the term in that way. But if course, if we do, then the question whether the elect will persevere answers itself – because we have defined them as those will persevere.

    But, you see, to say that the elect are, as you quote Father Walshe as saying, ‘those who are chosen by God for eternal beatitude,’ you have not said the same thing. Father Walshe’s definition is the same as yours if and only if, in fact, the elect cannot be lost. I think, the way you have phrased your question, you have rather assumed that ‘chosen by God for eternal beatitude’ necessarily implies will persevere – i.e., the ‘P’ in TULIP. But that is the very question at hand.

    I don’t see how your argument here works:

    Jesus says that His sheep cannot be snatched from his hand. Who is the “snatching party” Jesus is referring to? Is there someone else who could snatch the sheep from His hand? That would imply that our “free will” was not really free… that there is a third party involved. You have defined salvation as God’s grace with our cooperation… no third parties included. So, if salvation boils down to God and the elect person, and Jesus says no one can snatch the elect from His hand, that logically means that the elect cannot (or in my view, simply will not because of God’s grace) de-select themselves.

    No one says a third party can snatch the sheep from His hand. I don’t think this has anything to do with the freedom of the will – quite the contrary. If someone can snatch me from Christ’s hand, even if I don’t will it, it implies, not that my will is not free in this respect, but that Christ’s power to save is limited. The question is, rather, whether I can choose Christ or not – which must imply that I can reject Him.

    First, do you believe that one can one be a believer without being elect? If there are believers who are not of the elect, then that distinction would create two classes of people: Those who chose to be believers of their own free will, and “the elect” who were chosen outside of their own free will. I don’t think you are saying that, so I’ll assume that we can agree that believers are elect.???

    By no means. The devils believe, and tremble. This is precisely what I meant earlier by talking about the fact that a Calvinist, who believes in OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved), must, since it is clear that some appear to believe but appear not to be saved in the end, must talk about ‘really believing’ vs ‘dead faith’ or whatever you want to call it. My belief is that there is no practical difference between the Catholic and the Calvinist on the question of whether you can lose your salvation. The Calvinist just says – as my Protestant friends used regularly to say – that so-and-so didn’t really believe (or ‘wasn’t really a Christian’), or he wouldn’t have gone off the rails.

    Many are called; few are chosen.

    It is this part that I think you need to think about:

    I believe I am a believer, and thus elect.

    Unless you think that all apparent believers who eventually fall away were conscious hypocrites, you can have, it seems to me, moral certainty here – and, given your theology, if you are right that you are a believer (which, for the Calvinist, I think implies not merely faith but faith-working-through-love), then you will persevere. Naturally I think it possible – and pray it will never happen! – but possible that you will turn away. But my only point is that your certainty that you will persevere is not theological certainty, but moral certainty – as the Catholic’s certainty that he is in a state of grace is moral rather than theological certainty.

    jj

  98. Curt (96),

    You may find the discussion of Predestination at the Catholic Encyclopedia here http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm helpful in thinking through the Catholic perspective.

    Thanks, Kim D

  99. jj

    Thanks, but you didn’t answer my closing question…

    Who is Paul speaking to when he says…

    1 Peter 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    Who is the “us” and “you” he is referring to, and how does he or they know they are elect? Verses like this make no sense if we are kept in the dark regarding our faith.

    Paul makes a very definitive statement, clearly asserting that the “you” and “us” are saved.

    Thanks
    Curt

  100. jj (more on 97)

    My comment…

    Jesus says that His sheep cannot be snatched from his hand. Who is the “snatching party” Jesus is referring to? Is there someone else who could snatch the sheep from His hand? That would imply that our “free will” was not really free… that there is a third party involved. You have defined salvation as God’s grace with our cooperation… no third parties included. So, if salvation boils down to God and the elect person, and Jesus says no one can snatch the elect from His hand, that logically means that the elect cannot (or in my view, simply will not because of God’s grace) de-select themselves.

    Your response…

    No one says a third party can snatch the sheep from His hand. I don’t think this has anything to do with the freedom of the will – quite the contrary. If someone can snatch me from Christ’s hand, even if I don’t will it, it implies, not that my will is not free in this respect, but that Christ’s power to save is limited. The question is, rather, whether I can choose Christ or not – which must imply that I can reject Him.

    So when Jesus says no one can snatch the sheep, who is the “no one” He talking about? Me? A third party? It has to be one or the other, right? The “no one” refers to someone, right? Otherwise it is a meaningless statement. You say its not a third party. So who does that leave? Do you really believe that Christ’s power to save is limited? Moreover, limited by my weakness? God’s elect are just that… His sovereign choice. NO one can snatch them from his hand.

    Matt 24
    29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

    That does not sound weak, nor does it sound like there may be some elect left behind.

    Blessings
    Curt

  101. Curt (#99)

    Thanks, but you didn’t answer my closing question…

    Who is Paul speaking to when he says…

    1 Peter 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    Who is the “us” and “you” he is referring to, and how does he or they know they are elect? Verses like this make no sense if we are kept in the dark regarding our faith.

    Paul makes a very definitive statement, clearly asserting that the “you” and “us” are saved.

    Naturally he is speaking to all who believe – about a salvation that is, indeed, reserved in Heaven for us. Unless you already know from some other source that we cannot, before we get to Heaven, decide that we don’t want it, this doesn’t help the argument.

    Again, regarding your #100, these verses assume what they are trying to prove. Regarding the Matthew 24 statement, either ‘elect’ means, as you have asked, those who will, in fact, persevere, in which case, of course, it means just that – or else it means, in this passage, those who have not, before that, rejected their election.

    Of course Christ’s power to save is not limited. If saying that His power to save is not unlimited means that He will infallibly save those He has chosen, then either we are back in the Calvinistic ‘no one can can tell whether he is elect or not until the end,’ or He is, indeed, telling us that He wants our cooperation. You haven’t shown the first to be the case, nor the second not to be.

    jj

  102. Sorry about the messed up href :-(

    jj

  103. jj

    … these verses assume what they are trying to prove.

    It seems reasonable that when Paul says…

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    that he is speaking to people the he, and they, believe are believers who are not yet on their deathbed… like me (I hope). Therefore, it further seems reasonable that God has “caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

    Again, there are these words from Jesus…

    John 6
    38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

    He loses nothing. Nothing! Not one. I just don’t see how this could be any more clear.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  104. Kim D (98)

    Thanks for the reference… and yes I have spent some time reading through this on occasion.

    As with many Catholic theological perspectives, I sometimes struggle with apparent double speak. For example, we first find this…

    Does the natural merit of man exert perhaps some influence on the Divine election to grace and glory?
    If we recall the dogma of the absolute gratuity of Christian grace, our answer must be outright negative.

    So, on the one hand, the answer is no, the merit of man does not influence his election to grace and glory. Then we later read this…

    Between these two extremes the Catholic dogma of predestination keeps the golden mean, because it regards eternal happiness primarily as the work of God and His grace, but secondarily as the fruit and reward of the meritorious actions of the predestined.

    So now the merit of man does influence his “eternal happiness”.

    The “elect” are defined in The Catholic Encyclopedia as…

    “chosen as the object of mercy or Divine favour, as set apart for eternal life”.

    Regarding the word predestination, the Greek (προορίζω) proorizo shows up 6 times in the NT. In each case, God alone is the one who is foreordaining:

    Acts 4:28, “…to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.”

    Rom. 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

    Rom. 8:30, “…and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

    1 Cor. 2:7, “…but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”

    Eph. 1:5, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

    Eph. 1:11, “…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

    Nowhere in these verses is there the notion that the outcome of his predestining is dependent on man.

    Now some say that God chooses (or predestines) all, but that we can “unchoose” ourselves. But listen to Jesus’ speaking to the Apostles, (John 13:18), “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me’.”

    Though Judas was a disciple, he was not counted among the “chosen” by Christ… even though Judas was partaking in the sacrament. Thus who appear to “deselect” themselves were never actually “chosen” by God to be among the elect.

    Thanks, and blessings,

    Curt

  105. Curt (#103)

    He loses nothing. Nothing! Not one. I just don’t see how this could be any more clear.

    Certainly He does not lose anything. No one snatches anything from His hand. Since the ‘anything’ refers to humans with wills, either you believe that you have the choice to choose (or at least to reject) Christ in the first place, but that, having chosen Him (or having been prevented from rejecting Him, if that is how your theology works), you are now necessary locked in – or perhaps you don’t even believe there was any choice in the first place.

    jj

  106. Curt (104),

    I think perhaps you may have a wrong concept of the Catholic view of merit. It is spoken of under merit in the Catholic encyclopedia which describes it this way:

    If, however, salutary acts can in virtue of the Divine justice give the right to an eternal reward, this is possible only because they themselves have their root in gratuitous grace, and consequently are of their very nature dependent ultimately on grace, as the Council of Trent emphatically declares (Sess. VI, cap. xvi, in Denzinger, 10th ed., Freiburg, 1908, n. 810): “the Lord . . . whose bounty towards all men is so great, that He will have the things, which are His own gifts, be their merits.

    Thanks, Kim D

  107. Curt (104),

    ps. you may find this post helpful in explaining more fully the concept of merit and its relation to eternal life–this article goes into the Bible passages on the subject: http://crossed-the-tiber.blogspot.com/2011/09/catholics-work-their-way-into-heaven.html

    Thanks again, Kim D

  108. jj (105)

    What I believe is simply what it says. Is God sovereign? Can He work His will as He sees fit? Is it all about our will, or does God effect His will through us? Again, I refer back to Romans 9 where we see the awesome sovereignty of God and the insignificance of man’s will (whether we can fathom it or not):

    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?

    “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will”

    Predestined according to His purpose… after the counsel of His will.

    So again, what I believe is what it says.

    Blessings brother
    Curt

  109. Kim (106,107)

    I have no problem with our good works being necessary for salvation. Where we differ is the origin of those good works. The Catholic Church says that my good works result from me freely choosing to do them, and thus there is merit for me “doing the right thing”. But from Scripture, we know that, outside of the will of God, I am incapable of doing the right thing. My good works are solely the result of God’s grace and His subsequent indwelling in my heart. Therefore, I can claim no merit, but I can sing praise to God for His mercy and power acting in and through me.

    Martignoni frequently quotes Scripture out of context to make his point. I’ll give one example. From Romans 2:6-8, he says…

    “For He, [God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life…”

    Uhmm…I don’t know about you, but it sure seems to me that Paul said God will render honor to every man – eternal life…BECAUSE OF HIS DEEDS.

    This is just a gross rendering of Scripture out of its contextual home. In this and surrounding verses, Paul is clearly taking to task the Jews who are living under the law, emphasizing that, under the law (old covenant) there is only one standard… absolute obedience. This sets up Romans 3 where Paul further points out that “there is none righteous”, “all have sinned”, “there is none who seeks for God”… in other words, we have all failed under the standard of the old covenant. He summarizes our predicament in 3:20 where he says,

    “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”

    Works do not lead to justification. With the entire crowd now saying, “uh oh!”, Paul sets forth the new covenant in verses 21-27:

    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

    In Christ, we are justified apart from our works. Through Christ, our works will be evident… not because we chose Him, but because in His infinite love and mercy, He chose us. We accomplish His righteousness, not because we muster our free will, but because He is working His will in us and has set us on the path He prepared for us from the beginning of time.

    In closing… While I am not in sync with the Catholic position, neither do I think that Martignoni did justice to the Catholic position… which is, in my humble opinion, stronger than what he conveyed in the article.

    Blessings
    Curt

  110. Curt (#108
    And one question to add: Is it God’s will that, once I have accepted His salvation, I should no longer be able to turn away from Him definitively?

    I really don’t see that in any of these texts – particularly not if I consider the whole Bible. Romans 9 tells us, indeed, that God’s will may not be resisted. Most of the Bible tells us that we must will the good. Your theology must include both of these facts, not one at the expense of the other.

    It is God’s will that man, whilst still in this life, has the power to sin. Unless there is no sin – not a total rejection of God’s very existence, His goodness, His mercy – nothing at all, that can separate me from God, once I have turned to Him – and there are some – I think they are not sane in this, frankly! – who believe that (“I went forward at a Billy Graham crusade. Now I can do anything I want, reject God, etc – I am still going to Heaven!”) – but unless you are of that sort, you haven’t proven anything.

    Assuming you think that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for example, would, indeed, make it impossible for me to be saved, then what you are saying, to put it in Catholic terms, is that after the initial act of faith, I can commit venial sin but not mortal sin.

    jj

  111. Curt (109),

    Here is an important point that the Catholic Encyclopedia makes on merit:

    That Christian grace can be merited either by the observance of the Jewish law or by mere natural works (see GRACE) this alone is foreign to the Bible. On the other hand, eternal reward is promised in the Bible to those supernatural works which are performed in the state of grace, and that because they are meritorious (cf. Matthew 25:34 sqq.; Romans 2:6 sqq.; 2 Corinthians 5:10)…..

    The works that we are discussing are not natural works. They are supernatural works done in the state of grace, by grace. Man’s will of course would be involved and he freely chooses to do them, he is not forced. I do not see this in any way contradictory.

    Again as stated in the same article:

    Nothing was more strong and frequently inculcated by the Council of Trent than the proposition that the faithful owe their entire capability of meriting and all their good works solely to the infinite merits of the Redeemer Jesus Christ. It is indeed clear that meritorious works, as “fruits of the justification”, cannot be anything but merits due to grace, and not merits due to nature (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi).

    .

    So it is important to distinguish merits due to nature and merits due to grace. There is a difference.

    Thanks, Kim D

  112. Curt (espec. #100, 103-4,and 108-9):
    Having re-read this thread, it appears that you are talking past the people with whom you are conversing. Assuming the questions you have answered are not rhetorical questions and that they are intended to help you understand, I will try to answer them in a way that will avoid you talking past people.

    So when Jesus says no one can snatch the sheep, who is the “no one” He talking about? Me? A third party? It has to be one or the other, right? The “no one” refers to someone, right? Otherwise it is a meaningless statement. You say its not a third party. So who does that leave?

    I think you’ve misunderstood. The passage clearly *does* refer to a third party, and this was a relatively common belief at the time. In fact, St. Paul specifically addresses a similar belief among Christians in 1 Thess. 4:13-18. You’re coming at this with two thousand years of Western philosophy on divine omnipotence behind you, so your first reaction is “well, of course no one can overpower God!” and proceeding to technically sophisticated debates about libertarian free will from centuries later. That isn’t exegesis according to the historical intent of the Scripture.

    In the first century, divine omnipotence in the later sense was by no means a well-known philosophical commonplace at that time, so it was both meaningful and necessary to provide assurances that God. Remember also that these were, by and large, people who had very difficult lives and who grew up in a culture where such adversities were taken as a sign of divine disfavor. It was a very new thing for them to be offered this kind of hope, so these kind of assurances would have been perceived as extremely significant to them. Although it’s not intentional,you’re implicitly ridiculing an ancient belief because it has no significance for your life, but that’s only because you’ve benefited from centuries of inherited Christian thought. In other words, the reason that you today can take this belief for granted owes its origin to this assurance to first century believers.

    A similar argument can be made for the following observation:
    He loses nothing. Nothing! Not one. I just don’t see how this could be any more clear.

    I agree that it is clear, but it is the same type of assurance as the one stated above: namely, that neither fate nor circumstance can cause God to lose anything. Again, the prospect of divine failure is alien to your thinking, but it surely must have been on the mind of the people at the time, who were worried that God might be well-disposed to them but still somehow restricted in His ability to save them.

    Note that Jesus begins the reply with a much greater assurance that *everything* the Father gives Him will be kept (John 6:39), which implicitly extends to the entirety of creation, although He doesn’t say that outright here. *Then* He repeats the assurance in the context of believers (John 6:40, not just repeating Himself). He absolutely has the power both to give eternal life now and to raise believers from the dead on the day of judgment. Essentially, He is answering the question that I just raised: if we believe in you, can you be trusted to do your part? Jesus answers with an emphatic denial that He would let a believer down.

    This thinking should come as no surprise, because St. Paul once again addresses similar concerns to those addressed by St. John here. “The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). This does not say that be being saved, we cannot fail to endure, cannot deny Him, and cannot become faithless, quite the opposite. But the assurance still has a purpose, because it reassures believers that if they do their part, God will not leave them high and dry.

    The same is true of the assurances of predestination. You said:
    Regarding the word predestination, the Greek (προορίζω) proorizo shows up 6 times in the NT. In each case, God alone is the one who is foreordaining:

    Nowhere in these verses is there the notion that the outcome of his predestining is dependent on man.

    I don’t think anyone here denies that God alone is omniscient and works all things according to the counsel of His will, but again, the question being answered by the passage at the time is a good deal simpler: even if I am faithful, can God be defeated by fate or circumstance? The response is simple: God has a plan, He knows what is going on before it even happens, so the believer need not worry about some catastrophe derailing the plan at the end of the track. The assurances of future reward are identical: if you believe, the reward will be there for you. You don’t have to worry about getting to Heaven and finding out that God has let you down. Again, you would consider it impious to think so, but this passage wasn’t written to people who are sure that God is omnipotent and omniscient; it is intended to teach them those things.

    Though Judas was a disciple, he was not counted among the “chosen” by Christ… even though Judas was partaking in the sacrament.

    This passage has to do with the selection of the Apostles, not election to salvation, but it seems to run counter to your reasoning anyway. Jesus is not saying He didn’t choose Jesus; rather, He is saying that He knows those He has chosen, including Jesus. And He says this explicitly in John 6:70: “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” So it would actually prove that God could choose someone even that He knew would be damned, but as I said, neither of these passages are really about the issue of salvation.

    Anyway, to summarize, you seem to be assuming that the passages can’t be written to assure people who want to believe but nonetheless have concerns that if they do believe, the rug might be pulled out from under them. That would be highly unusual for a believer today, because we have all sorts of cultural beliefs about divine omnipotence and omniscience, but it was not only common but even expected back then. So let’s just take the passages for what they say: they aren’t rebukes to people who would dare suggest that human will has any autonomous metaphysical existence; rather, they are assurances for people who are worried that they will believe and then that they will be let down.

    As to the anachronistic metaphysical concerns you are raising, then, which really don’t have anything to do with these passages, I will attempt to answer those concerns specifically:
    Do you really believe that Christ’s power to save is limited? Moreover, limited by my weakness?

    Is God sovereign? Can He work His will as He sees fit? Is it all about our will, or does God effect His will through us?

    I know that the intention to blaspheme God’s power is the farthest thing from your mind, but you really need to be cautious when suggesting particular metaphysical formulations of divine omnipotence. The implication here is that God’s sovereignty would somehow be diminished by creating free-willed beings, which is obviously false. First, if God could not create free-willed beings, then there would be only one will acting in the universe, which you are precariously close to saying in the suggestion that the divine will acts “through us.” If that is the case, then the fact that sin exists would mean that God was sinning, thereby contradicting His own nature, which is absurd. Consequently, it cannot be denied that God is capable of creating free-willed beings with whom the divine will concurs without acting through them as instruments without impugning His sovereignty. Nor can it be the case that God is responsible for His failure to force someone to comply, as you suggest to be the case if Christ to some extent left you in the hands of your own will.

    The other problem is Christological. It is heresy (monotheletism) to deny that Christ has a free will, since that would deny that He is fully human and fully man. Scripture also has Christ clearly willing things according to His human will that are different than the divine will. For example, in Mark 7:24, “he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid.” Likewise in Luke 22:42, He says “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

    Given those considerations, the problem is that you are taken these philosophical errors, errors that people at the time would not have had in mind, and reading them back into the Scriptures. Instead, you need to accept that God can work through concurrence with free wills without harming His sovereignty. Now, if free wills could disrupt God’s will without His consent, that would definitely be a problem, and that is the sort of concern that the passages cited above are intended to alleviate: creaturely monergism. But divine monergism, which these passages do not specifically address, is equally problematic. Based on the Scriptural witness and essential metaphysical considerations, it is necessary to affirm synergism, not to suggest that the divine will needs creaturely agency to operate but that God can choose to do so.

  113. Curt- I stumbled upon this verse today, 2 Peter 1:10-11

    Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Notice how a believer is encouraged to confirm his calling and election. Notice how the “if you… and (this will happen)” is presented to the believer. Again, it seems to me that the view you have been expressing simply cannot account for such passages.

  114. Herbert (113)

    God saves us through His grace offered in Christ. Then He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us and begin the sanctification process. Peter is speaking to believers (“To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…). We know from other Scripture that believers are not just called to faith in a vacuum, but that God has a plan and purpose for each one He calls. I find nothing unusual about Peter encouraging believers to be tuned into and their call and that God has chosen them for a purpose… and that, in following that call, the believer can expect that God will help them persevere in this life, and will reward them in heaven. The verse in no way says that, if a believer struggles finding their call, that their salvation is somehow in jeopardy.

    BTW, I use the NASB which says it this way… “for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;”… not quite as much an eternal “if-then” statement as the rendering you quoted.

    Blessings
    Curt

  115. Jonathan (112)

    First, I understand your position that these passages were not “written to people who are sure that God is omnipotent and omniscient; it is intended to teach them those things.” That said, I would disagree with that position. The Jews were certainly educated to the faithfulness and omnipotence of God. One could hardly read the Psalms without having a clear understanding thereto. Likewise, the Jews hardly considered any god to be greater than their God. So I’m not sure where you get the notion that God’s omnipotence is a New Testament concept. It seems to me much more logical that the assurances are being given precisely because the Jews were accustomed to salvation by works as opposed to salvation by grace… that was the “new concept” being taught. They needed to know that their sins were covered by Christ, and that they were a new creation in Christ… and that God’s promise working through His awesome power was all they needed to rely on. It was grace that was new to them… not God’s omnipotence.

    First, if God could not create free-willed beings, then there would be only one will acting in the universe, which you are precariously close to saying in the suggestion that the divine will acts “through us.” If that is the case, then the fact that sin exists would mean that God was sinning, thereby contradicting His own nature, which is absurd. Consequently, it cannot be denied that God is capable of creating free-willed beings with whom the divine will concurs without acting through them as instruments without impugning His sovereignty.

    I am not saying that God cannot create free-willed beings, nor am I saying that He did not create free-willed beings. It is precisely because He did create us with a free will that we find ourselves in the sinful predicament we are in. What I am saying is this: God can trump our free will whenever He chooses to accomplish His will whenever He chooses. Romans 9 is replete with examples of this. To say otherwise is to take the deist approach that God created everything and now stands on the sidelines to watch but not interfere with history. God absolutely acts through us…

    Philippians 2
    12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    It is because we are free-willed sinners who cannot save ourselves that grace was the only hope for salvation. Since there are “none righteous”… since “no one seeks God” then God in His infinite mercy, to accomplish His will for humanity, trumped our will with grace. Having done that, He indwells us with the Holy Spirit to align our “free will” with His perfect will. Otherwise, verses like…

    Romans 8
    26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

    would make no sense. Now, if the Spirit intercedes on our behalf, that intercession either does something, or it does not do something. In order to be “according to the will of God”, it must therefore supersede our will, otherwise it would be ineffectual (unless our will was the will of God… in which case, why would the Spirit need to intercede?).

    Again Romans 8
    15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

    Our salvation is the result of adoption of a loving Father, not slavery to works leading to fear.

    Thus Paul speaks of his wretchedness at the end of Romans 7, crying out, “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” He then continues in Romans 8, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 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, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    The other problem is Christological. It is heresy (monotheletism) to deny that Christ has a free will, since that would deny that He is fully human and fully man.

    .

    I agree. He is also the only human to live out His life in perfect harmony with the will of the Father. Any power we have to work “synergisticly” with God comes from God, and thus is not the result of self-righteousness, but rather the result of God’s righteousness working in us. The merit, therefore, goes to God… not me. Thus Paul can say…

    Romans 5
    6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

    Also, btw, I find it interesting that you feel I am influenced by “2000 years of western culture”. Since Protestants
    try to limit their theology to “Scripture alone”, while Catholic theology takes into account 2000 years of “tradition”, isn’t that a bit of the “pot calling the kettle black”? Now I certainly admit that 2000 years of culture must be considered to have some influence on all of us… I just thought your statement was a bit … interesting.

    Thanks and blessings
    Curt

  116. jj (110)

    And one question to add: Is it God’s will that, once I have accepted His salvation, I should no longer be able to turn away from Him definitively?

    I really don’t see that in any of these texts – particularly not if I consider the whole Bible. Romans 9 tells us, indeed, that God’s will may not be resisted. Most of the Bible tells us that we must will the good. Your theology must include both of these facts, not one at the expense of the other.

    My theology does include both of these facts. My theology considers salvation and sanctification to be two different things. Christ saves us from the death of our sins through His saving grace. That is salvation. We are then indwelled by the Holy Spirit who empowers us to do acts in accordance with God’s will. That is the process of sanctification… becoming more Christ like. There are verses that assure us that our salvation is complete in Christ. There are other verses that encourage us to submit to the Holy Spirit, indicating that our sanctification is a lifelong process in which our will gives way to God’s will… and this itself is powered by God’s will.

    Further, my theology is fully compliant with Romans 9… that God’s will is sovereign, and He can choose whomever He pleases for any purpose He pleases. It is in complete harmony with the concept that God’s will can trump man’s will to accomplish His purposes, as in…

    Romans 9
    10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    The theology of free will cannot explain this and similar verses. For what choice did they have?

    It is God’s will that man, whilst still in this life, has the power to sin. Unless there is no sin – not a total rejection of God’s very existence, His goodness, His mercy – nothing at all, that can separate me from God, once I have turned to Him – and there are some – I think they are not sane in this, frankly! – who believe that (“I went forward at a Billy Graham crusade. Now I can do anything I want, reject God, etc – I am still going to Heaven!”) – but unless you are of that sort, you haven’t proven anything.

    Assuming you think that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for example, would, indeed, make it impossible for me to be saved, then what you are saying, to put it in Catholic terms, is that after the initial act of faith, I can commit venial sin but not mortal sin.

    Essentially, yes. God protects those whom He chooses to save from anything that would jeopardize their eternal salvation. That is not to say they will not sin… David might be a great OT example… Peter, who denied Christ, might be an excellent NT example. But God saves us, then helps us change for the better, all the while, protecting His flock to the end. Thanks be to God!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  117. Kim (111)

    The works that we are discussing are not natural works. They are supernatural works done in the state of grace, by grace.

    So then we are saved by grace alone, right?

    Nothing was more strong and frequently inculcated by the Council of Trent than the proposition that the faithful owe their entire capability of meriting and all their good works solely to the infinite merits of the Redeemer Jesus Christ. It is indeed clear that meritorious works, as “fruits of the justification”, cannot be anything but merits due to grace, and not merits due to nature (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi).

    So how does a “merit due to grace” get credited to us, when it is, by definition, a gift from God? Either we are operating through the righteousness of God dwelling in us, or we are operating through our own righteousness. Our sins are our own doing, but our righteousness is a gift of grace from God.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  118. Curt – #(116)

    It is God’s will that man, whilst still in this life, has the power to sin. Unless there is no sin – not a total rejection of God’s very existence, His goodness, His mercy – nothing at all, that can separate me from God, once I have turned to Him – and there are some – I think they are not sane in this, frankly! – who believe that (“I went forward at a Billy Graham crusade. Now I can do anything I want, reject God, etc – I am still going to Heaven!”) – but unless you are of that sort, you haven’t proven anything.

    Assuming you think that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for example, would, indeed, make it impossible for me to be saved, then what you are saying, to put it in Catholic terms, is that after the initial act of faith, I can commit venial sin but not mortal sin.

    Essentially, yes. God protects those whom He chooses to save from anything that would jeopardize their eternal salvation. That is not to say they will not sin… David might be a great OT example… Peter, who denied Christ, might be an excellent NT example. But God saves us, then helps us change for the better, all the while, protecting His flock to the end. Thanks be to God!

    Which is pretty much what I supposed you to think, and what I thought when I was a Calvinist. But, as I have said before, both here and in private correspondence with you, it raises the question of the person who falls completely away – the person who appears to believe, not to be a hypocrite, to live a good life – and then, sometimes suddenly, sometimes by a slow process, to turn and deny Christ, deny God, and live like that – and then die. There are three possibilities that occur to me:

    1) Such a person is, in fact, saved, regardless of appearances – perhaps by an invisible last-second conversion.

    2) Such a person was a hypocrite and knew it – i.e. was conscious that he didn’t really believe.

    3) Such a person didn’t have living faith even though he thought he did.

    I know you have said it was not up to you to judge another’s faith. Fair enough, but the reality – and non-rarity – of such cases should, it seems to me, be something that an adequate theology of salvation-by-faith-alone ought to be able to handle.

    As you know, I think the first really just not very sane. The normal, common-sensical, judgement is just that the person has lost his faith – which your theology says is impossible.

    The second seems like an explanation brought in to explain a difficulty – with no evidence for the explanation but the difficulty itself. “Joe seemed to have faith; he seems to be lost; he must have been lying all along, even though he seems to have claimed to believe he had faith.”

