The Law of Love

May 3rd, 2016 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The most contentious issue in the Western theological tradition has been the relationship of law and grace.  In the second century, Marcionites stressed grace so much that they completely rejected the Old Testament and what they took to be the God of “law.”  In the third and fourth centuries, the Roman priest Novatian and the British monk Pelagius emphasized law and morality to the point of eliminating grace. In the sixteenth century, nothing was more divisive than Martin Luther’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Luther rejected the Catholic tradition with its supposed emphasis on “works.”

Giotto_Crucifixion

The roots of these conflicts are not hard to find. St. Paul took up the relationship of law and grace in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. The apostles and elders treated the question definitively in the first Church council, described in Acts 15. In these sacred texts, we read about the struggle between Hebrew Christians who adhered to the law and Gentiles who came to Christ without the Mosaic Law.  The record of this episode in Scripture guarantees that law and grace will always be a part of the Christian’s theological lexicon.

The first Christian conflicts over law and grace took place in a context far removed from subsequent Church history. The first disciples were mostly Jews from Galilee and Judea. Hellenic Jews from the diaspora quickly joined their ranks, and early Gentile converts came from among the proselytes to Judaism. (The Gentile “God fearers” were those who accepted Jewish belief but did not submit to circumcision or practice the full range of Jewish law.) St. Paul preached mostly in synagogues to Jews and to “God fearing” Gentiles.

The overwhelmingly Jewish character of early Christianity posed a difficulty. Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition demanded the separation of Jews and Gentiles.  The Christian gospel aims emphatically at their reconciliation. The key theological question for early Christians was, “Are Jews and Gentiles reconciled by their mutual adherence to the Law of Moses or simply by their mutual faith in Christ?” Paul’s answer was categorical:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. (Ephesians 2:13-15)

From context, it is plain that Paul has in mind The Law of Commandments and Ordinances that had created a barrier between Jew and Gentile. In other words, Christ destroyed the Mosaic Law in order to reconcile Jew and Gentile through faith.

In Luther’s day, the question of Gentile circumcision was no longer pressing. As such, Luther operated within a totally different theological context.  He misread St. Paul as a result. For Luther, the rejection of law meant the rejection of morality as the path to reconciliation to God. For Paul, however, it is precisely on the path of morality that the way of salvation is open to Jew and Gentile alike.  “Is God the God of Jews only,” Paul asks, “or of Gentiles too?” (Romans 3:29) It is when Gentiles “who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires. . . They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts.” (Romans 2:14-15)  Thus, God will give eternal life to everyone who does good, first to the Jew but also to the Greek. (Romans 2:7-8)

Where does grace fit into the picture? For St. Paul, the Mosaic Law cannot compel true righteousness. It can prescribe and enforce external ritual and behavior, but law alone does not change the human heart. Real righteousness is a matter of love – the love of God and neighbor (Romans 13:8) – and not simply following a list of ritual prescriptions. And where does love come from? It is the gift of grace. Christ lays down his life for us. We grasp that through faith. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it elicits our loving response.

Shakespeare has a beautiful line: “How can I hold thee but by thy granting?” True love cannot be compelled by law. It can only be elicited by the free gift of oneself. This is the real meaning of the opposition between law and grace. The gospel does not do away with the objective demands of morality. Nor does it rule out morality as the mode of our union with God. (Jesus says that if we love him and keep his commands, then he will come and dwell with us. — John 14:23) What the gospel promises instead is the gift of love. Through Christ, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5) By faith, therefore, and not by ritual prescription, we receive the grace necessary to live the law of love.

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  1. Your final line confuses me. Your message is basically what I get from an evangelical church. The pastor even says something similar to your last line. He says “We are not saved by rules rituals or routines. Jesus has saved us and now we allow the Spirit to transform us through faith.”
    Can you explain how the sacraments are necessary?

  2. Thanks Karl,

    We are not saved because we participate in the sacraments. The following ditty is true: “Johnny went to Mass on Sunday; Went to Hell for for what he did on Monday.”

    We are saved because we have the love of God in our hearts, which love we receive by grace through faith.
    The sacraments are sacraments of faith. They apply, deepen, and prolong the dynamic of faith in our lives.
    They are instituted by Christ to apply the work of redemption in our lives.

    The difference with evangelicals is two-fold.

    First, most evangelicals believe the sacraments are signs only. Catholics believe they are efficacious signs, and really convey the realities signified. They are supernaturally effective.

    Second, most evangelicals deny that we are saved because of charity inherent within us. Evangelicals generally hold that we are saved by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Thus, for the evangelical, whether or not the sacraments deepen our charity is of no significance when it comes to whether or not we are saved. But, for a Catholic, deepening and prolonging our charity is essential to salvation.

    -David

  3. David–

    Although Jesus gives his disciples the “new command” of loving one another in John 13, it clearly is not new in every sense. The Old Testament is permeated by the virtue of love for God and one’s neighbor:

    “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.”

    Yes, the law of Christ, the fulfillment of the law of Moses, is far superior…and includes a deeper understanding of what love really is…but there is no difference between Protestant and Catholic on this score. We are at one. Always have been and always will be.

    As to your interpretation that Paul’s use of the “works of the law” refers to the temporary Mosaic ceremonial law and not the timeless Mosaic moral law, your fellow C2C contributor Taylor Marshall vehemently disagrees with you:

    http://taylormarshall.com/2013/10/paul-mean-by-faith-and-works-of-the-law.html

    In other words, Luther has good company. Both Augustine and the Council of Trent side with him on the interpretation that Paul is indeed speaking of morality in general, of “good works” in general. The Jews felt that the ethical world revolved around them. (In Romans 2, Paul speaks of the Gentiles being a law unto themselves, that the law is “written on their hearts.” Clearly, this must refer to the moral law. Gentiles didn’t ever–without sojourning with the Jews as Godfearers–go out at random and get circumcised or keep the Sabbath or follow a kosher diet. On the other hand, they may well have eschewed adultery and murder and theft and covetousness.)

    Of course, Dr. Marshall is inconsistent and ends up disagreeing with himself. For, if we are indeed justified by faith “apart from works of the law” and if indeed these “works of the law” include any good work, then there is no other conclusion possible than that we are “justified by faith alone.”

    Its OK, you know. There is no need to fret. Our soteriologies are simply more alike than most on either side of the fence would have one believe. We ALL hold that justification is by grace alone. And not only that, but many prominent, prominent conservative Catholic voices agree that JBFA is a perfectly valid way to speak of Christian salvation: Peter Kreeft, Robert George, Richard John Neuhaus, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Edward T. Oakes, Keith Fournier, Ralph Martin, Robert Louis Wilken….

