Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

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Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Reformation Day!

Today marks the 488th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

On October 31st, 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his now-famous "95 Theses" to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. The controversy he started shook the very foundations of Western civilization and broke the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe.

But how many Protestants today realize how important this day truly was? How many know what a gift God gave His church that day?

When Luther nailed his Theses to that door, he intended them as debating points. He hoped to begin a discussion that would reform the Catholic Church from within, not split it. The refusal of the Church heirarchy to consider and sddress the problems he raised led Luther and his followers to reject the authority of the Catholic Church.

And what were the issues that touched off the Reformation? There were many. One of the most well-known is the matter of Indulgences.

An "indulgence," very simply, was a slip of paper that promised to release a person from purgatory straight into heaven. The Catholic Church was selling these to the public to finance the construction of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and to try to get the Pope's finances back in balance (years of warfare by Popes had bled the treasury severely). These indulgences were sold by corrupt priests and bishops, using such slogans as Johann Tetzel's famous "When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs!" The Church "sold" entrance to heaven to the masses in this way, sparking Luther's observation that if the Pope truly did have such power, why did he not issue a general indulgence to all souls in purgatory, for free, as an act of Christian mercy? (Read the "95 Theses" here for more)

Luther furthermore denounced the growing obsession with "relics." Relics were items associated with Christ, the apostles, and other saints. The market for these items had gone far out of hand - it was speculated that there were enough pieces of the True Cross and nails from Christ's crucifixion floating around Europe to enable one to build a ship. There were at least three alleged heads of John the Baptist at different places in Europe. Besides the fact that most of these items were obviously frauds, Luther and his followers pointed out that this veneration of relics amounted to idolatry.

But the most important result of the Reformation was the recovery of the True Gospel.

The Catholic Church held (and still does today) that salvation is a matter of God's grace combined with human works. Only through the sacraments of the church could one gain salvation, the Catholic church taught. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross did not save sinners; it enabled them to cooperate through the institution of the Church to earn merit for salvation. The ceremony of the Mass, a re-enactment of the Crucifixion, meant that Christ had to be sacrificed again and again.

The Reformers, men like Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Philip Melancthon, and John Knox, denounced the whole Catholic system as being without Scriptural support. The Catholic church elevated tradition to an equal authority with the Scriptures; the Reformers denied this, saying that the sole sufficient and infallible authority of the Church was the Bible.

The Reformers held that salvation could not be earned. Salvation is God's work alone, they said; human cooperation with God not only stripped Him of the glory rightfully due Him, it is impossible in the first place, because of our sinful nature! Salvation could not be worked for or merited or deserved in any way. Rather, salvation is a free gift of God's grace alone, and only by trusting in Christ and His work could anyone be saved. The Cross was a completed work of God, the Reformers taught, and so the Catholic Mass denied the power of the Cross. As God did all of the work in salvation, the Reformers taught, only God alone deserves the glory.

The Reformation gave us Bibles in our own language and in our own hands. It took the focus of salvation away from human activites in the Church and placed it back on the Cross. It stripped every last bit of the credit for anyone's salvation away from man and gave it back to God.

So take a moment today to ponder your faith, and praise God for what he did through Martin Luther that fateful day. Thank Him for the sacrifices of all those who stood for God's truth during the Reformation. Thank God for your right and opportunity to read the Bible in your own language. Thank Jesus that He did all of the work for your salvation, and that you don't have to depend on human priests and earthly institutions for it. And give God all of the glory.

16 Comments:

Blogger XYZ said...

Peace be with you!

I believe we have a mutual friend (Betty, Inc) :-). I must say that is quite an appraisal of the Catholic Church. Rest assured that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by grace alone (sola gratia), Christ is not "re-crucificed" at every Mass, the Catholic Church allowed vernacular versions of the Bible long before Luther (Luther's German Bible was not the first one) and that certain "editions" of the Bible were rejected by the Catholic Church because they contained heresy. Surely there were horrible and really big sinners that held important ecclesiastical offices, but their mistakes and sin shouldn't overshadow the authentic and actual teachings of the Church. I have to be honest: I like Martin Luther and understand, on some level, his point of view. I know he never meant to create divisions and so I sympathize with him when things went farther than he wanted. There's a great scene in the movie "Luther" where he is condemning those causing violence. Anyway, I just thought I'd leave a comment and hopefully I did so in a charitable and humble way.

- David (a Bible-totin', Bible-thumpin', Christ-lovin' Catholic! :P)

2:12 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

David,

I sincerely appreciate your comments! Welcome to my blog. I’m glad you aren’t afraid to disagree – in my space, at that, and with a friend of a friend of yours! I admire that, especially in this postmodern world we find ourselves in where truth is slippery and relative, and (to many others) not worth a good debate. We may disagree, but I’m glad you believe that the truth (whatever it may be) is worthy of respect and worth fighting for. I’d hate to wander into your gunsights in the political realm – I’ve read your Conservative blog, and agree strongly with most of your observations there.

Though I have strong political opinions (years of abuse at the hands of my political masters soured this ex-soldier on the Liberals) I don’t broach politics much on my blog – that’s not my calling. Theology and pastoral ministry, however, are, and the truths of theology have (we both agree) eternal implications. You think I’m wrong about Catholic theology – and, as a guy who grew up Protestant, that’s a cautionary reminder to me that I certainly have to be very careful that my homework is done. I appreciate that you’re willing to “sharpen my iron” in this way. And I appreciate the spirit of the disagreement – you aimed for humility and grace, and I believe you succeeded. May I do the same!