    The third is what I and my Reformed friends always came up with. And it is that which, I suggest, is phaenomenologically indistinguishable from the position that says you can lose your faith, or abandon it, or reject it, or what you will.

    jj

  119. Curt (re114)-

    Why even exhort people to “confirm” their calling if there is no possibility of it being lost?

    Today’s liturgy included these words from St Paul:

    These things happened as examples for us,
    so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.
    Do not grumble as some of them did,
    and suffered death by the destroyer.
    These things happened to them as an example,
    and they have been written down as a warning to us,
    upon whom the end of the ages has come.
    Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure
    should take care not to fall.”

    How can those who provide an example (of what NOT to do) act as a useful warning to those who, according to you, simply CAN’T fail/stumble as they did?

  120. Curt (re: # 115)

    What I am saying is this: God can trump our free will whenever He chooses to accomplish His will whenever He chooses.

    Then why did He not intervene to save Adam and Eve from sin? Was it His will that man should fall from grace?

    Frank La Rocca

  121. Hi Curt (117),

    I am going to answer the two questions you asked me and give some quotes. Sometimes the spacing gets messed up in the quotes (here is hoping it won’t happen!).

    Yes, Catholics believe in salvation by grace alone as explained here : http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/03/sola-gratia/ by Sean Patrick , and I quote:

    There are two criteria that sola gratia, properly understood, requires. The first is that God, not man, takes the initiative in drawing us to Himself and making it possible for us to respond to Him. The second is that every contribution that we make towards our salvation is itself a gift of grace.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains these criteria in clear terms:

    Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.15

    This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.16

    The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it.”17

    Since the dogmatic Catholic teaching meets both criteria for sola gratia, and since those criteria are sufficient for the truth of sola gratia, therefore the Catholic position entails and maintains sola gratia.

    end of quote

    You asked,”So how does a “merit due to grace” get credited to us, when it is, by definition, a gift from God?
    as the encyclopedia says,

    Hence on the part of God there can only be question of a gratuitous promise of reward for certain good works. For such works He owes the promised reward, not in justice or equity, but solely because He has freely bound himself, i.e., because of His own attributes of veracity and fidelity. It is on this ground alone that we can speak of Divine justice at all, and apply the principle: Do ut des (cf. St. Augustine, Serm. clviii, c. ii, in P.L., XXXVIII, 863).

    Therefore God himself has made us promises to reward the works He enables. See more fully in the enyclopedia:

    ….the Council of Trent upheld the traditional doctrine of merit by insisting that life everlasting is both a grace and a reward (Sess. VI, cap. xvi, in Denzinger, n. 809). It condemned as heretical Luther’s doctrine of the sinfulness of good works (Sess. VI, can. xxv), and declared as a dogma that the just, in return for their good works done in God through the merits of Jesus Christ, should expect an eternal reward (loc. cit., can. xxvi)….

    This doctrine of the Church simply echoes Scripture and Tradition. The Old Testament already declares the meritoriousness of good works before God. “But the just shall live for evermore: and their reward is with the Lord” (Wisdom 5:16). “Be not afraid to be justified even to death: for the reward of God continueth for ever” (Ecclus., xviii, 22). Christ Himself adds a special reward to each of the Eight Beatitudes and he ends with this fundamental thought: “Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12) In His description of the Last Judgment, He makes the possession of eternal bliss depend on the practice of the corporal works of mercy (Matthew 25:34 sqq.). Although St. Paul insists on nothing more strongly than the absolute gratuitousness of Christian grace, still he acknowledges merits founded on grace and also the reward due to them on the part of God, which he variously calls “prize” (Philippians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:24) “reward” (Colossians 3:24; 1 Corinthians 3:8), “crown of justice” (2 Timothy 4:7 sq.; cf. James 1:12). It is worthy of note that, in these and many others good works are not represented as mere adjuncts of justifying faith, but as real fruits of justification and part causes of our eternal happiness. And the greater the merit, the greater will be the reward in heaven (cf. Matthew 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 9:6). Thus the Bible itself refutes the assertion that “the idea of merit is originally foreign to the Gospel” (” Realencyklopädie für protest. Theologie,” XX, 3rd ed. Leipzig, 1908, p. 501). That Christian grace can be merited either by the observance of the Jewish law or by mere natural works (see GRACE) this alone is foreign to the Bible. On the other hand, eternal reward is promised in the Bible to those supernatural works which are performed in the state of grace, and that because they are meritorious (cf. Matthew 25:34 sqq.; Romans 2:6 sqq.; 2 Corinthians 5:10)…..

    Sorry for the long quotes, but I felt they were helpful for understanding.

    Thanks, Kim D Ps. please forgive if the spacing messes up!
    <

  122. Frank (120)

    If you want someone to explain why God does something, you are asking the wrong guy, though I suppose I should be flattered. ;-) Nonetheless, Romans 9 is clear that God does what He does, and “who are you, oh man, to question?”

    Blessings
    Curt

  123. Herbert (119)

    You failed to finish the verse…

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

    Of course we are tempted by sin. Of course we should flee from sin. Of course we may sin, even after we are saved. Of course we should try not to sin. And of course, we may fail at times. But our failure does not become God’s failure. He has already forgiven our sin, and continues to do so when we screw up. He further helps us to overcome our sinful nature through the Holy Spirit so that our success in resisting temptation will increase. You comment assumes the the word “fall” means “lose your salvation”. I find no reason to make that assumption, in light of verse 13 which speaks of God’s faithfulness to help us endure temptation.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  124. jj

    You have presented three distinct possibilities…

    1) Such a person is, in fact, saved, regardless of appearances – perhaps by an invisible last-second conversion.
    2) Such a person was a hypocrite and knew it – i.e. was conscious that he didn’t really believe.
    3) Such a person didn’t have living faith even though he thought he did.

    I have to admit, your relentless pursuit of this question has pushed me to consider it deeply. I believe there is a different paradigm. The parable of the sower…

    Mark 4

    14 The sower sows the word.

    [Case 1]
    15 These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.

    [Case 2]
    16 In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.

    [Case 3]
    18 And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

    [Case 4]
    20 And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

    What is the one thing that is different between Case 4 (those who presumably persevere), and the other three cases? There is one difference: they “bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold”. This is a recurring theme in Jesus’ ministry. Of the the heart and intent of others, we cannot know any more. I do not believe this jeopardizes a theology of salvation by faith alone. Those who do persevere do so by faith. If you meant that it jeopardizes “once saved always saved”, I don’t believe it does. If you meant that, whether “once saved always saved” is true or not, one cannot know for certain whether they are saved, one might be inclined to say maybe… except there is so much Scriptural inference to the contrary. “You will know them by their fruit”… Can I not, therefore, know me by my fruit? “These things I have written that you may know you have eternal life. I don’t read these Scriptures as rhetorical or theoretical.

    Blessings

    Curt

  125. Curt (#
    Absolutely agree with your analysis of the Parable of the Sower. What is not clear is whether those in the first three cases ever had faith – or at least thought they had faith.

    I really really really don’t think we are saying anything different. You are looking at the end, and saying what Jesus says: those who persevere to the end will be saved. You are saying, what the Catholic Church also teaches, that our assurance of our salvation is to be found in the way in which our lives exhibit the fruits of the inner supernatural life God has engrafted.

    Those first three cases – either those people thought they had faith (faith as you understand it – as the Catholic would put it, faith enlivened by charity), in which case, if they do not persevere and bear fruit, they were wrong – what I and my Reformed friends used to say; or you are accusing them of hypocrisy. I really do not think you would stand in judgement over them in that way.

    This is why I think you and I are arguing about words only. Words are, to be sure, important, but to me the most important thing is this: I look to Christ for my salvation. I do not even look to the fruit I seem to bear for salvation but I see it is evidence that He is working in me.

    jj

  126. Curt (#122): You wrote:

    If you want someone to explain why God does something, you are asking the wrong guy, though I suppose I should be flattered. ;-)

    In my question about the Fall, I was not asking you to read the mind of God. I was asking you to consider the logical consequences of your statement (#115):

    What I am saying is this: God can trump our free will whenever He chooses to accomplish His will whenever He chooses

    If you are correct about God trumping our free will to accomplish His will, then you cannot escape the logical consequences of this statement as it applies to the Fall. According to your logic, it was not His will that we should be preserved from the Fall, because if it were, he would have then “trumped” the free will of Adam and Eve to “accomplish His will” to protect them. That He did not choose to do so means, by your logic either, 1) He actively willed the fall from grace, or 2) saw it coming, but chose to step back and not exercise his “trumping” at the most critical event in history prior to Christ. In the case of 1), God is cruel and capricious; in the case of 2), He is profoundly inscrutable.

    Please explain how your logic can escape either of these conclusions.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  127. Curt (re123)-

    I read the first portion (which I originally quoted) in consideration of the remaining portion (which you quoted). You, however, it seems, are reading the second passage in such a way as to render the first meaningless. I agree there is some sort of mystery, some paradox at work here. And in a sense, I can affirm my salvation with confidence (according to my confidence in Christ). Because of this I can readily accept the words of St. Paul that you quoted in comment 123.

    At the same time, I don’t read those words in such a way as to render meaningless Paul’s previous words, those that speak of the warning presented to us by our forebears who fell short. I affirm both passages, and accept them, paradoxical as they are.

    At the same time, I don’t feel justified in creating a paradigmatic distinction between sanctification and justification by which I (essentially) eschew various Scriptural passages or interpret them in such a way as to claim that they are speaking of anything but my justification (James 2:24 comes to mind, a passage which is completely stripped of its obvious meaning for the sake of these forced paradigmatic distinctions I am talking about).

    As I see it, a Catholic says confidently: I was saved. I am saved. I will continue to be saved.

    But as a creature running midway through his race, the catholic avoids claiming that his fate is already decided one way or the other. In humility he with confidence calls upon God’s mercy still, taking St. Paul’s words to heart, when he feels that he is standing securely it is time to take care (all the more) lest he fall.

  128. Hi Kim (121)

    Thanks for working so hard to help me understand the winding Catholic dogma. The confusion in it seems to be the entanglement of salvation and sanctification… that is, the fundamental difference between “getting into heaven” and our “rewards” once we are there.

    For the believer, salvation was accomplished on the cross and all confessed sins are forgiven. This is God’s gift, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Thus, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”(Eph 2:8-9).

    Subsequent to God’s saving grace, we enter the process of sanctification whereby the Holy Spirit, working in and through the believer, accomplishes God’s will. It is the process of becoming more holy. Thus, we are encouraged by the apostles to engage ever more in this process… to do good works, flee from sin, etc. Salvation is not dependent on sanctification… but sanctification will be the result of salvation… and, our good works in sanctification will be rewarded in heaven.

    If good works are still required for salvation, then the new covenant is no different than the old, for all are incapable of keeping the law, as the old covenant proved. It is precisely our inability to keep the law that made grace necessary, and why it is our only means of salvation.

    Blessings
    Curt

  129. Curt (and apologies again for the unclosed italics!) – maybe it would be clearer if I simply say that, concerning your excellent classification:

    Mark 4

    14 The sower sows the word.

    [Case 1]
    15 These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.

    [Case 2]
    16 In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.

    [Case 3]
    18 And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

    [Case 4]
    20 And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

    either you must suppose that those in Cases 1-3 never really had faith – the Reformed solution as I saw it – or else you must take the Catholic position: they had faith and lost it.

    But the first position simply begs the question. The question we are trying to prove is: That one who has faith will infallibly persevere to the end. Some do not persevere to the end. We infer that they never had faith – and, I add, even if they thought they had. But we can only infer that if, in fact, OSAS is true. And OSAS was the very thing we wanted to prove.

    jj

  130. jj (127)

    I think at the end of the day, there are some things in Scripture that live in tension from our understanding… and the concepts of predestination and free will are certainly among the forerunners. To understand the tension would be, in some sense, to understand the very mind of God. For example, in Genesis, we learn that God created. Many have tried to define how God created. I would suppose that if God wanted us to know the details of how He created the universe and everything in therein, it would likely take more than one chapter in a book. But that was not the purpose of Genesis. Its central them is simple… God created. Likewise, when we drill down on predestination and free will, there are things we can know and understand, and there are things that are left to the sovereignty of God. Scripture tells us that God chooses whom He will save. It also tells us that man’s will is somehow involved in the equation. Some say that God save us, but that man must exercise his will for good in order to maintain salvation. Others might say that God saves us, and man’s will takes a back seat to God’s will. As you know, for the Protestant, the discussion comes down to salvation through the sovereign omnipotence of God’s grace. My works are only a reflection of that grace in action. Giving me merit for those works is like giving a mirror credit for reflecting the sun. Can I explain how God operatively predestines some to glory and some not? No. Scripture tells us that He does… but it does not tell us how He decides and implements His decision.

    All that said, I think you are right when you say that for us, there is no operative difference… believers of every stripe are all called to good works.

    Blessings
    Curt

  131. Curt (#115):
    First, I understand your position that these passages were not “written to people who are sure that God is omnipotent and omniscient; it is intended to teach them those things.” That said, I would disagree with that position. The Jews were certainly educated to the faithfulness and omnipotence of God. One could hardly read the Psalms without having a clear understanding thereto. Likewise, the Jews hardly considered any god to be greater than their God. So I’m not sure where you get the notion that God’s omnipotence is a New Testament concept. It seems to me much more logical that the assurances are being given precisely because the Jews were accustomed to salvation by works as opposed to salvation by grace… that was the “new concept” being taught.

    Again, just to make it clear what I am saying, I’m not suggesting that God’s omnipotence is a New Testament concept. The articulation of God’s omnipotence was made in Greek philosophical terms in the early centuries of the Church and was further developed during medieval Scholasticism. In that respect, I doubt that first century Judaism would have even thought much about the concept, much less articulated it. That is coloring your opinion that no one could look at the Psalms and not see it. The Scriptural evidence, as I noted above, is to the contrary, so your opinion is simply contrary to the Biblical evidence (as is, incidentally, your assertion that first century Jews were “accustomed to salvation by works”). Had the Jewish people believed as you said, there are Scriptures that would not exist. But they do; therefore, your argument is unsound.

    I am not saying that God cannot create free-willed beings, nor am I saying that He did not create free-willed beings. It is precisely because He did create us with a free will that we find ourselves in the sinful predicament we are in. What I am saying is this: God can trump our free will whenever He chooses to accomplish His will whenever He chooses. Romans 9 is replete with examples of this. To say otherwise is to take the deist approach that God created everything and now stands on the sidelines to watch but not interfere with history. God absolutely acts through us…

    Now that’s just being silly. The fact that God would ever need to “trump” our free will is ridiculous; it puts human will on the same plane as God. To put it another way, even given 2000 years of Western philosophical background, you’ve still managed to anthropomorphize God. Without God’s concurrence, free wills wouldn’t even exist, so there’s no reason to assume that acting *through* free wills means He has to destroy them in the process. Moreover, you’re suggesting God allows free will to exist to sin, but then trumps (i.e.,destroys) that same will in order to save people. There’s simply no reason to believe any of this; it certainly doesn’t come from the Bible.

    Romans 9 simply explains that there is no injustice for God granting salvation to particular Gentiles and refusing it to particular Jews, just as there is no injustice in God granting or denying certain blessings after He has given others. Like Romans 4 and 11, Romans 9 gives examples of people with one type of blessing who are then denied another. Thus, Abraham received God’s blessing apart from the Law, so likewise, it does not deprive Jews of anything to give it to Gentiles. Esau was blessed by being the elder, but God nonetheless gave Esau’s blessing to the younger. Pharaoh was made a great ruler, but God did not save him from destruction; on the contrary, he allowed Pharaoh’s downfall. None of these have anything to do with God “trumping” free will or using people as instruments. They simply say that people who have received some kind of blessing are not thereby entitled to demand from God other blessings out of God’s grace. Again, you’re talking about something that the passage does not address, simply because of reading your philosophical beliefs into the Bible.

    It is because we are free-willed sinners who cannot save ourselves that grace was the only hope for salvation. Since there are “none righteous”… since “no one seeks God” then God in His infinite mercy, to accomplish His will for humanity, trumped our will with grace. Having done that, He indwells us with the Holy Spirit to align our “free will” with His perfect will.

    As with your quote from Phil. 2 and Romans 9, you are still reading your will-destroying philosophy into the Bible. Nothing about “working in” says “working through” or “overriding.” And as I said before, aligning our free will with His perfect will in the manner you describe destroys the distinct operation of the human will. I do not say that the human will does not submit to the divine will, but it submits to follow the divine will; it is not aligned by the divine will. Divine monergism is an alien philosophical belief, not a Biblical teaching.

    I agree. He is also the only human to live out His life in perfect harmony with the will of the Father. Any power we have to work “synergisticly” with God comes from God, and thus is not the result of self-righteousness, but rather the result of God’s righteousness working in us. The merit, therefore, goes to God… not me.

    And what you mean by “perfect harmony with the will of the Father” means that His will was determined by the divine will, which is exactly wrong and contrary to Scripture. For if His human will was identical to the divine will, then He could not grow in wisdom and strength (Luke 2:40), He could not wish to hide when He could not be hid (Mark 7:24), and He could not want the cup to pass from Him (Luke 22:42). But the Scripture says He did those things; therefore, you are wrong. There is no conflict between having free will and not sinning; it is not necessary for the divine will to “align” human wills to itself or “trump” them. But it does require that the human will have the *grace* to be able to do so. That’s the part you’re missing.

    Also, btw, I find it interesting that you feel I am influenced by “2000 years of western culture”. Since Protestants try to limit their theology to “Scripture alone”, while Catholic theology takes into account 2000 years of “tradition”, isn’t that a bit of the “pot calling the kettle black”? Now I certainly admit that 2000 years of culture must be considered to have some influence on all of us… I just thought your statement was a bit … interesting.

    Actually, the Protestants are the ones reading alien philosophy like divine monergism into the Scripture, and then claiming to do otherwise. Catholics simply teach what has always been taught, and we articulate that belief in different ways against the various alien philosophical beliefs that deviate from it. So we articulated the Incarnation against the Gnostics and homoousion against the Arians and consubstantiality against the Nestorians and duotheletism against the Monothelites and veneration against the Iconoclasts, etc., etc. We point out the 2000 years of intervening philosophy simply to point out how many times human philosophy like yours has appeared out of nowhere and how many times we have defeated it. From our perspective, divine monergism is just one more doctrine of man to be defeated by Scripture. And those heretics all say that they are the ones who are truly following Scripture while the orthodox are following man-made tradition. It’s just hard to worry (or to take it very seriously) when flashes in the pan like this come along, especially now that the Scripture has endured against them for so long.

    Thanks for your time, and I hope you’ll take what I say to heart. Divine monergism is not in any way respectful to God; it is an alien philosophical belief that denies His very omnipotence.

  132. Curt (128),

    Curt (128),

    You have stated,

    The confusion in it seems to be the entanglement of salvation and sanctification… that is, the fundamental difference between “getting into heaven” and our “rewards” once we are there.

    and

    This is God’s gift, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Thus, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”(Eph 2:8-9)

    You left off verse 10:

    10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    I think we both would agree that grace empowered works are included in our salvation. These works are not of ourselves. These are works of grace and of the Spirit. Do we need to walk in the Spirit? Is this necessary for eternal life? Do we have to have a faith that is working? Yes.

    Paul discusses this in the book of Galatians where he specifically is talking about the works of the law that do not justify (Gal 5:3-5:

    3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

    But what does he conclude? The next verse (6) does not say , “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything but only faith alone.” This would have been the place to say it. But instead he says, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything , but only faith working through love.”

    Is it necessary for faith to be working and for it to be working through love? Yes. Then look how he concludes his letter on this subject:

    Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

    Notice again he is talking about eternal life and what is necessary. Is it faith alone? Here in all places where we would expect to hear this (if it were true), where he is talking about the incorrectness of being justified by law he makes this conclusion.

    Salvation is all about this eternal life. Paul states clearly in Galatians that it is not faith alone. It is faith , but a faith that works. …and includes sowing to the Spirit.

    Catholics say it is not faith alone. But the works we are talking about, the merits, we talk about are the kind to which Paul is speaking in Galatians. These are the same that James speaks about in his letter. These are the same that I John describes in detail. They are not works of the flesh. As Paul clearly states in Romans 8 after speaking much on these things:

    13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

    Again it is not faith alone. But faith that is putting to death the deeds of the body. It is a faith that is not living according to the flesh. There has to be this being “led by the Spirit of God” . Salvation–eternal life—requires this process.

    The letters written to the churches in the book of Revelation also make it clear. He calls them to repentance when they leave their first love(2:4), when he finds their works not complete in the sight of God (3:2)…etc. It is to the victor that he gives the right to eternal life, who shall not be harmed by the second death, etc. He states it over and over.

    As Jesus said in Matt. 7:1,

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    Salvation is more than a profession of faith. It is not faith that is alone. Catholics see all of this coming from grace. So this “entanglement” of salvation and sanctification as you called it……well, the Bible seems clear on the subject of eternal life and this is the salvation I want. Salvation to eternal life. Salvation is more than some eternal declaration according to the Bible.

  133. Curt (re130)-

    You were writing to jj when you said:

    I think at the end of the day, there are some things in Scripture that live in tension from our understanding…

    When it comes to one’s assurance of salvation, that tension is the very thing it seems to me you are refusing to accept. You acknowledge that when it comes to predestination and free will, a certain tension exists. I suggest to you that that very tension you’re acknowledging provides part of the basis for a catholic consideration of the possibility of the loss of one’s salvation. Look at that tension expressed in Galatians 5, for example.

  134. Hi Kim (132)

    You have quite an interesting view of Galatians. Paul is writing to coverts who were being led astray by Judaizers who, in turn, are insisting that salvation comes through the keeping of the law. In chapter 5, Paul speaks of the freedom we have in Christ. The word “freedom” is translated from the Greek word “adiaphoron” (ἀδιάφορα) which means “indifferent things”… or theologically, things that are not essential to the faith. Paul starts with,

    1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

    Free from what? Free from slavery to sin under the law. He continues…

    2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

    In other words, works under the law are meaningless to those under grace. If you want justification under the law, you have severed yourself from Christ, and you are obliged to keep the whole law. In Christ we have freedom (adiaphoron)… neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is essential to the faith. What matters is faith working through love (yes I agree with this). And where does that love come from? Man’s free will? No. Verse 4 spells it out… we through the Spirit by faith are waiting for the hope of righteousness. Grace alone yields faith alone resulting in works of love … fruit of the Spirit. In verses 7-12, Paul chastises those who have misled them back into a doctrine of salvation by works. He goes on…

    13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

    Here, Paul is admonishing them for arguing about the law. Again, in Christ, bondage to the law is not essential to faith… but the “spirit” of the law remains essential, reiterating the words of Jesus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    And now the clincher…

    16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

    So it is the Spirit that moves us and empowers us to overcome the flesh… not my free will becoming good somehow.

    17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

    In Christ, we are filled with the Spirit and freed from the law. In other words, you are forgiven because Christ has paid for your sins, and the works of the law are no longer essential to justification.

    19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    If you practice such things, the Spirit is not leading you, and thus you will not be saved. These are the fruits of man’s free will.

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

    If the Spirit is leading you, you will experience fruit. Not the fruit of my free will… rather the fruit of the Spirit. Paul concludes…

    25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

    In other words, don’t pride yourself in your works, rather, live and walk by the Spirit. This is in perfect harmony with Ephesians 2:8-10…

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    We were created for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. He has predestined us to good works and sent the Holy Spirit to make it happen. Our good works are not the result of our free will becoming “good”. Our good works are the fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us.

    Blessings
    Curt

  135. Sorry Kim and Herbert… my last comment (134) should have been addressed to Herbert, not Kim

    Apologies,

    Curt

  136. Kim

    I think we both would agree that grace empowered works are included in our salvation. These works are not of ourselves. These are works of grace and of the Spirit. Do we need to walk in the Spirit? Is this necessary for eternal life? Do we have to have a faith that is working? Yes.

    I agree with this.

    Paul discusses this in the book of Galatians where he specifically is talking about the works of the law that do not justify (Gal 5:3-5:

    3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

    But what does he conclude? The next verse (6) does not say , “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything but only faith alone.” This would have been the place to say it. But instead he says, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything , but only faith working through love.”

    Yes, and who is love? Me? No… I’m a sinner. God is love. The author of our good works is not me, it is God. Think of it this way… God created mankind in His image. But I am not God. I was created to be a mirror that reflects the image of God. Adam decided to paint the mirror black, but God in His mercy removed the blackness through Christ. Now the mirror reflects the image of God once again… evidencing the goodness of God through works of love, not of man, but of God. This is why Paul say we cannot boast in our good works… because we are not the author of those good works. We are simply reflecting the goodness of God. So, if we are walking by the Spirit, we will reflect God’s love… but there is no “merit” due to my account… the glory is all to God.

    Regarding Galatians, please see my last post.

    Matt. 7:1,
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    Absolutely… the will of the Father… not my free will. Eph 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

    We are saved by God… not our good works. We are not capable of good works, else we would be saved under the law. God is the author of all that is good. Our good works are simply a reflection of God. The mirror cannot add to the image it reflects.

    Blessings
    Curt

  137. Jonathan (131)

    You said…

    Again, just to make it clear what I am saying, I’m not suggesting that God’s omnipotence is a New Testament concept. The articulation of God’s omnipotence was made in Greek philosophical terms in the early centuries of the Church and was further developed during medieval Scholasticism. In that respect, I doubt that first century Judaism would have even thought much about the concept, much less articulated it. That is coloring your opinion that no one could look at the Psalms and not see it. The Scriptural evidence, as I noted above, is to the contrary, so your opinion is simply contrary to the Biblical evidence (as is, incidentally, your assertion that first century Jews were “accustomed to salvation by works”). Had the Jewish people believed as you said, there are Scriptures that would not exist. But they do; therefore, your argument is unsound.

    Really? Unsound? Really? The Jews did not think of God’s omnipotence? Open up the front half of your Bible…

    Deuteronomy 4
    36 Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37 Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, 38 driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today.

    Deuteronomy 8:18
    But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

    2 Kings 17:36
    But the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice.

    1 Chronicles 29
    11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
    12 Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.

    Nehemiah 1:10
    They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.

    Psalm 29:4
    The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic.

    Psalm 63:2
    Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.

    Psalm 68:35
    O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!

    Psalm 71:18
    And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.

    Psalm 77:15
    You have by Your power redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

    Psalm 78:26
    He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens And by His power He directed the south wind.

    Psalm 97:1
    The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; Let the many islands be glad.

    Psalm 106:8
    Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known.

    Psalm 111:6
    He has made known to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations.

    Psalm 145:6
    Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness.

    Psalm 145:11
    They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power;

    Isaiah 8:11
    For thus the Lord spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people

    Isaiah 40:26
    Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.

    Isaiah 45:8
    “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the Lord, have created it.

    Isaiah 50:2
    “Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink for lack of water And die of thirst.

    Jeremiah 10:12
    It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens

    Jeremiah 16:21
    “Therefore behold, I am going to make them know— This time I will make them know My power and My might; And they shall know that My name is the Lord.”

    Jeremiah 27:5
    “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.

    Jeremiah 32:17
    ‘Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,

    Jeremiah 51:15
    It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens.

    Daniel 2:20
    Daniel said,“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.

    Daniel 2:23
    “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power;

    Daniel 2:37
    You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory;

    Will that get you started? Next time, before you look down your nose at my thoughts, open your Bible and make Biblical points and counterpoints… don’t just demean my theological points without any Scriptural support. Its condescending and not helpful.

    Blessings
    Curt

  138. Hi Curt (136),

    I am still not sure if you grasp the RC doctrine of merit. There is a post with an audio lecture and explanation here http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/the-doctrine-of-merit-feingold-calvin-and-the-church-fathers/ which fully discusses this. You may have already listened to it and discussed it there, I didn’t look to see.

    That post goes into the subject of free will and merit which you are discussing . For example , this quote from St. Thomas:

    Man’s meritorious work may be considered in two ways: first, as it proceeds from free-will; secondly, as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost. If it is considered as regards the substance of the work, and inasmuch as it springs from the free-will, there can be no condignity because of the very great inequality. But there is congruity, on account of an equality of proportion: for it would seem congruous that, if a man does what he can, God should reward him according to the excellence of his power. If, however, we speak of a meritorious work, inasmuch as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting, it is meritorious of life everlasting condignly. For thus the value of its merit depends upon the power of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting according to John 4:14: “Shall become in him a fount of water springing up into life everlasting.” And the worth of the work depends on the dignity of grace, whereby a man, being made a partaker of the Divine Nature, is adopted as a son of God, to whom the inheritance is due by right of adoption, according to Romans 8:17: “If sons, heirs also.” (Summa Theologica I-II q.114 a.3)

    and thus Feingold discusses as the post mentions:

    Sanctifying grace gives a supernatural dignity to those who have it, giving supernatural worth to the acts that flow from grace and charity. (53′)
    God crowns His own gifts (54′)

    [The numbers refer to the number of minutes into the lecture].

    One more quote I will include here from that post:

    Council of Trent (54′)

    Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, Do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. Hence, to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.

    For this is the crown of justice which after his fight and course the Apostle declared was laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming. For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches, continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace, since Christ our Savior says: If anyone shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting.

    Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves, nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ. Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward; and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord, whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits.

    And since in many things we all offend, each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything; because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God, who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works. (Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 16)

    So I think I probably should stop discussing this here with you as that post is much more adequate to explain what I am trying to say to you. I think it is fleshed out in better detail and if you still disagree you may wish to continue the discussion with Bryan there.

    Thanks for the discussion Curt–it helps to think and reflect on Scripture. I was Reformed for 40 years of my adult life so I understand what you are expressing, but I feel the Scripture is more adequately reflected in the RC view. It takes all of Scripture into account –but it takes time to study the details and what it means and why. I think many of the posts here at Called to Communion are an aid to this. Sometimes when one comes from the Reformed perspective one does not seek to understand what the RC is really saying. However, perhaps you are, I am not sure.

    I get the feeling you think one robs God of glory if one is working by grace. Merit is by grace and through his grace we “do”. Walking in His Spirit, requires something of us. We are not robots–we walk–yes by his power and grace, his Spirit…but we have to walk. ..as you have quoted, ” that we would walk in them. “–we have to walk. It brings God glory because it is of him , through Him, and unto Him, and because he has infused us with his love and because He has made us new creatures. New creatures…a new creation—glory to Him. We are partakers of the Divine nature 2 Peter 1.

    I will close with one last quote from the post referred to by Bryan:

    As I will show below, for St. Augustine and the Church Fathers, the believer’s capacity to merit is itself a gracious gift from God through infused grace elevating the believer to the supernatural order, and God moves the believer by actual grace. But nevertheless the good work done in grace is still also truly the work of the believer, who freely wills the good work and who thereby merits the supernatural reward to which that work is ordered. But it is not as though God does some percentage of the work, and the believer does the remaining percentage; rather, God works through the believer while the believer retains his full natural functional and causal integrity, though now elevated by grace to participate in the divine movement ordered toward the beatific vision. In this way it is simultaneously true that in crowning the believer’s good works God crowns His own gifts, and that in crowning the believer’s good works God justly crowns the believer’s good works with a reward his free choices truly merited.

    I suppose after reading and listening and discussion, possibly with Bryan, you may still disagree. As Dr. Ludwig Ott says in his book, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 247,

    The freedom of the will under the influence of grace is the necessary presupposition for the meritoriousness of good works.

    So I think this is why you are attacking this concept of free will. The question is do you understand what we mean by this. As I have said, I will end here and if you are interested you can discuss it fully at the other post with Bryan,

    Well, thanks for the discussion, Kim D

  139. Curt,

    Ps to my last comment 138,

    Bryan makes a statement here at comment 182 http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/12/church-fathers-on-transubstantiation/
    which aids in this whole understanding .

    But the Protestant paradigm does not include the aspect of “participation.” And this is why from the Protestant point of view, Catholic doctrines such as the communion of saints (according to which the saints participate in Christ’s work through their merits and prayers), the Catholic doctrine that our sufferings are participations in Christ’s suffering, the Catholic doctrine that sanctifying grace is a participation in the divine nature, the Catholic doctrine that the Church as Christ’s Body is not mere metaphor but a reality, the Catholic doctrine that Mary by her participation in Christ’s work of redemption is a co-redemptrix and that all the saints are co-redeemers by way of participation in Christ’s work, the Catholic doctrine that the authority of the Apostles and their successors is a participation in Christ’s divine authority, the Catholic doctrine that heaven is not merely being in God’s presence but participating in God’s own perfect eternal beatitude, (and I could go on and on), all these doctrines depend on the notion of participation. So for the Protestant paradigm, which does not recognizing participation, all these Catholic doctrines “denigrate” Christ and His work, by implying that what He did was insufficient or inadequate (e.g. 70%), and that we must make up the difference, by adding to it. So without the notion of participation, the Protestant construal of all the Catholic doctrines that involve participation is that they add to Christ or add to what Christ did or repeat what Christ did, and thus denigrate Him or His work, whereas in the Catholic paradigm all of these are participations in Christ and His work, and so do not denigrate it in the least, but glorify it by carrying it forward through time and all over the world, or bringing all times and places to it.

    Thanks again, Kim D

  140. Thanks Kim (138+139)

    When comments are made like the last quote you used:

    But the Protestant paradigm does not include the aspect of “participation.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth if we are speaking of participation in the advancing of God’s will. This is a common accusation against the reformed churches, particularly Calvinist leaning churches. Those of the reformed faith believe that God saves us for a purpose, and that purpose is to be plugged into God’s work on earth. But if we are going to extend the concept of participation to being “self-redemptive” and/or “co-redeemers with Christ”, that is a different story… and that is the Catholic position. I don’t think I am misunderstanding the various position statements you have quoted and pointed me to. I just disagree with the extent to which “participation” is taken in the Catholic concept of salvation. Being united with Christ does not imply that we have the same power as Christ. Only He can forgive sin. Only He can save us unto eternal life. Only He sacrificed Himself on the cross. There is no “co” redemption. We are redeemed by Christ. There is no merit applicable to my salvation that comes from me. There is only merit for my good works as a reward in heaven. These merits do not contribution to salvation… they are the result of God’s sanctifying grace and my response to it. The concept of receiving merit for accepting God’s grace seems totally nonsensical to me. And the concept that, in that, we are somehow “co-redeemers” seems blasphemous to me. God and I are not redeeming me. God is redeeming me… I am the benefactor, not the co-redeemer.

    In all of the descriptive documentation you have graciously put forth, we still end up at the same place… either we are saved in full by God’s grace, or not. The Catholic position is that we are saved by grace but… If we are saved by God’s grace, there is no merit to me that applies to my salvation. The only merit that exists is God’s favor when it comes to heavenly rewards. Here is what St. Augustine wrote…

    It is, however, to be feared lest all these and similar testimonies of Holy Scripture (and undoubtedly there are a great many of them), in the maintenance of free will, be understood in such a way as to leave no room for God’s assistance and grace in leading a godly life and a good conversation, to which the eternal reward is due; and lest poor wretched man, when he leads a good life and performs good works (or rather thinks that he leads a good life and performs good works), should dare to glory in himself and not in the Lord, and to put his hope of righteous living in himself alone; so as to be followed by the prophet Jeremiah’s malediction when he says, “Cursed is the man who has hope in man, and makes strong the flesh of his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5 Understand, my brethren, I pray you, this passage of the prophet. Because the prophet did not say, “Cursed is the man who has hope in his own self,” it might seem to some that the passage, “Cursed is the man who has hope in man,” was spoken to prevent man having hope in any other man but himself. In order, therefore, to show that his admonition to man was not to have hope in himself, after saying, “Cursed is the man who has hope in man,” he immediately added, “And makes strong the flesh of his arm.” He used the word “ arm” to designate power in operation. By the term “ flesh,” however, must be understood human frailty. And therefore he makes strong the flesh of his arm who supposes that a power which is frail and weak (that is, human) is sufficient for him to perform good works, and therefore puts not his hope in God for help. This is the reason why he subjoined the further clause, “And whose heart departs from the Lord.” Of this character is the Pelagian heresy, which is not an ancient one, but has only lately come into existence. Against this system of error there was first a good deal of discussion; then, as the ultimate resource, it was referred to sundry episcopal councils, the proceedings of which, not, indeed, in every instance, but in some, I have dispatched to you for your perusal. In order, then, to our performance of good works, let us not have hope in man, making strong the flesh of our arm; nor let our heart ever depart from the Lord, but let it say to him, “Be Thou my helper; forsake me not, nor despise me, O God of my salvation.”

    St. Augustine. On Grace and Free Will

    That does not sound like co-redeemer to me. Our good works are the result of God working in me… the God of our salvation. We are weak, but He is strong! Yes Jesus loves me… and all of us!

    Blessings and thanks,
    Curt

  141. Curt (140),

    I agree with Augustine’s statement . This does not go against Catholic belief.

    I believe the key to all of this might be an understanding of what kind of faith saves. Is it a faith “alone” ? I think we have touched on this earlier.

    As stated in comment 248 here here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/09/does-the-bible-teach-sola-fide/

    The point of disagreement is whether the faith that saves is faith-informed-by-agape, or faith-not-informed-by-agape. According to Catholic doctrine, Abraham was saved by “living faith,” i.e. faith-informed-by-agape. The agape visible in his actions (e.g. his willingness to sacrifice his son) is not merely an outward sign of faith alone within him, but is the visible manifestation of living faith within him, that is, faith-informed-by-the-divine-gift-of-agape. It is this living faith within Abraham that God reckoned as righteousness, because that’s just what righteousness truly is, agape that in itself already fulfills the law, as explained in “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig.”

    and from comment 247:

    The pattern marked out in Deuteronomy 30:6 is also the pattern that St. Paul identifies in Romans 2:7 and 6:22 (which we have discussed before):
    Who will render to every man according to his works. To them indeed who, according to patience in good works, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life….
    But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting.

    The problem for your position is that these verses are not compatible with your claim that “our actions of agape love do not impact our salvation.”

    In other words–the claim that our actions of agape love ( works ) have no impact on salvation is a problem. We are talking of the actions of agape love. These are referred to in the passages in Romans and in many more passages. The faith that saves can not be alone. It can not be without this love in action. James makes it clear. ..living faith has to have this . Hebrews 11 makes it clear that it is a faith that acts. It makes clear in Hebrews 12 that while Jesus is the perfecter of faith,this does not mean that we are then not responsible to “do” for it states that we are to (14) “strive for peace with everyone , and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. ” Note that it does not say without which no one will receive a reward in heaven. No, again it is speaking of eternal life. There is this combination–of Christ doing and also Christ enabling action on our part. Not actions like that of a stone that is moved, for we are people–our actions are not that of robots being programmed.
    I am wondering what you do with Matt 25:31-46. He does not say that what we do to feed the hungry , visit those in prison, etc have an effect on our reward “in” heaven. No, this is not what he says. He says the results of not doing this is not a matter of reward ” in heaven” but Instead– it is a matter of eternal life or eternal death–45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” This would correspond to the passages mentioned in Romans above.

    It would also correspond to what Jesus says in John 14:21–“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him. There has to be this infused love– John 15 is all about this–this chapter speaks about abiding in Him and producing fruit—and it does not describe fruit as an option. Those who do not bear are not going to be saved. —verse 6–“throw them into a fire and they will be burned” …. Again the reward is either eternal life or death—not the type of reward to which you were referring which you said are rewards “in heaven”. The fruit , the works, have a bearing on this judgment that is being made for eternal life or death.

    When James says, in chapter 2 verse 14, What good is it, my brothers , if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ” He is not talking about rewards “in heaven”. He is talking about salvation.

    The same appears in the letters to the churches as I have stated in Revelation. These are not talking about degrees of reward in heaven, but to whether they get eternal life. Take the first letter in Revelations 2:

    4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
    7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

    This again is referring to life eternal and not to rewards “in heaven”.

    To the one in Thyatira he writes in 2:23 “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

    Again he is speaking to the fact that unless they repent the consequences will be life or death– not simply a reward “in heaven”.

    It feels to me as if we are nit picking at the differences. The reformed usually believe that works will necessarily flow out of true faith. They are linked. But scripture makes it clear that there is not salvation to those who do not have fruit at the judgment.

    In Galatians 6 : 9 “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up”. He is not talking about reward “in heaven”. Because the sentence before this says ” ..the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Notice….it is about eternal life and not rewards “in heaven”. It is speaking about salvation and the fact that one needs to sow to the Spirit, and not grow tired of doing good. A person has to sow.

    Gal 5:21 also speaks about those who “do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Again it is not talking about rewards “in heaven” , but eternal life itself and death. The works of the flesh that he lists bring death– one does not inherit the kingdom if he is doing these things and living that life.

    Walking in the spirit, having this living faith is necessary, not just for rewards “in heaven” but for heaven itself. We are not talking about works done apart from grace or works done in our own strength, but we are talking about works from grace—living faith (or faith working).

    I know many of the reformed say that if one is saved then the works will necessarily follow. But the question is can a person be saved without fruit? James says no. These passages say no. I John, James, Galatians, Romans, Revelation, Matthew, etc all say no. The reformed say they necessarily follow or will be present. So are we just talking from different perspectives? Scripture says this kind of faith is necessary for salvation. A faith informed by love. Thus a faith that works.

    Westminster Confession:

    II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is
    the alone instrument of justification:237 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.238

    and the WCF also says:

    III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly
    from the Spirit of Christ.316 And that they may be enabled thereunto,
    beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual
    influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His
    good pleasure:317 yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they
    were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the
    Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in
    them.318

    In many respects there are similarities. But Scripture makes it clear fruit is needed at the time of judgment. It is not referring to rewards “in heaven” in the passages I mentioned above. It is referring to fruit being needed in order to enter heaven. 2 Cor 5: 10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each one may receive what is due for what he had done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” Therefore it is a faith informed by love , a fruitful faith, a living faith and not a dead faith without works. WCF says they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. We “do”–we don’t sit like a rock. We are not rocks. We are given grace and act with grace , from grace. I feel the Catholics do justice to the verses that speak to the rewards that are in regard to eternal life. They do not say these come from ourselves, but because we participate in the divine nature 2 Peter 1. We speak of a living faith that saves. One informed by love.

    Again , Curt, I sometimes feel our perspectives are closer than we think and sometimes I feel it is almost semantics. Co-redeemer–the terminology may be a hindrance. Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Paul says ..”God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God……2 Cor 5:20 and then 6:1 “Working together with him then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” There are aspects of us working together with him as Paul mentions here. The historic redemption by Christ is an objective one, and he uses people[preachers, and others] in time to bring people the subjective redemption. God has chosen to use the Word preached by people……lived by people to bring others —as Paul is speaking here.

    Thanks, Kim D

  142. Ps. I am a Catholic newbee–Catholics with better knowledge can correct if I have said anything incorrect. I should leave this discussion to those with fuller knowledge.

    Thanks all,

    Kim D.

  143. Kim,

    I’m still pretty much a newbie myself, but for what its worth I have really appreciated your exchanges with Curt, especially in that both of you have been cordial and respectful towards one another. As you probably know, such is not always the case when people discuss their theological differences.

    That said, I think that this comment thread has run its course for now, so I probably won’t approve any more comments, at least for a while.

    Andrew

  144. Hi Curt,

    I’m a Catholic, but I truly admire how patiently you have fielded all these challenges. I’ve read through the entire thread and hopefully have not missed any of your responses.

    I’d like to ask,

    First, am I right that you don’t believe that anyone who has once professed Christ in faith, can turn away from Him?

    Second, am I also right in understanding that you believe that Christ’s sheep know who they are and that they are assured of salvation?

    I, like you, only read the Scriptures in English. I don’t go to the underlying Greek and all that. And here is what Scripture says to me:

    Matthew 7:21-23
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’

    Now, it seems to me, anyone calling Jesus, Lord, is doing it by the Holy Spirit. Am I right? 1 Corinthians 12:3

    It seems to me, they had faith and were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore, they called Jesus, “Lord”. Does my logic follow, so far?

    will enter the kingdom of heaven,

    Let me back up a bit. The entire idea which Jesus just pronounced is this:
    Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven,

    That says nothing about rewards. Nothing about eternal life. It just says that they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But it is in the Kingdom of Heaven that the elect dwell and enjoy their rewards, one of which is eternal life, isn’t it? Or does one enjoy these rewards including eternal life, outside of heaven in eternity?

    It sounds rhetorical, but its a serious question. I answer, “No. One can not enjoy his crowns and rewards (i.e. sit on thrones, Luke 22:30) nor eternal life outside of heaven. Or at least, they are not permanent until they reside in Heaven, with God.”

    but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

    This expression sounds very clear. Those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven. Of course, the will of the Father is to believe in Christ. But then, these people called Jesus, Lord, so purportedly, they believed in Christ. Is there more to the Father’s will than merely proclaiming faith in Christ?

    Here’s what the Father said directly to the People of God,
    Luke 9:35
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”

    This would seem to me to be an expression of His Will. Listen to Him. In other words, it is the Father saying, “Obey my Son.” And that is the Father’s will. Do we agree?

    In terms of Scripture interpreting Scripture, it also agrees with this verse:
    Hebrews 5:9
    New American Standard Bible
    And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

    So, there’s more to this, isn’t there? These folks should have been secure. But they seem to have received the surprise of their lives. But let’s continue.

    22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,

    Jesus says that “Many” will call Him Lord.

    did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [a]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    But He will say to Him, “I never knew you.”

    So, even though, they thought they knew Him, He did not acknowledge them.

    So, just from a simple study of those verse, I come to the conclusion that a simple profession of faith in Christ is not enough to assure one’s eternal salvation. And, that many who think they are followers of Christ, are not acknowledged by Him.

    What do you think?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  145. I actually wanted to post in response to the excellent opening article by Andrew Preslar. I believe that is probably the second best explanation of why we should attend the Mass I have ever read. The best is this:

    Hebrews 10:25-36
    King James Version (KJV)
    25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,

    As I read it, St. Paul seems to be saying that we should not neglect to assemble together. The assumption here is the assembling together for the worship of God.

    as the manner of some is;

    Apparently, some in that day, were already neglecting the Mass (i.e. the assembly. I recognize this assembly as the Mass because of the description which follows.)

    but exhorting one another:

    and so, we should encourage our brethren who might be slipping and back sliding to come to the assembly.

    and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

    I think this is the exhortation which he suggests we mention. It will be beneficial for them to attend as this will be considered on the Day which approaches. Do we all agree that this is the Day of Judgment?

    26 For if we sin willfully

    In the context in which we are reading this, St. Paul seems to call the neglect of joining the assembly a willful sin. Which is, of course, the precise definition of a “mortal” sin.

    CCC#1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

    after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

    This is the first consequence listed for the willful absence from the Mass. It has to do with the nature of the Mass. In the Mass, we participate in the once for all sacrifice for the sins of mankind. So, if we neglect to appear there, there remains no more sacrifice for our sins. There is no other sacrifice for sin except that presented at the Mass.

    27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

    This is the other consequence which we look to if we miss the Mass. We become God’s adversaries and can expect nothing less than a fearful judgment and God’s indignation.

    28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

    Now, he contrasts the Old Law and its assembly to the New Dispensation and its Assembly. In the Old Law, which had a mere animal sacrifice at its center, if that assembly were missed, the offender would be stoned to death.

    29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

    Before I break this down, does anyone not recognize the Eucharist here? This is why I know this assembly is a reference to the Mass. Because it is in the Mass that we receive the Body of Christ and the Blood of the Covenant in the Holy Eucharist.

    Anyway, St. Paul says:

    29 Of how much sorer punishment,

    Death is not a sufficiently severe punishment for one who misses the Mass? What could be more severe? The loss of eternal life. That’s what.

    But why?

    suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

    Because those who miss the Mass intentionally, “…. crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Heb 6:6).

    30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    Those are pretty strong words for simply missing an assembly. It sounds as though missing the Mass intentionally is a personal affront to God.

    Anyway, loved your article.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  146. Hello De Maria

    Thanks for your questions. I should begin by saying that I very much enjoy and grow from the dialog at this site. My faith has become much deeper as I have spent time looking closer and closer at Scripture and considering its meaning with those who contribute here. I hope the same is true for you and others!

    As to your first question,

    … am I right that you don’t believe that anyone who has once professed Christ in faith, can turn away from Him?

    You are close … I would probably rephrase your statement this way: “Those whom God has chosen from the beginning of time cannot be taken from Him.” As you ably point out, this does not mean that everyone who professes Christ is one of “those”.

    So I take up your second point based on the Scripture you quoted…

    did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    You imply that “they thought they knew Him”. I would not draw that particular inference. I would infer that believed in a religion that falsely taught salvation through legalism. They thought their good works were the key to their salvation. Clearly they were not. Jesus tells them and us what is important… to know Him… to be in relationship with Him. Doing works in His name are not a substitute for a relationship with Him. Salvation comes through His work on the cross, and our works in His name are a love offering, not some sort of repayment (or substitute) for His grace.

    So you are correct… a profession of faith and doing works in His name are not sufficient for salvation. Salvation is given to those whom God has chosen. I agree with your point…

    “No. One can not enjoy his crowns and rewards (i.e. sit on thrones, Luke 22:30) nor eternal life outside of heaven. Or at least, they are not permanent until they reside in Heaven, with God.”

    In John 10, Jesus says

    27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    Again, we get the concepts… the sheep were given to Jesus by the Father… no one can snatch them… they have eternal life… and first and foremost “I know them”. God is greater than all. If He says no one will snatch them, then no one will snatch them.

    You said…

    Those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven. Of course, the will of the Father is to believe in Christ.

    So… to your conclusion, I agree that a simple profession is insufficient to assure one’s salvation. I would further add that following a legalistic formula and doing good works does not assure one’s salvation either. So we agree that “many who think they are followers of Christ, are not acknowledged by Him”.

    Now what? It seems as though we are all suffering from a deplorable case of not knowing much… or are we? Wait! 1John 5 say this…

    11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

    13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

    Bingo! Can we know we have eternal life? Apparently we can. How? Verse 12. Its the relationship! That relationship is based on His promise. His promise is not based on our good works… our good works are the result of His promise. Thus our confidence is in His grace, not our works.

    Blessings,

    Curt

  147. De Maria

    In my comments above, I somehow lost a paragraph. After the “You said” blockquote, I intended to include this:

    Yes and much more. Doing the “will of the Father” is not to be confused with doing good works of our own “free will”. Thus Pauls can say (Galations 2)…

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

    It is, again, about relationship… Christ living in me. That is how we do the will of the Father… not through my free will choosing to do good, but through Christ living in me.

    Now you can pick up with…

    So… to your conclusion, etc.

    Sorry about that!

    Curt

  148. @Curt (#146)

    Bingo! Can we know we have eternal life? Apparently we can. How? Verse 12. Its the relationship! That relationship is based on His promise. His promise is not based on our good works… our good works are the result of His promise. Thus our confidence is in His grace, not our works.

    Can we be self-deceived? There might be two ways of this:

    1) Can we honestly believe we are in that relationship, show good works, yet be wrong – in fact, God has not chosen us?

    2) Can we doubt that we are in that relationship, show many sins, yet be wrong – in fact, God has chosen us?

    jj

  149. Hey jj

    Here we go again :-) I’m not sure if I ever asked you, but… what do you think John meant in I John 5:13? Not withstanding your rhetorical questions, if John did not mean that we could “know” that we have eternal life, what other meaning is there? It seems to me that it is one of the clearest Scriptures in the Bible.

    In Hebrews 4

    14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    How do we approach the throne of grace with confidence if we are unsure? I postulate that we can be sure because we are dependent wholly on God’s promise which is ever sure. God’s grace is sufficient. Those who must dependent on man’s “free will” good works… well, I can see where that would lead to a confidence problem.

    Blessings
    Curt

    PS, I want you to know that I am still praying for things I promised to pray for.

  150. Curt Russell April 28th, 2013 2:57 pm :
    Hello De Maria

    Thanks for your questions.

    You’re welcome.

    I should begin by saying that I very much enjoy and grow from the dialog at this site. My faith has become much deeper as I have spent time looking closer and closer at Scripture and considering its meaning with those who contribute here. I hope the same is true for you and others!

    It is. In fact, I grew very much in my understanding of the relationship between Scripture and Catholic Doctrine because of my frequent conversations with Protestants. Their insistence upon everything being substantiated with Scripture forced me to dig deeper.

    As to your first question,

    … am I right that you don’t believe that anyone who has once professed Christ in faith, can turn away from Him?

    You are close … I would probably rephrase your statement this way: “Those whom God has chosen from the beginning of time cannot be taken from Him.” As you ably point out, this does not mean that everyone who professes Christ is one of “those”.

    Please explain. I read most, if not all of your responses and in one of those, I thought you said that no one could take us out of Christ’s hands. And you are not “no one”. You are someone. Therefore, even you can not take yourself out of Christ’s hands.

    So, if one does not, by faith (and I thought you also equated faith and grace) does not become one of Christ’s sheep, then what is the criteria you are referring to at this point?

    Here again, is my logic, rephrased.

    They call Jesus, Lord. Therefore, they are part of the elect, because, in so doing, they reveal that the Holy Spirit has inspired them to do so. Only the elect have the Holy Spirit? Do we agree on that?

    So, apparently, somewhere along the line in their lives, they were elected, received the Holy Spirit and then, somewhere along the line of their lives, they lost their election. Do you disagree with that logic anywhere? Please point out where we diverge. Or if any of that makes sense to you at all.

    So I take up your second point based on the Scripture you quoted…

    did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    You imply that “they thought they knew Him”. I would not draw that particular inference.

    Why, then, did they call Him, Lord?

    I would infer that believed in a religion that falsely taught salvation through legalism. They thought their good works were the key to their salvation.

    Here, you and I diverge. Christianity is just such a religion. Let me quote another passage very closely related to this one. It is Matt 25:31-46. I won’t quote all of it, since it is lengthy. I’ll quote only that which I believe is relevant.

    Jesus gathered the people of the world before Him and said to those on His right, “34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are 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 something to eat;….”

    He says, Come blessed of my Father and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, FOR…

    In that statement, for, means because, does it not? We could say, “because you gave me to eat, drink, etc.” Could we not?

    and if we go down to the folks on the left, we see the mirror image, “for you did not” give me to eat, drink etc. Here’s the exact language, “41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat;”

    So, doesn’t that say that they are accursed because they gave Jesus (in their fellow man) nothing?

    So, I have to conclude that works are very important to our salvation. It is clear to me that God does saves the righteous. Those who do His works. And condemns the wicked, those who do not do His works.

    Clearly they were not.

    Clearly. But that isn’t precisely the point we are discussing. The point is that they didn’t know that they were not. They thought they were. If you believe in Christ and you believe you are saved, you are saved, right or wrong?

    Let’s get a little bit closer to home. If a man claims he is saved, he is claiming he is one of Jesus’ sheep and that Jesus knows Him. These men obviously thought they fit the bill. Whether by the works they mentioned or by the faith they proclaimed when they called Him, Lord, they thought they were saved. That seems clear to me.

    Yet, they were not.

    Jesus tells them and us what is important… to know Him… to be in relationship with Him. Doing works in His name are not a substitute for a relationship with Him.

    No? Then what does that entail, in your opinion? To be in a relationship with Christ? Again, these questions are not rhetorical. I’m sincerely interested in your answer.

    Here’s my answer. To be in relationship with Christ means to obey Him and to keep the Commandments. Jesus said:
    John 14:21
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

    That seems to describe the type of relationship which Jesus wants with us. He wants us to obey Him and thus to show our love for Him. Doing works in His name is how He wishes us to express our love for Him. What do you get from that verse?

    Salvation comes through His work on the cross,

    Absolutely! But how? If salvation comes to mankind simply because He died on the cross, then why aren’t all men saved?

    Here’s what I read in Scripture:
    Hebrews 5:9
    And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

    In order to be saved, we must obey Christ.

    and our works in His name are a love offering,

    Absolutely! That conforms nicely to Catholic Teaching.

    not some sort of repayment

    Do you not feel gratitude? Do you not feel you should do something to make a return for the love which God demonstrated when He died upon the Cross for our sins? Again, this is what the Scripture says:

    Romans 8:9-12
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—

    Please excuse me while I swap Bibles on you. I prefer the KJV version of this verse:

    Romans 8:9-12
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

    We are under obligation to the Spirit. We are debtors to the Spirit. Therefore, yes, I do believe that we are supposed to repay Christ for His Sacrifice in our behalf.

    There is another verse though, which I also like and believe is relevant to what we are discussing:
    1 Peter 2:21
    New American Standard Bible
    [ Christ Is Our Example ] For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

    Christ, suffered and died on the Cross, leaving us an example to follow.

    (or substitute) for His grace.

    I don’t know what you mean by that. We consider it His grace at work in us:

    Philippians 2:12-13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    So you are correct… a profession of faith and doing works in His name are not sufficient for salvation. Salvation is given to those whom God has chosen. I agree with your point…

    Great. Except, I think we have identified a point where we depart from each other. It seems to me that Scripture is clear about this too.

    I believe that God has chosen the righteous. By “the righteous”, I mean, those who keep His Commandments. And I don’t believe that He chooses them and then they keep His Commandments. I believe that they must first come to Him in faith and then prove their faith by keeping His Commandments.

    Scripture says:
    Heb 10:
    32 But remember the former days, [i]when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive [j]what was promised.

    37 For yet in a very little while,
    He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
    38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
    And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

    39 But [k]we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the [l]preserving of the soul.

    Verse 35, as I read it, says we do the will of God, then receive the promised reward.
    Verse 38 says that those who live by faith and then shrink back, do not please God.

    “No. One can not enjoy his crowns and rewards (i.e. sit on thrones, Luke 22:30) nor eternal life outside of heaven. Or at least, they are not permanent until they reside in Heaven, with God.”

    In John 10, Jesus says

    27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    Again, we get the concepts… the sheep were given to Jesus by the Father… no one can snatch them… they have eternal life… and first and foremost “I know them”. God is greater than all. If He says no one will snatch them, then no one will snatch them.