  4. Dear Hans,

    Thank you for the comment.

    I AGREE that the moral demands of the Mosaic Law cannot justify. When the law demands – “Love thy neighbor” – there is no guarantee that I will actually love my neighbor. As Paul says, “It is not hearing the law justifies, it is by obeying the law that we will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13) Mere possession of the Mosaic law – moral code and all – does not effect righteousness. The fulfillment of the law – the love of God and neighbor – is something we receive by grace through faith.

    Regarding Protestant/Catholic ecumenism: I agree that we have much in common. I also agree that it is possible to construct a verbal formula agreeable to both sides. If the point of ecumenical dialogue is only to affirm areas of commonality, we can do that all day long. However, the reason I became Catholics was – in large part – because my Protestant seminary professors drilled into my head the real, substantive differences between Protestants and Catholics regarding justification. Having those differences clear in my mind, I came to believe that Catholic position was true to Scripture and Tradition, while the Protestant side was not. The real substantive difference was not the verbal formula but the concept of justification itself.

    -David

  5. David, thanks for your reply.

    Your said:

    “The sacraments are sacraments of faith. They apply, deepen, and prolong the dynamic of faith in our lives.
    They are instituted by Christ to apply the work of redemption in our lives.”

    I thought that the sacraments are means of Grace not faith and that they work salvation in us by increasing God’s grace in us. Are faith and grace Interchangeable terms? Thanks for any clarification.

    BTW: I have been greatly helped by your radio show and writings. My family will be entering the church sometime later this year! Thanks.

  6. Hi Karl,

    Faith and grace are not the same. Grace means God’s supernatural assistance. Faith is the supernatural habit of believing divine revelation. Grace works through the medium of faith, but is distinct from faith. The sacraments convey grace, but they do so in and through faith. “We are saved by grace through faith.”

    -David

  7. David—

    Well, yes, the fulfillment of the law—the love of God and neighbor—is something we receive by grace through faith. By grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

    If it is by grace alone through faith alone, then it is not through works. This is precisely what Trent says:

    Canon I. “If anyone says that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ—let him be anathema.”

    Furthermore, as you point out, we are NOT justified by hearing the Gospel, but by obeying the call of Christ. We are NOT to tell people in need to “be warmed and fed,” but actually to warm them and feed them.

    Protestantism, rightly understood, does NOT deprioritize Spirit-wrought good works: faith, as it were, working through love. It simply, abstractly, unfastens the undeniable tether between faith and works of charity…so that grace can be grace. Concretely, the necessary connection between the two remains. Only living faith saves. We cannot be justified, we cannot be sanctified, by our own works, accomplished, even in part, without the grace of God.

    Your anti-Catholic [Protestant] seminary professors instilled in you substantive soteriological differences which do not exist. Just as anti-Protestant [Catholic] seminary professors instill into budding priests that JBFA is anathema. No it is not.

    So tell me, what in the world are these “substantive differences” which keep us at each other’s throats? The principal distinction between us involves the definitive reality rather than the merely apparent reality of apostasy. You all believe the former while we believe the latter. No biggie. Arminian Protestants believe the former while we Calvinists believe the latter.

    As regards inter-Christian ecumenism, we must get back to the spirit of concilliarism: our efforts should be toward a Vincentian consensus. Catholicism is not currently set up to engage in such a dialogue. I believe this to be schismatic in attitude. Clearly, most of the Magisterial Reformers were illegitimately excommunicated. Whether a church separates itself off from the church catholic (as the Protestants did) or invalidly ostracizes others from the one, holy church (as Rome did), the result is the same. God was not honored by either action.

    The Catholic Church participates in much more “ecumenism” with other religions (including mainstream Protestantism) than with its Evangelical brothers and sisters. Flannery O’Connor once addressed a group of conservative Georgia Baptists and spoke of the greater camaraderie she felt with them than with liberal Catholics and of how they ought to feel a greater kinship with her as a devout, traditional Catholic than with liberal Protestants.

  8. Hello Hans,

    The substantive difference between Catholics and Protestants is the Protestant doctrine of imputation, or simul iustus et peccator, or Luther’s “two kinds of righteousness.”

    The Westminster Confession says this:

    Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies;[1] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them.

    But Trent said this:

    For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body.

    Regarding Christian ecumenism, I agree that the ecumenical councils and the Vincentian Canon provide a helpful basis to advance discussion. The Catholic Church is not, however, in schism from the Church of the Councils or the Vincentian consensus. The Catholic Church affirms (and, in fact promulgated) the councils as ecumenical, and agrees with everything in Vincent’s rule of faith.

    Finally, I agree that the Catholic Church is more committed to ecumenical dialogue than many other traditions. I don’t know what to make of O’Connor’s remark. Camaraderie strikes me as a slippery word. I suppose I do feel more camaraderie withe my conservative Protestant neighbors because that is the culture I grew up in. But my Catholic identity transcends my culture and certainly transcends camaraderie. I don’t feel particularly chummy towards a lot of Catholics, but I include them in my confession of faith and my prayers nonetheless.

    Thanks,

    David

  9. David,

    morality as the path to reconciliation to God.

    So is it your condition that we are reconciled to God by doing good moral deeds? Sounds awfully Pelagian. I thought the RCC contention was that good works follow reconciliation to God via baptism. It would seem that the RC position is that ultimately good works follow grace, at least those good works by which you merit your final salvation.

  10. Hi Robert,

    The assertion that salvation is found on the path of the moral life is an almost verbatim quote from John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor. So, yes, this is Catholic doctrine. What distinguishes the Catholic dogma from Pelagianism is our belief that the morality in question is not something which proceeds from our nature weakened by original sin, but from grace received through faith. Furthermore, good works do not simply follow from grace. One who has God’s grace – even in the instant of justification – can be said to have fully met the divine law of love, because the love of God has been shed abroad in his heart. This is the explicit teaching of Trent 6.16.

    -David

  11. David–

    The fact that there are differences doesn’t make those differences substantial. Catholicism retains forensic elements in its concept of initial justification. The merits of Christ’s passion ARE imputed to you in baptism. You ARE reckoned righteous, are you not? The terminology of infusion predominates for you, as imputation does for us. But you are not without imputation, and we are not without infusion. Luther’s two kinds righteousness are the external, “alien” righteousness of Christ (with which you can dispense only to your utter peril, and you know it) and the “proper” righteousness of sanctification, which is personal, internal, and inherent (just like you like it!)

