Trent and the Gospel: A Reply to Tim Challies

May 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On April 16, Tim Challies, a Reformed pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and co-founder of Cruciform Press, published a post titled “The False Teachers: Pope Francis.” That generated much discussion, as one might imagine. I responded to it in comment #335 of “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” One of the criticisms Tim received in response to that post was the following: “You do not understand the Roman Catholic view of justification; if you understood Catholic theology you would see the pope as a defender of truth rather than an opponent of truth.” So Tim responded on May 6th with a follow-up article titled “Anti-Catholic or Pro-Gospel?,” in which he seeks to show not only that he understands the Catholic doctrine of justification, but that it is contrary to Scripture. He does this by examining six canons from the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent, and claiming implicitly that they are contrary to Scripture. So let’s take a look at these canons one at a time.

TrentoConcilio
The Council of Trent

Tim first quotes Canon 9 from the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent:

If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. (Canon 9)

To this he responds:

I believe that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required and nothing else needs to be cooperated with, to obtain the grace of justification. Rome understands exactly what I believe here and rejects it. (Rom 3:20-28, Eph 2:8)

Tim implies that there is a contradiction between Trent Session 6 Can. 9 and Scripture, namely (Rom 3:20-28, and Eph 2:8). But here’s why there is no contradiction. Session 6 Canon 9 is condemning the notion that nothing at all is required on the part of the Catechumen to prepare to receive the grace of justification at baptism,1 that he need not repent of his sins or pray or love God or even resolve to seek baptism. In Romans 3:28, however, St. Paul is not speaking of what is required to prepare to receive the grace of justification in baptism, but rather of the impossibility of justification by works done apart from grace. Likewise, what Trent says about the necessity of preparing to receive the grace of justification in baptism is fully compatible with the truth St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, according to which saving faith is a gift from God and not from ourselves, and that saving faith is not merited by works. The Catholic Church affirms that faith is a gift from God, not from ourselves, and that faith is not merited by works. So both of those passages are fully compatible with what Canon 9 says.

Then Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 12:

If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema. (Canon 12)

To this Tim responds:

I believe this! I believe that justifying faith is confidence in God’s divine mercy which remits sin for the sake of Christ and on the basis of the work of Christ. It is this—faith—and nothing else that justifies us. (Rom 3:28, John 1:12)

Here Tim implies that according to Rom 3:28 and John 1:12, justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy. Importantly there are two differences between Tim’s conception of what justifying faith is, and what the Catholic Church teaches justifying faith is. The first difference is in the conception of faith itself. For Tim, faith is merely confidence in divine mercy. But according to the Catholic Church, faith is not only “a personal adherence of man to God,” but also, at the same time and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.” (CCC 150) For this reason, one point of Canon 12 is to condemn the notion that justifying faith does not include assenting to the whole truth that God has revealed (e.g. assenting to the Creed), but is only trust in His mercy. The second difference between Tim’s conception of what justifying faith is, and what the Catholic Church teaches concerning justifying faith is that for Tim, justifying faith is not informed by agape, whereas according to the Catholic Church, faith that is not informed by agape is dead faith, and is therefore not justifying faith.

So now the question is whether the two passages Tim cites support his conception of faith over that of the Catholic Church. When we turn to Romans 3:28, we find that it does not decide this question, i.e. which conception of faith (Tim’s or the Catholic Church’s) is the correct one. Romans 3:28 reads, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” That’s fully compatible with the Catholic conception of faith. So this verse does not support Tim’s position over against the Catholic teaching concerning what justifying faith is. Nor does John 1:12 decide the question. John 1:12 reads, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” This verse does not say whether believing in His Name merely means confidence in His mercy, or whether it includes assenting to the whole truth God has revealed, and is informed by agape. The verse simply does not answer the question; that’s not its purpose. So both of these verses to which Tim appeals here do not support Tim’s position over against the Catholic teaching concerning what justifying faith is. They leave the question unanswered. At the very least, nothing in these verses entails a contradiction with what Canon 12 says.

Next Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 14:

If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema. (Canon 14)

To this he responds:

This may require some nuance, because I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin; however, I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners. (Rom 5:1)

The reason for Canon 14 is very similar to the reason for Canon 12. The Council was condemning (a) a conception of faith that did not include assent to the whole truth revealed by God and its being made alive by agape, (b) a conception of faith that made one’s own justificatory status the object of faith, (c) a conception of justification according to which a belief about one’s own justificatory status is the necessary and sufficient means by which justification is effected. When Tim replies by saying, “I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners,” he misunderstands this particular canon, because in this canon the conception of faith being condemned is the sort that has oneself as its object, i.e. one’s own justificatory status is the object of belief. This canon is not talking about “faith in Christ.” In support of his position Tim appeals to Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here again, however, this verse does not specify whether faith is what the Catholic Church says faith is, or whether it is faith that has one’s own justificatory status as its object. The verse simply doesn’t answer that question, because the purpose of the verse is not to define what faith is. So this verse does not support what this canon condemns. And given what Tim says in response to this canon, that is, given that he misinterprets it as referring to “faith in Christ,” he may actually agree with this canon.

Next Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 24:

If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Canon 24)

To he replies:

I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification. I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation. (Gal 3:1-3, Gal 5:1-3)

Tim appeals to Galatians 3:1-3 and 5:1-3 as support for his denial that good works done in a state of grace both preserve and increase justification. So let’s look at these passages. Galatians 3:1-3 reads as follows:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

And Galatians 5:1-3 reads as follows:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. (Gal 5:1-3)

These verses are not about good works done out of agape in a state of grace, but about a return to the Old Covenant Law. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul was not condemning or even referring to growth in justification through good works done in a state of grace; he was condemning a return to the Old Covenant by Christians, because that was a rejection of the New Covenant and implicitly therefore a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah who established the New Covenant in which the requirement of those ceremonial laws is done away. St. Paul’s condemnation of the teaching of the Judaizers was not for believing that works done in agape (in accordance with the moral law under the New Covenant) increase our justification, but for believing that the keeping of the ceremonial law, and thus returning to the Old Covenant and the whole Jewish law is necessary for justification.

The Judaizers were rejecting the New Covenant, in which we are justified by sanctifying grace and [living] faith in Christ, received through the sacrament of baptism instituted by Christ. But the Catholic Church affirms the New Covenant. In fact the Catholic Church is the New Israel, the Israel of the New Covenant. (cf. Gal 6:16) The Catholic Church teaches that we are justified by [living] faith in Christ, a faith that we receive as a gift from God, along with sanctifying grace, in the sacrament of baptism instituted by Christ. Tim’s assumption that St. Paul’s condemnation of the Judaizers’ doctrine applies to Catholic doctrine overlooks the role of the Covenants in the Galatian account. Tim seemingly thinks that St. Paul’s concern in his letter to the Galatians is simply excluding works of any sort from justification. It is true that St. Paul recognizes that works cannot justify. But St. Paul’s primary concern for the Galatian believers is that they remain within the New Covenant, and thus remain united to Christ. By adding the requirement of the ceremonial law they were returning to the Old Covenant, and thus nullifying the New Covenant and the sacrifice of Christ, the long-awaited Messiah and Savior. (cf. Gal 5:1ff) The Catholic Church rejects the permissibility of rejecting one’s baptism and returning to the Old Covenant for justification or salvation. From the Catholic point of view, adding the requirements of the ceremonial law would be nothing less than apostasy from the New Covenant established by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. So in this respect, the Catholic Church does not fall under St. Paul’s condemnation of the doctrine of the Judaizers. And likewise for this reason these verses do not support Tim’s position, or in any way oppose Canon 24.