    One element missing here. Do the sheep know who is the elect among them? We saw in Matt 7:21 that some whom I would describe as being amongst the sheep, thought they knew Christ. But He declared that He did not know them.

    Lets break the verse down a bit. Unpack it, so to speak:

    27 My sheep hear My voice,

    Those whom Christ considers His sheep, hear His voice. I would think that hearing His voice is a metaphorical way of saying, “obey me”. Do you agree?

    and I know them,

    We saw in Matt 7 that Christ denied knowing those individuals. Therefore, by definition, they were not from amongst His sheep. Yet they seemed to think that they were. No?

    and they follow Me;

    Again, “follow Me” seems a metaphor for “obey me”. As in “take up your cross and follow me.” Or it could be, do as I say, or imitate me.

    28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;

    Here, I use the method of Biblical study which you recommend. I don’t think that Scripture ever opposes Scripture. Therefore, this verse I read with the caveat which is declared by Christ in John 15:4:

    John 15:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [a]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

    Jesus seems to say it is up to us. If we abide in Him, He will abide in us. And He warns us that if we don’t abide in Him, we can bear no fruit. Which, earlier He warned that those who bear no fruit are cut away by the Father and thrown in the fire.

    Which brings me back to this. No one can snatch us away, but the Father. Can we agree upon that?
    15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He [a]prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

    and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    No one can take them out of the Father’s hand. But what is not mentioned there is that the Father culls. He culls out those who are not righteous and do no good thing.

    That is the overwhelming message I get from Scripture. God saves the righteous and condemns the wicked who do not do any righteousness.

    So… to your conclusion, I agree that a simple profession is insufficient to assure one’s salvation.

    Awesome!

    I would further add that following a legalistic formula and doing good works does not assure one’s salvation either.

    Double awesome!

    Here’s something, sort of a pet peeve of mine. Non-Catholics get us in a sort of double jeopardy.

    They will ask us, “Do you know that you are saved?” And we respond as good Catholics. “No, I don’t know if I’m saved. I’m trying to do good and God will judge me in the end.” Anyway, that is what I respond.

    According to these folks, we failed the first test. And then they follow with a second. “What? You’re trying to save yourself by your works?!!!”

    No, no, no. That is not what I said. That is not what the Catholic Church teaches. We don’t save ourselves. God judges us according to our works. It is His decision whether we are saved or not. Here is what the Bible says:

    1 Corinthians 4:1-6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Servants of Christ

    4 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required [a]of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human [b]court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on [c]passing judgment before [d]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

    To me, then, the Catholic response is the Biblical response. We don’t judge before time. God is our Judge:
    Revelation 22:12-15
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man [a]according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

    14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

    So we agree that “many who think they are followers of Christ, are not acknowledged by Him”.

    Now what? It seems as though we are all suffering from a deplorable case of not knowing much… or are we? Wait! 1John 5 say this…

    11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

    13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

    Bingo! Can we know we have eternal life? Apparently we can. How? Verse 12. Its the relationship! That relationship is based on His promise. His promise is not based on our good works… our good works are the result of His promise. Thus our confidence is in His grace, not our works.

    Does this make any difference to your conclusion?

    1 John 5
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Overcoming the World

    1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the [a]Christ is [b]born of God, and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child [d]born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is [f]born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

    There are ten verses which separate the two, but they are part of the same treatise and, in my opinion, part of the same thought stream. He didn’t simply write that we can know that we are saved. Part of “these things which he wrote that (we) may know we have eternal life” is “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments.”

    Do you keep His Commandments?

    We can also go back a few chapters and see the same idea mentioned.

    1 John 3:

    3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or [b]knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil [c]has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is [d]born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is [e]born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: [f]anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.…..24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 2:
    3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked….28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not [j]shrink away from Him in shame [k]at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is [l]born of Him.

    1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

    It seems to me, that St. John’s message says, we know if we have eternal life, if we know we are righteous. Do you know if you are righteous?

    Blessings,

    And to you as well. Sincerely,

    De Maria

  151. @Curt (#149

    Not withstanding your rhetorical questions…

    Dear, dear Curt, my questions are not rhetorical at all! I really want to know what you think. Can you be sure you have that relationship, have good works, but be wrong? And can you doubt you have that relationship, sin, but be wrong?

    I John 5:13 means what says: we can know that we have eternal life. I think, however, you can put two things into that that are not there:

    1) Knowing has to be based on something. I do know that I have eternal life, because I believe the Church and the Church tells me that, if I am in a state of grace, I have eternal life. It is not necessarily the case that my knowledge must be based on some internal assurance of a relationship. It doesn’t say that.

    2) Having eternal life is not the same as never being able to discard it.

    That may be enough answer to your question – but I do really want to know, if you are willing and able to tell me, what you think about my two questions – well, one question (“can we be self-deceived”) with two cases.

    jj

  152. Hi Curt,

    When I responded above, I hadn’t seen this message.

    Curt Russell April 28th, 2013 3:12 pm :
    De Maria

    In my comments above, I somehow lost a paragraph.

    I thought something was missing.

    After the “You said” blockquote, I intended to include this:

    Yes and much more. Doing the “will of the Father” is not to be confused with doing good works of our own “free will”. Thus Pauls can say (Galations 2)…

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

    It is, again, about relationship… Christ living in me.

    There are two things here. First, I think we agree on one of them. If you review my response above, at one point I said:

    I don’t know what you mean by that. We consider it His grace at work in us:

    Philippians 2:12-13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    Are we saying the same thing? Because it certainly sounds to me as though we are, with reference to Christ living in us and God working through us, it sounds as though that is the same idea. But let me know what you think.

    The other thing is this. We believe we do it of our own free will. We don’t believe that God forces us to do good. The Scripture says:
    Romans 6:16
    Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

    “Yield yourself”, implies that we relinquish control of ourselves to do one or the other. Here is what the Merriam Webster online says about yielding:

    Definition of YIELD

    transitive verb
    1
    archaic : recompense, reward
    2
    : to give or render as fitting, rightfully owed, or required
    3
    : to give up possession of on claim or demand: as
    a : to give up (as one’s breath) and so die
    b : to surrender or relinquish to the physical control of another : hand over possession of
    c : to surrender or submit (oneself) to another
    d : to give (oneself) up to an inclination, temptation, or habit
    e : to relinquish one’s possession of (as a position of advantage or point of superiority)

    I think definitions 3.b and c are relevant here. We have a choice to surrender to righteousness or to evil.

    That is how we do the will of the Father… not through my free will choosing to do good, but through Christ living in me.

    But first we must choose to believe Christ. And then to obey Christ. And this is an ongoing choice we must make everyday. I’m a married man. And every time a pretty girl passes by me, I have to choose to do the right thing and be faithful to my wife. But I don’t want to project my troubles unto you. I have heard that there are people who are not tempted to sin on a daily basis. Are you one of those? Or, are you, like most of us, tempted to commit one sin or another on a daily basis?

    If so, then, wouldn’t you say that you must make a choice to abide in Christ?

    Now you can pick up with…

    So… to your conclusion, etc.

    Sorry about that!

    No problem. Unfortunately, I replied before I saw the additional info. But I don’t think it made a really big difference in the end.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  153. De Maria

    Wow! Ok, let’s jump right in. Some things I say here may be reiterations of things said previously, but I want to walk straight through so the logic stays in order. I sure hope i can keep the blockquotes straight!

    Please explain. I read most, if not all of your responses and in one of those, I thought you said that no one could take us out of Christ’s hands. And you are not “no one”. You are someone. Therefore, even you can not take yourself out of Christ’s hands.

    That is correct. The Scripture in John 10 says this:

    If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    From Romans 9 we read:

    15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?

    .

    From these two Scriptures (and other supporting), we know 1) that God chooses whom He will save, 2) that the ones He has chosen are given to Christ and 3) they cannot be snatched away.

    You said…

    Here again, is my logic, rephrased.

    They call Jesus, Lord. Therefore, they are part of the elect, because, in so doing, they reveal that the Holy Spirit has inspired them to do so. Only the elect have the Holy Spirit? Do we agree on that?

    No, then yes. No, calling Jesus Lord does not make you one of the elect. Judas called Jesus Lord. I hope we can agree that he was not, as it turns out, one of the elect. As you pointed out, many who cry Lord, Lord will not be saved. Then yes, we agree that only the elect have the Holy Spirit.

    You said…

    So, apparently, somewhere along the line in their lives, they were elected, received the Holy Spirit and then, somewhere along the line of their lives, they lost their election. Do you disagree with that logic anywhere? Please point out where we diverge. Or if any of that makes sense to you at all.

    So no, I don’t agree with that logic because it diverges from the John scripture cited above… that God chooses and that our will has nothing to do with that choice, as Romans 9:16 clearly shows.

    You asked…

    Why, then, did they call Him, Lord?

    I, of course, cannot answer why someone does this or that.

    I said…

    I would infer that believed in a religion that falsely taught salvation through legalism. They thought their good works were the key to their salvation.

    You responded…

    Here, you and I diverge. Christianity is just such a religion. Let me quote another passage very closely related to this one. It is Matt 25:31-46. I won’t quote all of it, since it is lengthy. I’ll quote only that which I believe is relevant.

    Jesus gathered the people of the world before Him and said to those on His right, “34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are 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 something to eat;….”

    He says, Come blessed of my Father and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, FOR…

    In that statement, for, means because, does it not? We could say, “because you gave me to eat, drink, etc.” Could we not?

    and if we go down to the folks on the left, we see the mirror image, “for you did not” give me to eat, drink etc. Here’s the exact language, “41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat;”

    So, doesn’t that say that they are accursed because they gave Jesus (in their fellow man) nothing?

    So, I have to conclude that works are very important to our salvation. It is clear to me that God does saves the righteous. Those who do His works. And condemns the wicked, those who do not do His works.

    Clearly they were not.

    Ok, let’s stop here for a minute. Let’s look at Ephesians 2…

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    We know that Scripture must agree with itself, and Paul clearly states that we are not saved by our works. So what gives? I think Galations 2 provides the answer…

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

    My good works are not the result of my will acting right. They are the result of Christ dwelling within me. Thus Paul states that we are saved by grace through faith… both are a gift from God. Our flesh lives in constant tension with the will of God. As He gives us faith, we trust His will more, resulting in the good works “which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”. So, of course, the sheep whom God chose from the beginning, who were given to Christ, who are indwelled by Christ, who do the will of the Father because Christ lives in them… they are the ones who will be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom as stated in Matthew 25. Those who are not “those” will not be welcomed.

    So, I have placed all of the verses in context with each other. I am curious how you would explain a works doctrine that does not contradict Ephesians 2 and Romans 9. I would also be curious to know this: If our salvation depends in part on our “free will” deciding to do good works, what level of good works are required to achieve salvation? 100% perfection? 75% perfection? 51%? I have never met anyone who achieved 100% always in God’s will. Very few would make 50%. So how much?

    Picking back up, you said…

    The point is that they didn’t know that they were not. They thought they were. If you believe in Christ and you believe you are saved, you are saved, right or wrong?

    Acts 16:31 … They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” We know from the aforementioned verses that the ability to believe is a gift from God.

    You…

    Let’s get a little bit closer to home. If a man claims he is saved, he is claiming he is one of Jesus’ sheep and that Jesus knows Him. These men obviously thought they fit the bill. Whether by the works they mentioned or by the faith they proclaimed when they called Him, Lord, they thought they were saved. That seems clear to me.

    Yet, they were not.

    So let’s look at Matthew 25 to see what it actually says. There are two groups of people:

    1) Sheep; “you who are blessed of My Father; Inheritors of kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

    2) Goats; “accursed ones”; into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels

    Let me ask a question… Do you get to choose your inheritance? Do you earn your inheritance? And the answer is: No and no. You are given an inheritance, not because of what you do, but because of who you are… or more precisely, whose you are… in this case, chosen by God. This Scripture again confirms that those who are blessed of the Father were chosen from the beginning. Good works are evident because of “whose we are” … blessed by God, as confirmed by Paul and others. Now on the judgment day, every knee will bow and confess Christ as Lord. The truth will be known and confessed by all. And every person will want to be saved… but not all will be. So I don’t really buy that these all professed Christ in life and are now surprised that they didn’t make the grade. Like a criminal, they all proclaim their innocence before the judge.

    I said…

    Jesus tells them and us what is important… to know Him… to be in relationship with Him. Doing works in His name are not a substitute for a relationship with Him.

    You replied…

    No? Then what does that entail, in your opinion? To be in a relationship with Christ? Again, these questions are not rhetorical. I’m sincerely interested in your answer.

    Here’s my answer. To be in relationship with Christ means to obey Him and to keep the Commandments. Jesus said:
    John 14:21
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

    That seems to describe the type of relationship which Jesus wants with us. He wants us to obey Him and thus to show our love for Him. Doing works in His name is how He wishes us to express our love for Him. What do you get from that verse?

    Actually I agree. But this verse does not speak directly to salvation and you left out a few very important preceding verses…

    16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

    Again and again we see that it is Jesus / the spirit of Truth / the holy Spirit abiding within us that makes the difference in our behavior… not a newfound triumph of our “free will”. So, again, no our salvation does not come by good works. Rather, our good works are the result of our salvation.

    I said…

    Salvation comes through His work on the cross,

    You responded
    Absolutely! But how? If salvation comes to mankind simply because He died on the cross, then why aren’t all men saved?

    I again quote Romans 9….

    18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
    19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

    It seems pretty clear that all are not saved because God chose it to be that way. Why did God offer His first covenant only to Abraham and his descendants?

    You…

    Here’s what I read in Scripture:

    Hebrews 5:9
    And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

    In order to be saved, we must obey Christ.

    In order to obey Christ, we must be saved. Romans 3…

    “There is none righteous, not even one;
    11 There is none who understands,
    There is none who seeks for God;
    12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
    There is none who does good,
    There is not even one.”

    I said…

    and our works in His name are a love offering,

    You responded…

    Absolutely! That conforms nicely to Catholic Teaching.

    I said…

    not some sort of repayment

    You responded…

    Do you not feel gratitude? Do you not feel you should do something to make a return for the love which God demonstrated when He died upon the Cross for our sins? Again, this is what the Scripture says:

    Romans 8:9-12
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—

    Please excuse me while I swap Bibles on you. I prefer the KJV version of this verse:

    Romans 8:9-12
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

    We are under obligation to the Spirit. We are debtors to the Spirit. Therefore, yes, I do believe that we are supposed to repay Christ for His Sacrifice in our behalf.

    There is another verse though, which I also like and believe is relevant to what we are discussing:
    1 Peter 2:21
    New American Standard Bible
    [ Christ Is Our Example ] For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

    Christ, suffered and died on the Cross, leaving us an example to follow.

    (or substitute) for His grace.

    Let’s back up a second. Paul tells us in Ephesians that salvation is a gift from God. A gift, according to Webster is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation”. If you give me something and I pay you for it, that is a “purchase” not a gift. Our salvation was purchased by Christ on the cross and given to us as a gift. Do we feel gratitude for that gift? Absolutely! Do we respond to that gratitude? Absolutely! Do we have enough in our account to pay Christ back? Not a chance! But that is not what He desires anyway. He wants us to pay it forward… to offer the same grace to others that He has shown to us… to be “Christ-like”. But we deceive ourselves if we think that will somehow pay Christ back for what He has done for us. That would put our grace to others on the same par as His grace to us, which of course is a non-starter.

    I’m going to skip ahead a tad…

    You said…

    I believe that God has chosen the righteous. By “the righteous”, I mean, those who keep His Commandments. And I don’t believe that He chooses them and then they keep His Commandments. I believe that they must first come to Him in faith and then prove their faith by keeping His Commandments.

    Ok… Let’s look at another part of Romans 9…

    10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    God chose before they were born and had not done anything good or bad. Why? So that His will would be done NOT because of works, but because of Him who calls. So much for the concept of God calling the righteous. Again Romans 3… The is NONE righteous… no one seeks God. God chooses us according to His plan… period. We flatter ourselves (and deny God) if we think we are good enough to choose Him.

    You quoted…

    Scripture says:
    Heb 10:
    32 But remember the former days, [i]when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive [j]what was promised.

    37 For yet in a very little while,
    He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
    38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
    And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

    39 But [k]we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the [l]preserving of the soul.

    Verse 35, as I read it, says we do the will of God, then receive the promised reward.
    Verse 38 says that those who live by faith and then shrink back, do not please God.

    “No. One can not enjoy his crowns and rewards (i.e. sit on thrones, Luke 22:30) nor eternal life outside of heaven. Or at least, they are not permanent until they reside in Heaven, with God.”

    Regarding 35, I agree. But we must not confuse rewards in heaven with salvation itself. As I stated earlier, our flesh is in constant tension with God’s will. If God chooses to save us, that is a done deal. Then God begins the sanctification process, giving us faith to overcome our sinful nature. This internal spiritual battle goes on until death. As our faith grows, our victories over sin increase and our good works become evident. Our rewards in heaven will depend on our perseverance in the battle… but not our salvation.

    Regarding 38, again I agree. God gives us faith to do battle, and like any leader, He expects us to use it.

    You said…

    In John 10, Jesus says

    27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    Again, we get the concepts… the sheep were given to Jesus by the Father… no one can snatch them… they have eternal life… and first and foremost “I know them”. God is greater than all. If He says no one will snatch them, then no one will snatch them.

    One element missing here. Do the sheep know who is the elect among them? We saw in Matt 7:21 that some whom I would describe as being amongst the sheep, thought they knew Christ. But He declared that He did not know them.

    Lets break the verse down a bit. Unpack it, so to speak:

    27 My sheep hear My voice,

    Those whom Christ considers His sheep, hear His voice. I would think that hearing His voice is a metaphorical way of saying, “obey me”. Do you agree?

    and I know them,

    We saw in Matt 7 that Christ denied knowing those individuals. Therefore, by definition, they were not from amongst His sheep. Yet they seemed to think that they were. No?

    and they follow Me;

    Again, “follow Me” seems a metaphor for “obey me”. As in “take up your cross and follow me.” Or it could be, do as I say, or imitate me.

    28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;

    Here, I use the method of Biblical study which you recommend. I don’t think that Scripture ever opposes Scripture. Therefore, this verse I read with the caveat which is declared by Christ in John 15:4:

    John 15:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [a]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

    Jesus seems to say it is up to us. If we abide in Him, He will abide in us. And He warns us that if we don’t abide in Him, we can bear no fruit. Which, earlier He warned that those who bear no fruit are cut away by the Father and thrown in the fire.

    Which brings me back to this. No one can snatch us away, but the Father. Can we agree upon that?
    15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He [a]prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

    and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    No one can take them out of the Father’s hand. But what is not mentioned there is that the Father culls. He culls out those who are not righteous and do no good thing.

    That is the overwhelming message I get from Scripture. God saves the righteous and condemns the wicked who do not do any righteousness.

    Well, I think that Romans 9 debunks the notion of salvation by righteousness. Nonetheless (this will sound schizo) I agree that God saves the righteous and condemns the wicked. The issue is one of “cause and effect”. I believe Scripture is clear that there are none who are righteous. Any righteousness we have comes from God. Therefore, we are saved by God and any righteousness we display results from His indwelling. The alternative version, to me, is backward. It says we must find it in ourselves to act righteously, and that God will then save us.

    You said…

    Here’s something, sort of a pet peeve of mine. Non-Catholics get us in a sort of double jeopardy.

    They will ask us, “Do you know that you are saved?” And we respond as good Catholics. “No, I don’t know if I’m saved. I’m trying to do good and God will judge me in the end.” Anyway, that is what I respond.

    According to these folks, we failed the first test. And then they follow with a second. “What? You’re trying to save yourself by your works?!!!”

    No, no, no. That is not what I said. That is not what the Catholic Church teaches. We don’t save ourselves. God judges us according to our works. It is His decision whether we are saved or not. Here is what the Bible says:

    1 Corinthians 4:1-6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Servants of Christ

    4 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required [a]of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human [b]court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on [c]passing judgment before [d]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

    To me, then, the Catholic response is the Biblical response. We don’t judge before time. God is our Judge:

    Ok… well that is a very context sensitive verse. The problem in Corinth was that the people were aligning themselves with different teachers… some with Paul, some with Apollos, some with Cephas. If you look at 1 Cor 3:5, you get where this conversation is coming from, and going. They were trying to take different teachings and read between the lines. Paul is admonishing to stay with what is written and don’t go beyond. Ironically, I think your read of this Scripture goes well beyond what it is saying.

    You said…

    Does this make any difference to your conclusion?

    1 John 5
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Overcoming the World

    1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the [a]Christ is [b]born of God, and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child [d]born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is [f]born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

    There are ten verses which separate the two, but they are part of the same treatise and, in my opinion, part of the same thought stream. He didn’t simply write that we can know that we are saved. Part of “these things which he wrote that (we) may know we have eternal life” is “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments.”

    Do you keep His Commandments?

    I think this is all absolutely consistent with itself, and what I have said thus far. What is born of God? Our faith. Jesus said that it all boils down to two things… love God and love your neighbor. Those whom He saves will do these things. Those whom He does not save will not.

    Regarding your last question… yes as He give me grace and strength so to do, but not perfectly. I can tell you that there has been a radical transformation over the Christian portion of my life. I am imperfect in the flesh, but perfected in Christ

    You said…

    We can also go back a few chapters and see the same idea mentioned.

    1 John 3:

    3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or [b]knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil [c]has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is [d]born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is [e]born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: [f]anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.…..24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 2:
    3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked….28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not [j]shrink away from Him in shame [k]at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is [l]born of Him.

    1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

    It seems to me, that St. John’s message says, we know if we have eternal life, if we know we are righteous. Do you know if you are righteous?

    In fairness, your last question is a bit of a straw man, based on your understanding of John. God grabbed me by the collar and pointed me in a different direction. As I said before, there has been a radical transformation over the Christian portion of my life. I would attribute this transformation to Christ working in me… not to my free will. There are two types of people… those who are moving toward Christ, and those who are moving away. When God chooses us, He promises He will indwell us, and He will work out His purposes through us. Those who claim to be in Him, but do not act accordingly are liars, and the truth is not in them. This is all consistent with Scriptures and statements made above. That said, we must also be aware that Christ meets people where they are, so one man’s sinner is another man’s saint… that is to say, we are all at different places on the sanctification walk. The question is not so much where we are as it is, which way are we pointing? I love my wife even more than the day we married 30 years ago. My relationship with Christ is just like that. I love Him more every day… and I pray for, and find, new ways to be the grace of Christ to others every day. This is not me… it is Christ working in me!

    Blessings,
    Curt

  154. Curt (#137):
    I apologize for just having come across this comment. I am genuinely sorry for having given any offense with that statement, and it was absolutely not my intent to be derogatory of your abilities. My assumption is that your insult to me about opening the front half of the Bible was an emotional reaction to the perceived insult, and I will not take it personally. I only want to point out my reasons to think you have committed an eisegetical error in your interpretation of the passage in question, and citing other Scripture won’t be helpful if the same eisegesis is applied to parallel passages.

    You have identified some twenty-odd passages on divine omnipotence, and the existence of those passages is entirely consistent with my thesis. On my metaphysical account, divine omnipotence is not a characteristic that can be known, but it is no easy or obvious, meaning there is real anxiety against which these passages provide assurance. If my account is correct, then the assurance that one cannot be snatched away is likewise motivated by real anxiety about whether God might be defeated. It serves the same purpose as the the passages you cited; they provide assurance in cases where it is entirely reasonable to think that believers would have legitimate doubts (because they had not worked through the complex metaphysical reasoning required to justify full-blown omnipotence).

    On your reading, the audience simply knows that God can’t fail already, so this assurance about being snatched away can’t be directed to the possibility that God can fail to deliver on His promises. But there are plenty of passages in the Old Testament directed to the possibility that God could fail or had failed. This is the same thing. Now this isn’t to say that all doubt is sincere. St. Paul is quite gentle to sincere doubts, providing encouragement and never chastising those who have real worries. But in Romans, he excoriates those who accuse God of forgetting about His promises. In other words, it’s perfectly OK to sincerely seek assurances from God in cases of anxiety where you aren’t sure whether God can really fulfill all these wonderful promises that you would surely want to be true. That’s an entirely different phenomenon from accusing God of *neglect* of His promises, as if He had the power to fulfill them but slacked off.

  155. Apropos of jj’s #151, just what is the Protestant interpretation of the sin leading unto death in 1 John 5? If the “death” in that passage is in the context of “eternal life,” then it is clear both that eternal life can be lost and that it is something constantly received (so that God can give life even to those who already have it, i.e., who have committed only venial sin). That has always struck me as a clear passage that needs to be read back into John 6 and John 10, which then naturally results in De Maria’s Catholic interpretation.

  156. Jonathan

    Thanks for your apology! I joyfully accept it, and beg your forgiveness if my bark got out of hand as well.

    So let’s look at 1 John, certainly one of the most loving books in Scripture, written (exclusively, it seems) to believers. Read start to finish, it exudes John’s care for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, exposing the dangers of the new Christian world and exhorting faithfulness to Christ just like a loving father would speak to his emerging children about the dangers of the grown up world. Every chapter contrasts and exposes the dichotomy of the spiritual world… light v. darkness, truth v. lie, love v. hate, Christ v. anti-christ, righteous v. unrighteous, condemnation v. confidence in God, of the Spirit v. of the world. All of this dialog culminates in chapter 5, his concluding summary. In this chapter, John first reassures the believers that, through faith, they can and will overcome the evils of the world (v 1-4). He then reassures them that, in Christ, God has given believers eternal life (v 5-13). In verses 14-15 John exhorts believers to petition God in prayer for their needs. He continues in v 16 to exhort believers to pray for one another for forgiveness when sins are committed. These are the sins which do not lead to death… that is, sins committed by believers who are confessing and repentant. Further explained in v 18, that those who are born of God cannot be touched by the evil one because God prevents it. This does not mean literally that believers never sin… it means that their sin does not lead to death because Christ has already paid the price for the sin of the confessing, repentant believer.

    Now, in verse 16, John also refers to “sin leading to death”. John exhorts the believers not pray for those who commit this sin. But what is it? Can you think of any other time in Scripture where the people of God were specifically told not to pray for someone? I could think of just one… Take a look at Jeremiah 11:1-14 and you will see an interesting parallel. Jeremiah is calling Judah to repentance. But the people have conspired against God and have turned instead to idols. And what does God say in verse 14? Do not pray for them; He will not listen. Could the sin that leads to death be idolatry? Let’s flip back to 1 John 5… the very last verse of this book… what does it say? “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” Wow! Its so clear! Unrepentant unbelief is unforgivable. Why? Because it denies the very One who is capable of forgiving. It makes perfect sense. Why else would John have ended this book with that particular verse?

    So there you have Curt’s Brief Commentary on 1 John.

    Thanks for re-opening the dialog!

    Blessings
    Curt

  157. Curt Russell April 29th, 2013 2:57 am :
    De Maria

    Wow! Ok, let’s jump right in. Some things I say here may be reiterations of things said previously, but I want to walk straight through so the logic stays in order. I sure hope i can keep the blockquotes straight!

    Wow is right! Awesome response. I’ve read it all the way through and I’d like to pare it down a bit. I think we’ve got a lot of stuff in common that we agree upon, even though we don’t seem to, because of our point of reference. The important stuff we agree upon. But we invert the order. For instance, you say salvation first then works. I say faith, then works then salvation.

    But, I think the biggest thing which we don’t agree upon is this idea that God chooses some to destruction. I don’t want to misrepresent your view. Is that what you believe?

    If so, what do you make of this verse?

    1 Timothy 2:3-4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [a]knowledge of the truth.

    That seems explicit. God desires all men to be saved.

    That is correct.

    So, it is your opinion that no can snatch us out of the Father’s hand.

    What about John 15, the vine and the branches. Can the Father cut us off the Vine?

    The Scripture in John 10 says this:

    If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    From Romans 9 we read:

    15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    Two things here:
    One. Romans 9 is referring back to the Old Testament. And I believe, if we read the text, that Pharaoh hardened his heart first and then God used that hardening to show forth His power. And that is consistent with the Teaching of the New Testament:
    Romans 1:22-24
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [a]crawling creatures.

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

    Two. God has revealed to whom He will show mercy:
    Exodus 20:6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

    This is to whom God will show His mercy. To those who love Him and prove their love by keeping His commandments.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?

    Let me add a bit of context and then explain how I understand this verse. The idea continues:

    The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel [l]for honorable use and another [m]for common use? 22 [n]What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

    We see that St. Paul is using the Potter symbolism. And this also hearkens back to the Old Testament:
    Isaiah 45:9
    New American Standard Bible
    “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?

    If we may, lets focus upon Rom 9:22
    22 [n]What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

    If you have ever tried your hand at pottery, you will understand this verse. The clay does not always mold easily. And what is done with the vessel who does not cooperate with the Potter’s design? It is destroyed.

    And that is what I believe Rom 9:19-22 is saying. St. Paul is essentially recounting in metaphorical terms the journey of Israel through Bible history. God, the Potter, was willing to show His wrath and make His power known. That is, He was ready to destroy Israel in the desert of Sin. But Moses withstood Him:

    Exodus 32: 10 Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” 11 Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

    God endured them with much patience, but eventually, they were destroyed. Yes, even all of Israel. Only a small remnant remained.

