Blamelessness on Judgment Day

Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Catholicism, Exegesis, Featured, Imputation, Law, Love, Paradigms, Protestantism, Sanctification, Sola Fide | 104 comments

Before we jump into Romans 4 and begin discussing Paul’s locus classicus  on imputation I thought it would be a good idea to first investigate a claim that is integral to the way Reformed folks treat the idea that God “imputes” righteousness to sinners. The claim we need to consider is the one that says that God demands a sinless perfection of would-be saints that is defined according to the letter of the law. To put it another way, the entire soteriological understanding of the Reformed with respect to imputation (and therefore to Romans 4) is driven — and indeed necessitated — by the idea that no one without blameless obedience to the law can ever hope to attain eternal life in the age to come, and since this blamelessness can never be achieved by fallen man, it therefore must be achieved for him by Christ and imputed to him by faith alone.

The Catholic, on the other hand, would agree that there is something called “blamelessness” that is needed, but he would deny that what constitutes this blamelessness is sinlessly perfect adherence to the letter of the law (indeed, he would see this idea as more representative of Pharisaism than of Christianity). Rather, the Catholic understands blamelessness as connected with the Spirit-infused love of God by which the New Testament says the law is fulfilled, and moreover, he understands this blamelessness to be something that the New Testament attributes to believers based not upon their justification but their sanctification.

The question for our purposes here is to determine which of these paradigmatic understandings of blamelessness would have been the most likely to give rise to the actual NT data on the matter. We have already considered the parents of John the Baptist and how that Luke attributes righteousness to them, rooting it in their walking in the Lord’s commands blamelessly. But consider this statement of Paul’s:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:9-11).

Paul’s desire for the Philippians is one with which Catholics and Protestants would certainly agree — blamelessness on the day of Christ — and yet this blamelessness is clearly rooted in their abounding in the fruit of the Spirit, especially love (agape). In the next chapter Paul writes:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (2:12-16).

It could not be more clear that Paul is discussing sanctification in this passage: he speaks of the Philippians’ obedience, their working out their salvation through God’s transforming power within them, their willing and working for God’s pleasure, and their cheerfully doing all things. The intended result of these things (and not of external imputation of alien righteousness) is “that they may be blameless,” in order that “on the day of Christ Paul may be proud” of the fruit of his labors in the gospel.

The connection between Spirit-wrought love and blamelessness on the day of judgment is perhaps even clearer in I Thess. 3:

… and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints (vv. 12-13).

Again, our blamelessness on the last day is tied directly to the abundance of love in our hearts, which is the fruit of the Spirit that fulfills the law. Finally, consider Paul’s benediction at the end of this letter, where the saints’ blamelessness on judgment day could not be tied more clearly to sanctification rather than justification:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (5:23-24).

Now, what are we to make of all these passages (and the many others that could be adduced)? Is it the case that only a Catholic could say such things? Of course not. My argument all along has not been that that only those holding a Catholic paradigm can agree with the apostle here, but rather, my argument is that the kind of person who would think to say such things is one who holds to a basic Catholic paradigm, and further, that if Paul held to a proto-Protestant paradigm he simply would not have put things in this way. Instead, he would have insisted that no sufficient level of blamelessness can ever arise from man’s sanctification (imperfect as it is in this life when judged by the letter of the law), and that the only rubric under which blamelessness on the day of judgment can be discussed is that of justification.

Of course, it is possible that Paul in fact did hold to a proto-Protestant paradigm and simply chose, for some unknown reason, not to emphasize it, choosing instead to use confusing language that he must have known could undermine the doctrine of imputation, the “article of a standing or falling church.” But isn’t it much more likely that Paul simply said what he meant and meant what he said?

 

104 Comments

  1. I just came across this little gem:

    He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

    If our blamelessness on the day of judgment is due to an irreversible imputation of alien righteosuness, then why would Paul tie it to our continuance in the faith?

  2. Jason,

    Well written article. There’s a remarkable coherence and continuity from Christ to the Apostles, including Paul. This coherence no doubt provides great testimony to the trustworthiness and truth of Holy Scripture. Christ reminds us of the conditionality of the New Covenant:

    “5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me , he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

    But of course, many would have us believe “No one can abide! And if you claim to abide you are boasting.”…

    Re this comment: “my argument is that the kind of person who would think to say such things is one who holds to a basic Catholic paradigm, and further, that if Paul held to a proto-Protestant paradigm he simply would not have put things in this way. “:

    Just a passing thought, there are plenty of Messianic Jews who hold to this paradigm as well, and in my view, pre-date the catholic paradigm (although I understand that the CC would see them in a different light).

    Peace,
    SS.

  3. Thanks for your comments, SS.

    … there are plenty of Messianic Jews who hold to this paradigm as well, and in my view, pre-date the catholic paradigm (although I understand that the CC would see them in a different light).

    I think that should be expected, especially since Catholicism has a strong sense of continuity with what came before (as opposed to seeing Christianity as an upheaval, or gospel as opposed to law in principle).

  4. I think these kinds of posts are precisely what is needed in these kinds of talks because they hit at crucial *presuppositions* that the Reformed unconsciously bring to the table.

    The great irony of the “blameless” argument is that Paul makes this argument in reference to himself:

    3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

    This is just as problematic for the Reformed as the Luke 1:5-8 passage. Here, Paul explicitly says he was “blameless” by the standards of the Mosaic Law, meaning he had the righteousness of the Law. Yet the Reformed cannot take this text at face value and must “qualify” it by saying Paul thought he was blameless and righteous under the Law, but he really was not, and in fact this “blamelessness” really came from Christ’s perfect keeping of the Law. I’d say 90% of Reformed comments on Philippians only focus on verse 9 and ignore the context, especially 3:3, 6, 10-11, which totally undermines the imputation claim.

  5. Yep. If we continue to entrust ourselves to His work (faith in Him).

    If not, and we wish to fall back onto ‘what we do’, as the Galatian Christians did, then he (Paul) might say to us what he said to them, “you sever yourself from Christ”. You have no need of him if you are going to do it yourself.

  6. Faith is not a work that we do…it is a gift of God. That’s the mistake so many Evangelicals make. They believe faith is something that we muster up in ourselves, or intellectual assent.

  7. Hello Jason,

    As you are likely aware–many of the reformers affirmed the Scriptural distinction between nondeadly sin and mortal/deadly sin or states of sin which strangle a saving faith (that is, coming under the dominion of sin as Paul and the Psalms speak of it). Paul’s references to blamelessness are in all likelihood simply reiterating what Psalm 19:13 says ‘Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” I’m sure you would agree that this does not discount the essential forensic aspect of Salvation–the covering of our sin/imperfect righteousness by the perfect righteousness in Christ’s Blood.

    Without this forensic aspect all would stand condemned by the perfect standard of God’s righteousness.
    [Note: If there is no perfect standard before which all–regardless of infused righteousness–stand condemned then the cry of the justified saint in Psalm 143:2 is meaningless: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” As Bernard of Clairvaux notes–even our good works are “filthy rags” compared to His Awesome Holiness: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. But what can all our righteousness be before God? Shall it not, according to the prophet, be viewed as a filthy rag: and, if it be strictly judged, shall not all our righteousness turn out to be mere unrighteousness and deficiency ? What, then, shall it be concerning sins, when not even our righteousness itself can answer for itself ? Wherefore, vehemently exclaiming with the prophet, Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, let us, with all humility, flee to mercy; which alone can save our souls, and let us consider carefully what follows: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”]

    On the other hand–as noted above–it is only those who are not in deadly sin (and thus “blameless, and innocent of great transgression”) that have the saving faith which partakes in Christ and the perfect righteousness in His Blood. The Anglican and Lutheran formularies note this–e.g. Apology of Augsburg: “Wherefore, the faith which receives remission of sins in a heart terrified and fleeing from sin does not remain in those who obey their desires, neither does it coexist with mortal sin.”
    http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgdefense/5_love.html

    (Note–the Anglican and Lutheran formularies also hold that the “doers of the law” in Rom 2:13 and similar passages is in reference to the real though imperfect intrinsic righteousness that is present in all who are justified).

    Have a Happy New Years!
    W.A.Scott

    p.s. I probably won’t be able to participate further in this discussion

  8. Theoldadam –

    Sorry, but I don’t understand your comments. In your second comment, you define faith as a gift and not something that we do (Catholics do believe that faith is a gift) but your first comment is all about doing things. Furthermore, I think a lot of protestants would disagree with your first comment because you seem to be saying that once we are saved we are not always saved – we can fall out Christ after regeneration.

    Could you please elaborate?

  9. W.A. Scott,

    Welcome, and thanks for the comment.

    Paul’s references to blamelessness are in all likelihood simply reiterating what Psalm 19:13 says ‘Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” I’m sure you would agree that this does not discount the essential forensic aspect of Salvation–the covering of our sin/imperfect righteousness by the perfect righteousness in Christ’s Blood.

    Without this forensic aspect all would stand condemned by the perfect standard of God’s righteousness.

    Interesting tie-in to Psa. 19. But I am not sure I am understanding your point. You seem to be saying that “blamelessness” refers to the absence of mortal sin, is that right? You then reiterate the importance of the forensic and the covering of our “imperfect righteousness” by Jesus’ blood.

    I guess my question to you would be why, if at the end of the day it is forensic justification that effects our blamelessness, does Paul not attribute it to that, but instead attributes it to sanctification? If we set aside the possibility of Paul being a poor communicator, it seems to me that the blamelessness that he desires for us on the day of judgment is just that: blamelessness. And if none of us can live lives that are impeccable, it would seem to follow that strict obedience to the letter of the law is not what constitutes this blamelessness.

    So if this is true, then why the insistence on forensic imputation?

    Happy new year to you, too!

  10. Jason –

    I haven’t been following your series here as close as I would like, so perhaps you have addressed this already, but I have a question regarding this:

    The claim we need to consider is the one that says that God demands a sinless perfection of would-be saints that is defined according to the letter of the law. To put it another way, the entire soteriological understanding of the Reformed with respect to imputation (and therefore to Romans 4) is driven — and indeed necessitated — by the idea that no one without blameless obedience to the law can ever hope to attain eternal life in the age to come, and since this blamelessness can never be achieved by fallen man, it therefore must be achieved for him by Christ and imputed to him by faith alone.