That stated, I do feel compelled to defend my previous statements. This is a vitally important issue, going to the heart of the message of salvation itself, and as a Christian leader-in-training I have a duty to define and explain these issues. I’ll address each of your comments in turn, as separate comments:

1. Sola Gratia and the Catholic Church
2. The nature of the Mass
3. Vernacular Bible translations
4. Sinners in church office

Feel free to respond as you see fit - if I'm wrong on something, I would like to know and check out the sources. It's the best way to learn!

1:47 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

Does the Catholic Church Affirm Sola Gratia?

You said: Rest assured that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by grace alone (sola gratia)…

I believe that your disagreement with my assertion that the Catholic Church denies salvation by grace alone (sola gratia) may be because of that most common of communication breakdowns – we don’t mean the same thing when using identical terms. So I’m going to take some time to define what Reformed Protestants mean by the statement.

A gathering of Protestant leaders once put it this way:

God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace… We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature. (Emphasis added. The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, www.alliancenet.org)

The Reformer John Calvin put it this way:

Take this as an example: there are two men seeking food and shelter. One has money and wishes to be treated in accordance with his means. They both ask for something to eat, but the second man is poor and does not have a penny, so he begs for alms. They both have something in common, for they both seek food, but the first has money with which to satisfy his host. Thus, after eating and drinking well and being courteously entertained, the host, for his part, will be happy to receive his payment, no longer thinking that his guest is in any way indebted to him. Why? Well, he has been satisfied and has even gained from it. But the life of the poor man who asks for alms depends upon the one who can provide him with food and shelter, for he can give him nothing in return. In the same way, if we seek to be justified by the law we must deserve that justification; for then God will receive from us and we from him in a reciprocal manner. Is such a thing possible? Not at all, as we shall examine in more detail later. We must, therefore, conclude that we cannot obtain righteousness by the law, and that if we believe we can make God our debtor, we will only provoke his wrath. The only option is to come as poor beggars, that we may be justified by faith. Not as if faith were a virtue proceeding from us, but we must come humbly, confessing that we cannot obtain salvation except as a free gift. This, then, is why the law is put in opposition to faith. Paul is showing us that all who claim to be acceptable to God by their merits are turning their back upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, to summarize: Protestants believe salvation is by grace alone, in that a man is saved completely and only by God’s action in his life and not in any way by any actions he can perform himself. Works are precluded – because God will allow no room for human boasting. Salvation cannot be deserved.

This, unfortunately, is decidedly not the Catholic position. I quote the anathemas from the Canons on Justification of the Council of Trent:

CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

In other words, if one does not believe that God’s grace is maintained and improved by human works, the Catholic church holds that person to be eternally damned (anathematized).

CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.

This is actually an excellent summary of the Protestant doctrine – that God by his grace has paid the whole price for salvation, has done all the work, and so has no further wrath against the person justified. This is what it means to be saved by grace alone – and, again, Trent condemns the doctrine in the strongest possible terms.

CANON XXXII.-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.

This canon attempts to defend the idea that good works belong to the human beings that perform them, and thus that grace and eternal life can be “merited” – deserved, earned. Protestants reject this idea outright – for this would mean salvation is by grace plus works, not grace alone.

Here are the words of the Apostle Paul:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

1:56 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

The Mass As A Re-enactment of the Crucifixion

You said, Christ is not "re-crucificed" at every Mass…

Actually, I said the crucifixion was “re-enacted,” and that “Christ is sacrificed again and again.” It’s a fine distinction, but an important one, as the language of Catholic doctrine shows below.

My statement was, I admit, strongly worded. I was concerned I had overstated by case when I read your comment, and so went straight to official Catholic definitions of the Mass to see if I was wrong. I do believe, based on my readings of Catholic doctrine, that this is exactly what the Mass is. Catholic writings clearly assert the mass is a sacrifice – and, thus, it is a sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Christ was already sacrificed for the sins of his sheep at Calvary, any subsequent ritual that purports to be a sacrifice of that same Christ – in his actual body and blood at that, according to the doctrine of transubstantiation – could fairly be described as a “re-enactment.” Please consider my analysis below, and by all means correct me if I am wrong.

Again, I quote from Trent – the Canons of the Sacrifice of the Mass:

CANON III.--If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.

Trent categorically states that the Mass is no “bare commemoration,” or memorial. No, it is a “propitiatory sacrifice.” Propitiation means to satisfy the wrath of God and thus restore fellowship with him – and the Bible clearly states that only the blood of Christ can do so. The Mass is offered as a sacrifice to atone for human sin, as the second to last phrase indicates, thus denying that the Crucifixion and the Atonement that took place there was in any way sufficient.

I continue from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit...

The Mass “re-presents” – making present – the cross. To me, given the definition from Trent and the paragraphs that follow, that is the same as saying it re-enacts the crucifixion - because it atones for sins that Calvary did not, and is so distinct.

1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory."

More than asserting the Crucifixion and the sacrifice of the Mass are merely equivalent, the Catechism states they are one and the same. Yet the Mass is distinct in that it is a different manner of offering – not a recrucifixion - and a bloodless sacrifice. This distinction and the fact that the Mass itself is propitiatory, not just the event it commemorates, means the Mass is the equivalent of a subsequent re-offering of Christ for sins. If Christ’s death at Calvary was a truly sufficient sacrifice in Catholic theology, the memorial aspect of the Eucharist would be adequate for the church in subsequent years and further offerings and sacrifices of a propitiatory nature would be unnecessary. Remember what propitiation means – it presupposes that God was wrathful toward the individual propitiated. If Christ’s death at Calvary was truly “once for all,” a ritual of a propitiatory nature would be redundant and unnecessary.

1393 Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:
For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.