    And Rom 9:19 is essentially a warning to the Gentile reader. You might ask, “Why does God find fault for who can resist His will?” But don’t do it he says, because this is what the nation of Israel did and they were destroyed, except for a small remnant.

    Well, its getting a bit late and I’ve got a plane to catch tomorrow. God willing, I’ll take up where I left off when I get settled in.

    God bless you,

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  158. Hi again De Maria (152)

    I’m not sure, but I think our posts are playing leapfrog at times! So your 152 post popped up tonight but I don’t think it was there last night when I wrote 153… or at least not when I began writing. Anyway, let me respond.

    You:

    There are two things here. First, I think we agree on one of them. If you review my response above, at one point I said:

    I don’t know what you mean by that. We consider it His grace at work in us:

    Philippians 2:12-13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    Are we saying the same thing? Because it certainly sounds to me as though we are, with reference to Christ living in us and God working through us, it sounds as though that is the same idea. But let me know what you think.

    Yes, for the moment.

    The other thing is this. We believe we do it of our own free will. We don’t believe that God forces us to do good. The Scripture says:
    Romans 6:16
    Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

    “Yield yourself”, implies that we relinquish control of ourselves to do one or the other. Here is what the Merriam Webster online says about yielding:

    Definition of YIELD

    transitive verb
    1
    archaic : recompense, reward
    2
    : to give or render as fitting, rightfully owed, or required
    3
    : to give up possession of on claim or demand: as
    a : to give up (as one’s breath) and so die
    b : to surrender or relinquish to the physical control of another : hand over possession of
    c : to surrender or submit (oneself) to another
    d : to give (oneself) up to an inclination, temptation, or habit
    e : to relinquish one’s possession of (as a position of advantage or point of superiority)

    I think definitions 3.b and c are relevant here. We have a choice to surrender to righteousness or to evil.

    That is how we do the will of the Father… not through my free will choosing to do good, but through Christ living in me.

    But first we must choose to believe Christ. And then to obey Christ. And this is an ongoing choice we must make everyday. I’m a married man. And every time a pretty girl passes by me, I have to choose to do the right thing and be faithful to my wife. But I don’t want to project my troubles unto you. I have heard that there are people who are not tempted to sin on a daily basis. Are you one of those? Or, are you, like most of us, tempted to commit one sin or another on a daily basis?

    If so, then, wouldn’t you say that you must make a choice to abide in Christ?

    Now I would say no, with the following explanation: … and you’re killing me with the KJV :-)

    Let’s go back to Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Who is doing the “willing” and “working” in us? It is God. So it is not my will, but His will that is operative in the believer. You seem to accept this, but then also try to insert the will of the man back into the equation. You speak of yielding our will to His, and I agree we do surrender in this way. But we surrender under His power, and thus, even our surrendering is not the result of our will, but His. This is why, when we do acts of righteousness, it brings glory to God… and not ourselves. Everyone knows we are sinners, and yet look! he did something good and right! My life verse comes to mind… Matthew 5: 16… “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” If my good works are the result of my “free will” choosing to do good, then why not glorify me? Quite simply because it is not my “free will” that causes me to do righteous acts, but God’s will working in me… and thus, we give our glory to Him. This is where the Catholic and Reformed theologies differ the most, in my humble opinion. The Protestant says that any good we do is willed by God, and thus there is no concept of “merit” for good works. It could be compared to a surfer taking credit for a really good wave. Sure, he got to ride the wave and it was exciting and glorious… but God created the wave. Without God… zippo.

    On temptation… no need to project… I am perfectly capable of sin! Every human is tempted every day by sin. Those who say they are not are liars, lunatics, totally ignorant of spiritual things, or working for the other side, in my most humble opinion. The devil is relentless! So, yes, I am tempted every day… and I sin every day, sometimes knowingly… sometimes ignorantly. I confess and pray for forgiveness every day.

    Regarding the concept of “choosing Christ”… Romans 3:10-12 kills this concept. Apart from God’s will, we cannot and will not choose Christ. God intercedes… first to save us, and then to sanctify us. Since it is God doing these things, victory in Christ is assured. No one can snatch the ones God has chosen. Jesus could not have said this if part of the salvation process relied on the believer. But, thank God, it doesn’t! Romans 8 is a beautiful treatise on this concept.

    26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

    …37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    There is no concept of free will in this passage. Before the beginning of time, God called, justified and glorified His flock. All past tense. They are called, not because they chose God… They are called to suit God’s purpose. When we fail in human weakness, the Spirit intercedes in ways we do not understand. Thus we conquer, not because we will it to be so, but because He willed it to be so from the beginning. Thus we will be forever preserved from separation from God. Paul confirms that the sheep cannot be snatched.

    Its a beautiful thing! Can I get an amen?

    Blessings,
    Curt

  159. Cont’d from De Maria April 30th, 2013 12:14 am :

    Curt said:

    From these two Scriptures (and other supporting), we know 1) that God chooses whom He will save, 2) that the ones He has chosen are given to Christ and 3) they cannot be snatched away.

    In my opinion, there are too many Scriptures which show that 1. God wants us all t be saved and has given us all the opportunity to be saved. And 3. men can be self-deluded and consider themselves saved when they aren’t and 4. that God is judge and it is not our business to presume ourselves saved but only to do the will of God.

    No, then yes. No, calling Jesus Lord does not make you one of the elect. Judas called Jesus Lord. I hope we can agree that he was not, as it turns out, one of the elect.

    1. The key words here are “as it turns out”. But anyone observing the Twelve before the betrayal would have thought that Judas was one of the more important Apostles. He held the money bag.
    2. Did Jesus choose (i.e. “elect”) Judas to be an Apostle or not?
    3. So, it would appear that Judas lost his election.

    As you pointed out, many who cry Lord, Lord will not be saved. Then yes, we agree that only the elect have the Holy Spirit.

    Is this relevant to this point?
    Hebrews 6:4-10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, [a]since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame

    These people are “partakers of the Holy Spirit” and “then have fallen away”.

    So no, I don’t agree with that logic because it diverges from the John scripture cited above… that God chooses and that our will has nothing to do with that choice, as Romans 9:16 clearly shows.

    Ok. I guess I’ve addressed this enough above. I’ll await your response to those comments.

    I, of course, cannot answer why someone does this or that.

    I meant in reference to 1 Corinthians 12:3, “no one calls Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit”.

    Ok, let’s stop here for a minute. Let’s look at Ephesians 2…

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

    Faith is a grace given us by God. True. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.

    9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    To me, this is a reference to the Old Covenant of works. It is also a reference to the Pharisaic attitude highlighted in Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

    1. We are no longer under the Covenant of works. But under the Covenant of grace. Where, according to Catholic Teaching, we are justified by faith in the Sacraments, the fountains of grace and grace is poured into our hearts.

    2. We are never supposed to judge ourselves or exhalt ourselves. God is our judge. It is He who saves us.

    10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    Two things here.
    1. Jesus made us all. He made everything which is made. We were His workmanship before we were justified by faith. And the Law of God is in all of our hearts. The Commandments are the works which we are expected to walk in from the time we are old enough to understand. Therefore, this refers to our conception in the flesh.
    2. But it also refers to our regeneration in the waters of grace by the Holy Spirit. Where we are born again children of God and still expected to walk in the works which God prepared from the beginning.

    We know that Scripture must agree with itself, and Paul clearly states that we are not saved by our works. So what gives? I think Galations 2 provides the answer…

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

    Precisely. That is why works are so important for our salvation. Because God is working through us. Our good works are His works.

    My good works are not the result of my will acting right. They are the result of Christ dwelling within me. Thus Paul states that we are saved by grace through faith… both are a gift from God. Our flesh lives in constant tension with the will of God. As He gives us faith, we trust His will more, resulting in the good works “which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”. So, of course, the sheep whom God chose from the beginning, who were given to Christ, who are indwelled by Christ, who do the will of the Father because Christ lives in them… they are the ones who will be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom as stated in Matthew 25. Those who are not “those” will not be welcomed.

    I don’t see anything there with which I disagree outright. I would tweak that first sentence and say, “My good works are a result of my free will yielding cooperation with God.”

    I think Rom 6:16 says it very well:

    Romans 6:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [a]resulting in death, or of obedience [b]resulting in righteousness?

    So, I have placed all of the verses in context with each other. I am curious how you would explain a works doctrine that does not contradict Ephesians 2 and Romans 9.

    Well, for one, we don’t consider our soteriology a strictly “works” doctrine. We consider it by “faith and works”. And 2, I think I’ve addressed both verses as you brought them up but still Eph 2 does not say we are saved by “faith alone” and Catholic doctrine teaches that we are saved by faith. Our works are a result of our faith and evidence of our faith.

    And Rom 9, is not speaking of two babes, one condemned to hell by God and one chosen for heaven, as you seem to think. But it is in a metaphorical way explaining the history of the people of Israel. And St. Paul is warning the new Christians, not to make the same mistakes.

    I would also be curious to know this: If our salvation depends in part on our “free will” deciding to do good works, what level of good works are required to achieve salvation? 100% perfection? 75% perfection? 51%? I have never met anyone who achieved 100% always in God’s will. Very few would make 50%. So how much?

    1. Perseverence to the end is required.
    2. We are not the Judge. God is our Judge:
    1 Corinthians 4:5
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    5 Therefore do not go on [a]passing judgment before [b]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

    Acts 16:31 … They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” We know from the aforementioned verses that the ability to believe is a gift from God.

    The point I was trying to make is that the people in Matt 7:21 seemed to believe they were saved.

    So let’s look at Matthew 25 to see what it actually says. There are two groups of people:

    1) Sheep; “you who are blessed of My Father; Inheritors of kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

    2) Goats; “accursed ones”; into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels

    Let me ask a question… Do you get to choose your inheritance? Do you earn your inheritance? And the answer is: No and no. You are given an inheritance, not because of what you do, but because of who you are… or more precisely, whose you are… in this case, chosen by God.

    Colossians 3:24
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

    What reward is this?
    Revelation 22:
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

    We don’t believe we “earn” an inheritance. We believe we “merit”. The difference is between a laborer and a son.

    This Scripture again confirms that those who are blessed of the Father were chosen from the beginning.

    All were chosen from the beginning. But some, like Esau, despised their inheritance:

    Genesis 25:34
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

    Good works are evident because of “whose we are” … blessed by God, as confirmed by Paul and others.

    True. This is why we say that faith alone is dead. Good works proceed from faith.

    Now on the judgment day, every knee will bow and confess Christ as Lord. The truth will be known and confessed by all. And every person will want to be saved… but not all will be. So I don’t really buy that these all professed Christ in life and are now surprised that they didn’t make the grade. Like a criminal, they all proclaim their innocence before the judge.

    I understand. We view it as self-delusion. Much like the Pharisee of Luke 18:11.

    Actually I agree.

    Wonderful!

    But this verse does not speak directly to salvation

    But John 14 speaks directly to relationship. And a relationship with God is necessary for salvation, is it not?

    and you left out a few very important preceding verses…

    16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

    Again and again we see that it is Jesus / the spirit of Truth / the holy Spirit abiding within us that makes the difference in our behavior… not a newfound triumph of our “free will”. So, again, no our salvation does not come by good works. Rather, our good works are the result of our salvation.

    But that doesn’t speak directly of works. Whereas, John 14:15-16 says,
    John 14:15-16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
    According to that order, love will induce us to keep the commandments and then Jesus will pray to the Father on our behalf.

    I again quote Romans 9….

    18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
    19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

    It seems pretty clear that all are not saved because God chose it to be that way. Why did God offer His first covenant only to Abraham and his descendants?

    That doesn’t mean that only Abraham and his descendants were saved though. How about Melchizedek and the people of his kingdom?

    In order to obey Christ, we must be saved. Romans 3…

    “There is none righteous, not even one;
    11 There is none who understands,
    There is none who seeks for God;
    12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
    There is none who does good,
    There is not even one.”

    This is a reference to the Old Testament, Psalms 14 and 53. The “none who are righteous” refers to “fools who say in their heart, there is no God”. Essentially, atheists or the wicked.

    If none at all were righteous, what about Abraham? Did God not say of him, “I credit this to righteousness”?

    Let’s back up a second. Paul tells us in Ephesians that salvation is a gift from God.

    Amen.

    A gift, according to Webster is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation”. If you give me something and I pay you for it, that is a “purchase” not a gift. Our salvation was purchased by Christ on the cross and given to us as a gift. Do we feel gratitude for that gift? Absolutely! Do we respond to that gratitude? Absolutely! Do we have enough in our account to pay Christ back? Not a chance!

    We agree then. Because I didn’t say we had enough to pay Him back in full. I just said we should feel an obligation to the Spirit in gratitude for God’s gift to us as it said in Romans 8.

    But that is not what He desires anyway. He wants us to pay it forward… to offer the same grace to others that He has shown to us… to be “Christ-like”.

    Exactly! He wants us to be fountains of His grace.

    But we deceive ourselves if we think that will somehow pay Christ back for what He has done for us. That would put our grace to others on the same par as His grace to us, which of course is a non-starter.

    Agreed. I didn’t say we could pay back in full. But that we should do the best we can. To illustrate, a young girl drowns in a pool. A total stranger comes by and using cpr, revives her. Can her parents ever pay that person back? No. But in gratitude, they should at least become his friend.

    I’m going to skip ahead a tad…

    Sure.

    Ok… Let’s look at another part of Romans 9…

    10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    God chose before they were born and had not done anything good or bad. Why? So that His will would be done NOT because of works, but because of Him who calls. So much for the concept of God calling the righteous. Again Romans 3… The is NONE righteous… no one seeks God. God chooses us according to His plan… period. We flatter ourselves (and deny God) if we think we are good enough to choose Him.

    Again, I don’t understand that verse as you do. What I see is that St. Paul is quoting Malachi. And in Malachi, God explains to the Jews why the Jews are being punished. I think I already addressed this above, so I won’t dwell on it. Bottom line, I don’t think that God brought Esau into the world to destroy him. Esau, first despised God’s birthright given him as a free gift, then God began to despise Esau. Especially since Esau took on many pagan wives.

    Regarding 35, I agree. But we must not confuse rewards in heaven with salvation itself.

    We don’t. But we believe that life everlasting is itself a reward. See Rev 22:12-15.

    As I stated earlier, our flesh is in constant tension with God’s will.

    Agreed. Although, we do believe that a few Saints have achieved total freedom from sin in this life.

    If God chooses to save us, that is a done deal.

    Agreed. Two caveats.
    1. Most of us don’t know who has been elected to salvation.
    2. Some have received special revelation from God. But that is a personal revelation such as the one that the Thief on the Cross received. It does not affect anyone else.

    Then God begins the sanctification process, giving us faith to overcome our sinful nature.

    Two things again.

    1. We believe the justification/sanctification process begins on the day one is conceived and ends the day God judges us eternally saved or condemned.
    2. We believe this process is accelerated by the Sacraments which Jesus Christ established.

    This internal spiritual battle goes on until death.

    Agreed. Because during our life, we can exercise our will. It is we doing battle with evil, by the strength of our wills.

    As our faith grows, our victories over sin increase and our good works become evident. Our rewards in heaven will depend on our perseverance in the battle… but not our salvation.

    We believe both. We consider salvation a reward for our perseverance in doing well (Rom 2:7).

    Regarding 38, again I agree. God gives us faith to do battle, and like any leader, He expects us to use it.

    Agreed.

    Well, I think that Romans 9 debunks the notion of salvation by righteousness. Nonetheless (this will sound schizo) I agree that God saves the righteous and condemns the wicked.

    Lol! Yea, but that is the right conclusion, in my opinion.

    The issue is one of “cause and effect”. I believe Scripture is clear that there are none who are righteous.

    I believe that is a widely held misunderstanding of St. Paul’s message. One which doesn’t take into account that St. Paul was teaching the message of the Old Testament, Psalms 14 and 53, that the one who denies God is wicked.

    Any righteousness we have comes from God. Therefore, we are saved by God and any righteousness we display results from His indwelling.

    Absolutely. But again, we believe He gives us the ability to choose to cooperate with His grace or to deny it.

    The alternative version, to me, is backward. It says we must find it in ourselves to act righteously, and that God will then save us.

    That is not what we believe. We don’t have anything which God didn’t give us. Including the free will to choose right from wrong.

    Those who choose to do right and persevere to the end will stand before the Just Judge and receive the reward of eternal life.

    Those who choose to do nothing at all and those who choose to do evil and persevere to the end doing so, will also stand before the Just Judge and receive the reward of eternal punishment.

    That is as we believe.

    Ok… well that is a very context sensitive verse. The problem in Corinth was that the people were aligning themselves with different teachers… some with Paul, some with Apollos, some with Cephas. If you look at 1 Cor 3:5, you get where this conversation is coming from, and going. They were trying to take different teachings and read between the lines. Paul is admonishing to stay with what is written and don’t go beyond. Ironically, I think your read of this Scripture goes well beyond what it is saying.

    True. But that context does not affect the direct message of 1 Cor 4. In that verse, St. Paul is telling them that he is not concerned with their judgment and does not even judge himself, but leaves the judgment to God.

    I think this is all absolutely consistent with itself, and what I have said thus far. What is born of God? Our faith. Jesus said that it all boils down to two things… love God and love your neighbor. Those whom He saves will do these things. Those whom He does not save will not.

    Regarding your last question… yes as He give me grace and strength so to do, but not perfectly. I can tell you that there has been a radical transformation over the Christian portion of my life. I am imperfect in the flesh, but perfected in Christ

    Hm! Very good answer. The answer that I’ve ever gotten, invariably, is, “No one can keep the Commandments but Christ.” However, your answer is more akin to mine. I would say, “I do my best. If I fail, I repent and am confident that God forgives.”

    In fairness, your last question is a bit of a straw man, based on your understanding of John.

    Well, its based upon the understanding I’ve been led to by many Protestants who say that we never achieve righteousness. But that we are so called, “snow covered dung heaps.”

    God grabbed me by the collar and pointed me in a different direction. As I said before, there has been a radical transformation over the Christian portion of my life. I would attribute this transformation to Christ working in me… not to my free will. There are two types of people… those who are moving toward Christ, and those who are moving away. When God chooses us, He promises He will indwell us, and He will work out His purposes through us. Those who claim to be in Him, but do not act accordingly are liars, and the truth is not in them. This is all consistent with Scriptures and statements made above. That said, we must also be aware that Christ meets people where they are, so one man’s sinner is another man’s saint… that is to say, we are all at different places on the sanctification walk. The question is not so much where we are as it is, which way are we pointing? I love my wife even more than the day we married 30 years ago. My relationship with Christ is just like that. I love Him more every day… and I pray for, and find, new ways to be the grace of Christ to others every day. This is not me… it is Christ working in me!

    Beautiful statement! I feel the same way. One little tweak, I would say, “I would attribute this transformation to Christ working in me… strengthening my will to do righteous works by His grace poured into my heart.

    Blessings,
    Curt

    To you too, I’m enjoying the conversation immensely. But I didn’t do a good job of paring down as I intended. I hope it hasn’t gotten too long.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  160. OOPS! That was unreadable. Here goes again.

    [De Maria, I fixed the blockquotes in the last comment. Andrew]

  161. Sorry, I guess I still missed a block quote. But at least its readable.

  162. Hi again Curt, On April 30th, 2013 2:49 am, you said:

    Hi again De Maria (152)
    I’m not sure, but I think our posts are playing leapfrog at times! So your 152 post popped up tonight but I don’t think it was there last night when I wrote 153… or at least not when I began writing. Anyway, let me respond.

    I think so. Maybe that’s why I missed yours previously. By the way, please ignore my comment #159 and go to #160. They are the same message but in #159 I missed some block quotes and it went haywire.

    Me: We consider it His grace at work in us:….Are we saying the same thing?
    You:
    Yes, for the moment.

    OK.
    Concerning yielding ourselves to God’s will:

    I said:
    If so, then, wouldn’t you say that you must make a choice to abide in Christ?
    You said:
    Now I would say no, with the following explanation: … and you’re killing me with the KJV :-)

    Oops! ;)

    Let’s go back to Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Who is doing the “willing” and “working” in us? It is God. So it is not my will, but His will that is operative in the believer. You seem to accept this, but then also try to insert the will of the man back into the equation. You speak of yielding our will to His, and I agree we do surrender in this way. But we surrender under His power, and thus, even our surrendering is not the result of our will, but His. This is why, when we do acts of righteousness, it brings glory to God… and not ourselves. Everyone knows we are sinners, and yet look! he did something good and right! My life verse comes to mind… Matthew 5: 16… “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” If my good works are the result of my “free will” choosing to do good, then why not glorify me? Quite simply because it is not my “free will” that causes me to do righteous acts, but God’s will working in me… and thus, we give our glory to Him. This is where the Catholic and Reformed theologies differ the most, in my humble opinion. The Protestant says that any good we do is willed by God, and thus there is no concept of “merit” for good works. It could be compared to a surfer taking credit for a really good wave. Sure, he got to ride the wave and it was exciting and glorious… but God created the wave. Without God… zippo.

    This is an awesome response, but I want to pare down to the big difference between Catholic and Reformed. You said, “This is where the Catholic and Reformed theologies differ the most, in my humble opinion. The Protestant says that any good we do is willed by God, and thus there is no concept of “merit” for good works. It could be compared to a surfer taking credit for a really good wave. Sure, he got to ride the wave and it was exciting and glorious… but God created the wave. Without God… zippo.”

    You are right about that except for one thing. We don’t judge our merit, God does.

    The Reformed will say,
    “You work for your salvation, therefore, how much work do you need to do to enter heaven?”

    But that is not how we look at it. We are not the judges of our works. God is the Judge. We simply do what we are supposed to do. Jesus said:
    Luke 17:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

    And St. Paul said something else:
    Hebrews 6:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the [a]saints.

    Now, why would he insinuate that God might be considered unjust if He did not remember our work of love? It seems that God takes into account our effort.

    Now, it is true that we are nothing compared to God. But God is not comparing us to Himself. God gives us merit for works in the same way that He gives us credit for faith.
    Genesis 15:6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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

    Psalm 106:30-31
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    30 
    Then Phinehas stood up and interposed,
And so the plague was stayed.
    31 And it was reckoned to him for righteousness,
To all generations forever.

    Abraham was given the merit of his faith. Phinehas the merit of his actions due to his faith.
    Here’s how St. Augustine put the Catholic point of view:

    “If then your merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His gifts.” (ON GRACE AND PREDESTINATION)

    In fact, we see the idea of claiming merit for oneself as a sin of presumption. One who claims salvation for himself, is judging himself meritorious unto salvation. And if he does so, without a special revelation from God, is putting himself in God’s place as Judge of his soul. He is like the Pharisee except instead of saying, “I am righteous because of my works.” He says, “I am righteous because of my faith.”

    But if we can’t measure works enough to be saved, how does a simple human being measure how much faith it takes to enter heaven? Abraham didn’t have just a little bit of faith. Scripture says of Abraham:
    Romans 4:19
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 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;

    Note that it is God who accounted him faithful unto righteousness. Abraham didn’t say, “I’m saved because of my faith.” Does every person who claims to be saved also consider himself “strong” in faith? Isn’t that God’s judgment to make?

    On temptation… no need to project… I am perfectly capable of sin! Every human is tempted every day by sin. Those who say they are not are liars, lunatics, totally ignorant of spiritual things, or working for the other side, in my most humble opinion. The devil is relentless! So, yes, I am tempted every day… and I sin every day, sometimes knowingly… sometimes ignorantly. I confess and pray for forgiveness every day.
    Regarding the concept of “choosing Christ”… Romans 3:10-12 kills this concept.

    We read that very differently. St. Paul is here quoting Psalms 14 and 53 and it is clear that the ones who are not righteous are the fools who say there is no God.

    Romans 3:10-12
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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

    Whereas, St. Paul himself seek after God. Do you think he is condemning himself as unrighteous?

    Apart from God’s will, we cannot and will not choose Christ.

    This is true. As Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).

    God intercedes… first to save us, and then to sanctify us. Since it is God doing these things, victory in Christ is assured. No one can snatch the ones God has chosen. Jesus could not have said this if part of the salvation process relied on the believer. But, thank God, it doesn’t! Romans 8 is a beautiful treatise on this concept.
    26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
    …37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Let’s back up a little bit. There are a lot of “ifs” in the statements leading up to that passage:
    9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is [d]alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [e]through His Spirit who dwells in you.
    12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you [f]must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery [g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

    Have you considered those?

    There is no concept of free will in this passage. Before the beginning of time, God called, justified and glorified His flock. All past tense. They are called, not because they chose God… They are called to suit God’s purpose.

    Called doesn’t mean forced. If we are called that infers that we must answer. We must respond to the Call.

    When we fail in human weakness, the Spirit intercedes in ways we do not understand. Thus we conquer, not because we will it to be so, but because He willed it to be so from the beginning. Thus we will be forever preserved from separation from God. Paul confirms that the sheep cannot be snatched.

    The way you read it. But I see that St. Paul also says, “if indeed the spirit of God dwells in you.” And I note that there is nothing there which says that the sheep know which one of them has the spirit of God and which doesn’t.

    Its a beautiful thing! Can I get an amen?

    God’s plan of salvation is a beautiful thing. But, I see His plan of salvation including our response to His Call. Our participation. I see nothing wrong in that. Can I get an amen?

    Blessings,
Curt

    And blessings to you as well,

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  163. Hi De Maria

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, and don’t worry about the blockquotes… I mess them up all the time!

    In my opinion, there are too many Scriptures which show that 1. God wants us all t be saved and has given us all the opportunity to be saved. And 3. men can be self-deluded and consider themselves saved when they aren’t and 4. that God is judge and it is not our business to presume ourselves saved but only to do the will of God.

    Here is a quote from Jesus that, I think, refutes comment 1…

    John 6
    37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

    Jesus says “all that the Father gives me will come to me”. Jesus then says, “that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” There is only one way to read this Scripture (unless we buy the Unitarian “all are saved” theology). Not all are given by the Father to Jesus, otherwise, all would be saved, as Jesus declares He will lose none of them. We know that all do not come to Him, therefore, only the one’s given by the Father to Jesus are intended to be saved. This verse contradicts the notion that God wanted to save everyone. It aligns, however, with Romans 9… “15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Notice that mercy and hardening are a function of God’s will… not the “free will” of man.

    By the way… Should you want to use verses like Matthew 18:14 to refute my assertion, please note that Matthew is referring to the sheep… ie, the elect… not to everyone.

    1. The key words here are “as it turns out”. But anyone observing the Twelve before the betrayal would have thought that Judas was one of the more important Apostles. He held the money bag.
    2. Did Jesus choose (i.e. “elect”) Judas to be an Apostle or not?
    3. So, it would appear that Judas lost his election.

    Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him. He chose Judas because it was part of God’s greater will and plan for Judas to be the betrayer, not because He thought Judas would be a “successful” apostle. This is identical to the Romans 9 verse about Pharaoh. Jesus calls Judas “son of perdition”, or son of hell. Like Pharaoh in Romans 9, Judas was chosen from the beginning by God for his role so that God’s will would be done. Consider these verses…

    Matthew 26:21
    As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”
    (Jesus knew)

    Luke 22:3
    And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot
    (Can Satan enter where God dwells?)

    Acts 1 (God foretold it through David… It was God’s will from the beginning)
    15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
    (God foretold it through David… It was God’s will from the beginning)

    Regarding the “partakers” in Hebrews 6… This verse does not, in my humble view, address the “elect”. Again, since Jesus says He will not lose even one of the elect, we must believe that those in Hebrews 6 were not elect. Its like this… I can come to your family party and partake of all that is good… but that doesn’t make me one of the family. I just wasn’t born into your family. Or, I can stand in the garage, but that doesn’t make me a car, etc. People can come to church and partake of all the benefits of being in the presence of God, and yet never develop a relationship with God. Eventually, they find other things to do.

    Regarding Ephesians 2:8-9 you said…

    (8)Faith is a grace given us by God. True. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.

    (9)To me, this is a reference to the Old Covenant of works. It is also a reference to the Pharisaic attitude highlighted in Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

    1. We are no longer under the Covenant of works. But under the Covenant of grace. Where, according to Catholic Teaching, we are justified by faith in the Sacraments, the fountains of grace and grace is poured into our hearts.

    2. We are never supposed to judge ourselves or exhalt ourselves. God is our judge. It is He who saves us.

    I agree with your initial points on verse (8) and (9). I also agree with the first half of point 1 and all of point 2. Progress! When you say “we are justified by faith in the Sacraments”, you lose me big time. We are justified by faith in Christ alone. It is He who paid the price for our sin. There is no saving faith in anything except Christ. The sacraments may represent our partaking of the grace of Christ, but our faith is in Him, not the methodology.

    Your point… “We are no longer under the Covenant of works but under the Covenant of grace.” is an excellent point. If we were still justified by our works, we would be right back at the old covenant again.

