Advent, Incarnation, and Visibility

Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Advent, Catholicism, Christmas, Communion, Creator/Creature Distinction, Deification, Ecclesiology, Eucharist, Featured, Imputation, Incarnation, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, Sacraments | 89 comments

Since the season of advent is right around the corner, I thought I’d offer a personal reflection on the Incarnation from a newly Catholic perspective, as well as suggest areas where I think Catholicism exhibits the dynamic of the Incarnation more faithfully than Protestantism does.

Consider first the realm of ecclesiology (which is related to Christology most obviously because the Church is the Body of Christ). In Protestantism, there is no single visible church, there is no single visible entity that can serve as an analogue to the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. While the people of Galilee and Judaea could have pointed their fingers and said, “That is Jesus Christ, right over there sitting under that tree, see him? No, not that guy, the one to his left. Yeah, him.” Protestants today cannot point to anything and say, “This is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church right here. No, not that one, this  one.” In Protestantism, the church becomes more or less visible depending on the circumstances, fading in and out, as it were, of one’s field of vision:

This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them (WCF xxv.4).

Like the siblings in Marty McFly’s family photograph in Back to the Future, Protestantism’s so-called visible church can begin to disappear one minute only to start to reappear the next, depending on how faithfully Reformed it is at any given moment. But of course, there is no analogue in the physical and visible world of flesh and bone of this kind of phenomenon, which, I think, calls into question how literally and seriously this ecclesiology takes the dogma of the Incarnation. I mean, if the “visible” church is the only visible thing that acts in this way, is it truly visible?

Moreover, while the Catholic insists that every single recipient of the Eucharist truly receives the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in Communion (since by the power of the Spirit the elements have been transformed into heavenly food and drink), Protestantism teaches that Christ is only received by those who are “worthy partakers”:

Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified. . . . Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby. . . . (WCF xxix.7-8)

Like Protestantism’s sometimes-visible church, Christ is only sometimes-truly-present at the Table. And what makes the difference as to his being more or less visible and more or less present is, again, the faithfulness of the believer.

Finally, absolutely central to the Catholic understanding of the Incarnation is Christ’s ongoing humanity, primarily because the final goal of our salvation is our deification. The whole point of Christ’s assuming human flesh and a human nature was so that he could glorify mankind in his own flesh so that, through our baptismal union with him, we participate in the divine nature by means of the flesh of Christ which we receive in the Eucharist. The whole thing is ontological and participatory: “Christ became Man so that man could become Gods,” and all that.

When we contrast this with the forensic and imputational focus of Protestant soteriology, the question arises (but is not “begged”), “Why is it necessary for the Son to retain his human nature? Why couldn’t he have simply risen again, shed his skin, and ascended as a non-corporeal being like he was before?” Furthermore, if Adam’s obedience could have been imputed to us his offspring (had be passed his probation), thereby accomplishing the very salvation that the second Adam in fact accomplished, one might be tempted to wonder aloud why the Incarnation was even necessary in the first place.

Of course, Catholics are not the only ones who affirm and celebrate the Incarnation. But it seems to me that this mystery is far more central to our overall system than it is to any of Protestantism’s. When one couples together the observations above with other issues such as the Protestant suspicion toward images of Christ, relics, the veneration of the Host, and anything that smacks of ontological participation of the human in the divine, well, let’s just say that the season of Advent is much more meaningful to me now than it ever was before.


  1. Jason,

    I agree that in the Catholic Church, there is a more faithful appreciation of the ongoing humanity of Jesus Christ. As you alluded, the eternal humanity of Jesus exists as a sort of life-giving power to us, such that not only our souls are finally restored to God, but our flesh, bones, blood, ligaments, etc,etc. His human life, which has both a physical body and a spiritual soul, serves as a salvific factory infusing the power of his own life to make others have the same life.

    I think what gets the reformed confused on the matter, especially, is that within the Catholic Church there are many people who clearly, in both word and deeds, do not reflect a true living relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. That being said, we should try to spend our efforts trying to reconcile the Catholic Church’s teaching on the relationship between the Lord’s Incarnation and Ecclesiology with the fact that many of the “members” of the body of Christ really don’t fit the description of what the biblical authors describe as someone who is a member of Christ. I would be interested in hearing that.

  2. Jason,

    It seems to me that so much of Catholic theology is driven by an attempt to formulate a philosophically complete and pure form of Christianity. Yes, in the case you raise here, having one physical entity that one can turn to is more philosophically compelling and psychologically satisfying. I get this. But the fundamental question is whether God has actually ordained a visible church which is one hierarchically organized entity as such is described in Roman Catholic dogma. It is very possible that while it might be attractive to us to be able to make the kinds of analogies between the one physical body of Christ and the one visible church (such as Rome defines) it may well be the case that God never intended His Church to take on this form. The Protestant notes that the only explicit commands concerning the visible church in the Scriptures are commands concerning the formation of local churches. There are no commands to appoint bishops, archbishops, cardinals, etc to rule over the local churches. Of course it’s possible that some of what God ordains is ordained through extra-biblical sources, and that’s the challenge for the Roman Catholic apologist to demonstrate.

    Concerning the Eucharist, since we know that the gospel preached often falls on deaf ears when the recipient is spiritually dead and thus the Word preached does no good to the listener, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that when the gospel presented in visible form in the Eucharist is received by this same spiritually dead person that is does him no good since again he is spiritually dead. This lack of benefit in no way reflects on the presence of Christ during the presentation of the Word, either by preaching or sacrament.

    On deification, here is a fragment from John Calvin commenting on 2 Peter 1:4:

    “. . . that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things . . . The end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.”

    Note what Calvin says – the “end” of the gospel is this deifying of His people. The emphasis on participating in the divine nature, that is “deification,” as Calvin calls it, is all through the Reformed corpus. There is no reason to “contrast” these truths with the forensic emphasis of Reformed soteriology.

  3. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    It seems to me that so much of Catholic theology is driven by an attempt to formulate a philosophically complete and pure form of Christianity. Yes, in the case you raise here, having one physical entity that one can turn to is more philosophically compelling and psychologically satisfying.

    It seems to me that this thread’s central point is not that the RC paradigm is more philosophically or psychologically satisfying (though, aye, it is those things), but rather, that it is more Incarnationally consonant.

  4. Jason,

    Ditto on much of what Andrew said.

    Protestants today cannot point to anything and say, “This is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church right here.

    Sure we can, we just don’t adopt the Roman “same-home-office definition” of the one church.

    But of course, there is no analogue in the physical and visible world of flesh and bone of this kind of phenomenon, which, I think, calls into question how literally and seriously this ecclesiology takes the dogma of the Incarnation. I mean, if the “visible” church is the only visible thing that acts in this way, is it truly visible?

    Well, since Jesus threatens to take away the lampstand from certain churches in the book of Revelation, I beg to differ. Furthermore, I could ask all sorts of questions based on the above line of reasoning. There’s no analogue in the physical and visible world of the incarnation itself, so was Jesus truly incarnate in a visible form? There’s no analogue of the substance of something changing but its accidens remaining the same, so is Christ truly and physically present in the Eucharist?

    When we contrast this with the forensic and imputational focus of Protestant soteriology, the question arises (but is not “begged”), “Why is it necessary for the Son to retain his human nature? Why couldn’t he have simply risen again, shed his skin, and ascended as a non-corporeal being like he was before?”

    Well, because there is something ontological that goes on in Protestant soteriology. We will be glorified. Also, we believe the physical world is actually good as originally created, not forever and inherently prone to fall into sin and non-being as in Roman Catholic anthropology, so why would God not want to remain in union with what he created? Third, since Protestants actually affirm the necessity of Christ becoming incarnate and dying as a man to save men, we continue to need to be nourished by his perfect human nature. There other reasons, but that’s a good start.

    Furthermore, if Adam’s obedience could have been imputed to us his offspring (had be passed his probation), thereby accomplishing the very salvation that the second Adam in fact accomplished, one might be tempted to wonder aloud why the Incarnation was even necessary in the first place.

    Sin necessitates the incarnation, as Athanasius indicates in the key work on the subject. Since you, Jonathan, and other RCs have said there is nothing in God’s character that necessitates the atonement, it is actually the RC position here that makes the incarnation wholly unnecessary.

    Of course, Catholics are not the only ones who affirm and celebrate the Incarnation. But it seems to me that this mystery is far more central to our overall system than it is to any of Protestantism’s.

    Actually, since most knowledgeable Reformed Protestants hold something like Murray’s consequent-absolute-necessity explanation of the atonement, I would say the opposite. Now, a good many lay Protestants think—apparently like you and the other RCs around here—that God could have saved us apart from the incarnation and the atonement, so I can see why you might say what you have. But they’re subconsciously taking on the unnecessary incarnation view that you and other RCs promote here.

    When one couples together the observations above with other issues such as the Protestant suspicion toward images of Christ

    Not all Protestants are suspicious towards images of Christ. See the Lutherans, the Anglicans, and even Reformed theologians such as R.C. Sproul and John Frame.

    relics, the veneration of the Host, and anything that smacks of ontological participation of the human in the divine, well, let’s just say that the season of Advent is much more meaningful to me now than it ever was before.

    Just how many crosses could you build with all the splinters of the true cross around the world? How about the number of babies you could nurse with Mary’s milk? Would the tooth fairy have enough money to give it out to all the churches that have Jesus’ baby teeth? The last example actually shows how a so-called “focus on the incarnation” destroys the true humanity of Christ. A true human doesn’t have more than what, 32 or so teeth.

    We’re suspicious of such things given the history of idolatry and because we see a difference between belief in the supernatural and, for want of a better term, simple-minded credulity. As far as ontological participation in the divine, that all depends on what you mean by that. Most comments and allusions by the RCs around here indicate that it obliterates the Creator-creature distinction in such thinking even if you all say otherwise.