This paragraph only reinforces my point. If Communion separates us from sin, then it logically follows that Calvary does not do so once and for all. If the Eucharist cleanses us of past sins, then all of the sins of the believer were not atoned for at Calvary. If Christ’s blood can be poured out “often” – repeatedly – through the Mass, and the crucifixion at Calvary is the sacrifice perpetuated and re-presented in that Mass, then even though the manner of offering is different, the Mass is a re-enactment of that same crucifixion. I stand by my statement.

Here’s the writer of Hebrews’ take on the nature of Christ’s sacrifice:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:25-28)

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10-14)

2:04 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

Vernacular Translations

You said: the Catholic Church allowed vernacular versions of the Bible long before Luther…

I’ll grant that point readily – the first being Jerome’s Vulgate, intended for the Latin speakers of the Roman world. However, in the late Middle Ages, a special authority was ascribed to this translation, and permission from the Church was required for further translations. While this was granted in some cases, in many others it was denied.

My point about the Reformation giving us Bibles in our own hands was not to claim that this was a central issue of the Reformation. It was certainly a controversy of the time, however, and despite the precedent of vernacular translations, the Catholic hierarchy of the Reformation era was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of laypeople reading the Scriptures for themselves. Cases in point:

a. The 1578 Synod of Sens forbade the translation of the Bible into French.

b. A 1408 Council at Oxford – before the Reformation – condemned John Wycliffe’s English translation.

c. Remember, it was a Catholic cardinal – Wolesey - who declared William Tyndale a heretic for publishing his English New Testament, and contributed to the case against him which resulted in his burning at the stake.

d. The Council of Trent in 1548 did permit the Bible to be translated in the vernacular – but only if accompanied by Catholic commentary and explanations.

e. Trent was followed by the 1713 papal bull Unigenitus, issued by Clement XI. This bull listed 101 Jansenist propositions, including the following:

79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.

84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.


Clement, in his bull, after listing these and the other propositions, had this to say about them all:

[These are] Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical…

It was only in 1757 when Pope Benedict XIV issued a decree permitting the nations to have the Bible in their own tongues – reaffirming Trent but without the caveat of Catholic commentary. I will note, in passing, that the sight of Benedict XIV blatantly contradicting Clement’s Unigenitus, which itself contradicted the ecumenical council of Trent, certainly casts great doubt on the doctrine of Papal infallibility – both Benedict and Clement were speaking ex cathedra, where they are supposed to be infallible, and yet contradicted each other!

The main point of the reference to Bibles was to remind my Protestant brethren of the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” We hold that every Christian is a priest to Christ and has the privilege and duty of approaching Christ directly, without any mediator (Christ is the only mediator – 1 Timothy 2:5). And this approach is in two key ways: prayer and the Word of God. The reason Protestants stress the Bible in every believer’s hands is because we believe that each priest must have personal access to God’s words and minister that Word to the world around them.

As the Apostle Peter put it,

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
(1 Peter 2:4-9)

2:11 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

Sinners in Church Office

You said: Surely there were horrible and really big sinners that held important ecclesiastical offices, but their mistakes and sin shouldn't overshadow the authentic and actual teachings of the Church.

In principle, I agree with you, especially since these moral corruptions have been largely addressed. As a response to the Reformation, the Catholic Church mounted a Counter-Reformation, which ended many of the political and bureaucratic abuses which so enraged the Reformers. And the Catholic church today certainly stands strongly for moral values, against such evils as materialism, abortion, and homosexuality. I wish more Protestants were so firm!

And any Protestant who attempts to make a case for the Reformation that stands on Catholic moral failures would be intellectually dishonest – and hypocritical, in my view. Sadly, I’ve seen far too many Protestants attempt to do so. I am fully aware that the Reformers often showed their own moral failings. Luther accomplished a lot of good, but it can’t be denied that he showed disturbing anti-Semitic tendencies toward the end of his life, and his support of the vicious put-down of the Peasant’s Revolt, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, is in many ways indefensible. Calvin had no compunctions about the executions of heretics, the Michael Servetus case being the most prominent, and even as a Calvinist I cannot support his notion of temporal, civil power being used to regulate matters of faith. The Puritans who settled in New England heavily persecuted Baptists, Quakers, and other groups – the whipping of Obadiah Holmes and the Salem witch trials being outstanding examples. The Reformation certainly has its skeletons as well.

However, the Counter-Reformation failed to address the more important and deeper doctrinal issues which motivated the Reformation. You mentioned the authentic and actual teachings of the church – and these were, and are, in fact the real issues. The two primary doctrines the Reformers defended were:

a. the formal principle, sola Scriptura (Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, by which all others are judged). Protestants reject the notion that church tradition and the pronouncements of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church are an equal and infallible rule of faith for Christian life. They recognize these can be helpful and can offer much guidance – much as the great confessions of the Protestant churches do – but Protestants insist that all other sources of church authority must be derived from and submitted to the authority of the Bible.

b. the material principle, sola fide (salvation by faith alone). This is the practical outworking of sola gratia. If salvation is, from first to last, an unmerited gift from God alone, then we can only trust Christ, in his mercy, to save us. This faith and repentance are in no way meritorious, for they themselves are gifts of God. Neither are good works, for they are the product of a saved heart, not the cause of salvation. God will have no boasting and will have all the glory for the salvation of sinners.

These ideas are still anathematized by the Catholic Church. And to me and other Protestants, this is a vital issue and is still outstanding. We celebrate the Reformation not because it stopped the moral abuses of Tetzel and the Catholic hierarchy of the time, although that was a good thing. The issue was, and is, theology.

Morality and service of others are certainly important. But a proper understanding of what God’s Word teaches is more important. Look at Mormons – very upstanding and moral people, but they aren’t showing up on your doorstep to convince you abortion is wrong!