    What you are missing in your Westminster quote is any reference to the Reformed doctrine of mystical union with Christ. Here is Calvin, speaking of it:

    “Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our heart—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are ingrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him. For this reason, we glory that we have fellowship of righteousness with him.” (Institutes 3.11.10)

    This passage, of course, accords quite well with your Tridentine citation.

    For the Catholic, imputation is there, but it is not (necessarily) permanent. For the Reformed, infusion is there, but it does not need to justify (because imputation is permanent and thus justification has already been accomplished). For the elect in Catholicism, since they are necessarily in a state of grace at their baptism and in their final perseverance (though they may have ups and downs in between), it might be said that there is this same sense of permanence. They begin regenerate and they end regenerate. As in Reformed thought, their justification and their regeneration cannot be successfully separated.

    Dave Armstrong has stated that when it comes to soteriology, a synthesis of the Reformed and Catholic systems is within reach (without compromising either position). Regensburg, to which Calvin acceded, did this with a version of double justification. Trent, intentionally, I assume, since there were delegates who were of this persuasion, did not rule out the acceptability of double justification. Anglo-Catholicism, to this day, employs a version of it. To me, the possibility of accord is worth struggling through these differences rather than flippantly dismissing the other side.

    Here is an exchange—well worth reading—between Dave Armstrong and a Reformed professor of philosophy on this very issue:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2004/06/s-joel-garvers-on-catholic-question.html

    Almost universally, anyone who is in schism will deny he or she is in it. This only makes sense. It’s a sin. We all want to be in the right. You believe yourself and your church to be in line with the Apostles and Church Fathers. That’s your interpretation, but it is not the interpretation of church history held by the Reformers or Protestant historians (or, in many instances, secular historians).

    As an aside, I sincerely doubt you believe in all of Vincent’s “rule of faith.” Not being privy to Vatican II, he speaks of those who disseminate “novelties” (as we Protestants are accused of) as being in league with the devil.

    And finally, I will leave you to fellowship and pray with sanctified tares, I will seek out the wheat. I have found they’re just plain nicer, “chummier” as you put it. :)

  12. Robert, when Catholics say we can be “justified by works” as the Apostle James does, we do not mean that something we do on our own has brought us from not being justified to being in a justified state (ie a state of grace). All we mean is that our justification has increased. Remember that the words “justification” and “righteousness” and synonymous in the new testament. If we can grow in righteousness, we can grow in justification. This is what Abraham did when he offered Issac. He was already in a state of justification by faith and because of that, he could be further justified by his good works of obedience.

    May God be with you.

    Matthew

  13. Hans,

    Catholicism retains forensic elements in its concept of initial justification.

    If forensic means simply that God declares or acknowledges us as just, then this is of course true. But the ground of that declaration is the inherent righteousness of the believer, not the imputed righteousness of Christ. (According to Catholic Dogma)

    The merits of Christ’s passion ARE imputed to you in baptism.

    No according to Catholic dogma.

    You ARE reckoned righteous, are you not?

    Yes, because of the righteousness inherent in the believer.

    What you are missing in your Westminster quote is any reference to the Reformed doctrine of mystical union with Christ.

    Correct. Because this was not a post about the Reformed doctrine of mystical union, or even about the Reformed doctrine of justification.

    For the Catholic, imputation is there, but it is not (necessarily) permanent

    No, Trent was fairly clear on this point.

    For the elect in Catholicism, since they are necessarily in a state of grace at their baptism and in their final perseverance (though they may have ups and downs in between), it might be said that there is this same sense of permanence.

    The elect do not necessarily remain permanently in the state of grace. They just, of necessity, end in the state of grace. Because we do not know if we are elect, we cannot therefore presume that we will remain in the state of grace. At least, according to Catholic doctrine.

    As in Reformed thought, their justification and their regeneration cannot be successfully separated.

    This is not true. Catholic thought definitely conceives of the regenerate losing their state of justification. This can even happen in those who will eventually be saved.

    Dave Armstrong has stated that when it comes to soteriology, a synthesis of the Reformed and Catholic systems is within reach (without compromising either position).

    I looked at this article you referenced. Armstrong appeals to the New Perspectives on Paul, and envisions a reconciliation premised on the denial of the Calvinist doctrine of imputation. I would agree with that position.

    Almost universally, anyone who is in schism will deny he or she is in it. This only makes sense. It’s a sin. We all want to be in the right. You believe yourself and your church to be in line with the Apostles and Church Fathers. That’s your interpretation, but it is not the interpretation of church history held by the Reformers or Protestant historians (or, in many instances, secular historians).

    If I read you correctly, you are asserting that Catholics are in schism from the true Church because the protestant tradition says so. Doesn’t this contradict your previous assertion that Protestants and Catholics should not engage in polemics, but seek common ground in the ecumenical councils and the Vincentian canon? But if you believe Catholics are in schism from the true Church, then wouldn’t more be necessary than to point out areas of commonality?

    As an aside, I sincerely doubt you believe in all of Vincent’s “rule of faith.”

    Please see Bryan Cross’s article at this sight about the Vincentian Canon.

    And finally, I will leave you to fellowship and pray with sanctified tares, I will seek out the wheat.

    This is really an amazing statement. Truly amazing. I think it is full of theological significance, if you mean it seriously.

    -David

  14. David—

    Since all that “forensic” really means theologically is that our personal state of righteousness is declared by God, then we are agreed on that point. According to Trent there are five causes of justification, none of which is our inherent righteousness. Indeed, inherent righteousness is merely an effect of justification. The formal cause of justification is God’s justice, “whereby he maketh us just.” Trent does make it clear that faith alone does not unite man perfectly with Christ, but faith working in concert with hope and charity, infused into our hearts through the merits of Christ’s passion on the Cross. Nonetheless, I think we can safely say, according to the wording of Trent, that the merits of Christ are indeed imputed, as well as infused, into one in baptism. Imputation declares what infusion then effects. God said, “Let there be light” And there was light. (In fact, Michael Horton, in his view of justification, describes of it as Speech-Act. What God declares is necessarily accomplished.)

    One is reckoned as righteous first and foremost due to the alien righteousness of Christ. As a baptized infant, one has no righteousness of one’s own, it is all derivative…and from whom does it come if not Christ? Plus, Trent anathematizes anyone who would say that he is “justified before God by his own works.” (Trent does speak of the “assistance of grace” and of our cooperation with that grace, but I have asked Catholic after Catholic after Catholic whether our cooperation itself is also of grace, and they have all answered in the affirmative. Sola Gratia, held without equivocation, requires that inherent righteousness NOT be the ground of justification…and therefore, NOT the ground of its declaration.)