Then Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 30:

If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. (Canon 30)

In response he writes:

I believe this precious truth and will fight to the death for it! I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed to such an extent that no debt remains to be discharged in this world or in purgatory before he can enter into heaven. (Rom 5:1, Col 2:13-14)

This canon is condemning the notion that sinning after having been justified does not produce a debt of temporal punishment. I have explained the basis for the distinction between the eternal debt of punishment and the temporal debt of punishment in “St. Thomas Aquinas on Penance.” In referencing Rom 5:1 and Col 2:13-14 Tim is implying that Rom 5:1 and Col 2:13-14 support his position and oppose the Catholic teaching. Rom 5:1 again reads,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This verse is fully compatible with the Catholic position, because the debt of temporal punishment does not imply or entail not being at peace with God. The debt of temporal punishment is due to ‘horizontal’ (i.e. creature-to-creature) acts of injustice. We can be at peace with God while still owing a debt to fellow creatures. Hence this verse is fully compatible with the Catholic teaching. Colossians 2:13-14 reads:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

In these two verses the ‘debt’ in question is the debt of eternal punishment. St. Paul is not saying that the debt includes all debts Christians could owe to their fellow man. Otherwise Christians would never have to pay back loans to fellow humans, because the debt would already have been paid by Christ on the Cross. For this same reason, this verse is not referring to the debt of temporal punishment, and therefore does not oppose or contradict the Catholic teaching regarding the possibility of accruing a debt of temporal punishment after justification.

What is the fundamental reason underlying the disagreement between Tim and the Catholic regarding the interpretation of the verses to which he has appealed in criticism of these five canons? I have laid that out in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

Finally Tim quotes Trent 6, Canon 33:

If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. (Canon 33)

To that he responds:

This is the heart of the issue, isn’t it? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, as laid out by the Council of Trent, and as systematized in the canons, does that very thing—it diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. It adds to Christ’s work. To add anything to Christ’s work is to destroy it altogether.

Tim’s concern is that the doctrine that man participates in his salvation takes some glory away from God, and gives it to man. This concern is based on three implicit philosophical assumptions:

(1) that God gets the most glory when God alone receives glory,

(2) that glory is the sort of thing that is lost by the giver when the giver gives it to others,

and

(3) that the degree of glory is determined entirely by the degree of causality exercised, such that the greater the causality exercised, the greater the glory.

But each of these three assumptions is not true. If (2) and (3) were true, then God would lose glory by creating creatures and giving them actual causal powers, since St. Paul tells us that creatures already have glory simply by the kind of nature that they have. (1 Cor 15:41) Moreover, if each of these three assumptions were true, then if God wished to maximize His glory, He would have either to avoid creating anything at all, or He would have to give only the illusion of causal powers to creatures, reserving all causality to Himself. This position is called occasionalism, and I have discussed it elsewhere.

Let’s consider what St. Thomas Aquinas says about this. Regarding our genuine participation in God’s providential governance of the world, St. Thomas argues that it is more perfect for God to give causality to creatures than to make creatures but withhold causality from them. He writes:

[T]here are certain intermediaries of God’s providence; for He governs things inferior by superior, not on account of any defect in His power, but by reason of the abundance of His goodness; so that the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures [ut dignitatem causalitatis etiam creaturis communicet].” (ST I Q.22 a.3)

If God governed alone, things would be deprived of the perfection of causality [subtraheretur perfectio causalis a rebus]. (ST I Q.103 a.6 ad.2)

Some have understood God to work in every agent in such a way that no created power has any effect in things, but that God alone is the ultimate cause of everything wrought; for instance, that it is not fire that gives heat, but God in the fire, and so forth. But this is impossible. First, because the order of cause and effect would be taken away from created things: and this would imply lack of power in the Creator: for it is due to the power of the cause, that it bestows active power on its effect. Secondly, because the active powers which are seen to exist in things, would be bestowed on things to no purpose, if these wrought nothing through them. Indeed, all things created would seem, in a way, to be purposeless, if they lacked an operation proper to them; since the purpose of everything is its operation. … We must therefore understand that God works in things in such a manner that things have their proper operation. (ST I Q.105 a.5)

It takes a greater power to make a creature with actual causal powers than a virtual reality in which God is the only causal agent. Therefore, creating creatures that have actual causal powers gives God more glory than creating creatures that have no causal powers. Since natural causal activity on the part of creatures does not detract from God’s glory but further reveals His great power and thus enhances his glory, so also the causal activity of rational creatures in cooperation with grace does not detract from God’s glory, but likewise enhances it. Regarding our genuine participation in God’s salvific work, St. Thomas writes:

In this way God is helped by us; inasmuch as we execute His orders, according to 1 Corinthians 3:9: “We are God’s co-adjutors.” Nor is this on account of any defect in the power of God, but because He employs intermediary causes, in order that the beauty of order may be preserved in the universe; and also that He may communicate to creatures the dignity of causality [ut etiam creaturis dignitatem causalitatis communicet]. (ST I Q.23 a.8 ad.2)

Notice that St. Thomas quotes St. Paul’s statement that [the Apostles] are God’s “co-adjutors.” In the Greek this reads: θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί. “For we are God’s co-workers.” Of course St. Paul is speaking about the work of preaching the gospel and building up the Church through prayer and teaching and service. But, if man may be a co-worker with God in the salvation of others, then it would be ad hoc to claim that man may not in principle be a co-worker in his own salvation. St. Paul implies as much when he states explicitly to the Philippians that they should “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling” [μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε]. (Phil 2:12) St. Thomas continues:

Now it is a greater perfection for a thing to be good in itself and also the cause of goodness in others, than only to be good in itself. Therefore God so governs things that He makes some of them to be causes of others in government; as a master, who not only imparts knowledge to his pupils, but gives also the faculty of teaching others. (ST I Q.103 a.6)

A thing is more perfect, says St. Thomas, when it can be the cause of goodness in others, than only to be good in itself. So Christ gives a greater gift, and receives more glory, when He gives us a participation in His salvific work, such that we can be co-workers with Him both in the salvation of others and in our own salvation.