We celebrate the Reformation because it recovered and proclaimed the true, Biblical gospel – that man is fallen and totally unable to save himself, that Christ died once and for all as the substitutionary sacrifice for sinners on the Cross and there paid for all of their sins, removing forever God’s wrath against them, that the only way to be saved is an empty-handed trust and faith in Christ which claims no human works or merit to deserve salvation. It boils down to this: what must one trust for his salvation? God alone, or one’s own performance as well? If it’s the second, we’re all doomed – no one is perfect before the Perfect and Holy God. I certainly don’t trust myself – remember, it’s our own sin that got us in trouble in the first place!

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:15-21)

But if it’s the first, what a joy it is! God takes care of it all. And so our service to Him is an offering of praise and thanksgiving – not a means to earn his favour. It is truly a freeing truth. As Paul exclaims in his great doxology of Romans 11:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

"For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?"

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.


David, may God bless you. You're welcome here anytime.

2:19 PM  
Blogger XYZ said...

Hi Jeff,

I must admit that I kind of regret leaving my initial comment on this post. I've been through so many Protestant vs. Catholic debates and I just end up exhausted at the end. I am a former Protestant myself and so that is the reason I have found myself in numerous arguments, especially at my former university (which was Baptist). However, since I've already begun, I would only say that it would probably be best, in my interest I admit, that we stick to one issue. I know that I said a few things on four different issues and so I understand your response (that's my fault, hahaha). If you like, feel free to pick a topic and we can discuss that. I spent three years discerning my religious beliefs and so I am quite convinced of what I believe, just as I know you are. And I really do thank you for the charity towards me. I'm sure we could both tell a hundred horror stories of crazy and mad Catholics/Protestants that we've run into.

~ David

6:35 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

I hear you. And I don't really feel like a wide-ranging, anything goes discussion myself - I'm the type that would rather narrow the focus and go deep. My main concern is just to know if I have it wrong about Catholic doctrine - after all, if I'm wrong about my assessment of what your church teaches, then I've been wasting bandwidth!

And I don't want this to turn into one of those crazy stories you mentioned, by any means.

So, if you would agree and you have the time to do so, I suggest the first of the topics - sola gratia. This, in my view, is the deepest of the issues and the most important.

If so, I would pose the following questions, as I've already covered this ground in my response. I admit they're more for my benefit, as I'm really curious now and I'm not sure I'm reading the catechisms and canons right:

1. What is the responsibility of man with respect to attaining salvation, and what is the role of God's grace in this? Or, more simply, what must one do to be saved?

2. What is the grace of God, as defined in a Catholic view?


I think that's the core of the issue, and it should be simple enough.

I should say this... I'm pretty sure that you didn't expect this to turn into a long discussion, and I probably have more time on my hands than you do (I'm on vacation...). So, if you'd like to just leave things where they are, or even delay this for a later and better time, that's fine too.

God bless.

11:34 PM  
Blogger XYZ said...

Hello again!

Well, first of all, allow me to envy you for being on vacation. I work Monday to Friday during the summer for the federal government—and that’s my vacation! Returning to more important issues: I also agree that salvation is an extremely important issue; after all, it has eternal consequences. I will answer your questions as best I can and if I come across something that I don’t have an answer to, I shall do all I can to find one! First of all, I think it would be a good idea to just plainly state the Catholic teaching on salvation.

Salvation is by God’s grace alone. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states, “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996). Likewise, the Council of Trent says: “If any one saith, 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” (6th session, Canon I). And finally, as Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5).

But of course, there is more to it than that. The best way to summarize the Catholic view of salvation is found in Galatians 5:6: “faith working through love.” And this is where we get into the issue of faith and works. Catholics believe that the two are inseparable: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:18). To be saved, we must not only believe, but cooperate with God’s grace that he has freely given us (Mt 7:21). Thus, if works are involved in our salvation, how can it truly be by grace alone? In fact, the answer truly lies in the phrase “grace alone”. The Church uses the term “merit” to describe what I’m talking about here. The CCC says, “We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God” (2025). Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica, “[M]an's merit with God only exists on the presupposition of the Divine ordination, so that man obtains from God, as a reward of his operation, what God gave him the power of operation for” (II, 114, q.1). Any work that we do, we do only as the result of God’s grace in the first place. That is precisely why we have no right to claim anything for ourselves, for it is the grace of God that works in us. In essence, grace is like a big circle: it comes from God to us, works through us to do good works, and goes back to God in the form of our cooperation with it. That is how Catholics can say we are saved by grace alone: grace is the cause of our works and also the cause of our faith.

7:24 PM  
Blogger XYZ said...

(continued...)

Justification is not understood by Catholics to be a one-time event, but a process. As 1 Corinthians 6:11 states, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This is a chronological list of the events of salvation in our life; note that justification comes after sanctification, making it seem that God justifies us finally when we have been made holy. Even if this was not a chronological timeline, but instead that the three words (washed, sanctified, justified) meant the same thing, it would still lend support, I believe, to the Catholic teaching as we believe sanctification and justification are one and the same: a process (as sanctification is). Thus, how can we understand the Council of Trent when it says, “If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema (6th session, canon XXIV)? Justification can be said to be increased in the same way that sanctification makes us more holy. We believe justification and sanctification are the same, and thus, to “increase in justification” is to become sanctified, or, more like Christ. And once again, allow me to state again that all of this is only possible by grace alone. Good works are the result of grace and thus so is increasing in justification.

Another point to be made is that Catholics believe that justification is more than a legal declaration of God. It is seen more as a covenant in which we become sons in God’s family. God not only declares us to be righteous, but he in fact makes us righteous. He desires for us to be perfect (Mt 5:48) and so he does what he desires (Is 55:11) even if it takes a lifetime of sanctification.

So, to summarize: Catholics are saved by grace alone through faith working in love. God will judge us on whether we cooperated with his grace by allowing it to transform us and produce good works. I believe Matthew 25:31-46 sums this up quite well; it is the parable of the last judgment on which the righteous and unrighteous are judged according to whether they loved others.