    I’m sorry you find the incarnation more meaningful now as a RC. It looks to us more like you’ve embraced superstition and not the true necessity of God becoming flesh for our salvation.

  5. +JMJ+


    It’s really not necessary to answer Jason’s every point with such a scattergun and slipshod response. Slow down. Have a cup of joe and a smoke. Unclench.

    Ahh! Life is good.

  6. Wosbald,

    Scattergun? Slipshod?

    Jason is personally reflecting on how much better the RC position on the incarnation is while not accurately dealing with the Reformed and Protestant understanding of it. A couple of haphazard confessional quotes do not make a good presentation of the view you are critiquing. This is especially true when one is touting one’s formal Reformed credentials and then wondering why we think the incarnation is necessary when we’re the ones affirming its necessity over and against the RC view depicted around here of God being able to save us some other way.

    If Jason et all want to know what the Reformed say about the necessity of the incarnation, there’s plenty out there. The fact that we don’t bow down before bread or build altars around Mary’s breast milk is not an argument that Rome has more of an incarnational view than we do. In fact, we would say such things trivialize the incarnation and fail to recognize it for the glory that it is.

  7. +JMJ+


    Calling it a “response” was generous, on my part. AFAIAC, “wild-eyed, reactionary salvo” would be more like it. But YMMV.

    I’m gonna go have some fried chicken and a smoke. Catch up with ya in a bit.

  8. Andrew: To your point that maybe, just maybe, God didn’t actually ordain the church to be what you readily admit is a more philosophically satisfying version of it than Protestantism holds to, well, I would just ask why it is that it took everyone 1500 years to figure out that the church might not be one visible thing, but instead should be completely visibly decentralized.

    Robert: No, you cannot point to anything and say, “That’s THE church right there” in the way Peter could have said, “That’s Jesus right there.” Sorry. If your ecclesiology reflects at all your Christology, then your Jesus was like Big Brother McFly.

  9. Andrew, that came off more snarky than I intended! Apologies.

  10. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:

    Robert: No, you cannot point to anything and say, “That’s THE church right there” in the way Peter could have said, “That’s Jesus right there.” Sorry. If your ecclesiology reflects at all your Christology, then your Jesus was like Big Brother McFly.

    Such as Robert’s recent post on the “Raise Your Hand” Thread…

    The answer would be that we see John 15 as pertaining to those who only joined the visible church and were never invisibly united to Christ.

    Why is it that the Natural Man could’ve historically met the real Jesus, but he can’t meet the real Church? Why is it that, instead, he can only meet people who may or may not have been invisibly and ineffably united to Jesus?

    To me, that doesn’t seem consonant with the Incarnation.

  11. Jason–

    I don’t know why exactly, but I cannot even begin to take your arguments seriously. They are pure fluff to me and unworthy of exerting any effort on in response.

    All I can really manage is, “Well, that’s your opinion.”

    (Maybe it’s a result of Wosbald’s spewing all his we’re-more-incarnational crap. Sorry. Tired of it. Absolutely nothing to it that I can see.)

    Is OT aniconism more or less “incarnational” to you all? Did the NT ever revoke it (explicitly or otherwise)?

  12. Jason,

    Sure I can point to the church.

    I can point to my Reformed Church and say “There’s the church.”

    I can point to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church down the street and say, “There’s the church.”

    I can point to the two OPC churches in my town and say, “There’s the church.”

    I can point the the Anglican church where my friend attends and say, “There’s the church.”

    I can point to scores of Baptist churches.

    They are all at least as easy to identify as the church Christ founded as the RCC, more so, in fact, because they do a better job of holding to the apostolic testimony that we do have.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a church that is identified by a succession of bishops and then go on to say that it really doesn’t matter when the pope is an antipope, or when the local bishop is a heretic. At that point, you have to start evaluating doctrine. In fact, you have to evaluate doctrine before you even commit to the RCC church.

    You’ve convinced yourself that Rome provides some kind of epistemological and incarnational advantage. I’m sorry to break it to you that it just ain’t so.

  13. Wosbald,

    Why is it that the Natural Man could’ve historically met the real Jesus, but he can’t meet the real Church? Why is it that, instead, he can only meet people who may or may not have been invisibly and ineffably united to Jesus?

    The natural man hates God apart from the work of the Spirit, so he won’t recognize anything.

    As far as the John 15 post, the specific question was about how that passage applies to individuals. Not every one who is a part of the visible church is in Christ. Surely even Rome has a place for this. Is the one who is baptized as an adult only because it’s good for his business really united to Christ even if he secretly hates all the RCC church stands for?

  14. @Eric:
    That was more or less the point of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. To worship as if what was revealed was still hidden was to deny the revelation. St. John Damascene is an excellent guide on this point.

    Continuing to be aniconic as a Christian is like continuing to require circumcision; it is worshipping the shadow over what casts it. And even the Old Testament showed what one does when the divinity is manifest, one worships (bows down) before it, as they bowed down before the Lord and the king after the Temple was completed or bowed down before the bronze serpent. It is just that this was rare and singular before, where Christianity defines the pattern, the Incarnation.

    Andrew’s discussion of what the Lord “ordains” is similarly legalistic. The Law is a shadow; Christ casts the shadow. Once you understand the Incarnation, the Law is obsolete. Indeed, it was never intended to define man’s relationship to God, to ordain a set of rules that man must obey, but to show in a hidden way what would be revealed.

    That’s exactly what we mean by not Incarnational. OT worship is not normative for Christians, except as a symbol of the ultimate Incarnational worship, the Eucharist. But you reject that (true) priesthood and cling to the symbolism, which we no longer need. That is Judaizing, relying on the old covenant for salvation, not Christianity.

    Go back and read Jason’s series on Hebrews. He gets it. Better yet, read that and Albert Vanhoye’s Our Priest Is Christ as well. Calvin was painfully ignorant of Christian history on this subject, but you don’t have to be.

  15. @Robert:
    There’s no unifying principle, no collective act of God Himself in which they participate. That is the distinctive concept of the Christian Church and what distinguishes the extent to which people are the Church from the extent they aren’t. When we speak of a principled distinction in the context of the Church or revelation, that is what we mean.

  16. And PS, that principle is the Incarnation, in case anybody missed that.

  17. …maybe, just maybe, God didn’t actually ordain the church to be what you readily admit is a more philosophically satisfying version of it than Protestantism holds to, well, I would just ask why it is that it took everyone 1500 years to figure out that the church might not be one visible thing, but instead should be completely visibly decentralized.


    No worries about how you answered here. I would say first that 1500 years is too long since ecclesiology in the 1st century is very different from ecclesiology in the 15th century. And while its certainly possible that the 1st century Christians got things wrong and the RCC of the Late Medieval Era was much wiser than their 1st century descendants I think it’s a reasonable question to ask why the difference.

    But there’s no doubt that ecclesiology of the 15 century, at least in the West, had been hierarchical for a number of centuries (in the East of course there is not the same degree of centralization of the power structures of the Church and the EO retain a autocephalous model rather than a Roman hierarchical one). So why is this? RCC apologists argue that surely God would not allow His Church (at least His Church in the West) to remain in error on this point for so long. But the Protestant questions this assumption. My perspective is that historically assumptions about ecclesiology (or any other theological matter) don’t generally get questioned unless there is some group that comes along to do the questioning. And up until the late Medieval era this just did not happen. And so yes, God did allow the church in the West to remain in error on the matter for quite some time, but not 1500 years.

    Paul Johnson makes the interesting observation in his History of Christianity that in the West the Church needed to centralize because society needed a power structure to replace the collapsed civil authority after Rome fell in the 5th century. As a Catholic Johnson believed that there was more to the centralizing of the Church than just these purely practical matters, but I think Johnson’s observation partially explains why the power structures of the Church in the West evolved the way they did. Western culture needed a civil as well as an ecclesiastical authority, and the Medieval RCC provided both. As I look at this evolution I see a host of pragmatic, philosophical, economic, and political reasons why the Church of Rome evolved the structure of authority that she did. At the time of the Reformation the RCC’s argument was that the church’s current ecclesiastical structures were what God intended from the beginning. Of course the Protestants argue against such a claim using both Scripture and tradition, but there was no shortage of theologians at this point in time within the RCC (and not just the Nominalists) who rejected the Pope’s claims and, and like the Protestants, pointed out that the extreme papalist claims of the current Roman administration had no basis from the standpoint of the ecclesiology of the Early Church.

    If you adopt assumptions that start with “surely God would not have allowed….” well then I guess current Roman Catholic ecclesiology wins out despite what Scripture and early Christian tradition might have to say on the matter. My perspective is that it’s not safe to presume on the will of God in such matters.


  18. Jonathan,

    They bowed down before the Lord and the king after the Temple was completed or bowed down before the bronze serpent.

    Except Hezekiah had to destroy the serpent because the people had started to worship it. This, of course, is the issue that Protestants have with icons, namely, that for all the fine distinctions the theologians make between veneration and worship, what happens on a practical level is that the average layperson gives adoration to creatures that is due only to God.

    There is a strong tendency toward iconoclasm in the Reformed tradition as a whole that I don’t believe is warranted. As I noted, R.C. Sproul and John Frame, among others, critique this. But it’s a huge leap to go from the Son of God was made flesh to the Eucharist is Christ, so lets adore it or to the adoration/veneration of Mary and the saints.

  19. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    Why is it that the Natural Man could’ve historically met the real Jesus, but he can’t meet the real Church? Why is it that, instead, he can only meet people who may or may not have been invisibly and ineffably united to Jesus?

    Robert wrote:
    The natural man hates God apart from the work of the Spirit, so he won’t recognize anything.

    So, the Natural Man could not have met the Person of Jesus as he walked the earth? Everyone that met Jesus was Regenerate/Elect?

  20. Hi Jason,

    Very good article!

    A friend sent me this, and I hope it is helpful for this dialogue.

    Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, Ch. 4 (St.Augustine)

    For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith,)— not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the ApostlePeter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christianname which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.