    Protestants, just like Catholics, believe that initial justification has inherent righteousness as a necessary effect. We believe this is brought about by regeneration, union with Christ, and sanctification, as well as through the purgation of being raised incorruptible in the process of glorification, wherein perfect inherent righteousness is a fait accompli. Of course, we speak of inherent righteousness differently, according to two distinct evaluations: the Catholics according to the “agape paradigm” where we are more-or-less graded on the curve (by the spirit of the law, so to speak), and the Protestants according to the “list paradigm” where we are more-or-less graded strictly, according to the letter of the law. We could switch perspectives, however, switch evaluative paradigms, and see that we’re speaking of the same situation merely through different slants. (Nevertheless, if you ask me, it is sleight-of-hand to speak of “perfect” blamelessness before the law in the same breath as saying that venial sin remains and merits temporal punishment in purgatory.)

    In your post, you specifically spoke of Luther’s take on justification. Most Reformed theologians will describe the mystical union with Christ as the ground for this Protestant view of salvation. So my comments were, without a doubt, germane. Regardless, you have no right to mischaracterize Reformed beliefs through omission of incredibly significant details.

    I was quite clear that the Catholic elect may indeed NOT remain in a “state of grace” continuously after baptism. Instead, I said that they cannot be successfully (in other words, finally) separated from their regeneration/justification. The elect, whether Protestant or Catholic, cannot lose their salvation. The Protestant elect, once regenerated, cannot lose their justification, even temporarily, no matter how backslidden. These two views are compatible in my mind. Who in the world cares about temporary separations from the intimate grace of God if all is well in the end. I’m not sure the two concepts would necessitate one iota’s worth of difference pastorally. I’m also not convinced that there is any significant distinction between Catholic “confidence” that he or she is saved and Protestant “assurance” that he or she is saved. Both sides eschew despair (that one cannot know anything concerning one’s status) AND presumption (that one can absolutely be sure of one’s status and thereby “rest on one’s laurels”).

    I’m guessing you didn’t actually have time to read the article I linked you to. Here’s a small section:

    (First, Dr. Garver quotes from Trent.)

    “…by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and “the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5) and remains in them…” (Canon 11, Sixth Session)

    Dr. Garver comments:

    “This seems to open the door to the inclusion of the imputation of the justice of Christ within justification (not distinguishing, at present, two kinds of justification), so long as infusion is not denied.”

    Dave Armstrong replies:

    “This is very helpful and constructive ecumenical analysis. I don’t believe that Trent rules out imputation altogether (as long as infused justification is not thereby denied).”

    So, the notion that Dave Armstrong “envisions a reconciliation premised on the denial of the Calvinist doctrine of imputation” is contrary to his stated intentions. Besides, Calvin agreed to the compromise fashioned at Regensburg where infused justification WAS NOT denied.

    I claim that the Roman church is in “schism” because of my own reading of history. I believe, for example, that Princeton Theological Seminary is in “schism” from the seminary founded by Archibald Alexander. Westminster is clearly the legitimate heir to that heritage. Rome has retained the hierarchical and physical structure without maintaining complete theological continuity. I blame this on her unbiblical ostracism of Constantinople and Geneva. To illegitimately ostracize is to produce a situation, a splitting, every bit as real as actual schism. Whether one party opens the door and leaves or the other party pushes the first party out that door…results in the exact same separation.

    And yes, more is necessary than to point out commonalities, but that’s a start. Progress on unity in soteriology is obstructed by stereotypes and exaggerations on both sides. There is often a Trump-like doubling down on long-held distinctives, even when those distinctives have not been fully vetted, their justifying arguments fully nuanced. Still less, have the dogmas of the other side been fully comprehended. It’s unfortunate, but true, that ecumenics must include [civil] polemics from time to time. There remain seemingly intractable, contentious difficulties standing in the way of unity. These cannot be brushed away with the back of the hand or occluded under vague language.

    I probably was less than clear concerning the “sanctified tares” remark. The Reformed talk about the three marks of the true church being the faithful preaching of the Word, the right administration of the Sacraments, and the consistent employment of church discipline. Most Protestant churches come nowhere close to the third mark, and Rome is in that same ballpark. It’s fine to espouse a mixed church as against any type of modern Donatism; the church will remain a place where tares and wheat rub elbows, according to Christ himself. But too many churches do nothing to differentiate between tares (which cannot be distinguished from sprouts of wheat) and honest-to-goodness, unmistakable WEEDS. The church should be cleaning these out, especially those in leadership.

  15. Hans, you wrote:
    Nonetheless, I think we can safely say, according to the wording of Trent, that the merits of Christ are indeed imputed…

    If this is true, then the grace of the imputation of righteousness must come from the eternal Divine love and have some effect in the person justified. The effects of the infusion of grace in the formal cause precludes any effects from an imputed righteousness. Some Protestants say the imputation of righteousness is in the manner of a formal cause, but not an actual formal change. Did Trent really allow its wording to support a real formal change AND something in the manner of a real formal change ? I think it is a danger to ecumenism to think Trent taught the merits of Christ were imputed.

    Eric

  16. Hi Hans,

    I think it is necessary to insist on this point. Trent 6.16 is very clear concerning the ground of God’s acceptance of believers.

    for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ.

    and again,

    For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches,[99] continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace.

    -David

  17. David–

    You can insist that God accepts us because of our own inherent righteousness all you like, but what does Augustine say to this? “If then your merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His gifts.”

    So, is God’s acceptance truly due to our merits…or his own merits? Are we accepted on account of our status as infusees or his status as Infuser? I believe Trent 6:16 gives answer: “Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ.”

    I think you are confusing “ground” with “evidence.” For example, your intelligence is evidenced by your advanced degrees and the rest of your impressive curriculum vitae. As a result, we can go ahead and declare you intelligent…but in actuality, you are intelligent due to your parents’ DNA, or even more so, due to the creative powers of an intelligent God.

    I’m curious. Why did you bold what you did? Without the infused gift of supernatural strength–in other words, without grace–we could not hope to please him. Without his continually facilitating our works–preceding, accompanying, following–we could not hope to please him. Do these thoughts strike in you an emphasis of our inherent righteousness? Or do they speak principally of his work in and through us?