I realize how long this is and I do apologize. I just really feel that expressing the Catholic teaching on salvation is so important. Now, to the questions!

What is the responsibility of man with respect to attaining salvation, and what is the role of God's grace in this? Or, more simply, what must one do to be saved?

See above. :-)

What is the grace of God, as defined in a Catholic view?

The grace of God is that free gift he gives out of his love for all humanity (Jn 3:16). Grace is what moves us to conversion and repentance, what gives us faith, what allows us to do good works, and what allows us to get into heaven!

I really hope that wasn’t confusing. Please ask for clarification if any of it is unclear and feel free to ask more questions if you like. If you like, maybe you can give an explanation on your view of salvation and then I can come up with some questions if I have any. And I’m also watching the hockey game on CBC and Carolina is leading Edmonton 1-0 after the first period. GRRRR!!! :@

7:25 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

David,

Sorry for the late response. I was traveling in BC, and then I was under the weather for a while. Better late than never, though… Thanks for your thoughtful response. Space will not permit me to touch on everything, so I will look at the most important points you made.

In short, I believe the confusion between us is this: You are saying salvation is by grace alone, and you are implying that you essentially believe the same thing as Protestants do on this point. In a way, you’re right about that - the definition and explanation you gave is, indeed, one that many Protestants would agree with. My contention, though, is that the question of grace alone is one that even most Protestants get wrong, as well as Catholics. The fundamental issue here is this: What is the difference between one who follows Christ, and one who rejects Him? You’ll see this issue some out repeatedly in my comments.

Salvation is by God’s grace alone. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states, “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996).

This quote, however, fails to prove your point. The quote from the CCC describes grace as “help.” What does grace help? Human effort. In the Catholic view, grace is an enabler. It makes salvation possible. It renders its recipients saveable – but it does not save. It must be activated and maintained through human effort.

If grace is but a “help,” then grace is not alone. Grace plus whatever it helps – that’s the only consistent conclusion.

Likewise, the Council of Trent says: “If any one saith, 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” (6th session, Canon I). And finally, as Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5).

Trent affirms my point here. I’ve never denied that Catholics hold a role for grace in salvation – indeed, grace makes salvation possible. Trent in this article denies that human merit and works alone can save, and I agree. My disagreement lies in the quotes I gave above, where Trent insists that those who believe that “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 ”, they are anathema. This is exactly what Protestants hold – that works are but the fruit of one already saved by God’s grace.

But of course, there is more to it than that. The best way to summarize the Catholic view of salvation is found in Galatians 5:6: “faith working through love.” And this is where we get into the issue of faith and works. Catholics believe that the two are inseparable: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:18). To be saved, we must not only believe, but cooperate with God’s grace that he has freely given us (Mt 7:21).

I also believe they are inseparable. But – Protestants see works as fruit, as evidence. You see them as water for the seed, or as sunlight feeding the plant. Protestants see works as an effect of salvation, because they view justification as a declaration. Catholics view works as a cause (not THE cause, or a cause by itself, but as A cause), because justification is, in their view, a process.

Here’s where the difference between us becomes clear. Let me tease it out…

Answer me this: what is the difference between one who cooperates and one who does not? What is the decisive factor that makes the difference whether one “cooperates” or not? Man’s free will, or humility, or something God does? If you answer that it is something in the creature, that human beings have some ability in themselves to make themselves willing and disposed to cooperation, then that is human righteousness, not God’s. If God grants grace to everyone in equal measure, then the reason some are saved and some are not lies in man – it is not a work of God. This means that man has cause for boasting, and this (having cause, not the boasting itself) God will not allow (Rom 3:26-28, 4:2, 1 Cor 1:28-31, 4:7).

The fundamental difference between Catholic and Reformation theology (not to be confused with the shallow theology that characterizes much of modern Protestantism) is this:

Catholicism (along with much of Protestantism) holds to synergistic salvation. Salvation is a cooperative effort (synergy) between God and man, with the decisive element located in man. If man rejects God and refuses to do his part, he is lost. God cannot or will not change that man’s heart or bring him to salvation.

The Reformed camp holds that salvation is monergistic – that it is the work of one party alone, and that is God. From first to last, salvation is a gift of God’s grace – not just the cross, but the very faith by which we are saved is a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). Reformed theology starts from the conviction that all men are utterly lost, that they all hate God, that none seeks God (Rom 3:10-18), and that they are unable to even recognize spiritual things, let alone do any of them to please God (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:7-8). In his natural state, every man rejects God, not just those who are lost. And so God must change hearts (Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 11:19-20, Acts 16:14) and grant faith and repentance (2 Tim 2:25) to them if any are to be saved at all. Not only is it not of works, but it is not of man’s will or desire, either (Rom 9:16). God draws His own to Christ, and Christ will save every one of them. (John 6:37-38) Without that drawing, none could come (John 6:44a); of those drawn, all are saved (John 6:44b). The decisive difference between those saved and those lost, then, is God – lest anyone boast:

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)

And that’s how I can say salvation is by grace alone. This is directly related to the sticky issue of election and predestination, but it is the only way anyone – Protestant or Catholic – can consistently and Biblically say that salvation is all of God, all of grace. And it’s a hard one to accept – I struggled with it myself.

It all leads to this: I can truly thank God for my salvation, for it was Him who brought it about. I can consistently pray for the salvation of the lost, for salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and only He can bring anyone to salvation. And this means that I must trust completely in Christ for my salvation, for nothing I can do can earn it or deserve it. Faith is not meritorious, not the 1% I must do to be saved, but a childlike trust in Christ that He is who He said He is and that He is the only and final sacrifice for sins. I lean wholly on the mercy of God – and He gets ALL the glory.