    I cannot disagree with your points on Eph 2:10, though I think that unbolting it from 8 and 9 loses the overall thesis Paul is developing… that is, we are saved by grace, and not by works, and that was done by God from the beginning so that we would accomplish His will for His glory. There is a point in this that we have not explored in a direct way; that we tend to look at everything from our vantage point… but it isn’t about us…. it about glorifying God. That is the point that Romans 9 drives home. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God… to bring glory to God! That’s really uncomfortable for most people. Even more so, the twins Jacob and Esau who were judged before they had done anything right or wrong in order for God’s will to be done. And when the logical question comes up… how can that be fair, Paul charges back… “who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” That is sovereignty on steroids! Fortunately there are other Scriptures that tell us God is both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. My point is this… God has a will and a purpose that is bigger than the universe and certainly bigger than us. It will be done, regardless of what we do. Jesus told the Pharisees that if He made the disciples shut up, even the stones would cry out. God’s will rolls on, and he uses us for His purposes. This is way bigger than our little ole “free will”. Romans 9 shows us that God’s will trumps our will to accomplish His purposes. The question is… are we brave enough to believe in a God that is in full control and truly sovereign? … or do we want to believe that we are in control and our free will is determinant, while God is biting His nails and hoping we choose rightly?

    I would tweak that first sentence and say, “My good works are a result of my free will yielding cooperation with God.”

    I think Rom 6:16 says it very well:

    Romans 6:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

    So what is it about slavery that connotes “free will”? Do slaves exercise free will? No, they exercise the will of their master. Their will is silent. When we were slaves to sin, we had no choice. We were corrupted by Adam. Likewise, when we were saved by Christ… we were freed from the bondage of sin and are now slaves to righteousness. When we do good works, God is acting through us, in spite of our human will.

    …we don’t consider our soteriology a strictly “works” doctrine. We consider it by “faith and works”.

    Grace is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as … “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” If we are saved by grace, our salvation is, by definition, unmerited. Otherwise, it is not grace we are speaking of. Any doctrine that requires merit for salvation cannot also claim to be a doctrine of grace. It is, in fact, the doctrine of the old covenant. At best, it could claim to be a doctrine of partial grace, as in God loves us so much that He gave His Son on the cross, hoping we would do enough good works to merit salvation. That is not the gospel I find in Scripture. After all, what is the Good News? … that under the old covenant we could not save ourselves and under the new covenant we can? As Paul would say, Heaven forbid! No, the Good News is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us to free us from the death of sin! That is Good News!

    And 2, I think I’ve addressed both verses as you brought them up but still Eph 2 does not say we are saved by “faith alone” and Catholic doctrine teaches that we are saved by faith. Our works are a result of our faith and evidence of our faith.

    But Eph 2 does say that we are not saved by works… under any covenant. I definitely agree that our works are the result of, and evidence of, our faith. Moreover, our faith is the result of God’s saving grace, and thus our works are the result of our salvation and not the other way around.

    And Rom 9, is not speaking of two babes, one condemned to hell by God and one chosen for heaven, as you seem to think. But it is in a metaphorical way explaining the history of the people of Israel. And St. Paul is warning the new Christians, not to make the same mistakes.

    I think you have missed the point of Romans 9. It says that God’s will trumps all and it gives several examples. It concludes with this…

    30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.

    Pursue = free will. So the gentiles were saved by faith without “free will” works. … and the Jews accomplished “free will” works and it meant nothing to their salvation.

    1. Perseverence to the end is required.
    2. We are not the Judge. God is our Judge:
    1 Corinthians 4:5
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    5 Therefore do not go on [a]passing judgment before [b]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

    By understanding the promises of God, we are not judging anything. We are simply affirming truth… just as Paul does in the letter to the Philippians (among others)…

    6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    In verse 6, where does Paul place his confidence? In the Philippians? No. His confidence is in God. He further prays that God would increase their knowledge and discernment … why? . so that they may approve the things that are excellent (isn’t that judging?)… in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ… by their own “free will”? … no, but having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes from… their own “free will”? … no, it comes from Christ… to their own merit? no, to the praise and glory of God. Our good works are the fruit of Christ to the glory of God, not the workings of our own “free will” to the merit of man.

    Colossians 3:24
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

    What reward is this?
    Revelation 22:
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

    We don’t believe we “earn” an inheritance. We believe we “merit”. The difference is between a laborer and a son.

    I believe here you are confusing salvation (the gift of eternal life) with rewards in heaven. Salvation is our inheritance… a free gift from God. Rewards in heaven are based on our good works subsequent to salvation. Salvation cannot be merited, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

    All were chosen from the beginning. But some, like Esau, despised their inheritance:

    Genesis 25:34
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

    Good works are evident because of “whose we are” … blessed by God, as confirmed by Paul and others.

    True. This is why we say that faith alone is dead. Good works proceed from faith.

    All were not chosen from the beginning, as pointed out in John 6, and Romans 9.

    John 6… “37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me,” Since all do not come, all must not have been chosen.

    Romans 9… “18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”

    I agree that faith without works is dead… but that’s not because of my “free will”… its because faith comes from God who is working out His will in me. Thus, wherever there is true faith, there are works.

    Regarding John 14… This book is Jesus’ reassurance to the disciples before His imminent death. He is telling them that they will not be left alone, but that He will send the Holy Spirit to be with them. I do not read any particular “if/then statement” in the order of the verses. He is simply preparing them for things to come.

    [re: Abraham and the first covenant] That doesn’t mean that only Abraham and his descendants were saved though. How about Melchizedek and the people of his kingdom?

    Well, if you want to go there, it depends on which rabbinical analysis you buy into. It is generally thought that Melchizedek was the first named “cohen” or high priest. He was king of Salem, later called Jerusalem. Though he predated Abraham, he was Jewish and thus of the chosen people of God. I am not aware of any covenant between God and non-Jews until Christ. Are you?

    Regarding Romans 3…

    This is a reference to the Old Testament, Psalms 14 and 53. The “none who are righteous” refers to “fools who say in their heart, there is no God”. Essentially, atheists or the wicked.

    If none at all were righteous, what about Abraham? Did God not say of him, “I credit this to righteousness”?

    Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Faith comes from?… God. Romans 3 does not say that people don’t do righteous things. It says that all are stained with sin and therefore deserving of death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew living according to the law or a Greek living the high life… all have sinned. The purpose of the law was to show us our sin. Paul clarifies this as such… “27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”

    We agree then. Because I didn’t say we had enough to pay Him back in full. I just said we should feel an obligation to the Spirit in gratitude for God’s gift to us as it said in Romans 8.

    Yes I think we agree that we that we are eternally grateful to God for His infinite mercy. The concept of paying anything for so great a gift seems insulting to the giver. We also agree that reflecting that grace to others seems most fitting. Can the mirror claim merit for reflecting the beauty of the originator? That seems benignly arrogant to me. We are just the mirror… the beauty lies in Christ.

    Back to Romans 9…

    Again, I don’t understand that verse as you do. What I see is that St. Paul is quoting Malachi. And in Malachi, God explains to the Jews why the Jews are being punished. I think I already addressed this above, so I won’t dwell on it. Bottom line, I don’t think that God brought Esau into the world to destroy him. Esau, first despised God’s birthright given him as a free gift, then God began to despise Esau. Especially since Esau took on many pagan wives.

    Yes but Paul is very specific… He says, “11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,” … That is a very specific statement, clearly asserting that the outcome of Esau and Jacob was established by God (according to His choice) to serve His purposes before they were born. That is why he makes another specific statement in verse 16… “16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Free will has no impact… God decides.

    Agreed. Although, we do believe that a few Saints have achieved total freedom from sin in this life.

    Wow… then they would get into heaven without Christ! Cool! … but I don’t think so… 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

    1. Most of us don’t know who has been elected to salvation.
    2. Some have received special revelation from God. But that is a personal revelation such as the one that the Thief on the Cross received. It does not affect anyone else.

    1 John 5:13… “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” I think John meant what he said to all believers.

    1. We believe the justification/sanctification process begins on the day one is conceived and ends the day God judges us eternally saved or condemned.
    2. We believe this process is accelerated by the Sacraments which Jesus Christ established.

    Regarding 1, based on what? Scripturally speaking, I could understand saying it began either at the beginning of time, or, at the point of repentance/confession/baptism. I’m not sure I get a Biblical position for justification starting at conception?

    Regarding works as pertaining to salvation…

    We believe both. We consider salvation a reward for our perseverance in doing well (Rom 2:7).

    Romans 2 is referring to Jews living under the old covenant who were righteous under the law, not life under the new covenant. He is condemning the Jews who were boasting that they were saved under the law while judging the gentiles for not being “Jewish enough”.

    If salvation could be attained as a reward for righteous living, then Jesus did not have to die on the cross, for that is the salvation method under the old covenant. But we were not capable of righteous living as Isaiah 64 reveals…

    6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
    And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
    And all of us wither like a leaf,
    And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
    7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
    Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
    For You have hidden Your face from us
    And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

    Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God… totally insufficient. Paul, of course, reiterates this truth in Romans 3. He goes on to explain the new covenant of grace…

    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

    So… our justification comes by faith, not by works. God is the just and the justifier. Our sins are already forgiven. Our salvation has been purchased by Christ and given to us as a gift of grace. Our works are the result of God working in us after He saved us. In John 14, Jesus said…

    “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

    I believe Jesus. He has already prepared a place for us in heaven. Our reward in heaven will be based on our works here, but our place in heaven is assured by Jesus Himself. That’s good enough for me!

    You said…

    But again, we believe He gives us the ability to choose to cooperate with His grace or to deny it.
    We don’t have anything which God didn’t give us. Including the free will to choose right from wrong.
    Those who choose to do right and persevere to the end will stand before the Just Judge and receive the reward of eternal life.

    Those who choose to do nothing at all and those who choose to do evil and persevere to the end doing so, will also stand before the Just Judge and receive the reward of eternal punishment.

    That is as we believe.

    Did we have “free will” before Christ? Of course we did… and all sinned and fell short of the glory of God. That is why Christ came. If He merely replaced pre-Christ “free will” with post-Christ “free will”, we would remain condemned, for our will is corrupt. But that is not what happened… 2 Cor 5

    16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    God did not give us a free will and expect us to earn salvation through righteous living. Rather, He sent Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf… He takes the judgment for our sin… and our righteousness comes through Him… not us… not our “free will”. You are right when you say that all things come from God. This includes our salvation… not just the potential to be saved… but real actual salvation completed on the cross. Salvation for the believer is already done. It is finished! Righteous living is the result of God’s work after He saves us. If Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to pay the price for all human sin, why would He then leave it up to us to finish the work? That seems totally incongruous with His actions and the concept of grace.

    Regarding sin in our own personal lives, you said…

    Hm! Very good answer. The answer that I’ve ever gotten, invariably, is, “No one can keep the Commandments but Christ.” However, your answer is more akin to mine. I would say, “I do my best. If I fail, I repent and am confident that God forgives.”

    And good answer from you as well! Certainly, no one can keep the commandments perfectly throughout the entirety of their life but Christ. No one is perfect but God. I love the confidence of your last statement, and the confidence that God forgives is the confidence that He gives for eternal life. We know that we have eternal life, not because we can jump the high bar, but because we trust God at His word. In our weakness He is strong… yes Jesus loves me… the Bible tells me so! What a great song :-)

    Blessings again!

    Curt

  164. Msgr. Charles Pope recently wrote about Learning to Love Heaven. His point is essentially the same as that made in the above blog post. The following quote from G. K. Chesterton is particularly instructive:

    The point of the story of Satan is not that he revolted against being in hell, but that he revolted against being in heaven. The point about Adam is not that he was discontented with the conditions of this earth, but that he was discontented with the conditions of paradise.

  165. Andrew

    Even as a good Protestant, I love your thought process here. It is quite common for people to worship a god of their own creation, and envision heaven as a place where the god they have created will bless them. This is particularly true in the modern western world, where we have no problem choosing our lifestyle and then creating a supporting theology. It reminds me of the bumper sticker that says “God bless America… all of us” … which always seemed backward to me. It should read “America bless God … all of us!” The reality is that God is who He is … not who we want Him to be. He desires pure holy worship, as defined by Him. If we are not seeking and engaging in that here and now, we, as Protestants or Catholics, will certainly be unprepared for heaven should we find ourselves there one day.

    Blessings
    Curt

  166. Frank (126)

    I just realized that you asked a very thought provoking question that I somehow missed, but deserves a response:

    If you are correct about God trumping our free will to accomplish His will, then you cannot escape the logical consequences of this statement as it applies to the Fall. According to your logic, it was not His will that we should be preserved from the Fall, because if it were, he would have then “trumped” the free will of Adam and Eve to “accomplish His will” to protect them. That He did not choose to do so means, by your logic either, 1) He actively willed the fall from grace, or 2) saw it coming, but chose to step back and not exercise his “trumping” at the most critical event in history prior to Christ. In the case of 1), God is cruel and capricious; in the case of 2), He is profoundly inscrutable.

    Please explain how your logic can escape either of these conclusions.

    First, I believe God is omnipotent. He has the power to do anything He wants. Do you disagree? I don’t think you do, but correct me if I’m wrong. Therefore, if God can do anything He wants, He could have prevented the fall of Adam if He so desired. Assuming you agree, then your logic is in the same boat as mine. If we believe in an omnipotent God, then Catholic dogma would imply that God wanted man to have a free will so much, that He allowed the fall to occur. And, because God is perfectly just, the fall necessarily condemned man to eternal punishment. But God is also perfectly loving, and realizing that our free will was incapable of saving us, He stepped in and took our punishment upon Himself, that we might be saved. Trumping our will so that we might be saved and perform acts of righteousness is not cruel nor capricious… it is merciful and loving.

    Romans 8
    26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

    When God intercedes on our behalf, is it effectual or ineffectual? How does God “cause” anything if His will does not change our will? We would just go on about doing what we were doing without Him. You might say that He changes our heart, thereby allowing our free will to cooperate. I say that is rhetorical two-step, as if me and my will and my heart are separate beings. If He changes me so that I do His will, then His will has trumped my will. He could do it through my heart, or a cattle prod to my derriere… method does not change the reality.

    Finally, when yo try to apply the human version of the “fairness doctrine” to God, it does not work. We do not know the mind nor the will of God. In Romans 9 we read…

    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?

    From verse 14, we know that God is just. How He carries out His justice is for Him to decide, and us to wonder about. Notice 19 asks “who resists His will?” Does that not clearly infer that His will trumps our will?

    Sorry for the tardy response!

    Blessings
    Curt

  167. Hi De Maria

    I’m now working through you post #162… this is getting challenging with the timing delays, but here we go!

    This is an awesome response, but I want to pare down to the big difference between Catholic and Reformed. You said, “This is where the Catholic and Reformed theologies differ the most, in my humble opinion. The Protestant says that any good we do is willed by God, and thus there is no concept of “merit” for good works. It could be compared to a surfer taking credit for a really good wave. Sure, he got to ride the wave and it was exciting and glorious… but God created the wave. Without God… zippo.”

    You are right about that except for one thing. We don’t judge our merit, God does.

    I’m not debating who judges our merit… I’m debating that merit has any impact on salvation. We will be judged for salvation based on the righteousness of Christ who has already paid for our sin. We will be rewarded in heaven for our post-salvation works of righteousness.

    The Reformed will say,
    “You work for your salvation, therefore, how much work do you need to do to enter heaven?”

    But that is not how we look at it. We are not the judges of our works. God is the Judge. We simply do what we are supposed to do. Jesus said:
    Luke 17:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

    Exactly! … We are unworthy… that’s exactly my point. There is no merit… we are unworthy slaves who simply do what the Master tells us to do. His will, not ours.

    And St. Paul said something else:
    Hebrews 6:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the [a]saints.

    Now, why would he insinuate that God might be considered unjust if He did not remember our work of love? It seems that God takes into account our effort.

    Again, this pertains to our reward in heaven, not our ticket to heaven. We are saved by grace not works.

    Now, it is true that we are nothing compared to God. But God is not comparing us to Himself. God gives us merit for works in the same way that He gives us credit for faith.
    Genesis 15:6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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

    Psalm 106:30-31
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    30
    Then Phinehas stood up and interposed,
 And so the plague was stayed.
    31 And it was reckoned to him for righteousness,
To all generations forever.

    Abraham was given the merit of his faith. Phinehas the merit of his actions due to his faith.
    Here’s how St. Augustine put the Catholic point of view:

    “If then your merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His gifts.” (ON GRACE AND PREDESTINATION)

    In fact, we see the idea of claiming merit for oneself as a sin of presumption. One who claims salvation for himself, is judging himself meritorious unto salvation. And if he does so, without a special revelation from God, is putting himself in God’s place as Judge of his soul. He is like the Pharisee except instead of saying, “I am righteous because of my works.” He says, “I am righteous because of my faith.”

    But if we can’t measure works enough to be saved, how does a simple human being measure how much faith it takes to enter heaven? Abraham didn’t have just a little bit of faith. Scripture says of Abraham:
    Romans 4:19
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 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;

    Note that it is God who accounted him faithful unto righteousness. Abraham didn’t say, “I’m saved because of my faith.” Does every person who claims to be saved also consider himself “strong” in faith? Isn’t that God’s judgment to make?

    We do not enter heaven on the “strength of our faith”. We enter heaven on the strength of God’s promise. You are right, it is God’s judgment to make. Out of love, God took the judgement for the sins of believers upon himself and offered eternal life in its place. By acknowledging that promise, we are not judging ourselves as righteous… we are judging ourselves as sinners saved by grace. We are heirs to His Kingdom through the blood of Christ.

    Romans 3:10-12
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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

    Whereas, St. Paul himself seek after God. Do you think he is condemning himself as unrighteous?

    Absolutely. In his own words…

    Romans 7
    18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

    Let’s back up a little bit. There are a lot of “ifs” in the statements leading up to that passage:
    9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is [d]alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [e]through His Spirit who dwells in you.
    12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you [f]must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery [g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

    Have you considered those?

    Excellent point. Let’s unpack these verses. In verse 9, we start with the Spirit of God dwelling within us… or not. Those who belong to Christ have that spirit dwelling within. Those who don’t, don’t. Verse 10 speaks of our will (the flesh) and God’s will (righteousness). It says if Christ is in us, the body (our will) is dead, and the spirit (God’s will) is alive. Verse 11 then confirms that, through God’s mercy, we have eternal life in Christ.

    Next comes the “so then…what?” statement. Verse 12-3 says that those who live according to the flesh will die. Those are the people form verse 9 who do not have Christ living within them. Those who do have Christ living within them will fight a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit, putting the flesh to death through the power of the Spirit. This is the sanctification process. Verse 14 again confirms that those who are indwelled by Christ are sons of God… again confirmation of God’s promise of eternal life.

    Verses 15-17 are most important to our discussion. I quote… “15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

    What Paul is saying here is that we are no longer slaves to the law, to a doctrine of salvation by works. We are now adopted sons chosen by the Father who loves us very much. It is the Spirit who testifies that we are children of God… ie, we are saved… heirs to His Kingdom. As Jesus gave of Himself as directed by the will of the Father to purchase our salvation, so we give of ourselves to others as directed by the will of the Father. Not my will, but Thy will.

    Now let’s back up even more.

    Verses 1-4… “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    We cannot be saved by works of the law because our flesh is weak. So God saved us through Christ, sent as an offering for our sin. The law has been fulfilled. Those who are in Christ are a new creation. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

    Called doesn’t mean forced. If we are called that infers that we must answer. We must respond to the Call.

    Then how could God give the sheep to Jesus? Jesus says He will not lose one of them. It would be circular logic to merely say that God knew who would respond from the beginning… then of course Jesus would not lose any… a meaningless notion. That Jesus says He will not lose any indicates that there is a specific group of sheep that God chose from the beginning who will be protected by Jesus until the end.

    Further, if we were incapable of choosing God (Romans 3), but were made capable through the grace of God… how did that happen? Did we choose for God to make us capable? We can’t choose for God to make us capable of choosing God. That would be illogical. No… God chose to make us capable… and thus, His will trumped our will to start the process. If you want to use the word “force”, I guess you can… but it would be in the same context as an orphan being adopted by loving parents… we don’t generally think of the child as being forced, though in reality, they are… much to their benefit. And how much more is God’s loving adoption to our eternal benefit. Please God, thy will, not mine!

    The way you read it. But I see that St. Paul also says, “if indeed the spirit of God dwells in you.” And I note that there is nothing there which says that the sheep know which one of them has the spirit of God and which doesn’t.

    John 10:4 … “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

    John 10:27 … Jesus said, “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

    Apparently the sheep know who they are, and Jesus knows who they are. There are many other verses that show we can know who the believers are. Here is one…

    1 Timothy 6:2
    Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.

    Now, how could one obey this principle if they could not tell who the believers were? I don’t think this is a big mystery myself. Paul and others address believers as believers all the time. This would be nonsensical if no one knew whether they were a believer or not. New Testament Scripture is full of phrases that say “believers do this, but the wicked do that”. Jesus says you will know them by their fruit (Matt 7:16), which is further defined for us in Galatians 5:22, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control”.

    God’s plan of salvation is a beautiful thing. But, I see His plan of salvation including our response to His Call. Our participation. I see nothing wrong in that. Can I get an amen?

    I want to agree with you as a brother, but our response can only happen after He saves us.

    Romans 5
    8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

    …having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved…

    Blessings once again,

    Curt

  168. Author: Curt Russell
    Comment:
    Hi De Maria

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, and don’t worry about the blockquotes… I mess them up all the time!

    Those slashes and brackets are easy to miss. Thanks for understanding.

    Here is a quote from Jesus that, I think, refutes comment 1…

    John 6
    37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

    Jesus says “all that the Father gives me will come to me”.  Jesus then says, “that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”  There is only one way to read this Scripture (unless we buy the Unitarian “all are saved” theology).  Not all are given by the Father to Jesus, otherwise, all would be saved, as Jesus declares He will lose none of them.  We know that all do not come to Him, therefore, only the one’s given by the Father to Jesus are intended to be saved.  This verse contradicts the notion that God wanted to save everyone.  It aligns, however, with Romans 9…  “15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”  Notice that mercy and hardening are a function of God’s will… not the “free will” of man.

    I agree that Scripture does not contradict itself. But this explanation of yours does not take into account that Scripture says:
    1 Timothy 2:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [a]knowledge of the truth.
    This verse must be factored into the equation. And it does not say, some men nor those given by the Father to Jesus. It says “all” and no exceptions are to be found. Therefore, the only explanation is that God desires all men to be saved but permits some to be lost, if they choose not to obey His will. That is the only explanation that fits all of Scripture.

    By the way… Should you want to use verses like Matthew 18:14 to refute my assertion, please note that Matthew is referring to the sheep… ie, the elect…  not to everyone.

    I wasn’t going to, but I’m glad that you mentioned it. Because he is precisely speaking about the elect, just as you said. Look at what the verse says:

    Matthew 18:12-14
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Ninety-nine Plus One
    12 “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
    13 If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will [a]of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
    a. v. 12 The sheep can go astray.
    b. v. 13 That is an IF statement. It is possible that the sheep might not be found and thereby saved.
    c. v. 14 So, although it is not the Father’s will, it is possible.

    Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him.

    1. No doubt. Jesus is God. But no one else knew. In my opinion, Judas himself did not know, at first, until the time when he decided to do it. Certainly, the rest of the Apostles didn’t know.
    2. None the less, Judas was given the opportunity to be saved.
    3. Since Judas did not know that he was going to betray Jesus, he could have made a different decision.

     

    He chose Judas because it was part of God’s greater will and plan for Judas to be the betrayer, not because He thought Judas would be a “successful” apostle.

    On the contrary, the son of perdition did not have to be Judas. It could have been any of the Twelve. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

     This is identical to the Romans 9 verse about Pharaoh.  Jesus calls Judas “son of perdition”, or son of hell.  Like Pharaoh in Romans 9, Judas was chosen from the beginning by God for his role so that God’s will would be done.  Consider these verses…

    It is like Pharaoh. But like Pharaoh, Judas first hardened his heart and then God made his decision final. Up to the moment when God permitted Satan to enter his heart, Judas had a free will to do righteously or to fall away.

    Matthew 26:21
    As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”
    (Jesus knew)

    But neither Judas nor anyone else did.

    Luke 22:3
    And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot
    (Can Satan enter where God dwells?)

    You tell me:
    Job 1:6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and [a]Satan also came among them.

    Acts 1  (God foretold it through David… It was God’s will from the beginning)

    15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
    (God foretold it through David… It was God’s will from the beginning)

    That is true, but the prophecy does not name Judas. God foretold that someone would betray His Messiah. But unless Scripture contradicts itself, God desires all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.

    The nature of prophecy is to warn us of what can happen if we don’t repent of our sins. Look at Nineveh:
    Jonah 3:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
    Was Nineveh overthrown? No. Nineveh repented and was saved. Was Jonah a false prophet because his prophecy did not come true? No. If they had not repented, they would have surely perished.

    Like Nineveh, Judas knew the prophecy and could have repented. But he didn’t. So, he became the son of perdition.

    Regarding the “partakers” in Hebrews 6… This verse does not, in my humble view, address the “elect”.  Again, since Jesus says He will not lose even one of the elect, we must believe that those in Hebrews 6 were not elect.  Its like this… I  can come to your family party and partake of all that is good…  but that doesn’t make me one of the family.  I just wasn’t born into your family.  Or, I can stand in the garage, but that doesn’t make me a car, etc.  People can come to church and partake of all the benefits of being in  the presence of God, and yet never develop a relationship with God.  Eventually, they find other things to do.

    I guess we disagree there. Because I can hardly believe that those who “who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,”, are not members of the elect.

    And besides, it confirms what St. Paul says in chapter 10 of Hebrews:
    29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
    This person was made holy by the blood of Christ and yet, he trampled it underfoot.

    Regarding Ephesians 2:8-9 you said…

    I agree with your initial points on verse (8) and (9).  I also agree with the first half of point 1 and all of point 2.  Progress!  When you say “we are justified by faith in the Sacraments”, you lose me big time.  We are justified by faith in Christ alone.  It is He who paid the price for our sin.  There is no saving faith in anything except Christ.  The sacraments may represent our partaking of the grace of Christ, but our faith is in Him, not the methodology.

    To say that I have faith in the Sacraments is to say that I have faith in Jesus Christ. Because it is He who promised us salvation via the Sacraments. Namely, via Baptism:
    Mark 16:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

    Your point… “We are no longer under the Covenant of works but under the Covenant of grace.” is an excellent point.  If we were still justified by our works, we would be right back at the old covenant again.

    I cannot disagree with your points on Eph 2:10, though I think that unbolting it from 8 and 9 loses the overall thesis Paul is developing… that is, we are saved by grace, and not by works, and that was done by God from the beginning so that we would accomplish His will for His glory.  There is a point in this that we have not explored in a direct way;  that we tend to look at everything from our vantage point… but it isn’t about us…. it about glorifying God.  That is the point that Romans 9 drives home.  Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God… to bring glory to God!  That’s really uncomfortable for most people.  Even more so, the twins Jacob and Esau who were judged before they had done anything right or wrong in order for God’s will to be done.  And when the logical question comes up… how can that be fair, Paul charges back… “who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”   That is sovereignty on steroids!  Fortunately there are other Scriptures that tell us God is both infinitely just and infinitely merciful.   My point is this… God has a will and a purpose that is bigger than the universe and certainly bigger than us.  It will be done, regardless of what we do.  Jesus told the Pharisees that if He made the disciples shut up, even the stones would cry out.  God’s will rolls on, and he uses us for His purposes.  This is way bigger than our little ole “free will”.  Romans 9 shows us that God’s will trumps our will to accomplish His purposes.  The question is… are we brave enough to believe in a God that is in full control and truly sovereign?  … or do we want to believe that we are in control and our free will is determinant, while God is biting His nails and hoping we choose rightly?

    As I said, from the Scriptures we reviewed, I come to the conclusion that God does permit some men to be lost against His will. God desires all men to be saved, Scripture is clear on that point. But some will be lost, Scripture is equally clear on that point. As for Esau and Jacob, I believe St. Paul was making a different point about the nations which spraing from the twins. I don’t believe that he intended for anyone to believe that God hated an infant before he was born.

    So what is it about slavery that connotes “free will”?  Do slaves exercise free will?  No, they exercise the will of their master.

    Let’s read this again. It is clear that one chooses to whom he will become a slave:

    Romans 6:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [a]resulting in death, or of obedience [b]resulting in righteousness?
    Note that we are slaves of the one whom we obey. Therefore we have a choice either to obey righteousness or sin.

     Their will is silent.  When we were slaves to sin, we had no choice.  We were corrupted by Adam.  Likewise, when we were saved by Christ… we were freed from the bondage of sin and are now slaves to righteousness.  When we do good works, God is acting through us, in spite of our human will.

    Obviously, we had a choice or we would not have left those shackles behind:
    Joshua 24:15
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

    Grace is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as … “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.”

    That is our definition of prevenient grace.

    COUNCIL OF TRENT, CHAPTER V
THE NECESSITY OF PREPARATION FOR JUSTIFICATION IN ADULTS, AND WHENCE IT PROCEEDS
    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,[19] we are reminded of our liberty; and when we reply:
Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted,[20] we confess that we need the grace of God.