    So, as I understand reformed theology, we can’t keep the letter of the law, so we need somebody who can perfectly keep the letter of the law to impute his perfect law keeping onto us. That’s what Jesus did – except that he didn’t! Yes, he kept the moral law perfectly in that he didn’t sin, but there are numerous examples in the Gospels when Jesus knowingly disobeyed the ceremonial law (not washing hands, picking grain on the sabbath, etc).

    There are a couple of conclusions here, that I can see. If God really demands perfect law-keeping, then it seems that not even Jesus could atone for our sins and we are all still condemned to Hell. The other conclusion is that God does not demand perfect law keeping and there is therefore no need for imputed law keeping. God fulfills the law in us in some other way.

    Am I understanding this properly? How would a reformed protestant make sense of Jesus’ imperfect law keeping?

  11. Fr. Bryan,

    The Reformed person would distinguish — rightly I think — between the actual commands of God and the traditions of men. Jesus himself accused the Pharisees of elevating their own traditions above God’s laws, so whatever man-made traditions Jesus disregarded were in no way sins against Torah or failures to obey his Father perfectly.

  12. Faith is a gift. But we have to be kept in faith. It can be lost.

    So when I say we must continue to entrust all to Jesus, instead of ‘doing’ things in addition to His cross…or just forgetting about Him altogether.

  13. Hello Jason–you said:
    “I guess my question to you would be why, if at the end of the day it is forensic justification that effects our blamelessness, does Paul not attribute it to that, but instead attributes it to sanctification?”

    We’re actually saying the same thing. My point was that Paul is apparently referring (inclusively and likely exclusively) to our state of sanctification when he uses the terms “innocence” and “blameless”–that is, absence of deadly sin (Psalm 19:13). (Augustine also holds that “blamelessness” in these passages of Paul is in reference to freedom from deadly sin).

    Of course–as was noted above–Psalm 143:2 makes clear that regardless of one’s degree of holiness the Perfect Standard of God condemns all–and therefore “blamelessness”/”innocence from great transgression” (Ps 19:13) is not sufficient to justify. Thus, Bernard of Clairvaux notes (see above*) that even our good works/intrinsic righteousness is a “filthy rag” and “unrighteousness and deficiency” before this perfect standard and Augustine says in reference to Ps 143:2: “How straight soever I seem to myself, You bring forth a standard from Your store-house, Thou fittest me to it, and I am found crooked.” http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801143.htm

    Therefore, since the Scripture declares in Psalm 143:2 that it is impossible to be justified on the basis of our intrinsic righteousness/works–the forensic justification in Christ’s perfectly righteous Blood and apart from the true deserving/merits of our works is necessary–and we partake in this freely and exclusively through a saving faith that produces the fruit of a “blameless” life/freedom from mortal sin (see quote from Apology of Augsburg above).

    Anyhow, Psalm 19:13 shows that we must pray to be kept in this state of sanctification/”blamelessness”/freedom from deadly sin. Paul likewise indicates that we must seek to be found in that state in the last day. Christ will rigorously test the fruits of our faith at the Final Judgment and only those who are found with the fruit of a blameless life (i.e. ended their sojourn walking in the light-1 John 1:7/ in a state of holiness-Heb 12:14) will be rewarded with the eternal life merited by Christ’s perfect life and death and received through the instrument of a saving faith.

    God Bless and I’m out of here for the foreseeable future,
    W.A.Scott

    p.s. *The quote from Bernard of Clairvaux is from In Festo Omnium Sanctorum. Sermon I.
    Sermon in Latin: http://www.binetti.ru/bernardus/72.shtml and translation

    p.p.s. [The following is largely a cut-and-paste and off topic–but I think that differences in the use of terms is a key part of confusion in these discussions–apologies ahead of time for the long p.s. and feel free to delete] Many of the reformers noted that the term dikaioun could be used more broadly than in the strictly forensic sense (e.g. Calvin applied a non-forensic sense to dikaioun in his commentary on Romans 6:7, and Cranmer says regarding the use of the term “justified” in James: “St James meant of justification in another sense, when he said, “A man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” For he spake of such a justification which is declaration, continuation, and increase of that justification which St Paul spake of before.” (Notes on Justification)).

    However, as the ARCIC joint Roman Catholic/Anglican statement says:
    Roman Catholic interpreters of Trent and Anglican theologians alike have insisted that justification and sanctification are neither wholly distinct from nor unrelated to one another. The discussion, however, has been confused by differing understandings of the word justification and its associated words. The theologians of the Reformation tended to follow the predominant usage of the New Testament, in which the verb dikaioun usually means “to pronounce righteous”. The Catholic theologians, and notably the Council of Trent, tended to follow the usage of patristic and medieval Latin writers, for whom justificare (the traditional translation of dikaioun) signified “to make righteous” Thus the Catholic understanding of the process of justification, following Latin usage, tended to include elements of salvation which the Reformers would describe as belonging to sanctification rather than justification.
    http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/arcic/doc/e_arcicII_salvation.html

    Of course, everyone must agree that we are “dikaioun” or “justified” on the basis of infused agape if the term is being used in the broader sense that the Church Fathers typically use it.

    Finally, although different terms are used all parties agree:
    1. With the absolute necessity of forensic justification [clearing of guilt before the Throne through the covering of Christ’s Righteous Blood–so that we are reckoned as perfectly innocent/righteous apart from the true deserving of our work]
    2. With the absolute necessity of sanctification or being “justified” (in the sense of “made internally righteous”) by infused agape.

  14. Steve,

    If faith is not something we do, then how can we lose it? I think you misunderstand the Catholic position, as if a person can just will himself to salvation. Far from it! As Father pointed out, the Catholic speaks of faith as a gift, thus, in the Liturgy the language of the gift of faith is used. There are two things that must be kept in view: the first is that none of us would believe apart from God’s grace, yet, we ourselves must believe, we must respond. There is a sense in which we are passive, God does something to provoke us (the Burning Bush was something that God did), what we might call grace, but we must respond to this provocation (as Moses did by inquiring and engaging the Burning Bush). Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas Homily recently spoke of the Magi as responding to the Star with a holy curiosity. The Star, if you will, was God’s provocation, He was the active agent, again, what we might call grace, and the Magi responded to that encounter with grace with the holy curiosity that is needed to move beyond the encounter and have the experience.

  15. Tom,

    Even though faith is a gift. It can be lost. Jesus warned us about “losing ourselves in drunkenness and the cares of the day”. I lose faith, all the time. Whenever I worry, I am not trusting in God.

    The Lord has given us tools to keep the fires of faith burning. Prayer, bible study, good works, worship, the Lord’s Supper, etc. These acts of good piety keep faith going.

    “When we are faithless, He is faithful.” “I have not lost any that the Father has given me.” Those are very comforting verses.

    At what point would the Lord let us go, in our wandering? Hopefully that point is way out there. God did cut off some of the chosen people. He did let some of the Jews go, in the O.T..

    So we don’t ever want to take our faith or salvation for granted. Like many of the’ once saved, always saved’ folks do.

  16. TOA,

    I would be curious to hear you engage with the argument I present in the post.

  17. Jason,

    That’s what my 1st comment was all about.

    Maybe you didn’t read it, or understand what I was trying to say.

  18. This one?:

    Yep. If we continue to entrust ourselves to His work (faith in Him).

    If not, and we wish to fall back onto ‘what we do’, as the Galatian Christians did, then he (Paul) might say to us what he said to them, “you sever yourself from Christ”. You have no need of him if you are going to do it yourself.

    You’re right, I fail to see how that is an engagement with the point of this post (which is about how that imputation’s need for extrinsic and perfect blamelessness is undermined by the biblical data which says that our blamelessness is the result of our sanctification).

    I guess my questions to you would be: How do you square the need for sinless obedience with these texts? Is Paul expecting that level of blamelessness of his readers? Why is sanctification, and not justification, spoken of as the rubric under which blamelessness occurs? Etc.

    But if you connect the dots for me, I will respond as soon as I can. Thanks. And happy new year.

  19. Jason,

    Justification and sanctification are two sides of the same coin. God does them both.

    The sinless and blameless part of the whole deal has been accomplished by Christ and freely given to us.

    No co-op, otherwise the cross would be moot.

    I do realize that I tend to boil things down. But it really does save a lot of time and mental gymnastics.

    Thanks, Jason.

    I hope 2013 brings you all the best!

    – Steve

  20. Theoldadam

    I’m confused by your last comment. If God does all the work of sanctification in the life of a believer, then are you saying that God wills that not all people are as much like Christ as possible in this life?

    What role does the disciple of Jesus play in the works attributed to growth in Him (sanctification)? And if one has “no co-op” with the Holy Spirit (forgive me if I just put any words in your mouth) then how do we sow to the Spirit in order to reap the fruit of the Spirit?

    Thanks for clarifying so that I can better understand what you’re saying relates the propositions Jason is making regarding the Catholic paradigm and justification.

    Peace in Christ
    Mike

  21. Mike,

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…”

    God will finish in us that which He has started. Quite often in spite of our help, not because of it.

    I love what Gerhard Forde said about sanctification, “Sanctification is forgetting about yourself”.

    His peace be upon you, as well, Mike.

    – Steve

  22. Steve

    While I understand God as the cause in any ability for good in us, I’m still wondering two specific things:

    1. Since you are saying there is no co-operation on our part with God in sanctification, does it stand to reason that God, then, does not want all of his disciples to be as sanctified as all others? Or are you saying that everyone in Christ is equally sanctified at any given time?

    2. How does this view of sanctification relate to Jason’s assertions in this post?

    Thanks again

  23. Hi Mike,

    God calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies all those who are His.

    Sanctified is inter-changable with justified. It is sometimes used before justified in Scripture. In any event, it is God’s doing.

    My pastor once asked, “How do you know that the Holy Spirit is working inside of you? Well…you’re breathing aren’t you?”

  24. Mike,

    Listen to this:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3

    I think you’ll get a kick out of it. The last part of it deals specifically with sanctification, but the whole thing is very good.

    Thanks, friend.

    – Steve

  25. Steve
    I will give that a listen. Could you address my two questions to you, though?

    Thanks
    Mike

  26. Mike,

    God sanctifies each person in the way that God wills. He completes the work He began, so we know that it is to His specifications.

    I do not believe, as Jason does, that our “blamelessness” is at all tied to what bis in our hearts…but to what is in Jesus’ heart.

    But the great thing is, that in our Baptisms, we “have put on Christ”. (Galatians 4 – I believe)

    Thanks, Mike.