(continued)

11:20 AM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

(From above)

Thus, if works are involved in our salvation, how can it truly be by grace alone? In fact, the answer truly lies in the phrase “grace alone”. The Church uses the term “merit” to describe what I’m talking about here. The CCC says, “We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God” (2025). Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica, “[M]an's merit with God only exists on the presupposition of the Divine ordination, so that man obtains from God, as a reward of his operation, what God gave him the power of operation for” (II, 114, q.1). Any work that we do, we do only as the result of God’s grace in the first place. That is precisely why we have no right to claim anything for ourselves, for it is the grace of God that works in us. In essence, grace is like a big circle: it comes from God to us, works through us to do good works, and goes back to God in the form of our cooperation with it. That is how Catholics can say we are saved by grace alone: grace is the cause of our works and also the cause of our faith.

Okay, but again, the decisive difference between one who does all these things and one who rejects this grace is still in man, in the Catholic scheme. Again, that “island of righteousness” in the sinner that makes him willing is still all his own – and so salvation is not all of God after all.

Justification is not understood by Catholics to be a one-time event, but a process. As 1 Corinthians 6:11 states, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This is a chronological list of the events of salvation in our life; note that justification comes after sanctification, making it seem that God justifies us finally when we have been made holy. Even if this was not a chronological timeline, but instead that the three words (washed, sanctified, justified) meant the same thing, it would still lend support, I believe, to the Catholic teaching as we believe sanctification and justification are one and the same: a process (as sanctification is).

I have elsewhere defined justification from a Protestant perspective, so I won’t make a long response (you can read that series here:

http://against-the-world.blogspot.com/2005/08/justification-part-i-introduction.html

http://against-the-world.blogspot.com/2005/08/justification-part-ii-declaration-by.html

http://against-the-world.blogspot.com/2005/08/justification-part-iii-justice-and.html

http://against-the-world.blogspot.com/2005/08/justification-part-iv-once-and-for-all.html

I’ll just point out one thing: Paul often talks of justification to his readers as if it were a completed, past event (Rom 5:1, 5:9, 8:30, 1 Cor 6:11). How is this possible if justification is a process?

I will agree heartily that sanctification is a process, and that it is a cooperative effort between man and God. But only one justified has the Holy Spirit, and so is able to cooperate and do good at all. Everyone justified will be sanctified, as sanctification is evidence of true justification. Sanctification, again, is a fruit of salvation, like any good work. Otherwise, again, some are able to complete the process, and some do not – and if the difference between them is human, not God’s work, then those who are sanctified have something to boast about (“I was willing. I was cooperative, though they were not.”)

Another point to be made is that Catholics believe that justification is more than a legal declaration of God. It is seen more as a covenant in which we become sons in God’s family. God not only declares us to be righteous, but he in fact makes us righteous. He desires for us to be perfect (Mt 5:48) and so he does what he desires (Is 55:11) even if it takes a lifetime of sanctification.

Protestants distinguish between justification, adoption, and sanctification. Justification is the “legal” declaration by God, where He counts our sins (all of them) laid on Christ, and His righteousness is counted to us. In justification, God declares us righteous based on what Christ has done, not our own works. And as Christ’s work was once and for all, so is our justification. Now, those justified are, furthermore, adopted into God’s family, but justification must (logically, if not chronologically) come first - if not, how could a Holy God adopt an unholy, unrighteous sinner into His perfect family? Then, God does indeed, as you said, “make us holy.” This he does through the aforementioned new heart of flesh, which He previously gave us, and which made us willing to follow Him in the first place. This new heart has God’s law written on it, and seeks to please Him. The Holy Spirit aids the person – a “new creation” – in working to become more holy. Yet, again, this work does not contribute to a person’s ultimate destiny in heaven – this was secured by Christ’s righteousness in justification.

The grace of God is that free gift he gives out of his love for all humanity (Jn 3:16). Grace is what moves us to conversion and repentance, what gives us faith, what allows us to do good works, and what allows us to get into heaven!

Again: if grace moves us to conversion and repentance, and gives us faith, then is this grace the difference between one who follows Christ and one who rejects Him?

If so, then we are in agreement. If not – if the difference between one who submits to Christ and one who rejects Him is something in the sinner, and not a work of God, then man has something to boast about. He brought something of his own to the table, something from himself and not from God. And then salvation is not all of grace – that tiny bit of human willingness was decisive.

I really hope that wasn’t confusing. Please ask for clarification if any of it is unclear and feel free to ask more questions if you like. If you like, maybe you can give an explanation on your view of salvation and then I can come up with some questions if I have any. And I’m also watching the hockey game on CBC and Carolina is leading Edmonton 1-0 after the first period. GRRRR!!! :@

I found your presentation quite clear, actually. And, I have to say, it was a far more Biblical and more consistent view than most Protestants I know would give. Most Protestants wouldn’t even concede that faith is a gift of God’s grace, as you did. I believe I laid out my view of salvation above as a part of my answer (the monergism thing!) I expect that will spark some questions (it usually does – mine is a minority opinion even in Protestant circles), so if you have any questions, go ahead.

I was sad for the Oilers. But it was a great series. :(

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Mike Jones said...

I posted this under the Justification blog, but I will repost here:



These two events jumped out at me upon reading your article:

1) The justified tax collector:

Luke 18
13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

This is compelling evidence of the once-for-all justification by Christ's sacrifice. Jesus gives no other condition for justification. God is faithful to forgive, and answers the simple cry to God for salvation.

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:13, Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32.