    For what it’s worth, I think Trent 6.7 is abundantly clear that the formal cause of our justification is God’s work in us, not our cooperation with him. Our cooperation with him is merely part of the process he uses in making us just.

    Since a holy God cannot look on sin, our sanctification, whereby we are made inherently righteous–perfectly so, in fact–is a given in both of our soteriological systems. The process is different perhaps, but the results are the same.

  18. Eric–

    Anything actually infused is also necessarily imputed (i.e., declared as true). Conversely, anything God imputes also becomes necessarily actualized. Catholicism has no problem with imputation, and Protestantism has no problem with infusion. The difficulty presents itself in the Reformed definition of justification, wherein sanctification is abstractly excluded. In order to protect the concept of Sola Gratia, Protestants drive a rhetorical wedge between the two stages in the process of salvation. The two are not actually divided. In fact, there is no sense in which sanctification is not thoroughly essential. But justification itself is from God and God alone. Catholics, of course, also claim it is from God alone, but Protestants feel that you muddy the waters, that your formulations confuse people. Every Catholic convert to Protestantism I have ever spoken with describes their sojourn in Rome as a time of enslavement to legalism.

    The difficulty as presented is not imputation, per se, but “sola imputatio” (the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ ALONE). Infusion happens in Protestant soteriology, but it is not tied to justification. The effect of imputation is justification. The effect of infusion is sanctification, the increase of justification, as you would term it. We don’t speak of it that way because justification is like pregnancy. You cannot be a little bit pregnant. You either are or you aren’t. The pregnancy obviously develops, but a woman is just as pregnant at the beginning as she is at the end. Indeed, the medical community speaks of conception and pregnancy as abstractly divided (just as we Prots divvy up justification and sanctification), even though they are clearly one process.

    So, for the Reformed, there is a formal change. And it is part and parcel of the justification-sanctification process. It is simply not a part of justification, taken as a separate entity. Similarly, Trent incorporates the formal change as an effect but not as a cause of justification.

  19. Dear Hans,

    You can insist that God accepts us because of our own inherent righteousness all you like.

    The questions you raised really aren’t about what I like, but about what Trent said.

    I highlighted the text I did to emphasize Trent’s teaching that good works are necessary in order to be pleasing and meritorious before God. With Augustine, of course, Trent teaches that those good works are a result of God’s grace, but not merely “evidence” of God’s gracious imputation.

    The brief article I wrote, however, really was not intended as a detailed analysis of Trent or of its differences from Reformed thought. Merely a reflection on the law of love fulfilled in us by God’s grace.

    Thanks for taking an interest,

    David

  20. David—

    Just stumbled onto this thread and thought I’d throw in my two cents. At first I was confused by Hans’ remark concerning your highlighted text…until I went back and looked at the original Latin. (What can I say? I was curious.)

    Evidently, that particular line doesn’t say that good works are necessary in order to be pleasing and meritorious before God. It says that our good works are not pleasing and meritorious before God without the infused virtue/strength [virtus] of Christ. This is clear if one follows the antecedent of “and without which” [et sine qua]. That “qua” is feminine, singular, ablative and must refer back to “virtus” (a feminine noun) rather than “opera” (which is plural).

    No big deal, but I’m guessing that’s what he was getting at.

  21. Hans,

    “Imputation declares what infusion then effects. God said, “Let there be light” And there was light. (In fact, Michael Horton, in his view of justification, describes of it as Speech-Act. What God declares is necessarily accomplished.)”

    If this was true, then Horton has no need for the cartoon he uses to illustrate judgment – see end of comment at http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/08/imputation-and-paradigms-a-reply-to-nicholas-batzig/#comment-36389 – there’s no need for ongoing extra nos imputation if the justified are made truly and actually inherently just at regeneration/initial justification. That’s why RCism can only agree with imputation in a qualified sense.

    “One is reckoned as righteous first and foremost due to the alien righteousness of Christ.”

    One is not infused with something already infused within them. So if you want to say the origin of our righteousness is outside of us, well, sure. But extra nos imputation as justification says more than that.

    “This seems to open the door to the inclusion of the imputation of the justice of Christ within justification (not distinguishing, at present, two kinds of justification), so long as infusion is not denied… Besides, Calvin agreed to the compromise fashioned at Regensburg where infused justification WAS NOT denied.”

    Regensburg and Contarini’s and Seripando’s efforts were well-known by those at Trent and rejected – Cardinal Pole also involved in those efforts apparently suffered much anguish in accepting Trent’s final formulation, but did finally submit. There was debate concerning the phrasing at Trent concerning the whole duplex iustitia proposal – the result of which was Trent specifying infused righteousness as the “unica formalis causa” – the “sole formal cause” was deliberately chosen as opposed to “one” or “a” or “double” formal cause. There could perhaps still be openings in Trent’s formulation for some type of development, but many doors were closed.

    “We don’t speak of it that way because justification is like pregnancy. You cannot be a little bit pregnant. You either are or you aren’t.”

    And RCs are either in a state of grace or aren’t.

  22. Hi David, I wonder if you’d care to comment on the following. To give my background, I’m a conservative Anglican who continues to wrestle with the claims of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and who has read through most of the archives of CTC over the past few years or so and commented on a few articles.

    One of the questions I continue to ponder is: how can we have the hope of eternal life and consequent joy that the Bible talks about? (E.g. 2nd Thessalonians 2:16, Acts 13:52, Titus 3:7)

    As I understand it, the traditional Catholic answer to this question is something along the following lines: through God’s grace, our righteousness received in Baptism and maintained by a basic kind of obedience, is qualitatively such that it leads to eternal life. The evangelical counsels to give up wealth and earthly pleasures, while providing a greater reward for those who carry them out, aren’t strictly necessar to have the hope of eternal life.

    The traditional answer to this question I’ve heard from my evangelical Protestant brethren is something like: while Christ’s counsels are still to be attempted, they also serve the function of condemning us, making us look away from own works for justification, and that hope of eternal life properly comes from looking to Christ’s perfect fulfilling of the law being counted as ours when we place our trust in Him.

    I’m sure there’s more nuanced versions of both of these positions, but I don’t think I’m being too inaccurate.

    Now, I was having a read through Pope Benedict’s “Introduction to Christianity”, and found the following passage:

    —–

    “In order to take a good look at this principle let us seize on that central passage in the Sermon on the Mount which acts as a sort of superscription and distinguishing mark for the six great antitheses (“You have heard that it was said to the men of old . . . But I say to you . . .”) in which Jesus rewrites the Table of the Law. The text runs thus: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’.’ (Matt. 5.20).

    This statement means first of all that all human righteousness is dismissed as inadequate. Who could honestly boast of having really and without reserve absorbed the full meaning of the individual demands and of having fulfilled them, completely fulfilled them in all their profundity, let alone fulfilled them to excess? True, there exists in the Church a “state of perfection”, in which one undertakes to go beyond what is commanded, to go to excess. But those who belong to it would be the last to deny that for this very reason they are always finding themselves at the beginning again and full of deficiencies. The “state of perfection” is in reality the most dramatic depiction of the abiding imperfection of man…

    …To the Bible, the limits of human righteousness, of human power as a whole, become an indication of the way in which man is thrown back upon the unquestioning gift of love, a gift which unexpectedly opens itself to him and thereby opens up man himself, and without which man would remain shut up in all his “righteousness” and thus unrighteous. Only the man who accepts this gift can come to himself. Thus the proved speciousness of man’s “righteousness” becomes at the same time a pointer to the righteousness of God, the excess of which is called Jesus Christ. He is the righteousness of God, which goes far beyond what need be, which does not calculate, which really overflows; the “notwithstanding” of his greater love, in which he infinitely surpasses the failing efforts of man.

    Nevertheless, it would be a complete misunderstanding of the whole to deduce from this a devaluation of man and to feel inclined to say: “Then without this it is all one and any attempt to attain righteousness or esteem in God’s eyes is pointless.” To this we must reply, “Not at all”. In spite of everything and indeed just because of what we have just considered, the requirement to have an excess holds good, even if one can never attain full righteousness. But what is this supposed to mean? Is it not a contradiction? Well, it means, in short, that he who is always calculating how much he must do to be just adequate and to be able to regard himself, after a few casuistical flicks, as a man with a nice, white shirt-front, is still no Christian. And similarly, he who tries to reckon where duty ends and where he can gain a little extra merit by an opus supererogatorium (work of supererogation) is a Pharisee, not a Christian.”

    ———–

    Now, if all human righteousness, even post-baptism, is inadequate, and we have no recourse to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and alternatively, if one can’t ever have hope of eternal life by examining oneself and pointing to a “basic obedience” post-baptism how can this lead anywhere but spiritual anguish and despair for believers?

    And, if all human righteousness, even post-baptism, is inadequate, then how can Canon 32 of the Council of Trent be true, as all Catholics are bound to maintain:

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

    Would you be so kind as to give your thoughts on this aspect of things?

  23. Hi Alec,

    The hope we have is the hope of children in the love of a father.
    In a human family, there is no “guarantee” that the father and son will remain reconciled forever. Even a perfect father may have a son who rejects him, rejects his love, and departs. But, the good news is that God is always there to receive us as prodigal son’s. Our confidence is in God’s mercy, but it is a mercy we must receive by coming home through faith and repentance. If we have done that, then the grace inhering in our soul’s by the gift of the holy spirit is completely sufficient for us to have satisfied the divine law of love. If, however, I am presumptuous and arrogant and leave home to do my own thing, then I am of necessity alienated from my father.

    Moral of the story – come back home.

    -David

  24. Cletus—

    1. Horton’s cartoon illustrates the alien righteousness of Christ (initial justification, if you will) and not the ongoing inherent sanctification of those who have received extra nos imputation. If God is outside of time and if justification cannot be lost, then perfect inherent righteousness is a “done deal” in the eyes of God. Not only that, but the believer’s union with Christ gives him or her a shared righteousness with the Holy One. The Catholic believer’s obvious imperfections are covered instead by the smoothing-over influence of the law of agape. Union with Christ effects something similar in us. We are under grace. Of course, you and I have a difference over mortal sin. For me, that seems to stem from a Catholic naivete concerning just how much of sin is unquestionably grievous, conscious, willful, and understood. You are a far worse sinner than you believe yourself to be. (For us, you seem to be cut off from reality when it comes to the depravity of all humanity. If you ever come to the realization of just how wicked you and I truly are, you will either become as exceedingly scrupulous as a pre-Reformation Luther or you will become a Protestant.)

    There is no “ongoing” imputation in Protestantism. Imputation is a one-time event that requires no repetition. On the other hand, there can be no efficacy attributed to infusion unless God himself attributes it, in other words, unless he reckons it to be so (imputes it). Your argument with us has more to do with the temporal nature of infusion as opposed to the unchanging nature of imputation. One of the bedrock characteristics of actual holiness is its permanence, its faithfulness. You all claim that perfect, inherent righteousness…can also be fickle and throw in the towel. Temporary love is not love. Righteousness that “gives up” is not righteousness, let alone perfect righteousness.

    2. You said: “So if you want to say that the origin of our righteousness is outside of us, well, sure. But extra nos imputation as justification says more than that.”

    Well, yes, in a sense, I guess. We Protestants will certainly want to emphasize that Jesus Christ is both the Author and Completer of our faith, as Scripture itself points out. The origin of our righteousness is outside of us, the maintenance of our righteousness is outside of us, and the completion of our righteousness is outside of us. This is what Sola Gratia must claim in order to BE Sola Gratia. Extra nos imputation/infusion says nothing more than this (not that I am aware of, at any rate). And you all say that you believe in Sola Gratia.

    3. So, Trent says infusion is the “sole formal cause,” Protestantism says imputation is the “sole formal cause,” and Seripando and Pole (each before finally submitting to Rome) said it was both. Which is it?

    First, Trent includes imputation as part of the process. In Trent 6.7 it says, “we are not only REPUTED, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure.” Thus, righteousness is indeed reckoned to us. Catholics do not skip that step.

    In Protestantism, as I explained above, justification is already accomplished in us in the eyes of God, and so, we—like you–are also truly called just. (Just try calling our righteousness a “legal fiction” and watch the pushback. Horton’s cartoon intends no such thing.)

    So, what then is the difference? Seripando himself actually wrote the bulk of the Tridentine text on justification. In Trent 6.16, these words were added, against his better judgment: “we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace.” Seripando felt that the need for the ongoing forgiveness of Christ, even in the midst of a state of grace, should not be omitted. Others felt differently. Nevertheless, the preceding line still states: “Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified–as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches–and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God.” In other words, the “extra nos” righteousness of Christ is built into the system, and is in no wise shunted to the side. In fact, it is termed the “meritorious cause” of justification, and is clearly paramount, ruling over every aspect of the “formal cause.”

    In the end, I do not see a substantive difference. Just a bunch of semantic gobbled-gook that people have trouble wading through.

  25. Hi David,

    You mentioned in comment #2 that the sacraments are signs of faith that confer supernatural charity into ones heart.

    My question is simple: Why and how is it that Evangelicals (or anyone other than Catholics for that matter) have charity in their hearts? Obviously not all do, but for those whose charity exists and is deepened through their life-long faith journey, what is the mode of increasing charity if not the sacraments?

    I know my evangelical friends would say it is simple: Relationship with Jesus—seeking him through the reading of Scripture, through prayer, through the giving up of one’s life for another. Yet none of these things are “sacraments”, and yet they partake in supernatural grace leading to charity within their hearts.

    An obvious follow up question is: If charity can be present in one’s heart without participation in what they would consider the “ritual prescription” of the Sacraments (to use your words in a different way), why is adherence to the Catholic sacramental schema necessary, or even desirable? Catholicism and the culture it produces may indeed be desirable to some, but for many of my Evangelical friends, the idea of conversion is simply a non-starter. If they indeed participate in the grace of charity, there is simply no need to drastically alter their liturgical life, their theological paradigm, language, culture etc.

    I would so appreciate help if you can with these questions. I’m a relatively recent convert to Catholicism (from a Reformed/Evangelical background) but most of my close friends are still Protestant. It’s painful to feel “left out” of their meaningful faith-lives as a Catholic, and I’m sure they often feel a similar distance from me.

  26. Hi Dr Anders,

    I’m from a reformed Presbyterian background in Australia. I have found both this site and your radio show of countless value.

    After spending time working through things with a priest, reading the catechism, the deuterocanon, some of the early church fathers, etc. I’m still left with two questions:
    1- How does a Catholic make sense of Romans 9 re: predestination and reprobation (and the related passages in Exodus and John 6:37-39).
    2- The catholic doctrine of inerrancy doesn’t seem to be verbal, plenary. I looked at the articles here and translations of the most recent PBC documents. It seems that the PBC is contradicting early church teaching, pre-vatican II views on inerrancy. The article here seems to imply no contradiction, but it seems that JEDP, Jonah as fiction, etc. are now the beliefs of the church.

    Could you please clarify for me? Am I missing something? I’d really like to close these issues off, but the latter in particular as a former RP seems so sad to see as the teaching from the vatican, in bible notes such as the NABRE and the CTS Catholic Bible.

    Thanks in advance for your time and support.

    Josh

  27. Hi Josh,

    Thanks so much for writing.

    Regarding Romans 9, there are multiple ways in which Catholics have read the text. Within the Augustinian/Thomist tradition, you will find a predestinarianism that is very familiar to Calvinists. In 397, Augustine wrote a letter to Simplician on this very topic. Reflecting on the content of the letter, Augustine later said (more or less) ‘I tried to reconcile freedom and divine sovereignty. Divine sovereignty won.’ Garrrigou-Lagrange took a very hard line on Divine foreknowledge and human action. In his view, human acts cannot determine God’s knowledge, since there is no passivity in God. God’s knowledge must determine human acts.

    On the other hand, Eleonore Stump has a wonderful new book The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers, making a very strong case both for divine impassibility and divine responsivity.

    So, there is not just one Catholic view on this matter. For a good introduction to the various positions, I recommend Garrigou-lagrange’s book Predestination

    Concerning verbal, plenary inspiration. Here is what Dei Verbum says (and the Catechism quotes):

    Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation.

    Everything asserted in Scripture is asserted by the Holy Spirit, and is without error. That is the dogma of the Church. However, applying that truth to exegesis requires that we take into consideration factors like genre, authorial intent, typology, and the tradition of the Church.

    Finally, keep in mind that an opinion widely held in the professional class of theologians is not necessarily the faith of the church. The class of professional theologians in not the magisterium nor is it the sensus fidelium.

    I hope this helps,

    David

  28. Hi David,

    I was hoping you would elaborate on the distinction between Catholics and non-Catholics regarding the *means* by which charity is infused into their hearts. Catholics have the sacraments, but how is it that anyone else can harbor love in their hearts (and grow in that love) without the sacraments?

    And if such people can grow in charity, how is it that the sacramental system is strictly necessary? I have a few Protestant friends who have discussed this with me simply objecting that they already love and adore Christ, so other religious schemas are superfluous. I believe it would be wrong of me to accuse them of not having agape, but then if I don’t, they are correct. Why the sacraments if they are already growing in love for God and his people?

    Many thanks,

    -Nes

  29. Nes,

    I don’t quite know how David will answer your question, but I think I can provide some insight.

    First, the Church is Christ’s provision to mankind for the reconciliation of all peoples: That they all become part of this supernatural society and partake from the one loaf which is Christ. Families always break bread together, and the sundered family of the First Adam is rightly reconciled around the table of the Second.

    But does this mean that, if people who through no fault of their own (invincible ignorance) are unaware of the Church, still attempt to be reconciled to their neighbor, God should intervene to stop it?

    Not at all! It is fitting that God should permit and even supernaturally assist the reconciliation between, say, a Chinese man and a Japanese who were descendants respectively of a victim and a perpetrator of the Rape of Nanking. “But I thought the Church was God’s tool for the reconciliation of all?” Yes, it is; and all things being equal, the Sino-Nipponese reconciliation would go better were they both Catholics! But if they lack that, if they are invincibly ignorant of any reason to inquire about RCIA, God still wishes their reconciliation. So, if His intended tool — the Church — is not available for the task, He doesn’t give up on the task. He just accomplishes it in alternative and unpredictable ways.

    And because God doesn’t provide things like the Church unnecessarily, we can reason that those alternative and unpredictable ways are not quite so effective as the Church (all things being equal). His “perfect” will is where we find His best provision; but, His “permissible” will still has graces.

    Allow me to paraphase the apostle Paul here: For God showers down His graces on all peoples, giving the Torah to the Hebrews, but showing “His invisible power” to the Gentiles “through that which He created,” such that “the righteous requirement of the Torah was written on their hearts” and they “became a Torah unto themselves.” And thus throughout the whole Mosaic covenant He judged the hearts of all men, either Israelite or Gentile, according to the each one’s cooperation with the light he had received, and thus God “showed no partiality.”

    But what God revealed to Moses is still clearer, isn’t it, than what He wrote on the hearts of the Gentiles? So if a Gentile — say, a Roman centurion in 25 A.D. — were to become aware of the Torah and the Temple, he ought to become a “Godfearing” Gentile and gain greater benefit from God’s revelation, that his own conscience become better formed. But if he were invincibly ignorant of Judaism, he could still make use of natural virtue and “the righteous requirement of the Torah” written in his heart, and be content with his pay and not extort those around him. (He didn’t need to wait for Jesus to show up, to command him that!)

    Analogy: If you’re driving a bold through a beam and into a nut on the other side, and you’ve lost your socket set, you may have to make do with pliers. And that’s fine…right up until one finds the socket set! After that, it’s just foolish to use the less-effective tool instead of the one that’s designed for the job. When the socket set is lost, you’re “invincibly ignorant”; after you’ve found it, your failure to make use of it is culpable.

    Another analogy: The Church’s Magisterium, and her hierarchy, are Christ’s provision for the knowledge of God’s will in matters of faith and morals and for the authoritative leading and organizing of the faithful in well-ordered liturgical practice.

    But does that mean that a born-and-raised Baptist like I once was, who’d never met any Catholics and was vaguely aware of Catholicism as “some weird thing they do in movies, and over in Europe” was helplessly unable to know moral truth, or doomed to worship Him in a disordered way? Not at all! And just because I was separated from the tool God provided, would God actively prevent me from knowing moral truth and worshiping Him in a fitting way? Certainly not; it is in His character to help, not hinder.

    So God saw to it that His actual grace was communicated through a somewhat-abridged Catholic book called “The (Protestant) Bible” and through the good intentions and faithful service of my Sunday School teachers.

    But once I was confronted with the evidence of Christian history and the logic of the Catholic position, my situation changed. Prior to that, I was (I can reasonably believe) invincibly ignorant of the need of belonging to the Catholic Church. But after that, if I neglected to make use of God’s more-magnificent and more “official” provision for moral truth and fitting worship, then that would be my fault. And looking back, I can see that I had access to moral truth during those years; but I have access to more moral truth now. And in worship, I have substituted a sandwich of sermon-on-hymns-with-announcements (read: like pastrami on rye with mustard; where the sermon is the meat, the hymns are the surrounding bread, and the announcements…well, no, they can’t be analogous to brown deli mustard because they were generally pretty flavorless, but anyway, you get the picture); anyway, I’ve gone from “hymn sandwich” to The Mass, the “Divine Liturgy,” where God Himself becomes sacramentally present under the forms of bread and wine, and I receive in my body and soul “the medicine of immortality.”

    The ad-hoc make-do substitute, and the Real Thing, are not equivalent substitutes.

    To summarize:

    Regarding Reconciliation of Peoples:
    1. Q: What provision has God made for reconciliation of the sundered family of Adam? A: The Church.
    2. Q: What does God do, if people (who are outside the Church through no fault of their own) try to reconcile? A: He helps them.
    3. Q: Is the help they receive outside the Church as beneficial as that they could receive inside it? A: Probably not, even for those who are invincibly ignorant of the Church; and certainly not, if they know about the Church but reject membership in her.
    4. Q: So what should they do? A: If they are outside the Church, reconcile the best they can and cooperate with whatever grace God provides in that non-normative situation. If they are inside the Church, reconcile the best they can and cooperate with the greater graces God provides through His normative means.

    Regarding Moral Truth And Fitting Worship:
    1. Q: What provision has God made for providing knowable moral truth and authoritatively organized worship for humanity? A: The Church.
    2. Q: What does God do, if people (who are outside the Church through no fault of their own) try to obtain moral truth and worship God? A: He helps them.
    3. Q: Is the help they receive outside the Church as beneficial as that they could receive inside it? A: Probably not, even for those who are invincibly ignorant of the Church; and certainly not, if they know about the Church but reject membership in her.
    4. Q: So what should they do? A: If they are outside the Church, they should be as moral, and as morally-informed, as they can; and worship God the best they can, cooperating with whatever graces God provides in that non-normative situation. If they are inside the Church, they cooperate with the greater graces God provides through His normative means: The Magisterium, and the bishops and priests in communion with the pope.

    In those two examples we see clear parallels. There is a pattern we can follow.

    Applying that pattern to your specific question, Nes, here is what I conclude….

    Regarding Actual Grace And Sanctifying Grace, Especially Divine Charity:
    1. Q: What provision has God made for gracing the souls of the faithful? A: The Church.
    2. Q: What does God do, if people (who are outside the Church through no fault of their own) seek Him and pray for Him to fill their hearts with His love? A: He helps them.
    3. Q: Is the help they receive outside the Church as beneficial as that they could receive inside it? A: Probably not, even for those who are invincibly ignorant of the Church; and certainly not, if they know about the Church but reject membership in her.
    4. Q: So what should they do? A: If they are outside the Church, continue seeking Him in prayer and Scriptures and a life of humility and moral purity and love-of-neighbor, cooperating with whatever grace God provides in that non-normative situation. If they are inside the Church, they should do all the same things, AND receive additional graces through the Sacraments, which are His normative means.

    The pattern seems to fit perfectly, doesn’t it?

    I suspect, then, it would be wrong to suggest that those of the baptized who are outside the church (through no fault of their own) have no divine charity in their hearts. That would be to say that God uncharacteristically refused to help them achieve exactly what He desires for them — because of a deficiency which isn’t even their fault! That’s unlikely.

    But, it seems entirely reasonable to suggest that, all things being equal, their divine charity and holiness might be twice what it is, if they only had the benefit of God’s normative means. For when God establishes such a thing as “normative means,” for any purpose, He doesn’t do it needlessly. He thinks we need, or at least can tremendously benefit from, the Sacraments.

    Does that help?

  30. Nes:

    One other thing:

    I notice — how I wish we could make revisions of our posts after posting! — that in my last, I used the expression, “those of the baptized who are outside the church….” (2nd-to-last paragraph.)

    That was a poor choice of words, and anyway, the whole paragraph structure was less clear than it should have been,

    So here is my corrected version:

    “I suspect, then, that it would be wrong to assert that your Protestant friends have no divine charity in their hearts. Those of the baptized who, by virtue of their baptism, have a certain imperfect communion with the Catholic Church, but who (through no fault of their own) remain outside the boundaries of full communion, are still adopted sons and daughters of God. He still desires their sanctification. If we were to insist that He refused to give them any such graces on account of their lack of (some) sacraments, we would be saying that God uncharacteristically refused to help them achieve exactly what He desires for them — because of a deficiency which isn’t (we presume) even their fault! That’s unlikely.”

    I think that’s better.

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