    – Steve

  27. Jason,

    I still can’t help but question your approach to the paradigm question. Isn’t it possible that James and Paul both held different paradigms? Perhaps at the time James wrote his epistle he held to a works righteousness system. Maybe Paul really DID believe in imputed righteousness…if God is inspiring the writers I just don’t see that their opinions matter very much. Couldn’t the Protestant just argue that their personal theological view is irrelevant? One gets a very different view of why bad things happen to good people depending on which book of the old testiment you read. Certain books say that God is passing judgement on people everytime a catastrophe takes place…. Others make it appear God is not involved at all… Can the Church reconcile these contradictions? Of course…. But perhaps it is better to do so by looking at the texts themselves and not by necessarily looking at the theological view of each individual writer. Just because someone took part in Gods revelation to man doesn’t necessarily mean that particular person somehow has a full understanding of the theology that revelation brings to Christendom.

    Last time I brought up this hypothetical objection you said a Protestant would only use this as a last report of types…. Well… Since all of our reformed friends have apparently vanished…. Would you mind answering the last resort? Sounds basic, but I think it’s worth establishing on your part why the human authors individual theological view is relevant.

  28. All,

    It’s late, I will respond to comments tomorrow morning.

  29. Jason,

    Re blamelessness on the RC paradigm, you highlighted the following passage in support:

    “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:9-11).”

    Even if the RC paradigm is in view here, few problems emerge as a result. This is because – based on the natural reading of the passage – the RC paradigm presuppose continuous growth/ progress (“abound more and more) as a precondition for “blamelessness.” The question then is how does one know that *final* “blamelessness” has been attained? Secondly, how does pure and blamelessness compatible with the *doctrine* of purgatory which presupposes and implies a state of impurity and therefore imperfection. In other words, how does the RC paradigm that you espouse compatible with the default understanding of final judgment of the Church?

  30. Dear W A Scott,

    You mentioned ARCIC as though agreement on both sides of the confessional divide faithfully reflected the doctrine of the English Reformers. Although ARCIC represents a convergence of ecumenical theology, unfortunately it doesn’t represent a convergence of confessional theology, i.e. that which is faithful to the catholicity of the Gospel and the catholic inheritance of the Church of England, namely that the sinner is justified by faith and faith alone. I hope we can agree that despite our efforts in highlighting the similarities and affinities and even agreement between Mother Church and the churches of the Protestant Reformation, there is no agreement on the Gospel of justification by faith alone. This alone is the so-called “sole” disagreement between us and the Roman Catholics which “sole disagreement” can never ever be overcome.

  31. Hello Jason Loh,

    I certainly understand your concern. However, I had a much narrower purpose in quoting from the ARCIC. In particular, to show that even a number of respectable Roman Catholic theologians affirm the normative declarative usage of the term “dikaioun” in the New Testament (thereby showing that the Reformers are not alone in their assertions regarding the normative use of “dikaioun”). Also, the quote itself provides a helpful affirmation by Roman Catholic theologians themselves regarding historic differences in terminology in the justification debate (e.g. in the Church fathers, etc).

    God Bless,
    W.A.Scott (and signing out hopefully for the last time)

  32. p.s. I hope people don’t find the grammatical errors and poor writing in my posts too distracting–someday I’ll actually start re-reading them before posting…

  33. Dear W A Scott,

    But the fact remains that the Tridentine condemnations remained (in force). I am also not aware ( and I could be wrong on this) of any Roman Catholic theologian who actually affirms sola fide although many Roman Catholic scholars do agree with the forensic *aspect* of justification. Having said this, ARCIC and JDDJ only demonstrate that it is Protestants who give ground on justification – in attempting to squeeze the Protestant understanding of justification into the Procrustean crust of *infused* grace. Infused grace or inherent justification plays no role in justification extra nos because of sola fide and monergism.

  34. Hello Jason Loh–I think you’re still reading far more into my quote than what was intended. The point of the quote is not that the Roman Catholic theologians affirmed all the truths of sola fide and extra nos justification in the ARCIC–but to demonstrate the narrow points that I listed in my prior post.

    God Bless,
    W.A.Scott

    p.s. This is (seriously this time) the final response I’ll have time to make–thanks all for the interesting discussion.

  35. Kenneth,

    I still can’t help but question your approach to the paradigm question. Isn’t it possible that James and Paul both held different paradigms? Perhaps at the time James wrote his epistle he held to a works righteousness system. Maybe Paul really DID believe in imputed righteousness…if God is inspiring the writers I just don’t see that their opinions matter very much. Couldn’t the Protestant just argue that their personal theological view is irrelevant?

    I think you’re bringing up an interesting issue here, but one that we must be careful with.

    On the one hand the Bible is an integrated whole, one to which the actual writers did not have full access (meaning that all but the final NT book were written without the full context of the NT being available). So if Romans is needed to balance out James, but if Romans was not written when James was, then it is theoretically possible that James’s personal way of stating things may have been imbalanced.

    That said, though, we need to beware of treating Scripture like a wax nose, as if the personal theology of its writers doesn’t matter and indeed could be diametrically opposed to our own. We could fall into this using either the Magisterium as our excuse (“The NT writers were a bit off base, but the bishops help sort it out”), or we could just use the canon as our rationale (“No single NT writer had it completely right, but once all 27 books are there, the full picture comes into focus”). While these are provocative themes, I still think we need to balance them with the idea that there’s something called “the deposit of faith” or “the tradition” that was “once for all delivered to the saints.”

    Does that make sense?

  36. Jason Loh,

    Re blamelessness on the RC paradigm, you highlighted the following passage in support:

    “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:9-11).”

    My point was not so much to use this as a prooftext for the Catholic view of anything as much as it was to say that the kind of person likely to have written such a thing is someone whose paradigm does not insist that blameless on the day of judgment results from the imputation of alien righteousness.

    Even if the RC paradigm is in view here, few problems emerge as a result. This is because – based on the natural reading of the passage – the RC paradigm presuppose continuous growth/ progress (“abound more and more) as a precondition for “blamelessness.” The question then is how does one know that *final* “blamelessness” has been attained?

    I’m glad you ask this, because lots of people have a distorted view of the CC’s demands on people.

    It’s not the case that a Catholic believer must attain to some kind of unspecified level of goodness or perfection in order to go to heaven. The reason this is so is due to the distinction between mortal and venial sin (a distinction the FV desperately needs, since it does fall prey to this charge, I think). If a Catholic has sanctifying grace and agape (or, the life of God), he will go to heaven, period. If he has venial sins, the debt of whose temporal punishments need to be satisfied, he will go to purgatory first, and then go to heaven. But if a Catholic dies in a state of mortal sin, he will go to hell.

    Of course, there are degrees of sanctification and blamelessness, as Paul states in this passage. We can participate more in Jesus’ life and cross-bearing, or less. We can love the brethren more, or less. But the point is that the thing Paul is praying for is not an entrance into heaven based upon the imputation of some external righteousness (which he would if he were operating from a Protestant paradigm). Instead, he is praying for baptized believers that they would exhibit the fruitful spiritual abundance that will result in their entrance into eternal life.

    Secondly, how does pure and blamelessness compatible with the *doctrine* of purgatory which presupposes and implies a state of impurity and therefore imperfection. In other words, how does the RC paradigm that you espouse compatible with the default understanding of final judgment of the Church?

    As Bryan Cross and Adam Szabados discussed in great depth over at CTC, there is a difference between the guilt of sin being removed, and satisfaction being made for the temporal punishments due to venial sins. So let’s say I commit a felony, am convicted, and serve my sentence. In the eyes of the law I am now completely pardoned. But that doesn’t mean I can just show up at my family’s door after ten years and expect everything to be fine. No, I will be dealing with the residual after-effects of my sin perhaps for years before I am trusted by them again. Well similarly, just because the cross sufficiently deals with the guilt of our sin and its eternal punishment, this doesn’t mean that upon death I cannot have venial sins on my account and be in need of a final purging by the fire of God’s fatherly love before I enter his presence.

    In fact, this is precisely what I would expect.

  37. The issue Protestants have, and why so many of us say that Jason has not embraced Roman Catholicism but a Protestantized-hybrid version of it (as so many Roman Catholic converts have) is because on the one hand, Jason says we can know we are going to heaven by having love and grace in our lives, while the Council of Trent, in “On the Vain Confidence of Heretics,” says:

    For as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.

    Trent also says that that no one can know whether they have been predestined by God for salvation without special revelation. This would seem to go against the entire point of 1 John, which was written so that Christians might know they have salvation. To say that the presence of love allows a Catholic to know they are going to heaven certainly seems to contradict what I have quoted from Trent. And I’m not alone in that estimation, for Cardinal Bellarmine, an actual part of the Roman Catholic magisterium, said that assurance is the greatest of all Protestant heresies.

    The fact remains that we can read Paul, consider what blamelessness means in our own context, read that back into his letter, and then assume that some proto-Roman Catholic paradigm exists that gave rise to it. Or, we can look at the actual exegetical evidence as a whole for what the 1st century paradigm was, reconstruct it, and then discuss it. Those are two very different approaches, and the latter is manifestly what Jason is not doing here. Jason, you have said as much in other posts and comments when you have said that a Roman Catholic does not have to look to Scripture alone to prove his paradigm, for he also has oral tradition. That is a convenient out, for tradition is whatever Rome says it is. Thus, there is no way for Rome to ever truly reform itself. Rome defines the canon. Rome defines tradition. Rome appeals to what it defines. Rome is thereby the highest standard. Roman Catholics just need to be more honest and say they believe what they believe because that is what the church tells them to believe, and not because of their own study of history and Scripture.

    In any case, I just want to again bring up Jesus statement that we must be perfect as God is perfect. That is a requirement of absolute perfection. God is perfectly good in all ways, and we must be perfectly good in all ways. There’s just no way to honestly read that text otherwise. As far as I know, Roman Catholics still hold to some idea of a substitutionary sacrifice. Tell me, if good enough is all God needs from us, why did Jesus have to be perfect. Why the stress on His moral purity. Why the stress on unblemished lambs?

    Others have said, Nick I think, “Is not God merciful?” in order to get around this. Yes, he is merciful. But if God really only expects good enough or flawed goodness from us, then when we meet that standard, he is not really showing us mercy but giving us what is due. That’s not grace. Grace is only grace if God demands absolute perfection and then, when we fail to meet that standard, provides for the meeting of that standard in a way that does not include my tainted works, however good they are. Roman Catholicism ultimately makes God’s salvation dependent on what He has expected of us anyway. Put all the flowery language on it you want, but that is neither mercy nor grace, that is getting what we are due.