If we suggest this man then had to 'work' to be justified, then we call Jesus a liar: Consider the next point:

2) The criminal on the cross

Luke 23
39One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

This man had NO opportunity for good works. None. He did nothing good - he died immediately after his cry to Christ for salvation. If justification was not instant, and needed to be worked out, then he is lost, for he had no opportunity. Furthermore, if this man was saved WITHOUT works, but we claim we need to be continually "re-justified" now, then there is a double standard for people: This man got a free ticket in, while those still alive worked for it. And we know that cannot be true, "For God shows no partiality." (Rom 2:11, Acts 10:34).

All are equal and deserving punishment, and all who call on the name of Christ are freely justified - once for all - so that we can NOW do good works:

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:8-10

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Mike Jones said...

By the way... i noticed a comment you made, David... I appreciate it when people will actually answer points in my arguments, so I can either clarify or correct myself, so I want to tackle one point you made:

As 1 Corinthians 6:11 states, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This is a chronological list of the events of salvation in our life; note that justification comes after sanctification, making it seem that God justifies us finally when we have been made holy. Even if this was not a chronological timeline, but instead that the three words (washed, sanctified, justified) meant the same thing, it would still lend support, I believe, to the Catholic teaching as we believe sanctification and justification are one and the same: a process (as sanctification is).

I must disagree with this analysis, on both points:
1) The attributes as chronological events in salvation
2) The three words mean the same thing

Neither of those interpretations accurately reflect the meaning behind the words, nor are they consistent with Scripture:

Paul wrote this, in Romans 5:1:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The tense is not that of a process - but of a completed act. We HAVE peace because we have been justified - because the act of justification is complete. I'll go into more detail on why the concept of justification is completed (and CANNOT be incomplete), while sanctification still holds but may not yet be complete.

So, the interpretation of those three being chronological cannot hold. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 6:11 again:

And such were some of you.

"But you were washed"

This refers to baptism of the Holy Spirit:

Titus 3:4-6
4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

This Baptism of the Holy Spirit 'renews' and 'regenerates' our hearts, washing us of our sin. This is distinct from justification.

"you were sanctified"

Literally, the Greek word hagiazo means "(made holy / set apart for God, purified, consecrated)." All believers are set apart (holy)- so in this sense we are all sanctified. Jesus tells us in John 17 that we are not of this world - in fact, He asks the Father to sanctify (set us apart) in the truth, that is, the Gospel. This does not mean that we are not still burdened by our sinful nature, but because we have been JUSTIFIED and WASHED we are by nature now set apart, and therefore sanctified - Paul repeatedly stressed this point in Romans. As we live for God and obey Him, our sanctification and the fruits of our faith come to full fruition (by God's will, not ours):
1 Thess 5:23:
23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

The sense in which we are still 'being sanctified' seems to be a matter of purity - of our spirit, soul, AND body. A sin does not mean we are not sanctified (set apart), but it would mean our bodies are not sanctified (pure). Sanctification carries with it the connatation of being made pure, as well as being made holy. Justification, on the other hand, is not this sort of concept. Justification, or 'dikaioo,' is literally to render/regard as just or innocent. So this concept is to be declared or regarded as just, whereas sanctification has to do with being made holy and pure. One cannot be partially regarded as just, or partially declared just. One is either just or not just, innocent or not innocent. Justification by its very nature cannot be a process - for if we are only partially justified, then we are still sinful, and therefore not justified in the Judge's eyes. But one CAN be set apart by GOd's mercy, and yet still give in to the sinful nature. Justification translates into holiness (see below), so we are sanctified (and that cannot be taken away), but we may not yet live in a pure way, so in that sense sanctification is still in progress.

Is one "unsanctified" as a believer? No, we are sanctified from the beginning, and our sanctification progresses in the truth. It is not something that needs to be complete in order to hold. So the assertion that sanctification proceeds justification based on the ordering in this verse is not consistent with the much more detailed teaching in Romans:

Romans 6:21-23:
21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
and again, Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul describes how the 'fruit (we) get' leads us to sanctification, and that 'fruit' is from the free gift of God, that is, eternal life. We cannot separate the concepts of justification and eternal life - Paul here says that the fruit of our freedom from sin, that is, by our justification and regeneration, IS eternal life (in contrast to sin resulting in death), and that eternal life is a free gift from God. Paul just spent Romans 5 explaining how we have been freely justified, and then he tells us the fruits of this are the path to eternal life, and again, he tells us eternal life is a free gift. So those works on that path CAN NOT contribute to our salvation - we have certainty of eternal life because we are justified by God's mercy alone. In fact, this verse tells us that because we are JUSTIFIED, we are also SANCTIFIED, and that our sanctification will continue on the road to eternal life, which is guaranteed us by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:14)

"you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Again, the 'were justified' is PAST TENSE. Again, the word justified literally means "declared right." The sanctification is PAST TENSE, and in the same way our washing is past tense. All these things have happened: The Holy Spirit has washed us (we received the baptism of the Spirit), we have been sanctified (set apart, although Paul makes it clear that we are being sanctified throughout our path to eternal life - no such condition is made for justification), and we have been justified, which is a free gift from God (Rom 5:1). Which is exactly how Paul wrote it in 1 Cor 6:11. He wrote it to argue to Corinth NOT to give in to the sinful nature BECAUSE all these things have been DONE by Christ. And, since we were bought at a price, we are now slaves to Christ, sanctified, washed, and justified.

I hope that all made sense... sadly, I am out of time, or I would continue. Please, ask me if any of this needs clarification (you as well, Jeff - feel free to interject).

8:33 PM  
Blogger XYZ said...

This quote [CCC 1996], however, fails to prove your point. The quote from the CCC describes grace as “help.” What does grace help? Human effort. In the Catholic view, grace is an enabler. It makes salvation possible. It renders its recipients saveable – but it does not save. It must be activated and maintained through human effort. If grace is but a “help,” then grace is not alone. Grace plus whatever it helps – that’s the only consistent conclusion.