  21. Jason,

    A couple of questions on things you said in your original post.

    You said: Moreover, while the Catholic insists that every single recipient of the Eucharist truly receives the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in Communion (since by the power of the Spirit the elements have been transformed into heavenly food and drink), Protestantism teaches that Christ is only received by those who are “worthy partakers” So, what happens when a non-Christian or non-Catholic receives communion? Do they receive the true Lord yet are not affected? Also, what about when a Catholic in mortal sin goes to communion? What are the effects of the sacrament in those cases?

    You said: The whole thing is ontological and participatory: “Christ became Man so that man could become Gods,” and all that. Can you expound on this teaching which sounds so objectionable? What does it mean for men to be gods when there is only one true God?

    John D.

  22. How many churches were in the new testament. Phillipi, Corinth, Rome etc. They were all visible but unlike each other. They all had one thing in common. The Gospel and the sacraments. Te word was before the church, not the other way around. I think Robert nailed it. We reformed believe in a past act a finished act of the incarnation that does what it was supposed to do redeem sinners. The incarnation is finished act. There is only one way available participating in Christ’s humanity. Through his Spirit. Jason you said Jesus isn’t at the table of some protestant churches. Augustine once said Jesus isn’t in the bread and the wine, he is in the one taking the bread and the wine. Without the Spirit and the word through faith the sign would mean nothing.

  23. Jason, after reading your opening comments I really believe your in the right church. The writer of Hebrews dealt with the same problem with the judaizers like the Catholics in their need for the visible altar, a visible sacrifice, a visible priest. We are told that Christ’s priesthood, altar and work is in heaven. He ascended and sits at the right hand of God making intercession for us. He said he would send us a helper until he returns again. Christ’s physical body is in Heaven. The great Augustine said that we have been deprived of the body of Christ until he comes back. The writer of Hebrews intimates that this need for the physical, the visible was shrinking back in their faith. We know in John 6 the Jews were looking for a physical sign, and Jesus said the words i speak to you are spirit, the flesh profits nothing. The reformed as you know place our faith in a perfect finished past act.We don’t believe that we are still carrying out the incarnation by participating in his unique work, doing all that is within us . We don’t believe we are participating in our own salvation by our works. When he said it was finished we took him at his word. We simply believe that he came to redeem us and we are being conformed in the image of Christ in righteousness and holiness. I think Robert said it that he communicates his humanity to our weakness through the spirit. But how does the spirit work our participation out but through his word and through faith. Unlike the Catholic preoccupation with deification and the elevating of nature outside of itself into being God, our hope is his return . We cry with the saints groaning for our bodily resurrection. Knowing and accepting we will have fellowship with Him. None of us can really know what that will be.

  24. Robert, I think your post to Jason was spot on. I would add how sola philosophia works as Hoekema mentions in his book. For the greek philosophers life was cyclical. History continues to repeat itself with the elevation out always and readily available into the divine. In this fearful existence there is no sense of a past act in History with the guaranteed culmination. For the reformed the incarnation is not a ontological preoccupation with participation in the Physical. Look no further than the Hocus Pocus ( Engislh trans. Latin) said by the Priest at the transubstantiation where the priest pulls Christ down and manipulates him, becomes his regent not his servant. We see the incarnation as God inbreaking into his created world accomplishing his sole purpose in it redemption and eternal life. We look back at the finished act in faith through his spirit. Acts 1:11 ” this Jesus has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have watched him go into heaven. In Hebrew it said he appeared and his appearing. Christians look forward to the second coming and the glorification of our bodies. But the incarnation was to take sin away and is a past finished act. The Catholic model is a synergistic, ontological climb of Jacobs ladder in merit, mysticism, and speculation. Romans 3:10-11″ the is none righteous ( there goes inherit righteousness),there is none who understands( there goes philosophy),there is none who seek for God. ( speculation gone)

  25. So Kevin I take it you don’ fear God and you don’t seek for Him

  26. Susan, I do have fear of God in the sense the word is meant in the original languages “awe.”I have all reverence for the Lord Susan and absolutely i seek for God. But not in terms of my justification. Jesus didn’t die to bring us back to the Garden and leave us their on our own. Romans 4:25 said he was delivered over for our sins. All temporal and eternal. Then it says he was raised for our justification. When Jesus was raised so was I. In fact Ephesians says we have been seated with Him in the heavenlies and have the spirit as a guarantee. Peter says we have been adopted and have an inheritance that won’t go away. Susan, are you a mother? If you adopted a son and gave him an inheritance that can never fade away, could that son do anything to separate him from you. romans 8: 30 and following says wh can bring a charge against God’d elect? Its God who justifies. This is all courtroom language. then he says Susan ” nothing can separate us from the love of God.’ Romans 8: 29-30 Susan just like Romans 5;1 is in the aorist past participle tense. For those he predestined, he called, and those he called he justified, and those he justified he glorified. Its a for gone conclusion for those in Christ. Also Romans8:1 and 1 John 5:13. Before you go to bed tonight go read them Susan. I have complete assurance of my salvation, if thats what your asking me, and i am not afraid of God, he saved me not on the basis of deeds that i have done in holiness, but according to his mercy. Jesus is a loving savior who guaranteed me salvation through faith. No need to go to his mother because she is softer and she can soften him up. He says he is the only mediator between us and God. Susan i heard a priest say the other day ” we all are on along journey to perfection”. That aint good news. The gospel is good news. If i am on along journey to perfection I’m in trouble. You should know me. Frankly Susan i think without purgatory Roman Catholicism is a hard sell. People with no assurance, the threat of a mortal sin throwing them out again. Paul had to fight charges of antinomianism. Someone who understands what Christ has done for them will want to obey him. We have the Holy spirit to convict us of sin and lead us in the truth. But god never takes away our adoption or inheritance. These are legal promises God has made with himself. Remember he passed through the two halves himself. I love Paul calls the struggling corinthians saints and those who have been sanctified. My god will never take away a promise he made to me. Amen!

  27. That was me wasan
    So you are an exception to Roman 3:11-12

    And I would add that you do good too you pray to Jesus too right and that it good right?

  28. Sassan, sorry i misread Susan. whats your point? Why would i be an exception to Romans 3:11-12. apart from the Spirit of God, i am corrupt all of me. Ya i pray and do good, it isn’t merritorius in my acceptance before God. ask yourself why does Paul speak in the past for justification by faith. Its because the eschatological judgment has been moved up for the believer. In Christ we pass through the wrath of God and stand righteous in his sight of God, even though our sanctification straddles the already- not yet. When the resurrection comes the fulfillment of our bodily glorification will be done. Until then we possess the spirit of God and are being conformed to Christ. But the judgment has been rendered and the adoption papers signed. How do we know this?. Well Paul says in 2 corinthians that though the outer man is wasting away the inner man is being renewed day by day. knowing that He who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us also with Jesus. See we are already raised with Jesus seated in the heavenly places Ephesisans says, with the spirit as a seal and a guarantee. We are seated where Christ is physically, where his alter is, where his priesthood is. There is no need to place secondary causes between us and Christ. Namely a human institution, a false roman priest and the mechanical work of a sacrament. Peter says our inheritance is imperishable and will not fade away, it is reserved in heaven for you. The spirit distributes to us Christ and his graces, not the church,or a priest. The church is the recipient of God’s grace. and its free,it isn’t a reward for doing a sacrament. God did not set up salvation on the installment plan or piecemeal forgiveness given at the behest of a man. We al have the power to tell someone that has placed your faith in Jesus that they are forgiven. The Catholic church puts all these stipulations on to faith. Can you tell me why an adult in RICA has to go through a year of requirements to enter a church and get baptized. John 1:12 ” to as many as receive him he has given the right to be chidden of God.” Jesus said a cild could understand this. Yet we men with advanced degrees are blinded.

  29. Romans 3:10-11? the is none righteous ( there goes inherit righteousness),there is none who understands( there goes philosophy),there is none who seek for God. ( speculation gone)

    my point

    Rom 3:9-11 as we all know is a quotations from OT, Psalm 14. Now when Paul is quoting the Old Testament, do you thing that he is trying to persuade Jews by quoting from the Old Testament? Do you thing that Paul could establish his point in argument by wrenching text out of context and giving it a meaning that it didn’t have originally in fact give it a meaning that goes contrary to its original meaning? Let us go back to Psalm 14 and I would ask you was David or saint Paul’s contention with People who do good work by God’s Grace? was he talking about inhere righteousness? Hardly

    David’s point as I’m sure you know in this Psalm is the experience of David lifetime, you think that David’s enemies would be the Godless outside of Israel only. But we know that most of David’s life spent running from fellow Israelite Absalom and specially his father in law, King Saul and several others as well. David predicament is almost identical to Paul’s predicament, that is there are people in the covenant who are evidently not of the covenant because they are attacking the Lord’s anointed they are besieging the righteous. They are causing the righteous to dwindle down to precious few, a little ruminant. This Psalm doesn’t say they are no righteous individual anywhere on earth. If that what Paul is saying then he is rendering Psalm 14 nothing but a bunch of contradictions. What this Psalm is saying instead? There are Jews who are in the Convent who are evil doers, it is not only gentile under the power of sin as you Jews think, you too under the power of sin and Psalm 14 says that. How do we know this is what Paul is saying ? just see V 3:9 also Saint Paul in the same epistle says the wrath of God was revealed first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.
    what do we know about most of the Jews in Jesus time? Self-righteous, they thought just because they are in the covenant they are not under the power of sin, gentile only who are outside the covenant are under the power of sin Jews only who are saved because they are Abraham’s children

    I ask you when Psalm 14 says [There is no one just, not one, 11 there is no one who understands,
    there is no one who seeks God.12 All have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good,[there is not] even one. 13 Their throats are open graves; they deceive with their tongues;
    the venom of asps is on their lips;]
    is the psalmist talking collectively or distributive? was the Psalm about the no inherit righteousness that is infused in us by the power of God?