  38. Jason,

    One last incidental comment. To say that God does what you expect seems to fly in the face of the Bible’s teaching that He so often does NOT do what we expect. Food for thought.

  39. Robert,

    Since Assurance is not really the topic, I’ll only be brief on my response to your latest post. The reason why Catholicism teaches Infallible Assurance is the greatest of all heresies is because this false doctrine will stop at nothing (even sending Jesus to hell, no joke) to attain it. It is thoroughly a tradition of men, entirely man-centered in its theology. It it’s a golden-calf in every respect, wholly untouchable, subordinating God and His Words to it’s whims. The biggest irony is that the Reformed don’t even realize they assume they’re elect, not realizing that this is not only an assumption, but one done in light of the fact their nature is fallen and thus subject to deception, along with the presence of Evanescient Grace.

    Now I and other Catholics here consider you a Christian, but this Assurance heresy has caused you and other Protestants here (e.g. Steve/TheOldAdam) to repeatedly ignore God’s Word in favor of ultimately, even if often implicitly, upholding Assurance.

  40. But if God really only expects good enough or flawed goodness from us, then when we meet that standard, he is not really showing us mercy but giving us what is due. That’s not grace. Grace is only grace if God demands absolute perfection and then, when we fail to meet that standard, provides for the meeting of that standard in a way that does not include my tainted works, however good they are

    Robert, your conclusion does not follow. When Christ said your body is clean and only your feet need to be washed, was He giving the disciples their due? Or was He gracious and merciful towards them? Did the disciples lead a life of absolute perfection post the resurrection? I think of Peter, who failed in his table fellowship, but nevertheless repented.

    A father and successful businessman has a teenage son who rebels and goes off to live with addicts and prostitues. One day he comes to his senses and returns to the homestead, contrite and repentant. His father, who had always longed for his return and safety, welcomes him with open arms and after some time, makes him a key worker in the family business. The son eventually matures, makes some business mistakes along the way, but relies on his father’s wisdom and insight and on the whole produces a positive return on his father’s trust, growing the business into a fortune 500 company. His father eventually honors him with a generous share of the inheritance.

    It was grace that enabled the son to return to the homestead, grace that enabled him to persevere and make every effort in the business despite his mistakes, and grace that granted him an inheritance. Absolute perfection was never in view, but the obedience of faith was. You, as protestants generally, fundamentally misunderstand the patron-client nature of grace/charis as it was construed in the first century world of the NT writers. And this to your detriment, since this subsconsciously/indirectly opens the door to antinomian behavior, (whether this is acknowledged or not, it is simply an undeniable fact as any Barna research poll will show) which is widely prevalent in protestantism today (would say the same for RC, although the fuel there is the unpatristic doctrine of purgatory and penance). Would highly recommend that you spend some time with David De Silva’s book on Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity to familiarize yourself with the patron-client paradigm of NT grace.

    SS.

  41. I hope to offer a more detailed response later tonight, Robert, for now I would just point out that there is a difference between having a moral certainty of one’s election, and having the certainty of faith regarding it. John is speaking of the former, while Trent rightly denies the possibility of the latter.

    Gotta go play with my kids…

  42. Dear W A Scott,

    You wrote:

    “Hello Jason Loh–I think you’re still reading far more into my quote than what was intended. The point of the quote is not that the Roman Catholic theologians affirmed all the truths of sola fide and extra nos justification in the ARCIC–but to demonstrate the narrow points that I listed in my prior post.”

    Do you agree with ARCIC then?

  43. Jason,

    You wrote:

    “If a Catholic has sanctifying grace and agape (or, the life of God), he will go to heaven, period. If he has venial sins, the debt of whose temporal punishments need to be satisfied, he will go to purgatory first, and then go to heaven. But if a Catholic dies in a state of mortal sin, he will go to hell.”

    But isn’t a venial-sin free state only available to (canonised) saints, i.e. only to a (select) few? Whereas the paradigm and passages you have quoted imply or presume (take for granted) a general condition or application, i.e. to *all* Christians …

  44. Dear Jason,

    You wrote:

    “As Bryan Cross and Adam Szabados discussed in great depth over at CTC, there is a difference between the guilt of sin being removed, and satisfaction being made for the temporal punishments due to venial sins. So let’s say I commit a felony, am convicted, and serve my sentence. In the eyes of the law I am now completely pardoned. But that doesn’t mean I can just show up at my family’s door after ten years and expect everything to be fine. No, I will be dealing with the residual after-effects of my sin perhaps for years before I am trusted by them again. Well similarly, just because the cross sufficiently deals with the guilt of our sin and its eternal punishment, this doesn’t mean that upon death I cannot have venial sins on my account and be in need of a final purging by the fire of God’s fatherly love before I enter his presence.”

    Where does Paul ever say that those who are “pure and blameless” still need purging? The passages that you have cited doesn’t seem to imply that. Besides, a natural and logical reading of the text would assume finality – IOW, *immediate* reception into heaven upon being found to be “pure and blameless.”

    And why does Eastern Orthodoxy express theological revulsion at purgatory?

  45. “My point was not so much to use this as a prooftext for the Catholic view of anything as much as it was to say that the kind of person likely to have written such a thing is someone whose paradigm does not insist that blameless on the day of judgment results from the imputation of alien righteousness.”

    and

    “Of course, there are degrees of sanctification and blamelessness, as Paul states in this passage. We can participate more in Jesus’ life and cross-bearing, or less. We can love the brethren more, or less. But the point is that the thing Paul is praying for is not an entrance into heaven based upon the imputation of some external righteousness (which he would if he were operating from a Protestant paradigm). Instead, he is praying for baptized believers that they would exhibit the fruitful spiritual abundance that will result in their entrance into eternal life.”

    Yes, I agree that the passages you have quoted does not lend support to the paradigm of justification by imputation. When Paul said we are to “abound more and more in love,” I think we’d be hardpressed to argue for an unnatural or “forced” reading that does not accord with a natural understanding/ conception of growth or progress.

    However, I don’t see how being “pure and blameless” actually does imply *degrees* of perfection. At least the phrase by itself doesn’t imply that.

    Furthermore, purgatory would negate the very concept of degrees of perfection in that it rather implies degrees of *imperfection*(!) How can a Christian be pure and blameless by a *final* judgment and yet be subject to purgatory?

    After all, the extent to which one spends in purgatory is determined by the extent to which the temporal debts are yet to be repaid – degrees of imperfection.

  46. “To say that God does what you expect seems to fly in the face of the Bible’s teaching that He so often does NOT do what we expect.”

    Hence, the theology of the cross where sinners are condemned and justified one and the same time and space … where sinners are *rendered* completely passive – whose divine ambitions are negated and “incarnated” down-to-earth, the Old Adam put to death only to be raised up anew as the New Adam who is *already* faithed towards God so that love as willing is grounded in faith rather than vice-versa.

  47. Robert,

    The issue Protestants have, and why so many of us say that Jason has not embraced Roman Catholicism but a Protestantized-hybrid version of it (as so many Roman Catholic converts have) is because on the one hand, Jason says we can know we are going to heaven by having love and grace in our lives, while the Council of Trent, in “On the Vain Confidence of Heretics,” says:

    For as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.

    The certainty of faith is the response of the faithful to what God has revealed to be true. If God were to reveal by an act of special revelation such as adding the Book of Life as an appendix to the Bible that I am indeed elect unto salvation, then it would be sinful of me to doubt it. But if God has chosen not to reveal that fact, it would be presumptuous of me to insist upon it as though he had.

    So the certainty of faith about one’s election which Trent condemns is not the same thing that John (and others) urge. What they urge, and what the CC urges, is a moral certainty of one’s final salvation. This is similar to what the Puritans referred to as the practical/mystical syllogism, which I assume you’re familiar with.

    But since this thread is not about assurance, this will be the last I say on the matter.

    The fact remains that we can read Paul, consider what blamelessness means in our own context, read that back into his letter, and then assume that some proto-Roman Catholic paradigm exists that gave rise to it. Or, we can look at the actual exegetical evidence as a whole for what the 1st century paradigm was, reconstruct it, and then discuss it. Those are two very different approaches, and the latter is manifestly what Jason is not doing here.

    Handwaving assertions don’t deserve detailed responses, Robert. If you have a specific objection to something I have argued in these paradigm posts, feel free to bring it up and I’ll do my best to address it.

    Jason, you have said as much in other posts and comments when you have said that a Roman Catholic does not have to look to Scripture alone to prove his paradigm, for he also has oral tradition. That is a convenient out, for tradition is whatever Rome says it is. Thus, there is no way for Rome to ever truly reform itself. Rome defines the canon. Rome defines tradition. Rome appeals to what it defines. Rome is thereby the highest standard. Roman Catholics just need to be more honest and say they believe what they believe because that is what the church tells them to believe, and not because of their own study of history and Scripture.

    This is not really the place to thrown everything but the kitchen sink at me, it would derail things to no end.

    My argument is quite simple: When it comes to gospel issues (and not every possible locus of theology), the data of the NT reveals teachings that are more likely to have arisen from a basic Catholic paradigm than from a proto-Protestant one. That’s what we’re talking about here.

    In any case, I just want to again bring up Jesus statement that we must be perfect as God is perfect. That is a requirement of absolute perfection. God is perfectly good in all ways, and we must be perfectly good in all ways. There’s just no way to honestly read that text otherwise.

    We have a thread here on Jesus’ on the last judgment, which I would invite you to comment on further if you like. But suffice it to say here that you are either unaware of the position of those you disagree with, or you’re deliberately ignoring it. Why else would you just state your position as if it’s the only “honest” position that can be taken?

    As far as I know, Roman Catholics still hold to some idea of a substitutionary sacrifice. Tell me, if good enough is all God needs from us, why did Jesus have to be perfect. Why the stress on His moral purity. Why the stress on unblemished lambs?

    You demonstrate here very obviously that you do not understand the Catholic position. We do not say that God accepts “good enough,” we say rather that the spiritual gift of sanctifying grace and agape are really and truly what constitute the righteousness that the law demanded (as in, the man with the life of God within is truly and actually righteous, for reals). If you still don’t see the difference between what I am saying and what you think I am saying, I would direct you to Cross’s reply to Nick Batzig over at CTC.