    But no further grace is received unless they first answer and cooperate with God’s calling. If they do so, then God continues to give them grace on the basis of merit:
    James 4:5-6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “[a]He [b]jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

      If we are saved by grace, our salvation is, by definition, unmerited.

    On the contrary, there are many types of gifts and the gift of salvation is definitely given on the basis of merit. I believe you agreed previously that God does not save the wicked. God only saves those whom He judges are righteous because we are only saved on the condition that we repent and keep the Ten Commandments.
    There is no salvation for those who do not.

     Otherwise, it is not grace we are speaking of.  Any doctrine that requires merit for salvation cannot also claim to be a doctrine of grace.

    I disagree. This world is a shadow of the heavenly world. And in this world, we have many gifts which are given on the basis of merit. It is the same with heavenly gifts. Salvation is granted on the basis of merit. Only those who keep the Commandments are saved by God.

     It is, in fact, the doctrine of the old covenant.  At best, it could claim to be a doctrine of partial grace, as in God loves us so much that He gave His Son on the cross, hoping we would do enough good works to merit salvation.  That is not the gospel I find in Scripture.  After all, what is the Good News?  … that under the old covenant we could not save ourselves and under the new covenant we can?  As Paul would say, Heaven forbid!  No, the Good News is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us to free us from the death of sin!  That is Good News!

    God doesn’t change. The basis is still the same. Let us compare the Old to the New:
    Exodus 20:6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
    Matthew 19:17
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
    It is the same basis. The only difference is that Jesus has established Sacraments whereby we may receive grace to assist us in accomplishing the will of God. But we may only approach the fonts of grace if we believe in Jesus, repent of our sins and are determined to keep the Commandments.

    But Eph 2 does say that we are not saved by works… under any covenant.

    ABSOLUTELY! Even the Old Covenant was a covenant of faith. But works have always been the way in which faith is expressed. We can look at Abraham. What does Scripture say:
    Genesis 26:5
    ◦ New American Standard Bible
because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”
    What does the NT say about Abraham?
    Hebrews 11:8
    ◦ King James Version
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
    By faith, Abraham obeyed God. Abraham was not weak in faith but acted upon it even when it looked impossible:
    Romans 4:19-21
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 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 God had promised, He was able also to perform.

     I definitely agree that our works are the result of, and evidence of, our faith.  Moreover, our faith is the result of God’s saving grace

    With this I agree.

    , and thus our works are the result of our salvation and not the other way around.

    With this I don’t. One is not saved before one obeys. One is not saved before one repents. One is not saved before one keeps the Commandments.
    James 2:17
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [a]dead, being by itself.
    Faith alone is not a saving faith. Faith must produce good works before it can result in salvation. Not the other way around.

    I think you have missed the point of Romans 9.  It says that God’s will trumps all and it gives several examples.  It concludes with this…

    30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.

    Pursue = free will.   So the gentiles were saved by faith without “free will” works. …  and the Jews accomplished “free will” works and it meant nothing to their salvation.

    To me, pursuit means “choose”. I paraphrase. “That Gentiles, who did not CHOOSE righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, CHOOSING a law of righteousness did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not CHOOSE it by faith, but as though it were by works

     

    By understanding the promises of God, we are not judging anything.  We are simply affirming truth… just as Paul does in the letter to the Philippians (among others)…

    As we agree, Scripture does not contradict itself and St. Paul admonishes us not to judge before time. Therefore, we leave judgment of anyone’s salvation to God.

    6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    In verse 6, where does Paul place his confidence?  In the Philippians?  No.  His confidence is in God.

    So do we. We don’t place our confidence in our claims of faithfulness or righteousness or good works. We place our hope, our confidence in God:
    Hebrews 7:19
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

    He further prays that God would increase their knowledge and discernment … why?  . so that they may approve the things that are excellent (isn’t that judging?)… in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ… by their own “free will”?  … no, but having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes from… their own “free will”?  … no, it comes from Christ… to their own merit?  no, to the praise and glory of God.  Our good works are the fruit of Christ to the glory of God, not the workings of our own “free will” to the merit of man.

    Yes, but Scripture does not contradict itself. And there are many more messages of warning:

    I believe here you are confusing salvation (the gift of eternal life) with rewards in heaven.  Salvation is our inheritance… a free gift from God.  Rewards in heaven are based on our good works subsequent to salvation.  Salvation cannot be merited, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

    We believe that both, the salvation and the rewards which accompany it, are merited.

    All were not chosen from the beginning, as pointed out in John 6, and Romans 9.

    John 6… “37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me,”  Since all do not come, all must not have been chosen.

    Romans 9… “18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.  19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”

    Again, that idea does not line up with several Scriptures. And Scripture does not contradict itself.
    John 12:32
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
    Acts 17:30
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
    Romans 5:18
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    18 So then as through one transgression [a]there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [b]there resulted justification of life to all men.
    1 Timothy 2:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [a]knowledge of the truth.
    1 Timothy 4:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

    I agree that faith without works is dead… but that’s not because of my “free will”… its because faith comes from God who is working out His will in me.  Thus, wherever there is true faith, there are works.

    Ok. I won’t belabor the point. I believe we exercise our free will when we choose to accept and exercise the gift of faith which God offers to all men.

    Regarding John 14… This book is Jesus’ reassurance to the disciples before His imminent death.  He is telling them that they will not be left alone, but that He will send the Holy Spirit to be with them.  I do not read any particular “if/then statement” in the order of the verses.  He is simply preparing them for things to come.

    I look at that more as an admonition or warning. Yes, he is consoling them, but at the same time He is warning them to keep His commandments. Especially because Scripture interprets Scripture and in many places the same admonition is repeated:
    John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

    Exodus 20:6
    ◦ New American Standard Bible
but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
    1 John 5
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Overcoming the World
    1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the [a]Christ is [b]born of God, and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child [d]born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
    1 Corinthians 7:19
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.

    Well, if you want to go there, it depends on which rabbinical analysis you buy into.  It is generally thought that Melchizedek was the first named “cohen” or high priest.  He was king of Salem, later called Jerusalem.  Though he predated Abraham, he was Jewish and thus of the chosen people of God.  I am not aware of any covenant between God and non-Jews until Christ.  Are you?

    According to our understanding, Melchizedek is Shem, the first born son of Noah. Therefore he falls under the Noahide Covenant. Here is an interesting lesson from a Catholic perspective on the identity of Melchizedek.

    Regarding Romans 3…

    Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.   Faith comes from?…  God.  Romans 3 does not say that people don’t do righteous things.  It says that all are stained with sin and therefore deserving of death.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew living according to the law or a Greek living the high life… all have sinned.  The purpose of the law was to show us our sin.  Paul clarifies this as such… “27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”

    There is another strong difference between Catholic and Protestant theology. We do not believe that all have sinned. We believe all bear the stain of Original Sin. We believe all are tempted to sin, even Jesus Christ was tempted. But we do not equate temptation with sin.

    Again, Scripture does not contradict itself and in Romans 5, St. Paul says:
    Romans 5:14
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a [a]type of Him who was to come.
    All sin is disobedience of God’s will. Therefore, some men died who did not ever commit sin.

    Yes I think we agree that we that we are eternally grateful to God for His infinite mercy.

    Excellent!

     The concept of paying anything for so great a gift seems insulting to the giver.

    Insulting? Why? There is no way I can pay my parents back for giving me life. Yet I do my best, now that I am mature, by being faithful and obedient to them. It is the same with God. After all, all fatherhood is from God. He doesn’t look down upon us for doing our best to return the love He has shared with us.

     We also agree that reflecting that grace to others seems most fitting.  Can the mirror claim merit for reflecting the beauty of the originator?  That seems benignly arrogant to me.  We are just the mirror… the beauty lies in Christ.

    1. A mirror is an inanimate object. We are sentient beings. No comparison.
    2. We do not claim any merit. God chooses to dispense merit according to His judgment.
    3. We don’t clam merit. We simply affirm the truth that God dispenses merit upon those whom He judges meritorious.

    Back to Romans 9…

    Yes but Paul is very specific… He says, “11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,”  … That is a very specific statement, clearly asserting that the outcome of Esau and Jacob was established by God (according to His choice) to serve His purposes before they were born.  That is why he makes another specific statement in verse 16… “16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”  Free will has no impact… God decides.

    1. Scripture warns us to take very special care when reading St. Paul’s writings:
    2 Peter 3:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
    Some people are insulted by this, as though it only says that these things are hard for the untaught and unstable. But the verse says they are hard for everyone and are distorted by the untaught and unstable to their destruction.
    2. If we read this verse with the parable of the potter, which hearkens back to the time of the Jews wandering in the desert, we see that St. Paul is warning the Gentiles not to follow the Jewish example of stiff necked disobedience and questioning of God’s will.
    3. God has revealed upon whom He will have mercy. Upon those who keep His commandments. Therefore that verse does not say that God is capricious. It says that God has set the standard and God judges the man.
    4. God is just. Therefore it does not make sense that God would despise an innocent babe.

    Wow… then they would get into heaven without Christ!  Cool!  

    Not cool at all. Yours is a non sequitur. I did not say that they achieved freedom from sin without Christ. As Christ Himself said:
    John 15:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [a]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

    … but I don’t think so…  1 John 1:8  “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

    Again, they are CATHOLIC saints. If they had claimed righteousness, as Protestants do habitually when they proclaim their own salvation by their own purported faithfulness, they would have committed the sin of presumption. As CATHOLIC saints, they did not declare themselves righteous nor even faithful but awaited the judgment of God. In this case, that judgment was revealed through the Church which we consider the voice of God in this world:

    2 Corinthians 5:20
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

    1 John 5:13… “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  I think John meant what he said to all believers.

    I think so too. He also said, “IF

    Regarding 1, based on what?

    Based upon the Word of God in Scripture and Tradition.

     

    Scripturally speaking, I could understand saying it began either at the beginning of time, or, at the point of repentance/confession/baptism.  I’m not sure I get a Biblical position for justification starting at conception?

    Is the Law of God written in our hearts? When was it written?

    Regarding works as pertaining to salvation…

    Romans 2 is referring to Jews living under the old covenant who were righteous under the law, not life under the new covenant.  He is condemning the Jews who were boasting that they were saved under the law while judging the gentiles for not being “Jewish enough”.

    Its about Jew and Gentile. Let us read:
    Romans 2
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    The Impartiality of God
    2 Therefore you have no excuse, [a]everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God [b]rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, [c]when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But [d]because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress [e]for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11  For there is no partiality with God.

    If salvation could be attained as a reward for righteous living, then Jesus did not have to die on the cross, for that is the salvation method under the old covenant.  But we were not capable of righteous living as Isaiah 64 reveals…
    6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
    And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
    And all of us wither like a leaf,
    And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
    7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
    Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
    For You have hidden Your face from us
    And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

    Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God… totally insufficient.

    The self-righteous deeds of those who choose to do that which God despises.

     Paul, of course, reiterates this truth in Romans 3.  He goes on to explain the new covenant of grace…

    1. Read it again. He is obviously speaking metaphorically about the wicked. He says, “there is none who calls on your name….” Yet, he calls on God’s name. So, he is contradicting himself.
    2. Read it thoroughly through to the next chapter. Note the free will there described.

    8 Thus says the Lord,
    “As the new wine is found in the cluster,
And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is [d]benefit in it,’
So I will act on behalf of My servants
In order not to destroy [e]all of them.

    “I will bring forth offspring from Jacob,
And an heir of My mountains from Judah;
Even My chosen ones shall inherit it,
And My servants will dwell there.
    10 
    “Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks,
And the valley of Achor a resting place for herds,
For My people who seek Me.
    11 
    “But you who forsake the Lord,
Who forget My holy mountain,
Who set a table for [f]Fortune,
And who fill cups with mixed wine for [g]Destiny,
    12 
    I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.”
    13 Therefore, thus says the Lord [h]God,
    “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry.
Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty.
Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame.
    14 
    “Behold, My servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart,
But you will cry out with a [i]heavy heart,
And you will wail with a broken spirit.
    15 
    “You will leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones,
And the Lord [j]God will slay you.
But [k]My servants will be called by another name.
    16 
    “Because he who [l]is blessed in the earth
Will [m]be blessed by the God of truth;
And he who swears in the earth
Will swear by the God of truth;
Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My sight!

    Here is free will noted:
    “I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.”
    13 Therefore, thus says the Lord [h]God,

    So… our justification comes by faith, not by works.

    It is by faith and works. Because God does not justify those who do not do the law. As it is written:
    Romans 2:13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    13 for it is not the hearers [a]of the Law who are [b]just before God, but the doers [c]of the Law will be justified.

    I believe Jesus.  He has already prepared a place for us in heaven.  Our reward in heaven will be based on our works here, but our place in heaven is assured by Jesus Himself.  That’s good enough for me!

    I also believe Jesus. Therefore, I do my best to keep the Commandments.

    You said…

    Did we have “free will” before Christ?  Of course we did… and all sinned and fell short of the glory of God.

    Well, I remember Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, David, and the rest of the prophets. Scripture says of them:
    Heb 11:39 And all these, having [y]gained approval through their faith, did not receive [z]what was promised,

    In addition, we do not believe that little children have sinned before the age of reason. Nor do we believe that any who never attain the ability to know right from wrong can commit sin either. Because sin is willful disobedience of God’s commandments.

     That is why Christ came.  If He merely replaced pre-Christ “free will” with post-Christ “free will”, we would remain condemned, for our will is corrupt.  But that is not what happened… 2 Cor 5

    Christ came to give us an example to follow:
    1 Peter 2:21
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Christ Is Our Example
    21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

    God did not give us a free will and expect us to earn salvation through righteous living.

    We believe He gave us free will and expects us to “merit” salvation by righteous living. And, to tell you the truth, I’m not ashamed of the word “earn”. Because we earn rewards and Jesus is bringing His reward for our works done in His name at the Judgment:
    Revelation 22:12-13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man [a]according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
    And that reward includes eternal life:
    Matthew 19:16-17
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    The Rich Young Ruler
    16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

     Rather, He sent Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf… He takes the judgment for our sin… and our righteousness comes through Him… not us… not our “free will”.  You are right when you say that all things come from God.  This includes our salvation… not just the potential to be saved… but real actual salvation completed on the cross.  Salvation for the believer is already done.  It is finished!  Righteous living is the result of God’s work after He saves us.  If Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to pay the price for all human sin, why would He then leave it up to us to finish the work?  That seems totally incongruous with His actions and the concept of grace.

    The believer must prove his faith by his works. And it is God who judges his belief by his works. No one’s judgment counts except God’s.

    Regarding sin in our own personal lives, you said…

    And good answer from you as well!  Certainly, no one can keep the commandments perfectly throughout the entirety of their life but Christ.  No one is perfect but God.  I love the confidence of your last statement, and the confidence that God forgives is the confidence that He gives for eternal life.  We know that we have eternal life, not because we can jump the high bar, but because we trust God at His word.  In our weakness He is strong… yes Jesus loves me… the Bible tells me so!  What a great song :-)

    Amen! Thanks for the discussion Curt. But, as the saying goes, “Enough is as good as a feast!” Feel free to have the last word. I think we have both expounded our respective positions very well. And I truly admire your patience and courtesy in handling all our objections. As well as your knowledge of your theology and of Scripture. I hope, in my zeal, I have not said anything that might be construed as offensive. If I did, please forgive me, it was not intentional.

    Blessings again!

    May God continue to bless you exceedingly.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  169. Hello De Maria (169)

    Thanks for your response… and nice job on the blockquotes this time :-)

    I agree that Scripture does not contradict itself. But this explanation of yours does not take into account that Scripture says:
    1 Timothy 2:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [a]knowledge of the truth.
    This verse must be factored into the equation. And it does not say, some men nor those given by the Father to Jesus. It says “all” and no exceptions are to be found. Therefore, the only explanation is that God desires all men to be saved but permits some to be lost, if they choose not to obey His will. That is the only explanation that fits all of Scripture.

    The flaw in your argument is the failure to understand God’s “revealed will” as opposed to His “decretive will”. The result of this logic requires God to be subject to fate. Since God created everything, this obviously cannot be, as fate itself was created by God. Think about it this way… If it is God’s desire that all would be saved, why did He create us in a way that some would not be saved? Does God have two wills? No… So the answer must be that it was not God’s will that all would be saved… otherwise, they would be. God’s decretive will can be thought of as decrees… If God decrees something, it will happen. God’s revealed will may not be decretive. Such is the case with 1 Tim 2… it is His desire that all would be saved… not His will. This information is given to us to evoke a response from us, not to declare God’s will. It is obviously His decretive will that all would not be saved, as reality allows no other conclusion. Generally, we do not understand God’s decretive will… only He has the big picture. His revealed will is given to us as guideposts … to help us understand our relationship to Him and each other. So, for example, when He says go and make disciples of all men, He knows that this will not happen. We may go, but we will not be 100% successful. Yet it is His desire for believers to be engaged in the process of His will, so the challenge is set before us through His revealed will, and the result will happen in accord with His decretive will… ie, we don’t know who He will save, but He does. Perhaps Deuteronomy 29:29 would be helpful… “29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” So, as Romans 9 states, God saves whom He will and hardens whom He will.” This is God’s decretive will. But He desires for believers to be part of the discipling process, so He says “go and make disciples of all men”… this does not mean it is His will for us to forcibly make all men into disciples, but it is His desire for us to be part of the process without knowing who may be ultimately saved. If we take 1 Tim 2 as meaning that it is God’s will for all to be saved, then that together with Romans 9, other verses regarding the elect/unelect, and the reality that all are not saved would be totally incongruous.

    Interesting enough, the Matthew 18 discussion falls right in line with the same concept.

    Matthew 18:12-14
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Ninety-nine Plus One
    12 “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
    13 If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will [a]of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
    a. v. 12 The sheep can go astray.
    b. v. 13 That is an IF statement. It is possible that the sheep might not be found and thereby saved.
    c. v. 14 So, although it is not the Father’s will, it is possible.

    Your conclusion “c” is baffling to me. Colossians 1:16… “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” This, again, shows that God’s will is operative… we may think we are in control, but God is in control. Or are we to believe that God is sitting on the sidelines, wringing His hands, hoping that certain things will come to pass? Not the God I know! Yes, sheep can go astray. But Jesus is the perfect shepherd. He promises the Father that He will lose none of the sheep. According to verse 14 above, it is not the will of the Father that any sheep would be lost… and so it will be. This is God’s decretive will. Jesus decreed it to be so. Or did He misspeak?

    Next, regarding Judas et al…

    1. No doubt. Jesus is God. But no one else knew. In my opinion, Judas himself did not know, at first, until the time when he decided to do it. Certainly, the rest of the Apostles didn’t know.
    2. None the less, Judas was given the opportunity to be saved.
    3. Since Judas did not know that he was going to betray Jesus, he could have made a different decision.

    You give three opinions here without supporting evidence. How do you know Judas was given the opportunity to be saved? How do you know he could have made a different decision?

    On the contrary, the son of perdition did not have to be Judas. It could have been any of the Twelve. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

    It is like Pharaoh. But like Pharaoh, Judas first hardened his heart and then God made his decision final. Up to the moment when God permitted Satan to enter his heart, Judas had a free will to do righteously or to fall away.

    That is true, but the prophecy does not name Judas. God foretold that someone would betray His Messiah.

    So are you saying that God knew one of them would betray Jesus… He just didn’t know which one? He was at the heavenly betting parlor wagering that one out of twelve would betray Jesus? I don’t think so. God causes things to happen to fulfill His will. His will is not based on the hope that we will do certain things. Revisit the Romans 9 verse about Pharaoh… “17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” That is not a picture of God standing on the sidelines waiting to see what Pharaoh does… is it? There is nothing in this verse that has anything to do with Pharaoh acting rightly or not. The action verbs belong to God alone.

    Regarding Ninevah… this is no different than the verse that tells us to make disciples of all men. God involves us in His will. That does not mean His will is dependent upon us. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Jesus told the Pharisees that, if He made the disciples shut up, even the stones would cry out. Gods will is happening. he involves us in it. But it does not depend on us.

    Regarding Hebrews 6, you said…

    I guess we disagree there. Because I can hardly believe that those who “who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,”, are not members of the elect.

    You can believe as you wish, but you cannot reconcile that position with the words of Jesus… I will lose none of them. Think about it. Your position is that God wants all to be saved, but we have the option of self-deselection. If that is true, then all would be elect. What then would be the meaning of elect? When we have an election, do we choose everyone? No, we choose certain ones. That’s what an election is… and the elect are chosen from the many. So the very concept of the elect is that some are chosen, and by definition, some are not. Jesus said “many are called but few are chosen”. He does not say “many are called, but a lot of them opt out”. No… its God who does the choosing, not us.

    And besides, it confirms what St. Paul says in chapter 10 of Hebrews:
    29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
    This person was made holy by the blood of Christ and yet, he trampled it underfoot.

    Well, of course, Paul here is excoriating the Jews for denial of the new covenant. He is saying that if you want to deny the new covenant, go ahead… you’ll just be judged under the old covenant… Good luck with that! They had “received the knowledge of truth”… there is nothing that says “they were made holy”. Satan has the knowledge of truth… certainly He is not now or ever was holy.

    Let me ask you this question… If we have free will, why are we universally (by this I mean 100% of us) condemned? Wouldn’t some percentage act righteously? Anyone? We both know that we cannot because of the sin of Adam. So we really don’t have free will… this is a fact born out by history. Paul says we are universally incapable of acting righteously… except in Christ. So if our condemnation comes through one man, Adam, why is it not possible… even logical… that our salvation comes through one man… Christ? Paul says as much in 1 Cor 15… “21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Just as our free will was not a part of original sin, neither is it a part of our salvation.

    To say that I have faith in the Sacraments is to say that I have faith in Jesus Christ. Because it is He who promised us salvation via the Sacraments. Namely, via Baptism:
    Mark 16:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

    Fair enough. I just think we have to be careful here. Jesus was not a “hold your breath and touch your nose to your elbow” type of guy. In this verse, the operative is “belief”, as shown in the second half of the verse. Moreover, it is Christ who saves… that part is really important. He is the only mediator between man and God (1 Tim 2:5). He is the one who died for our sins. He is the one who deserves our faith.

    As I said, from the Scriptures we reviewed, I come to the conclusion that God does permit some men to be lost against His will. God desires all men to be saved, Scripture is clear on that point. But some will be lost, Scripture is equally clear on that point. As for Esau and Jacob, I believe St. Paul was making a different point about the nations which spraing from the twins. I don’t believe that he intended for anyone to believe that God hated an infant before he was born.

    You seem to be saying that you believe in a “let life happen” type of God. When you say, “God does permit some men to be lost against His will”, what you are really saying is, “God has a will, but He let’s us trump His will”. Yet, you do not believe that God would trump our will. Who’s in charge here? God or man? That concept of God stands in stark contrast to the God of Scripture… a “make life happen” God. He created the entire universe. He created every plant and animal, every mountain, every ocean. He created mankind for His own pleasure. He numbered the hairs on your head. He commands the winds to blow or be still. He raises up leaders and casts down leaders. He causes armies to succeed and others to fail. How could He do these things without commanding the will of man? And who is man that he believes that he can trump the will of God? Paul did not have to say of Jacob and Esau, “before they had done anything right or wrong”… but he did… in fact, its placement in the verse calls emphasis to it. Romans 9 is a treatise on the sovereignty of God. He brings up Pharaoh, Jacob and Esau in the same breath because they make his point… that God is sovereign and He does what He chooses, whether it seems right or wrong to us in our limited view. That is the scary side of Romans 9. Of course, through that, Paul is setting up the glorious side of Romans 9…

    22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

    God had a purpose all along… a purpose of redemption. His will… His way… His glory! Its not about us. Its not up to us. He concludes…

    30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

    Israel (vessels of wrath) failed under the old covenant to show God’s mercy to the Gentiles (vessels of mercy) in the new covenant. Through this, God shows us that it is the righteousness of faith that saves, not the righteousness of works.

    Regarding slavery and free will, you said…

    Let’s read this again. It is clear that one chooses to whom he will become a slave:

    Romans 6:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [a]resulting in death, or of obedience [b]resulting in righteousness?

    Note that we are slaves of the one whom we obey. Therefore we have a choice either to obey righteousness or sin.

    Oops… we missed verse 18… “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

    Who freed us from sin? God did … and then we became slaves of righteousness. Saved, and then sanctified.

    Obviously, we had a choice or we would not have left those shackles behind:
    Joshua 24:15
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

    Old covenant. God chose the Jews before they could choose Him. His will.

    But no further grace is received unless they first answer and cooperate with God’s calling. If they do so, then God continues to give them grace on the basis of merit:

    James 4:5-6
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “[a]He [b]jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

    I agree with this Scripture. As a humble man, I affirm that I am saved 100% by the grace of God. There is nothing I can do to merit God’s grace. All whom He calls, He justifies and glorifies. I had nothing to do with it. His grace is sufficient. He remembers my sins no more. I am His humble servant… a slave to righteousness by His power. He saves me for a purpose which He planned from the beginning of time, and He will not let me fail in that purpose… because it is His will.

    On the contrary, there are many types of gifts and the gift of salvation is definitely given on the basis of merit. I believe you agreed previously that God does not save the wicked. God only saves those whom He judges are righteous because we are only saved on the condition that we repent and keep the Ten Commandments.
    There is no salvation for those who do not.

    Wow… Judaism II. Everyone is wicked … until God saves them. We are judged righteous because Jesus took our sin upon Himself… not because we are actually righteous. Our righteousness comes from salvation… not the other way around. The pride of the Jews was believing they could save themselves through personal righteousness. Romans 9:31… “but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” You are walking the same path. The Gentiles, Paul says “who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;”. God gives faith and we attain righteousness. How do I merit anything in that equation? The Jews chased righteousness through legalism and gained nothing. The thief on the cross did not keep the ten commandments… He is in heaven with Christ.

    Regarding grace and merit…

    I disagree. This world is a shadow of the heavenly world. And in this world, we have many gifts which are given on the basis of merit. It is the same with heavenly gifts. Salvation is granted on the basis of merit. Only those who keep the Commandments are saved by God.

    You have the word “gift” confused with the words “award/reward” . In this world, we get awards/rewards for merit. A gift, by definition, is unearned.

    No one can keep the commandments perfectly… Paul even said this of himself. So I guess by your standard, no one is saved.

    Regarding faith and works…

    I said… “But Eph 2 does say that we are not saved by works… under any covenant.”

    You responded… “ABSOLUTELY! Even the Old Covenant was a covenant of faith. But works have always been the way in which faith is expressed. We can look at Abraham.”

    With all due respect, this is the double speak that drives me crazy with Catholicism. In one breath you say that we cannot be saved without works, and in the next breath you say we are not saved by works. Its like the “who’s on first” routine! Yes let’s look at what Paul says about Abraham…

    Romans 4… “1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. He was saved by faith not works. He has nothing to boast about before God. That means there is no merit for his works.

    As a sidebar, I also like verse 20-21 here… “yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”

    So we can be assured of God’s promises through the faith He gives us. That is why Protestants be we can be assured of salvation… we have faith in God’s promises.

    One is not saved before one obeys. One is not saved before one repents. One is not saved before one keeps the Commandments.
    James 2:17
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [a]dead, being by itself.
    Faith alone is not a saving faith. Faith must produce good works before it can result in salvation. Not the other way around.

    I think you may be missing what I am saying. I am not saying that faith without works is salvific. I am saying that salvation is always accompanied by works because of God’s will… not man’s free will. I agree that faith without works is dead. I just don’t believe God allows that to happen. That’s why Jesus says “you will know them by their fruit”… because God causes fruit in believers.

    Regarding Rom 9, you said…

    To me, pursuit means “choose”. I paraphrase. “That Gentiles, who did not CHOOSE righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, CHOOSING a law of righteousness did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not CHOOSE it by faith, but as though it were by works

    You realize you just made my point? I paraphrase your paraphrase :-) … “The Gentiles did not choose to do good works yet attained righteousness by faith. The Jews who sought to attain righteousness by good works failed because it was not based on faith.” What does that tell us? We attain righteousness by faith not by works.

    As we agree, Scripture does not contradict itself and St. Paul admonishes us not to judge before time. Therefore, we leave judgment of anyone’s salvation to God.

    And as I said, trusting the promises of God is not judging. Just as it was said of Abraham…

    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 God had promised, He was able also to perform.

    Trusting God is not a sin… it brings glory to God. It’s ok to be fully assured of God’s promises. It is also comforting to know that we are saved by the grace of God and our sins are remembered no more!

    We don’t place our confidence in our claims of faithfulness or righteousness or good works. We place our hope, our confidence in God:

    Hebrews 7:19
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

    Now we’re getting to it! I absolutely agree with you on this.

    We believe that both the salvation and the rewards which accompany it, are merited.

    Ok… I’ll stick to Ephesians 2:8-9 … we are saved by grace through faith and that is not of ourselves … sorry, no merit due.