All of this shows that it what is underlying Tim’s opposition to Canon 33 is a philosophical assumption that God receives more glory when God does it all Himself, and does not allow us to participate. But that’s not a safe assumption, and as St. Thomas shows, a good argument can be made for its opposite, namely, that God receives more glory when He does not do it all Himself, but instead allows His creatures to participate in His work, both on the level of nature, and on the level of grace.

Finally Tim writes:

As I read the canons of the Council of Trent I see a systematic explanation and thorough denial of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I see that Rome understands what I believe and declares it anathema. Of course it is her right to do this, but let’s not miss some important implications: Whatever else Rome teaches, she will not teach that we are justified solely by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. If she teaches a gospel that adds to the work of Christ, she teaches a false gospel, doesn’t she? And if Francis is the head of the organization that states this as official doctrine, if he is her chief defender and propagator, I must judge him a false teacher. What else could I do?

The Catholic Church clearly does not teach what Tim believes, i.e. that we are justified by faith [as mere confidence in divine mercy, without assent in the whole revelation of God, and without agape] alone. Even the phrase faith “in Christ alone” presupposes a trust conception of faith, and does not necessarily include the “free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed,” e.g. does not include affirming the Creed. Otherwise “in Christ alone” would entail a denial of the Trinity. So even with phrases like “in Christ alone,” the disagreement is not a simple yes or no (affirmation or denial), but is rather a difference in paradigm, because the respective concepts of what justifying faith is are different. Even Tim’s claim that the Catholic Church teaches a gospel that “adds to the work of Christ” presupposes a different paradigm regarding the nature of Christ’s work. In the Catholic paradigm Christ’s work includes us, and includes our participation in it. We cannot add to it in the sense of doing something not included in it; that would be a work done apart from grace, and that sort of notion would be Pelagianism. But we can ‘add’ to it in the sense of doing something in it, through it. Christ is not the only agent of His salvation; by His work He makes us co-workers with Him, such that in Him and through Him who lives within us, we are given the gift of participating in and cooperating with His salvific work. That’s not a false gospel; that’s just the gospel. Only when one looks at it through a zero-sum, non-participatory paradigm lens does it appear to be going beyond Christ, and thus appear Pelagian. But in the Catholic participatory paradigm, real union with Christ just is the gospel.

  1. On baptismal regeneration see here. []
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  1. Just curious how/why Challies does not address Chapters 5 & 8? We need to read the entire document as a whole:

    Catholic Doctrine: No One Can Merit the Initial Grace of Justification

    “The council, moreover, declares that in adults the beginning of justification must be
    attributed to God’s prevenient grace through Jesus Christ, that is, to his call addressed to
    them without any previous merits of theirs. Thus, those who through their sins were
    turned away from God, awakened and assisted by his grace, are disposed to turn to their
    own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace. In this way, God
    touches the heart of man with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, but man himself is not
    entirely inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he can reject it; and yet, without
    God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move toward justice in God’s sight.” (Council
    of Trent, Decree on Justification, Chapter 5)

    Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial
    grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. (Catechism of the
    Catholic Church, no. 2010)

    The Council of Trent on Initial Justification as Pure Grace

    “When the apostle [Paul] says that man is justified “through faith” and “gratuitously”
    (Rom 3:22, 24) those words are to be understood in the sense in which the Catholic
    Church has held and declared them with uninterrupted unanimity, namely, that we are
    said to be justified through faith because “faith is the beginning of man’s salvation,” the
    foundation and root of all justification, “without which it is impossible to please God”
    (Heb 11:6) and to come into the fellowship of his sons. And we are said to be justified
    gratuitously because nothing that precedes justification, neither faith nor works, merits
    the grace of justification; for “if it is by grace, it is not longer on the basis of works;
    otherwise (as the same apostle says) grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6).”
    (Council of Trent, Decree on Justification, Chapter 8)

  2. Hi Bryan,

    In relation to Trent 6, Canon 24, I agree with your reading of Galatians 3:1-3 and 5:1-3 . But are you able to tell me which scripture passages do support Trent 6 Canon 24?

    Also how is the concept of ‘increase in justification’ different from “growing in sanctification” – a common term used by Protestants? Is it only a matter of semantics or is there a real conceptual difference?

  3. Di,
    I recommend this article and the comments following it for answers to your questions: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/08/imputation-and-paradigms-a-reply-to-nicholas-batzig/

    Mark

  4. DJ:

    “If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Canon 24)”

    As we know, once we receive the gratuitous, un-merited (save Christ’s work) grace of God, through faith, we must “work out our salvation through fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). While we may have faith, if we do not choose the works of charity in our life, we, through our omissions, reject the Kingdom – we reject Christ…in our lack of works (Matthew 25). Jesus is very clear that we must “endure” in the faith and in our love…perservere until the end (Matthew 10:22). And does St. Paul not say that we will be judged according to our “works”? Our “deeds”? Romans 2:6. Notice that Paul does not say we will be judged by our faith, but we will be judged by our works of charity – our love. “The greatest of these is faith?” No, “the greatest of these is love.”

    I will say that this paper could give reference to the New Perspective on Paul, as the term is made notable mostly by NT Wright. We also suggest Brant Pitre’s new set:
    http://www.brantpitre.com/download/attachment/7889
    this is the outline. the accompanying 2 CD set is very good, while obviously brief.

  5. Tim wasn’t arguing the Protestant position, just pointing out that the Pope does not preach it. You dissect his brief piece like it was intended as an extended argument. It wasn’t. Why not just admit he’s right: by Evangelical standards, Francis is a noble do-gooder who preaches you get to Heaven by following your conscience. And Jesus’ example of embracing the poor.

  6. I have been reading (and enjoying) Called to Communion since I first turned off the road to perdition and accepted the bright gaze of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. So kudos CtC, I really enjoy your material.

    On to the matter at hand…

    Mr. Challies lost me with this gem “…Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul, and officially damns those who believe anything else.”

    The past ecumenical discussions I have read on here show a mutual respect between both Protestant and Catholic, but the above is just pure vitriol. I commend those who have the patience to go through Trent’s Canon’s and refute such erroneous statements.

  7. James, I agree. In Challies’ ‘defense’ he was not writing for this blog. There is always a misstatement re: the Church from the detractor. It’s only “damning” if it’s the truth, you fairly know it’s the truth, an you reject it to “hold the line.”

    An ecumenical approach that Challies could have taken is “in light of ecumenical interests, can this be explained from the Bible? Not just taking the few verses I choose to cite, but looking at the robust sampling of Catholic explanations regarding Justification and Salvation.”

    He could also make reference to Chapters/Canons 5 & 8

  8. Di, (#2)

    But are you able to tell me which scripture passages do support Trent 6 Canon 24?

    Your question presupposes the Protestant idea that every doctrine must be deducible from some prooftexts. In the Catholic paradigm, the Apostolic deposit is composed of Scripture and Tradition together. (See my explanation in VIII. Scripture and Tradition in my reply to Michael Horton’s last comment in our Modern Reformation interview.

    The increase in justification, in Catholic doctrine, is similar (though different in other respects) to what Protestants conceive of as progressive sanctification, because in Catholic doctrine there is no change in justification that is not also at the same time and to the same degree a corresponding change in sanctification. One cannot be just and be unholy at the same time, because God is Truth. (I have addressed the problem of “legal fiction” previously in comments #108, #114, #157, and #159 of the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” post, in comment #39 of the “Imputation and Infusion: A Reply to R.C. Sproul Jr.” post, in comment #146 of “From Calvin to the Barque of Peter: A Reformed Seminarian becomes Catholic” post, and in comment #219 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” post.)

    In Romans 6, St. Paul begins by asking about the increase of grace, whether it is through continuing to sin. And his answer is ‘no.’ By our union with Christ we are to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4), alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11). Then he says,

    and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness [ὅπλα ἀδικίας] but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness [ὅπλα δικαιοσύνης] to God. (Rom 6:13)

    In the Catholic paradigm this increase in righteousness [δικαιοσύνης] is an increase in justification because it is a growth in agape, which is righteousness. To be an instrument of righteousness is to be an instrument of the increase in justification. Just as in our former state the members of our bodies were instruments for making us increase in unrighteousness, so by grace and in a state of grace and justification our members become instruments by which we grow in righteousness, and therefore grow in justification. That’s why he goes on to say:

    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 [εἰς δικαιοσύνην]? (Rom 6:16)

    Obedience “resulting in righteousness” is obedience that results in justification. He is not here talking about initial justification. In the context, he is talking about growing in righteousness in our daily lives, i.e. increasing in justification, because he is contrasting it with continuing to live in sin. One way this growth in righteousness takes place is through our obedience, for he says:

    But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 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 [δοῦλα τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ εἰς ἁγιασμόν]. (Rom 6:17-19)

    Becoming obedient from the heart, and slaves of righteousness, and presenting the members of our bodies as slaves to righteousness, results in sanctification. It results in a growth or increase in holiness and righteousness, and thus an increase by grace in the righteousness we have received, through a greater participation in agape.

    Elsewhere St. Paul speaks of cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1) Perfecting holiness involves an increase in righteousness (i.e. agape), and thus an increase in justification. (On the relation of agape and justification see “Imputation and Paradigms” and the discussion following it.) And since St. Paul is saying that we are to do this, and because in the Catholic paradigm growth in sanctification is growth in righteousness and justification, it follows that we are to participate in increasing our justification.

    And this increase in justification (or growth in righteousness) is what St. James is speaking of in James 2, when he writes:

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:21-26)

    This is not initial justification, again, because that would be Pelagianism, and because Abraham was already in a state of grace, as I have shown in the second half of comment #140 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” thread. Nor is it final justification, because James speaks of it in the past tense, as something that occurred at the moment Abraham (and Rahab) acted. Rather, James is talking about growing in righteousness, i.e. growing in justification. A true faith, i.e. a living faith, is perfected through good works done in grace, because through these good works the agent grows in righteousness, i.e. in justification.

    You asked:

    Also how is the concept of ‘increase in justification’ different from “growing in sanctification” – a common term used by Protestants? Is it only a matter of semantics or is there a real conceptual difference?

    I addressed this in my second paragraph of comment #150 in the “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  9. Joe (re: #5)

    Tim wasn’t arguing the Protestant position, just pointing out that the Pope does not preach it.

    His inclusion of the Scripture references was for the purpose of showing where he thinks Trent contradicts Scripture.

    You dissect his brief piece like it was intended as an extended argument. It wasn’t.

    There is no rule disallowing the dissection [i.e. refutation] of non-extended arguments.

    Why not just admit he’s right: by Evangelical standards, Francis is a noble do-gooder who preaches you get to Heaven by following your conscience. And Jesus’ example of embracing the poor.

    The first reason not to “admit” this is because this isn’t an interrogation room, but a forum for authentic dialogue. The second reason is because what you’re claiming is simply not true. Pope Francis is not a Pelagian. Following one’s conscience is the beginning of the path to righteousness, and something one ought to do one’s whole life long. Those who follow their conscience will be led to the truth by the Holy Spirit, and thus to Christ and His Church. But that does not entail that Pope Francis believes that one can get to heaven apart from grace, merely by following one’s conscience. And the third reason is that the purpose of my reply was to address only what Tim wrote in his post, not to address other criticisms of Pope Francis. So the “why not just admit” language already sets up a straw man, by treating my post as having a purpose it does not actually have.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  10. Bryan,

    NT studies over the past century and a half have really emphasized the importance of the eschatological nature of justification in Paul. In the Reformed tradition this is particular emphasized by men like Ridderbos and Vos and move forward by men like Richard Gaffin. J.V. Fesko’s recent book on the subject also puts a significant emphasis on the eschatological aspect of justification. Outside of the confessional Reformed tradition, Evangelicals such as Constantine Campbell have also written about the importance of the eschatological in Pauline soteriology.

    I’m still a little fuzzy on how the Catholic position accounts for the eschatological weight that Paul puts on justification while also maintaining distinctions between initial and final justification. For the Reformed, justification is eschatological in the sense that is an intrusion of judgment day into history, pronouncing that the believer will be found just on the Final Day. Clearly the Catholic position is different! Would you mind explaining the points of difference as it relates to justification and eschatology in RC thought? Thanks for the consideration, Bryan!

  11. Brandon,

    I am sorry to intrude, and, I am certain that Bryan will provide a more than satisfactory answer, but…

    You wrote:
    “I’m still a little fuzzy on how the Catholic position accounts for the eschatological weight that Paul puts on justification while also maintaining distinctions between initial and final justification…”

    Perhaps I am a bit fuzzy as you what your specific point is, but… ISTM that one must assume that St. Paul (and the rest of Scripture, I would imagine) teach justification as a one-time forensic declaration of righteousness, based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the “account” of an elect believer to make the Catholic picture seem “fuzzy.” I, for one, see no contradiction whatsoever in holding fast to initial and final justification, and these justifications being the Final Day intruding into history…

    Did I miss you completely?

    IC XC
    Christopher

  12. Brandon: “I’m still a little fuzzy on how the Catholic position accounts for the eschatological weight that Paul puts on justification while also maintaining distinctions between initial and final justification. For the Reformed, justification is eschatological in the sense that is an intrusion of judgment day into history, pronouncing that the believer will be found just on the Final Day. Clearly the Catholic position is different! Would you mind explaining the points of difference as it relates to justification and eschatology in RC thought?”

    Brandon, how does one reconcile your statement:
    1. “For the Reformed, justification is eschatological in the sense that is an intrusion of judgment day into history, pronouncing that the believer will be found just on the Final Day”

    with

    2. All of Paul’s and Jesus’ emphasis on how we live our lives AFTER we become justified by faith?

    “salvation is a lifelong process (Philippians 2:12-13, 3:10-14) begun at baptism, rather than a
    one-time event. … In in Matthew 25:31-46, the great scene of the separation of sheep and goats, where Christ continually makes the works of faith the central criterion of judgment. And again in Luke 18:18-25, where the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus
    asks if he has kept the Commandments. Upon finding out that he has, He commands him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor (18:22). … Nothing whatsoever is spoken about faith alone in any of these passages, as would be rightfully expected if Luther were correct about the nature of saving faith.” Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (2001)

    “Romans 2:5-13. … Judgment, according to St. Paul in his quintessential treatise on
    salvational theology, his letter to the Romans, is according to works, just as Christ also explicitly taught. This is a theme which runs through St. Paul’s writings (for example, 1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Galatians 6:7-9, Colossians 3:23-25).” Id.

  13. Hi Brandon,

    That initial justification has some eschatological aspects is certainly true – God pronounces a judgment, just like He will at the end. But I’m not seeing how this leads to a ‘fuzziness’ between initial and final justification. For starters, initial justification is of the type that can be lost, while final cannot. That there are eschatological elements in justification does not seem to me to show that any sort of justification whatsoever must have an eschatological finality.

    Perhaps you could unpack the argument a bit more?

  14. Again, it is very important to note that Chillies only references the Canons. He does not bother to address the “Chapters” which precede the Canons and give provide much of the Biblical explanation.

    For example, to better understand “Canon 24 of Trent 6″:

    “If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works,but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.”

    one should (must) read “Chapter X” of Trent 6:

    “CHAPTER X
    THE INCREASE OF THE JUSTIFICATION RECEIVED

    Having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends and domestics of God,[49] advancing from virtue to virtue,[50] they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day,[51] that is, mortifying the members[52] of their flesh, and presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification,[53] they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith cooperating with good works, increase in that justice received through the grace of Christ and are further justified, as it is written:
    He that is just, let him be justified still;[54] and, Be not afraid to be justified even to death;[55] and again, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?[56]

    This increase of justice holy Church asks for when she prays:
    “Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity.”[57]

    49. Eph. 2:19.

    50. Ps. 83:8.

    51. See 2 Cor. 4:16.

    52. Col. 3:5.

    53. Rom. 6:13, 19.

    54. Apoc. 22:11.

    55. Ecclus. 18:22.

    56. James 2:24.

    57. Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.”

  15. Hello Brandon, (re: #10)

    I’m still a little fuzzy on how the Catholic position accounts for the eschatological weight that Paul puts on justification while also maintaining distinctions between initial and final justification. For the Reformed, justification is eschatological in the sense that is an intrusion of judgment day into history, pronouncing that the believer will be found just on the Final Day. Clearly the Catholic position is different! Would you mind explaining the points of difference as it relates to justification and eschatology in RC thought?

    I’ve explained the problem with the proleptic declaration position in comment #161 of the “From Calvin to the Barque of Peter” thread, in comment #687 of the “How John Calvin Made Me Catholic” thread, and in comment #32 of the “St. Augustine on Faith Without Love” thread.

    As for the Catholic doctrine, the Catholic position differs, in part, from the proleptic declaration position in the way I described in comment #691 of the “How John Calvin Made Me Catholic” thread. One’s present justification status depends on whether one is presently in a state of grace; one’s present justification is not a proleptic declaration by God already giving the final verdict that will be pronounced on Judgment Day. That would be presumption, because then, as soon as we came to know that we are presently justified, we would immediately know that we are elect-for-glory. But apart from a special (private) revelation, we do not know that we are elect-for-glory, because the apostolic deposit does not include a list of the names of those elect-for-glory. (See Canon 16 of Trent VI.) For those having lived and died in a state of grace, final justification is not based on extra nos imputation, but on the truth concerning our actual lives (thoughts, words, deeds), as St. Paul says:

    we know that the judgment of God is according to the truth” [κρίμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν κατὰ ἀλήθειαν]. (Romans 2:2)

    He is referring there to the Day of Judgment, when God sees the heart of every man, and nothing is hidden from His sight, and every man receives his reward from God, according to what he has done in the flesh, whether good or evil. Jesus spoke of this uncovering of all that is hidden, in Matt 10:26, and in Mark 4:22, and in Luke 8:17 and 12:2. And St. Paul himself says, in a passage that is remarkably parallel to Romans 2:

    Therefore do not go on passing judgment before 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. (1 Cor 4:5)

    And again:

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

    The one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal 6:8-9)

    The author of the letter to the Hebrews says something quite similar:

    And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:13)

    And John writes in Revelation:

    Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Rev. 22:12)

    This is the meaning of the judgment of God on the Day of Judgment, to which St. Paul refers in Romans 2:2. St. Paul says that God will give to each man according to works, those who persevere in doing good will receive the reward of “eternal life:”

    For He will render to every man according to his works, to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. (Romans 2:6-7)

    He refers to the Judgment again in Rom 2:11, where he says that there is no partiality [προσωπολημψία] with God. He is saying that on that Day, God will show no partiality. But He will judge according to the truth, according to what we truly are, what we have thought, and said (Matt 12:37), and done. Being a Jew will not allow anyone to hide any sins on that Day. That is what he is saying in Rom 2:12, when he says:

    For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law.”

    He is saying that we will be judged according to the standard we know. The Gentiles, who have the moral law given to them by conscience, will be judged according to that law, not according to the Mosaic Law. The Jew, however, who has (in addition to the moral law known by reason) the divine Law that was given specially to Moses, will be judged by that [Mosaic] Law.

    In Rom 2:13, St. Paul is still speaking about Judgment Day, explaining that it will be of no use on that Day of Judgment to have received the Law of Moses, if one only hears it and does not do it. That’s what he means when he says:

    “for it is not the hearers of the law who are just before God [δίκαιοι παρὰ [τῷ] θεῷ], but the doers of the Law will be justified [δικαιωθήσονται.].” (Rom 2:13)

    This is what Jesus Himself said in John 5:29, when He said, “those who did the good deeds [will be raised] to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” Similarly, St. Paul here in Romans 2 says that on that Day, it will be the doers of the law (not those who hear but do not do) who will be “just before God,” and so will be found by God to be just. The God who is Truth, and who judges only according to the truth (Rom 2:2), will disclose the hearts of men, bring everything to light, and judge those persons to be actually righteous who have actually fulfilled the law. Truth Himself will reveal the doers of the law to be doers of the law, to be law-keepers, and not law-breakers. He will, by uncovering everything, show them to be actually righteous.

    It was this fact about the gospel, that we will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, and all that we have thought, said, and done will be revealed, and those found to be righteous will enter into eternal life, and those found to be unrighteous into eternal damnation, that frightened Felix and caused him to send St. Paul away, when St. Paul was preaching the gospel to him. (Acts 24:25) The gospel is not a way to avoid Judgment, or hide behind an extra nos imputed righteousness, as though the Creator and Judge is not the same God as the Savior (ala Marcion). The gospel is that by which through the infusion of sanctifying grace and agape, we are actually and truly made righteous, such that should we persevere in grace, then on Judgment Day, our thoughts, words, and deeds truly will be deserving of eternal life, and of Christ’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”

    Many more such passages can be found in the “V. Scripture on Merit” section of our “The Doctrine of Merit” article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  16. In many ways the interaction is indicative of the classic debate. But it will be helpful to respond to a few points. The author says,

    “…St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, according to which saving faith is a gift from God and not from ourselves, and that saving faith is not merited by works.”

    Ah, but is Paul speaking about a faith that includes the believer in the work of Christ and therefore brings justification at some point? Or is Paul telling those in the Body that they were already saved through faith alone by grace alone?

    “The Catholic Church affirms that faith is a gift from God, not from ourselves, and that faith is not merited by works. So both of those passages are fully compatible with what Canon 9 says.”

    While it’s agreed that Eph. 2:8-9 teaches this, it is however not all it teaches. It is not only speaking about faith itself being the gift. Not to get pedantic but the tense of τοῦτο or ‘this’ in v. 8 does not allow for it to indicate just the word ‘faith’ but speaks to the entire clause of being saved by grace through faith. This is something that had been done in the past to this audience.

    “But, if man may be a co-worker with God in the salvation of others, then it would be ad hoc to claim that man may not in principle be a co-worker in his own salvation. St. Paul implies as much when he states explicitly to the Philippians that they should “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling”

    It would not be ad hoc at all. Several verses plainly speak to man being unable to co-work in his own salvation. Spreading the Gospel does not result in the evangelist bringing salvific justification. He is delivering news about a work already completed. This is entirely different than a person working to accomplish legal justification. The author then cites Phil. 2:12. Well, this is a verse about sanctification. The saved is to exercise what he already has…not work to earn it.

    “Tim’s assumption that St. Paul’s condemnation of the Judaizers’ doctrine applies to Catholic doctrine overlooks the role of the Covenants in the Galatian account. Tim seemingly thinks that St. Paul’s concern in his letter to the Galatians is simply excluding works of any sort from justification. It is true that St. Paul recognizes that works cannot justify.”

    So what exactly is the author’s issue then? It’s true that the work being added in the Galatian heresy was one that stemmed from Torah. However, that does not mean that only works that would lead to being under the Mosaic Covenant were to be excluded from the Gospel. That was the work that this culture and audience embraced. Naturally, it would be a different work in a different setting. But that’s immaterial. The point is that any work added to what Christ has done in order to effect forensic justification results in a false Gospel. Anyone who preached any Gospel different than that from the apostles was to be accursed (Gal. 1:8). That would certainly include any that required works to be saved…not to be sanctified or work with Christ in His ongoing ministry…but to be saved.

    “In fact the Catholic Church is the New Israel, the Israel of the New Covenant. (cf. Gal 6:16)”

    Though this is a lesser point in the article, it nevertheless speaks to the eisegesis used in other instances. The context and the very grammar of Galatians 6:16 indicates that the Israel of God is in addition to (AND) those who walk by this rule (i.e. the Church as a whole). The Israel of God consists of those Jews in the Church who know Jesus as Lord and Savior. They are the natural branches in the olive tree (cf. Rom. 11). In Galatians Paul is juxtaposing saved Jews with Judaizers. Even if this point was debatable, the fact that there is not one explicit verse saying that the church is Israel, whereas there are 77 in the New Testament that don’t, speaks volumes. I’ll add a link to my article that speaks about this.

    I agree with the author where at the end he explains that much of this is based on a given paradigm. I don’t think he is entirely fair in his assessment of the other side’s but that’s not terribly important. What is clear is that both sides disagree on the meaning and application of various terms. If this was just semantics it would be no problem. But functionally, we know that the nature of salvific justification is fundamentally affected based on the application of the language that speaks to the substance.

    The author’s article is really anachronistic. The authors of Trent knew what the reformers believed by sola fide and sola gratia. And they declared such beliefs as anathema. That’s the historical context of what was written and where we need to start.

    To get to the heart of the issue, let me ask the author this: at what moment do you believe a person is forensically justified? In other words, when does the final declaration come down as to the fate of one’s soul for eternity? Is is when that person believes on Jesus as Lord and Savior or after some process? Thank you.

    http://appleeye.org/2014/01/29/j-c-ryle-challenges-you-on-the-meaning-of-israel/

  17. I think one fundamental problem is that a wrong understanding of Justification is imputed on to the text (pun intended). The Reformed tradition understands “justify” to mean something along the lines of “declared to have kept the law perfectly and thus legally entitled to enter Heaven,” but that’s not how the term is ever used in Scripture. The term is often used in a forensic sense, but forensic in the sense of declaring either guilty or not guilty (or even pardoned) – this lawcourt theme does not include the notion of declaring that someone has kept the law perfectly.

    What Paul’s main theme is when speaking of getting justified and getting saved is that of having our sins forgiven, given a new heart, given the Holy Spirit, and thus reconciled to God. Now as one of God’s adopted children, we must grow and mature to adulthood to receive our promised inheritance. The Reformed view has mistakenly conflated conversion/reconciliation with the persevering in good works (i.e. finishing the race) to be worthy of Heaven. The two events are distinct.

    So any time a Protestant says they want to stand with full confidence before God by faith alone, the problem is that ‘full confidence’ here is only speaking of reconciled back into God’s family, and is not speaking of the final judgement based on our works. Tim and other Reformed first need to properly define “justify,” and it’s not enough for them to say things like “justify is a forensic term” and “justify does not mean to infuse righteousness into someone,” because even if there’s truth to those statements, it’s still a bait and switch of sorts because the fact is “justify” does not ever mean “declare to have perfectly kept the law,” but something more along the lines of vindicate.

  18. Matthew (re: #16)

    Ah, but is Paul speaking about a faith that includes the believer in the work of Christ and therefore brings justification at some point? Or is Paul telling those in the Body that they were already saved through faith alone by grace alone?

    If you think think that the Catholic doctrine is that justification is at some later point in the process of sanctification, and subsequent to our baptism, then you have misunderstood the Catholic doctrine. According to Catholic doctrine, we are justified at baptism, through which we received the gift of living faith. That’s the gift St. Paul is speaking of in Eph 2:8.

    Not to get pedantic but the tense of τοῦτο or ‘this’ in v. 8 does not allow for it to indicate just the word ‘faith’ but speaks to the entire clause of being saved by grace through faith.

    Demonstrative pronouns have no tense. But we agree that this grace and faith are not from ourselves, but are a gift of God.

    It would not be ad hoc at all. Several verses plainly speak to man being unable to co-work in his own salvation.

    Such as?

    Spreading the Gospel does not result in the evangelist bringing salvific justification. He is delivering news about a work already completed.

    If the gospel were merely news of actions already completed, there would be no need to bring the news. Faith would not even be necessary for salvation. What Christ has done on earth is already completed. But the justification He merited for us is applied to us in baptism. The claim that the gospel is mere information is gnostic, because the good news is not merely information, but is real union with Christ, the grace by which we share in His divine life, and hence have the hope of heaven. And this grace, this participation in the divine nature of which St. Peter speaks (2 Pet 1:4), by which we are justified, is neither a past event nor mere information.

    The author then cites Phil. 2:12. Well, this is a verse about sanctification. The saved is to exercise what he already has…not work to earn it.

    Of course one cannot earn what one already has received as a gift. No one has claimed otherwise. I agree that St. Paul is speaking about sanctification, but the word he uses is σωτηρίαν, i.e. salvation, because sanctification is part of salvation. There is no incompatibility between receiving salvation as a gift, and then also, subsequently, working out our salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that we can either squander and reject the gift we have received, or be a faithful steward of what we have received and so grow in that grace and agape we received at baptism.

    So what exactly is the author’s issue then?

    You can address your comments directly to me Matthew, rather than referring to me in the third person, as if I’m not present.

    The point is that any work added to what Christ has done in order to effect forensic justification results in a false Gospel.

    Setting aside the disagreement regarding the “forensic” nature of justification, if we are focused on the sense of justification as translation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (see Chapter IV of the Sixth Session of Trent), the Catholic Church likewise teaches that this is not something that we can merit in any way. We receive this justification through baptism, as I mentioned above.

    Anyone who preached any Gospel different than that from the apostles was to be accursed (Gal. 1:8).

    Agreed.

    That would certainly include any that required works to be saved…not to be sanctified or work with Christ in His ongoing ministry…but to be saved.

    If by ‘saved’ you are referring to justification-as-translation, then the Catholic Church agrees that we cannot merit that. But salvation is not merely justification-as-translation, but includes growing in conformity to Christ, and also dying in a state of grace. And these require walking in agape, and persevering unto death.

    Though this is a lesser point in the article, it nevertheless speaks to the eisegesis used in other instances. The context and the very grammar of Galatians 6:16 indicates that the Israel of God is in addition to (AND) those who walk by this rule (i.e. the Church as a whole). The Israel of God consists of those Jews in the Church who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    I would agree, if by ‘know’ you mean not merely dead faith, but living faith. But this is fully compatible with what I said, nor is it ‘eisegesis.’

    I agree with the author where at the end he explains that much of this is based on a given paradigm. I don’t think he is entirely fair in his assessment of the other side’s but that’s not terribly important.

    In your opinion, what did I say that was not fair?

    The author’s article is really anachronistic. The authors of Trent knew what the reformers believed by sola fide and sola gratia. And they declared such beliefs as anathema. That’s the historical context of what was written and where we need to start.

    How does that indicate or entail that the article is “anachronistic”?

    To get to the heart of the issue, let me ask the author this: at what moment do you believe a person is forensically justified? In other words, when does the final declaration come down as to the fate of one’s soul for eternity? Is is when that person believes on Jesus as Lord and Savior or after some process? Thank you.

    As I explained earlier, we are justified at baptism (see “The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration.”) But that’s not the “final declaration,” because it is possible to fall into mortal sin, or commit apostasy, and fall away from the faith altogether, and die in that condition. (See comment #15 above.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  19. Matthew,

    One thing to note when looking at Ephesians 2:8 is that St Paul actually defines for us what “by grace you have been saved” means:

    4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

    Verse 5 uses the same language as verse 8, and verse 5 explains this being “saved by grace” refers to an inward transformation – going from spiritually dead to spiritually alive – which is clearly not referring to some forensic/imputed status. Language of death/life is transformational, which means the grace in question is that which works in us.

    Some people like Dr R Scott Clark have claimed that the “seated with Christ” is merely forensic – “Paul says that we died and were raised with Christ and are presently seated with him. This is forensic, not realistic language.” – meaning that we’re imputed to be seated with Christ, but that’s really not a feasible reading of the text.

  20. “The first reason not to “admit” this is because this isn’t an interrogation room, but a forum for authentic dialogue.” Well, it would be if people like TC actually frequented, but I think that is not the case.

    “The second reason is because … Pope Francis is not a Pelagian. Following one’s conscience is the beginning of the path to righteousness, and something one ought to do one’s whole life long. [Agreed!] Those who follow their conscience will be led to the truth by the Holy Spirit, and thus to Christ and His Church.” [Not at all. Not if their consciences are malformed, or have been deadened by willful rebellion. And if those who follow their consciences are led to the Catholic Church, then how can the zillions who reject the Church be saved, if they have rejected their consciences? ]

    “But that does not entail that Pope Francis believes that one can get to heaven apart from grace, merely by following one’s conscience.”

    Pretty much what he implied if not said. Of course no one “gets” to Heaven apart from grace, since you can’t walk there. But when asked about the Last Things, if you resort to reducing it all to conscience, you are essentially arguing good intentions, honored by grace.

    “And the third reason is that the purpose of my reply was to address only what Tim wrote in his post, not to address other criticisms of Pope Francis. So the “why not just admit” language already sets up a straw man, by treating my post as having a purpose it does not actually have.”

    Your purpose is clearly to show the Pope is not guilty of TC’s charges, so my suggestion is hardly a straw man. Perhaps overly combative, I shall agree. But essentially, TC’s Reformed critique of the Pope seems spot on. He teaches salvation by goo intention, via grace, and certainly not by an exclusivity of faith a la the Reformed tradition. So by their standards, he teaches falsely. Why be surprised that the hold what they have always held, or that the rightly understand Vatican II to be teaching relatively humanistic version of Gospel, wherein pretty much, a la von Baltahsar, “love wins,” to paraphrase Rob Bell. You have to really want to believe this is not where all the last few popes are coming from exegete otherwise, I’d argue.

    Joe

  21. Joe, (re: #20)

    Well, it would be if people like TC actually frequented,

    No, CTC would remain a place for authentic dialogue, not a place for interrogation, even if TC actually frequented here.

    Not at all. Not if their consciences are malformed, or have been deadened by willful rebellion.

    Here you’re begging the question, by asserting a claim not held by Catholics. In the Catholic paradigm, the conscience cannot become so malformed that it becomes wrong to follow it, or that following it takes a person away from God. And if a person begins to follow his [malformed] conscience, he will be led to the truth by the Spirit.

    And if those who follow their consciences are led to the Catholic Church, then how can the zillions who reject the Church be saved, if they have rejected their consciences?

    Your question is a loaded question, because it presupposes that those not in the Catholic Church have not followed their conscience. That is not a safe assumption. People following their conscience may be at any stage along that process of finding the Church Christ founded. But persons cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (CCC 846)

    Pretty much what he implied if not said.

    Not at all. A wise person interprets comments within the fuller context in which they are uttered. Pope Francis speaks as a Catholic, and thus within the fuller context of Catholic doctrine. To understand him rightly, you thus must interpret what he said within the fuller context of Catholic teaching. To insist on interpreting him apart from that fuller context is to insist on misinterpreting him. Consider Jesus’s reply to the question “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” Jesus answered, “if you wish to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments.” (Mt. 19:17) Given your method (of interpreting a speaker apart from the fuller context), it would necessarily follow that Jesus was a Pelagian. And your error would be deserved, in such a case, if you insisted on interpreting Jesus apart from the fuller context of His whole doctrine. Same with Pope Francis.

    Of course no one “gets” to Heaven apart from grace, since you can’t walk there. But when asked about the Last Things, if you resort to reducing it all to conscience, you are essentially arguing good intentions, honored by grace.

    Except, as I already explained, Pope Francis did not “reduce it all to conscience.” Following conscience is the beginning, not the entirety, of what is required for salvation.

    Your purpose is clearly to show the Pope is not guilty of TC’s charges, so my suggestion is hardly a straw man.

    That’s a good example of a non sequitur.

    But essentially, TC’s Reformed critique of the Pope seems spot on. He teaches salvation by goo intention, via grace, and certainly not by an exclusivity of faith a la the Reformed tradition.

    Again, the notion that he teaches salvation by “good intention” via grace, is a straw man. As already explained, following one’s conscience is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition. Following one’s conscience will lead one to faith and baptism.

    So by their standards, he teaches falsely.

    I don’t deny that. But that just raises the question of the authority of “their standards.”

    Why be surprised that the hold what they have always held, or that the rightly understand Vatican II to be teaching relatively humanistic version of Gospel, wherein pretty much, a la von Baltahsar, “love wins,” to paraphrase Rob Bell.

    This too is a loaded question, not only because it presumes surprise, but also because it presumes that Vatican II teaches a “humanistic version of the Gospel” and “hopeful universalism.” But neither of those presumptions is true. Balthasar’s “hopeful universalism” was his own belief, not something taught by Vatican II.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  22. A public exchange on FB under Tim Challies’s FB post of his article:

    Lance Ferguson Bryan Cross…your words : “Christ is not the only agent of His salvation; by His work He makes us co-workers with Him, such that in Him and through Him who lives within us, we are given the gift of participating in and cooperating with His salvific work.” It seems to me that herein lies the greatest difference. You do not believe Christ accomplished the salvation of His people. You believe He only accomplished the possibility of their salvation (they must participate and cooperate enough to receive it). Is that an accurate understanding of your, and therefore Rome’s, position?
    Like · 2 · May 7 at 4:45pm

    Bryan R Cross Lance, the “fully accomplished” vs. “mere possibility” dilemma is a false dilemma, because there is a middle position. Do you, or do you not, participate in your on-going sanctification?
    Like · May 7 at 4:49pm

    Lance Ferguson Thanks for the response Bryan. I do want to understand your position, so bear with me. It does not seem to me that there can be a middle position? Either Christ fully accomplished salvation, or He did not fully accomplish it (in which case it is up to us to somehow complete it). So, maybe a different question would be better, “Do you (and RC) believe that Christ fully accomplished the eternal forgiveness and righteous standing of His people before the Father through His death and resurrection?”
    Like · May 7 at 5:07pm · Edited

    Lance Ferguson And yes, I do believe that I participate in my ongoing (progressive) sanctification.
    Like · May 7 at 5:10pm

    Bryan R Cross Lance, so because you participate in your sanctification, then, according to your ["fully accomplished" or "mere possibility"] dilemma, because Christ did not already accomplish your ongoing sanctification, therefore He must have made your ongoing salvation only a mere possibility. In that case, how do you avoid the conclusion that you are a pelagian about your ongoing sanctification? i.e. Jesus merely made your ongoing sanctification possible; so you are the one monergistically turning that mere possibility into an actuality?
    Like · May 7 at 5:30pm

    Lance Ferguson Bryan, not intending to debate the issue with you…FB isn’t likely to offer much in the way of convincing others…merely wanting to clarify our differences of belief. Maybe I should have specified that by salvation, I mean that which pertains to people being declared righteous by the Father. i.e. justification. I would not equate ongoing sanctification with salvation. Again, maybe this question would help with the clarity: “Do you (and RC) believe that Christ fully accomplished the eternal forgiveness and righteous standing of His people before the Father through His death and resurrection?” It sounded in your article, from the quote I listed, like you would not believe that?
    Like · May 7 at 6:04pm

    Bryan R Cross Lance, the Catholic paradigm does not easily translate into the Protestant paradigm. But your question is trying to squeeze the Catholic paradigm into a Protestant paradigm parameters. In the Catholic paradigm we are forgiven daily; we receive righteousness from Christ daily. This forgiveness and righteousness is merited for us by Christ, and we receive it from Him throughout our pilgrim way. The notion that sanctification is not by grace, but is instead by human effort alone, is something unheard of in the first fifteen hundred years of the Church. But as soon as you say that sanctification is by grace, and yet you also participate in it, then you yourself reject the dilemma you posed to me.
    Like · May 7 at 6:52pm

    Lance Ferguson Thanks Bryan. While I don’t agree with your final conclusion about sanctification, this thread does show me that I need to better understand how RC understands terms and concepts.

    Hence the dilemma for monergists: either our sanctification is not part of our salvation, since Christ did not fully accomplish it Himself alone, and therefore sanctification is not by grace, but entirely by mere human effort, and entirely optional because it in no way contributes to our salvation, or sanctification is part of our salvation, is not optional for salvation, is by grace, not by human effort alone, but was not fully accomplished by Christ Himself on the cross, because we participate in our sanctification by our present choices and deeds, in which case it necessarily follows that salvation by grace does not entail monergistic salvation.

  23. Hi Bryan (#22) I notice in the Westminster Confession, Chapter 14 states:

    I. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

    II. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

    [end of quote]

    I notice number 1 speaks of the grace (which saves). The explanation gives means–”wrought by” . When the reformed Protestant speaks of the accomplished work on the cross it does not exclude the participation or use of means—preaching of the word and sacraments. It also explains “increase and strengthened”.

    The second thing I notice is that in # 2 there is a stated content to the faith. It is not Christ alone or rather Christ alone includes “whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein”.

    Thirdly, it speaks of acts of saving faith/ I guess they do not separate the acts from the faith and yet would not the acts be a participation ? How can they say they are not participating when they are doing things even if they are doing them by grace ?

    Kim D

  24. Bryan, I’m thinking about this:

    “Hence the dilemma for monergists: either our sanctification is not part of our salvation, since Christ did not fully accomplish it Himself alone, and therefore sanctification is not by grace, but entirely by mere human effort, and entirely optional because it in no way contributes to our salvation, or sanctification is part of our salvation, is not optional for salvation, is by grace, not by human effort alone, but was not fully accomplished by Christ Himself on the cross, because we participate in our sanctification by our present choices and deeds, in which case it necessarily follows that salvation by grace does not entail monergistic salvation.”

    I want to try to stay updated on this.

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