    But if God really only expects good enough or flawed goodness from us, then when we meet that standard, he is not really showing us mercy but giving us what is due. That’s not grace. Grace is only grace if God demands absolute perfection and then, when we fail to meet that standard, provides for the meeting of that standard in a way that does not include my tainted works, however good they are. Roman Catholicism ultimately makes God’s salvation dependent on what He has expected of us anyway. Put all the flowery language on it you want, but that is neither mercy nor grace, that is getting what we are due.

    Since this is not an argument but merely a table-pounding assertion in which you just repeat what we already know you think, I don’t really have a response. I could say “Nuh-uh!” to your “Yeah-huh!”, but what good would that do?

    One last incidental comment. To say that God does what you expect seems to fly in the face of the Bible’s teaching that He so often does NOT do what we expect. Food for thought.

    Really? Are you “expecting” the Father to send a prophetess tomorrow who’ll tap-dance and juggle chainsaws while singing “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath? Why not, it would be unexpected!

    If you had read what I said with a bit more charity, you would have seen that I was in no way arguing that since I expect God to do something, he therefore should do it, or that the only things I attribute to him are things I expect him to do. Instead I was simply saying that in one particular instance, what God does is not altogether unexpected.

  48. SS,

    Yes, grace enables the son in your analogy to return to the homestead, but I believe in an efficacious salvific grace that always accomplishes exactly what God intends for it to accomplish, even if His people resist it for a time. Grace accomplishes what sinners cannot, and it always accomplishes what God intends. As far as I know, only the Reformed can affirm that. It is impossible in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox soteriological schemes, but it is the clear teaching of Jesus in John 6 and many other passages. All that the Father give to Jesus come to Him and He raises them up on the last day. There is none that the Father gives to Jesus who do not come to Him.

    The examples you cite of the washing of the feet and Peter’s failure and restoration follow their justification. So the passages don’t really deal with the issue of how one gets into the kingdom in the first place. God demands perfection to enter the kingdom and grants it via faith alone and imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and no merit of ours gets us in the kingdom. Ultimately, Rome teaches otherwise, no matter how the Church of Rome phrases it. If baptism gets me in, mortal sin gets me out, penance gets me in, good works increase the grace of my justification, but then mortal sin gets me out—it really is not grace alone that gets me in but rather some unstable mixture of grace plus impure works.

    One of the key issues since the Reformation has been that Rome confuses and conflates justification and sanctification. They continue to do it to this day.

    Nick,

    All I can say in response to your last post is that I have no idea what you are talking about when you say the quest for infallible assurance has sent Jesus to hell in some cases.

  49. Jason,

    I do understand what you are doing, and I have answered much of what you have said in other comments elsewhere on this blog, which is why I did not present extensively detailed arguments here. Any one who is interested can feel free to read them, specifically on the Jesus and Last Judgment thread. I do not believe you or anyone else has answered them adequately, but that is for others to decide.

    The issue, as you have pointed out, really does come down to whether God really expects perfection of us for our justification. On that matter, I believe that Scripture clearly teaches yes. And, for that matter, so does the Roman Catholic Church. If not, then Rome has some serious work to do in teaching the laity, because it sure looks like all the relic veneration, the lighting of candles, the flocking to reflections of Mary on the sides of buildings in Florida, the detailed penance requirements, the scapular, the rosary, the treasury of merit, indulgences, and so much more betray an assumption that what Christ has done is just not enough, that the bar is set just out of reach, that there is something lacking in even the professing Roman Catholic that makes him or her doubt whether they have done enough. How is that possible if the church does not teach or at least imply that absolute perfection is required to enter heaven?

    As far as the distinction you make between moral assurance and infallible assurance, I would be willing to read up on that more. But I would like some official documents from the Roman Catholic Magisterium that make that distinction and not teaching from Roman Catholic apologists that have not been officially sanctioned by the church. I want to know the official Roman Catholic position on it, much as you would have to turn to a position paper from the PCA to get the official PCA position on an issue.

    Paradigms are funny things. We all have them. We all bring them to Scripture. But those of us who know that, and I would include yourself in that, must finally address how these paradigms are built, changed, and reformed. To my knowledge, you have not really addressed that. You have said that you found elements of the Protestant paradigm wanting, but many Protestants have had doubts, studied the matter, and become convinced of the Protestant position even further. Rome’s position on its authority and history can only be accepted by denying a whole lot of history. There was no bishop of Rome in the first century, and the papacy as we know it does not exist until hundreds of years into church history. And at the earliest ecumenical councils, such as Nicea, the bishop of Rome plays hardly any role at all. There is no unified understanding of justification or sanctification in the early church after the New Testament. Are there some sentences and passages in the fathers that lend support to the Roman view? Sure. Are there some sentences and passages that lend support to the Protestant view? Sure. Are there some for the Eastern Orthodox? Sure. But as these issues were not debated in depth in the early church, and certainly not in relation to the specific circumstances that sparked the Reformation, it is anachronistic to say that “the early church teaches X on justification,” especially since there is no unanimity. But that is exactly what Roman Catholic apologists do, though to be fair, so do poor Protestant and EO apologists.

    Rome offers no answer when it comes to church discipline and theological confusion. It’s nice to have a visible and titular head, but what meaning does that head have if it allows impenitent lesbian witches who hate the Roman Catholic Church to teach for decades at a Jesuit University (Mary Daly at Boston College). And then there is the issue of 2 kingdoms theology. I know that in the past you have been hesitant for the church to get involved in political matters but have called the church to maintain a distinct identity, focusing on Word and Sacrament and having little to say, at least institutionally, about the political matters of our day. But the Roman Catholic Church has been more wedded to politics than almost every other branch of Christendom historically, and they remain so today. Unless you are going to disavow much of what you have previously said on the 2 kingdoms, I don’t see how you can submit to a church whose hierarchy run an entire nation state, tell secular political systems what they should and should not be doing economically and morally, and so on. In fact, the entire Roman Catholic social justice and teaching tradition would seem to me to be entirely at odds with modern 2 kingdoms theology. But I don’t see where you have disavowed any of your former 2 kingdoms teachings or leanings. (Maybe I have missed it).

    I want to read you as charitably as possible, but all that I have just said, and much more, gives many of us the impression that you really did not put as much thought into your decision as you should have. I mean no insult by what I have said, and I know the disunity evident among professing Protestants can be troubling, but you get nothing better from Rome. And you leave the free grace of God for a sacerdotal treadmill that you can never fulfill.

  50. Robert,

    Your understanding of grace as irresistible in the calvinistic sense was unknown to first century christians, even those at Smyrna to whom Christ said you are poor, yet rich. Something to think deeply about.

    The parable I shared above is showing you that grace was involved throughout , not just in the return to the homestead and thereby shows that God does not require perfect obedience in the sense in which you understand it, i.e, in letter of the law type nomism. You can infer this from the gospel accounts themselves, where one sees Christ and His disciples breaking certain Mosaic laws. Instead, the perfection that God requires of us is a relational perfection present in the maturity of faith working through love, as is the summation of all of Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

    The calvinistic understanding of John 6:35-40 is deeply flawed in that it refuses to acknowledge the underlying covenantal overtones of the confrontation between Christ and the Jews, instead simply seeing vv 35-40 as proof texts for the P in the tulip. But the entire chapter/context has nothing to do with medieval ruminations on irresistible grace. Rather, the context strongly alludes to the prophets, Isaiah 54:13 and Jer 31-33 in particular and the fulfilment of their visions in this statement. John was a Jew, yes?

    “27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

    the reference to food that endures and bread of life being the very fulfilment of Jer 31:7, 14

    This is what the Lord says:

    “Sing with joy for Jacob;
    shout for the foremost of the nations.
    Make your praises heard, and say,
    ‘Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’

    14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
    and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
    declares the Lord

    and this

    “13 All your children will be taught by the Lord ,
    and great will be their peace.”

    which is made perfect in this statement

    “29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    In other words, the context of John 6:35-40 is one in which one sees the covenant of God with Israel at work. And who is it who is given to the Son by the Father? John tells us in v 45:

    45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[d] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.

    It is those who hear the Father and those who humble themselves to learn from Messiah who are given to the Son. This is no way denotes a monergistic process, but instead synergism which magnifies God’s power and glory. God works in His people, even the Jewish disciples of Christ (of whom many contemporary messianic jewish scholars strongly deny irresistible grace btw), who humble themselves and turn to Messiah. Luke 13:34 refers to the goats as not being willing to come to Him. And yet many did come to Him, these were the ones He referenced in vv 35-40, thereby proving that He is the Messiah.

    The problem with the Reformation is that it ignores the patron client understanding of Grace in the NT. If you read the parable of the talents without your tulip colored glasses you would realize that the talent given is so enormous in value that it cannot be misconstrued as anything other than grace. And yet, what happens to the third servant to whom that grace is given, who buries it in the ground, fearing His master? Jesus says he is seen as a wicked and lazy servant, and thrown into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The first century understanding of grace was strongly tied to the idea of honoring the benefactor, the giver of that grace. If dishonor was brought upon the benefactor, the consequences were real. This can be seen in Hebrews 6, whereby it is said:

    “4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit , 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

    Consider the lexical use of metochous (partakers) of the Holy Spirit in Hebrews. Every instance of it refers to genuine believers. And yet the fact is that it is those who have fallen away (past tense, so no absolutely no room for hypothetical escapes here) who were once partakers. One cannot be a partaker and not have been justified and v 8 above is itself an echo of John 15:6, showing once again, the patron client nature of the grace bestowed on the followers of Christ.

    SS.

  51. But as these issues were not debated in depth in the early church, and certainly not in relation to the specific circumstances that sparked the Reformation, it is anachronistic to say that “the early church teaches X on justification,” especially since there is no unanimity.

    Give the Apostolic Fathers another reading, and try to read them without an a priori bias as TF Torrance did. You may be surprised at what you find. Start with the epistle of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, to the Philippians:

    “I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days Philippians 1:5 long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] “whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.” “In whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” 1 Peter 1:8 into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that “by grace you are saved, not of works,” Ephesians 2:8-9 but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

    “Wherefore, girding up your loins,” 1 Peter 1:13; Ephesians 6:14 “serve the Lord in fear” and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory,” 1 Peter 1:21 and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things 1 Peter 3:22; Philippians 2:10 in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. Acts 17:31 His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” 1 Peter 3:9 or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: “Judge not, that you be not judged; Matthew 7:1 forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; Luke 6:36 with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again;” Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:38 and once more, “Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

    Grace, properly apprehended!

  52. Hello Jason Loh (because it’s the weekend you can squeeze one more quick post out of me 😉 –but my schedule will severely limit any further participation).

    In answer to your question–it’s been a while since I read the ARCIC on justification all the way through–but I think it was (intentionally) general enough in its statements that I could at least agree with a large portion of what it says. Of course, I definitely don’t think this agreement bridges all differences on the issue of sola fide and extra nos justification, etc. However, I am grateful for what the Roman Catholic theologians did affirm–such as the following statement (despite vagueness–it appears to be at least a partial affirmation of extra nos justification–“Christ’s perfect righteousness is reckoned to our account”):

    “18. The term justification speaks of a divine declaration of acquittal, of the love of God manifested to an alienated and lost humanity prior to any entitlement on our part. Through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God declares that we are forgiven, accepted and reconciled to him. Instead of our own strivings to make ourselves acceptable to God, Christ’s perfect righteousness is reckoned to our account.”
    http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/arcic/doc/e_arcicII_salvation.html

    God Bless,
    W.A.Scott

  53. OK, W A Scott. Thanks for your comments and the link.

  54. Robert,

    I do not believe you or anyone else has answered them adequately, but that is for others to decide.

    What do you think I have not answered adequately?

    The issue, as you have pointed out, really does come down to whether God really expects perfection of us for our justification. On that matter, I believe that Scripture clearly teaches yes. And, for that matter, so does the Roman Catholic Church.

    But the issue is what constitutes that perfection. Is it sinless obedience to the letter of the law, accomplished by someone else and imputed to us externally? Or is it our having sanctifying grace and agape in our souls from the Spirit of the risen Christ? That’s the sticking point, not whether we need perfection or just “good enough obedience,” as you put it (which shows that you still do not understand the Catholic position, despite claiming you do).

    … it sure looks like … what Christ has done is just not enough, that the bar is set just out of reach, that there is something lacking in even the professing Roman Catholic that makes him or her doubt whether they have done enough. How is that possible if the church does not teach or at least imply that absolute perfection is required to enter heaven?

    This exact objection could be leveled against a Reformed Confessionalist by an antinomian. “Gosh, by all this talk of mortification and cross-bearing, it sure looks like you’re saying that Jesus is insufficient!” You’ll need to come up with an argument for Rome’s denial of Jesus’ sufficiency that you do not also fall prey to.

    As far as the distinction you make between moral assurance and infallible assurance, I would be willing to read up on that more. But I would like some official documents from the Roman Catholic Magisterium that make that distinction and not teaching from Roman Catholic apologists that have not been officially sanctioned by the church. I want to know the official Roman Catholic position on it, much as you would have to turn to a position paper from the PCA to get the official PCA position on an issue.

    Fair enough, I appreciate the openness. I will get back to you with some links as soon as I can.

    Paradigms are funny things. We all have them. We all bring them to Scripture. But those of us who know that, and I would include yourself in that, must finally address how these paradigms are built, changed, and reformed. To my knowledge, you have not really addressed that. You have said that you found elements of the Protestant paradigm wanting, but many Protestants have had doubts, studied the matter, and become convinced of the Protestant position even further. Rome’s position on its authority and history can only be accepted by denying a whole lot of history. There was no bishop of Rome in the first century, and the papacy as we know it does not exist until hundreds of years into church history. And at the earliest ecumenical councils, such as Nicea, the bishop of Rome plays hardly any role at all. There is no unified understanding of justification or sanctification in the early church after the New Testament. Are there some sentences and passages in the fathers that lend support to the Roman view? Sure. Are there some sentences and passages that lend support to the Protestant view? Sure. Are there some for the Eastern Orthodox? Sure. But as these issues were not debated in depth in the early church, and certainly not in relation to the specific circumstances that sparked the Reformation, it is anachronistic to say that “the early church teaches X on justification,” especially since there is no unanimity. But that is exactly what Roman Catholic apologists do, though to be fair, so do poor Protestant and EO apologists.

    There are loads of assertions in this paragraph stated as undeniable facts, which I assume you realize (but then chose to include anyway, for some reason). But I just don’t have the time to deal with these “everything but the kitchen sink” type comments. If you want to discuss the papacy, there are great places to do that.

    Further, I am not doing this series of posts to demonstrate that my view on justification is the same as that of the ECFs (I’ll not restate my actual purpose again, as I have done so multiple times in this thread to try to bring back the discussion to the issue at hand).

    Rome offers no answer when it comes to church discipline and theological confusion. It’s nice to have a visible and titular head, but what meaning does that head have if it allows impenitent lesbian witches who hate the Roman Catholic Church to teach for decades at a Jesuit University (Mary Daly at Boston College). And then there is the issue of 2 kingdoms theology. I know that in the past you have been hesitant for the church to get involved in political matters but have called the church to maintain a distinct identity, focusing on Word and Sacrament and having little to say, at least institutionally, about the political matters of our day. But the Roman Catholic Church has been more wedded to politics than almost every other branch of Christendom historically, and they remain so today. Unless you are going to disavow much of what you have previously said on the 2 kingdoms, I don’t see how you can submit to a church whose hierarchy run an entire nation state, tell secular political systems what they should and should not be doing economically and morally, and so on. In fact, the entire Roman Catholic social justice and teaching tradition would seem to me to be entirely at odds with modern 2 kingdoms theology. But I don’t see where you have disavowed any of your former 2 kingdoms teachings or leanings. (Maybe I have missed it).

    Lesbian witches. Two-kingdoms politics. Economic instruction for nation-states. Hmmm. For all this variety of topics, what I find conspicuously absent is any mention of Paul’s explicit connection between sanctification and blamelessness on judgment day.

    I want to read you as charitably as possible, but all that I have just said, and much more, gives many of us the impression that you really did not put as much thought into your decision as you should have. I mean no insult by what I have said, and I know the disunity evident among professing Protestants can be troubling, but you get nothing better from Rome. And you leave the free grace of God for a sacerdotal treadmill that you can never fulfill.

    If you don’t mind, please keep your opinions about the shallowness of my thinking to yourself, and instead offer arguments from Scripture about the topics I am introducing. Because if we’re going to invoke what “many of us” are secretly thinking, my guess is that “many of us” see in comments like this anything but a willingness to actually engage the issues biblically.

  55. Robert,

    Concerning assurance of salvation, the Council of Trent, Session XIV, Chapter 3, teaches the following concerning the effects of the sacrament of penance:

    But that which is signified and produced by this sacrament is, so far as its force and efficacy are concerned, reconciliation with God, which sometimes, in persons who are pious and who receive this sacrament with devotion, is wont to be followed by peace and serenity of conscience with an exceedingly great consolation of spirit.

    Since the Council has already denied that one can know, with the certainty of faith, that he is elect and / or in a state of grace, there must be another kind of assurance regarding salvation, which is characterized by “serenity of conscience and exceedingly great consolation of spirit.” What some philosophers and theologians refer to as “moral certainty” would seem to be an appropriate category in which to classify the kind of assurance that the Council here affirms. But whether one chooses to invoke “moral certainty” or some other category, the important thing is to take stock of this teaching of the Magisterium.

    Furthermore, St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest and most representative of all Roman Catholic theologians, affirms that “the hope of the wayfarer [for salvation] is certain.” Here is the relevant article from the Summa theologiae:

    Whether there is certainty in the hope of a wayfarer?

    Objection 1. It would seem that there is no certainty in the hope of a wayfarer. For hope resides in the will. But certainty pertains not to the will but to the intellect. Therefore there is no certainty in hope.

    Objection 2. Further, hope is based on grace and merits, as stated above (Question 17, Article 1). Now it is impossible in this life to know for certain that we are in a state of grace, as stated above (I-II, 112, 5). Therefore there is no certainty in the hope of a wayfarer.

    Objection 3. Further, there can be no certainty about that which may fail. Now many a hopeful wayfarer fails to obtain happiness. Therefore wayfarer’s hope has no certainty.

    On the contrary, “Hope is the certain expectation of future happiness,” as the Master states (Sent. iii, D, 26): and this may be gathered from 2 Timothy 1:12, “I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.”

    I answer that, Certainty is found in a thing in two ways, essentially and by participation. It is found essentially in the cognitive power; by participation in whatever is moved infallibly to its end by the cognitive power. On this way we say that nature works with certainty, since it is moved by the Divine intellect which moves everything with certainty to its end. On this way too, the moral virtues are said to work with greater certainty than art, in as much as, like a second nature, they are moved to their acts by the reason: and thus too, hope tends to its end with certainty, as though sharing in the certainty of faith which is in the cognitive faculty.

    This suffices for the Reply to the First Objection.

    Reply to Objection 2. Hope does not trust chiefly in grace already received, but on God’s omnipotence and mercy, whereby even he that has not grace, can obtain it, so as to come to eternal life. Now whoever has faith is certain of God’s omnipotence and mercy.

    Reply to Objection 3. That some who have hope fail to obtain happiness, is due to a fault of the free will in placing the obstacle of sin, but not to any deficiency in God’s power or mercy, in which hope places its trust. Hence this does not prejudice the certainty of hope.

    (ST, II-II, q. 18, a. 4.)

    For a relatively short analysis of this article, followed by a very lengthy discussion on assurance with a Lutheran, see St. Thomas Aquinas on Assurance of Salvation.

    Andrew

  56. Jason,

    I have engaged exegetical arguments in your other postings, and I will do it again here. But one thing you must understand is that none of us can interpret you in a vacuum. You have a somewhat substantial body of work considering all of the blogging you have done here, all of the comments you have at Greenbaggins, all the comments you have at CTC, your CTC post on your conversion to Rome, your book Dual Citizens, and the publicly available interview you had with Bryan Cross. From your own body of work, you make it clear that the exegesis that you are providing is not the only reason you left for Rome, and it seems to me that it is not even the primary reason. You admit as much when you have demanded to know, from James White and others, how the church was supposed to know to switch to sola Scriptura when the last apostle died. You have asked this as if you would not go to Rome if you could find an answer that satisfies you. You have said that the church must have some kind of visible declarative certainty to be sure it is right on such things as the canon, the doctrine of the Trinity and more. My point in bringing up other matters is to show you that Rome cannot give you the certainty that you want. It does not uphold the certainty it claims to provide.