    God Bless

  30. Wassan, the answer to your question is no he couldn’t. Old testament saints were justified the same way we are by faith alone. Remember, Paul says the Law didn’t come for 430 years after the promise. It didn’t negate the promise he says. David was saved by faith. Look at the context of the first 3 chapters of Romans. Shut up everybody none of you are righteous, understand, or seek for God. But then what does he say Wassan, No man is justified by observing the Law. Adam was in a covenant of works. Had he obeyed he would have been declared righteous. Thats why no works can be involved in justification after the fall. And thats why the second Adam ( Romans 5:19, 1 Cor:15) not only had to go to the cross. but had to obey in every manner to fulfill the law, because the first adam didn’t. And thats why Paul says Abraham had nothing to boast about before God with his righteous works. Only Faith alone in the second Adam. In the new covenant salvation is no longer available by works of any kind. It was before the fall. But only by faith now. Thats the whole message of Romans and Galations. Abraham isn’t the father of the inherently righteous, he is the father of those of faith. Thhe Pelagian system by which you are being justified will never stand before God. I plead for you to repent of your righteous works Wassan and turn to christ by faith alone and be saved. John 5:24, Romans 10: 9’10.

  31. Kevin,

    Thank you for your participation. I would like to engage some of the comments you have made. I disagree with your assessment, and your final plea for Catholics to be saved.

    In the first place, you sound as if you are of the reformed view of salvation, one in which human activity contributes no merit to the final destiny of salvation. In your view, there is salvation, which is solely the activity of God, and then the human activity is a mere by product of that saving action. And if you hold to the 5 points of Calvinism, then you would argue that such human activity always necessarily follows the saving action of God, depleting the human of his free will, and leaving everything under the control of God, so that he is ultimately credited with the whole process. I wish you to understand something before going any further. If one holds to the 5 doctrines of Calvinism, you not only ascribe to a salvation wholly apart from works, but also a damnation wholly apart from works. For it is typical for the reformed to give full weight to the analogies that St. Paul gives when he speaks about one lump of clay and the potter taking from the same lump and “making” one for the purpose of honor and making another for dishonor. If we are not cautious, what we are saying is that God purposely created a certain group of humanity so that he could “make” them sin and therefore “deserve” punishment. This would be a damnation wholly apart from works, for God is the first cause in their life of sin and ultimately their eternal destiny. Therefore, it can be upheld that this is parallel and symetric with the salvation wholly apart from works, where God made a certain group of human beings purposely to have “faith alone” and therefore be saved, while good works necessarily follow.

    The above paragraph should allow you some time and reflection on how absurd such a view is. And I would add that before we suggest that God is “choosing” out of an already depraved human race because of the fall of Adam, this is not true Calvinism, because then God would be responding to Adam’s sin, and therefore not in total control from before the foundation of the world. True Calvinism actually teaches that before Adam’s sin, God purposed there to exist such two humanities, and that the destiny of each individual was already pre-determined apart from their works (evil or good).

    With regard to your protestant-like notions of the doctrine of Justification. You are deeply mistaken, and the error arises by a lack of understanding in Paul’s context. If you read closely into the book of Acts, you will see that “justification” (Galatians) is a particular topic with strict relevance to the controversy of Gentile inclusion into the ekklesia, the church. For thousands of years, it was understood that for one to enter into the covenant of salvation, the covenant made with Abraham and his Seed, one must be circumcised and pay strict obedience to the Torah. That Gentiles were claiming to have an inheritance in the covenant without such pre-requisites was an absolute scandal for the Jews (even for the apostles, initially).

    If you are reading Acts carefully, you will notice that by the time the Pharisees begin to confront the Gentile converts in Antioch above their lack of obedience to the Torah, these Gentile converts had already been converted in repentance, faith, had received baptism and the Holy Spirit, and were partaking in the “breaking of bread”. In other words, the Pharisees did not confront a bunch of Gentile converts who were living in what we would consider a sinful lifestyle, but rather converts who were joyfully expressing their faith with good works (Acts 26), but yet who lacked circumcision and the strict adherence to the Torah. Therefore, for the Pharisees, these converts were not yet “justified”, or seen to be accepted by God and beneficiaries of the covenant graces of Abraham and his Seed.

    Paul’s whole dispute is with regard to this fundamental problem, that Gentiles are to be included in the Messianic salvation for Abraham’s Seed by faith (and baptism, Gal 3:26-28) and without being circumcised and paying heed to the Torah’s commandments. The Gentiles did not need to observe the feast days, the Sabbaths, etc,etc (Colossians 2) because through baptism (Col 2) and being “filled” in Christ, one has the full measure of the Holy Spirit, and there is justification. One who has the Holy Spirit is justified, and since the gentiles were receiving the Holy Spirit through faith and the sacrament of baptism (Acts 2:36), there was no need for any entrance into the covenant of the Law of Moses.

    Therefore, when Paul says that we are “justified by faith, apart from the works of the Law” (Rom 3:28), he has in mind this whole discovery that Gentiles are receiving the full measure of salvation, which is found in baptism and the Holy Spirit (Rom 8), through faith in the gospel. This is how Cornelius received the Holy Spirit, through faith. He did not become a Jew or a Jewish proselyte.

    Failure to see this background leads to all kinds of errors in the exegesis of Paul, in particular his epistles to the Galatian churches and to the church of Rome. Particularly in your case, you follow well from Chapters 1 to 3. Paul does indict the whole human race with “sin” and therefore no one can be accepted by God on the basis of works. There is no spectrum of Catholic Theology that rejects that.

    Being accepted by God, which we can refer to as another way of becoming saved, comes through faith, precisely because it is faith which opens up the human person to the power of God (Romans 1:17), and this “power” (especially in the Pauline corpus) is always associated with resurrection power, one that brings new life to the individual who is being delivered or saved. Such a person is opened up to the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 1, 2) and is sanctified, justified, and redeemed. The one who has the Spirit is one who has been delivered from the power and practice of sin, and therefore has eternal life as an expectation of hope. Paul still does not warn those already justified of the severe consequences of returning to the life of sin, which is eternal hell. After all, why tell those already justified that returning the the life of the flesh will end in death (Rom 6:21; 8:1-13; Gal 5:15-28)?? If we sow to the Spirit, which is a life of good works, we will of the Spirit reap eternal life. But on the other hand, if anyone, including the Galatian believers, sows to the flesh, he will of the flesh reap eternal corruption.

    Your understanding of “justification” and entirely reductionistic, and does not adequately match the proper exegesis of Paul’s letters.

  32. Well Erick, to the first part of your diatribe ” Jacob i loved Esau i hated. Then he says there is no injustice with God. For the twins had not yet been born or done anything wrong. The fact is God chooses some and docent choose others. Deal with it. We all deserve condemnation because we are responsible for our sin. Romans 5: 12-19. Adam was in a covenant of works both negative and positive. He couldn’t eat from the tree and he had things to do, subdue the earth etc. When he fell man needed both negative(forgiveness for sins) and positive ( obedience) to be righteous before God. Thats why the reformers had it right that Christ’s death on the cross and obedience were necessary for forgiveness and imputation, or christ could have gone straight to the cross. . Because after the fall no works could be meritorious anymore in man’s salvation. It had to be by faith. As per the second part of your post. Maybe you didn’t get the message, Romans 5:1 is in the Aorist past tense. We look back on our justification and incidentally Paul says it produces true shalom now in the present. And before you read on in Romans 8:1 bro there is no condemnation for those in Christ. Condemnation is not a statement ontology or participation, it is a legal judgment( see Romans 8;29-31). Why can Paul say this and why is justification always past tense, and why can he call the corinthians saints and sanctified( aorist past) and why can he say we are adopted,and why can he say we are seated in the heavenly, and have an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for us and will not fade away, and Why can Jeremiah say ” his name shall be called the Lord is our righteousness, for the same reason he clothed Joshua with the robe of righteousness of Christ while he was dirty and being accused by the devil. The first Adam was created upright righteous with the ability to be righteous by not eating from the tree and fulfilling god’s command. Christ is the second Adam who accomplished this( 1 Cor: 15). it can only be by faith. The error of the judaizers is modern and ancient one. It is found in the modern church where men seek salvation by surrender instead of faith or by their own character instead of imputed righteousness of Christ, or by making christ master in the life instead of trusting in his redeeming blood. Error where men say the real eseentials are love, justice, mercy and other virtues, as contrasted with the great doctrines of God’s word. these are ways of exalting the merit of man over the cross of Christ.

  33. Kevin,

    You believe that God causes people to sin? If God predetermined who would be born and live as reprobate, and they have no choice in the matter, how could God be just? It seems as though you make the common error, claiming to be Calvinistic, and you continue to think that God makes his election of the saved and of the reprobate when the whole mass of humanity is engulfed in the sin of Adam. But you see, true Calvinism believes that God’s election is not based on Adam’s sin, but is predetermined even before Adam’s sin, and therefore he is the first cause of all things, and therefore in his purpose, he cause there to be a portion of mankind to be reprobate and therefore damned forever.

    If God is choosing to save some, and then “leaves” others to the responsibility of their own sins, that is one thing, but that is not Calvinism. The reformed doctrine of predestination, sometimes understood as double predestination, sees God as not responding to Adam’s sin, but actually determines before Adam even existed, who would be the instruments of his wrath.

    With regard to your catina of verses on the past tense of justification and salvation, where have I disagreed? There is a past, present, and future aspect to salvation, and I am quite certain the reformed have noticed this in the past few decades of their intense theological investigations.

    Think of what St. Paul says to the Colossians, would you ever be able to say this?

    Colossians 1:21-24
    21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in [ad]the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, [ae]was made a [af]minister.

    Perseverance is the condition for echatological salvation, even for those already in the state of salvation and justification.

  34. Eric, dont do eisegesis. Romans 8:29-30 says’ those hePREDESTINED, he called , justified, glorified. Its a foregone conclusion. this is all aorist past tense. Palms says salvation is from the Lord. Jesus says he loses none that are his. So those who are justified and eternally secure will persevere. But justification is not salvation on the installment plan. When Paul uses the word dikaiousin as the instrumental cause of salvation, he could not have possibly meant infant baptism. Its impossible. Catholics miss the forensic nature of justification because for the it is a lifetime of doing sacraments to earn grace. This will be repudiated by God. Paul says Romans 4:5 ” to the one who does not work, but believes. Simple faith justifies a man. Faith in the scripture does not mean what it means in the RCC. In the RCC it is mental ascent. In the scripture it is trust. And incidentally Paul says God said Jacob i loved Esau i hated, before they had been born or done anything wrong. God chooses some and doesn’t choose others. Remember we are all sinners and responsible for our own sin and all deserve hell. the fact that he has chosen to have mercy on me makes me grateful.

  35. Kevin,

    Where have I done Isogesis? I just quoted Paul….

    To simply say that “the elect will persevere”, does not solve any problems. Do you mean that they “will persevere” apart from works? Or with the works that God gives them? And by that do you mean that it is Him alone controlling the will to do His will? This makes us puppets in the divine project, and therefore no basis of a love relationship where man and God commune in a free giving of their entire persons. The burden of proof in on you to demonstrate how this matches the NT theology.

    And by your last sentence, you prove to not have understood my arguments above. For the last time, in double predestination, which is the Calvinistic view, God does not sit back and select a few people out of a sinful mass of humanity, leaving them to their sins. Read carefully. God makes the mass of sinful humanity before they have a chance to be that sinful humanity. Therefore the eternal destiny of the reprobate is not based on their works, but on God’s pre-determination. It is not “leaving” them in their “sin”, as you’ve constantly said, and many new Calvinists would say, but it is actually creating with the divine force of it being no other way.

  36. Erick, maybe you can tell me what Romans 9:10-24 means bro. What you say the scripture does not say is exactly what it does say. ” he has mercy on those he will have mercy”. Read it, try to understand it. First of all it would be fair to throw all of us into hell because we are sinners in our entirety because of the fall. That god has predetermined to choose some and not others is his prerogative. You obviously haven’t studied romans 9 before.

  37. Kevin,

    You have still not understood what I am saying. Perhaps you should listen to John Pipe’s sermons on Romans 9, they are free on website

    Catholics definitely believe in a divine election and a discrimination of mercy to some and not others. The issue is however, that those who do not reach a state of mercy do so out of an obstinate heart that is culpable for evil doing, and not primarily caused by God’s failing to love them enough.

  38. Erick,

    Those who do not reach a state of mercy don’t reach a state of mercy because mercy is not a state that can be reached but must be bestowed. If God owes mercy to all, which is basically what most RCs around here end up saying, it’s not mercy any longer.

    People go to hell because of their own sin and not because “God failed to love them enough.” God doesn’t have to love any sinner. Only Calvinists truly get that, I’m afraid.

  39. Kevin,

    You still do not seem to understand what I am saying. Unfortunately, we cannot move forward in this discussion of predestination. I am arguing against the view which says God created sinners and is the first cause in their practice of sin, and therefore the first cause in their eternal destiny of hell. This is unorthodox, and both Luther and Calvin’s view of predestination was condemned by the Catholic Church, for they made it seem as if God actively caused the sin of the reprobate.

    However, with regard to your statement, “God does not have to love every sinner”, I find shocking. Although I used to be a Calvinist for years, I now realize how shocking this view is. The Scriptures teach us that God IS love, and therefore it is of God’s essence. If God cannot allow sinners into his presence, it is not because he hates them, but because of the incompatibility of his very unchangeable essence with that of evil. Sinners shut themselves out. God, of course, distributes “justice”, not uncontrollable hatred and anger.

    And with regard to the Catholic understanding of Justification, if you wish to humbly continue this conversation, let us do so on email. My email address is . We could even speak over the phone if you wish. I would ask you to realize that I am not coming from a stance where I don’t see what your seeing. I was there for years….. I invite you to converse through email about this, but if not, then I see this as the end of the discussion.

  40. Erick, i really can’t say it better than Robert just said it. Read his comment. God bestows mercy on whom he bestows mercy, without regard to their having yet done anything wrong. This is not hard to understand from a reformed perspective because we all deserve hell because of our sin. The reformers believed that man was created good by God, but then the fall. Actually the RCC blames God for sin because it locates in man from creation a need for infused habits or donus superadium. Calvin was adnate about the need for sanctifying grace, the superman substance, shifted the blame from man to God for sin. I agree

  41. Neither you or Robert say it as good as John Piper. I gave you a link to an entire exposition from Romans 9. I am thoroughly aware of this doctrine, and held it for years. I know exactly the reasoning you are possessing. It is clear to me you still do not understand the concept behind double predestination.

    In double predestination, God created Pharoah to sin! It wasn’t as if he “allowed” the fall of man in Adam to be the first cause of such a sinful man. God Himself made sure such a man existed. And therefore God is in command and control over the life of the sinful. So therefore, not only do the righteous walk in the good works prepared for them before the foundation of the world, but also the wicked walk in the evil works that God prepared for them beforehand. That is “DOUBLE PREDESTINATION”.

  42. @Erick,

    You said:

    God Himself made sure such a man existed. And therefore God is in command and control over the life of the sinful. So therefore, not only do the righteous walk in the good works prepared for them before the foundation of the world, but also the wicked walk in the evil works that God prepared for them beforehand. That is “DOUBLE PREDESTINATION”.

    But if you hold to a Molinist position, then God is no less “in command and control” since He chooses the precise world to actualize in which everything will happen as He has forseen in His middle knowledge. So, God preordained the fall either way, since on Molinism, He chose to actualize a world in which Adam would fall and lead the whole human race into condemnation.

    John D.

  43. Erick,

    f God cannot allow sinners into his presence, it is not because he hates them, but because of the incompatibility of his very unchangeable essence with that of evil. Sinners shut themselves out. God, of course, distributes “justice”, not uncontrollable hatred and anger.

    So God is not angry at the people he is punishing in hell? Sounds like eternal hellfire is quite a problem if one is not justly angry at them. And God’s hatred and anger is not uncontrollable. He’s in perfect control of it at all times.

    God did not make Pharaoh to send him to hell. He made Pharaoh to bring him glory, just as he made me to bring him glory. The means for Pharaoh to bring him glory was for him to be condemned. And it doesn’t sound like God loved Eli’s sons, at least not in every way possible: 1 Sam. 2:25—” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.”

    God does not love everyone to the same degree. If he did, we’d all end up in heaven.

  44. JohnD,

    We are speaking of great mysteries here, and the level to which we can give a definite statement on how God does election, predestination, and salvation is not perfect, and never will be. The view of double predestination seeks to give a definite explanation that violates the very character of God. The Catholic view(s), and I say views because there is a bit of freedom in the way in which the faithful can express faith in God’s predestinating grace, does not make a definite statement where God is in the first cause of the sinfulness of mankind. It may “seem” that such a view is forced, but Catholics cannot give assent to it, and therefore we cannot believe it.

    The discussion above began with the whole issue of justification. It may be helpful to answer Kevin’s original plea for Catholics to find salvation by casting off any obedience in the attempt to attain eternal life. He contradicts the witness of St. James, who teaches us that faith, if it is alone, can never save man. And therefore faith together with works is the path to salvation. He contradicts this by saying all we need is sola fide. This is a heresy.

  45. Robert,

    I will answer to the best of my ability in charity.

    I don’t think you can escape the position which explicitly says that God created Pharoah to be a sinner, as the first cause in his sinful disposition. To say that God “did not” create Pharoah a sinner, but rather created Pharoah to give him glory by being a sinner, is just stating the same thing another way.

    Now Catholics believe that Pharoah did in fact give God glory, and given the foreknowledge of God, it is true that God utilized the freedom of Pharoah from before the foundation of the world to bring him glory in the greater good of wrath and glory. But to say that God predetermined the sin of Pharoah, before Pharoah had a choice on the matter, is to put God in the first cause of evil. And we simply cannot do that.

  46. Erick,

    You said to Robert:

    But to say that God predetermined the sin of Pharoah, before Pharoah had a choice on the matter, is to put God in the first cause of evil. And we simply cannot do that

    It’s inappropriate to speak about predetermination/causation univocally when talking about God and man. In order for human beings to predetermine/cause something to definitely happen, they would need to use force/coercion. Specifically, a person would have to do violence to someone’s will in order to force them to do something that they did not will. But, there is no reason to believe this is the same with God. God’s motion/causation is in a different category than human motion/causation. In your statement above, you seem to presuppose that compatibilism is false (or incoherent), which merely begs the question against a Calvinist.

    John D.

  47. JohnD

    I actuallly agree with you. But it seems to me double predestination does speak uniqiuvocally on the matter. The concept of grace whereby the man recieves a gift without works and the necessary parallel, a man receives damnation without works.

  48. Erick,

    But if God is not the first cause of all that happens, then he is not sovereign, and there are other things that are essentially on his level. Now, you can say that he predetermined to allow people to make a choice for evil, but that doesn’t get you around the problem. The first causation still ultimately comes from him in the first instance because he purposed to allow something.

    The only way to get out the problem is to deny one of God’s attributes, and that is no solution at all.

    I can sympathize with people’s reluctance on this. But at the end of the day, the biblical answer is that God is the first cause of all things, though with evil he is never morally culpable. I can’t explain that, but I can’t explain how he is a se either.

  49. Erick, what part of Jacob i loved Esau i hated do you not understand. God chooses who he chooses. Yet man is fully responsible for his sin. God isn’t on the Catholic standard of fairness. It would have been fair to throw us all into hell.

  50. Kevin,

    It is apparent, once again, that you are not full understanding what I am saying. My best suggestion is to listen to more of your own, such as John Piper, in the link I gave above. He is not what some would consider a theologian (although I think he is, strongly), and there are plenty of works out there that you can read to understand what double predestination is teaching. Just go to some of popular protestant websites such as ,, and the Puritan Board forums.

    Robert, that is precisely the problem. Catholics believe God is the first cause of all things, but not of evil. Where did evil come from? We do not know. For the reformed, such as Jonathan Edwards, God somehow put evil into the world so that the consummation of all creation can radiate His grace toward the elect and His wrath to the reprobate. This is what the Catholic Church condemned. That God, who is eternal goodness, holiness, and righteousness, and love, would be the first cause to evil.

    Now Catholics do believe that purposed to “allow” evil, from eternity past. But we cannot make the “assertion” that God cause evil in order for him to be sovereign. Your pre-conditions for divine sovereignty and human freedom are not scriptural.

  51. Erick, i know all the arguments on double predestination. I’ve read Piper. A man receives hell because he is a sinner. The bible clearly teaches that unbelievers are bitter enemies of God and will be responsible for their own sin. Paul says that God chooses some and docent choose others based on on ” for the twins were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad, so that God’s purposes according to his CHOICE would stand, not because of works but because of him who calls. There is no injustice with god.” Get that Erick. Our standard of justice does not matter. ” i will have mercy on whom i will have mercy. and compassion on whom I have compassion.” And also Calvin was correct by saying that the Catholic church’s locating the need for sanctifying grace in Adam before the fall makes God responsible for Sin in the Roman system.

  52. Kevin,

    I understand that you are trying to say that God punishes the wicked, and I agree. What I’m trying to say is that in the view of double predestination God makes the reprobate guilty and supposedly responsible before they even exist and before a consideration of Adams fall. In other words God is not reacting to adams sin in his predestination, he chooses even before that. So why keep hammering that we are responsible for sin if God is first responsible for the unstoppable force in making them sinners? You keep resorting to this idea that we all deserve hell. I’m glad you know that, I agree. But your view is not consistent to Calvinism.

  53. Erick you have a hard head bro, God did not make men sinners. God created adam upright with all the ability to obey his commands. Adam was created upright holy and righteous. Adam fell f his own accord. Did you read the verse that God chose one of the twins without them having done anything bad or good.

  54. Kevin,

    Wow, that was extremely rude. Please read our lords command in Matthew 5-6 to learn better how to conduct yourself.

    And your insult is completely false. Where have I affirmed that Sinners are not culpable to damnation for their sin? I’ve made this very clear. What I am claiming is thy double predestination does not provide a culpability to sinners. Perhaps you should read d.a. Carson on divine sovereignty and human responsibility on the issue of symmetrical election on the side of the saved and the reprobate.

    I am insulted by your comment. I’ve been studying these issues for years and have been on your side for a very long time. I actually argued for Calvinism on a much more convincing way than you have showed on this blog. Perhaps you should give it more effort, for I don’t want to underestimate your potential .

    Please consider your witness

  55. Erick, I apologize for my comment.

  56. Kevin,

    Thank you for that:) . Perhaps at this point we’ve reached a holy moment. Let us end the discussion with that. Let us from here devote ourselves to prayer and study. And then we can return in time.

  57. Merry Christmas everybody!

  58. Kevin,

    What does this mean? I’ve never heard the argument you’re referring to and I can’t understand it from your brief summary.

    And also Calvin was correct by saying that the Catholic church’s locating the need for sanctifying grace in Adam before the fall makes God responsible for Sin in the Roman system.

    John D.

  59. Everyone,

    Merry Christmas, both belatedly and in a continued sense! For Catholics, the Christmas season just *began* yesterday (with the end of Advent) and still has many days to go! :-)

  60. John D., Many people don’t understand that the reformers started with Adam being created good, upright and righteous. God was in a covenant of works with Adam which involved negative obedience ‘ don’t eat from the tree”, and positive obedience ” be fruitful and multiply” etc. Had Adam obeyed he would have been declared righteous as having fulfilled the covenant. When adam sinned his whole person was corrupted mind, will and emotions. So the reformers start with man crated nature as good, because God said all that he made is good. Also Psalm 139 and many other verses. The Catholic church sees Adam in his created state as needing sanctifying grace before the fall. Calvin rightly stated that under this model, God created man not good and it shifts the responsibility for sin to God instead of man. The RCC believed that not the whole of man fell but only his lower appetites. His reason survived the fall as pristine. The reformers said no, the totality of man is corrupted by sin. We believe that grace is unmerited favor given by God to sinners in redemption. For the RCC it is a super substance which heals nature and elevates it to divinity. we say it redeems or renews nature. I hope that helps.

  61. Kevin,

    To live in communion with God is not a natural ability of a human creature. It is what we were created for, but that does not mean that our natures, in and of themselves, contain the capacities to receive the infinite. Secondly, to live in communion with God, one must be filled with the charity of God, which natural human nature does not have. It is a superhuman.

    Without the elevation of our natures, we are left to human nature, which is not thereby automatically sinful, but not capable of being at God’s level of being, and therefore not at the level of being able to commune, know, love, and see God. These are supernatural attainments.

    If it were true that human nature in and of itself was sinful, then God would be responsible for sin.

  62. Erick, the RCC says Adam was created with a need for sanctifying grace, which Calvin rightly comments that means God created Adam imperfect, and the catholics shift the responsibility of sin to god and off of man. The reformers said that Adam was created upright with the full capacity to obey God. What God created ( Adams create nature) was not flawed. But Adam sinned, and Romans 5:12-19 explains very well because Adam sinned, we all are corrupted and die. Then it tells us the second Adam had to live an obedient life and die on the cross to fulfill what the first Adam didn’t do. But he didn’t just return us to the garden Thats why salvation can in no way be by works. Our glorified state we will be fully human in all our glorified humanity. Holy and righteous and with all that God’s intended blessings. The catholic church wrongly married a platonic pagan model to a christian faith ethic and you end up with an ontology that is less about the bodily redemption and more about a pelagian ontological climb up the ladder out of one’s nature into divinity. And this is done as the church being the replacement for the historical body of Christ and the Spirit. It is a corporate faith where the head is collapsed into the body into totus Christus, Fetching the world back to the Godhead. It includes all religions now and all peoples who can tap in doing all that is within them. It is a human institution of human second causes, a virtual climb of Jacob’s ladder in merit, mysticism, and speculation totally foreign to scripture. You see Jacob never climbs the ladder in scripture, God comes to him and clothes him with all the blessings of Salvation.

  63. Kevin,

    This idea that God created mankind in a flawed state is contrary to Catholic Theology. And that God required infused virtues which were above mans nature does not violate the goodness of human nature since such was made for the divine. I don’t have time to respond now, but I recommend looking at The Teaching of the Catholic Church by George Smith with the section on the fall of man. Also you can look up Lawrence Feingold’s lectures on original sin and original justice.

  64. Erick, maybe you can direct be to the place in scripture where it talks about infused habits. Oh thats right its not in there. maybe you can direct me to the chapter in the scripture that talks about sanctifying grace, actual grace, prvenenient grace, operating grace, condign merit, oh thats right it is nowhere to be found.

  65. Kevin,

    I suggest reading very closely, with no bias, through the epistles of Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians, and the gospel of Matthew.

    St. Paul says the following: “…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all those who believe, for the Jew first and also of the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed out from faith into faith (my translation); as it is written: The Just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). So we the following:

    1) The gospel of Christ has the power to save
    2) The saving power is caused by the righteousness of God
    3) The beneficiaries of this salvation are both Jews and Gentiles
    4) And the power for salvation is given by and through faith

    If you do a word study on the word “salvation” in Paul, and it’s similar renderings (save, saved, being saved, etc), you will see that Paul has deeply in mind the work of the Holy Spirit. For instance, read Ephesians 2, where the state of being “saved” comes as a result of being “raised together with Christ”, which is intricately connected to the idea of “regeneration”, or the process of being born anew. Similarly, in Titus, we read “he saved us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and the renewal that comes from the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:7). For Paul, being saved is coming into subjection to the saving power of the Holy Spirit, which gives the human being “regeneration”.

    Therefore, we can conclude that we are “saved” through “regeneration” and “rebirth/renewal”. Otherwise Paul would not have told us that we are “Saved….through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:7).

    If indeed we are saved through regeneration, then we will have to be able to find a place for the “meaning and substance” of regeneration in the great protestant verse Romans 1:16-17, which speaks to the subject of being “saved”.

    We can then make a tie between the “righteousness of God” and “regeneration”, which is something protestants do not do. But given the data I’ve provided, it seems to me a bit of an odd abstinence. It is clear in Paul that salvation comes through regeneration (of course we know there are other causes, such as Grace, Faith, God, Mercy, etc,etc), and therefore regeneration will have to be somehow integrated into the phrase righteousness of God, for, as we said above, the righteousness of God is what causes the gospel to have saving power.

    But if the “righteousness of God” causes the gospel to have “saving power”, and we are saved through “regeneration”, then the “righteousness of God” is connected to the act of “regeneration”.

    And finally, we are at St. Augustine’s understanding of this “Righteousness”. Namely, that it is a righteousness which comes from God and which inheres into man’s soul, making him righteous or just.

    Now that’s Power!

    To ignore the entirety of Paul’s corpus, and then insert into Romans a mere legal transaction as God’s saving power unto salvation is quite a mistake and has very little foundation.

    Given that, we can now interpret rightly the rest of the epistle, and then we can see a harmony between Romans 3 unto Romans 8, instead of a huge divide between Romans 3-5, and 6-8. The grace of God has transferred us out of sin and into righteousness, for the life of sin will always end in death (Romans 6:23). St. Paul himself says that if we live according to the flesh, we will die. He said this to people who were already justified. He was not describing outsiders, nor was he speaking only to the insiders who were not truly “saved’. He was speaking to all of the “called of God” (Rom 1:1-7).

    Therefore, we have the responsibility of keeping the gift of God which resides in us, for if we do not, we will experience a greater wrath (Hebrews, Matthew 22-25).

  66. If indeed human beings truly united to Christ in charity can forfeit their participation in Christ, and therefore their blessing of salvation, then it remains that there are prescribed conditions for remaining in Christ. And the whole of the Christian Tradition has held that “good works” or “good fruit” is the necessary condition for remaining in Christ Jesus. Our Lord said nothing different when he said, “he who does not bear good fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire ” (John 15). This is not somehow to be fudged around because of some “clearer” sense of “once saved always saved” in other parts of Scripture. It is the WORD of Jesus Himself!

  67. Erick, great job of regurgitating the RCC gospel. Unfortunately you like your church through history missed the forensic language of justification. Thats why God had to send the little fat german to exegete justification correctly for the first time since the apostles and the early church. This dealt a fatal blow to Rome and its hair splitting academics.I would encourage you to look at my newest comments and Roberts newest comments in the the thread on participation. Paul clearly makes the entry point into this holistic salvation faith. And we stay in by faith ” the righteous shall live by faith.” Not grace enabled works. We understand that what Paul calls in Romans 5:17 ” the free gift of righteousness” comes to us from outside us ( good news, news is something that comes from outside not inside)an becomes ours through faith. Of course nowhere in scripture will you find infant baptism being mode of regeneration. The righteousness we receive by faith becomes ours implanted in us through the Holy Spirit. But Erick in any relationship there are legal aspects. Justification is clearly taught by Paul as forensic, declarative language. Adoption is not something that can be reversed. Peter says we have been given an inheritance that will never fade away, reserved in heaven for us. And we have the Spirit as a guarantee. Romans 8:1 “no condemnation” is not a statement about ontology or a treadmill of cooperation, salvation on the installment plan, or sanctification, or grace enabled works carrying you through to final justification, but its a declaration, a judgment rendered, if reversed we can say therefore there is now justification for those who are in Christ. Justification to Paul is something we look back on. Romans 5:1 is past tense. You guys don’t understand the difference between the things that are prescriptive and descriptive. Certainly true saving faith produces good works. But Titus 3:5 tells us not even righteous deeds are meritorious before God. Augustine did all of his study in Latin, very little greek, and he knew no hebrew. Erasmus admitted to Luther that Jerome misinterpreted dikaisonae to declare righteous to justificare latin to make righteous. Even now your top guys readily admit this. Erick for the catholic justification is a recognition of an intrinsic qualification for a reward, for Paul it was completely the opposite, it was a declaration about someone who was uniquely unqualified. Look up merit= to earn. Paul says the gift is not like earning a wage. See Romans 4:3,4 Grace and works are opposed. If God gave grace as a response to an action or ability it wouldn’t be a gift it would be a reward.

  68. Erick, i meant to write that adoption is a legal aspect that can’t be reversed. Sorry for the typo.

  69. Erick, also to address your point on regeneration. In no way when Paul uses the term dikaisounae could he have had baptismal regenerate in mind.

  70. I never denied the forensic sense you did not interact with anything that I have written about

  71. Erick, Ok ” the scripture says” faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of God. God said Let there be….. and Let the earth bring forth….. Yes the Spirit of God brings salvation through the word, calling regeneration, justification etc… All this is a work of God. The whole ordo. There is no need for infused habits. This is the whole work of the Spirit through speech acts. We can locate forensic justification as the girder for the rest of the ordo.

  72. Kevin,

    You have still not proven anything. And to say that the ordo is all a work of the spirit does not prove that justification, though being forensic, does not include an internal renovation. Prover wrong. It is still possible that being justified include a number of graces done to the soul. Romans 5 speaks on how love and perseverance are a result of being justified. And no one has denied a past tense aspect of justification.

    I’m not sure how mature you are in the faith and I don’t know if you have a spiritual father to whom you seek counsel from, but perhaps you should ask a brother of yours to examine the way in which you speak. Christ did say we would be justified by our words.

  73. Erick, maybe you are misunderstanding me. The reformed believe in regeneration by the Spirit which produces a change in our character. We believe all the graces including love are bestowed to us, and i agree with you these our all a result of our faith and justification . But they are not meritorious in justification. As you know grace for the reformed is God’s unmerited favor toward a sinner which renews nature. For the RCC it is a substance earned through a sacrament( ex opera operato) which justifies and elevates nature outside itself into divinity. I was going to ask you the same thing. Are you new to this. I did not say that we are justified by our words. I quoted Romans ” faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of God. Read 1 Peter 1: 23 he says we are born again trough the living and enduring word of God. Maybe you are not really in full understanding of reformed theology. The Spirit brings about salvation through his word. God created the world through his word ” Let there be…, Let the earth bring forth….. He raised Lazarus etc. Not infant baptism, but faith comes through his word. read James 1: 18 ” he brought us forth by the word of truth. Regeneration docent come through infant baptism. It comes through the spirit and the word of God. Again what Catholics don’t understand Paul in no way could have been thinking of infant baptism when he uses the word dikaiosinae. Well your being disengenuis because the RCC denies past tense justification by requiring cooperation to final justification. As i have said before for ratzinger and Catholics justification is a recognition of an intrinsic qualification for a reward, but for Paul it was opposite, it was a declaration about someone completely unqualified. Thx man

  74. Kevin,

    You still have not interacted with anything I wrote.

    1) If the dikaiosune theou gives the gospel word “power” for “salvation”, and “salvation” is nothing less than being delivered from the flesh, sin, the world, and the old man to being “alive” from the cross as a new creation, a new man, a body of righteousness, then how could dikaiosune theou simply be referring to the small sliver aspect of a purely legal justification? It simply does not satisfy the language of Paul.

    2) The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the dikaiosune theou, the very gift which gives the gospel word the power to raise human beings from the dead to glorified and resurrected lifestyles, is simply a reference to some vicarious bundle of good works that Jesus performed in order to legally impute to sinners to merely change their legal status, and nothing with regard to their internal being. ‘

    3) Nowhere have I denied a forensic sense to “justification”. It is inescapable. So your arguments were straw men.

    4) I agree that the dikaiosune theou is a “gift” of God. Therefore, it originates with God and His unmerited grace through which he grants undeserving sinners the blessing of being in a right relationship with Him. There is no escaping this. For St. Paul says that an example of a man to whom God imputes righteousness is the grace of forgiveness and the non-imputation of sin. What this means is that the forgiven man is the man God imputes righteousness to. David is clearly speaking of the grace of repentance and forgiveness. This is justification. Just as the sinner in the temple prayed “God be merciful to me a sinner!”. This is justification. It is not an obstinate sinner remaining in his sin, but rather a humble repentance heart that seeks forgiveness, changing, and renewal.

    5) You are driven by a complex of ideas which are inherent to reformed Covenant Theology. Much of it is very good. However, where you limit salvation to merely forensic categories, you make a grave mistake. And in fact, if you are truly reformed, salvation is not purely forensic. Calvin was never solely forensic in his understanding of salvation. He also believed that sanctification was the necessary result of justification, and that one who is not sanctified is not justified. Therefore, if you are living in sin, you must also examine whether you are truly justified. Therefore, at the end of the day, you always checking whether you are saved or not. Moreover, if you do drop back into sin ultimately, you were never saved. It’s really not much better on your side of the fence. I’ve been there for yearsss.

  75. Erick, 2 Corinthians 5:21 ” He made him who knew no sin to become sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Christ doesnt become sin ontologically and we don’t brome righteous internally but watch what the Apostle says we become ” the righteousness of God.”In the same way that Jesus takes our sin by imputation, we receive his righteousness by imputation. a great church father said “Oh sweet exchange”

  76. Kevin,

    That is definitely one way of reading that verse. However it is unlikely given the rest of Paul. The much more preferable way of understanding it would be in the context of Pauls parallel in ch3 between the ministry of condemnation , which corresponds to the letter or law theme in Paul, and the ministry of righteousness, which in the context goes beyond forensic status to the concept of being transformed from glory to glory. That is what the new covenant does, and it is based off of Jesus sacrifice . Hence his death effects a new creation in us.

    Still no proof of your position

  77. Erick, I ask you to go on the other thread Rome , Geneva etc. I address salvation, justification, sanctification and regeneration from a reformed perspective in a series of posts that deal with specifics. I think it will give you a clear view of reformed thinking.

  78. Kevin,

    I cannot post on CtC at the moment.

    I have read through your arguments on CtC, and I have to say that you need to begin by proving your arguments from exegesis, and not ranting cross references. It will not be conducive to your goal. The Catholics on CtC will not be convinced through random statements here and there about the reformed way of looking at things.

    What exactly is your goal? Are you interested in arguing with Catholics so that you might better understand the differences between reformed thinking and Catholic thinking? If so, I encourage you to continue. However, you seem to take the bold stance that you know the bible and God so much more than Catholics and that you are here to convince Catholics to turn to be reformed. Well, if this latter case is so, please beef up your arguments with sound reason from the Scriptures. One line upon one line. One doctrine upon one doctrine.

    As I said earlier, all of my points have stand unrecognized and have not been refuted.

  79. Erick–

    What you need to understand is that when the Reformed speak of justification, it is a theological construct. It is not derived exegetically from all the forms of the term in the NT. Both Paul and James use the term, but to very different purposes. One can either combine these senses (as the Catholics do) or split them (as the Reformed do).

  80. Erick–

    Well, I see my iPad has a mind of its own. I left for a minute to tend to some cooking, and it submitted my unfinished post all by itself…


    Actually, the Reformed do both, looking at the uses combined and split. It is the Catholics who absolutely refuse to bow to sound hermeneutics (because it would mess with interpretations long established though erroneous). When you’ve already proclaimed dogmatic perfection, you have no means available to you to correct mistakes.