Sure, but now I’ll give you the other half of the story. St. Paul writes, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). We have given this a technical term, "sanctifying grace". Sanctifying grace is, as the CCC puts it, “a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God” (2000). In other words, this grace is the very life of God (CCC 1997) infused in our soul which makes us able to have faith and do good works. The quote from paragraph 1996 describes what we call “actual grace”, the “help” that God gives us. Our souls are “in the middle” while grace acts from inside and outside. So, yes, salvation is by grace alone in the Catholic Church. (“The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace” [CCC 2001].) “Human effort” arises from sanctifying grace in the first place.

Answer me this: what is the difference between one who cooperates and one who does not? What is the decisive factor that makes the difference whether one “cooperates” or not? Man’s free will, or humility, or something God does? If you answer that it is something in the creature, that human beings have some ability in themselves to make themselves willing and disposed to cooperation, then that is human righteousness, not God’s. If God grants grace to everyone in equal measure, then the reason some are saved and some are not lies in man – it is not a work of God. This means that man has cause for boasting, and this (having cause, not the boasting itself) God will not allow (Rom 3:26-28, 4:2, 1 Cor 1:28-31, 4:7). . . . the decisive difference between one who does all these things and one who rejects this grace is still in man, in the Catholic scheme. Again, that “island of righteousness” in the sinner that makes him willing is still all his own – and so salvation is not all of God after all.

The difference is free will. But I don’t accept that man’s free will is a cause for boasting. Free will is a gift of God from creation, so it all goes back to Him anyway. How does man’s exercise of his free will automatically negate the grace of God? As a friend said, if I was $50,000 in debt and someone graciously offered me that amount of money, but said "all you have to do is drive over to my house and pick it up," I would somehow have "cause for boasting" because I drove over there and picked it up?

If we don’t have a free will to choose God, then what is God getting at when he said to the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30:19)?

It all leads to this: I can truly thank God for my salvation, for it was Him who brought it about. I can consistently pray for the salvation of the lost, for salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and only He can bring anyone to salvation.

But why bother praying for the salvation of souls if God has already determined who will be saved and who will not? If some are predestined to heaven, then logically the rest are predestined to hell. And you’d be absolutely correct that salvation comes 110% from God, but then so does damnation too. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). If he desires that, why hasn’t he predestined all to heaven? But we know that not all will go to heaven (Mt 7:13-14). If some are predestined to hell, then they also can claim they had no part in their “unsalvation.” Therefore, they can claim no responsibilty for their sin since they had no choice in the matter anyway.

I’ll just point out one thing: Paul often talks of justification to his readers as if it were a completed, past event (Rom 5:1, 5:9, 8:30, 1 Cor 6:11). How is this possible if justification is a process?

St. Paul also speaks of justification as a present and future event. For example:
1 Cor 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Gal 2:17 – “But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not!”
1 Cor 3:15 – “If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Mt 12:37 – “[F]or by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Rom 2:13 – “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

If justification (salvation) is spoken of in all three tenses, then, yes, it is a process. That’s why we need the whole Bible.

1:31 PM  
Blogger XYZ said...

(continued)

This is compelling evidence of the once-for-all justification by Christ's sacrifice. Jesus gives no other condition for justification. God is faithful to forgive, and answers the simple cry to God for salvation.

This is why we shouldn’t prooftext but take the entire Scripture together to get the whole view. Allow me to demonstrate:

- Salvation is through hospitality – “He who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).

- Salvation is by works – “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13).

- Salvation is by being righteous/holy – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

- Salvation is by perseverance – “By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:19).

- Salvation is by obedience – “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (John 3:36).

- Salvation is through the Eucharist – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

- Salvation is through the Ten Commandments – “‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘. . . If you would enter life, keep the commandments’” (Matthew 19:16-17).

- Salvation is by forsaking your family – “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

- Salvation is by belief – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

- Salvation is through baptism – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

- Salvation is through childbirth – “Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty” (1 Timothy 2:15).

- Salvation is through Jesus’ Blood – “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).

- Salvation is through repentance – “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32); “Bear fruit that befits repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

(Quoted from http://www.cathinsight.com/apologetics/mccarthy/Infant-Justification.pdf, pp 12-13)

This man had NO opportunity for good works. None. He did nothing good - he died immediately after his cry to Christ for salvation. If justification was not instant, and needed to be worked out, then he is lost, for he had no opportunity. Furthermore, if this man was saved WITHOUT works, but we claim we need to be continually "re-justified" now, then there is a double standard for people: This man got a free ticket in, while those still alive worked for it. And we know that cannot be true, "For God shows no partiality." (Rom 2:11, Acts 10:34).

First of all, the criminal did not die immediately after his cry to Christ. St. Luke tells us that at least three hours passed before Jesus died (and since the criminal’s cry): “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (v. 44). St. John then says “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him” (19:32). Jesus died (at minimum) three hours later and then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the other two (but did not break Jesus’ legs for he was already dead). So the repentant criminal was still alive after Jesus died, three hours later.

But “no opportunity”? He didn’t do anything good? So he didn't repent? He didn't defend the honour of Christ against the other thief?

As for 1 Cor 6:11, I don’t know how to respond because I don’t understand what you’re saying. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, I just genuinely don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me. All I will say is this:

He wrote it to argue to Corinth NOT to give in to the sinful nature BECAUSE all these things have been DONE by Christ. And, since we were bought at a price, we are now slaves to Christ, sanctified, washed, and justified.

Why did St. Paul write it at all if salvation is a guarantee for those who are once-justified; there would be no danger of giving in to the sinful nature and thus reaping eternal damnation.

1:36 PM  

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