    Before I engage with your exegesis of Philippians, I also want to again note that all this talk of a “proto-Roman paradigm” would have been very strange prior to Cardinal Newman during the 19th century. Prior to then, the partim-partim view of tradition ruled the day, and that view would not allow you to have this proto-Roman paradigm but would have insisted that the full-orbed Roman Catholic understanding of justification, and all other matters, were present from the beginning, either in oral tradition or in written tradition, or in some combination of the two. Even now, Rome, as far as I am aware, has never decreed infallibly which view of tradition is right, the partim-partim view or the material sufficiency view. So I really don’t see where you have the right to even believe a “proto-Roman Catholic” position ever existed, let alone defend it as if it did and as if it gave rise to the New Testament.

    As far as the specific reading of the texts in this post, there is nothing that a Reformed Protestant would disagree with, provided that these passages are seen as discussing sanctification, which they are. You even keep using the term sanctification again and again in your post. There is a blamelessness that Christians work out in their sanctification, it is just that this blamelessness is not taken into account when God declares us righteous in Christ and grants eternal life. The blamelessness is rewarded, it just in no way is what enables us to stand in God’s presence unafraid. It is not combined with faith, it does not increase the grace of justification, it does nothing to get us into the kingdom. We get into the kingdom through faith alone by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone. But once in the kingdom we work out our salvation in fear and trembling in sanctification. Blamelessness (which would be a pattern of life that, in the main, conforms to God’s law) and absolute perfection are indeed different things. God demands the latter in our justification and works in us to produce the former in our sanctification. Rome conflates justification and sanctification; Reformed theology distinguishes but does not separate them. This is really very elementary Reformed systematics. So, your exegesis above doesn’t really prove what you think it does. It is actually a very Protestant way to read the texts, except perhaps in some extreme Lutheran or dispensational circles. Reformed theology has never demanded perfection for sanctification, only for justification. Justification comes first and gives birth to the latter. Only justification by faith alone gets us into heaven, but once we are in heaven, we are granted different levels of rewards based on the degree of blamelessness we achieve in our sanctification. Rome essentially says that we get into heaven, that we get the declaration of righteousness that enables us to stand before the Father unafraid, through grace, faith, and the righteousness that inheres in us.

    So, again, I have to say that what you are giving us is a very Protestantized version of Roman Catholic theology, one that is amenable to someone like you who has only been a Catholic for 4 or 5 months and has had the benefit of living in a Protestant land wherein much superstition has been driven out of the church, at least in public. It is not the Roman Catholic theology affirmed by the vast majority of Roman Catholics in the world today.

    Finally, I mean no insult when I say that it does not seem that you thought things through carefully enough before you jumped ship to Rome. If I am mistaken, there really is no reason to get testy about it, for I would just be misguided. Your only response in that case should be to feel sorry of me. But if you have thought through your decision as carefully as you should have, then certain consequences follow, not the least of which is a radical change or abandonment of the version of the 2 kingdoms theology that you are known for. Roman theology and practice both historically and in the modern era are thoroughly incompatible with it.

  57. One more thing — It’s not an argument to say that Paul would not have written what he does in the Philippian passages about sanctification if he held to a Protestant understanding. The first and most obvious question is, how do you know that? Second, what Paul says in the passages above about sanctification in no way denies, contradicts, or invalidates what Reformed Protestants have always said that Paul teaches about the Pauline doctrine of justification. You also state that if Paul taught what Protestants do about justification, then the passages above hide that understanding. Not true, the passages above fit quite well with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and there are innumerable Reformed confessions and commentaries to prove it.

    You are assuming an awful lot when you say things like “Paul never would have written things this way if he meant x.” It’s like in your interview with Bryan Cross that Jesus would not have founded a church based on sola Scriptura or that He just would’ve created a church with a visible head in Peter and preserve it by means of apostolic succession of persons. How do you know that? You don’t. “He woulda…” is not an argument.

  58. Robert,

    You have said that the church must have some kind of visible declarative certainty to be sure it is right on such things as the canon, the doctrine of the Trinity and more. My point in bringing up other matters is to show you that Rome cannot give you the certainty that you want. It does not uphold the certainty it claims to provide.

    I don’t know if you have read much of Mike Liccione’s stuff over at CTC, but I find his overall position very compelling. The issue is simply this: If God has revealed himself, it is necessary that we be able to identify that revelation and distinguish it in principle from mere human opinion that cannot bind us. Catholicism, whether it’s actually true or not (it doesn’t matter), claims a principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion. Therefore, Catholicism is more compelling than expressions of Christianity that cannot make this necessary distinction.

    Does this prove Catholicism? Of course not. But what it does is make a rather humble claim in the CC’s favor, one that I think is necessary if God has indeed revealed himself. So all this talk of absolute certainty is really a red herring. It’s not an issue of faith versus absolute certainty, it’s an issue of resorting to human opinion versus being able to identify divine revelation.

    Before I engage with your exegesis of Philippians, I also want to again note that all this talk of a “proto-Roman paradigm” would have been very strange prior to Cardinal Newman during the 19th century…. So I really don’t see where you have the right to even believe a “proto-Roman Catholic” position ever existed, let alone defend it as if it did and as if it gave rise to the New Testament.

    I guess I just don’t see the idea of development as being completely unheard of before Newman. I mean, once the homoousion was established as the proper language for speaking of the divinity of Christ, did the church immediately turn around and repudiate every theological work written beforehand? No, they recognized that imprecise and less-technical language was to be expected before the homoousion formula was agreed upon. If you agree with this, then I think you’ll see that I am not really saying anything different: The Tridentine position on, say, baptism was simply a development and expansion of the tradition that had been there from the beginning. In a word, Thomas was not bound by Vatican I, which is both obvious and the result of the idea of legitimate development of doctrine.

    Now, I want now to take your response to the exegesis and demonstrate why I get frustrated sometimes (and this may be hard for you to hear, but it just has to be done). Here goes:

    As far as the specific reading of the texts in this post, there is nothing that a Reformed Protestant would disagree with, provided that these passages are seen as discussing sanctification, which they are. You even keep using the term sanctification again and again in your post.

    First, the issue has never been whether or not there is something in the texts you may disagree with, or whether or not you necessarily agree with my specific reading of them. The issue is whether a sola fide paradigm would give rise to these texts.

    Second, of course I am speaking of sanctification. I say so explicitly. The issue is not whether we can cordon off Paul’s words and classify them as sanctification (and therefore non-contributory to our acceptance by God on the last day). You clearly are doing exactly this. The issue, as I say in the post, is whether or not Paul sees our blamelessness in sanctification as contributory to our acceptance on the day of judgment. My argument is that he does, and does so explicitly. So I find it amazing that you claim that you find “nothing to disagree with” here. What you really mean is that you find nothing to disagree with provided you can utterly change what I am saying and make it conform to what you think.

    You then proceed by ignoring my argument (having already changed it to what you agree with and then saying you find it agreeable!), and simply begin making a host of assertions:

    There is a blamelessness that Christians work out in their sanctification, it is just that this blamelessness is not taken into account when God declares us righteous in Christ and grants eternal life.

    Exhibit A. My entire argument is that Paul connects our blameless sanctification with our acceptance by God, and that this blamelessness is taken into account when God declares us righteous in Christ and grants eternal life. You ignore that and simply repeat your position, saying that “it is just that this blamelessness is not taken into account when God declares us righteous in Christ and grants eternal life.” Can you understand why this frustrates me? It is not an argument, nor is it a refutation of my argument (in fact, you don’t even pretend to attempt such a thing). You just say what you think more loudly.

    The blamelessness is rewarded, it just in no way is what enables us to stand in God’s presence unafraid.

    Exhibit B. This is neither an argument nor a refutation of mine, it’s just an assertion that in no way demonstrates that you even read my post in the first place.

    It is not combined with faith, it does not increase the grace of justification, it does nothing to get us into the kingdom.

    Exhibit C. My entire argument from the Pauline texts adduced is that our blamelessness is precisely what the apostle says will contribute to our entrance into the eternal kingdom. Rather than addressing that point and refuting it, you basically say, “Nuh-uh!”

    We get into the kingdom through faith alone by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone.

    Exhibit D. Here you simply repeat your adherence to sola fide. Did you think I didn’t already know that you believe this? I am looking for dialogue and engagement with my arguments, not just table pounding.

    But once in the kingdom we work out our salvation in fear and trembling in sanctification. Blamelessness (which would be a pattern of life that, in the main, conforms to God’s law) and absolute perfection are indeed different things. God demands the latter in our justification and works in us to produce the former in our sanctification.

    Exhibit E. Here you just beg the question by assuming, without attempting to prove, something that stands at the very heart of our disagreement, namely, that sanctification and justification are sharply distinct, and that the latter requires absolute perfection. It’s at this point that I am tempted to stop shaving my head so that I will have enough hair to pull out while banging my head against my desk over and over again.

    Rome conflates justification and sanctification; Reformed theology distinguishes but does not separate them.

    I know this already.

    This is really very elementary Reformed systematics.

    I know this, too.

    So, your exegesis above doesn’t really prove what you think it does.

    Really? How would I know that? All you have done is repeat yourself and reiterate your question-begging systematic categories with absolutely no attention whatsoever to any of the exegetical points I have made. And then you turn around and tell me that I haven’t proven my case? I’m sorry, but I feel like I’m on an episode of Punk’d or something! I may not have proven my case, but you haven’t even begun to engage it, let alone attempt to refute it.

    Reformed theology has never demanded perfection for sanctification, only for justification.

    Exhibit F. Here you repeat some more Reformed systematics that I understand but don’t agree with.

    Justification comes first and gives birth to the latter.

    Exhibit G. More table pounding repetition of what you think with no biblical substantiation whatsoever (as if hearing you say it more often and more loudly will convince me).

    Only justification by faith alone gets us into heaven, but once we are in heaven, we are granted different levels of rewards based on the degree of blamelessness we achieve in our sanctification.

    Exhibit H. More assertion without argumentation or biblical evidence, as if our purpose here is just to trade opinions in order to hear ourselves talk.

    Rome essentially says that we get into heaven, that we get the declaration of righteousness that enables us to stand before the Father unafraid, through grace, faith, and the righteousness that inheres in us.

    Yep. A reason or two as to why this is wrong is apparently too much to ask.