    Again, that idea does not line up with several Scriptures. And Scripture does not contradict itself.
    John 12:32
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
    Acts 17:30
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
    Romans 5:18
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    18 So then as through one transgression [a]there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [b]there resulted justification of life to all men.
    1 Timothy 2:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [a]knowledge of the truth.
    1 Timothy 4:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

    If you are going to take these verses literally, which you seem to be doing, then you should slide over to the Unitarian Church. They are the ones who believe all will be saved. I know you don’t believe that all will be saved. So by your own interpretation, these verses are not literal. I agree that they say what they say, so there must be an explanation. We know that if God wanted to save every single person, He could. But He doesn’t. He knew that from the beginning. So God did not want to save every person… or He would have. So what do these verses tell us? Scripture is written to believers so that we can do God’s will. It is God’s will to involve us in accomplishing His purposes. I’m not going to go verse by verse, but I’ll tackle the first one as an example. Let’s put it into context…

    John 12
    32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. 34 The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”

    These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.”

    So there were some who believed, and some who were blinded. Jesus draws all men on judgement day… None will escape. That does not mean all will be saved. This verse indicates that some were chosen and believed, others were blinded and did not believe. This is just another case of God’s revealed will and His decretive will, as we discussed at the beginning of the post.

    On keeping the commandments…

    I look at that more as an admonition or warning. Yes, he is consoling them, but at the same time He is warning them to keep His commandments. Especially because Scripture interprets Scripture and in many places the same admonition is repeated:
    John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

    Exodus 20:6
    ◦ New American Standard Bible
but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
    1 John 5
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Overcoming the World
    1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the [a]Christ is [b]born of God, and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child [d]born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
    1 Corinthians 7:19
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.

    I look at all of these as a loving Father encouraging His children to do the right thing.

    ———-

    I’m going to skip over Melchizedek, as we could have a whole separate study on him. I think we both agree that his purpose in Scripture seems to be a way of connecting the priesthood of Jesus all the way back through Abraham to the beginning of the priesthood as it was known. This is important in terms of the authority of Christ… which is certainly important! Beyond that, though, he is a mysterious guy who could be shaped a number of different ways, none of which contributes much to story line… in my humble opinion.

    Regarding sin…

    There is another strong difference between Catholic and Protestant theology. We do not believe that all have sinned. We believe all bear the stain of Original Sin. We believe all are tempted to sin, even Jesus Christ was tempted. But we do not equate temptation with sin.

    OK… then I guess Romans has a couple of booboos in it…

    From Romans 3

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

    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    You are correct… temptation is not sin. But Romans teaches that all have sinned. The stain of original sin is that we all have the genetic defect of sin. That’s why we need a savior. Need more?

    1 John 1:8

    If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

    Again, Scripture does not contradict itself and in Romans 5, St. Paul says:
    Romans 5:14
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a [a]type of Him who was to come.
    All sin is disobedience of God’s will. Therefore, some men died who did not ever commit sin.

    Come on De Maria… I know you understand this verse better than that. And it would be helpful to keep verses in their context to understand their meaning. So let’s do that…

    Romans 5

    6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

    12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

    15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

    So, if you read this all the way through, the verse you are citing makes perfect sense… before Moses, there was no law. The only law up until that time was to Adam… don’t eat the apple. Because of Adam’s sin, death and sin became a reality for all of mankind. But up until Moses, all died, but sin was not counted against them because there was no law. Therefore, those before Moses could not sin in the likeness of Adam because they did not yet have the law. In other words, they could not disobey God if He had not yet laid down the rules. Nonehteless, verse 12 makes it very clear that sin (not just temptation) and death spread to all men.

    Regarding the payment for grace and my assertion that it is insulting…

    Insulting? Why? There is no way I can pay my parents back for giving me life. Yet I do my best, now that I am mature, by being faithful and obedient to them. It is the same with God. After all, all fatherhood is from God. He doesn’t look down upon us for doing our best to return the love He has shared with us.

    You just answered your own question. There is no way you can pay your parents back. Likewise Christ. Of course we do our best to do His will, but to assert that this somehow pays Him back is arrogant. What we do is peanuts compared with His gift… and it is a gift He offers freely. Summarized beautifully here…

    Ephesians 1

    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

    1. A mirror is an inanimate object. We are sentient beings. No comparison.
    2. We do not claim any merit. God chooses to dispense merit according to His judgment.
    3. We don’t clam merit. We simply affirm the truth that God dispenses merit upon those whom He judges meritorious.

    1. We were created in the image of Christ. The image is not the same as the original. The original can claim credit… images cannot.
    2. Again this is double speak… either merit saves or it does not. You can’t assert that it does, and then assert that it might based on God. If the latter is true, then that is all that is true.
    3. But you have not shown that merit even exists. Scripture says our righteousness comes from God and that he lavishes us with His grace and gifts. We do His will because he is in us, working His will. In my view, there is no Biblical concept of merit. Merit flies in the face of being humble. Merit places our salvation in the hands of man and God. Merit says that God’s grace is not sufficient. Merit puts us back in the old covenant.

    1. Scripture warns us to take very special care when reading St. Paul’s writings:
    2 Peter 3:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

    Some people are insulted by this, as though it only says that these things are hard for the untaught and unstable. But the verse says they are hard for everyone and are distorted by the untaught and unstable to their destruction.
    2. If we read this verse with the parable of the potter, which hearkens back to the time of the Jews wandering in the desert, we see that St. Paul is warning the Gentiles not to follow the Jewish example of stiff necked disobedience and questioning of God’s will.
    3. God has revealed upon whom He will have mercy. Upon those who keep His commandments. Therefore that verse does not say that God is capricious. It says that God has set the standard and God judges the man.
    4. God is just. Therefore it does not make sense that God would despise an innocent babe.

    1. I find Paul’s teachings are difficult for many people to accept, not because they are unclear, but because they are uncomfortable. He offers strong words both to believers and unbelievers. Romans 9 is hard because it speaks of the true sovereignty of God, which is scary big for most people. It says what it says, regardless of what you or I may want to believe it says. I reject the notion that we just can’t understand it. Scripture was written for all men, and God uses it as He sees fit with all men. 2 Tim 3:16 says “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” We are to write the Word of God on our heart. We are now a priesthood of all believers. We have one mediator and that is Christ. The verse you cite harkens back to the previous chapter… a warning against evil and greedy false profits… not me.
    2. That’s all you get out of Romans 9? I challenge you to read it through three times, and try your best to read it without any preconceptions. This chapter is in the top five on the “who God is” list of required reading. If all you are catching is a warning to the Romans… trust me, there is a lot more there!
    3. That is not what it says. That is what you want to believe. You are correct… God is not capricious… He is acting on His will.
    4. “19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” God is just… and God’s justice is for Him to decide. A babe is not born innocent. That is the lie of Disneyland. We are all born with sin. Just as a baby can die in infancy (the curse of death on all mankind), so a baby is born with original sin. If God chooses to curse one and bless another, it is His choice. Uncomfortable?

    Not cool at all. Yours is a non sequitur. I did not say that they achieved freedom from sin without Christ. As Christ Himself said:
    John 15:4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [a]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

    Great! and I agree… and this is precisely why there is no merit in my righteousness. It all comes from Christ.

    Regarding those alleged to have achieved sinlessness…

    Again, they are CATHOLIC saints. If they had claimed righteousness, as Protestants do habitually when they proclaim their own salvation by their own purported faithfulness, they would have committed the sin of presumption. As CATHOLIC saints, they did not declare themselves righteous nor even faithful but awaited the judgment of God. In this case, that judgment was revealed through the Church which we consider the voice of God in this world:

    2 Corinthians 5:20
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

    First of all, I wasn’t aware that saints had a denomination. Secondly, according to Scripture, all believers are saints. Thirdly, I have no idea what you are referring to when you say “If they had claimed righteousness, as Protestants do habitually when they proclaim their own salvation by their own purported faithfulness, they would have committed the sin of presumption.” Who specifically is claiming righteousness? Protestants that I know confess their own sinfulness and claim only the righteousness of Christ given as a gift. Where in Scripture do we find the “sin of presumption”? Haven’t read that one. Since you brought it up, it seems to me the Catholics are the ones who claim self-righteousness through “meritorious” salvation… that would qualify for presumption in my book. When the Church makes statements that oppose Scripture… such as, there is someone sinless other than Christ… it makes some people take pause. I know the Church doesn’t have a high regard for Sola Scriptura, but extra-Scriptural concepts that are considered God inspired should still at least agree with Scripture. As ambassadors for Christ, we should tell folks what Christ did. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The good news is that Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins so we could live. We can’t pay Him back for our sins. If we could, He didn’t need to die in the first place. But He did because we couldn’t. In love we respond with acts of grace toward others.

    I asked a specific question and you answered

    Based upon the Word of God in Scripture and Tradition.

    That isn’t very helpful.

    Regarding Romans 2…

    Its about Jew and Gentile. Let us read:
    Romans 2
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    The Impartiality of God
    2 Therefore you have no excuse, [a]everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God [b]rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, [c]when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But [d]because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress [e]for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

    Well yes, but the point you were making was that salvation was the reward for doing good works, based on your understanding of verse 7. My point was that everything Paul is speaking of in this chapter derives from the old covenant. He is not speaking of grace in this chapter, he is speaking of righteousness or unrighteousness under the law. He is making the case that the Jews, who thought they were God’s gift, were no better or worse under the law than the Gentiles… there is no distinction. This sets up chapter 3 which lays it out… we are all sinners.

    Regarding Romans 3

    1. Read it again. He is obviously speaking metaphorically about the wicked. He says, “there is none who calls on your name….” Yet, he calls on God’s name. So, he is contradicting himself.
    2. Read it thoroughly through to the next chapter. Note the free will there described.

    1. Paul is under grace. All are wicked until God saves us. He not speaking metaphorically… its really true. All are wicked without the saving grace of Christ.
    2. If you are referring to Romans 4, I don’t see free will at all. I see God’s promises in action. Read verses 4 and 5. The concept is very clear. Works don’t count… faith is everything.

    8 Thus says the Lord,
    “As the new wine is found in the cluster,
And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is [d]benefit in it,’
So I will act on behalf of My servants
In order not to destroy [e]all of them.
    9
    “I will bring forth offspring from Jacob,
And an heir of My mountains from Judah;
Even My chosen ones shall inherit it,
And My servants will dwell there.
    10
    “Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks,
And the valley of Achor a resting place for herds,
For My people who seek Me.
    11
    “But you who forsake the Lord,
Who forget My holy mountain,
Who set a table for [f]Fortune,
And who fill cups with mixed wine for [g]Destiny,
    12
    I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.”
    13 Therefore, thus says the Lord [h]God,
    “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry.
Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty.
Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame.
    14
    “Behold, My servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart,
But you will cry out with a [i]heavy heart,
And you will wail with a broken spirit.
    15
    “You will leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones,
And the Lord [j]God will slay you.
But [k]My servants will be called by another name.
    16
    “Because he who [l]is blessed in the earth
Will [m]be blessed by the God of truth;
And he who swears in the earth
Will swear by the God of truth;
Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My sight!

    Here is free will noted:

    “I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.”
    13 Therefore, thus says the Lord [h]God,

    I did not say we have no will… I argue that our will is not capable of saving us, thus it is not free.

    Well, I remember Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, David, and the rest of the prophets. Scripture says of them:
    Heb 11:39 And all these, having [y]gained approval through their faith, did not receive [z]what was promised,

    Tsk tsk… finish the verse… “because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

    In addition, we do not believe that little children have sinned before the age of reason. Nor do we believe that any who never attain the ability to know right from wrong can commit sin either. Because sin is willful disobedience of God’s commandments.

    Well that’s wonderful and certainly fits with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But original sin affects all people from Adam on. There are no free passes. It is of course possible that God, in His grace, will pardon them, which is what most Protestants believe, though it only applies to children of believers. This is based on Acts 2:39, that God’s promises belong to believers and their children.

    Christ came to give us an example to follow:
    1 Peter 2:21
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Christ Is Our Example
    21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

    Yes Christ is our example… but He came to pay for our sins… THAT is the good news!

    Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

    We believe He gave us free will and expects us to “merit” salvation by righteous living. And, to tell you the truth, I’m not ashamed of the word “earn”.

    Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

    The good news, friend, is in Christ you are free from the law of sin and death. You are no longer condemned!

    How?

    3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    That’s what the Bible says… and I’m so glad it does!

    Amen! Thanks for the discussion Curt. But, as the saying goes, “Enough is as good as a feast!” Feel free to have the last word. I think we have both expounded our respective positions very well. And I truly admire your patience and courtesy in handling all our objections. As well as your knowledge of your theology and of Scripture. I hope, in my zeal, I have not said anything that might be construed as offensive. If I did, please forgive me, it was not intentional.

    Thanks very much and I wish you God’s richest blessings. I am sure that in my zeal, I have mashed a toe or two, so please forgive me as well! I think its a really good thing to joust a bit with our theology. Its taboo in our society and it shouldn’t be. But more than that, it keeps us sharp with our defense of the gospel, which Paul encourages us to do. As much as I chatter here, you might think me somewhat anti Catholic (ok I hear the laughter out there), but I’m really not per se. I’m for God’s church. I pray for the Catholic Church regularly, and did so heavily during the Papal transition. I will continue to pray for the Church and my friends here, and hope for the same!

    Blessings
    Curt

  170. Curt (169),

    I just wanted to make two points that might be getting lost in all of this discussion. Keep in mind that the CC in 2008 states this:

    Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

    and

    2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace

    Also as far as election or predestination keep in mind what Bryan has said here http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/predestination-john-calvin-vs-thomas-aquinas/ in comment 5:

    It seems to me that the most important question in this context and in relation to our aim of reconciling Reformed Protestants with the Catholic Church is this: What positions does the Catholic Church allow, and what does the Catholic Church condemn, with respect to this subject of predestination?

    Given that within those guidelines, there remain open (unresolved) questions and different permitted answers, it seems to me important first to lay out those guidelines, because everything that is *within* those guidelines is not cause for schism, but can be an open question as an in-house matter.

    The Catholic Church does teach definitively that some people are predestined to heaven through grace. We can see this in the canons of Trent 6. She also teaches that some are destined to hell, on the basis of their foreseen sin and free rejection of God, as just retribution for their sin. But she teaches that no one is predestined to sin. (See the Second Council of Orange) God’s foreknowledge imparts no necessity on man’s free will. Likewise, man’s will remains free under the influence of grace. (Trent 6 can. 4) Grace is resistable. No one perishes because he is unable to be saved, but because he is unwilling to be saved. God desires all men, without exception, to be saved. God gives sufficient grace [for salvation] to all men, yet not all men are saved.

    As for the question concerning why in some persons sufficient grace is efficacious, and in other persons, sufficient grace is not efficacious (is it because of a qualitative difference in the grace given, or because of a difference in the willed response), the Church has (for now) left that question open. That entails that a Catholic may believe that God gives sufficient grace to all, but gives efficient grace only to some. A Catholic may, alternatively, believe that what makes sufficient grace efficient is the free acceptance by the will, and what makes sufficient grace not efficient is the free rejection by the will. A Catholic may, alternatively, prescind altogether from answering this question. This question (in this paragraph) is an open-question within the Catholic Church, and therefore need not be a cause for division.

    Thanks, Kim D

  171. Hello Kim

    Thanks for jumping in… and thanks for the succinct digest of Catholic teaching.

    As to merits being pure grace… it seems to me that this is a conundrum of definitions. If grace is a gift from God… and if merit is a credit to us for righteousness… then to say that merits are pure grace is to say that we are credited for something that was given to us. This sounds a lot more like salvation by “grace alone”, as both “initial salvation” and “merits” for works are the result of grace.

    As to the predestination question, I would pose this question: When God created mankind, did He know that man would sin? I think we would agree the answer is yes. If so, then when God went ahead and created man this way, was He not predestining some to sin? And was He not also showing that He did not desire that all should be saved? … for if He wanted all to be saved, it was certainly in His power to do so. When God chose the seed of Abraham to be His people, did He not, by this choice, also exclude others from His covenant? Romans 9:19 teaches that God’s will cannot be resisted. There are numerous Scriptures that give examples of God affecting the actions of individuals and outcomes in life, both positively and negatively. How can God affect actions and outcomes of individuals if His will does not trump human will in certain instances?

    Thanks!
    Curt

  172. Hi Curt,

    There is a good article somewhere on this site that explains the different between God’s absolute will and God’s contingent will. God’s absolute will is irresistible, but things that He contingently wills, He allows to be resisted by freedom. The assumption is that if God wants part of His will to be resistible, He can do that. And this is exactly what He deemed good when it comes to the sufficient grace offered to all men.

    Is God as first cause of everything, powerful enough to create humans that are really free? Does his foreknowledge limit His ability to instill true freedom in His creatures?

    This is hard for me to understand, because I am a software programmer – the programs I create can only do what I say, these programs are not free to do what they want. But I believe humans are truly free and not software programs. And I have no idea how He accomplished this.

    Here’s a good discussion of the theological tensions involved and theological positions that are compatible with the Catholic faith:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/predestination-john-calvin-vs-thomas-aquinas/

  173. Hi Jonathan (172)

    Thanks for your comments! So then…

    The assumption is that if God wants part of His will to be resistible, He can do that. And this is exactly what He deemed good when it comes to the sufficient grace offered to all men.

    This can only mean that He did not want all men to be saved, for if He did, He would not have made His will resistible. This view essentially says that God believed giving man “free will” was more important than saving him… am I right?

    Blessings,
    Curt

  174. Re: Curt (173)

    He did not make His grace irresistible because He willed absolutely a good even greater than the good of universal salvation. That good was to create free creatures.

    It’s possible to will a greater good absolutely and yet desire a lesser good at the same time (contingent on getting the first good). To create humans that were truly free to love and choose good necessitated that He allow that His will for universal salvation be contingent on this freedom.

    To accomplish these prioritized goals, He first gave men freedom, and at the same time gave us a sufficient grace that we might be saved.

    If He had absolutely willed for all men to be saved, then He would have lost the greater good of human freedom.

  175. Curt (171),

    Yes, concerning merit–pure grace. This does not rule out man working with the help of this grace:

    2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

    As far as your question about whether God knew man would sin— yes. But God cannot be the author of sin. Jonathan in comment 172 gave you a link that goes into some of the different aspects concerning Predestination. It is a helpful article . Comment 68 at that link http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/predestination-john-calvin-vs-thomas-aquinas/ addresses some of the issues you bring up. I don’t know how to link directly to the comment—You will have to scroll to it ;-).

    Kim D

  176. Jonathan (174)

    So then you agree that, by your understanding, God valued “free will” more than salvation.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  177. Hi Kim

    Yes Bryan presents some interesting information. But he fundamentally overlooks original sin and its implication. All people are condemned by the original sin of Adam. It is a congenital defect. God has no obligation to save anyone… we are all guilty at birth. God does not have to be the author of sin… Adam took care of that. That God saves any is a matter of His grace and mercy. Thus there is no issue of justice that He chooses some and not others for salvation. Justice would send all of us to hell. Just as in the parable of unequal wages in Matt 20, God can do as He pleases. Fortunately, God does choose to save some, according to His plan and His will.

    Blessings
    Curt

  178. @Curt Russell (#<a href="http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/11/do-you-want-to-go-to-heaven/#comment-50835"176)

    So then you agree that, by your understanding, God valued “free will” more than salvation.

    It seems to me that at best you could say that God valued free salvation more than unfree salvation. But I’m not sure that this business of what God values is really something we are able to work out.

    jj

  179. Re: Curt (#177)

    I agree with everything you said in this comment. It is not at all a matter of justice; rather, it is a matter of God’s mercy. What is the extent of His mercy? Does God offer his mercy to all men, or only to some? Does He love all men, or only some?

    In the Parable of the Tenants, after the wicked tenants kill servant after servant, the owner sends His son, whom He loves, to them. Was this justice for the owner to send servant after servant, and then his beloved son to the wicked? No, he went way beyond justice in his mercy to them. And even then, they were free to reject and kill him.

    What this Parable tells us is the character of God’s mercy and grace – that God sent his Beloved Son not only the elect, but even to those whom He knows will reject Him. He is humble; He bears all sins; He loves all. He is merciful even unto death, to both the elect and to the reprobate.

  180. @Curt:
    First, thanks for the gracious response; I am happy that all is forgiven!

    Second, having reviewed the discussion with De Maria in some detail, I think that I may have found some implicit points of discussion that may be helpful to discuss.

    As a starting point, while it’s hard to remember as limited human beings, we have to keep in mind that God is not at all like us. The instinct when we see anthropomorphic language in Scripture is to latch onto it and to apply it as if we know God in the same way we would know another human, but that instinct must be avoided. When we speak of God’s “sovereignty” or God’s “purpose” or even God’s “will,” it’s no more literally true of God than saying that God has hands or feet. God as God does not operate in a human way in any sense; these are (poor) analogies that are nonetheless the best we can do.

    You appeal to one of those analogies as follows:

    The flaw in your argument is the failure to understand God’s “revealed will” as opposed to His “decretive will”. The result of this logic requires God to be subject to fate. Since God created everything, this obviously cannot be, as fate itself was created by God.

    This is, I would submit, an anthropomorphism of what is otherwise a helpful analogy. Clasically, there is no distinction between God’s “revealed will” and God’s “decretive will.” That was an invention of the Reformation by analogy to human beings, and it is simply inapplicable to God; God only has a single, perfect will that cannot be divided. The Scholastic distinction, which instead draws distinctions with respect to God’s effects, is the appeal to God’s “permissive will,” and this distinction was rooted solely in the Biblical and philosophical fact that God cannot sin. As St. Thomas succinctly says, “God therefore neither wills evil to be done, nor wills it not to be done, but wills to permit evil to be done; and this is a good.” That does not create a (false) separation in the will of God; instead, it says something about the existence of created things (and in this case, evil in created things) relative to God’s eternal will.

    So just as when we see Scriptures describing God’s hands and feet as not being literal, we have to do the same when God is described as actively or positively causing evil. God isn’t surprised by evil either, but He “plans around” it by willing good to come of it rather. To say that God positively wills evil goes beyond a “hard teaching” over to blasphemy, although I recognize that you would not intend it that way. We have to stop short at that point. So the idea that people without a rational will, i.e., infants are born evil is impossible, because that would be God positively willing, rather than permissively allowing a rational will to exercise, evil. That is why the Catholic Church also rejects the idea that original “sin” is guilt of fault.

    Now this is usually the point at which people pipe up and say “what about Augustine?” As we all know, Augustine said that infants and other unbaptized people fall into what he called a massa damnata et damnabilis, a damned and damnable mass. This was what he suggested Paul had in mind when he said vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath were formed from the same “lump,” taking that analogy quite literally. How did he, who recognized that evil had only a negative existence and that God could not cause it, somehow miss this basic fact?

    The reason is that Augustine held an odd (although not for his time) belief about human souls called traducianism. This viewed the soul as a kind of metaphysical substance that was passed on to children in generation in the same way genetic material might be understood today. So from Augustine’s perspective, it was possible for this common “soul stuff” to be tainted by its previous holder’s sin. Hence, it wasn’t God creating something evil; rather, it was this defective “soul stuff” that Adam had tainted by his sin that caused the infant to be part of the lump. Hence, Augustine took the analogy too far based on a philosophical belief; he saw the lump of clay as the lump of “soul stuff” out of which humans were formed. This belief was also responsible for some of Augustine’s unusual beliefs about the evils of sex, some of which were shared even by other traducian Fathers who did not hold Augustine’s beliefs about original sin.

    Now that we’ve developed considerably in the philosophy of the soul and that we understand that the soul is specially created by God in each infant, we have a better understanding that Augustine did. Therefore, because we cannot appeal to this idea of “soul stuff” that Augustine did, we realize that we have to stop short in saying that original sin involves actual evil or that the negative predestination of certain souls to damnation lies in anything other than the person’s own fault. In other words, now we know that what goes for evil in general (God is the cause of everything, but He does not cause evil positively) applies to predestination in the same exact way (God predestines everything, but He does not positively predestine faults leading to damnation). Hence, when we read in Romans 9 that God created vessels of wrath or hardened hearts, we have to remember that we are not allowed to interpret this as God positively creating the evil in anything, including the will, as if he were a human, so we can’t take this as negative predestination.

    Is that clear so far? If you can understand that basic philosophical principle, then we can turn to how to apply it in exegesis.

  181. Good Morning jj … (early morning for you!)

    It seems to me that at best you could say that God valued free salvation more than unfree salvation.

    My logic:
    1) God could have saved all
    2) God did not save all
    3) Therefore, it was not God’s will to save all

    Alternate logic:
    1) It is God’s will for all to be saved
    2) God gave man free will
    3) All are not saved because of man’s free will

    In the latter case, assuming God knew that some would not come to faith, one can only conclude that God valued “free will” higher than salvation itself. His action tells the story. The flaw in this logic is that man has the ability to trump God’s will, making man sovereign over God.

    I’m not sure what “free salvation” and “unfree salvation” connotes. We are slaves to sin until God blesses us with His grace. Once He does, He indwells us, working out His will for His glory. We become, as Scripture says, slaves to righteousness… yet free from the death of sin. John 8:36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” No merit required.

    Blessings
    Curt

  182. Curt,

    The premise implicit in your contrast between “free will” and “salvation” is that for God to infallibly save some (i.e., those elected to eternal glory) his grace must be irresistible (i.e., no free will). But that presupposes a limitation upon God’s power that no theist should accept. For it is greater thing for God to bring about his purposes infallibly while giving man freedom to respond to, or reject, his grace than to bring about his purposes infallibly by denying man that freedom. This has been discussed at length, with special reference to the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, in the comments following the post “Presdestination: John Calvin vs. Thomas Aquinas.”

    The contrast that you are making between “free will” and “salvation” also presupposes that there is a meaningful sense in which a human person is saved apart from the exercise of that person’s free will; i.e., it presupposes either that sanctification is ancillary to salvation, or that love, as a virtue inherent in the soul (which is the essence of sanctification), does not require freedom. But this presupposes a version of salvation that no Christian should accept in light of the teaching of the New Testament, which has been discussed at great length in the comments following the post, “Thought experiment for monergists.”

    I recommend that we not recapitulate either of those extended discussions in this comment thread. If someone has something new to add to the discussion of salvation and free will, with respect to either predestination or sanctification, then please do so under one or the other of the comment threads just mentioned. And please, at least glance through those threads first, to avoid needless repetition on these difficult and long-debated topics.

    The topic of the original post (at the head of this comment thread) is the nature of Heaven and what this implies for the nature of salvation. If anyone would like to develop the conversation along this line, then please do so here. Otherwise, in order to stay on topic, carry on under another thread. Thanks.

    Andrew

  183. Hi Andrew!
    Just found this site a couple of years late for the conversation.I appreciate your post and the comments of others. It seems helpful to me to distinguish eternal security, the belief a truly justified person cannot ultimately be lost, from assurance, a confidence based upon God’s promise that one is in fact justified. They are really unrelated. A Calvinist, for instance, could be justified and therefore eternally secure in Christ, yet lack assurance because of his belief in the perseverance of the saints dogma with it’s unattainable human performance requirement.

    The person in the thread who sees the Fall as an argument against eternal security surely confuses the problem with the solution. Adam and Eve fell from a place of innocence not justification. Salvation is God’s rescue from the ruin of the Fall. It is characterized as eternal as in “I give unto them eternal life.” So why shouldn’t I conclude from the Fall that my salvation is conditional? Two reasons come to mind: God calls it eternal and offers no example of a person declared righteous being declared unrighteous.

    God bless!
    Chris

  184. Chris,

    I agree that there is a distinction between being justified [eternal security] and knowing that one is justified [assurance]. But I do think that they are related. Of course, how they are related is something about which people disagree.

    I have not looked at this comment thread in a long time, so am not sure where the Fall is invoked as an argument against eternal security. In the original post, however, I argued or at least suggested that the biblical conditions for entering Heaven are not consistent with the doctrine of eternal security, whether that is construed as the “perseverance of the saints” or “once-saved-always-saved”. Among the reasons that I believe the future entrance into and possession of Heaven as well as the present enjoyment of eternal life are conditional is that in Scripture we find conditional language used in connection with the these gifts (e.g., “if you believe in Jesus, you will have eternal life / be saved”).

    What is more, in discovering that eternal life is “to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent” (John 17:3) and that what it means to know God is to abide in love, obeying the commandments of Christ (1 John 3–5), we learn that eternal life is not merely unending duration (even the damned have that) but a particular kind of life, namely, a life of love. From this point of view, the warnings passages in Scripture come into better focus, as we understand that by the nature of the case anyone who fails to abide in love cannot abide in eternal life and so cannot enter Heaven, which is something that I briefly discussed in point 2 of the original post.

    I do think that there are numerous examples in Scripture, either actual cases or implied in various warnings, of a person who was truly declared righteous subsequently falling from that state of righteousness into a state which is truly declared to be unrighteousness. It might be that here we are working with different understandings of what it means for God to declare someone to be righteous or unrighteous. On my view, God cannot lie and he is not merely a judge; rather, he is the truth and the creator as well as the supreme judge, such that when he declares someone to be righteous, that person is truly righteous because he has been made righteous by God’s powerful, creative declaration, even as the heavens and the earth really sprang into existence by God’s powerful, creative declaration.

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting