John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective

Mar 23rd, 2015 | By | Category: Podcast

Here is a talk I gave last night (3/22/15) at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Montgomery, AL.

The talk was titled “John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective.”

Download the mp3 by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here by clicking on the play button below:

 

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  1. Thanks for posting this. I particularly liked the section comparing Catholic and Reformed conceptions of predestination. Confusion and fear over this issue led me to the research that ultimately opened me up to becoming catholic.

    Two questions:

    First, in Reformed soteriology, it seems that the set of predestined people is identical to the set of “elect” people, which is identical to the set of people who will be in heaven. Does Catholic predestination hold the same idea, or is it possible that the affirmatively predestined certainly go to heaven but that non-predestined people are also given sufficient grace and might go to heaven as well, though in a slightly different way?

    Second, it seems that all of the differences between Catholic and Reformed folks (I.e TULIP) ultimately arise from the way each conceived of the atonement–and the difference in atonement theories ultimately arises from different understandings of the old testiment, particularly, what it means for (and what results from) Christ to “fulfill” the Old Testament. Does the OT provide any help in deciding between Catholic and Reformed conceptions of predestination?

  2. Hi, David,

    This was excellent! Thank you so much for posting! It was difficult sometimes to discern what you were saying due to the ambient noise and acoustics. Is there a manuscript you might make available?

    My father, an OPC pastor, knowing (and fearing) the road I am heading down, just sent me a copy of B. B. Warfield’s “Calvin and Augustine,” hoping that it will sway me back to the “true faith.” Having read most of the first section, the book might as well be called “In Praise of Calvin.” Have you read this? Do you have any thoughts regarding it? Or can you direct me to a source that engages Warfield?

    Thanks again, Dr. Anders!
    Tim

  3. Hi Tim,

    There is an article on this site called St. Augustine on Law and Grace which challenges Warfield’s interpretation of St. Augustine.

    Jonathan

  4. Hi Dr. Anders,

    Very interesting Podcast. It would be very helpful if you can answer the 3 abouve questions, from Markesquire, Tim and Jonathan.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ron Sr.

  5. Hi Markesquire,

    In the event you recheck comments here, your questions are addressed at this Catholic Answers site: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/predestined-for-freedom

    In brief, the Catholic Church teaches that predestination involves God giving sufficient grace to all so everyone can freely respond if they so choose. Original sin weakens the human will and darkens the intellect, but it doesn’t eradicate these powers of the soul. Those who respond to grace and persevere (through grace) in that response over their lifetime are the elect. On the other hand, predestination does not involve God predetermining that a lower measure of grace is given to some, such that the refusers can say that it’s God’s fault that we’re in hell.

    Tim Staples’ discussion at the end of the article on God’s will having an antecedent and a consequent nature is very helpful.

  6. Hello Swiss,

    Thanks for the comment. What you have said is correct. I would add, however, that the Catholic teaching on predestination also includes that God gives efficacious grace only to the elect.

    -David

  7. Dr. Anderson–

    Calling Calvin an “inveterate jerk,” while not exactly inaccurate, runs counter to the stated commenting guidelines for this site. Besides, how is it relevant? Most “great ideas” people suffer from sort of anti-social difficulty or another. Evaluate the ideas themselves instead. Evaluate the followers of those ideas, as well. Nobody ever said great and wonderful things concerning the personality of St. Jerome and yet I don’t suppose you ignore the Vulgate, as a result. St. Thomas More supposedly relished torture a bit more than seems seemly for a canonized saint, and his vocabulary on occasion was every bit as “colorful” as Luther’s. Should anyone ditch Catholicism as a consequence? If you ran from Protestantism due to the harshness of Calvin, why didn’t docile fellows like Bullinger and Melanchthon bring you crawling back?

    Your comment that “sola fide” was ridiculously and obviously absent is not borne out by the facts, but I’ll have to get to that later. My toddlers are waking from their nap….

  8. Dear Eric,

    Thank you so much for your comment. It’s a good point. Was that the best choice of words? I suppose I could have conveyed the substance of my remarks with something less vilifying than “inveterate jerk.” However, I do think that Calvin’s moral character is relevant to the evaluation of his ideas only because Calvin makes his very own person the object of theological analysis.

    Calvin, like Luther, had a very strong sense of personal vocation that he appealed to frequently in theological debate. In his more extreme moments, he would claim the mantle of prophet and make his words (i.e., his office as Scriptural interpreter) the touchstone of Genevan Orthodoxy. “Contradicting the ministers” was a civil crime in Geneva, and when the Perrinists verbally abused him, he claimed they were guilty of blasphemy. (This is something I touch on in my article “How John Calvin Made me a Catholic.”)

    It is a matter of record that Calvin himself did not advocate the methodology you suggest. In other words, Calvin did not invite people to examine his arguments on the merits. Jerome Bolsec tried to do this (to argue the merits from Scripture) and was imprisoned for his pains and threatened with execution. So, if we are really to examine Calvin’s arguments on his own terms, we have to take seriously his claim to possess divine authority to interpret Scripture in a way that excludes the kind of analysis you suggest. Outside of Geneva and after the Reformation, the Reformed tradition seems to engage in a more dispassionate appropriation of Calvin. Edwards, for example, was perfectly happy to disagree with Calvin. (Although, Beza identified Calvin as a prophet.) But, within the context of his own life and times and the development of his theology, Calvin’s moral character is highly relevant only because Calvin makes it an issue.

    Finally, I did not leave the Reformed faith because of Calvin’s moral failings. I left the Reformed faith because I judged it unbiblical as well as philosophically untenable. I became a Catholic because I saw this as the only way for me to be a rationally fulfilled, intellectually honest Christian.

    Thanks again for commenting,

    David

  9. Dr. Anders–

    Reformed orthodoxy doesn’t view Calvin as a saint or a prophet or as infallible in any way. It evaluates Calvin’s teachings on their merits. No one waits for Calvin himself to “invite” them to analyze his writings. Frankly, his own attitude is more or less irrelevant. His works are good and sound and true to the faith or they are not. Luther, as you have said elsewhere, was probably bipolar…and you can add the diagnoses of dementia and paranoia toward the end of his life and blame his blatant antisemitism at least partly thereon (in that it was not displayed earlier in his career). But none of this is necessarily relevant to his emphasis on the law/gospel distinction. Plenty of Lutheran theologians have held this selfsame distinction down through time without being bipolar in the least. It’s fascinating perhaps in terms of studying the man himself, but not in terms of evaluating his teachings.

    You spend so much time disparaging individuals that you have little time left to show how Reformed thought itself is irrational or unbiblical. It appears to be unbiblical merely because you think it so (perhaps you are not so unlike Calvin in this way). Justification in the early church is seldom addressed directly, and when it is, it is usually expressed with little or no commentary but merely a paraphrase of Pauline quotations. So, if Paul espoused JBFA, then so did the early church. (Clement of Rome, for what it’s worth, did so unambiguously.)

    The Catholic participants in ECT have agreed that JBFA is a legitimate way of expressing the gospel. JDDJ has similarly legitimized it. Pope Benedict XVI stated that Luther was correct on “sola fide” as long as love is not excluded (which it isn’t!) Recent Catholic revert Francis Beckwith says without hesitation that JBFA and Trent are compatible. And yet you see fit to “go to war” on the issue and deride Protestantism instead of looking for common ground.

    Anyone reading Augustine’s Confessions can readily detect that the climax of his story of faith takes place when he “takes up and reads” and NOT when he is baptized (which is described in a single perfunctory line). Luther speaks of his “eureka moment” of comprehending justification in glowing “conversionary” terms. My guess is that there are a lot of Pietistic, subjective “born again” experiences throughout the history of the church which you are blind to owing to some sort of misappropriated presuppositions.

  10. Hi Eric,

    These are all good points you make. If my purpose in the talk had been to evaluate the theological coherence of Reformed Orthodoxy, then Calvin’s character would be largely irrelevant. But, I titled the talk: “John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective.” In other words, my aim was to evaluate Calvin the man and his contribution to the Reformation. That being said, I don’t think I spent “so much time disparaging individuals” that I left little time to discuss substantive history or theology.

    As you recall, we discussed the theological and political background to Calvin’s reform, his personal history and attitude towards diversity, the Genevan Reform under Farel, Calvin’s theological development in Strasbourg, his thought on theological authority, the liturgy, sacraments, pneumatology, and the problem of assurance and predestination. We also discussed the role of civil legislation in Geneva, the consistory, the controversy over baptismal names, and the Bolsec affair.

    I have discussed Reformed theology in more general terms in other articles, here, here, and here. In these, you can find more of my critique of Reformed Orthodoxy.

    You have highlighted the central role of JBFA. You note the number of ecumenical statements about the extent of compatibility between Catholic and Protestant formulations of the doctrine. You even cite Beckwith to the effect that JBFA and Trent are compatible. That is really a great place to further discussion. Can you personally affirm the definition of Trent regarding justification? If so, then wonderful. We are agreed on the definition of If not, then why not?

    Personally, I don’t think Trent is compatible with Westminster. The difference is not so much a question of “faith alone” vs. “faith and works” or even “faith and love.” It is about the mode of justification. Westminster XI repudiates the doctrine of infused righteousness, and holds for imputed righteousness. I know that Reformed theologians like Sproul made this the linchpin in their rejection of ECT. (You will note that ECT and the Joint Declaration sidestep the question.)

    If you think that Catholic doctrine is compatible with JBFA, does that mean you reject imputed righteousness?

    In my case, the realization that imputed righteousness was neither biblical nor historical was a major motive for leaving the reformed faith. I have addressed the historical question here. To date, I have not yet published an article on the exegetical question. However, I can tell you that Romans 2 and Romans 8 play quite heavily into my understanding of this Pauline doctrine. I also owe quite a debt to the New Perspectives on Paul, in particular Stendhal and Wright.

    Regarding Augustine, there can be no doubt that Augustine affirmed baptismal regeneration. (So did Calvin, by the way, though in a qualified manner.) Whether or not Augustine’s narrative culminates in his conversion moment is really irrelevant, unless you also want to make an argument that Augustine denied the Catholic doctrine of baptism. As I’m sure you know, the Catholic Church is a big fan of personal conversion and strongly advocates it. (In fact, Catholic spiritual theology admits two conversions – one from sin to sanctifying grace, and one from beginning prayer to infused prayer.) But Catholic doctrine does not tie conversion to regeneration in the way that Puritanism or evangelicalism does. Calvin, too, is very weak on the idea of personal conversion as a normative part of Christian life or Christian initiation.

    Any way, thanks again for commenting. I’d be happy to move onto discussion of substantive theological differences, if you’re so inclined. But, thanks for the criticism nonetheless.

    Yours in Christ,

    David

  11. Dr. Anders–

    There is so much here to respond to that I could go on for days and days. Let me just start in briefly.

    I actually don’t believe imputation to be the linchpin in the differences between us on justification (though I realize Michael Horton does). Many, many Roman theologians, from Erasmus to the present, have agreed that the Vulgate mistranslated the Greek dikaio- terms. The acceptance of certain aspects of the forensic nature of justification is mandatory for those who eschew anti-intellectual forms of the faith. Heck, Bryan Cross recognizes forensic aspects to initial justification. Declarative justification and imputation are one and the same thing. You Catholics believe in imputation and we Reformed believe in infusion (we simply relegate it to sanctification). The problem is finding the right balance and the correct relationship between the two. This is likewise the problem between us concerning assurance of faith. Both of us believe in it, but we place the fulcrum between despair on the one hand and presumption on the other in different spots.

  12. I’m unsure where the crux of the issue is between us. It could be the nature of original sin, the atonement (satisfaction vs. substitution), or the ins and outs of predestination. On this last point, you all believe that regeneration is either temporary or enduring whereas we believe it to be either apparent or genuine. In other words, we believe their is a qualitative and decipherable difference between tares (who fall away) and wheat (who remain faithful, persevering until the end). Tares and wheat look the same but are inwardly different. Sheep and goats look the same but are inwardly different. Sheep in wolves’ clothing and uncostumed sheep look the same but are inwardly different. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that sheep can become goats or vice versa. The “regeneration” of goats is almost certainly apparent rather than true.

    Why, Rome even speaks of those who are inadequately predestined (merely to grace) and those who are adequately predestined (to grace AND glory). Those who are adequately predestined CANNOT lose their salvation.

    As concerns Trent, I think it a mixed bag. In terms of justification positively stated, I can come very close to accepting its tenets. In terms of its anathemas, I would have to repudiate much of JBFA in order to buy in. (In point of fact, the signers of ECT would be anathematized by canon 9, and the lovely Therese of Lisieux would stand condemned by canon 11.) But there can be little doubt that they misunderstood the Reformation’s take on justification wholesale, so I’ll cut them a break.

    All in all, I would say that Rome and the Reformed are within shouting distance on Trent if Rome could unhitch its wagon to the complete infallibility of Trent. I think the two sides got rather close at Ratisbon, but the “Vatican” got cold feet. As a result, I am at least willing to look at double justification (the comprise position at Ratisbon). From what I remember, Calvin–who for all his faults, desired the continued unity of the Church–was perfectly willing to sign.

  13. Eric,
    Just to add a couple of points to what Dr. Anders said; yes, JBFA is an orthodox expression but only if properly understood. The Reformed position says love will automatically flow out of faith without fail. That is not the Catholic position by any means.

    Also, the doctrine of JBFA is a natural outgrowth of Luther’s scrupulosity and despair over ever being worthy enough for God. If you really feel you can separate the man’s mental quirks from the doctrines he was the first to stumble upon, can you explain why nobody before him taught JBFA, the separation of justification and sanctification and an alien righteousness imputed to one’s account? Or do you feel it is mere coincidence that it was Martin Luther, who had visitations from the devil on an almost regular basis, was the one to rediscover the primitive Gospel that lay hidden under centuries of Roman error? Do you really see no link at all?

  14. Hi Eric,

    Thank you so much for two very thoughtful and stimulating comments. As you say, there is so much here we could go on for days. :-)

    You have identified a number of areas of agreement and difference between Catholics and the Reformed on the nature of justification, salvation, assurance, election, regeneration, and sanctification. I’m not sure where to start, but I think I’d like to cite the Gallican Confession (since this is a post on Calvin, who authored it) which, I’m told, Guido de Bres used in compiling the Belgic:

    We believe that all our justification rests upon the remission of our sins, in which also is our only blessedness, as saith the Psalmist (Psa. xxxii. 2). We therefore reject all other means of justification before God, and without claiming any virtue or merit, we rest simply in the obedience of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to us as much to blot out all our sins as to make us find grace and favor in the sight of God.

    This definition makes justification to consist entirely in the remission of sins through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, acquired through faith. I grant that this definition presupposes a certain doctrine of original sin, and also entails a number of consequences about assurance, perseverance, sanctification, and so forth. But, for my purposes, it nicely pinpoints key differences between Catholics and Reformed on the nature of justification itself. When I was in the Protestant seminary, this is certainly how my professors taught me to conceive of the differences between the two traditions.

    In a previous post, you suggested that I “went to war” on this one issue and refused to look for common ground between traditions. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment, inasmuch as I have repeatedly gone on record that it was the Catholic elements in Calvin’s thought that moved me to consider the Catholic Church. (Again, see “How John Calvin made me a Catholic.”) But, you are correct that this one issue of imputation was the line in the sand for me that made continued life as a Reformed Protestant impossible. However much we might share, there has to be some principled reason to choose one tradition over the other, yes? So, I have great respect for the elements in common between us (emphasis on liturgy, authority, unity, catholicity, sacramentality, and so forth), but do see imputation as a point of real conflict.

    For my purposes, I don’t see that Scripture ever teaches that justification consists entirely in remission of sins through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
    In my own path to Catholicism, I was struck by the fact that Paul never directly mentions the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. (This is something that has impressed other Protestant theologians, like the Anglican George Bull or the Reformed Moses Stuart.) The Reformed infer imputation in key passages (like Romans 8:4), but only because of the reading they place on justification in chapters 3 & 4. As a result, texts which seem not to fit the theory (like Romans 2:13) are read as merely hypothetical descriptions of “legal righteousness.” (See Calvin’s commentary on Romans 2)

    But there is a simpler way to read the texts that is truer to the context (of Jew/Gentile relations) and certainly more faithful to the early patristic reading, and that requires fewer assumptions. The “precepts of the law” (dikaiomata tou noumou) are fully met in those who live by the spirit, have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, and walk in the fruits. They are not justified by the “Works of the law” (Ergon nomou). Nor are they those who “hear the law” only (romans 2:13). They are the ones who obey the law (or, at least its “righteous requirements” – dikaiomata tou nomou), through the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:25-29).
    In other words, the love of God is shed abroad in the heart through faith, and love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8)

    There is, of course, a declaratory aspect to justification, insofar as God declares these faithful to be just, to be members of Christ, to be part of the Church. But they are actually just, and not merely reputed to be just.

    There is one property of Calvinistic justification that you did not explicitly mention (though you hinted at), but that I think is significant. This its proleptic character. For Calvin, justification means the remission of all sins (even future sins) such that no actual sin can ever threaten to separate the regenerate man from the saving grace of God. Appearances to the contrary are just that – apparent rather than real.

    I don’t think Scripture speaks that way. Paul, in fact, thinks it is possible to unite the members of Christ with a prostitute, (1 Cor. 6:15), declares that all the baptized have really put on christ (galatians 3:27), and warns those with the Spirit to keep in step, lest they fail to enter in. (Romans 8; Galatians 5)

    The patristic reading of Paul (Ireneaus, Origen, Ambrosiater, Augustine) is certainly closer to this, as is Trent. Krister Stendahl and N.T. Wright first opened my eyes to this. Allister McGrath confirmed it. My Reformed professors made it a line in the sand. It was these considerations that first made me realize that I might have to leave Reformed christianity.

    Thanks again,

    David

  15. Jim–

    Thanks for joining in….

    Perhaps the third time will be a charm. (The blog “disappeared” my first two efforts.)

    Protestants DEFINE faith as belief and trust issuing forth in good works. Scripture appears to have the same definition. Greek uses the same term for both belief and faith, so context must differentiate between the two. Belief is mere assent, something sufficiently demonstrated by demons. Faith, on the other hand, requires genuine trust and necessarily leads to commitment. Commitment similarly leads to action. Anything less is just lip service. How could one construe a living, breathing faith in any other way?

    As for Luther’s alleged scrupulosity, one must bear in mind the under-scrupulousness of the Medieval Church. If you have ever met someone diagnosed with obsessive religious ideation and a resulting scrupulosity, you’ll recognize that Luther’s problem was something else. He certainly had a sensitive conscience, but when has that ever been considered a bad thing? He was painfully aware of the seriousness of sin. That’s called “being a Christian.”

    I myself am nowhere near to being accused of scrupulosity, and yet I can fully relate to Luther’s observation that JBFA flung wide the gates of paradise for him. He FELT born again at that moment!!

  16. Dr. Anders–

    Unfortunately, I’ll have to keep this short. I’m somewhat clueless as to why a Catholic would have issues with imputation. It just means that faith is reckoned or counted as righteousness to us, a thoroughly biblical notion. For the Protestant, it is there to protect Sola Gratia. Catholics are all about Sola Gratia, aren’t they? I’ve asked Jason Stellman whether both cooperative grace and our efforts to cooperate with that grace are totally gifted to us. He answered yes. After all, what do we have that we have not received?

    Imputation, pure and simple. What is your objection?

    Also, why a problem with the proleptic nature of the remission of sins? Augustine is big on the timelessness of God. Surely, the Father already knows the full extent of the sins of the elect and has chosen to forgive them. (The once-for-all nature of our forgiveness in Christ doesn’t stop the Reformed from confessing and repenting of their wrongdoings and then seeking absolution. For that is part of the already-but-not-yet, timeless process of justification.)

    The Catholic confusion seems to rest in part on the idea that genuine believers can walk away from the faith…or sin without remorse or repentance. This neglects the fact that the adequately predestined–the elect–cannot lose their salvation according to both Augustine and Aquinas (not to mention common sense). The foreordination and the foreknowledge of God are either irrevocable, or they cease to be meaningful concepts. (I tend to think the ability to run from God is analogous to a wide receiver running away from one of the so-called “shutdown” cornerbacks…such as Deion Sanders or Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman. One can try, but good luck accomplishing the task!)

  17. Dr. Anders–

    Alister McGrath, by the way, refers to the concept of justification in the ante-Nicene fathers as rather inchoate. They seldom even provide commentary on the Pauline text but paraphrase it instead and leave it at that. Individual theologians may espouse two or three theories, all side by side, all incompatible, without the slightest attempt to systematize. Wherever you’re getting your ideas, it’s not from McGrath!

  18. Hi Eric,

    McGrath is simply one witness among many to the fact that the Protestant doctrine of justification is missing from the Church Fathers. You know the quote, “Complete theological novum,” and all that. The fact that the doctrine of justification is inchoate in the first 3 centuries doesn’t change the fact that justification-as-imputation by faith alone is not the faith of the fathers. Furthermore, the sacramental, disciplinary, eschatological, and moral theology of the fathers is broadly incompatible with JBFA.

    To say that imputation means nothing more than “faith counted as righteousness, a thoroughly biblical notion” does not address the key distinction between Catholcis and Protestants. The orthodox Reformed position is that faith is counted as righteousness because Christ’s merits are imputed to the believer who remains nevertheless objectively, mortally sinful.

    Speaking of the works done by believers in grace, the Belgic confession says:

    we cannot do any work
    that is not defiled by our flesh
    and also worthy of punishment.
    And even if we could point to one,
    memory of a single sin is enough
    for God to reject that work

    This is not the Catholic doctrine. Scripture does not teach that the merits of the justified are actual sins. Rather, it teaches that the precepts of the law are fully met in those who have the Spirit. It is not those who hear the law who are justified, but those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

    -David

  19. McGrath is simply one witness among many to the fact that the Protestant doctrine of justification is missing from the Church Fathers. You know the quote, “Complete theological novum,” and all that.

    Hello David,

    Just a point on McGrath who it seems to me often gets misquoted by Catholics. McGrath’s often quoted novum statement is not about the Protestant doctrine of justification as a whole, but rather about one aspect of the Protestant understanding of the nature of justification, namely the distinction between justification and regeneration. And while this distinction is not insignificant it just one among many details within the Reformed soteriological doctrines.

    Two of the central tenets of McGrath’s work are that 1) there was a staggering range of opinions on justification during the late Medieval Church and Reformation eras, and 2) the Reformed understanding of justification was within this range of opinions. If McGrath is correct concerning his novum statement this does not obviate #2, unless it can be shown that Reformed thinking here challenges something basic to the Church’s understanding of soteriology at this point in time.

    According to McGrath, the reason why there was such a range of opinion at this time is that there are is no consensus on justification in the Early and Middle Churches. There are some statements on justification at Carthage but these do not address the kinds of questions that were being asked on justification during the Late Medieval and Reformation eras. And between Carthage and the Reformation there was nothing on justification in terms of dogmatic guidance. For the Roman Catholics there was nothing between Carthage and Trent on justification.

  20. Dr. Anders–

    Charles Hodge said of Old Princeton that the faculty had never originated a new idea. By this he meant that they had never in the past and would never allow themselves in the future to teach anything outside of that which had already been determined confessionally. Evangelicals do not tolerate the notion of a “complete theological novum.” Any such innovation would automatically be considered heresy. Alister McGrath was an Evangelical when he wrote “Iustitia Dei,” and he is an Evangelical to this day. When asked about the quote, he has explained that he believes Luther “rediscovered” a thoroughly biblical concept which had been lost. If you read the quote in context, it is clear that he is NOT speaking about JBFA directly but about the “notional distinction” between justification and regeneration. McGrath’s “genuine theological novum” is this new way of explaining or clarifying something which had always been “up for grabs” soteriologically. It is a theological novum like trinitarian formulae or the Chalcedonian Definition were “innovations” in the early conciliar actions of the church.

    The Roman concepts of hyperdulia, the immaculate conception, the assumption, purgatory, reconciliation, papal hegemony, and papal infallibility are far clearer candidates for true innovations in the life of the church (not to mention V2’s lifting of EENS).

    Trent’s own formulation of justification, on the other hand, though innovative in a sense (like Luther’s), was another honest attempt to clarify soteriology. Imposed on the church as a whole from on high, however, there is no way it should be considered authoritative…for it wasn’t authentically ecumenical.

    If JBFA was so utterly absent from the fathers, why does Clement of Rome sound so thoroughly Presbyterian? What about the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus? Sure, you can explain them away, but in the end that’s just your explaining them away. We simply don’t know enough about these people to be definitive. Bluster doesn’t make things true.

    And I simply don’t see any logical way to tie sacrament and eschatology and moral theology to a particular manifestation of justification. For example, Rome often forgets that the Reformed view of the necessity of good works in the process of salvation is just as robust as her own.

    In Reformed theology, the new creature is not objectively, mortally sinful, and the believer is only so because he is still attached to the flesh. Truly good works are indeed not only possible but required. The fact that they are totally of grace is not incompatible with Catholic notions.

    We likewise believe that the precepts of the law are fully met in those who have the Spirit. We simply explain it differently. The precepts of the law are not “dumbed down” by the intervention of an “agape paradigm” but are FULLY met through our mystical union with Christ. We believe, in slight contradistinction to you all, not that those who obey the law will be declared righteous but that those who are declared righteous will obey the law. (In all actuality, you, too, must believe the same thing…or jetison any coherent position on election.)

    I am not an idealogue, by the way, and will thoroughly consider your arguments when I find them logically compelling and historically accurate. For example, you may have a point concerning relics and the veneration of saints. These are practices which appear to go back to the very beginning and are somewhat attested in Scripture itself. I’m guessing the practice was quite different in motivation and scope from modern Roman practice. But it’s something I’m willing to take closer look at.

  21. Greetings Eric,

    “Also, why a problem with the proleptic nature of the remission of sins? Augustine is big on the timelessness of God. Surely, the Father already knows the full extent of the sins of the elect and has chosen to forgive them”

    Hmmmm? Would you then say that the elect were never actually lost? Did Christ die to save the lost or did he die for those who were never truly lost?
    Of course, this explains the Protestant problem with the sacraments working ex opere operato.
    You mention Augustine. Do you believe Calvin’s doctrine on justification was true to Augustine? Did Augustine teach the “proleptic nature of the remission of sins” you speak of? Did he say that a justified person could not lose his justification? Did he teach that Baptism justified only the elect? Did he teach that Faith included Charity by definition or did he follow what the Bible says in 1 Cor 13:2 about the distinction between Faith and Charity?
    Thanks

  22. Eric & Andrew,

    Thank you both so much for commenting.

    Regarding McGrath and the theological novum:

    I understand that McGrath has qualified this statement and offered an explanation for the novelty that he thinks fits with evangelical doctrine. That is not at issue.

    There are, as I see it, two ways in Christian history to address apparent theological novelty. One is primitivism (“I’ve just rediscovered what the earliest Christians believed or did”). The other is an appeal to theological development (I’ve just seen what is logically entailed by such-and-such doctrine). Mcgrath seems to do both. The evangelical doctrine is both rediscovered, and a development. But in Iustitia Dei, he leans to development.

    He writes:

    “That there are no ‘forerunners of the Reformation doctrines of justification’ has little theological significance today, given current thinking on the nature of the development of doctrine.”(p. 217-218)

    This is a surprising statement, whatever aspect of justification he thinks is novel, because the idea of theological development is of profound theological significance.

    As I read the tradition, Protestantism generally has tilted towards biblicism or primitivism rather than a theory of development. Luther and Calvin were fond of appealing to the fathers and even Bernard where they found commonality, but they were also perfectly willing to dismiss the Fathers when they thought they were wrong. In fact, Calvin seems to have a theory of devolution: the slow drift away from biblical faith under an accumulating mass of Papal traditions. On this theory, Augustine was closer to biblical faith than the scholastics, but not close enough.

    For my purposes, it is enough that there is a gap between Luther and Scripture that has to be explained. But Primitivism and development both pose problems for Protestant ecclesiology and hermeneutics. Radical primitivism is hard to square with perspicuity. (Why did it take 1500 years to get it right, and why did the right interpretation only emerge in 16th century Europe and not also in Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Assyria, India, Byzantium, or any of the other Christian lands not under direct Papal influence?) Development requires an ecclesiology capable of differentiating authentic development from corruption without begging the question. (Which Church is authorized to distinguish corruption from development?)

    Calvin’s response to this dilemma is simply to stress the illuminative powers granted by the spirit to ministers who operate “in the word,” another subjectivist and question-begging position. (How do you identify illumined ministers who operate “in the word?”)

    So, these kinds of considerations led me to the conclusion that Catholicism provides the more coherent explanation of apparent theological novelty. (That, and the fact that the Catholic doctrine of authority is grounded in Scripture while the Protestant doctrine is a mere inference from the subjective experience of illumination. See “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium”)

    When I actually look at the doctrine of the fathers (whatever theory of novelty I incorporate) I see a doctrine of infused righteousness, theosis,moral transformation, baptismal regeneration, penance, a highly visible ecclesiology centered around episcopal authority and high eucharistic theology, and so forth. Granted that justification was inchoate in the first 3 centuries, it is still the case that the ante-nicene fathers had a lot to say on the nature of sin, salvation, sacraments, and penance. (See “Tradition I and sola fide”) What they say is not compatible with a doctrine of simul iustus et peccator. (Please see the attached article for support of this claim.)

    Concerning Clement and Diognetus:

    I don’t see Clement arguing for imputation or simul iustus et peccator. On the contrary, Clement says we are ““justified by works, and not by words.” (Leithard ed., p. 45) The likely pseudopigraphical 2 Clement writes: “What assurance do we have of entering the kingdom of God if we fail to keep our baptism pure and undefiled? Or who will be our advocate, if we are not found to have holy and righteous works?”

    Like Clement, Diognetus uses largely biblical language and imagaery (which Catholics accept, of course) without developing a theory of redemption.

    What is more significant for me is that there is a theory of redemption that emerges in the 2nd century (though not framed around justification) and it is moralistic through and through. We see it in the controversy over the second repentance, in the recapitulation doctrine of Ireneaus to Athanasius, in the penitential doctrine of Cyprian, and ultimately expressed in the justification theory of Augustine.

    That theory, to quote Mcgrath:

    “There is no hint in Augustine of any notion of justification purely in terms of ‘reputing as righteous’ or ‘treating as righteous’, as if this state of affairs could come into being without the moral or spiritual transformation of humanity through grace. The pervasive trajectory of Augustine’s though is unambiguous: justification is a causative process, by which an ungodly person is made righteous. It is about the transformation of the impius to iustus.
    Augustine has an all-embracing transformative understanding of justification, which includes both the event of justification (brought about by operative grace) and the process of justification (brought about by cooperative grace). Augustine himself does not, in fact, see any need to distinguish between these two aspects of justification; the distinction dates from the sixteenth century.”
    . . . “The righteousness which God bestows upon humanity in justification is regarded by Augustine as inherent rather than imputed, to anticipate the vocabulary of the sixteenth century.”

    Finally, I do understand that Calvinist hold “The righteous requirements of the law” to be “fully met” in the justified. For Calvinists, they are fully met by imputation rather than infusion. My point was, rather, that Paul never says this. The doctrine of imputation is inferred from the reading Calvinists place on justification in chapters 3&4. Furthermore, that inference requires a lot of hermeneutical hammering. (Inventing Luther’s law/gospel theory; dismissing moralistic texts as hypothetical or ‘legal,’ etc.) None of those hermeneutical moves are actually necessary or warranted by the texts themselves. There are other ways of reading the texts that require vastly fewer theological assumptions, and that cohere much better with the actual development of Christian theology in the first 4 centuries.

    -David

  23. Andrew,

    “For the Roman Catholics there was nothing between Carthage and Trent on justification.”

    There was also Ephesus and Orange. And of course the practice of the church itself (sacraments, liturgy, prayers, etc) in those intervening centuries – it’s not as if RCism only gets its teachings from conciliar statements. Which is why we also see a similar trajectory in the East’s response against Protestantism codifying its views on soteriology and theosis even as it lacked robust conciliar definitions on the subject leading up to that time.

    Eric,

    As to your appeals to Clement and Mathetes, below from http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2008/09/development-justificationsoteriology.html

    “It is obvious that in asserting justification by faith Clement was simply reproducing Paul’s idea without appreciating what it involved, and that he really agreed with the other Christians of his day that salvation is to be had only by obeying God and his will. That the early Christians should have departed from Paul in this matter is not surprising at all.” (Arthur Cushman McGiffert, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 1. 85.)

    “The fundamental idea at the back of the words dikaiosunē, dikaioumai seems to be the moral qualification which avails before God conceived as a quality of the soul. That is achieved by faith which is fear of God working itself out in obedience. And so Clement can say that we are “justified by works, not by words” ergois dikaioumenoi, mē logois, and insists that we are not justified by pistis alone but by pistis and eusebeia, by pistis and philozenia, by pistis and alētheia.” (Thomas F. Torrance, The Doctrine of Grace In the Apostolic Fathers, p. 49 – note: I have transliterated the Greek for my readers.)

    “…while sometimes Clement speaks in the very tones of Paul, as for instance on justification by faith (ch. 32:4), his leading convictions are somewhat different…Clement has moved away from the Pauline gospel into an atmosphere more concerned with moral life, and in particular with virtues of humility and order. Where ethical injunctions are secondary to Paul’s letters, they are primary in Clement. “(Cyril C. Richardson, Early Christian Fathers, p, 38.)

    And Clement himself wrote:

    Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love; that so through love our sins may be forgiven us. For it is written, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him, and in whose mouth there is no guile.” (ch. 50, Donaldson & Roberts trans. – in ANF 1.18, 19.)

    [Also: “Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.” (ch. 30 – ANF 1.13); “We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.” (ch. 33) – ANF 1.14; “Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God.” (ch. 49 – ANF 1.18.]

    Diognetus:

    “The most definitive study of the epistle to date is Henry G. Meecham’s, The Epistle To Diognetus – The Greek Text With Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Manchester Univ. Press, 1949). Note what Meecham wrote:

    By righteousness of the Son man’s sins are ‘covered’ (see note on ix. 3). “In that righteousness we are justified. The Pauline term is used, but the meaning has become much less forensic. The thought is not that of an externally imputed righteousness, but of a real change in the sinful heart of man, and the writer seems to feel that the righteousness of Christ actually becomes ours” (Grensted). (Page 25.)

  24. David,

    You said,

    in Iustitia Dei, he leans to development.

    I’d take issue with this interpretation primarily because McGrath *explicitly* states he will not deal with Paul’s doctrine of justification (or the NT teaching), but will focus on the doctrine in the history of the church outside of the Apostolic period. The reason you note a both/and tension in his thought is because in Iustitia Dei McGrath is not focused on the biblical corpus. That means that he is not leaning towards development as opposed to what you described as “biblicism or primitivism” because he is not focused on the Apostolic period.

    You then say,

    Radical primitivism is hard to square with perspicuity…Development requires an ecclesiology capable of differentiating authentic development from corruption without begging the question.

    On the first score, clearly McGrath is not a radical primitivist and on the second he invokes a category of development, which many other Evangelical historians do as well. I don’t assume that you could unpack the nuances in a single comment, but the truth is that there is a significant amount of complexity. If one is restricted to the options presented, then one misses the multi-layered aspects of this discussion.

    You then note about the claim that Clement taught something similar to JBFA,

    On the contrary, Clement says we are ““justified by works, and not by words.”

    Again, the comments section surely limits the breadth of topic coverage, but only including this quote severely distorts Clement. Omission of Clement 32 is disappointing:

    “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

    I will grant various interpretive possibilities exist and have been provided here and elsewhere, but your comments here are inaccurate and omit the most relevant data.

    The doctrine of imputation is inferred from the reading Calvinists place on justification in chapters 3&4.

    I’m assuming you’re talking about Romans 3 & 4, but such a summary is woefully inadequate to explain the Protestant doctrine of imputation. In Reformed theology imputation is a benefit of union with Christ, as Paul explains it in Phil 3: 8-10,

    “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, *not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law*, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”

    Imputation and union with Christ are distinguished but inseparable in Reformed theology. Justifying righteousness is not inherent but it is mine through faith (as an instrument–how am I united to Jesus? Faith) in Jesus. Romans and Philippians speak of this, but it is also traceable in a biblical-theological assessment of Scripture. Of course, that case needs to be made, and I don’t have the time or space to do it here, but I did want to highlight that your comments are either misleading, false, or do not include all of the relevant information.

  25. Brandon,

    My comments below:

    David,
    You said,
    in Iustitia Dei, he leans to development.
    I’d take issue with this interpretation primarily because McGrath *explicitly* states he will not deal with Paul’s doctrine of justification (or the NT teaching), but will focus on the doctrine in the history of the church outside of the Apostolic period.

    But McGrath says explicitly that Luther’s novelty is of no consequence because of the theory of doctrinal development.

    On the first score, clearly McGrath is not a radical primitivist

    I didn’t say McGrath was a primitivist. I said that primitivism is the dominant theory in Protestant history.

    and on the second he invokes a category of development, which many other Evangelical historians do as well. I don’t assume that you could unpack the nuances in a single comment, but the truth is that there is a significant amount of complexity.

    Not sure what you’re arguing here. That development is a complex concept? I agree. That other evangelicals believe in development? I agree again.

    If one is restricted to the options presented, then one misses the multi-layered aspects of this discussion.

    Between primitivsm and development, what third option is there to address theological novelty?

    You then note about the claim that Clement taught something similar to JBFA,
    On the contrary, Clement says we are ““justified by works, and not by words.”
    Again, the comments section surely limits the breadth of topic coverage, but only including this quote severely distorts Clement. Omission of Clement 32 is disappointing:
    “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

    This quote is perfectly compatible with the Catholic understanding of justification and does not address the differences between Catholics and PRotestants.

    The doctrine of imputation is inferred from the reading Calvinists place on justification in chapters 3&4.
    I’m assuming you’re talking about Romans 3 & 4, but such a summary is woefully inadequate to explain the Protestant doctrine of imputation.

    That’s not what Calvin says. In his commentary on Romans 3:24, he writes that this text “fully confutes” “those who make righteousness a quality.” Likewise, he writes on the same passage:

    “this definition or explanation [given in 3:24] again confirms what I have already often reminded you, — that men are pronounced just, not because they are such in reality, but by imputation: for he only uses various modes of expression, that he might more clearly declare, that in this righteousness there is no merit of ours; for if we obtain it by the remission of sins, we conclude that it is not from ourselves; and further, since remission itself is an act of God’s bounty alone, every merit falls to the ground.”

    In Reformed theology imputation is a benefit of union with Christ, as Paul explains it in Phil 3: 8-10,

    Nowhere in Philippians 3 does Paul say the righteousness we have from Christ is an imputed righteousness or that we are simul iusutus et peccator.

    Imputation and union with Christ are distinguished but inseparable in Reformed theology.

    I agree. That doesn’t make the concept biblical.

    Justifying righteousness is not inherent but it is mine through faith (as an instrument–how am I united to Jesus? Faith) in Jesus.

    That’s the Reformed view.

    Romans and Philippians speak of this,

    But they don’t. Can you show me where Paul says the righteousness we have by faith and not by works is only an imputed righteousness and not an inherent righteousness?

    but it is also traceable in a biblical-theological assessment of Scripture.

    Which is another way of saying the doctrine is Biblical. Fine. That’ what I’ve never seen.

    Of course, that case needs to be made,

    Agreed

    but I did want to highlight that your comments are either misleading, false, or do not include all of the relevant information.

    Thanks.

  26. Jim–

    1 Corinthians 13:1-3 eloquently teaches us that works not inhabited by the love of Christ, not empowered by his Spirit, merit nothing. In fact, even miracles born of genuine belief but uninspired by charity profit us nothing. We are justified by a living, breathing faith that blossoms forth in selfless and redemptive acts, not by mere assent to the truth added to our efforts to conform to an established ethic. If you somehow believe that the Reformed deemphasize love in any way whatsoever, you are sadly mistaken. The Epistle of James, by the way, makes it ear that love and its outworkings are part and parcel of any genuine faith.

    Justification is only meaningful when it is used as a descriptor for the elect. Only then is it permanent. Only then does it actually save. The elect never lose THEIR justification. Just ask Augustine.

  27. Brandon (re: #24)

    I see that David has already replied, but I’d like to point out a few observations after reading your comment. You wrote:

    I don’t assume that you could unpack the nuances in a single comment, but the truth is that there is a significant amount of complexity. If one is restricted to the options presented, then one misses the multi-layered aspects of this discussion.

    Whenever you are claiming that your interlocutor has presented a false dilemma, you need to present the third option. Otherwise, your objection is unsupported, and reduces to a hand-waving assertion that implicitly appeals to your own authority as sufficient support.

    but only including this quote severely distorts Clement.

    If you wish to claim that a quotation taken alone by your interlocutor distorts an author’s position, you have to show how another claim or claims made by the quoted author show that the original quotation does not mean what it seemed to me as used by your interlocutor. Merely providing another quotation that is fully compatible with your interlocutor’s presentation of the meaning of the original quotation does not show that the stand-alone use of the original quotation “severely distorts” it. Claiming that it does, without showing that it does, again reduces to a hand-waving assertion.

    Omission of Clement 32 is disappointing

    As I pointed out in comment #21 of the “Clark, Frame, …” thread, and comment #365 of the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” thread, not only are appeals to one’s own negative emotions not reasons for anyone to believe the interlocutor’s claim or position to be false or misleading, because even the truth could cause disappointment or sadness to someone who rejects it, but appeals to one’s own negative emotion in argumentation criticizing one’s interlocutor’s words, are manipulative and coercive, (rather than letting the truth freely do the work, as is the case with rational dialogue) because they use the pressure or threat of one’s own negative emotion as a way of compelling one’s interlocutor to change (to avoid causing negative emotions), instead of relying only on reasons, evidence, and good argumentation. To see this, if it is not clear, take the example to the extreme in which one interlocutor expresses the threat of suicide over the other interlocutor’s stating or defense of his position.

    As for Clement 32, we have discussed this quotation in the fuller context of all St. Clement says about faith and justification, in “St. Clement of Rome: Ecclesiology and Soteriology.”

    In your last section of remarks you wrote:

    but your comments here are inaccurate … but such a summary is woefully inadequate … but I did want to highlight that your comments are either misleading, false, or do not include all of the relevant information.

    When you claim that your interlocutor’s comments are “inaccurate,” “woefully inadequate,” “misleading,” or “false,” you need to show exactly how and where they are inaccurate or inadequate or misleading or false. Otherwise, once again, you’re just presenting a hand-waving assertion. And the mere exchange of contrary assertions is an unprofitable, futile activity; nor is it a mutual pursuit of the truth. Moreover, it is always true that one’s interlocutor has not included “all the relevant information.” There’s always additional relevant information. For example, your comment (i.e. #24) did not include all the relevant information, because thousands of pages of information are relevant to these questions. So using this is as a criticism is sophistry unless, as I explained above, you also demonstrate how the data your interlocutor did not include reveals his claim (whether explicit or implicit) to be false.

    In short, what is needed is less use of mere rhetoric, and more attention to argumentation. If you have good argumentation, you don’t need to use negative rhetoric as a substitute. You can simply let your argumentation do the work.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. Cletus–

    Could you clarify your point for me? I’m a bit mystified as to how your cause could be advanced through quotes inferring that a number of early church fathers, including Clement of Rome, parted company with the teachings of Paul.

  29. Eric,

    You write that the Reformed do not deemphasize love at all. However, Calvin deemphasizes love in a very key respect.

    In the Institutes, 3.11.20 Calvin denies that it is love that gives faith its justifying power. And in 3.11.21, he argues that justification can consist only in the remission of sins. (Not love) The love that is attached to justifying faith, for Calvin, is in no way sufficient to merit justification. Therefore, Calvin devalues love in us as a ground for God’s acceptance and believes that whatever love God infuses, it is not enough to make us worthy of God’s acceptance.

    -David

  30. David,

    I’m saying that your options of development or primitivism are a non-starter. It’s not a helpful way of framing the discussion because it is radically simplified. That’s why I pointed out that McGrath can affirm both of the “paradigms” you proposed, and as many other Evangelical theologians maintain as well.

    Also, I wasn’t saying Calvin opposed the notion that imputation was taught in Romans. I was noting that the Reformed doctrine does not *merely* derive from Romans 3 & 4. You had said, “The doctrine of imputation is inferred from the reading Calvinists place on justification in chapters 3&4.” Perhaps you were not being exhaustive, but the Reformed argument is far broader and bigger than that. Philippians 3 is a fundamental passage and there are also biblical-theological considerations that inform these other passages. If you’re attempting to explain the genesis of the doctrine of imputation, your comment is incomplete.

    Now, as I noted, the arguments need to be made to substantiate that assessment and I did not offer a sustained exegetical argument. My point, however, is that the Reformed *have* attempted to do that. You may believe its unsuccessful and it may well be, but the Reformed have in fact argued that such passages substantiate imputation. As such, your statement regarding imputation being an inference from Romans 3 & 4 is “woefully inadequate” for explaining the Reformed position on imputation.

    Bryan,

    Regarding Clement, David selective chose one quote from Clement, and not the quote that Eric was referencing in #9. To say that Clement does not agree with JBFA because he said “we are justified by works and not words” is misleading precisely because Clement says, “we are not justified…by works…but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men.”

    So which is it? Are we justified by faith or are we justified by works? Well, in order to unpack it you need to do exegesis, not simply assert an opinion. This is why I implicitly referenced your discussion on the topic. I don’t have the time or energy to engage that discussion further, but your article makes the types of exegetical arguments one would need to do in order to show that Clement did not believe in JBFA. David did not do so and as such, quoting an isolated passage is misleading.

    I will work to ensure that my language is focused on the arguments. In this thread I do not see anything that is rhetoric as opposed to substance, but I will keep that in mind.

  31. David (re:22),

    As I read the tradition, Protestantism generally has tilted towards biblicism or primitivism rather than a theory of development.

    I find this statement to be an overgeneralization There are times when the Reformers rejected Roman Catholic development, but it was not development per se which was rejected. There are aspects of continuity and aspects of discontinuity between the Reformers’ understanding of justification and the doctrines of justification held by previous generations of Christians. But then there are huge discontinuities between the various Roman Catholic schools during the Late Medieval era on justification, to say nothing of the discontinuities between this era and previous eras. This is why McGrath is so fussy about describing the staggering (his term) range of opinions on the nature and content of justification in the Late Medieval Church. You cannot explain the Reformers rejection of some of the Medieval schools opinions on justification as a devaluation of development in understanding Christian doctrine any more than you can explain the divergence of opinions on justification within the Medieval Church as a rejection of development.

    On the ECF’s and their understanding of justification, there are no doubt times when some of them say something which sounds like infusion. But then there are some very Protestant sounding statements that are made as well. But how can we adjudicate here when not only in there no dogmatic guidance on this topic among the ECF’s, but there is not even any attempt to systematize the doctrines of justification? The kinds of questions about justification which were so heavy on the minds of the Late Medieval and Reformation scholars are absent in the ECF corpus.

    Cheers….

  32. Eric,
    You wrote,

    “We are justified by a living, breathing faith that blossoms forth in selfless and redemptive acts, not by mere assent to the truth added to our efforts to conform to an established ethic.”

    Indeed. However, the quality added to faith that makes it blossom forth into redemptive and selfless acts is Charity.
    Besides, Faith, even without Charity is not a “mere assent”. It is a supernatural virtue, a gift from God.

    As for Augustine, he most certainly did say a justified person can fall out of grace. The Reformed position says the non elect are never justified, not even for a moment. They never fall from grace because they are never in grace. Augustine did not teach this.

  33. Dear Brandon,

    Thanks for commenting.

    You wrote:

    I’m saying that your options of development or primitivism are a non-starter. It’s not a helpful way of framing the discussion because it is radically simplified. That’s why I pointed out that McGrath can affirm both of the “paradigms” you proposed, and as many other Evangelical theologians maintain as well.

    Can you show me why primitivism and development are “radically simplified” and a “non-starter?” I’m not trying to be contentious here. I just don’t see how there is another option for dealing with theological novelty within a framework that claims to be orthodox. Either the novelty emerges from something implicit in revelation, or the novelty is claimed to be a “rediscovery” of something that was exlplicit but ignored or suppressed. Or both. Is there a third option?

    Also, I wasn’t saying Calvin opposed the notion that imputation was taught in Romans. I was noting that the Reformed doctrine does not *merely* derive from Romans 3 & 4.

    Let’s not quibble. The thrust of my argument is simply that the doctrine of imputation is an inference from the law/gospel, faith/works, justification language that Paul uses primarlily in Romans and Galatians. If you want to throw Philippians 3 and Ephesians 2:8 into the mix, I certainly won’t object.

    If you want to insist that Reformed theologians reference all of Scripture in articulating their position, then I would agree, or course. But I think that Luther’s reading of Romans and Galatians (especially Romans 3& 4; Galatians 2-4) creates the paradigm within which the rest of the Scripture gets read. Is that really a controversial thing to say?

    You had said, “The doctrine of imputation is inferred from the reading Calvinists place on justification in chapters 3&4.” Perhaps you were not being exhaustive, but the Reformed argument is far broader and bigger than that.

    I would agree that Reformed theology is much broader and takes in more exegetical data. I referenced Romans 3& 4 as a kind of synedoche (to use a nice Calvinist concept). By that, I mean the specific argument about grace/faith/works/justification, etc. Don’t you think the Calvinist position hinges on key definitions of terms in these Pauline texts?

    Philippians 3 is a fundamental passage and there are also biblical-theological considerations that inform these other passages. If you’re attempting to explain the genesis of the doctrine of imputation, your comment is incomplete.

    I agree that to understand the genesis of imputation, there are many other factors we have to consider. Luther’s personality, devotional experience, and philosophical commitments are obviously key. But when it comes to justifying the doctrine exegetically, don’t you think Romans/Galatians are the key texts? And, as the Calvin quote shows, Calvin thinks that Romans 3 can be read in isolation as proof of the doctrine.

    Now, as I noted, the arguments need to be made to substantiate that assessment and I did not offer a sustained exegetical argument. My point, however, is that the Reformed *have* attempted to do that. You may believe its unsuccessful and it may well be, but the Reformed have in fact argued that such passages substantiate imputation.

    I agree that the Reformed read Scripture in this way. Passages like Philippians 3 are read assuming the truth of key Lutheran distinctions: Law/Gospel; faith/works, sin/grace.

    As such, your statement regarding imputation being an inference from Romans 3 & 4 is “woefully inadequate” for explaining the Reformed position on imputation.

    If you look at Calvin’s commentary on Philippians 3, he clearly thinks it is a summary statement of the argument made in Romans 3&4 or Galatians 2-4, which it is, of course.

    So, let’s not get sidetracked. I think that imputation is an inference from the whole law/gospel/grace/faith/justification system that Luther interprets in his own peculiar way. My point is that imputed righteousness is not the explicit teaching of St. Paul. You can only get there by assuming (or proving) the Calvinist meaning of key terms like justification or “works of the law.”

    -David

  34. Hi Andrew,

    Let’s distinguish the fact of development from a theory of development. I agree wholeheartedly that Protestant theology represents a development of ideas begun both in late antiquity and in the middle ages. But I don’t see Calvin arguing that the apparent novelty of the Reformation can be explained as a development of truths that were only implicit in earlier periods. On the contrary, Calvin argues clearly that the truth of the gospel was suppressed by Papal superstition and recovered by the Reformers. That’s primitivism.

    Dwight Bozeman has written a monograph on Primitivism among the Puritans that argues the concept is paradigmatic for that tradition. (His book To Live Ancient Lives.)

    I don’t really care one way or the other. I always thought that primitivism made more sense as a theory that coheres with sola scriptura. Modern evangelical academics tend to go more with development as an explanation for novelty. I don’t really have a dog in the fight, except that a theory of development tilts more Catholic eventually.

    Also, I don’t think it’s true that we have no dogmatic guidance in the first 4 centuries. We have a lot of dogmatic guidance on the nature of redemption. It’s just that the dogma is not framed around the concept of justification. It’s framed around recapitulation, theosis, sacramental theology, church discipline, and so forth. Again, see my article on Sola Fide for documentation.

    And, when we finally do get a doctrine of justification – it’s Augustine’s doctrine!

    -David

  35. Eric,

    The point was those scholars conclude Clement is not teaching Protestant JBFA as you contended (“unambiguously” no less). McGiffert and Richardson are arguing Clement and others departed from Paul because they hold Paul teaches Protestant JBFA. But of course if Paul wasn’t teaching Protestant JBFA, then there is no departure necessary to maintain. Torrance’s statement does not speak of Paul at all or whether Clement departed from him, but merely emphasizes that Clement focused on righteousness in justification as a “moral qualification” and “quality of the soul” (i.e. infused righteousness) and that we are not justified by pistis alone.

    And to follow up on David’s reply to you concerning the assertion that Reformed do not deemphasize love at all, in addition to what he referenced from the Institutes there is also Calvin’s commentary on Gal 5:1-6 which is obviously a very relevant text in the dispute: “With respect to the present passage, Paul enters into no dispute whether love cooperates with faith in justification; but, in order to avoid the appearance of representing Christians as idle and as resembling blocks of wood, he points out what are the true exercises of believers. When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner. As in Christ Jesus he commends faith accompanied by love, so before the coming of Christ ceremonies were required. But this has nothing to do with obtaining righteousness, as the Papists themselves allow; and neither must it be supposed that love possesses any such influence.”

  36. Jim–

    A living faith is not merely trusting in the power and wisdom of God but a commitment to his ways. One cannot add charity to genuine faith. It’s already there. As you well know, James describes a loveless, workless faith as dead. Dead faith is not a gift that anyone would want.

    Yes, Augustine can speak of a loss of faith/justification/regeneration, meaning, of course, that he is discussing an entirely different concept than the Reformed when he does so. Were he or St. Thomas alive today, I happen to believe they would side with us on the big picture of things. Personally, I find it meaningless to speak of temporary versions of regeneration. It’s kind of like making it through major surgery only to die three days later from complications. No one is going to soothe the bereaved by blurting out, “Well, at least the operation itself was a success!”

  37. Dr. Anders–

    The fact that neither love nor any other positive human trait gives faith its justifying power in no way diminishes the role of love or honor or tenderness in the scheme of salvation. In fact, it does quite the opposite. Even in Catholicism, all justifying power comes in and through Christ and by his graces. This excludes our love or loyalty or courage a role in terms of GROUNDING justification. He crowns HIS OWN gifts. These good gifts include any charity we find ourselves exercising. But we are justified insofar as these gifts are clearly HIS, not insofar as they might be considered somewhat OURS. What is being emphasized is the love and righteousness of Christ. I cannot even begin to see how that would devalue love or righteousness.

  38. Dr. Anders–

    I’ll try to answer parts of your earlier comment addressed to Andrew and me.

    1. The West went through the whole Renaissance and the “ad fontes” movement, recovering the scholarly use of ancient languages and ancient texts. This is a blessing the East did not receive.

    2. The Protestant Reformation had its beginnings in the Waldensian movement, starting in the 1170’s…then on through Wycliffe and Hus in the 1300’s before you ever get to Wittenberg. Before that you had the Dark Ages, not the most enlightened of times shall we say. Calvin looked to Gregory the Great as the last decent pope…right prior to the aforementioned Dark Ages. Not every period of 1500 years is equal. There wasn’t a whole lot of progress in truth and light connected with this particular era (despite some recent rehabilitation amongst historians). Also, you had the split between East and West, as well as the Great Schism dividing the West into three temporarily.

    3. How do we distinguish corruption from development? The same way a sound historian does it. Texts, reason, intuition, peer review. Basically through the process of Sola Scriptura.

    Catholics interpret the majority of the biblical text through something very similar if not identical to Sola Scriptura, and then rail at Protestants for doing the same thing with those relatively few passages that have been dogmatically defined by the Roman Magisterium. To be fair, we have our own referees in place to slap us down when we go too far. To me, you all have your illuminati and we have ours. You’re as fully credal as we are. We go by Westminster and/or the Three Forms of Unity, and you go by the Catechism of Trent and the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Magisterium has no power to edit these documents to their liking. Their hands are tied by precedent and consensus across time. There is no dynamic, living adjudicator to speak of, merely a couple of paper popes.

    4. You said that you saw the following tenets within the early church: the doctrine of infused righteousness, theosis, moral transformation, baptismal regeneration, penance, a highly visible ecclesiology centered around episcopal authority, and a high eucharistic theology. And yet you fail to mention that all of these can likewise be found within the Anglican Church, right alongside JBFA and imputation and “simul iustus et peccator” and substitutionary atonement (which is also represented in the early church, by the way). These are NOT Roman distinctives!

    But let’s bring up one that is. Why is it that Ignatius of Antioch, on his way to martyrdom in Rome and in serious need of a now-and-in-the-hour-of-our-death sort of assistance, barely even mentions the Virgin Mary in any of his seven authentic letters? (Calvin didn’t view any of them as authentic, but hey, what can you do?) As an historian, can you honestly say that hyperdulia is not a “complete theological novum” (and not in a good way)?

  39. Dr. Anders–

    Continuing on…

    5. Doesn’t Catholic soteriology include its own version of “simul iustus et peccator”? Despite ongoing concupiscence and venial sin, the believer is perfectly justified as long as he or she remains in a state of grace. You are a sinner, are you not? You are justified, as well, right? Only Jesus and Mary managed to live their lives without concupiscence and venial sin.

    6. Moralistic, transformative growth in grace is fully compatible with Reformed soteriology…under the aegis of sanctification. Our system has no problem with any Bible passages of this ilk. As for the ECF’s, they’d have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Every faith known to man (except some forms of Christianity) is thoroughly moralistic. One would expect a post-apostolic trend in this direction. It’s human nature.

  40. Cletus–

    You are aware, are you not, that your quotes prove too much? If I were to grant that these scholar’s expertise brings into question the validity of examples of JBFA in the ECF’s, then you would have to acknowledge that this same expertise makes Catholic exegesis of the Pauline corpus completely bogus. And my side doesn’t really need the ECF’s. We’re perfectly happy with primitivism, as Dr. Anders puts it.

    But why should either of us listen to these particular scholars, two liberal Protestants and a Barthian? Do you honestly believe they would have a handle on what is and what is not JBFA?

  41. Cletus–

    In terms of your Calvin quote, such sentiments do not devalue love within the process of salvation but instead protect it. We must attribute the origins of love properly. We are justified by Christ alone and not by anything within us, not even our love and obedience. Catholics do not verbally deny the doctrine of Sola Gratia, but probably nine out of ten adherents deny it in practice. The Reformed try to make sure that that doesn’t happen with those under their care.

  42. Dear Eric,

    Thanks again for a substantive, thoughtful comment.

    As you recall, we initially began this dialogue because you thought I was unfair to Calvin in my presentation and because you thought I harped unnecessarily on the distinction between imputation and infusion. You asked me why I “went to war” on this issue. My response, in summary, was that Westminster and the three forms as well as the living, breathing Reformed authorities who schooled me all taught me that this was the line in the sand. Luther, as you recall, once said he’d carry the Pope in his hands and kiss his feet if he only he would teach JBFA.

    I then went into something of the process that led me to the Catholic Church. Beginning with the line in the sand provided to me by my (Reformed) tradition and upon closer examination, I found the doctrine missing from Scripture and from early Christian tradition. This was the beginning (but not the decisive moment) for my entrance into the Catholic church. As you have well noted, there are other Christian bodies (some Anglicans, the various orthodox communions, the Protestant holiness tradition, etc.) that also know nothing of imputation or JBFA. Nevertheless, it remains a key point of difference between Reformed and Catholic Christians.

    I am very happy to learn that you have given a lot of thought to the commonalities between our respective tradition, as well as points of analogy. I also agree with a lot of what you have said about the historical antecedants to Reformed thought.

    So where should we go from here? Your recent comment is very detailed and covers a lot of issues. I’m not unwilling to go into these issues, but I seem to have lost the thread of our conversation. The topic of the post, of course, is “a catholic perspective” on John Calvin – points of commonality and difference, Calvin’s historical development, his influence on the Reformation. As you know, I lay a heavy emphasis in the talk on what you call the role of the illuminati – Calvin’s conception of his own “magisterial” vocation. This seems to be something of interest to you as well. Just a thought.

    -David

  43. Eric,

    I never claimed RC justification is “unambiguously” affirmed in Paul’s letters as you did with Clement and Protestant JBFA.

    If you were familiar with Torrance’s body of work and career, I doubt you would so cavalierly dismiss him just because he disagrees with your conclusion on Clement. You’ve also given no argument that any of the 3 scholars cited misunderstood Protestant JBFA but just assert it – just because they disagree that Clement teaches it doesn’t entail they don’t understand it.

    “We must attribute the origins of love properly. We are justified by Christ alone and not by anything within us, not even our love and obedience. ”

    If this is the only issue with RC soteriology you have, then there shouldn’t be an issue at all. Neither side denies the origin of our righteousness is external to us. That the origin is external does not entail imputation or simul iustus et peccator. Nor would that entail Calvin’s comments on love David brought up.

    “Catholics do not verbally deny the doctrine of Sola Gratia, but probably nine out of ten adherents deny it in practice.”

    Do any prayers or actions of the liturgies deny it? Do any of the popular works of devotional literature deny it? I’d like to see substantiation that a majority of practicing Catholics functionally deny sola gratia, or instead whether you’re importing and assuming your own definition of sola gratia to assert such a thing.

  44. Eric,
    ” Dead faith is not a gift that anyone would want.”

    Dead Faith starts out as living Faith. Nothing can die unless first alive. Remember, even the demons were created in grace but fell away. They still believe however. ( Of course it is disputable as to whether demons have faith due to the fact that they have already arrived and are no longer journeying to their ultimate destination ).

    “Personally, I find it meaningless to speak of temporary versions of regeneration. It’s kind of like making it through major surgery only to die three days later from complications. ”

    But people do indeed make it through successful surgeries only to die of complications. It happens everyday.
    I think you need to distinguish between regeneration and the sanctifying grace given in regeneration. A regenerated person can certainly fall from grace. Should he be restored to grace, he is not regenerated again. One can be regenerated or born to a particular order only once. While in the state of sin, he does not lose the fact that he has been born to a supernatural order. If Baptized, he does not lose the seal even in hell. Regeneration, whether via the Sacrament or its desire ( explicit or implicit ), is a one time event.

    You believe that if Augustine or Aquinas were alive today they would come down on your side of this discussion. You should not hold to such a belief unless you can demonstrate it. Both of these men were clear on the possibility of one regenerated and in a state of grace falling away either temporarily or ultimately.
    David was indeed lost for awhile. So was the adulterous man Paul speaks about. The fact they both were restored does not prove they were never in a state of mortal sin. To say otherwise says both men were pleasing to God while committing adultery, incest and murder.

  45. Dr. Anders–
    Thanks for your investment of time in this discussion and for the tone of your replies.

    I have spent thousands of hours trying to discern the Catholic mindset on soteriology. I’m not sure exactly why. (My wife thinks I’m crazy.)

    I’ve come to the point where I don’t believe there is a hair’s breadth of difference between the Thomistic and Calvinistic systems. I’m not at all sure there even is a “line in the sand,” as you like to say. You yourself admit that there are forensic aspects to justification and then move on to excoriate imputation. Something’s not right with that. Catholics seem to believe that imputation is like the O. J. Simpson verdict (a blatant miscarriage of justice) rather than like the release of Barabbas in Par Lagerkvist’s novel (or in the Anthony Quinn film) where such unexpected and unmerited mercy leads the man inexorably to Christ (similar to what Bienvenu’s mercy accomplishes in Jean Valjean). Over and over again, I get the impression that Catholics don’t truly believe in Sola Gratia. They can say that both cooperative grace AND our cooperative efforts with that grace are totally gifted to us by the Spirit, but they almost always hem and haw, and once out there, have this gnawing desire to retract their statement.

    I tend to think Catholics are Methodists with window dressing. Those who are catechized give lip service to the doctrine of election. For everyone else, election is what those wild-eyed Calvinists foolishly believe. The ability to leave the faith is sacrosanct even though it cannot logically stand together with a robust belief in predestination. Most educated Catholics, as a result, chalk it all up to foreknowledge. This is totally at variance with Augustine and Aquinas. Their view of election is not a tautology: those who make it to the end make it to the end. Such a mindset completely eviscerates the concept of perseverance. Having no assurance of perseverance does the same thing to the concept of election.

    I happen to believe that the impasse is resolvable…and without significant compromise imposed on either side. I believe that not to resolve it is a sin against the unity of the church, a sin with which the magisterium of the Church of Rome is complicit, nullifying their claim to being the ONE Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The five hundred years during which they have dragged their feet on this issue is possibly worse than the 1500 years it took to rediscover JBFA. (I believe that ECT is negotiating in good faith, but they are virtually ignored even by most conservative Catholics…who, as Flannery O’Connor pointed out, have much more in common with Evangelicals than they do with liberal Catholics.)

    It wouldn’t be all that difficult to rally around certain pronouncements in Trent. For example, the five causes of justification are described as follows:

    The final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting
    The efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance
    The meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father
    The instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified
    Lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and cooperation.
    Here, every cause starts and finishes with the work of God. Even in number 5, the soul of each believer has a calling by, a renewal in, and countless receptions from the Spirit of God. Our own works do not enter into the mix, except as an indication of the movement of Christ in our lives.

  46. Sorry, that last section got formatted badly:

    It wouldn’t be all that difficult to rally around certain pronouncements in Trent. For example, the five causes of justification are described as follows:

    1. The final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting.

    2. The efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance.

    3. The meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father.

    4. The instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified.

    5. Lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and cooperation.

    **************

    As one can see, every cause starts and finishes with the work of God. Even in number 5, the soul of each believer has a calling by, a renewal in, and countless receptions from the Spirit of God. Our own works do not enter into the mix, except as an indication of the movement of Christ in our lives.

  47. Dear Eric,

    I appreciate your emphasis on commonalities. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say there are no differences. I prefer to see the points you raise as analogies rather than identities.

    I find that there are significant differences both metaphysical and psychological.

    On the reformed view, justification means the remission of all sins (past, present, and future) through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith. Although the transaction leaves the believer “simul iustus et peccator,” he can nevertheless obtain an “infallible assurance” (WCF) of his election through introspection. His regeneration by faith occurs in conjunction with his justification and is loosely connected to his baptism. (Baptism is efficacious in the elect; not efficacious in the reprobate.) It introduces the believer into a supernatural state that cannot be lost through sin, however heinous. Consequently, for one who has genuinely infallible assurance of salvation, no sin is ever a defeater for that assurance.

    On the Catholic view, baptism is always efficacious, in both the elect and the non-elect. The state of sanctifying grace is more than the remission of sins. It is a share in God’s nature, accompanied by the infused gifts of faith, hope, and charity and the indwelling Trinity. This state can be known conjecturally but not with certainty. Grievous sin is not compatible with sanctifying grace, which can be lost. Interestingly (and here comes an analogy) one remains in this life a member of Christ through baptism even in the state of mortal sin. (Only formal infidelity separates one from the body.) The Christian in mortal sin still has a claim on the sacraments and graces offered through the church. His assurance is tied more to the objective efficacy of the sacraments than it is to personal introspection. Moral Perfection is a real obligation and a real possibility, but only in conjunction with a spiritual life that is ordered essentially towards ascetical and mystical experience. All Christians are called to this state of life (moral perfection, deep mystical union with God). Most don’t attain it in this life, but some do. They are called saints.

    In sum, differences in the mechanics of justification connect to differences in the Catholic conception of God, justice, the nature of the atonement, original sin, grace, the nature of the divine indwelling, the efficacy of the sacraments, the grounds and nature of assurance, moral theology, the nature of actual sin, virtue and akrasia, and the spiritual life. That being said, I agree with you that there are substantial points of continuity and many analogies between the respective traditions.

  48. Dr. Anders–

    You do realize, do you not, that you are merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Or shall I say that we are both playing “Ring Around the Rosie” and you and yours say “upstairs, downstairs, we all fall down” whereas me and me and mine say “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” As a result, you ban us from the game.

    1. The Reformed do not receive a blanket remission of all sins past, present, and future without regard to confession, repentance, and amendment of life.

    2. As I have already stated, Catholics no less than Protestants may be described as simultaneously justified and sinful.

    3. Introspection is a very small part of attaining assurance. Resting on the unalterable promises contained within the Word of God is paramount. A desire to forsake sin and follow Christ is essential. The witness of our brothers and sisters in Christ concerning their perception of our walk is important. And the incessant testimony of the Spirit, which is not ours by introspection, but which comes and comes and comes unbidden, kind of like in the Catholic poem “The Hound of Heaven.”

    4. We are merely given the potential for infallible assurance through an unrelenting effort to make our calling sure. Catholics have this, as well, though it is usually reserved for saints. We believe it does not require extraordinary means, such as an angelic visitation. Best I can tell, Augustine agrees with us, implying that sincerely reciting a couple of the petitions within the Lord’s Prayer effectively procures the gift of perseverance.

    5. This life is but a blink of an eye. Any spiritual benefit without eternal significance isn’t worth a plug nickel. CATHOLIC baptism is eternally efficacious for the elect, and inconsequential for the non-elect.

    6. Yes, a genuine believer cannot out-sin the mercy of God. But that’s true in Catholicism, too. The Reformed don’t have an Antinomian bone in our bodies. Surely, with your background, you know that. Luther’s “sin boldly” imperative refers to our coverage for sin, not some nonchalant penchant to “sin that grace may abound.” With your health insurance, you are probably covered for sickle-cell anemia and Tay-Sachs disease even though you will never, ever contract them…and for a slough of other rare diseases which you have less chance of getting than of winning the biggest mega-jackpot lottery in history. But you are covered for them. I personally have never met an Evangelical guilty of a heinous crime/sin. About the worst I have known has been four or five adulterers who ended up divorced. No one but no one gave them a “pass.” (In all honesty, that would more likely happen in a Catholic parish. And in point of fact, two of these I knew converted to Catholicism.) Heinous sin, like any other sin, must be repented of. The truly regenerate act like David did when confronted by Nathan. We dive prostrate and sob uncontrollably. If we don’t act like that, we don’t LOSE our “state of grace.” We were never in one to begin with. At any rate, ANY sin which we callously refuse to repent of is a defeater for our assurance.

    7. For the Reformed, our “state of sanctifying grace” is far more than the simple remission of sins. We are partakers in the divine nature, indwelt by the Spirit, mystically united to Christ, recreated from scratch, presented with a new heart of flesh, infused with faith, hope, and charity, and afforded the means of grace available in the sacraments.

    8. There is a spectrum of possible “certainties” between conjecture and presumption. Conjecture, by the way, is totally inconsistent with a magisterium which objectively has the keys of power to bind and to loose. Make up your mind one way or the other. Most devout Catholics I know have assurance far more clear than mere conjecture. It’s not, “Oh, MAYBE my sins were forgiven when the priest pronounced absolution.”

    9. I am completely unimpressed that baptism infallibly leaves an indelible mark on the baptized, which they can then proudly show off in hell if they don’t make it as far as purgatory. Meaninglessness.

    10. Yes, all believers are obliged to seek moral perfection with all their heart and soul and strength. But moral perfection is not a prerequisite for canonization or the huge majority of those on the calendar of saints would never have made it. (And I for one am far more impressed with those who were quite sure they were not morally perfect no matter how much they wanted to be and humbly strove for it.)

  49. Jim–

    Things are spoken of as being “as dead as a doornail.” Is it your contention that doornails were once alive?

    When the Reformed speak of regeneration, they are speaking of the regenerate elect and NOT the apparently regenerate non-elect. Augustine called the first group the “children of promise” and the second group, the “children of perdition.” Granted, he thought their temporary “regeneration” to be valid in some sense. But it sure sounds as if he felt their respective regenerations to be qualitatively different.

  50. Cletus–

    Your two liberal scholars actually say that 1 Clement 32 espouses JBFA. I was trying to give you a way out. The Torrance quote was from his doctoral dissertation and thus early in his career. Some believe it to reflect an anti-Catholic stance combined with dogmatic primitivism. There is no question that he became a great scholar, but is this whom you really want to be quoting?

    Most Catholics I have conversed with consider the phrase “extra nos” to be something approaching curse words. Yes, even Pelagius understood God to be the ultimate source of everything. So we’re not talking origins per se.

    Thomas Howard, a Catholic apologist of note has remarked that roughly 9 out of 10 American Catholics are virtually uncatechized. Every Catholic convert to Protestantism I have ever spoken to emphasizes the extreme legalistic character of modern Catholic practice. I have conversed with scads and scads of Catholics, and they would rather die than give up the idea of personal participation in the salvation process along with the accrued personal merit garnered thereby. The vast majority of Evangelicals don’t comprehend JBFA. In point of fact, most of them are probably either semi-Pelagians or moralistic, therapeutic deists (as Catholic sociologist Christian Smith has observed).

    I believe Sola Gratia almost requires one to embrace thoroughgoing election and its accompanying gift of final perseverance. Again, most Catholics I speak of completely eschew predestination. I think it’s in the Q & A section of Dr. Anders’ talk on Calvin above: a Catholic gentleman asks about election, expecting to be told that we good Catholics don’t believe in that Calvinist crap.

  51. Eric,
    You wrote,
    “The ability to leave the faith is sacrosanct even though it cannot logically stand together with a robust belief in predestination. ”
    Couple your statement with Dr. Anders’ explication of the Reformed view, “(Baptism is efficacious in the elect; not efficacious in the reprobate.)

    Are the doctrines of election and reprobation where we should start and upon which we should hang all other doctrines? How much space do they occupy in the Bible? Why not just rest assured that”God wants all men saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” and go from there?

  52. Hi Eric,

    I hope you are well. Your comment raises many questions that are worth discussion. However, I think I’d like to focus in on one common thread. In your point 5 & 9, you suggest that sanctifying grace is “meaningless” unless it is accompanied by 1) the gift of perseverance and 2) assurance of that gift. Would I be wrong in assuming that that is the heart of your objection to Catholic soteriology?

    If so, I’m not sure how you arrive at the charge of meaninglessness. Doesn’t Scripture present sanctifying grace as a motive (as well as a source) for holy living? (Eg. “Do not unite the members of Christ with a prostitute; you were bought with a price; make every effort to add to you faith goodness,” etc.) The fact that it calls forth our willing cooperation (which can be tragically withheld) would seem to make the gift of perseverance all the more precious.

    Thanks,

    David

  53. Eric,

    “Your two liberal scholars actually say that 1 Clement 32 espouses JBFA.”

    If you’d like to offer citations to that effect, you’re free to do so. The citations I offered do not “actually say that”. And I thought these liberals didn’t understand JBFA anyways, so why now the appeal to them in support?

    “The Torrance quote was from his doctoral dissertation and thus early in his career”

    That’s irrelevant to you demonstrating he did not actually understand JBFA.

    “Most Catholics I have conversed with consider the phrase “extra nos” to be something approaching curse words. Yes, even Pelagius understood God to be the ultimate source of everything. So we’re not talking origins per se.”

    “Extra nos” is rejected because the righteousness infused into us at justification and which justifies does not continue to remain outside and external to us (which would be nonsensical – it’s infused after all). It is not rejected because that righteousness being infused into us originates from outside of us – that’s just by definition (one doesn’t infuse oneself with his own righteousness).

    So again, your statement of “We must attribute the origins of love properly. We are justified by Christ alone and not by anything within us, not even our love and obedience” needs to be evaluated. The first sentence concerning origin should not be a divisive issue per above. The second sentence is ambiguous. If you deny we are justified by infused faith, hope, and love given gratuitously by Christ alone through grace alone, then obviously that is a disagreement. If you deny we are justified by our natural abilities/efforts within us, then of course that is a denial of Pelagianism and should not be divisive.

    “Every Catholic convert to Protestantism I have ever spoken to emphasizes the extreme legalistic character of modern Catholic practice. I have conversed with scads and scads of Catholics, and they would rather die than give up the idea of personal participation in the salvation process along with the accrued personal merit garnered thereby.”

    So personal participation in salvation (and its associated reward – i.e. merit) is equivalent to an extreme legalistic character of practice and a denial of sola gratia?

    “The vast majority of Evangelicals don’t comprehend JBFA.”

    So the apparent poor catechesis or practice of RCs in your estimation should have no more bearing on the validity of the RC position than the poor catechesis or practice of the vast majority of Evangelicals has on the validity of Protestant JBFA. And so the observation you made on Catholic practice was irrelevant to the discussion or any ecumenical bridging you ostensibly support.

  54. Dr. Anders–

    I don’t believe Scripture presents “holy living” as a virtuous end outside of an enduring, covenantal relationship with Christ. As I noted above, Augustine describes persons exhibiting such “holy living” as children of perdition.

    Also, perseverance that relies on our strength is unworthy of a faithful, protective, loving God. It would mean that he can protect us against all powers except one, our own flesh. Plus, it places our flesh in some sort of neutral zone outside of the sphere of influence of Satan and his minions. It takes our most vulnerable point and heartlessly proclaims, “Sorry, I can’t help you there. I might be accused of not being a gentleman. You’re on your own. Good luck.”

    A gift of perseverance that reveals to us the heartlessness of God doesn’t sound particularly “precious” to me.

    (And a hymn entitled “Blessed Conjecture: Jesus Might Be Mine” would be difficult to sing with all one’s heart and soul.)

  55. Jim–

    Ah, the old “universal salvific will” of God. Does the “all” in 1 Timothy 2:4 indicate all people without exception or all people without distinction? In the final segment of his life, Augustine chose the latter. I think it can also be argued that Aquinas took a similar position (ST p1, q19, a6).

  56. Hi Eric,

    We began this dialogue when you suggested that I unnecessarily distinguished the Reformed and Catholic doctrine on justification. You accused me of harping unnecessarily on the doctrine of imputation as “the line in the sand” between traditions.

    In #45 above, you wrote:

    I’ve come to the point where I don’t believe there is a hair’s breadth of difference between the Thomistic and Calvinistic systems. I’m not at all sure there even is a “line in the sand,

    Now you have identified the “heartlessness” and the “meaninglessness” of the Catholic doctrine of grace as your reason for rejecting it. Would I be right in assuming that you have revised your opinion that there is not “a hair’s breadth of difference between the Thomistic and Calvinistic systems?”

    Thank you,

    David

  57. Eric,
    Yes. The “old salvific will” of God indeed. Unless God wants all men saved, I have no hope he wants me saved. And neither do you.

  58. Jim,

    Yes. The “old salvific will” of God indeed. Unless God wants all men saved, I have no hope he wants me saved. And neither do you.

    But there is a sense in which God doesn’t want everyone saved. If he wanted everyone saved in the same way, all would be saved. There are things God wants more than the salvation of everyone. The only one who denies that is the universalist.

  59. Eric (and others),

    As a followup to my previous post, I also suggest reading the analysis by Al Kimel here – https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-grand-question-anglicans-and-roman-catholics-and-evangelicals-too-on-justification-by-faith/ – which I think does a commendable job exploring the differences and commonalities (as well as explaining how infusion-as-justification does not negate sola gratia), although I’m aware Hooker’s orthodoxy is not viewed in favorable light by all Protestants. It also brings up the Anglican-RC ecumenical document “Salvation and the Church” which often gets overlooked with ECT/JDDJ.

  60. Jim–

    If an omnipotent God wants all men saved without exception, then they ALL will be saved…without exception. If He wants all men saved without distinction, then Calvinism is true.

    You allege, on the other hand, that God merely makes salvation available to all men, in other words, He creates no impediments. In one sense, I can go along with that. God does not supply the rope with which the non-elect hang themselves. Their wickedness and disobedience is of their own design.

    But you seem to imply that God does nothing proactively to prepare the elect for and maintain them in their perseverance in the faith. Rather, He is a deistic gentleman who steps out of the way each time they second guess their commitment to Christ.

    The high-school graduation rate for the District of Columbia is about 62%. Anyone on the DC Board of Education who announced he “wanted all district students to graduate” and then implied it was enough that every student had the “opportunity” to graduate (since no impediments were being placed in their way)…probably wouldn’t get reelected!

    An omnipotent God cannot say at one and the same time that “many are called but few are chosen” AND that He is doing everything He can to see to it that as many get in as possible. (God would make the best used-car salesman ever seen. He could talk anyone into anything! You know He could.)

  61. Dr. Anders–

    No, I haven’t changed my mind. I wouldn’t even say that I “reject” Thomistic soteriology (as long as we are speaking of Thomas’s actual soteriology).

    Modern Catholicism combines disparate, incompatible soteriologies. I don’t believe that either Augustine or Aquinas subscribed to the universal salvific will of God as currently formulated, for example.

    Also, I never spoke of the meaninglessness of the Catholic doctrines of grace. Just the relative meaninglessness of discussing the difference between faith that is temporarily genuine and that which is only apparently genuine. In the parable of the sower and the seed, we appear to have genuine plants which wither and die. (They are, however, qualitatively different in that none possesses a taproot. Their roots are all either stunted or strangled.) In the parable of the wheat and the tares, on the other hand, they are NOT genuine plants but mimics. Perhaps, both exist. Be that as it may, genuine, tap-rooted plants always persist to harvest. Sheep do not become wolves, neither do wolves become sheep. Augustine speaks of the possibility of tares becoming wheat, but Jesus never does. The dead become alive. (And Augustine elsewhere speaks of wolves within and sheep without. In other words, errant sheep join the fold. They don’t “become” sheep.)

    The gap between us–Thomism and Calvinism–is narrow, but even the narrowest of gaps may prove significant. In an electrical circuit, any gap whatsoever breaks the connection, and no electricity flows.

    Whether through the influence of modern culture, Molinism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Protestantism, there seems to have been a complete “Arminianization” of Roman Catholicism. And yes, I find any man-centered obsession with the [unnecessary] defense of our free will spiritually stifling. They all posit a heartless, unfair system of salvation privileging certain personality types, intelligence levels, and circumstances of birth.

    So, I’m all for the Augustinian and classically Thomistic doctrines of grace. I have far less affinity for what they have become through time.

    Part of the reason any system which downplays a robust predestinarianism becomes heartless is that it eviscerates the bond of trust between Creator and creature. There are promises of help if we correctly diagnose the problem and cry out for assistance, but if we become confused, if we are the victims of psychological manipulation, or if we are beaten down by life, then we are mostly on our own. You speak of conjecture of personal safety rather than a humble but confident assurance of the steadfast promises of God. We are to avoid both the trustlessness of despair and the self-reliant pride of presumption. On the spectrum of surety, Catholic “conjecture” lies nearer to despair in terms of trust…though it is perhaps humbler in terms of unwarranted confidence. Reformed “assurance” lies nearer to a full-on trust in the love and faithfulness of Christ…though it is perhaps more liable to an unwarranted confidence. We all need to discover the perfect balance on the spectrum, neglecting neither trust nor humility. Therese of Lisieux displayed a serene, unwavering assurance in the mercy of her Lord despite her humble self-evaluation as possessing a paucity of good works.

    Asked if she were in God’s grace, St. Joan remarked: “If I am not, may God put me there, and if I am, may God so keep me! I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I was not in His grace.” Again, complete humility combined with an appropriately confident assurance.

    St. Paul was both confident enough to say that for him to die was to be present with the Lord, that to die was gain not loss. He was also humble enough to say that he had not attained to the resurrection but pressed on toward that goal.

  62. Robert, Eric,

    Howdy my guys?

    What do you make of this verse?

    Luke 13:34

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

  63. St. Augustine: “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.”

    When talking about God’s will, it is important to distinguish between God’s absolute will and God’s contingent will. See the Summa Theologica Part 1, Question 19.3 .

    If everything God willed were absolute, then God would be the direct cause of all evil. But we know God is not the direct cause of evil. Moral evil is only possible when men and angels abuse their freedom and turn against God.

    In the same way, God’s universal salvific will is not absolute. Rather, His will is contingent on free cooperation with (and non-rejection of) the sufficient grace which Christ merited for all.

    Otherwise the damned would have be able to appeal their judgment, i.e. “I would have loved you, but you didn’t make it possible for me to do that.” But since God offers sufficient grace to all, no one will be able to appeal their just condemnation. We will see revealed in the Last Judgment that God offered an abundance of mercy and grace to all men, and that those who are condemned will be those who out of their own free will rejected God’s grace.

  64. Hi Eric,

    If you really affirm Thomas’s soteriology in all its particulars, then there is no reason that the doctrine of justification should be a source of division between us. In taking that position, however, you would be departing from Reformed Orthodoxy and affirming a Catholic understanding of the doctrine. Thomas, as you know, believes that we are made just by the gracious infusion of right order within the soul, and not by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Thomas also holds that believers can sin mortally and lose sanctifying grace, that the presence of grace in the soul can be known only conjecturally (and not infallibly) and that believers can die in mortal sin and be damned. This is not the doctrine of Calvin, the Three Forms, or of Westminster. Hence, my reason for harping on imputation as the line in the sand.

    If you think that Thomas’s doctrine has been unsuitably elaborated in modern Catholicism, that would be an interesting topic for discussion. But it would not necessarily be a justification for division.

    -DAvid

  65. Dave, i appreciate your honesty in your apologetics. That is the line in tbe sand, imputation. We do not believe that anythibg we do , or anything the Spirit does in us justifies us, we believe we are justified by His life as Romans 5:10 says. Iow we believe the merits of Christ are applied thru faith alone, we do not merit the merit of Christ. The gospel isnt go out and do your part, but Christ did it all, living the law in our place, fulfilling all righteouness, and giving it to us as a free gift by repenting and believing His words. Abraham simply believed the promise and was righteous. The medieval church in our opinion made the grave error of thinking the righteouness needed for salvation is accumulated internally through doing sacraments. But you are absolutely honest in your assesments and repudiate well those who want to try to erase the line of our differences. Thanks for your intelectual honsety.

  66. There are promises of help if we correctly diagnose the problem and cry out for assistance, but if we become confused, if we are the victims of psychological manipulation, or if we are beaten down by life, then we are mostly on our own.

    If this were true, then we should all despair. Who isn’t confused, beaten down, or manipulated at some point during our lives?

  67. Eric,

    “And yes, I find any man-centered obsession with the [unnecessary] defense of our free will spiritually stifling. They all posit a heartless, unfair system of salvation privileging certain personality types, intelligence levels, and circumstances of birth. ”

    This is a strange criticism – Calvinism heartily affirms God’s ordination of means to achieve His ends through His providence (e.g. one’s circumstances) and its adherents are the ones that often have to refute criticism that its system is “heartless” and “unfair” due to its rejection of sufficient grace offered to all. If your concern is with boasting of some type, neither Thomism or Molinism permits or entails it.

  68. God does nothing proactively to prepare the elect for and maintain them in their perseverance in the faith. Rather, He is a deistic gentleman who steps out of the way each time they second guess their commitment to Christ.

    Eric, you are certainly misunderstanding Catholic doctrine to come to this conclusion. On the contrary, Catholics do hold to be true that God predestines a series of efficacious graces for the elect.

    The important difference between the Catholic paradigm and the Calvinist paradigm is not whether God gives efficacious grace to the elect, but rather the basis (reason) for God’s election of some rather than others. In Catholic theology, election (and the efficacious series of graces) are prepared because God has foreknowledge of the the elect’s free choice to cooperate with His grace. Similarly, the non-elect do not receive efficacious grace for the reason that God foresees their lack of cooperation. Nevertheless, the non-elect do receive sufficient grace, and it is their rejection of freely offered grace which is the reason they do not receive more help.

    In contrast, in Calvin’s theology, God chooses the elect to make manifest His mercy and passes over the reprobate so that His justice can be made manifest. How God chooses who will be elect and who will be reprobate in Calvin’s theology is somewhat of a mystery to me.

    I think the basis for Calvin’s disagreement on predestination relates to his denial of the distinction between mortal sin and venial sin. By assuming that mortal and venial sin are equally damnable, and then observing that all men sin venially, Calvin reasonably concluded that humans have no real freedom to choose the good. Without the freedom to choose the good, he concluded that God’s will is always absolute (there is nothing for it to be contingent upon). The denial of that distinction between mortal and venial sin therefore necessitated a radically break from Catholic theology.

    This article helped me understand how Calvin’s denial of the distinction between mortal and venial sin was not compatible with St. Thomas, St. Augustine, and Catholic tradition.

  69. Dear Kevin,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Does God accept us as sons and receive us into eternal dwellings because we have been made inherently good by God’s grace (through faith & the sacraments) or for some other reason? That is the difference between Catholic and Protestant as I see it.

    Of course, Catholics also believe Romans 5:10. We also believe we are saved through the merits of Christ, that the grace of Christ is given to us as a gift received through repentance and faith, and that the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in those who walk by the Spirit. But, recognizing that line in the sand was an important point in my becoming Catholic. As I noted above, I have never seen any compelling evidence that Paul taught the imputation of Christ’s righteousness or the doctrine of simul iustus et peccator. Nor have I found compelling evidence of these doctrines in Christian antiquity. Rather, Paul and the Catholic faith teach that the grace of Christ makes us righteous through the shedding abroad of God’s love into our hearts (and not by works of the law).

    Thank you again,
    David

  70. Jonathan said ” how God chooses who will be elect……. A story that might intetest you. Jesus preaching in the synagog, being admired by the Jews for His teaching, closes the book and teaches a peculiar lesson from scripture. A prophet was sent by God in a phamon, passing over 3000 widows and many lepers to one widow and one leper. When Jesus finished, the Jews were incensed with Him. Here was a lesson on God’s soveriegnty and election. Romans is clear, God chooses some and doesnt chooses others, and gets glory from both. God bless

  71. Dave, thanks for your estute response always. Your definition in the first paragraph of your post to me is exactly the difference. Great job with clarity. Aquinas said a man is predestined to glory in some way according to their merit instead of just the goodness of God. Romans 8 says who can bring a charge against God’s elect, it is God who justifies Forensic. We believe that Paul puts Jews, Gentiles in the same category in the first 3 chapters of Romans, law breakers who cannot be justified thru any law. Paul says in Galatians 3 ” law isnt faith. The distinction is beteeen hearing by faith and works.. we believe the great heresies in the history of the church is those who conflate law and gospel. Paul in Philippians said he was blameless before the law, Hebrew of Hebrews, and yet he considered his righteouness but dung, not his sin, but his righteouness, to be found in anothers righteouness by faith. We believe we are justified before we are sanctified, you believe you are sanctified before you are justified. And to me Dave, that is the difference, not a small one. Dave in all candor, the gospel isnt ” worthiness of merit” Paul could never, ever have meant by daikaiou the state of affairs at the end of one’s life. One last thing if i may, the Jews at passover deserved the same thing as the Egyptians deserved but God passed over them, forensic, it wasnt a internal renovation project to be justified. We say faith alone justifies because it alone receives Christ our justification and brings Him to the heart. Love stretches out to neighbor and is always second in natural order. Scripture never says we are justified by love or anything we do, but solely we will be saved by His life. Thanks for the opportunity to shate, hope your family is well. K

  72. Hi Kevin,

    I’ve gone through your comment to respond to the various propositions:

    Aquinas does not say that merit is the reason for God’s predestination. He says the opposite.
    Romans 8 does not say, “It is God who justifies Forensic.”
    Romans 8 says, “It is God who justifies.”
    Romans 3 does not say that we cannot be justified by any law.
    Romans 3 says we cannot be justified by the works of the law,” but are rather justified because of the law that requires faith.
    I agree that law is not faith and that Paul distinguishes faith and works of the law.
    I agree that it is a great heresy to conflate the gospel with works of the law.
    I agree that Paul was flawless regarding the law, but not righteous before God.
    I do not believe that one is sanctified prior to being justified.

    Also, I never said that the gospel is “worthiness of merit.” The gospel preached by Christ was, “The Kingdom of God is here.”
    I also never said that Paul intends dikaio to mean the state of affairs at the end of life.

    I have not said that the Jews were passed over because they were inherently righteous, but rather because of the promise to Abraham.
    That does not mean that God imputes righteousness to them. On the contrary, he warned Moses: “Whoever sins against me, I will blot him out of my book.”

    You wrote, “We say faith alone justifies because it alone receives Christ our justification and brings Him to the heart.” If that’s all you mean by justification by faith, then a Catholic could affirm that.

    You wrote: “Love stretches out to neighbor and is always second in natural order.” A Catholic would agree with this statement. Action follows form. We cannot love supernaturally without a supernatural quality infused first into our soul. That is what we mean by grace.

    You wrote: “Scripture never says we are justified by love or anything we do.”

    Actually, it does. Romans 2:13 says the one who obeys the law will be declared righteous.

    What is more significant to me is that Scripture never says we are justified by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, or that we are simul iustus et peccator. These doctrines are mere inferences from the Lutheran/Calvinist understanding of justification. They cannot be asserted without begging the question.

    Thanks again,

    David

  73. Thanks Dave, you said ” but rather are justified by the law that is of faith.” Maybe you can direct me to the scripture that says ” we are justified by the law that is of faith. Ephesians 2: 8 eliminates our works or snything coming from ourselves in salvation, what we do only being what we are saved unto. Romans 4:16 says if a Roman Catholic wants to be saved by grace alone, it will have to be by faith alone. Dave, when Paul speaks of the law, he is always talking about the whole law. Its a unit. Sometimes He says works, sometimes law, sometimes works of law. For instance he says to take circumcisuon was a violation of the whole law. James says to violate one thing is to violate the whole law. You said ” I do not believe that one is sanctified before one is justified.” Please explain this to me, I thought you eete finally justified aftet you were sanctified. One final thing Dave, Augustine rightly believed that the Romans 7 man was one of the mature Christians in scripture, fully understanding the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. He concludes in Romans 8 that thete is now no condemnation for those in Christ. Condemnation is a judicial term, not a statement about the internal affairs of a person. Iow, the closer we get to God the more we see our sinfulness, the more we understand what Augustine believed our best works are stained by sin and could not meet God’s perfect standstd. Clement of Rome said even deeds done in holiness dont justify us, but faith which God justified men for all time. I will give you the last word, thanks for the discussion. K

  74. Kevin–

    I see that Dr. Anders beat me to the punch. Aquinas never said that predestination was on the basis of the foreknowledge of merit:

    “On the contrary, The Apostle says (Titus 3:5): ‘Not by works of justice which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.’ But as He saved us, so He predestined that we should be saved. Therefore, foreknowledge of merits is not the cause or reason of predestination.” (ST p1, q23, a5)

    In point of fact, John Scotus Eriugena was censured back in the 800’s for claiming such a causation. Of course, many modern Catholics don’t seem to realize this. (See Jonathan Brumley, above.)

  75. Dear Kevin,

    You wrote, “Maybe you can direct me to the scripture that says ” we are justified by the law that is of faith. ”

    Romans 3:27: “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.”

    I agree that Ephesians 2:8 eliminates anything that proceeds from us (rather than from grace) as a cause of our justification.

    You wrote, “Romans 4:16 says if a Roman Catholic wants to be saved by grace alone, it will have to be by faith alone.”

    Actually, Romans 4:16 says, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.”

    We Catholics believe that.

    You wrote:

    Dave, when Paul speaks of the law, he is always talking about the whole law. Its a unit. Sometimes He says works, sometimes law, sometimes works of law. For instance he says to take circumcisuon was a violation of the whole law. James says to violate one thing is to violate the whole law

    That’s true. When Paul speaks about the law he has the whole Mosaic law in mind, the legal code given to Israel that includes both moral demands and ritual prescriptions. One cannot be justified through this law because failing in one point, one is guilty of breaking the whole thing.

    You wrote:

    You said ” I do not believe that one is sanctified before one is justified. Please explain this.”

    We are justified instantaneously with the infusion of grace.

    You wrote:

    Augustine rightly believed that the Romans 7 man was one of the mature Christians in scripture, fully understanding the battle between the flesh and the Spirit.

    Maybe, but that’s an assertion.

    You wrote:

    He concludes in Romans 8 that thete is now no condemnation for those in Christ. Condemnation is a judicial term, not a statement about the internal affairs of a person.

    This is a non-sequitur. Being judicial does not preclude judgment about one’s internal state.

    You wrote:

    the closer we get to God the more we see our sinfulness, the more we understand what Augustine believed our best works are stained by sin and could not meet God’s perfect standstd.

    Can you show me where Augustine says that our works done in grace do not merit God’s acceptance?

    You wrote,”Clement of Rome said even deeds done in holiness dont justify us, but faith which God justified men for all time.”

    This is compatible with Catholic faith.

    -David

  76. Eric, i never said Aquinas said that predesrination was on the basis of foreknowledge of merit.” I said Aquinas said that a man was predestined to glory in some way according to his merit instead of just the goodness of God. ” Worthiness of merit” Rome fataly saw the gospel as God enabling one by obedience the compensation for their lack. They saw Jesus as a softer Moses with an easier law, as if loving God with all of heart soul and mind and neighbor wss some essy task. Not knowing the law requires petfection. Galatians 3 says before faith came we were held captive under the law, imprisoned UNTIL faith came.The law was a guardian UNTIL Christ came so that we might be justified by faith. But now faith has come we are NO longer under a guardian. We are all sons of God thru faith. The law had one purpose to show us our sinfulness and drive us to the gospel which is simply trust in God’s favor. Wr are bad, real bad, but He was good, and its hard to keep a good man down. He lived the law in our place and fulfilled all righteouness. The medieval church wrongly saw the righteouness necessary for salvation could be accumulated thru sacraments ex opere operato. God blesd

  77. Hi Dave, where does scriptute say we are justified by and infusion of grace. Scripture says we are justified by faith and His blood. Iow there isnt a virtue attached to faith that merits the acceptance of God. You daid ” being judicial doesnt preclude judgment about one’s eternal state. ” Yes it does Dave, what can now no condemnation mean but no condemnation . You continued ” we are justified by an infusion of grace” correct me if im wrong, you dont merit your initiation into grace, but you merit your continuance in it. The Protrstant view is you smuggle your character into God’s work of grace. 1 Corintians 1: 30, it is by His doing you are in Christ who became to you wisdom, righteouness, sanctification and redemption. All of salvation is fotensic for Paul. He tefers to the rag tag Corinthians as you who have been sanctified. And incidentally, Hebrews says we have been sanctified, aorist past, by the one offering of Christ. We are just living the miracle. Dave, I want to thank you again for engaging me, and i have really thought about your responses. Have a great weekend. K

  78. Hi Eric,

    Aquinas never said that predestination was on the basis of the foreknowledge of merit…. In point of fact, John Scotus Eriugena was censured back in the 800’s for claiming such a causation. Of course, many modern Catholics don’t seem to realize this. (See Jonathan Brumley, above.)

    But I never said predestination was on the basis of foreknowledge of merit. I said predestination was on the basis of foreknowledge of cooperation. St. Thomas’s is making the point that predestination is the cause of merit, not vice versa.

    The correct relationship between merit, cooperation, and grace is that merit follows from grace plus cooperation.

    By the way, do you agree with this quote from article 5?

    Thus we might say that God pre-ordained to give glory on account of merit, and that He pre-ordained to give grace to merit glory.

  79. Eric, you stated that you believe that the belief in God’s universal salvific will is a modern doctrine of the Church.

    Here are some quotes showing evidence that it is not a new doctrine:

    1 Timothy 2:1-4

    First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is . . . forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

    1 John 2:2 – Christ is the “expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

    Matthew 18:10-14

    See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

    St. John Chrysostom

    God never compels anyone by necessity and force, but He wills that all be saved, yet does not force anyone. . . . How then are not all saved if he wills all to be saved? Because not everyone’s will follows His will. He compels no one.

    St. Ambrose

    For He saw that those who suffered could not be saved without a remedy, and so He provided medicine for the sick. He gave the means of health to all precisely in order that whosoever perishes should attribute the causes of his death to himself, he who was unwilling to be cured although he had the remedy by which he could escape. Let the manifest mercy of Christ to all be proclaimed: for those who perish, perish by their own negligence; but those who are saved, are delivered according to the sentence of Christ, ‘who wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

    St. Augustine -“‘God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth;’ but He does not [will it] in such a way as to take free will from them, by the good or bad use of which they may be judged most justly.”

    St. John Damascene –

    It is necessary to realize that God antecedently wishes all to be saved and to partake of his kingdom. For he did not make us to punish us but, since he is good, that we may be sharers of his goodness. However he wishes sinners to be punished since he is just. Therefore the first, antecedent will is called also good pleasure, being from him. But the second, consequent will is also called permission, having its origin from us

    Also, St. Thomas supports St. John Damascene in the Summa Theology Part 1, Question 19, article 6.

    (Thanks to Dr. Lawrence Feingold who provided these in the notes from his talk.)

  80. Eric and Kevin,
    Your desire to give all glory to God would be commendable if it didn’t rob man from being made in His own image.
    Do you believe that man is still in God’s image after the fall or has the Imago Dei been so damaged that it no longer applies? As a being with a spiritual soul, man transcends the limitations of the material, his will is free and he is self determining, at least to a degree, right?
    If all is as predetermined as you seem to believe, if our wills are so enslaved to evil, if we are not free to decide whether we cooperate or resist, why are you blogging here? Why do you berate us for being Catholic?
    Please don’t quote Spurgeon ( as Kevin is so wont to do) on this. I know he said Calvinists preach to all men because they are not privy to just whom God actually wants saved. We Catholics preach to and pray for all men for just the opposite reason. We do know God wants all men saved. The Bible says so.

  81. Dr. Anders–

    I’m sorry, but those who are justified by faith alone (through the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ) don’t just hear the law but actually obey it. So Romans 2:13 is completely irrelevant in terms of helping to delineate between our paradigms.

    Scripture never says we are justified by the impartation of Christ’s righteousness, or that we are “simul iustus et innocens.” These doctrines are mere inferences from the Catholic understanding of justification. They cannot be asserted without begging the question.

  82. Dr. Anders–

    Augustine on why our good works do not merit the acceptance of God:

    “Now there was, no doubt, a decided merit in the Apostle Paul, but it was an evil one, while he persecuted the Church, and he says of it: I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. [1 Corinthians 15:9]

    And it was while he had this evil merit that a good one was rendered to him instead of the evil; and, therefore, he went on at once to say, But by the grace of God I am what I am. [1 Corinthians 15:10] Then, in order to exhibit also his free will, he added in the next clause, And His grace within me was not in vain, but I have labored more abundantly than they all. This free will of man he appeals to in the case of others also, as when he says to them, We beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. [2 Corinthians 6:1]

    Now, how could he so enjoin them, if they received God’s grace in such a manner as to lose their own will? Nevertheless, lest the will itself should be deemed capable of doing any good thing without the grace of God, after saying, His grace within me was not in vain, but I have labored more abundantly than they all, he immediately added the qualifying clause, Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. [1 Corinthians 15:10] In other words, Not I alone, but the grace of God with me. And thus, neither was it the grace of God alone, nor was it he himself alone, but it was the grace of God with him. For his call, however, from heaven and his conversion by that great and most effectual call, God’s grace was alone, because his merits, though great, were yet evil. Then, to quote one passage more, he says to Timothy: But be a co-laborer with the gospel, according to the power of God, who saves us and calls us with His holy calling—not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus. [2 Timothy 1:8-9]

    Then, elsewhere, he enumerates his merits, and gives us this description of their evil character: For we ourselves also were formerly foolish, unbelieving, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.[Titus 3:3] Nothing, to be sure, but punishment was due to such a course of evil desert! God, however, who returns good for evil by His grace, which is not given according to our merits, enabled the apostle to conclude his statement and say: But when the kindness and love of our Savior God shone upon us—not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, whom He shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7]

    From these and similar passages of Scripture, we gather the proof that God’s grace is not given according to our merits. The truth is, we see that it is given not only where there are no good, but even where there are many evil merits preceding: and we see it so given daily. But it is plain that when it has been given, also our good merits begin to be—yet only by means of it; for, were that only to withdraw itself, man falls, not raised up, but precipitated by free will. Wherefore no man ought, even when he begins to possess good merits, to attribute them to himself, but to God….”

    On Grace and Free Will, ch. 12 and the first part of 13.

  83. Jonathan–

    Since the Reformed believe that willful, conscious, unrepentent sin is incompatible with the lives of the elect, the basic distinction between mortal and venial sin is insignificant in the differences between us. Its main effects are to render Catholic believers soft on sin and to inspire them to unnecessarily rail against “simul iustus et peccator.”

  84. Cletus–

    My criticism is not so much strange as it is uncommon.* Any kind of Arminian-like soteriology puts the ball in man’s court rather than in God’s. But there is so much disseminated misinformation among men, so many inequalities in terms of intellect and wisdom and comfort and suffering and upbringing and personality.

    Calvinism (not to mention Thomism itself at times) has been criticized for relying on the discretion of an all-wise, all-loving God. Quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot of room for accusations of unfairness there. (Unless one means to decry the “unfairness” of grace itself. We all deserve hell. You won’t find me urging God to give me what I deserve!)

    Both Thomism and infralapsarian Calvinism (in other words, the huge majority of the Reformed) eschew double predestination. Thus, no artificial impediments are placed in the way of the reprobate’s responding to the call of God. They do not obey because they will not obey.

    *Similarly, we are constantly bombarded by the Problem of Evil when it comes to forming our theodicies. Few if any speak of the difficulties which the Problem of Good imposes on atheists.

  85. Jonathan–

    You wrote:

    “If this were true, then we should all despair. Who isn’t confused, beaten down, or manipulated at some point during our lives?”

    Exactly! So why aren’t you despairing? If our clinging to the faith depends on us, we are all men most miserable.

    “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
    Prone to leave the God I love.
    Take my heart, oh, take and seal it,
    Seal it for thy courts above!”

  86. Jonathan–

    Aquinas never says we are predestined on account of God’s foreknowledge of our cooperation! You’re playing word games. And yes, you are correct, predestination is the cause of merit, not vice versa. (And furthermore, predestination is the cause of cooperation, not vice versa. The two go hand in hand and cannot logically be otherwise.)

    As for your quote from article 5, these words appear directly following:

    “Thus, it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace. For neither does this happen otherwise than by divine help, according to the prophet Jeremias (Lamentations 5:21): “convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted.” Yet predestination has in this way, in regard to its effect, the goodness of God for its reason; towards which the whole effect of predestination is directed as to an end; and from which it proceeds, as from its first moving principle.”

    The whole process, from beginning to end, is directed and controlled by Jesus Christ. NO amount of its cause, no matter how infinitessimally small, comes from us. We are but the recipients of grace.

  87. Jonathan and Jim–

    Aquinas speaks of God’s universal salvific will only as regards the Almighty’s antecedent will, as opposed to His consequent will…much as the Reformed might speak of God’s universal salvific will as regards the Most High’s prescriptive will, as opposed to His decretal will. The reprobate are held accountible for their rebellious choices, not admired for choosing in accordance with their destiny!

    This whole argument is NOT over the freedom of the will. You are altogether free to cooperate or resist. And my words are allowed to be the means whereby you might come to the truth. God has not set up some kind of mechanism to prevent or even to frustrate you from coming into the light. It’s all left up to you, what YOU desire to do.

  88. Hi Jim, you said if we are not free to cooperate or resist , why are you blogging here.” The ability to cooperate or resist is irelevant to justification. We are justified by the righteouness of another. Our righteouness isnt derived from His, it is His righteouness. Abraham wasnt righteous because he practised righteouness, he was righteous because he believed. On fact God had a covenant ratification ceremony right after 15:6. He was in good standing not because of his merit, his cooperation, his resisting, but by faitb. He simply believed the promise. Again the gospel isnt go out and do your part. Christ lived the law in our place, fulfilled all righteouness. Ephessians 2: 8 says salvation isnt of ourselves. The merits of Christ are applied thru faith alone, we dont merit the merit of Christ. God bless you Jim.

  89. Eric and Kevin,
    First Eric; you wrote about the Catholic ( and biblical ) distinction between mortal and venial sin, “Its main effects are to render Catholic believers soft on sin and to inspire them to unnecessarily rail against “simul iustus et peccator.”

    The Bible says the just man falls 7 times a day. Do you believe a just man sins mortally or venially 7 times a day?

    Kevin,
    You ask where the Bible says grace is infused into us. How about Romans 5:5; ” And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

    By the way, in #77 you use the word “smuggle”. Could you flesh that out for us? I have noticed your use of it over the years on various blogs and really don’t understand what you mean. I do know the dictionary definition of the word ( convey someone or something somewhere secretly and illicitly.
    “he smuggled out a message”
    synonyms: bring/take illegally, run, sneak
    “they smuggled drugs into Britain”)
    but don’t see how it applies here. Could you be a little more precise?
    Thanks

  90. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the quote from Augustine. This, of course, is part of the Catholic teaching on grace and merit. We cannot merit the grace of justification. However, with that grace, we receive merits which come from God and which God rewards, such that “your good merits are God’s gifts . . . God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His own gifts.” (On Grace and Free Will)

    -David

  91. Eric,

    Romans 2:13 is not irrelevant in helping to delineate between paradigms.
    The entire chapter distinguishes between those whom God will reward for “patient persistence in doing good” (whether Jew or Gentile) and those who don’t. Those who obey the law will be justified. Those who don’t, wont.

    Calvin understood this. He saw that the text, prime facie, undercut the Reformed position. In his commentary, therefore, he dismisses the Apostle’s argument as merely hypothetical.

    Calvin:

    No one ought anxiously to inquire what observers of the law are those of which Paul speaks here, inasmuch no such can be found; for he simply intended to lay down a supposed case — that if any Gentile could be found who kept the law, his righteousness would be of more value without circumcision. (Calvin’s Commentaries, Romans 2:26)

    By citing Romans 2:13, I am suggesting that the apostle meant what he said prima facie. To make the case that the text is irrelevant, you need to argue (as Calvin did) that the text is to be understood in some other way.

    -David

  92. Hi Jim, First ill answer a question you posed to Eric, a fair one ” do you think a just man sins 7 times a day mortally or venially” Here is the standard Jesus set with the law ” if you even lust in your mind after a woman you have commited adultry.” Adultry is mortal sin right Jim?So, as you see Jesus set the bar of the law to show us we break it, and must turn to the gospel for salvation which is simply trust in God’s favor and mercy. Romans 5: 1 says we have been justified by faith. 5:5 says nothing about justification. 10: 10 says ” from the heart one believes and is justified” , not will be justified, but is. Ephessians 1:7 says we have redemption, not will have. Smuggle means to squeze in, or sneak in your character, what you do, into God’s work of grace. We arent saved by anything coming from ourselves, but the righteouness of Christ imputed by faith. What we do is the result of faith. Our righteouness isnt derived from His, it is His righteouness. Romans5:1o says we are saved by His life, not ours. All of salvation was forensic for Paul, and thats why He can speak of sanctification past tense and for instance 1 Corinthians 1:30, Romans 8:30, Hebrews 10:10 all aorist past, because for Paul all of salvation was grounded and undergirded by our justification. Abraham wasnt righteous because he cooperated or practised righteouness, but simply because he believed the promise. God had a covenant ratification ceremony right after 15:6. Abe was in good standing with God because he believed. God doesnt justify the godly, but the ungodly by faith, apart from all works, by counting Christ’s righteouness to their account. In Christ by faith im as righteous as ill ever be. If it werent the case then i wouldnt be seated in the heavenlies with Him, sealed in the Spirit, adopted, reconciled, heir, with an inheritance that cant fade away. Christians arent in a savable state, but a saved state. This isnt true in Catholicism. In Catholicism justification is the recognition of an intrinsic qualification for a reward, but for Paul it was a declaration about someone intrinsically and utterly unqualified. K

  93. Hi Kevin,

    You asked:

    where does scriptute say we are justified by and infusion of grace?

    Romans 8 (ff) says that the requirements of the law are fully met in those who have put to death the deeds of the flesh and now walk in the Spirit, whose fruit is love, which (13:8) is the fulfillment of the law. Paul also writes in 1 corinthians 15:10 that God’s grace was an active principle working within him. That is what infused grace means. It means an active principle that works supernaturally in fulfillment of the law of love.

    You wrote:

    Yes it does Dave, what can now no condemnation mean but no condemnation

    I haven’t argued that “no condemnation” means anything other than “no condemnation.”

    You wrote:

    correct me if im wrong, you dont merit your initiation into grace, but you merit your continuance in it.

    This is not correct. Catholic faith teaches that we cannot merit the gift of perseverance.

    You wrote:

    The Protrstant view is you smuggle your character into God’s work of grace. 1 Corintians 1: 30, it is by His doing you are in Christ who became to you wisdom, righteouness, sanctification and redemption.

    It is also the Catholic view that it is by his doing that we are in Christ, who became to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and so forth.

    All of salvation is fotensic for Paul.

    This doesn’t sound like Protestant Christianity to me. Calvin certainly thought that was more to salvation than a judicial declaration. And Jesus certainly said otherwise, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

    He tefers to the rag tag Corinthians as you who have been sanctified. And incidentally, Hebrews says we have been sanctified, aorist past, by the one offering of Christ.

    Yes, that’s true. Nothing there of difficulty for a Catholic. We believe we are sanctified by Christ.

    thanks again,

    David

  94. David,

    By citing Romans 2:13, I am suggesting that the apostle meant what he said prima facie. To make the case that the text is irrelevant, you need to argue (as Calvin did) that the text is to be understood in some other way.

    If Paul ended his letter at 2:13, you would have a point. He goes on in Romans 3 to explain that the problem is that nobody is a doer of the law. And supports this in Romans 4 by saying that even holy David was not justified by dong the law.

    Traditional RC hermeneutics has often recognized this, but instead of agreeing with it prima facie, has redefined “doing the law” to mean something like doing the ceremonial law. No one is justified by circumcision, but one can be justified by obeying the law of love.

    The issue is that such is not what Paul argues…

  95. Hi Robert,

    You wrote

    If Paul ended his letter at 2:13, you would have a point. He goes on in Romans 3 to explain that the problem is that nobody is a doer of the law.

    Actually, Paul says in 2:25-29 that Gentiles who are circumcised in heart do keep the law, or at least its dikaiomata tou nomou (righteous requirements), and so their praise is from God who rewards everyone according to their deeds.
    He says the same thing again in Romans 8.

    In Romans 3 & 4 he argues that the law as such has made no one righteous. But, of course, that’s the Catholic position. The law, as such, does not make us righteous, but rather brings with it the knowledge of Sin. But the grace of God, received in faith, does make us righteous, as Jeremiah prophesied it would in Jer. 31.

    -David

  96. Dave, Romans 2 says the gentiles circumcised in heart (those jbfa) keep the law, but he doesnt say they are jusified by keeping the law?

  97. Kevin,

    That’s exactly what Paul says. He says that the Gentiles who keep the law (or its righteous requirements) are justified by doing so: “It is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.” (Romans 2:13-14)

    -David

  98. Hi Dave, Paul is using the jealosy metaphor here with the Jews as Jesus did. He says when the gentiles who do not have the law, do it, they show that the work of the law is written on their heart. These are believing gentiles. This cant be unbelieving gentiles. Unbelievers gentiles dont obey God’s law, nor have a circumcised heart. To the contrary Psul is telling the hypocrite Jews that have the law, you throw the law at the gentiles but you dont keep it. Why? Because they have an unrepentant heart. They are unbelieving Jews. He does not say we ate justified by doing the law. It isnt the hearers of the law that will be justified but the doers of the law, because those who do the law (the gentiles) are true believers. Saying that the believing gentiles who obey God’s law are justified isnt the same as saying they are justified by doing the law. I disagree with the Catholic view here. Ill wait for your response. All the best K

  99. Hi Dave, i just wanted to add that Romans 2:13 is really the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector magnified. Romans 9:32 – 10:4 brings perspective. Have you read Tim Kaffman’s article on Romans 2:13 ” The jealousy metaphor” Its amazing look and I agree with it . Thanks for a great exchange again today. K

  100. David,

    No, what it says is that the uncircumcised person who keeps the law will condemn the circumcised person who breaks it. It doesn’t say that anyone actually does this, and in fact Romans 3 says the problem is that the law condemns all who try to keep it for justification. Justification by faith is antithetical to justification by works of the law, as Romans 3:21–25 says.

    Now, it is true that those who are justified keep the law, but that law-keeping is not the basis of their justification.

  101. Hi Kevin,

    I agree that the righteous gentiles in chapter 2 are believing gentiles. They are righteous by the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit.

    -David

  102. Hi Robert,

    If you hand me a righteous legal code (Mosaic or otherwise) and command me to keep it, I’m not going to be able to do it. I won’t be justified in this way. However, if you proclaim Christ to me and I believe, St. Paul promises that my heart will be circumcised, God’s love will be shed abroad in my heart, my sins will be forgiven, and the requirements of the law will be fully met in me (provided I keep in step with the Spirit). So, I agree with your interpretation of Romans 3 (the law condemns all who try to keep it for justification) but not with your view of Romans 2. (Yes, some people do keep the righteous requirements of the law through grace, and the law is fully met in them.)

    -David

  103. Dave, where does it say they are righteous by the circumcision of the Spirit? They are righteous according to Romans because the righteouness of Christ has been imputed to them by faith. The Spirit regenerates them thru the hearing the word to repentance and faith. They prove they are believers by donig the law, as opposed to the Jews who wete not believers,unrepentant and not doing the law. You are reading your RC bent into it, it does not say they are ustified by doing the law. Ill give you the last word. K

  104. Dave, one other thing, i believe your view of Romans 8: 4 is flawed. By condemning sin in the flesh , it is Jesus who fulfilled the righteouness requirements of the law in us, not by us, its passive. Catholics fail to realize, He lived the law in our place, fulfilled all righteouness, paid for our sins fully. He says in one greek word Tetelestai. Thanks K

  105. Hi Kevin,

    The text says they are righteous by circumcision of the heart in Romans 2:25-29 and in Romans 2:13, and again in Romans 8:4. There is not one passage of Scripture that says Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to believers. There is nothing in Romans 8 that says it was Christ who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law in us. Rather, the text says that Christ condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who walk by the Spirit.

    I am not reading Roman Catholic theology into the text. There are protestant biblical scholars who make similar arguments, and I came to this reading of the text before I was Catholic through my reading of the NPP and the Church fathers. It was the biblical doctrine of justification (as I have explored it here) that first motivated me to look into Catholicism, not the other way around.

    -David

    -David

  106. Dsve thanks, no verses in Romans., lozizomai, hashav. There are some Catholic theologians who disagrree with you, Brown, Fitzmeyer. The verb is passive in us, not by us in 8:4, so many theologians indeed believe it is Christ who fullfilled the law. Dave, Jesus isnt a softer Moses with an easier law, but He is the fulfilment of the law. Rome wrongly understood the gospel as enabling the person by obedience and compensation for their lack to achieve salvation. Hence their gospel of gracious law. God bless k

  107. Eric,

    On one hand,
    “Any kind of Arminian-like soteriology puts the ball in man’s court rather than in God’s.”

    On the other,
    “Thus, no artificial impediments are placed in the way of the reprobate’s responding to the call of God. They do not obey because they will not obey.”

    Participation/cooperation of man in salvation does not usurp God’s power or deny sola gratia. Participation/cooperation of man in salvation does not entail Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism.
    Participation/cooperation of man in salvation does not entail boasting.

    “But there is so much disseminated misinformation among men, so many inequalities in terms of intellect and wisdom and comfort and suffering and upbringing and personality.”

    Of course. Good thing justification is not based on our inherent or natural wisdom, intellect, upbringing, personality, or effort. If it did, that would entail boasting and a flavor of P/SP.

  108. Dr. Anders–

    Well, of course, Reformed exegetes can and do find all kinds of Scriptural examples showing imputation, but why get into a passage “shoot out”? You wanna believe what you wanna believe. I must admit I find myself scratching my head. Why is this so all-fired important to you? What on earth does Roman soteriology lose if it embraces imputation? Anything at all? After all, Sola Fide/Imputation are mostly there to safeguard Sola Gratia (which you say you believe in).

    You say that yes, some people THROUGH GRACE do meet the righteous requirements of the law, and the law is fully met in them. Even if that were true, who would give a flip? From whence does all righteousness derive?

    What are you fighting over?

  109. Kevin,
    “He lived the law in our place, fulfilled all righteouness, paid for our sins fully. He says in one greek word Tetelestai.”
    Kevin,
    Could you supply a scripture quote saying Jesus kept the Law in our place? If he did, and then applied it to our accounts, wouldn’t that be justification by law, even if vicarious?
    As for “Tetelestai”, there are those who believe he was referring to the Supper/Crucifixion sacrifice. As he had not yet been “raised for our justification”, I don’t see how your view is correct.
    I have not read the Tim Kauffman article you refer to but will certainly give it a scan. I was not aware that Mr. Kauffman addressed Reformation issues like Justification. I thought he preferred to avoid serious discussion and devote his efforts to blaspheming the Catholic view of the Eucharist calling it a “Death Wafer” and “Bread worship”. I will certainly check out the article you mention.
    Thanks

  110. Kevin,
    Age must be catching up to me. Upon clicking on Kauffman’s site, I see we did indeed discuss the topic of Romans and the Jews being moved to jealousy over the gentiles being justified by faith.
    A few clicks of the mouse reveal we discussed this on Jason Stellman’s Creed, Code, Cult, “On Gentile Justification and Jewish Jealousy”, also. Stellman wrote his piece in response to Kauffman’s so you might benefit by going back over Jason’s article ( and noticing our two names appearing immediately after in the following comments section ). As it would was be redundant of us to continue beating this dead horse on this blog, please excuse me if I go back to the blog’s original topic of Calvin, the Reformation and Catholicism.

    In reference to your assertion that Christ’s active obedience of Law keeping was added to his passive obedience/ death on the cross in our stead for our justification, may I refer you to an article written by my fellow parishioner ( when I am in America ) and friend, Nick of “Nick’s Catholic Blog”?
    http://catholicnick.blogspot.pt/2011/06/did-john-calvin-believe-in-double.html

    To sum up, Nick points out that Calvin himself did not teach a double imputation. It was a sort of development of Reformed doctrine by subsequent generations of Calvinists rather than the teaching of Calvinism’s founder.
    I could say more but would only be plagiarizing what Nick says so much more succinctly than I can here. Please click on and enjoy.

  111. Dave,

    If you hand me a righteous legal code (Mosaic or otherwise) and command me to keep it, I’m not going to be able to do it. I won’t be justified in this way. However, if you proclaim Christ to me and I believe, St. Paul promises that my heart will be circumcised, God’s love will be shed abroad in my heart, my sins will be forgiven, and the requirements of the law will be fully met in me (provided I keep in step with the Spirit). So, I agree with your interpretation of Romans 3 (the law condemns all who try to keep it for justification) but not with your view of Romans 2. (Yes, some people do keep the righteous requirements of the law through grace, and the law is fully met in them.)

    You are jumping around in the text, leaping particularly to Romans 8:4 while ignoring the actual line of Paul’s argumentation. Even holy David, who had the Holy Spirit, was not justified by the works of the law, as Paul says in Romans 4. This is so very clear that traditional RC interpretations have had to define “works of the law” as referring only to ceremonial requirements in order to maintain the Tridentine position that one can be further justified by love. It is so very clear that various NPP guys have had to limit “works of the law” in a similar manner in order to maintain their view.

    If the righteous requirements of the law were fully met in us as a condition of justification, there would be no need for repentance or forgiveness. So, while it is true that the law is fulfilled in the believer who walks by the Spirit, imperfect people do not fully meet the requirements of the law. Romans 7 affirms that even believers who have the Spirit do not do what the law says, at least not perfectly. 1 John 1:8–9; Philippians 3; there are dozens of passages.

    And another thing—Rom. 2:13 doesn’t say anything about being circumcised in heart. It says the doers of the law will be justified. This requires circumcision of the heart and perfection. You can’t fail even once and be counted as a doer of the law unto justification. God demands absolute perfection. This is something even Rome recognizes, you guys just bring it back via works of satisfaction and purgatory whereas Protestants confess that Jesus alone accomplishes it.

    In any case, this is a good article on Romans 8:4 and what Paul is and is not saying. It rightly locates fulfillment of the law eschatologically such that Christians begin to meet but never fully meet the requirements of the law before the final resurrection. Again, if it were otherwise, there would be no need for forgiveness once one is a Christian.

  112. Hi Kevin,

    The fact that righteous is something we receive (“passively,” at least in a grammatical sense) is not at issue between us. Catholics also believe we receive our righteousness from Christ. But the Reformed assert that this righteousness takes the form of Christ’s merits imputed to us. That is something Scripture never says.

    -David

  113. Hi Eric,

    The fact that Reformed exegetes read scriptural examples in light of the doctrine of imputation is not proof that Paul taught imputation. Your assertion,” “You wanna believe what I wanna believe” is a statement about my emotional state (and a tautology) and not about the cogency of any argument. Thus, it is unhelpful.

    The reason the doctrine is important to me is that it is what made me a Catholic. My reformed teachers drilled into my head the conviction that imputation was the line in the sand between the two traditions. I think you’ve said that you reject that position, but, if so, you are not representative of Reformed Christianity.

    As to why I would give a flip – the only motive I could possibly have for wanting to be a Christian is Christ’s promise to take away my sins. The shape of my entire life is determined by my conviction that this is what the Gospel promises. If, on the other hand, the gospel promises to leave me simul iustus et peccator, then my life and expectations look very different. And so does the Church.

    -David

  114. Hi Robert,

    I’m not jumping around in the text or ignoring Paul’s argument. I am trying to understand Paul’s whole argument from chapter 1 to chapter 8. There are some important parallels between 2 and 8 that I want to highlight, because I think these are overlooked by Reformed thinkers. (Calvin, especially.)

    Also, I have not said that the righteous requirements of the law are met as a condition of justification, as if one first was righteous and then got declared just. Catholic faith teaches that justification is instantaneous. The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit is the fulfillment of the law.

    The difficulty with your statement that believing, grace-filled Christians do not fulfill the law’s righteous requirements is that Paul says the opposite. “The requirements of the law are fully met in us.” (Romans 8:4) But he also warns (in 1 Cor., Romans, Galatians) that Spirit-filled Christians can turn back to “works of the flesh” in which case they will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    I think you are correct about perfection and doing the law. The perfection of the law is summed up in the command to love. If we fail to love, we cannot be counted as a doer of the law unto justification. Fortunately, this is what Paul promises to believers – that love, the fulfillment of the law, will be shed abroad in their hearts.

    What Paul never says, ever, even once, is that Christians have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them or that they will be judged on the basis of Christ’s obedience, rather than their own. Instead, Paul says that God will render to each one according to his deeds.

    -David

  115. David,

    Yes, I think you are jumping around. Paul lays out an argument that starts in 1:18 and passes through systematically until chapter 8. You jump from Romans 2 to Romans 8 based on some alleged parallels and do not reckon with the fact that immediately after Paul says people who do the law will be justified, he then says that nobody does the law.

    And I don’t know what translation you are reading, but the actual Greek text is “fulfilled,” not “fully met,” and the nuances of “fulfilled” vary greatly across the NT. I’m not denying that believing Christians fulfill the laws’s righteous requirements. What I am denying is that they fulfill them perfectly. Again, if they did, there would be no need for forgiveness post-conversion.

    Catholic faith teaches that justification is instantaneous. The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit is the fulfillment of the law.

    Yes Roman Catholicism does teach that. It also teaches that justification is maintained and increased by cooperation with grace in the production of good works. If Rome would actually hold fast to once-for-all justification, there would be far less of a problem between the two camps.

    What Paul never says, ever, even once, is that Christians have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them or that they will be judged on the basis of Christ’s obedience, rather than their own. Instead, Paul says that God will render to each one according to his deeds.

    That’s akin to arguing that the New Testament never says, never, even once, that God is a Trinity. Like the Trinity, imputation is largely a theological construct built on the biblical testimony. We are justified by faith via the propitiatory work of Christ, and the propitiatory work of Christ is nothing less than His obedience to His Father (Rom. 3). So to say the Bible doesn’t teach we are justified by the obedience of Christ is to read the text in a shallow manner. And I could go on from there.

    Yes God will render to each one according to his deeds, but in the course of Paul’s argument, he expects this to strike fear into His readers. Otherwise, there is no need to go on and talk about propitiation and justification by faith.

  116. Dave, i shbmit to you the complete antithesis of faith and works in justification for Paul should give you pause, not about imputation ,but the Roman gospel of worthiness of merit. For instance, ” not of yourselves” not of works” ” apart from works” if its by works its no longer by grace” ” di you receive the Spirit by works of law or hearing by faith, ” does God work miracles in you by works of law or hearing by faith” ” have you begun by the Spirit and now be perfected in the flesh. ” The antithesis for Paul in justification is hearing by faith and works. Paul says “law isnt faith” Again, the gospel isnt go out and do your part. In fact, Paul uses the righteous hero of the Jews Abraham and says he wasnt righteous because he practised righteouness, but simply because he believed the promise. Abe wasnt inhrently righteous at that time, but he was counted righteous Galatians 3:6. In fact God had a covenat ratification ceremony right after 15:6 because Abe was in roghteous standing before God. Paul says God justifies a wicked person, not an inherently righteous person. 4:5. How could He do this without inputation? Your only answer is to put justification in instalments. But justification is always a past tense thing for Paul, always. Have a great week Dave.

  117. Hi Robert,

    You said:

    do not reckon with the fact that immediately after Paul says people who do the law will be justified, he then says that nobody does the law.

    But that’s not what he says. He says that the Gentiles who do not have the law (but are circumcised in heart) do fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. He says this in chapter 2 and in chapter 8. This is not an alleged parallel. It is in the text of Paul. (Compare dikaiomata tou nomou in those two chapters.)

    And I don’t know what translation you are reading, but the actual Greek text is “fulfilled,” not “fully met,” and the nuances of “fulfilled” vary greatly across the NT. I’m not denying that believing Christians fulfill the laws’s righteous requirements. What I am denying is that they fulfill them perfectly. Again, if they did, there would be no need for forgiveness post-conversion.

    A Christian who fulfills the law of love on Tuesday (through grace), could cease to fulfill the law of love on Wednesday, and thus be in need of repentance and forgiveness, to be restored to that state of grace.

    Yes Roman Catholicism does teach that. It also teaches that justification is maintained and increased by cooperation with grace in the production of good works. If Rome would actually hold fast to once-for-all justification, there would be far less of a problem between the two camps.

    I didn’t say once for all. I said instantaneous.

    That’s akin to arguing that the New Testament never says, never, even once, that God is a Trinity. Like the Trinity, imputation is largely a theological construct built on the biblical testimony. We are justified by faith via the propitiatory work of Christ, and the propitiatory work of Christ is nothing less than His obedience to His Father (Rom. 3). So to say the Bible doesn’t teach we are justified by the obedience of Christ is to read the text in a shallow manner. And I could go on from there.

    Well, that’s the substance of our dispute, isn’t it? Does Scripture teach imputation by implication? I completely agree with you that no Reformed thinker has ever produced a text teaching imputation explicitly. They hang the whole thing on their understanding of justification in Romans 3-4, Galatians, etc. Imputation is an inference from their specialized reading of those texts. But if there is a plausible way to read the texts prima facie that coheres with the Pauline corpus, the Gospels, the Hebrew tradition, and with the early Church, why would I adopt a reading that places Paul in conflict with himself (as Calvin reads Romans 2), with Jesus (as Luther read Paul), and with Christian antiquity? Especially when that reading is certainly not demanded by the texts themselves?

    The trinity was admittedly hard to derive from Scripture. It took an ecumenical council to settle the issue. What divine authority has defined imputation as the dogmatic teaching of the Church? None. So, if you want to compare justification and Trinitarian theology (which cannot be understood apart from the dogmatic teaching of the Church), then I don’t think you can conclude that imputation is the teaching of the Church or any part of the deposit of faith.

    -David

  118. David,

    …no Reformed thinker has ever produced a text teaching imputation explicitly. They hang the whole thing on their understanding of justification in Romans 3-4, Galatians, etc. Imputation is an inference from their specialized reading of those texts.

    You’ve made a number of statements about the paucity of the Reformed exegetical argument but you have yet to engage any Reformed exegetes on the requisite passages. You’ve once more omitted Phil 3 as well, which is a foundational passage. And you merely assert that the Medieval formulations of soteriology are the prima facie readings of the NT documents and OT history. That’s begging the question and/or a straw-man.

    You also ask a loaded question when you inquire (and answer),

    What divine authority has defined imputation as the dogmatic teaching of the Church? None.

    The assumptions do the work of your argument here. If Scripture defines imputation, than it is a dogmatic teaching of the church. Rejecting this possibility outright limits the range of possible options and leads to distortion of the Protestant doctrine of imputation.

    If you want to make the exegetical arguments I’d be interested in hearing it in more detail. Thus far, however, no such substance is present.

  119. Hi Brandon,

    I’m not asserting that medieval formulations are prima facie readings of the New Testament, nor have I omitted reformed exegesis. I’ve quoted Calvin and alluded to Luther. And I’ve referenced Augustine, the first three centuries, and the NPP.

    Luther, as is well known, read the NT through his “law/gospel” hermeneutic. For Luther, moral exhortations, warnings, promises of eternal life as reward for obedience, and all such texts were subsumed within the category of “law,” and deprived of their prima facie significance. Calvin does something very similar in his treatment of Romans 2 (which I quoted above). When I argue that we should take Paul’s language at fact value, I’m arguing that we should not apply Luther’s hermeneutical system.

    Regarding the assumptions of divine authority, this is only relevant to Eric’s previous comment comparing justification to the trinity.

    The exegetical argument, in brief, is that Paul explains in romans 2:25-29 just how the law is fulfilled in us (to which theme he returns in 8:4). Namely, by the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, by the shedding abroad of God’s love in our hearts (5:5), which is the fulfillment of the law. (13:8). our old man is done away, we die with Christ, and our life is now hidden with him in God. We are NOT justified by works of the law (Chs. 3 & 4), but by grace through faith. The Reformed position, as I understand it, is that God’s law is fulfilled in us in another way, namely, by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. That is something Paul never says, not in Philippians, Romans, or Galatians.

    -David

  120. Dr. Anders–

    An awful lot of this is actually about intellectual presuppositions and emotional commitments. What you believe to be clearly there in the text (or clearly not there) says more about your presuppositions than it does about the text itself. If you honestly think yourself more objective than the Reformed, then you’re honestly mistaken, just as I would be if I thought my own commitments weren’t involved in my reaching Reformed conclusions). But that’s how you’re coming across. It’s difficult for me to rebut the supposed “cogency” of unstated arguments. Quit making assertions, and I’ll do the same.

    You insist that you joined the Catholic Church and started worshiping the Catholic Christ because he–unlike the Reformed Christ–can take away sins in such a way as to leave one inherently blameless:

    And yet, you regularly attend Mass and (I assume) recite the Confiteor:

    “I confess to almighty God,
    and to you, my brothers and sisters,
    that I have greatly sinned
    in my thoughts and in my words,
    in what I have done,
    and in what I have failed to do;
    through my fault,
    through my fault,
    through my most grievous fault.
    Therefore,
    I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
    all the angels and saints,
    and you, my brothers and sisters,
    to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

    I myself grew up Lutheran, and the confessional section of our liturgy began with the verse, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

    You Catholics, by any objective standard, even if we limit ourselves to those in a state of grace, are not inherently righteous to a greater degree than we Reformed. Catholics in a state of grace are in no wise immune to the commission of mortal sin. If properly contrite and willing to undergo the process of reconciliation, no quantity or severity of mortal sins will put them beyond the power of God’s mercy. Plenty of Catholics are inveterate sinners, and yet may well be back in a state of grace post haste over and over again. How is that again about Christ taking away all your sins? What does that even mean? The most mature Christians I have ever met are quick to point out that maturity makes one MORE AWARE of one’s flaws, not less. Therese of Lisieux humbly threw herself at Christ’s feet, confident of his mercy in spite of her shortcomings, which she saw as legion.

    The inclusion of Imputation is indeed a line in the sand for the Reformed. I never said it wasn’t. What I said is that Roman Catholics have no need to hang onto their disdain for Sola Fide and Imputation. They lose absolutely nothing by embracing them. Thomistic soteriology is fully compatible with JBFA.

    I gave you a chance to articulate your objections, and you said what? That your version of Christ takes away sin? So, somehow, you believe that the Reformed never repent and are never forgiven of their sin? They are not a new creation with a new heart of flesh? They never progress in sanctification? They never make headway in terms of mortifying sin? They are completely unconcerned with holy living? The puritans were called puritans why exactly? You confuse appropriate humility with actual pervasive depravity. The Reformed heartily believe in the impartation of Christ’s righteousness. We don’t make impartation’s rejection a line in the sand as you do with imputation.

  121. Dave said ” we are not justified by works of law, but by grace thru faith.” Really Benedict says faith formed in love? Which is it Dave? Is there a virtue attached to faith that merits the acceptance of God? Thsnks Dave k

  122. Hi Dave, one more question. How come Catholics have no problem with imputation from the treasury of merit? Thanks k

  123. Dave, maybe we can have that discussion on imputation that Brandon alluded to. Romans 5:19 is a great pkace to start. ” so also by anorher man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. The word used here is the word render or appoint. So men become sinners by hereditary right thru the disobedience of Adam. And many will be redered or appointed righteous by one man’s obedience. So someone that is apponted king is king. Or rendered as. So thru Christ’s obedience many will be appointed righteous. K

  124. Hi Eric,

    The whole process, from beginning to end, is directed and controlled by Jesus Christ. NO amount of its cause, no matter how infinitessimally small, comes from us. We are but the recipients of grace.

    I agree that God is the source of all good (justification, human life, etc.). And I agree that God’s will is providentially directing all things. It also seems we have agreement that there is a distinction between God’s antecedent will and God’s consequent will, although I am not sure what you see is the basis for that distinction.

    Moreover, I think we do not agree whether God wills justification necessarily. When you say Jesus Christ is “controlling” everything, are you saying that justification is willed by God _necessarily_ on the elect? Or is it willed contingently, depending upon on whether the human will accepts it?

    St. Thomas says this:

    If therefore His will imposes necessity on things willed, it follows that all good happens of necessity; and thus there is an end of free will, counsel, and all other such things.

    If you say justification is willed by God necessarily, then it would follow that the human will has no participation in justification. In other words, in this horn of the dilemma, the human will is not free to reject or accept justification.

    But if the human will has some participation in justification, then on this horn of the dilemma, the human will does act as a secondary cause of justification, with respect to cooperation.

  125. Regarding post 120, the last two paragraphs should not have been within the blockquote.

  126. Hi Eric,

    (This is a formatting correction to the bad post I just submitted)

    The whole process, from beginning to end, is directed and controlled by Jesus Christ. NO amount of its cause, no matter how infinitessimally small, comes from us. We are but the recipients of grace.

    I agree that God is the source of all good (justification, human life, etc.). And I agree that God’s will is providentially directing all things. It also seems we have agreement that there is a distinction between God’s antecedent will and God’s consequent will, although I am not sure what you see is the basis for that distinction.

    Moreover, I think we do not agree whether God wills justification necessarily. When you say Jesus Christ is “controlling” everything, are you saying that justification is willed by God _necessarily_ on the elect? Or is it willed contingently, depending upon on whether the human will accepts it?

    St. Thomas says this:

    If therefore His will imposes necessity on things willed, it follows that all good happens of necessity; and thus there is an end of free will, counsel, and all other such things.

    If you say justification is willed by God necessarily, then it would follow that the human will has no participation in justification. In other words, in this horn of the dilemma, the human will is not free to reject or accept justification.

    But if the human will has some participation in justification, then on this horn of the dilemma, the human will does act as a secondary cause of justification, with respect to cooperation.

  127. David,

    But that’s not what he says. He says that the Gentiles who do not have the law (but are circumcised in heart) do fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. He says this in chapter 2 and in chapter 8. This is not an alleged parallel. It is in the text of Paul. (Compare dikaiomata tou nomou in those two chapters.)

    Actually, there are many who would argue that Rom. 8:4 does not refer to the believer fulfilling the law but to Christ’s fulfillment, Doug Moo being a prominent modern example. Be that as it may, even if 8:4 refers to the believer (and I think it most likely does), it still doesn’t bear the weight you are giving it. Romans 2 is setting up a Gentile in order to oppose Jews who think they have some advantage over the Gentiles. All it’s doing is saying that sometimes Gentiles keep the precepts of the law even though they don’t have the law like the Jews do. But then he says in Romans 3 that no one does the law, not even those Gentiles. You can’t get to Romans 3 straight off by bypassing Romans 2, but that is essentially what you are doing, reading it as a parenthesis. Then, if Paul wants to make the point you want him to make regarding Spirit-inspired law keeping, he has a perfect example in David. But then he says explicitly that such is not what justified David. (Rom. 4)

    It just doesn’t work to make Spirit-inspired law fulfillment what justifies us. Like I keep saying, traditional Roman hermeneutics actually lends support to my point. Traditional exegetes see that law fulfillment doesn’t justify us, so in order to bring the moral law back in, they have to make distinctions in the law that Paul never makes and say things like “not justified by ceremonial law” is what Paul means. That makes it possible to then bring back in the moral law. It is painful exegetical gymnastics.

    A Christian who fulfills the law of love on Tuesday (through grace), could cease to fulfill the law of love on Wednesday, and thus be in need of repentance and forgiveness, to be restored to that state of grace.

    If one falls from fulfilling the law, one hasn’t fulfilled it to begin with. To put it another way, when Jesus talks about His fulfilling the law, it is not even possible for Him not to keep on fulfilling it. And Jesus is our pattern. So actually, if Rom. 8:4 refers to the believer, it ends up undercutting any position against the once justified always justified position. Like Jesus, if we truly fulfill it now, we will truly fulfill it tomorrow.

    Well, that’s the substance of our dispute, isn’t it? Does Scripture teach imputation by implication? I completely agree with you that no Reformed thinker has ever produced a text teaching imputation explicitly.

    I didn’t say no Reformed thinker has produced such a text. I said that imputation is in large measure a theological construct; I didn’t say it was exclusively a theological construct.

    They hang the whole thing on their understanding of justification in Romans 3-4, Galatians, etc. Imputation is an inference from their specialized reading of those texts. But if there is a plausible way to read the texts prima facie that coheres with the Pauline corpus, the Gospels, the Hebrew tradition, and with the early Church, why would I adopt a reading that places Paul in conflict with himself (as Calvin reads Romans 2), with Jesus (as Luther read Paul), and with Christian antiquity? Especially when that reading is certainly not demanded by the texts themselves?

    But the reading doesn’t put Paul in conflict with himself, unless you ignore Romans 3 where after Paul says that the one who does the law will be righteous, he says no one does the law. The whole problem is that we don’t do the law and need Christ to provide another way of justification apart from doing the law. Rome sneaks the law back in where Paul very clearly won’t give it a place. It’s why he condemns the Judaizers in Galatia.

    I don’t care all that much about whether my reading of Paul coheres with the Hebrew tradition if you mean by that non-Christian Jews who rejected Jesus. Covenantal nomism might be a good way to summarize much of Jewish thought at the time (you referenced the NPP), but it is reductionistic and doesn’t actually take into account other Jews such as Paul. Incidentally, it doesn’t surprise me that you became Roman Catholic after learning about the NPP. In my mind, Roman Catholic theology of justification can be reduced to “get in by grace, stay in by works of obedience and periodic atonement” just like the covenantal nomadism. The only difference is that you guys give Jesus some kind of role in it.

    I can read Paul in harmony quite easily with all of the biblical material and even with much in the early church, so that’s not a problem. The problem I see is to regard justification as something that involves living by the Spirit and doing good works when Paul says explicitly that David, who had the Spirit and did good works, was justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 4).

    The trinity was admittedly hard to derive from Scripture. It took an ecumenical council to settle the issue.
    What divine authority has defined imputation as the dogmatic teaching of the Church? None. So, if you want to compare justification and Trinitarian theology (which cannot be understood apart from the dogmatic teaching of the Church), then I don’t think you can conclude that imputation is the teaching of the Church or any part of the deposit of faith.

    This is ambiguous and begs the question about what has divine authority. It also falsely assume that you cannot understand Trinitarian theology apart from the dogmatic teaching of the council of Nicea, which I’m sure the Trinitarian fathers who lived and died before the council would disagree with. How did they do it? Somehow they muddled through.

  128. Robert,
    “This is so very clear that traditional RC interpretations have had to define “works of the law” as referring only to ceremonial requirements in order to maintain { the Tridentine position that one can be further justified by love.}”

    Perhaps I am misreading you but are you of the opinion that initial justification is not based on love? That only subsequent increase is based on love?
    Rm 5;5 is about initial justification. The love of/from/for God is poured into our hearts. The Holy Spirit, the bond of love between Father and Son, gives us the supernatural love we have for God. Plus, the Spirit Himself is given as a gift ( as long as we don’t drive him out by mortal sin ). How can the Holy Spirit’s presence not fulfill the law?

  129. Kevin,
    ” Paul says God justifies a wicked person, not an inherently righteous person. 4:5. How could He do this without inputation? Your only answer is to put justification in instalments. But justification is always a past tense thing for Paul, always. ”

    Do you mean to say that God justifies or calls righteous a person who hates him? While that same person is actually hating God, that is. How would you square that with Proverbs 17:15 which says, “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent–both are detestable to the LORD.”

    You posted before Dave posted to Robert in #117 but I hope you noticed what he said. He said justification was instantaneous. He did not say it was by installments as you seem to say he did.

    Justification is always in the past tense for Paul? What about Romans 2;13 which says, ” Doers of the Law WILL BE JUSTIFIED”.
    Besides, Justify=Save in the Bible. Jesus says he who endures to the end will be saved. Here he is speaking of final justification ( the one that counts ) and he is doing so in the future tense.

  130. Dave, to Roberts point. The overiding issue in Romans 1 -3 is Jews break law, Gentiles break the law, so we need a righteouness apart from all law. In fact thats why Paul says the greatest now in history, ” now apart from the law” the righteouness God has been manifested ( that’s Christ)” etc. ” we are justified as a gift by his grace” These are lines in the sand Dave. Its a gift by His grace, and not a result of anything we do in working out what the Spirit does in sanctification. In 4:16 he says its by faith in agreement with grace so that it might be guaranteed to us. Its a guarantee. No conditions, no go out and do your part. Ephessians 1:7 says ” we have redemption” not will have. I submit to you it is because the righteounes that comes to us sinply by repenting and believing can only be the righteouness of Christ imputed. In fact in Philippians 3 Paul has 2 columns, one with his righteouness, and one with the righteouness of Christ. Dave, i admire the charity with which you discuss with Reformed, just remember you cant be justified by that charity. Lol God bless, thanks again for including me in the discussion. K

  131. Robert,

    You wrote:

    Actually, there are many who would argue that Rom. 8:4 does not refer to the believer fulfilling the law but to Christ’s fulfillment, Doug Moo being a prominent modern example. Be that as it may, even if 8:4 refers to the believer (and I think it most likely does), it still doesn’t bear the weight you are giving it. Romans 2 is setting up a Gentile in order to oppose Jews who think they have some advantage over the Gentiles. All it’s doing is saying that sometimes Gentiles keep the precepts of the law even though they don’t have the law like the Jews do.

    That is not all Paul is doing. Paul also says that these Gentiles who keep the law are inwardly Jews by the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit. (vs. 29). Paul’s explicit language, not my presupposition.

    But then he says in Romans 3 that no one does the law, not even those Gentiles.

    No, what he says is that no one is justified by works of the law. Note that the ergon nomou in ch. 3 do not justify, but the dikaiomata tou nomou in ch.2 are precisely what are fulfilled by the Spirit in chapter 8:4. The dikaiomata tou noumou being those elements of the law written on the heart by the Spirit, whose fulfillment do not require possession of the written Mosaic code.

    You can’t get to Romans 3 straight off by bypassing Romans 2,

    Absolutely. I agree.

    but that is essentially what you are doing, reading it as a parenthesis.

    On the contrary. Calvin reads Romans 2 as if it were merely hypothetical, not a description of what actual spirit-inspired righteousness looks like. For Calvin’s purposes, little would be changed in the letter if you merely omitted chapter 2. I, however, think that chapter two is absolutely essential to understanding 3&4. Why is that the ergon noumou fail to justify? They are impossible to keep. This is as true for David as for anyone. David was not righteous because he was a Jew or possessed the Mosaic law, but rather by faith.

    It just doesn’t work to make Spirit-inspired law fulfillment what justifies us.

    I agree, if you mean spirit-inspired fulfillment of the Mosaic Code. What the Spirit brings is not perfect obedience to every jot and title of the code, mint, dill, cumin, and so forth. Rather, the Spirit brings agape, which fulfills the dikaiomata tou nomou, if not the ergon nomou.

    Like I keep saying, traditional Roman hermeneutics actually lends support to my point. Traditional exegetes see that law fulfillment doesn’t justify us,

    Agreed, if you mean ergon nomou.

    so in order to bring the moral law back in, they have to make distinctions in the law that Paul never makes and say things like “not justified by ceremonial law” is what Paul means. That makes it possible to then bring back in the moral law. It is painful exegetical gymnastics.

    But Paul does make such distinctions. He distinguishes what is written on the hearts of the Gentiles without the Mosaic law (which cannot possibly include all the ritual prescriptions) from those elements of the law that serve to differentiate Jew and Gentile.

    If one falls from fulfilling the law, one hasn’t fulfilled it to begin with.

    This is a non-sequitur. If I am green on Monday and red on Tuesday, this does not prevent me from being green on Monday.

    To put it another way, when Jesus talks about His fulfilling the law, it is not even possible for Him not to keep on fulfilling it.

    Right. Jesus was impeccable.

    And Jesus is our pattern.

    True, which is why some of the 2nd century Christians veered very close to affirming Christian impeccabilty and allowed for only one post-baptismal sin. It is also why the Catholic tradition takes the command to perfection seriously.

    So actually, if Rom. 8:4 refers to the believer, it ends up undercutting any position against the once justified always justified position. Like Jesus, if we truly fulfill it now, we will truly fulfill it tomorrow.

    That would be true if the text said so. But, in fact, the text refers to being in Christ as a motive for moral behavior, failure in which will result in exclusion from the kingdom of God.

    But the reading doesn’t put Paul in conflict with himself,

    On Calvin’s reading, Romans 2 only coheres with chapter 3 by being hypotethical. Calvin can’t read it as a description of righteousness we have through the Spirit, even though that’s what Paul says in 25-29.

    The whole problem is that we don’t do the law and need Christ to provide another way of justification apart from doing the law.

    Agreed. Jeremiah 31 provides the answer.

    Rome sneaks the law back in where Paul very clearly won’t give it a place.

    Wrong. Catholics adamantly reject the notion that we are made righteous by obedience to the Mosaic Law.

    Regarding Trinitarian theology, obviously a whole other can of worms. But you either regard Nicaea as authoritative in some sense that supplements Scripture or you don’t. If Nicaea is authoritative only insofar as it reflects my private interpretation of Scripture, then it is my interpretation that is authoritative for me. But if Nicaea norms by interpretation of Scripture for any reason, then it is legitimate to question the alleged parallel between difficulties in Trinitarian theology and difficulties in soteriology. Either there is conciliar guidance or there isn’t.

    -David

  132. Robert said ” im not surprised you becsme Roman Catholic after the NPP because RC doctrine is get in by grace and stay in by obedience to the law.”I agree with this. The NPP people make foregrounds backgrounds and backgrounds foregrounds. The Philippians jailer wasnt thibking about his corporate badge. There is the element of covenat badge there, but the issue for Paul is the Jews break the law. Catholics fail to realize the law requires perfection. Jesus isnt a softer Moses with an easier law, but the fulfilment of that law. Thx

  133. Jim, grace is demerited favor ” God demonstates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. If God decided to give a love gift to His Son before time began, a redeemed people at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. One father called it Oh sweet exchange that the sins of the many be hid in the one, and the righteouness of the one would justify the many. Yes God justifies an ungodly man simply because He counts the righteouness of another to his account. So God is aquiting us because in Christ we are as righteous as we will ever be. Abe wasnt righteous because He practised righteouness, but because he believed the promise. Every OT believer was righteous before God because he was declared such before his bar. Galatians 3:6.

  134. Dave, Paul says thru the law comes the knowledge of sin. This is the moral law. The knowledge of sin doesnt come thru ceremonies or dietary law.

  135. Dave, when you say Catholics deny being justified by the Mosaic law, are you including the moral lawbincluding love?

  136. Kevin,
    You complimented Dave by acknowledging his most commendable manner with, “Dave, i admire the charity with which you discuss with Reformed, just remember you cant be justified by that charity. Lol…”.

    You added to your compliment a mirthful “Laughing Out Loud” and a reminder that his charity cannot justify Dave.
    I must ask, do you mean Dave’s merely human good works based on a purely natural love, don’t justify him?
    If that is what you mean, you are in agreement with Catholic teaching.

    However, if you mean that once freely justified, put into a state of grace, made a partaker of the divine nature, an heir and adopted son, a member of the household of God, that his works of supernatural charity, of instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner, of long suffering and patiently enduring the same questions day after day, don’t merit Dave an increase of grace and glory, you are wrong.

    Paul said in Romans, ” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”
    Jesus said a cup of water given in His name will not go unrewarded. Surely Dave’s spiritual works of mercy merit as much as the corporal work of giving a cup of water, yes?

    So, while his good works didn’t initially justify Dave, the Bible says that they will indeed be what God takes into account at the Great Assize, when Dave is assigned his place among the sheep rather than the goats who have no works of mercy to their credit.

  137. Kevin,

    In brief, Paul identifies the law as that in which Jews might be tempted to boast and that which differentiates Jew from Gentile. (Romans 3:27-31) It is the law that came 430 years after the Promise to Abraham. (Galatians 3:17). It certainly includes moral (and not purely ceremonial) elements, and possession of this law does not justify.

    Rather, having died with Christ, we are both absolved and set free from sin (Romans 6:6-7) And if, by the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the body, then we will live (Romans 8: 13). And, we are warned not to turn back to the works of the flesh, lest we fail to inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21).

    -David

  138. Jim, i dont see justification in instalments. We would say the verse you quoted as descriptive no perscriptive. In Ephessians 2:8 is absolute restriction on RC theology of justification of including sanctification. Why? It clearly says not of yourself, not of works. It eliminates anything coming from ourselves. Titus 3:5 eliminates holy deeds. In Galatians the antithesis for Paul is hearing by faith and works. Again Paul says law isnt faith. So when I hear Dave tell me there is a distinction between mosaic law and that done in the Spirit, I say Paul eliminates all works by setting faith against law. Paul has 2 columns in Philippians 3, his righteouness ( which he considers dung) and God’s. Our righteouness isnt derived from His, it is His righteouness. It is a person that is offered, not a derivative off that person. And the resaon Reformed say faith alone justifies is because only faith can receive Christ our justification and brings Him to the heart. Love stretches out to neighbor and is always second in natural order. Luther said Romes robs from faith and gives to love what God only intended forvfaith. There isnt a virtue attached to faith that merits the acceptance of God. God bless

  139. Jonathan–

    Whew, I was wondering there for a second! I found the first ST paragraph you cited, but the other two were missing. Now, I understand.

    Read through ST p1, q19, a8 again. Aquinas clearly prefers to refer to the will of God’s efficacy rather than its necessity. He makes a distinction between absolute and conditional necessity. Not only is God’s will always fulfilled, according to St. Thomas, but it is unchangeable. Yes, God chooses to use contingency and secondary causes to effect his will. But his will IS EFFECTED without fail. It is in no way dependent on our cooperation or lack thereof. In fact, Aquinas states that “no defect of a secondary cause can hinder God’s will from producing its effect.” The Angelic Doctor wishes to preserve both God’s complete sovereignty and man’s unimpeded free will.

    This is all fully compatible with Reformed orthodoxy. We have no problem with the believer cooperating with the Spirit. We have no problem with our participation in and with divinity (as long as the Creator-creature boundaries are not blurred). Secondary causes by definition are indirect…dependent…derivative. God uses us as means to accomplish his ends.

    The problem comes when our free will is depicted as somehow independent of God (or as capable of thwarting the will of God). St. Thomas rules such notions as totally out of bounds, but modern Catholicism does not.

  140. Hi Eric,

    I’m not so sure that it’s fair of you to say that my statements about Paul reveal more about my emotional commitments and presuppositions than about the text. That seems a bit strong. Still, I acknowledge that presuppositions do operate.

    Since you raise the question, I’ll try to delineate some of those presuppositions.
    I came to my reading of Romans while I was still a Protestant, and I began with the conviction that exegesis and not tradition ought to determine my understanding of the text. I also thought that historical context should inform my reading of the text, and I thought that antiquity had a prima facie claim to be closer to authorial intent. I also considered the text to be inspired by God and inerrant, and part of a canon intended by God as a sufficient guide for Christian faith and life.

    Informed by these presuppositions, I was troubled that Luther’s reading of Romans and Galatians was historically novel and that it required adopting a kind of suspicious hermeneutical stance towards the rest of Scripture. (That is, Luther took commands, exhortations, promises of reward/punishment, etc. to be tongue-in-cheek attempts to frighten rather than inform.) I also took note that the obvious context for Romans and Galatians was the Judaizing controversy that resolved in Acts 15. Illumined somewhat by 20th century Protestant scholarship (Stendhal, Wright, Dunn, etc.), I saw that the traditional Calvinist reading of Scripture was far from the most obvious. I had a kind of epiphany when I noticed that obvious parallelism between romans 2:25-28 and Romans 8. Unlike Calvin, who applied Luther’s questionable hermeneutical strategy, I realized that Romans 2 was not the parenthesis I once thought, but was integral to the argument of the text.

    Confronted by these conclusions, I realized that traditional Roman Catholic thought made more sense than traditional Reformed thought. This, in turn, moved me to consider other elements of the Roman Catholic paradigm.

    So, those were the presuppositions that led me to my reading of Romans.

    Thanks again,

    David

  141. Eric (#139)

    Read through ST p1, q19, a8 again. Aquinas clearly prefers to refer to the will of God’s efficacy rather than its necessity. He makes a distinction between absolute and conditional necessity. Not only is God’s will always fulfilled, according to St. Thomas, but it is unchangeable. Yes, God chooses to use contingency and secondary causes to effect his will. But his will IS EFFECTED without fail. It is in no way dependent on our cooperation or lack thereof. In fact, Aquinas states that “no defect of a secondary cause can hinder God’s will from producing its effect.” The Angelic Doctor wishes to preserve both God’s complete sovereignty and man’s unimpeded free will.

    The point is that our cooperation is one of those secondary causes God is pleased to use.

    jj

  142. Hi John, you said ” the point is that our cooperation is one of those secondary causes God is plessed to use” This is what I have never been able to understand about the Catholic system, and I respectfully shake my head when I hear Dave’e reading of Romans, and that is how would God ever be pleased with anyone who didnt receive ” the free gift of righteouness ” Romans 5:17 freely. Its a gift Paul says, you cant merit it, you can only receive it. There is such a contrary in Paul between the righteouness of faith and all works. He says in 4:16 that the reason it is by fsith in accordance with grace is so that it might be guaranteed to believers. If Rome puts on the condition of ” worthiness of merit” it cant please God because it is no longet a free gift. God bless John.

  143. Hi Eric,

    But his will IS EFFECTED without fail. It is in no way dependent on our cooperation or lack thereof. In fact, Aquinas states that “no defect of a secondary cause can hinder God’s will from producing its effect.” The Angelic Doctor wishes to preserve both God’s complete sovereignty and man’s unimpeded free will.

    Based on a previous statement you made, I think you agree that it is precisely God’s consequent will which is effected without fail (necessarily).

    Man can resist God’s antecedent will even under the influence of sufficient actual grace. (Council of Trent, Canon 4 on Justification). When man does resist grace, that choice to resist does not have its source in God, nor was that choice to resist determined by God before all eternity.

    A Catholic cannot believe that a choice to resist grace is predetermined by God (i.e. Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”), or that God predestines men to Hell.

    The problem comes when our free will is depicted as somehow independent of God (or as capable of thwarting the will of God).

    We can’t say that free will is “independent” of God whose goodness is the source of the free will and love. But we also can’t say that God predetermines man’s free choices. If man’s choices were predetermined, then they would not be free.

    However, God’s consequent will takes our free choices into account, so His (consequent) will is not “thwarted” despite the fact He has given man the capability to make truly free choices.

  144. JJ–

    For both Catholic and Reformed, our cooperation is a secondary cause which God is pleased to use in accomplishing his purposes. St. Paul moves back and forth between the significance of our cooperation (work out your salvation with fear and trembling) and its insignificance (for it is GOD who works in us both to will and to do). Augustine often does the same back-and-forth thing, which is fine as long as one states both in conjunction with one another.

    But modern Catholicism tends to speak of our assistance to grace without identifying our part in the matter as a secondary cause. It comes down to this: does grace accomplish the whole of justification (sola gratia), or is it merely essential to the process (the “sine qua non” of justification). On a thread here on transubstantiation, someone summarized the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic concepts of the Real Presence by saying that the one forbids worship of the elements and the other requires it. Our differing takes on Sola Gratia can be summarized similarly: if you hesitate when asked if both our cooperation AND the cooperative grace that assists that cooperation rely on the grace of God, then you might not believe firmly enough in Sola Gratia (and you’re not particularly in sync with either Augustine or Aquinas).

  145. Kevin,

    “Love stretches out to neighbor and is always second in natural order. Luther said Romes robs from faith and gives to love what God only intended forvfaith.”

    Aquinas: “Order is twofold: order of generation, and order of perfection … Now it is by faith that the intellect apprehends the object of hope and love. Hence in the order of generation, faith precedes hope and charity. In like manner a man loves a thing because he apprehends it as his good. Now from the very fact that a man hopes to be able to obtain some good through someone, he looks on the man in whom he hopes as a good of his own. Hence for the very reason that a man hopes in someone, he proceeds to love him: so that in the order of generation, hope precedes charity as regards their respective acts.

    But in the order of perfection, charity precedes faith and hope: because both faith and hope are quickened by charity, and receive from charity their full complement as virtues. For thus charity is the mother and the root of all the virtues, inasmuch as it is the form of them all … Charity is said to be the end of other virtues, because it directs all other virtues to its own end. And since a mother is one who conceives within herself and by another, charity is called the mother of the other virtues, because, by commanding them, it conceives the acts of the other virtues, by the desire of the last end.”

    So, yes in the order of generation faith precedes all. But in the order of perfection and the ultimate end or goal of all virtues (including faith), charity precedes all and is greatest of all as attested to by texts such as 1 Cor 13:2-3, 13 and Col 3:14 and Eph 3:17 and the fact that charity remains after death.

    “There isnt a virtue attached to faith that merits the acceptance of God”

    The Church’s Confession of Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults:
    “Catholic doctrine … says that only a faith alive in graciously bestowed love can justify. Having mere faith without love, merely considering something true, does not justify us. But if one understands faith in the full and comprehensive biblical sense, then faith includes conversion, hope, and love and the Lutheran formula [by faith alone] can have a good Catholic sense. According to Catholic doctrine, faith encompasses both trusting in God on the basis of his mercifulness proved in Jesus Christ and confessing the salvific work of God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Yet this faith is never alone. It includes … hope in God, and love for God. These are not external additions and supplements to faith, but unfoldings of the inner essence of faith itself.”

  146. Kevin,
    “Jim, i dont see justification in instalments.”

    Once again, Dave said justification was instantaneous. Initial justification that is. Once transformed from a son of Adam into a son of God, we subsequently grow in that sonship. It’s what you call sanctification. Do you deny sanctification is in installments?

    ” In Ephessians 2:8 is absolute restriction on RC theology of justification of including sanctification. Why? It clearly says not of yourself, not of works. It eliminates anything coming from ourselves.

    Here is what the text actually says Kevin,
    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

    You are failing to notice Paul makes a distinction between “works of boasting” and “good works”. What are “works of boasting”? Well, notice in verse 11 Paul is speaking to gentile converts and telling them works of the Mosaic Law that Jews boast in are of no avail to them. Paul does indeed mention our cooperation in doing “good works” to increase out our subsequent growth in sanctification/justification here. You are shoe-horning your own Calvinist interpretation into the passage. Read the rest of Ephesians. In 4;4 Paul reminds his readers that all, whether Jew or Gentile, share in the one same Baptism. They are all members of the same Church, washed and made holy in Baptism Eph 5:26. Please peruse the entire book.

    Speaking of Baptism, you go on to say,
    ” Titus 3:5 eliminates holy deeds.”

    Not wanting to change the subject to Baptism, I will only say you are correct. No holy deeds prior to Baptism justify. Initial justification takes place instantaneously and freely in the laver of Baptism. Notice the word “justification” in Titus 3:7
    “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

  147. JTJ #141,

    Yes, but if our cooperation is a secondary cause God uses to effect a will that cannot be thwarted and always comes to pass, then welcome to Reformed theology.

    If God’s will is effected without fail, it determines whatsoever comes to pass and is finally irresistible.

  148. Brandon, Robert, Eric, can you give me your input on 2 questions I have. Romans 5:10 ” for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God thru the death of His son, much more, having been reconciled , we shall be saved by HIS life” Is this not saying God reconciled us past tense when we were enemies thru Christ’s death ( inferring election) and we will be saved by His life not ours? It seems for Paul all of salvation is forensic. He speaks of the rag tag Corinthians as having been sanctified. I have always wondered why this verse is more of a focus for we Reformed because Paul explicitly says we will be saved by His life. 2nd question for you guys. Dave is making a distinction between the word used for law in Romans 3 and Romans 2:29. But in Galatians 5:1-4 he says ” those who are being justified by law” Sometimes he says works, sometimes law, sometimes works of law, but there are only two categories for Paul the righteouness that comes by works and the righteouness that comes by faith. One saves the other doesnt. Can you guys respond to my point versus the distinction Dave is making. Thanks guys Kevin. Then probably Dave will respond. It seems to me NPP has always been on weak ground since Paul says after works of law, that thru the law comes the knowledge of sin. That doesnt come thru dietary laws. Any imput would be great. Thx

  149. Hi Kevin,

    Not distinguishing the word for law (Nomos), but disambiguating its senses. Sometimes Paul uses “Law” to refer to the Mosaic legal code (moral, ritual, purity, etc.), and he often speaks in this context of “works of the law,” and sometimes just “law” for shorthand. But other times he refers to the law written on the heart that even Gentiles know without the Mosaic code. Obviously, gentiles don’t have dietary laws written on their hearts. He sometimes refers to this as “precepts of the law” (dikaiomata tou noumou). You will note that Paul never says the dikaiomata tou nomou fail to justify. He says the opposite, in fact.

    “The law” (first sense) doesn’t justify. But Gentiles who fulfill its “righteous requirements” are justified, according to Paul.

    It’s not necessary to import the foreign concept of imputation to explain this fulfillment. Paul supplies the terms himself.

    This is what struck me so many years ago. The Reformed invent a concept not present in the text to explain an alleged ambiguity that Paul resolves himself in terms explicitly present.

    Thanks,

    David

  150. Dave, very interesting discussion. But in Romans 8:4 it says what the Law could no do, God did. The theologuans I have read think it is Christ who fulfills the righteouness requirements of the law . And the verb is passive, in us , not by us. It is God that condemed sin in the flesh by sending sending His son. The other thing is, we now stand justified, or not condemned.. It is a present standing. Again the reason is because Christ is our righteouness, our righteouness isnt derived from His.. It is refered to in 5:17 as the free gift of righteouness, not the free gift of righteouness to be maintained and increased thru merit. And this is consistent with 5:10 telling us we will be saved by His life, not a coopetative effort. There are two categories for Paul imho the righteouness of works and the righteouness of faith. Ill wait for your response. Thanks k

  151. Eric,

    “But modern Catholicism tends to speak of our assistance to grace without identifying our part in the matter as a secondary cause.”

    CCC: “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:””

    “The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.”

    I assume since you said “modern”, you hold Trent is aligned with Aquinas and Augustine. So perhaps you can show where the CCC or prayers of the current liturgies or other modern documents contradict Trent’s view of grace, will, and cooperation.

  152. Kevin,

    1. I would deny that for Paul *all of salvation* is forensic. I do think that it is accurate to say that our justification before God is forensic, but salvation includes participatory aspects. I appreciate Gaffin (and the WLC on these points and believe that our union with Christ is the ground for forensic and infused benefits in that union. For example, in Romans 5:5 we read that the Spirit has poured his love into our hearts–this is not a forensic category. It is an infusion of the love of God that believers enjoy by virtue of their union with the risen Christ. The key here is not to see the forensic and infused as opposed to one another. Instead, they are dual benefits of being united with Christ by faith alone (for what else can unite us to Christ beside faith?).

    2. As David correctly noted, the semantic range, or range of possible meanings, for any word can be broad. Without getting into the nitty gritty detail, it is not fallacious to draw distinctions between usage of “nomos” in one instance versus another. I will say that in the case of “nomos” in the NT, stipulating only one meaning for the usage of the word would be a mistake.

    David,

    The Reformed invent a concept not present in the text to explain an alleged ambiguity that Paul resolves himself in terms explicitly present.

    If such a comment was left by a Protestant (particularly me), I’m certain a moderator would rapidly respond that such a statement would be a straw-man. A link would almost certainly be included to the posting guidelines of the site.

    Claiming that the Reformed “invent a concept not in the text” loads the language so we are doing more than just misunderstanding or misinterpreting, we are “inventing a concept.” While your intent may not in fact be to impugn Reformed Christians, your language certainly connotes it. If you think that the Reformed doctrine is so vacuous, it would serve you well to accurately describe the position as the Reformed understand it exegetically.

  153. Kevin,
    Speaking of Romans 5:10 which reads,
    “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life”, you go on to ask,

    “Is this not saying God reconciled us past tense when we were enemies thru Christ’s death ( inferring election) and we will be saved by His life not ours”.

    You fail to acknowledge the difference in the Objective Redemption ( on Calvary ) and the Subjective Redemption ( its application ).
    All mankind was redeemed 2,000 years ago, past tense. People are being saved today, present continuous. Not all men will be saved though, future tense, passive voice.

    Your comment brings up two question;
    Firstly, how does Rm 5:10 infer your brand of election? Some would say that for the Calvinist, the elect were never truly lost in the first place and Jesus death was merely rubber stamping what had already been decreed in eternity past. It was just a sort of formality but not actually causing anything.
    Secondly, you keep referring to the Corinthians as “ragtag”. Why?

  154. Robert (#146)

    Yes, but if our cooperation is a secondary cause God uses to effect a will that cannot be thwarted and always comes to pass, then welcome to Reformed theology.

    If God’s will is effected without fail, it determines whatsoever comes to pass and is finally irresistible.

    My point was that Eric said that God’s will “… is in no way dependent on our cooperation or lack thereof.” But if it is not so dependent, then this is saying that our will is not, after all, secondary cause.

    Eric (#143) – I think you may have misunderstood Catholic teaching on the role of a created will.

    It is actually pretty simple, it seems to me. To be sure, if I am to be saved, I must choose God. That’s my will. That it is, indeed, only because God enables my will to choose – but this is neither here nor there. I must choose.

    Long ago – when I was still Reformed – I felt that my ‘life verse’ was Philippians 2:12-13 (think those are the right numbers – I’m supposed to be working :-)) – “…work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, for His good pleasure.”

    Both are true. It is I who will, who cooperate; it is God Who works in me ‘both to will and to do.’ The problem with Calvinism, it seems to me – and, indeed, with Arminianism, and with all theology that tries to ‘solve’ the dilemma (is it me or is it God, or some combination?) – is that they try to put God and the creature on the same level.

    Both are true – it’s not a question of its being ‘really’ me or ‘really’ God – or some mixture. It is all me; it is all God.

  155. Jonathan–

    No, God does NOT predetermine our free choices, but he does predetermine their outcomes. I think it an unfortunate turn of phrase to say that he takes our free choices “into account” in determining his will. How do I say this? He takes our choices into account in terms of accomplishing his purposes, but it is totally irrelevant that they are “free.” In other words, he doesn’t have something in mind plan-wise and then go back to the drawing board once our two cents’ worth is calculated.

    Man’s concept of the freedom of the will (based on independence) is not worth defending with any vehemence. A will totally free from God is totally in bondage to sin (and thus, genuine autonomy, in this case, is the exact opposite of genuine freedom).

    By the way, unless man’s choices ARE in some sense predetermined, then God is not sovereign. Besides, if push ever came to shove, wouldn’t it be more important to assure God’s power to defeat sin and death than to protect man’s ability to resist righteousness and life?

  156. JTJ,

    It is actually pretty simple, it seems to me. To be sure, if I am to be saved, I must choose God. That’s my will. That it is, indeed, only because God enables my will to choose – but this is neither here nor there. I must choose.

    Long ago – when I was still Reformed – I felt that my ‘life verse’ was Philippians 2:12-13 (think those are the right numbers – I’m supposed to be working :-)) – “…work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, for His good pleasure.”

    Agreed, and no Reformed confessional statement that I know says otherwise.

    Both are true. It is I who will, who cooperate; it is God Who works in me ‘both to will and to do.’ The problem with Calvinism, it seems to me – and, indeed, with Arminianism, and with all theology that tries to ‘solve’ the dilemma (is it me or is it God, or some combination?) – is that they try to put God and the creature on the same level.

    Both are true – it’s not a question of its being ‘really’ me or ‘really’ God – or some mixture. It is all me; it is all God.

    I think that the issue is what one means by cooperation. Is grace intrinsically efficacious or not? That is, do all those whom God enables choose Him and continue to choose Him throughout their lives. If there is even one person who does not, then grace is not intrinsically efficacious and something that is not grace needs to be added to grace in order for grace to work. That something ends up either tying God’s hands or not.

    This is why the Reformed emphasize irresistible grace.

    So at rock bottom, the difference between Geneva and Rome isn’t whether our cooperation is required for salvation. If I am to be saved, it is my will that must choose. If you want to call that cooperation, fine. The act of faith, is in fact synergistic. Both God and man are doing something. I have to cooperate. But why do I cooperate? If you want to say it is because of enabling grace, then great, as long as you also agree that enabling grace guarantees cooperation every time. If not, God needs our help, and if God needs our help to save us, he’s not omnipotent.

  157. Brandon, thanks for responding, when Horton says for Paul all of salvation is forensic 1 Corinthians 1:30, he means justification undergirds all of it. So for instance, how verses like Hebrews 10:10, the begining of 1 Corinthians, he can speak of sanctification in a past tense. No one denies that this is in union with Christ. But we posess redemption now because of the righteouness of Christ. Ephessians 1:7 says ” we have redemption” not will have. We are in a saved state, not a savable state. And I do believe Romans 5: 10 is clear we have been reconciled and will be saved by His life, not ours. All this to say, our cooperation has nothing to do with our acceptance before God. So the issue against Rome is not congrous or condign etc. But nothing coming from ourselves plays a part in our salvation. Calvin’ s issue with Rome was that the merits of Christ are applied thru faith alone, we dont merit the merit of Christ, and Priests dont apply Christ’s merit, the Spirit does. Thanks for your post, I have learned allot from you at CCC.k

  158. Hi Brandon,

    In response to my claim that the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is not explicitly in the text, You wrote:

    If such a comment was left by a Protestant (particularly me), I’m certain a moderator would rapidly respond that such a statement would be a straw-man.

    But this is not a straw man. It is something that his been acknowledge by Protestant scholars like Bishop George Bull, Moses Stuart, and even by our friend Eric when he analogized justification to Trinitarian dogma. If the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is explicitly mentioned in the text, I’d like to see it. But the only thing I have ever seen from Protestant exegesis is argument that tries to draw the doctrine out by careful inference.

    -David

  159. Hi Kevin,

    The text says that God condemned sin in the flesh so that the laws requirements would be met in us. In Christ, we stand justified and not condemned. Catholics believe that, of course. But the text never says that this takes place by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Rather, the believer dies with Christ and is given a new self created to be like God in righteousness and holiness.

    -David

  160. Jim, it isnt significant to note that the Corinthian church had many issues, sinful ones. Yet, Paul adresses them at the beginning as those who have been sanctified, in a past tense. 1 Corintians 1: says by HIS doing we are in Christ, who became to us wisdom, righteouness, sanctification and redemption. Much like whe Paul in Romans 8:28 sayys foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. Its a done deal. It doesnt depend on us, the man who runs or wills, but on God. Sometimes i fell many of my Reformed brethren who blog with Catholics get some synergism rubbed off on them. In my sanctification, im just living the miracle. There are becoming fewer and fewer defenders of imputation. Its sad, it is the ” summit” of our religion. K

  161. Hi Dave, ok I get it, you dont believe in imputation. But what is your answer to many of your Catholic colleagues like Fitzmeyer, Brown, who now acknowledge the forensic, declarative aspects? The bottom line is, is there a final justification based on the life lived. And Rome has a big mountain to climb there. Logizomai, hashav, daikaiou dont mean evaluation of the state of affairs at the end of your life. Thanks Dave. K

  162. Dave, incidentally, i actually think your point is well taken to Brandon. My feeling is instead of complaining, make a fight for imputation, here is the forum to do it. We who defend it with all our soul watch some Reformed who ate more interested in the mechanics of Rome’s synergism than defending imputation. It is the backbone of our system, but if we arent that convicted about it, we wont defend it. For instance I respect you, but when I hear you say we draw imputation out by infetence, I say hogwash. Those terms logizomai, hashav, daikaiou dont mean process, they mean declare, reckon, count, regard, accounted. Thanks k

  163. David,

    Preface: I’m not trying to split hairs here, but I am trying to point out that your language betrays a strong bias against the Reformed.

    In response to my claim that the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is not explicitly in the text

    Two things. First, my concern in #152 was that you are charging that the Reformed “invent” the category of imputation. That is loaded language and it is a straw-man because the Reformed believe the category is biblical.

    Second, it truly depends on what you mean about imputation being “explicit.” Reformed theologians and biblical scholars point to passage such as 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3; Romans 5:19; Romans 4:5; Genesis 15:6; Psalm 32:2; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:13; and others. They believe that the theological doctrine of imputation explains derives from and explains these biblical texts. And while the word “imputation” is not found, the utilization of “logizomai” is about as close as you can get.

    There are many who find the claims of imputation dubious, but you’ve done very little to explain why. You’ve simply asserted that the Reformed scheme does not come from Scripture but from a construct. Just a smattering of your quotes

    I agree that to understand the genesis of imputation, there are many other factors we have to consider. Luther’s personality, devotional experience, and philosophical commitments are obviously key.

    And

    I agree that the Reformed read Scripture in this way. Passages like Philippians 3 are read assuming the truth of key Lutheran distinctions: Law/Gospel; faith/works, sin/grace.

    And

    These doctrines are mere inferences from the Lutheran/Calvinist understanding of justification. They cannot be asserted without begging the question.

    You are merely assuming that the doctrine of imputation is not biblical while simultaneously assuming that your understanding of soteriology is the (your words) “prima facie” reading of Paul. Do you understand why for a Reformed Protestant your use of language to describe the position is objectionable, even if you still maintain that we are wrong about justification?

  164. “If you want to say it is because of enabling grace, then great, as long as you also agree that enabling grace guarantees cooperation every time.”

    So God does not give grace to the regenerate in sanctification whenever they sin – they sin because they were not given grace, since otherwise the grace would have guaranteed their cooperation and they would not have sinned. So all grace is irresistible, not just the grace of justification then.

  165. Jim, one question, if Romans 5:10 says we will be saved by His life, why would it matter to distinguish objective from subjective salvation? . Iow, if Im guarsnteed to be saved by His life,;what would His application of His sacrifice have to me have do with that? Unless you are going to assert that we are ” converted to our own justification” which Trent asserts., then we are being saved by our life and His life. Thanks God bless

  166. Kevin,
    “And I do believe Romans 5: 10 is clear we have been reconciled and will be saved by His life, not ours.”
    Romans 5:10? The same Romans 5:10 that says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”?

    I have already explained the first half of this passage to you in #153 so that leaves only the second half and it doesn’t say anything about Christ’s life of obedient and perfect law keeping is imputed to our account? If you want to say Christ merited graces for us all through his life, fine. But I am having trouble finding where it says anything about reckoning, crediting, or imputing. Could you hi-lite the part that does?

    By the way, your repeated appeal to Ephesians brings up another question; Do you believe Paul and Jesus opposed the Judaizers and Pharisees respectively because they were pelagians before Pelagius? Or was their problem something else?

  167. Hi Brandon,

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I have not said that the Reformed offer no arguments. Of course they offer arguments for their position. And I grant, of course, that Reformed exegetes believe the texts you adduce to be explicable in terms of imputation and they go to work to show that that is the case. But this work presupposes the truth of other parts of the Reformed system, such as a Reformed account of depravity or the meaning of the term justification and its cognates. These assumptions or first principles led Calvin to some extreme hermeneutical moves, like the way he dismisses Romans 2 as a purely hypothetical account of legal righteousness.

    I see something very similar going on in Luther’s hermeneutics. As you know, in Luther’s various prefaces he lays out a method for interpreting the Gospels in which Christ is not to be understood as a new Moses. Something like his hermeneutic is absolutely essential to circumvent what would otherwise be an obvious tension between the Lutheran Paul and the seemingly moralistic Christ. Paul’s contrast between law and grace suggests the method to Luther (he doesn’t make it up out of whole cloth), and it makes good sense of the supposed conflict which he seeks to circumvent.

    My position is not that the Reformed have no arguments or don’t reason to their conclusions from the text. My position is that there is a coherent way to read the text that requires fewer hermeneutical assumptions, respecting the principle of parsimony. And when one broadens the data set to include the entire Bible and the theological tradition of early Christianity, the payoff in terms of parsimony is far greater.

    Because the doctrine of imputed righteousness is not explicit (which, I think, you concede), one must make certain hemeneutical assumptions in order to harmonize the doctrine with the Scriptural data. But if one can make coherent sense of the text within the terms of Paul’s actual language and imagery, such assumptions become unnecessary. And should be suspect, if they lead to ad hoc reasoning such as Calvin’s dismissal of Romans 2 or Luther’s dismissal of the Gospel traditions.

    -David

  168. Cletus,

    We’re talking about conversion and perseverance here. If grace is intrinsically efficacious, then nobody who gets it will be lost. It will overcome all resistance. It will be finally irresistible.

    Rome denies intrinsically efficacious grace. This is the problem.

  169. David,

    #166

    Hermeneutical assumptions? Name one person who has come to the biblical text having no contact with Christianity or the Bible at all, reads it, believes it, and then says “I need to go find Peter’s successor, the church that claims to be infallible whenever it says it is infallible, the church with ‘unbroken apostolic succession,’ the church that prays to Mary and the saints, etc.” Maybe you know somebody but I’ve yet to meet anyone. When I’ve brought this up with other RCs, their response has been to say, “Well, that just proves you need tradition and the Magisterium.” What? Talk about hermeneutical assumptions.

    On the contrary, you find many, many, many people who read the Bible, having no Christian background, read it, believe it and become orthodox evangelicals. It takes a heck of a lot more assumptions to read the Bible AND the early church tradition and walk away Roman Catholic.

  170. Dave, the only thing I would say to your point to Brandon that the Reformed doctrine of imputation involves hermenutical reach with Jesus in the gospels or Romans 2 etc. I believe is false. Paul got his gospel from the face of Jesus. Everytime Jesus references someones obedience etc. He says your faith has healed you. Of course we think you mske those reaches with Jesus in the gospels, and Romans 2 to support Jesus being a softer Moses with an easier law. We think you miss the discontinuity from the OT to the New. Jesus isnt a softer Moses, He is the fulfilment of tbe law. Those who have entered His rest have rested from their works as He has. Hebrews.

  171. Robert,

    I am not arguing against the suitability of hermeneutical assumptions per se. (See my post to Eric about the assumptions I brought to the text as a Calvinist that subsequently led me to Rome.) I am talking about evaluating the specific set of hermeneutical assumptions brought to bear by Reformed exegetes in explicating Paul’s doctrine of justification, and from whence they are derived.

    -david

  172. Kevin (#142)

    Hi John, you said ” the point is that our cooperation is one of those secondary causes God is plessed to use” This is what I have never been able to understand about the Catholic system, and I respectfully shake my head when I hear Dave’e reading of Romans, and that is how would God ever be pleased with anyone who didnt receive ” the free gift of righteouness ” Romans 5:17 freely. Its a gift Paul says, you cant merit it, you can only receive it. There is such a contrary in Paul between the righteouness of faith and all works. He says in 4:16 that the reason it is by fsith in accordance with grace is so that it might be guaranteed to believers. If Rome puts on the condition of ” worthiness of merit” it cant please God because it is no longet a free gift. God bless John.

    You are using the word ‘pleased’ equivocally. God may be pleased to do something because His doing it pleases Him; or He may be pleased make our free will a secondary cause because He is pleased at our choosing. Clearly I meant the first. You are speaking as though you thought I meant the second.

    jj

  173. David,

    But the assumption that we are in no ways justified by Spirit-wrought works is derived from the texts that tell us we are not saved by Spirit-wrought works.

  174. Robert (#156)

    I think that the issue is what one means by cooperation. Is grace intrinsically efficacious or not? That is, do all those whom God enables choose Him and continue to choose Him throughout their lives. If there is even one person who does not, then grace is not intrinsically efficacious and something that is not grace needs to be added to grace in order for grace to work. That something ends up either tying God’s hands or not.

    This is why the Reformed emphasize irresistible grace.

    So at rock bottom, the difference between Geneva and Rome isn’t whether our cooperation is required for salvation. If I am to be saved, it is my will that must choose. If you want to call that cooperation, fine. The act of faith, is in fact synergistic. Both God and man are doing something. I have to cooperate. But why do I cooperate? If you want to say it is because of enabling grace, then great, as long as you also agree that enabling grace guarantees cooperation every time. If not, God needs our help, and if God needs our help to save us, he’s not omnipotent.

    It seems to me rather that the Reformed are defining grace as irresistible grace. The Catholic Church refers to differences such as ‘actual grace,’ ‘sacramental grace,’ and, no doubt, other terms. I am no theologian.

    I remember discussions such as these with my Reformed pastor – 10 or 15 years before even the suspicion of my becoming a Catholic ever came to me. I think that phaenomenologically the two sides come out the same.

    We all know persons who appear to have the marks of grace – but who fall away and to all human view are lost. The Reformed, believing in justification by faith alone, says he never really had faith. The Catholic may say that he had faith (and hope and charity) but turned from them. The result is the same.

    I recall Reformed people referring, in an effort to account for this, to ‘common grace.’ It just strikes me that this is theological argumentation, the presentation of theoretical structures, that have no relation to reality. The Reformed view seems to me to be inexpressibly evil; to ascribe to God the intention to save some but not others.

    jj

  175. Robert,

    Where does the text say we are not justified by Spirit-wrought works? I rather think it says the opposite in Romans 2:13, or at least that we are justified by obedience to the law, which obedience is made possible by heart circumcision (vs. 25-29).

    -David

  176. Hi Kevin,

    Catholics believe that one is saved by faith, so pointing out that Jesus ascribes their healing to faith does not go to the issue raised by Luther’s hermeneutics.

    -David

  177. Dave, thanks for your response, but isnt it more accurate to say Catholics are saved by faith and their Spirit lead works. But Paul says we are justified as a gift by His grace, by His blood, and that He is just and justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. No mention of any works in justification. Incidentally 4:5 says God justifies someone who does not work, that would eliminate all works. God bless . k

  178. Robert,

    “We’re talking about conversion and perseverance here.”

    Yes, but given your criticisms (“That something ends up either tying God’s hands or not” and “If not, God needs our help, and if God needs our help to save us, he’s not omnipotent.” and so on), it seems rather ad hoc and special pleading to just then hand-wave the logic of those criticisms when talking about grace in sanctification.

    “Rome denies intrinsically efficacious grace. This is the problem.”

    Only it doesn’t. It denies the denial of sufficient grace.

  179. Dave, can we address Romans 2:13 again, and Romans 2 in general. And ill refer you to Tim Kauffman’s article ” Justification, jealousy metaphor” which is a fascinating article. In that article He documents the jealousy narrative from the OT thru Jesus and carried on by Paul in Romans 2 and chapter 11. God made the jews jealous saying the gentiles are better at obeying the law than the jews. God does this in the OT, Jesus carries it on in the gospels, and Paul carries it on. Tim has all the scriptural references from the OT thru Paul, im sorry i dont have them. But the thread we see again in Romans 2 where Paul tells the Jews the gentiles were better at keeping the law than Jews. Because the Jews had an unrepentant heart and were storing up wrath for themselves ( unbelievers). And the gentiles with the law written on their heart ( believers). In this context he says it isnt the hearers of the law that are justified, bit the doers of the law who will be justified. But he doesnt say they will be justified by doing the law because in chapter 3 he says no one will be. These were believers that were jbfa who obeyed the law. Thanks K

  180. Kevin,

    You wrote:

    No mention of any works in justification.

    St. Paul,

    “it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

    But he doesnt say they will be justified by doing the law because in chapter 3 he says no one will be.

    St. Paul,

    So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

    I agree that there is a jealousy motif. The Gentiles who keep the law better than the Jews (and make them jealous, mentioned again in Chapters 10 & 11) are those who do so by the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit. And not by the written code that Paul mentions in 2:26-29. In Chapters 3 & 4, Paul confirms that the Jews, possessing the written code, are not justified by that written code, nor can anyone be justified by works of the law.

    -David

  181. JJ–

    The Thomistic view seems to me to be inexpressibly evil; to ascribe to God the (consequent) intention to save some (the elect) but not others (the reprobate).

    In this case, as well, the result is the same.

  182. Cletus–

    And how exactly do the Reformed deny sufficient grace? Christ’s atonement was sufficient for all but efficient for the elect. We hold that the reprobate dig their own graves; they alone are responsible for their demise. Theoretically, they could have responded favorably, but they didn’t. I’m not at all sure there’s any appreciable daylight between Thomists and Calvinists on this one.

  183. Dear Friends,

    This post is titled, “John Calvin and the Reformation: a Catholic Perspective.”
    Some weeks ago, Eric suggested that my talk was unfair to Calvin and to Reformed orthodoxy.
    I mentioned that the talk really didn’t concern Reformed Orthodoxy, but rather Calvin himself and his contribution to the Reformation.
    In the course of the subsequent discussion, I mentioned that an examination of Calvin’s doctrine of justification was one of the things that led me to Catholic faith. That one comment has led to a rather far flung discussion that seems to have ranged across huge swaths of Christian soteriology.

    I think I’d like to tighten up the discussion and bring it back in line with the subject of the recording: a Catholic assessment of John Calvin and his contribution to the Reformation.
    Can we direct further comments on Thomism, efficient grace, the extent of the atonement, and so forth, to the appropriate threads on the sight.

    Thank you so much,

    David

  184. Eric, I have replied to your #155 on this thread.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/12/lawrence-feingold-on-sufficient-and-efficacious-grace/

    I hope you will get a chance to listen to Dr. Feingold’s lecture, if you have not already. I found it very helpful for understanding the position of Banez and Molina and how their positions compare to Calvin’s position. Dr. Feingold (who is certainly a Thomist) makes a convincing argument for Molina’s position.

    Jonathan

  185. Hi Dave, let me apologize for any contribution I made to be off topic. Ibhad one question in regard to Calvin versus the Catholic paradign on predestination. But first I must know if these concepts are accurate from your perspective on Catholic teaching. Here is my concept of the Catholic fsystem , you do your level best and Godvgives you grace, the more you do your level best the more grace He gives you. Is that accurate? Thanks Kevin

  186. Dr. Anders–

    In your talk you did indeed refer to the later consequences of Calvin’s theology (which you termed both pathological and heretical). You said it led through Reformed orthodoxy to theological liberalism, fundamentalistic anti-intellectualism, and postmodern relativism. Other Catholics have blamed Unitarianism on us, which in turn leads to agnosticism and atheism. We are miserable creatures, to say the least!

    For some reason, however, Catholics never wish to blame Protestantism on Rome, even though it was Western Christianity, under Rome’s substantial influence, which splintered into thousands of pieces. Constantinople, on the other hand, remains largely undivided to this day.

    I did wish to ask why you insist on Luther’s “discovery” being defined as an historical novelty. Augustine led a similar reform in soteriology at the beginning of the fifth century and got sainted instead of scapegoated. St. Jerome said that Augustine “established the ancient faith anew.” Sounds like it was lost for a time and then “rediscovered,” doesn’t it? That’s how Semper Reformanda works. Constantinople has always made it clear that they don’t particularly care for the humble Bishop of Hippo. In their minds, he wasn’t consistent with the other church fathers.

  187. Hi Eric,

    Thank you so much for a substantive and thoughtful comment. I would say in response that I absolutely blame/credit the Latin Catholic tradition for the Reformation. The theological developments of the 16th century were a direct outgrowth of devotional, liturgical, canonical, political, social, technological, demographic, and intellectual trends in late medieval Catholic culture. So, to the extent that Calvinism is a source for modern liberalism (source, not cause) it is also a conduit for pre-Calvinist developments.

    In fact, I think the unique, Latin Catholic accents audible in the Reformation are essential to evaluating the Reformers’ naive claim to being biblicists or primitivists. As you well note, it is very conspicuous that nothing like the Reformation synthesis emerged anywhere else throughout the Christian world. The Byzantines, Copts, and Syrians produced nothing like it. If Protestantism were the “plain sense of Scripture,” it is hard to understand why non-Latin and non-Papal forms of Christianity are so vastly different from Protestantism. The Reformers’ view was that the Papacy has smothered out the pure Gospel. This claim is hard to square with the actual history of Christianity outside the Papal, Latin West.

    As far as Augustine is concerned, I don’t think you can evaluate him simply as a biblical exegete, but as a systematic, ecclesial theologian. Augustine’s thought reflects the traditions of North African Christianity (disciplinary, devotional, liturgical, canonical) and late antique philosophy, which he synthesized with his reading of the Canonical Scriptures (including Paul), carried out in a way that is not purely historical/critical. His doctrine of grace and justification (whatever its merits and defects as concerns Paul’s intent) cannot be evaluated apart from those larger influences, to which it is largely faithful. (IMHO)

    I insist that Luther’s doctrine is a historical novelty because we don’t find Luther’s doctrine before the 16th century. Hence, a novelty. I acknowledge that Augustine creates a new vocabulary for the Church’s soteriology, but I think that vocabulary is easily reconcilable with the tradition in which he worked. (It is a lengthy article to substantiate that claim, but I hint at why I think that in the Tradition I and sola fide article.)

    Have I responded adequately to your concerns?

    Thanks again,

    David

  188. Hi Dave ” you said ” The Reformers said the Papacy smothered out the pure gospel. This is hard to square with the actual hostory outside the Papal, Latin West.” Why does it have to be squared with that? I would like to ask a man of your fine intelligence something no Catholic apologist will answer for me, and I hope you will in light of Calvin and the Reformers. If scripture warns the individual believer to hold himself back from false teaching and idols, Jesus saying himself to us, if someone comes to you and says I am the Christ, dont believe him, how is a group of believers supposed to protest or reform a church who they think has apostasised? Iow if a believer like Calvin or Luther felt like the church had changed the gospel, whst would be their tecourse on light of what msndates individuals to do? I would love an answer to that question. Because as you certainly think Calvin was outside, Reformers would say they came to rescue the apostles and the early church from the hair splitting medieval academics, and to diassemble the eclessiatical machinery that had developed in the church that they thought wss mostly human in orgin and content. Thanks Dave, Ill wait for your response. K

  189. Eric #184

    Augustine did his work within the Catholic Church – he did not break away to start his own brand of Christianity as Luther did – you may say that Luther didn’t want to break with Rome but his actions had consequences and in the absence of any action by Luther to reconcile, the consequence was his excommunication.

    Peter

  190. Kevin,

    You wrote:

    Hi Dave ” you said ” The Reformers said the Papacy smothered out the pure gospel. This is hard to square with the actual hostory outside the Papal, Latin West.” Why does it have to be squared with that?

    The Reformers claimed to be recovering Biblical Christianity which disappeared because of the interference of the Papacy. If this claim is true, we should expect to find something like Protestantism in those lands (or in those ages) that did not feel much or any direct Papal influence. But the fact is that before the 16th century Latin West, we find nothing remotely similar to Protestantism. This makes it hard to take seriously the claim that the Reformers were recovering “biblical Christianity.”

    If scripture warns the individual believer to hold himself back from false teaching and idols, Jesus saying himself to us, if someone comes to you and says I am the Christ, dont believe him, how is a group of believers supposed to protest or reform a church who they think has apostasised? Iow if a believer like Calvin or Luther felt like the church had changed the gospel, whst would be their tecourse on light of what msndates individuals to do?

    Individuals or groups wishing to evaluate religious teaching for orthodoxy should do so with reference to the Rule of Faith established by Christ. That rule of faith is not Scripture, but rather the teaching authority of the Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail and in light of whose judgments even heaven will bind and loose.
    -David

  191. Dave, thanks for your response. Jesus is Revelations admonishes churches for the error in which they fell, how does Rome reconcile that scripture with ” the teaching authority of the church?”. Thanks Kevin

  192. Kevin,

    The Church in Ephesus (to take one example) having abandoned its first love (Rev. 2) is perfectly compatible with Christ’s teaching that the gospel is to be transmitted by apostolic authority, and not by a collection of texts that did not exist at the time of the ascension.

    -David

  193. Dave, Im not sure I understsand your point. His rebuke is to a church ( the apostolic authority itself). ” Remember therefore from where you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first, if not I will remove your lampstand” This is Jesus telling a church they had abandoned Him by not doing the works they did at the beginning, and unless they repent He will remove them. Why would the Roman Catholic church, be exempt from having their lampstand removed if they had abandoned the works they did at first. If this church was not beyond repentance, why would any other church be beyond this? Iow if Paul warns of the apostasy coming from within the church as a religious man, why would the church not do self examination. Iow according to these passages no visible church is beyong falling. I will agree with you ultimately Christ’s true church, ( and for the purpose of discussion Im making no judgment here, understand me) , the gates will not prevail. Please let me know if your church is beyond error that these churches arent immune too. Im sure you are aware, as I am from much study on the early church, a predominant amount of early fathers including Augustine feared the apostasy would come among them and not know it. Im just trying to get your understanding if that was or is possible within your church. Im really interested in your answer Dave. Thank you ahead time for your answer. This will help me move forward on your message on Calvin. God bless k

  194. Dr. Anders–

    Your first paragraph is unclear. On first reading, I thought you were basically crediting Catholicism with anything that is good in Calvinism and blaming Calvinism for any negative ramifications the system inadvertently produced. But that would be awfully cheeky of you. Perhaps you are saying that Calvinism picked up on some of the corrupt developments within Medieval Catholicism (developments which Rome should have staved off but didn’t)?

    I think it is even clearer that the East corrupted biblical teachings than the West. They completely avoided going through a Reformation of their own (unlike Rome and Wittenberg/Geneva). I’m not sure they have yet. We have far more texts to base our conclusions on than the Church Fathers. Far more (and more finely tuned) linguistic resources. We can get closer to Apostolic teachings now than they could then.

    We don’t have much to go off of in the first 250-300 years of Christianity. What we do have is often—as in the cases of Clement and Polycarp—little more than a patchwork of biblical passages. (One can hardly be considered an “originalist” with respect to the U.S. Constitution by accepting Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges, and yet they are settled American jurisprudence less than 250 years separated from their source.) Quite honestly, I would expect early corruption within the church…and almost every single secular scholar assumes it, as well. (For them, the Nicene Party members were simply the “winners,” who then wrote church history as they saw fit.) Traditional Catholics and confessional Protestants buy into a certain amount of continuity from the Apostle to the Church Fathers, based on faith, not scholarship. As I see it, we either go back to Scripture (and strictly Scripture) to establish original Apostolic intent, or WE are the ones being naïve. There is no good academic reason to accept either Rome or Constantinople in these matters. You, as a credentialed historian certainly ought to understand that.

    As for Augustine, the East believes him to be an innovator soteriologically (as does Rome with respect to double predestination, which they anathematized at the Second Council of Orange). Rome’s anti-Calvinism, by the way, doesn’t hold a candle to Constantinople’s impassioned rantings!

    Augustine reestablished a clear-cut biblical system to dispel a whole lot of fogginess. To me, a program of semper-reformanda-inspired reformations is far preferable to an infallible magisterium, where error can become set in stone, irreformable. I don’t mind the ordinary magisterium to the extent that it preserves the truth. And the Vincentian Canon is, generally speaking, a beneficial benchmark. But the two in tandem can never be considered the end all and be all. Again, to me, holding to such an unbending standard is narrow-minded and unwise. Capturing, embracing, and preserving biblical truths is an extremely difficult task given to the body of Christ which cannot be effectively simplified.

    So it doesn’t matter a whit even if Luther’s take on justification is technically novel (which I don’t believe it is). It is biblical. And that trumps all the merely humanly disseminated tradition out there. What JBFA is, in the final analysis, is simply a new way of describing Pauline insights.

    (You’re going to have to explain to me why NPP was influential in your transition. These scholars are NOT evangelicals. Tom Wright identifies with the group in the UK who call themselves “open evangelicals,” but they are not inerrantists. He is certainly quite cordial toward evangelicals, and if “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” then he is friend, a co-belligerent against theological liberalism. I’ve spoken with him. Asked him outright if he still believes in JBFA, and he insists he does…for the individual. Jimmy Dunn, on the other hand, has a huge chip on his shoulder against evangelicals. I made the mistake of mentioning the PCA, and he nearly snarled his opprobrium. (They were a bunch of fundamentalists who had “called him a heretic,” as far as he was concerned!) I believe both Stendahl and Sanders have been described as postliberal, but I’m not sure either one identified as such. Why did you grant them credence? They’re fine scholars and all, but why were they so influential to your thought? Their general thesis is not even all that earth-shattering. Certainly not paradigm shifting, if you ask me.)

  195. Peter–

    So you would have Luther violate his conscience and negotiate with a corrupt and vile church with only tangential ties to biblical ethics? A church which clearly understood its own need for reform and eventually did so, but in the meantime wanted Luther dead for merely proposing a theological insight for discussion?

    What about the Jansenists, who fought to remain within the church before being hounded out? Dr. Anders can speak of Catherine of Siena all he likes, but church history is replete with those who questioned the church and didn’t end up well.

    The Reformers attempted to make amends with the church. At Ratisbon, an agreement was even reached, but Rome itself rejected that concordat. To be fair, I have recently learned that Rome tried to invite to Lutherans to Trent (as observers) and even sent a papal envoy to Queen Elizabeth. Rome was soundly rebuffed, but by that time, one can hardly blame the Protestants. Way too little, far too late.

  196. David,

    The Byzantines, Copts, and Syrians produced nothing like it. If Protestantism were the “plain sense of Scripture,” it is hard to understand why non-Latin and non-Papal forms of Christianity are so vastly different from Protestantism.

    Well, for one, there was no Renaissance or humanism in these areas as was in the West, for one. No ad fonts movement. No Erasmus to produce a critical edition of the Greek NT.

    For another, the East was trying to survive under Islamic rule. There’s considerably more freedom in the West. That would give you some more time for scholarship, and it would definitely lead to different concerns. Constantinople had to figure out how to remain Christian under the Ottomans in a way the West didn’t.

    And of course there was Cyril Lukaris in the East who introduced a Protestant confession. The fact that more people in the East rejected it than in the West doesn’t mean it wasn’t attempted.

    And I’m not sure the East is a good example for the West. If its rejection of the Reformation lends credence to the falsehood of Protestantism, why not its rejection of the papacy lend credence to the falsehood of Romanism.

    But you are right that the Reformation was not a pure “go to the Scripture” movement. They were as influenced by the historical currents in their day as anyone else. But the intent to go back to the Scripture, I think, is there attempt to recognize that fact. And I would add that current philosophical currents at the time and up to today were as, if not more influential, in Roman Catholicism.

    Christ’s teaching that the gospel is to be transmitted by apostolic authority, and not by a collection of texts that did not exist at the time of the ascension.

    An absolutely false dichotomy if apostolic authority is found in the texts and not automatic by saying the right stuff and following the right ordination procedures.

  197. Dr. Anders–

    Let me just add that I don’t understand your point in saying that Calvinism is a source for today’s reign of relativism. If you are correct that it is also a conduit for many of the contributions of Medieval Catholic Scholasticism, then are you saying that Catholicism is a source for postmodernism, as well? And if THAT is true, then you’ve lost any valid reason for singling out the Reformed or for indicting Calvin’s methods.

    Plus, in your talk, you were incredibly ambiguous when it came to distinguishing between source and cause. You actually used the term “cause,” along with the concepts of major contribution and influence. You said that Calvin’s thoughts were “dangerous” and that they “stood behind” later developments. I don’t see how these descriptions could be taken as anything less than direct cause, nor do I see how the audience could have come to any other conclusion.

    Certain fields are so convoluted that it nearly impossible to definitively point to cause and effect. Economics is one of these; meteorology is another. (In my lifetime, I have seen blizzards sweep down on a day when no precipitation was predicted, and crystal clear blue skies overhead on a day when the weatherman had foretold a 100% chance of rain.)

    The “causes” of theological liberalism are legion. It began, I suppose, way back in the 12th century with Jewish scholars questioning the Mosaic authorship of certain biblical books. This questioning was taken up later by early Jesuits and by the French priest/theologian Richard Simon. But there have been many, many other causes, starting with the thought of Plato and Aristotle. Major influences include Renaissance Humanism, leading up to the Enlightenment, then Kant and Spinoza, Socinianism, Anglican Latitudinarianism, German Lutheran Pietism, the Second Great Awakening, and the Industrial Revolution. One of the fiercest and most persistent bulwarks AGAINST it, this whole time, has been confessional Calvinism. After all, the fundamentalist-modernist controversy centered around Old Princeton (well, along with a couple of popes!) Admittedly, New School Presbyterianism does figure into the mix. I still don’t comprehend New Haven Theology coming so quickly on the heels of Jonathan Edwards’ legacy. (Somebody dropped a couple of those guys on their heads when they were toddlers! But then again, some Calvinists even become Roman Catholics, if you can believe it….)

  198. Robert–

    There are those in the East who dispute the idea that Cyril actually wrote the confession you speak of. In fact, I believe he is officially still in the good graces of Constantinople, which he could not be if they bought the notion that his teaching had become infected with Calvinism from his travels in Western Europe. Of course, there is also the correspondence between German Lutheran scholars and an Eastern patriarch in the late 1500’s. He cut them off after two replies. Evidently, one doesn’t get enmeshed in a dialogue with recalcitrant heretics! In general, the East is even less ecumenical than Rome. When you’re right, you’re right, I guess. (And this is what is wrong with Christ’s guaranteeing the continuation of true teaching through human institutions. Various “infallible” truths will thus become non-negotiable and irreformable, leaving schism as the only option. This attitude inevitably splits the church, and keeps it split without remedy.)

    To which verses do you imagine Dr. Anders is referring when he states that Christ taught that “the gospel is to be transmitted by Apostolic authority”? The Great Commission??

    If there is any such teaching, it is not made exclusively to the Apostles. In Acts 9, Paul preaches the gospel before ever even meeting with the Apostles. After all, they were still deathly afraid of him at this point. Mark 9:38-40 has Jesus upbraiding the disciples for rebuking some evangelists unassociated with them for conducting healings and the exorcision of demons…for “those who are not against us are for us.” In Acts 8, heavy persecution of believers scatters everyone abroad EXCEPT for the Apostles. And those scattered in this way preach wherever they go without any demonstrable instruction from the Christ-appointed leadership, who are still holed up in Jerusalem.

  199. Eric,
    Luther laid the egg of liberalism, secularism and moral relativism when he said every German plowboy, armed only with his Bible, could be his own pope. He made matters worse when he denied marriage to be a Sacrament. Although he (and Melancthon ) permitted bigamy, he did not endorse divorce. Calvin hatched that egg when he attacked marriage as being indissoluble. For him, marriage was no more than “shoemaking or shaving”.
    The Reformation reduced truth down to personal opinion.
    You doubt me? Okay, then tell us about your denominations views on contraception, gay marriage, a divorced and remarried clergy. Are all denominations who claim to follow Luther and the other Reformers in lockstep with each other? Are they in lockstep with Luther?
    Thank you. I rest my case.

  200. Jim, can you show us where marriage, confirmation are sacraments in scripture? Proof please? One mans’s ” liberalism, secularism, meal relativism” is another man’s reading of the word of God. You said the Reformation reduced truth down to personal opinion. Depends on what glasses you have on, right? With Roman glasses, sure. But with Reformed glasses ( scriptural) the Reformers disassembled the ecclesial machinery that developed in the church that was mostly human in origin and content. They rescued the apostles and the early church from the hair splitting academics of the medieval church. Jim, while your at it, can you show us the liturgy of Rome in Peter or Paul, the sacrifice of the mass, kneeling stations of the cross, marching a statue of Mary around in the streets, careful not to break it. Scriptural proof please. God bless, hope you are well. K

  201. Hello Eric,

    The question you raise obviously deserves a book-length answer, but here are a few thoughts.
    Newman once described liberalism as the belief that revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste.
    On those terms, neither Calvin nor Luther, neither Scotus, nor Occam, nor even Siger of Brabant were liberals. And one could find hints of liberalism, so defined, even in the Greek and Roman philosophers who found religion, public cult, to be socially and psychologically useful fictions. And in modern thought, the alienation of metaphysical truth from ethics, aesthetics, or spirituality is more indebted to early modern philosophers than to Calvin. And yet, Calvin created a theological tradition in which enormous emphasis was placed on introspection, “self-contemplation,” (Newman’s term), and (for want of a better term) the phenomenology of religious sentiment as an essential starting point for theological reflection. This phenomenology of sentiment, moreover, is upheld as a potentially infallible source of theological truth. In Luther, even more than Calvin, this privileging of supposedly enlightened-by-grace interior experience is specifically contrasted to rational or philosophical knowledge. Luther even denies that one can construct a “Logic of faith,” or that syllogistic reasoning can apply to divine terms. (Disputation against Scholastic theology). Reason is the devils whore. It’s not reading and reflecting, but “anfechtung,” that makes a theologian, etc.

    Given this background, it is not hard to see why Schleiermacher would conclude that the really essential element of Reformation religion is sentiment and not dogmatic truth as such. Futhermore, the Reformed, literal hermeneutic of Scripture, developed especially in the 19th century and throughout the fundamentalist/modernist controversy, together with evangelical antipathy towards metaphysical philosophy or the natural law tradition, have contributed directly to the current philosophical, legal climate in which even Christians themselves argue that the only rational basis for moral or metaphysical truth claims is the Bible.

    When I was studying at Wheaton College and Trinity Divinity School, the general philosophical consensus among the faculty was to embrace the modern rejection of metaphysics and natural law ethics (thus, granting the philosophical basis for modern skepticism), and then to argue that our only basis for certainty was the Bible, whose authority is established by interior religious experiences (The witness of the Spirit). My professors clearly credited Calvin (Rightly or wrongly) for this stance.

    -David

  202. Hi Kevin,

    I’m trying to redirect the conversation back to the subject matter of the thread: John Calvin and the Reformation: a Catholic Perspective. So, questions about the sacraments, their scriptural basis (and whether or not we need an explicitly Scriptural basis for every Christian doctrine), are a little bit out of bounds. There are other places on the site for that. However, your assertion that “one man’s liberalism is another man’s word of God” is potentially promising, and ties in with my most recent comment about Calvin’s relationship to modern liberalism.

    Thanks for commenting,
    David

  203. Dave,
    Okay, I will refrain from telling Kevin where the Sacraments are found in scripture. That’s for another conversation.
    I had to leave my wife at a workshop in Fatima yesterday and come home to Lisbon two days early to feed the cat but I did manage to attend a lecture given by Bishop H. E. Juan Antonio Reig Plà (Bishop of Alcalá de Henares. Spain ) on Saturday evening. He laid the blame for today’s woes in the area of marriage, family, life, secularism and the general de-Christianizing of society at the feet of Luther. Should the videos of the lectures be made public, anyone interested can probably find them by clicking on
    http://www.hli.at/fatima2015/pdf/Fatima2015-english-program.pdf

  204. Hi Jim and Hi Kevin,

    I see you guys are at it again. LOL.

    I have an open discussion forum if you guys want to go at on the sacraments.

    Blessings,

    Ron Sr.

  205. Dave, i thibk im understanding your argument. But respond to this. When you say Luther said ” the devil was in reason” its because Luther and Calvin saw reason influcted by sin, and not sound apart from being born again. Aquinas said that reason survived pristine,and hence he came up with a gospel more acceptable to natural man by attaching a Christian faith to a pagan philosophy of autonomous man. As far as the reformation being reduced to sentiment and not dogmatic truth, i would say the reverse is true. Newmans development of doctrine theory was sentiment and not dogmatic truth, if one grounds truth in scripture. We can make the argument the Reformers returned us to dogmatic truth of the early church, and Rome away from orthodoxy. Thanks Kevin

  206. Hi Kevin,

    I agree with you when you say that Luther and Calvin did not believe that reason was reliable because of sin. However, you are not correct to say that Aquinas attached Christian faith to a pagan philosophy of autonomous man. Aquinas taught that true virtue is that which God works in us, without us and that no true virtue can exist in us without the supernatural virtue of charity, received through faith in Christ. I would like to know which Pagan philosopher teaches such things.

    Of course, we can argue (as you note) whether or not Reformation theology was a return to early Christianity. But that is irrelevant to the question of how Calvin was an important influence on the development of modern liberalism. To the extent that Calvin and Luther disparaged reason, and to the extent that they privileged interior experience over rational reflection on religious truth, to that extent they were important for the emergence of liberalism. The fact that you think their sentiments were essentially correct is beside the point.

    -David

  207. Dave, ok I will set aside the rightness of Calvin and Luther and discuss your point that” to the extent they priviledged interior experience over rational reflection on religious truth, to that extent thry were important to the imergence of liberalism” How is rational reflection on religious truth separated from interior experience? Are our rational reflections not influenced by our interior experiences? Are you going to tell me the medieval scholatics who sought to locate their sinful polution in the creation of God with the need of donum superadium were exempt from their ” interior experiences”. Calvin said our mortal wound doesnt come from nature itself, but from its corruption thru the fall. I beg to differ with you. The strength od Calvin’s contribution was his ability to integrate the orthodox convictions ofvhistoric Christianity with the evangelical clarity of Luther and to refine the insights of his fellow Reformers in a pastorally rich interpretation of scripture. He believed that the doctrine of unconditional election exalted God’s glorious grace, providing a critical support for the doctrine of jbfa. For Calvin predestination when defined by scripture alone, was a practical doctrine offering tremendous assurance for all in Christ. Dave, the enlightenment had high hopes for humanity. Emancipated from church, tradition, and scripture, the seld made individual aspired to attain intelectual and moral perfection, or at least after Kant. For the realization of this moral kingdom, Christ was not necessary. So we advance upon the moral law within. The emphasis is on human activiting and striving, self improvement, moral progress of humanity. Calvin’ s treatment reminds us of how powerfully scripture speaks to the human condition. I reject the amount you ascribe to Calvin and Luther in the birth of liberalism. God bless. K

  208. Dr. Anders—

    Yes, but Scripture itself puts a premium on self-contemplation, as does the whole history of the Church of Rome. And what are the Psalms if not “religious sentiment as an essential starting point for theological reflection,” and from that theological reflection moving on to worship? Religious experience, personal sentiment, and the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit” are not terms you can throw out there unrelated to the testimony of Scripture and Reason and Tradition. It is certainly NOT infallible by itself. In fact, the Reformers fought against such a notion.

    You mentioned Luther’s calling “reason” the devil’s whore. This was no diatribe against reason, per se. Quite the opposite. It confronted worldly wisdom divorced from faith, private conceit, and false reasoning. Here is one occurrence, in context:

    “Usury, gluttony, adultery, manslaughter, murder, etc., these can be seen and the world understands that these are sins. But the devil’s bride, reason, the lovely whore comes in and wants to be wise, and what she says, she thinks is from the Holy Spirit. Who can be of any help then? Neither jurist, physician, nor king, nor emperor; for she is the foremost whore the devil has. The other gross sins can be seen, but nobody can control reason. It walks about, cooks up fanaticism with baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and claims that everything that pops into its head and the devil puts into its heart is the Holy Spirit.”

    He’s opining AGAINST the whole notion that shivers up one’s spine equals the voice of the Holy Spirit. One is NOT to swallow the Holy Spirit, feathers and all!!

    Besides, Luther’s most famous quote lauds SOUND reason as a voice he will definitely listen to:

    “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason–for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves–I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”

    Surely, if one actually could construct a complete logic of faith, then faith itself would become quite unnecessary. Here is what Luther says in point #49 from “Disputation against Scholastic Theology”:

    “If a syllogistic form of reasoning holds in divine matters, then the doctrine of the Trinity is demonstrable and not an object of faith.”

    The Chalcedonian Definition doesn’t even try to say of what the hypostatic union consists. It only states what it is NOT.

    Reformed worship tangled with the notion of sentiment in worship, ridding itself of the aesthetic beauty of cathedrals and statuary. It got rid of instruments and limited itself to the Psalms. One of my old pastors hated having music played during the Eucharist, saying that it manipulated the emotions. Look at Catholic worship, on the other hand: its stateliness and grandeur. The literary richness of its liturgy; the splendor of its music. Sentiment, sentiment, sentiment, sentiment.

    William Lane Craig, by the way, insists that the concept of the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit” is just as Thomistic as it is Calvinistic:

    “When Calvin talks about a ‘sensus divinitatis’ he doesn’t mean a sense in the way that we speak of our sense of sight or our sense of smell or our sense of hearing – the five senses. Calvin doesn’t mean we have a divine sense like that. Rather, the ‘sensus divinitatis’ in Calvin means we have a sense of the divine in the sense that I would say ‘I have a sense of fear’ or ‘I have a sense that I am being watched’ or ‘I have a sense of anxiety that has gripped me.’ It is not a faculty like hearing or smelling. It is an experience. Calvin says that each person has this deep sense of God’s existence written on his soul. So I think it is a misinterpretation of Calvin by Plantinga where he takes Calvin to mean that we have this additional cognitive faculty in addition to the five senses, we have this sort of divine sense whereby we apprehend God. He does connect it with Reformed theology but in his later work he also was informed by his Thomistic friends that Thomas Aquinas taught very much the same thing, so he came to extend his model to call it the Extended AC Model – the Aquinas-Calvin model. Indeed, this doctrine of the witness of the Holy Spirit is not something that is unique to Calvin or Aquinas. I think this is part and parcel of New Testament teaching on the Holy Spirit and something that Pietists and Charismatics and Methodists have also affirmed.”

    Oh, and it just happens to be biblical, as well, what with the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth and all, but let’s not muddy the waters with such trivialities.

    For Schleiermacher to come to the conclusion that the essential element of the Reformation was sentiment and not dogmatic truth would require something approaching psychosis (well, then again, “rebellion against God” would be my preliminary diagnosis). The Reformed are not against those forms of natural law which do not needlessly separate themselves from divine revelation, as if Scripture were a mere afterthought rather than essential to the process. Wheaton, from what I have heard, continues to grow closer to “emergent” with each passing day. I don’t know about TEDS. Why exactly was a young, passionate Calvinist such as yourself subjecting himself to Dispensationalist teaching anyway? Why weren’t you at Calvin or Covenant for undergrad? Why didn’t you choose RTS or Westminster for seminary training?

  209. Dear Eric and Kevin,

    Thank you for your thoughtful replies. I apologize that my last remarks were not sufficiently clear. I fear that you have not precisely grasped my meaning. Please understand, I do not wish to devalue religious experience or the interior life. And, of course, I admit that sentiment and, more broadly, all mental phenomena are perfectly appropriate subjects for philosophical and theological reflection. Nothing I have said should be taken otherwise.

    In his essay on Subjectivism, C.S. Lewis remarks:

    Until modern times no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgements of value were rational judgements or that what they discovered was objective. It was taken for granted that in temptation passion was opposed, not to some sentiment, but to reason. Thus Plato thought, thus Aristotle, thus Hooker, Butler and Doctor Johnson. The modern view is very different. It does not believe that value judgements are really judgements at all. They are sentiments, or complexes, or attitudes.

    The position that Lewis critiques – that statements of value [and, we might add, metaphysical truth] – cannot be deemed rational judgments, but rather mere sentiment – is not the position of Calvin or Luther. The Reformers were not emotivists. And yet, the Reformers doctrine was historically important for the development of emotivism. Why?

    First of all, the Reformers were very skeptical of the ability of human reason to arrive at (let alone to embrace) moral or metaphysical truth. Second, they believed that human emotion, passion, or sentiment – when enlighted by grace – could give us direct access to metaphysical truth.

    Calvin, for instance, argues explicitly that our knowledge of the inspiration of Scripture comes by way of “divine feelings” from which we infer the divine authority of the sacred text. While Calvin admits that rational arguments for the text can be made, he does not think these are either sufficient or definitive. Our unshakable confidence in the text comes rather from “divine feelings.”

    Similarly, Calvin defines both true faith and piety in terms of the feeling or sentiment of divine benevolence, a feeling which excludes comprehension but is nevertheless more certain. In Luther’s language, that exclusion of comprehension included radical skepticism about even the laws of logic.

    Now I grant you that this is not emotivism, skepticism or pure subjetivism. But it is fideism, “that school of thought . . . which answers that faith is in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward, reason.”

    My Calvinist professors largely accepted the modernist critique of metaphysics and natural law. That is to say, they agreed that reason cannot know truth about God or the moral life, at least not reliably. Calvin and Luther anticipated this rejection, and justified it – at least for my instructors. In place of reason, they proposed a doctrine of revelation and religious knowledge that relied heavily on feelings and intuition.

    -David

  210. Thanks Dave, great discussion. The Reformers didnt believe grace was a mtsphysical, but redemptive. They saw Rome as setting aside the redemptive for a metaphysical model, one that elevates nature outside itself thru the acts of the church. Iow Rome read the book of John like a metaphysical essay, instead of what it was. Im not sure you can say Calvin’s arrivations came from divine feelings because the reformed posture came from deeper looks into the text than had even previously been understood. And their confirmation was much unanimousness with the NT and early fathers. They would make the argument that it was Rome that took sentimental liberalties. Paul in 1 Corinthians makes the argument that one cannot get to the truth of the gospel thru human wisdom. Iow it is foolishness to the unregenerate man, who is not able to appraise spiritual things. The rejection of the role of natural law and metaphysics didnt come from modernity, it came from scripture. Faith comes supernaturally from heaven thru the Spirit, not thru natural law, or any law. K

  211. Dr. Anders—

    Well, at least, I know now what you had in mind. Sorry for my confusion. But, that being said, your clarification doesn’t rescue your point. You define fideism as “that school of thought…which answers that faith is in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward reason.” Certain forms of Calvinism may have some aspects that tend toward fideism—R. C. Sproul, for example, likes to paint presuppositionalism with that brush—but, in general, the accusation just won’t hold.

    Here is what Calvin actually states in his Institutes:

    “There are other reasons, neither few nor feeble, by which the dignity and majesty of the Scriptures may be not only proved to the pious, but also completely vindicated against the cavils of slanderers. These, however, cannot of themselves produce a firm faith in Scripture until our heavenly Father manifest his presence in it, and thereby secure implicit reverence for it. Then only, therefore, does Scripture suffice to give a saving knowledge of God when its certainty is founded on the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Still the human testimonies which go to confirm it will not be without effect, if they are used in subordination to that chief and highest proof, as secondary helps to our weakness. But it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. This it cannot be known to be, except by faith. Justly, therefore, does Augustine remind us, that every man who would have any understanding in such high matters must previously possess piety and mental peace.”

    And here is how the WCF reiterates Calvin’s stance:

    “We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

    Fundamentalism is fideistic in the purer sense of preferring “the plain sense” of Scripture (as they see it) to cold, hard facts staring them in the face. Theological liberalism is also fideistic, but in the opposite sense, more or less dismissing the authority of Scripture outright, but holding onto Jesus in an idealistic, contrary-to-fact manner. Reformed theology does neither of these things. It merely subordinates reason to faith. General revelation should corroborate special revelation, not establish it. Anything less and one becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary to the rationalism by which the “faith” of liberalism was undone. What do you think it means that we live by faith and not by sight?

    By the way, your comment that “the Reformers were very skeptical of [unregenerate] human reason to arrive at (let alone embrace) moral or metaphysical truth” strikes me as simple common sense. You’re not honestly disputing this truism, are you?

  212. Hi Dave, do you agree with this statement. Puritans focused on the infallibility of scripture and the depravity of man and his reason. The Enlightenment focused on the fallibility of scripture and the potential of man’s rational thought and reason. Iow Reformed saw the need for infalible scripture for sound thibking and reason. And the Enlightenment said scripture was flawed, rely on rational thinking and reason. I was thinking that RC position might identify more with the Enlightenment. You know this stuff better than I, would love your thoughts . Thanks K

  213. Hello Robert, it’s nice to come across some of your posts once more. I did a quick skim of this thread and I noticed that both of you seem to have concerns with Romans 2 being in contradiction to JBFA if it is taken as a description of Christians. However, this is not the case. The Lutheran and Anglican reformers apply Romans 2 to the believer, and no doubt many continental reformed did likewise (notwithstanding Calvin’s unusual stance on the passage). The passage is clearly speaking not of mere hypotheticals which Paul intends to dismantle a few verses later. The passage states the obvious truth held by Luther and all the other reformers–without holiness (“doers of the Law”/”patient continuance in well doing”), no man shall see God. Of course you know from prior discussions that I love to reiterate the point that the traditional understanding of JBFA of Lutheran and Anglican reformers was explicit that saving faith cannot coexist with mortal/deadly sin and hence Luther and many other reformers affirmed with Augustine that many who are not elect partake temporarily in Salvation but ultimately fall away. This is no more preventative of the qualified “infallible assurance” of one’s election/final perseverance described so well in the WCF than the standard Calvinist position (which likewise depends on perseverance in holiness as Calvinist theologians note).

    The normative TULIP position on perseverance gives an even less assuring consequence for those who have apostasized–namely, not you have wandered from the path of Salvation, but rather that even what manifests with careful Scripture based introspection (eg 2 Corinthians 13:5) to be in every respect except duration a genuine work of salvation-was phony the entire time.

    As to your defense of imputation/JBFA and unconditional election I can only give a hearty amen. Of note with the reformers–remission of sins does not merely make the believer “neutral” with an extra imputation of righteousness needed to make us positively righteous. Rather, forgiveness is the covering with the perfect righteous Blood of Christ (perfectly righteous by virtue of Christ’s active and passive obedience) not only of our commissions but also of our omissions in failing to keep God’s Law. God Bless and I hope you have a blessed New Year.

  214. Correction to the typo–“both of you” was a result of the post originally being addressed to Robert and Eric.

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