    If you don’t split the two senses, you simply cannot safeguard salvation by grace alone, which the Catholics technically hold to, but unfortunately for everyone involved, extremely inconsistently.

  81. Eric,

    And how do Catholics get this all wrong?

  82. Erick–

    I told you. Not being able to correct mistakes declared infallibly. It creates an irreformable inconsistency. Your exegetes recognize it. Your dogmaticians cannot give way.

  83. Eric and Erick,

    I told you. Not being able to correct mistakes declared infallibly. It creates an irreformable inconsistency. Your exegetes recognize it. Your dogmaticians cannot give way.

    Bingo. Fitzmeyer concludes that Luther was right to say justification by faith ALONE, but then he weakly tips his hat to dogma and qualifies what alone means. He seems clearly uncomfortable doing so, but he is RC and needs his job.

  84. Erick, Sometimes i should let Eric and Robert speak and just listen. Well said men. Erick here is what B.B. Warfield said about the RCC ” the visible church is the son of God Jesus Christ incarnate and the substituted object of faith as he continually appears and repeats Himself, and eternally renews his youth among men in human form. It is His perennial incarnation. It is to the church men must look to salvation, it is from the church and its sacraments alone that salvation is communicated to me, in a word, it is to the church rather than Christ or the grace of God that salvation of men is immediately ascribed. Only ” through the most holy sacraments” that all true justice begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost repaired. It makes the sinner fall into the hand of man, rather than all merciful God. We look to God for salvation, but we are referred to an institution which in spite of its lofty claims is manifestly leavened and controlled by the thoughts of men like ourselves. The radical error of the Roman system was the visible church , which is human as much as divine, and which has become more increasingly human, has thrust itself in the place of of God and the Savior. Men being required to trust themselves to human laws as the condition of obtaining salvation. Protestants dispensed of ecclesiastical machinery which was largely human in origin and conception.

  85. Kevin,

    B.B. Warfield has made many errors in his understanding of the gospel. The only alternative you have to a visible church is lone ranger Christians who dictate their own relationship with God, totally unaccountable. And I say this even with regard to the protestant sects which are strict in discipline, excommunication, and reconciliation requirements. I worked for years in one. Excommunication ultimately doesn’t mean anything substantial, because the Church is invisible, and therefore an excommunicant can be restored to the invisible church without having to reconcile with the visible community which banned them, and they can go to scripture for all the just reasons not to return. I’ve seen this happen time and time again.

    Jesus Christ established a visible church in the living apostles and made them the foundation of the ekklesia. If Christ intended to build the church with a visible foundation, the apostles, who were given jurisdictional authority in terms of binding/loosing and forgiving/retaining, then we can be sure Christ intended the duration of the church to be built in a visible way with human beings having jurisdictional authority in terms of binding/loosing and forgiving/retaining. This means that in every generation there will be human beings vested with Christ’s authority in the means of being reconciled to Christ (2 Cor 5:18-19) for the forgiveness of sins as well as the authority to cast one out into the world, alienated from the grace of salvation (excommunication). Without this, the early Church could not conceive itself. This is why so many of the Father were conscious of the power of forgiving sins in the ekklesia, even Tertullian.

    Your quest for doctrinal purity is what blinds the reformed. They are anxious to know from Scripture what the truth is, and they are ignorant to the enormity of the limitations they have in using the Scripture alone to find it.

    I’ve given you reasons why the Catholic understanding of justification is the correct one. I’ve argued that “salvation” in Paul is nothing less than a fallen adamic human undergoing a re-creation in the innermost being, which is given in terms of being “raised with Christ”, and which results in a new walk of holiness and righteousness, without which no one will enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21). The “power” of “salvation” does not derive from the human being, from totally from God’s regenerating grace. Paul parallels being “saved’ (in the past tense) with being “raised with Christ” (in the past tense), and such is to be understood as having “experienced” the same “power which raised Christ from the dead in our bodies” and which enables one to cease from the life of sin and to live out the life of good works.

    Therefore, in the epistle to the Romans, when Paul teaches us that the “righteousness of God” gives the “gospel” word “power” to “save” human beings, it must go beyond merely forensic and putative senses. You are caught up in the tight arguments of Romans 4, not recognizing the whole context. The issue at stake is Gentiles coming into the covenant of Abraham by faith alone, and not by submission to the Jewish Torah. The issue was never that gentiles were required to perform moral works to get into the covenant. Therefore, when Paul denies works in the attainment of salvation, he is primarily thinking of the Jewish Torah and all it’s commandments, which are no longer binding on the ekklesia of Christ.

    “Faith” in Paul is the opening up of the human being to the power from on high, which saves us from the demonic and the state of the present world. Being justified by Christ is tantamount to having been crucified with Christ (see the parallel in Gal 2) and having been crucified to the world. Having become a new creation (Gal 6:14) is the only thing which counts, which is tantamount to justification by faith. It is “faith” and not the human being who merits, which causes the soul’s renovation. It is the Spirit, not the flesh, which brings one into union with Christ.

    Paul is never thinking that salvation is by faith alone because we are so dreadfully sinful that we can never overcome it in this life. Rather he believes that in the power of the Spirit, one can reap everlasting life from sowing to the Spirit, the life of righteousness. As well, one can reap eternal hell from sowing to the flesh, the very thing which the reformed cry out over being their lot. Never boast in your flesh and sin, for this will always end in death (Romans 6:23). And, not only myself, but I see many reformed crying out over who sinful they are, to the exclusion of recognizing any inherent righteousness from Jesus Christ in their lives. Christ came to set us free from sin (romans 6) which necessarily involves the freedom from the practice of sin (Rom 6:14). Grace overcomes our slavery to sin and produces in us the ability to live the life past the grace, the very life of Christ in heaven. It is this that we are to put on, knowing that the day of salvation is closer to us now than when we first believed, therefore “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom 13). Well now why would it be a good idea to make no provision for the flesh in light of the coming day of Christ? Because those who are of the flesh, who live in darkness, who persist in sinfulness, who lack faith and perseverance, who are lazy and never made much of their talents, and all who are devoid of love, service, and charity, will enter into the lake of fire where the devil and his demons are tormented forever and ever. This is the language of the New Testament. Welcome yourself to it, and find peace and grace in the cross of Christ, through whom we not only find God’s free love and forgiveness, but also the power to overcome the world through faith in Christ (1 John).

  86. Erick, the man you just described in your last paragraph was the tax collector in Luke 18 who cried out for mercy. And he went home justified. And that man you described is me. At any moment in this life all of us stand before the tribunal of God condemned in our sin and lack of inherent righteousness. We rightfully condemn ourselves. Thanks be to God he justified the ungodly at the moment of faith and as John says we who believe in Him have eternal life, and does not come into judgment , but has passed out of death into life. Read Romans 9:30 ” The gentiles , who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, Behold i lay a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed. Brethren, my hearts desire and prayer to God for them is for their salvation , for i testify they have a zeal for God but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to all those who believe. For the righteous shall live by faith.”The judaizers in Galations 5 believed that grace and faith were necessary for salvation, but they tried to add one merit to faith , just one work and Paul said they were severed from Christ and fallen from grace. Peace

  87. Kevin,

    1) When I described those who bewail their sinfulness, I meant to the point that they do not change. I should have added that in there. With the tax collector in the temple, Jesus was not describing someone who was “active” in his/her sin, with full intention on returning to his scandalous lifestyle, but because he went to the temple and admitted he was a wicked man, is nevertheless justified and saved in the sight of God. God forbid! That would be a “works” salvation without a doubt! To be in full enmity with God and to simply “say a prayer”. Much rather, Jesus is describing a man who is broken down in his heart over his sin, and who came to God for a renewed relationship, for mercy and forgiveness, and lastly is demonstrates his will to change and live a better life. This happened to Zacheaus, the tax collector, and once he knew he had to repay all those whom he stole from, it was then that Jesus knew that he was justified.

    2) Again, you are deeply misunderstanding the book of Romans. I am not sure how to help you there. I can only say that Paul’s negative statements on “works” are related to the Old Covenant, for sure, and primarily in the mentality that by “obeying” the Law from the “flesh” will win one’s justification. For St. Paul, baptismal regeneration is a might gift of God’s power which becomes active through faith, not meritorious works. The Judaizers knew that faith in baptism regenerated the soul, but they also needed to have with it absolute and perfect obedience to the Torah with it in order to be a full covenant member. For Paul, only faith is necessary, for faith enters one into the whole of salvation.

  88. Erick, wow you read alot into that, he simply cried out in mercy over his sinfulness and went home justified. You simply misunderstand Paul. Law and Gospel are opposed. The judaizers believed that you need grace but were trying to add merit to it and Paul said no. ” For if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, or grace wouldn’t be grace. Can i make a suggestion to you, go to the other thread on then trinity and incarnation and read the recent posts there with we reformed theologians and the catholics there. You cannot continue to say we don’t understand because we disagree with your position. You have to be honest, you add works and cooperation to what the bible teaches is a free gift and unmerited favor in justification. Whether they are grace enabled works. The term merit in the Catechism is defined “recompense owed”

  89. Kevin,

    We have run into a spot where I’ve realized that you need some time of reflection. You simply do not care to realize that many have been in the same conviction as you, with even stronger zeal. I myself was a strong supporter of JBFA. I used to dialogue with Catholics, just like you, and sense the same frustrations that you are facing. I also know the difficulty in expressing just how “wrong” Catholics are in just about every sentence they make, making so many assumptions and wrongly connecting verses here and there. I’ve been in your shoes, and I’ve worked my way out with the same intellectual rigor.
    You need to humble yourself, for this is one of the chief virtues, and be patient. Do not be so quick to judge your view right. After all, especially from a protestant perspective, the apostles are not here to clarify. How humble would you be if Paul began to explain to you some of your errors?

    If you wish to continue this conversation with me, I would respect some honest questions, beginning from the most simple of assumptions that you carry. That would go much further than what we’ve done.


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