    So, again, I have to say that what you are giving us is a very Protestantized version of Roman Catholic theology, one that is amenable to someone like you who has only been a Catholic for 4 or 5 months and has had the benefit of living in a Protestant land wherein much superstition has been driven out of the church, at least in public.

    Now, after spending line after line begging the question, you resort to an ad hominem, thereby making it about me and whether I have been Catholic long enough, or whether I have lived in a Catholic enough country, to know better and recognize my own folly.

    Finally, I mean no insult when I say that it does not seem that you thought things through carefully enough before you jumped ship to Rome.

    Here is another statement about me, one that is insulting and based upon insufficient knowledge of the internal process that led to my decision. Moreover, it accuses me of either being rash or an idiot. Why else would I walk away from a perfect situation without thinking about it first?

    If I am mistaken, there really is no reason to get testy about it, for I would just be misguided. Your only response in that case should be to feel sorry of me.

    I’ll let the thousand or so other daily readers of this blog decide whether I have any reason to get “testy” when, after begging for meaningful engagement on biblical issues, I get comments as sophomoric and shallow as this one. Personally, I think I am exercising remarkable restraint!

    But if you have thought through your decision as carefully as you should have, then certain consequences follow, not the least of which is a radical change or abandonment of the version of the 2 kingdoms theology that you are known for. Roman theology and practice both historically and in the modern era are thoroughly incompatible with it.

    For our grand finale we have another accusation of either foolishness or stupidity on my part, followed by a red herring issue regarding the two kingdoms (an issue that you assume I’m too simpleminded to have thought much about, despite having no idea whether I have or not [the implicit assumption being that everything I think or have thought is reducible to what you can find on this blog]).

    Robert, I realize I am pushing back quite hard here, but it’s just that comments like this one, unless dealt with line by line and shown to be what they are, will most likely be appealed to by you in subsequent discussions with “But Jason, I did engage you exegetically! Don’t you remember?”

    All this to say, I really don’t have the time to engage on this level. If you want to regroup and come back with something real, no one will be more happy than I. But if not, I’ll leave the responses to others.

  59. Hello Jason S–one last weekend post before heading off to Church in reply to your statement:
    “If a Catholic has sanctifying grace and agape (or, the life of God), he will go to heaven, period. If he has venial sins, the debt of whose temporal punishments need to be satisfied, he will go to purgatory first, and then go to heaven”
    While many of the reformers affirmed the distinction between “mortal” and “venial” sin/states of sin (as noted above–or see Apology of Augsburg quote below*)–they were unanimous in affirming the truth that all sin no matter how small is worthy of eternal damnation (and thus “mortal” in that sense)–requiring the Blood of Christ for remission. According to your position, however, a great deal of sins (i.e. “venial” sins–which even the Roman Catholic liturgy confesses with the strong words “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”) have mere “temporal punishments” and hence may be paid for by temporary sufferings of our own without any necessity for the covering of Christ’s Blood. In other words, it means Christ’s Blood is only necessary for covering some sins and optional for covering the vast number of others–which I find incredibly problematic. Anyhow, I’m familiar with the arguments brought forward in favor of your position and I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree for the time being–thanks again for the discussion. W.A. Scott (the man of never ending final posts)

    p.s. *Apology of Augsburg: “But since we speak of such faith as is not an idle thought, but of that which liberates from death and produces a new life in hearts, [which is such a new light, life, and force in the heart as to renew our heart, mind, and spirit, makes new men of us and new creatures,] and is the work of the Holy Ghost; this does not coexist with mortal sin [for how can light and darkness coexist?], but as long as it is present, produces good fruits”
    http://bookofconcord.org/defense_4_justification.php

  60. Jason–

    I’ll be brief (or at least try). I am nonplussed by the direction of your tack here. First off, you claim that the Reformed paradigm holds “that God demands a sinless perfection of would-be saints that is defined according to the letter of the law.” No, the perfection demanded is actually a higher standard: according to the spirit of the law.

    There are plenty of verses that teach this (Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48]; For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it [James 2:10]; If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us [1 John 1:8]; and on and on.)

    Why would you want to deny such a tenet? If it were not true, what would be the need of a perfect sacrifice by a perfectly obedient Savior? Another Moses, attaining to spiritual maturity and espousing spirit-wrought works of love (so that we might attain to similar maturity) would more than suffice. The Catholic concept of the sinlessness of Mary would also be completely unnecessary. The Catholic paradigm clearly demands such perfection on Christ’s account because the Catholic tenet of sola gratia demands something analogous to forensic justification. You just don’t call it that (preferring such terms as initial justification and sanctifying grace).

    Look at how clearly you are reading the verses you cited through Catholic slanted glasses:

    1. “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)

    So, who fills us with the fruit of righteousness? That’s right. Not we ourselves, but Jesus Christ!

    2. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (2:12-16)

    Once again, who works in us to accomplish his good pleasure? Not we ourselves, but God!

    3. “…and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (vv. 12-13)

    Dare I ask? Who is it this time, increasing our love and establishing our hearts in holiness? The Lord Jesus Christ, that’s who!

    4. “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (5:23-24)

    What do we have here? WHO is faithful? WHO does the sanctifying? The theme is absolutely pervasive! (After all, it was YOU who chose these verses….)

    And then there’s your “little gem”:

    5. “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

    WHO reconciles us? WHO presents us as holy and blameless?

    Thank you, Jason, for the masterful job of presenting our paradigm!!!

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

    I’m sure you will counter with the fact that grace is involved every step of the way in the Catholic paradigm…if we continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that we heard [at baptism, as infants]. (Just a little dig there. I realize that the Catholic Catechism actually requires one to own his or her faith: genuine cognizant conversion is demanded.)

    But Scripture says over and over that Christ accomplishes what he undertakes. No one can thwart his will. No obstacle can be placed in his way. (What it never says is that he accomplishes these things in a manner completely divorced from our efforts.) At any rate, the semi-permanent grace of Catholicism is an imperfect grace. A grace unworthy of being attributed to Christ.

    All of the passages you cite are totally in sync with Reformed thinking. Totally.

  61. Eric,
    You said:

    So, who fills us with the fruit of righteousness? That’s right. Not we ourselves, but Jesus Christ!
    Once again, who works in us to accomplish his good pleasure? Not we ourselves, but God!
    Dare I ask? Who is it this time, increasing our love and establishing our hearts in holiness? The Lord Jesus Christ, that’s who!
    What do we have here? WHO is faithful? WHO does the sanctifying? The theme is absolutely pervasive! (After all, it was YOU who chose these verses….)
    WHO reconciles us? WHO presents us as holy and blameless?

    Jason’s original post said:

    -the Catholic understands blamelessness as connected with the Spirit-infused love of God
    -this blamelessness is clearly rooted in their abounding in the fruit of the Spirit
    -The connection between Spirit-wrought love and blamelessness on the day of judgment is perhaps even clearer

    It seems what you and others are doing is committing a logical fallacy of changing the subject. The Reformed “objection” is that Catholics are claiming self-sufficiency and thus denying the principal and essential role of God working inside the believer to bring about God’s desired state of blamelessness. This “objection” is not only false, it unconsciously (I see it happen repeatedly in nearly all Protestant work) shifts focus off of the real issue, which is that it is still the God-produced sanctification of the individual and the good works God produced *in the believer* that stand as the *basis* for God’s judgment of us to be worthy of Heaven *rather than* the alien-imputed-pelagian-judaizing-righteousness of Jesus on our behalf.

    If that wasn’t clear enough, here’s a simplified version:

    Catholic: The good works God produces in us are the basis for our acceptance into Heaven.
    Protestant: But you’re denying the role of God working in us to produce those good works where as Protestants do not.

    Do you see the double fallacy of (a) erecting a strawman and misrepresentation while (b) changing the the fact the exegetical issue at hand is the basis by which we’re judged worthy to enter Heaven?

    *Facepalm*

  62. Nick–

    I’d love to respond, but you’re going to have to clarify your objection.

    Exactly how did I misrepresent Catholicism?

    Imputed righteousness and Pelagianism have absolutely nothing in common. I believe most Catholic theologians would echo these sentiments without qualification. The validity of your indictment of me (for misrepresenting your position) is not advanced if in the next breath you blatantly misrepresent my position.

  63. Eric,

    I’m just plain confused at your comment to me. Do you think I deny any of these statements?:

    – So, who fills us with the fruit of righteousness? That’s right. Not we ourselves, but Jesus Christ!

    – Once again, who works in us to accomplish his good pleasure? Not we ourselves, but God!

    – Who is it this time, increasing our love and establishing our hearts in holiness? The Lord Jesus Christ, that’s who!

    – What do we have here? WHO is faithful? WHO does the sanctifying? The theme is absolutely pervasive! (After all, it was YOU who chose these verses….)

    Instead of acting all shocked that I could be SO STUPID as to post those verses attributing to God our sanctification while failing to see that they attribute to God our sanctification (and actually thinking the opposite for some reason), perhaps you should read my argument more carefully. As Nick points out, my argument is not that God doesn’t sanctify us, we sanctify ourselves (!), my argument is that our acceptance on the day of judgment is attributed to our blameless sanctification, and not to what Protestant insist upon (the blameless obedience of Jesus imputed to us).

    It is actually unbelievable to me that, after all this time, you didn’t know I think that our sanctification is God’s work in us and not our own. Like, I am speechless that you didn’t know that. Seriously.

  64. Eric,

    You said: “Imputed righteousness and Pelagianism have absolutely nothing in common.”

    Actually, they have everything in common. What Adam was supposed to do apart from God’s grace, namely keep the law perfectly, Jesus ended up doing (apart from God’s grace). That’s textbook Pelagianism. On the flip side, Augustinianism (which is simply Pauline soteriology) teaches that only those works arising from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make one worthy to enter the Kingdom.

    Pelagianism teaches man doesn’t have to be in intimate communion with God to be saved, which is what Protestantism teaches as well, and why the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an afterthought to their soteriology. After all, if Adam didn’t need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then neither do we, meaning this indwelling serves a purely negative function (e.g. restoring man to heath until he reaches a point where no longer needs God again).

  65. Dear Nick,

    You appealed to the following exmaple to illustrate point about how many Protestants mis-represent the Roman Catholic gospel:

    “Catholic: The good works God produces in us are the basis for our acceptance into Heaven.
    Protestant: But you’re denying the role of God working in us to produce those good works where as Protestants do not.”

    But the fact of the matter is that coming from a Reformed (Reformation) position, Eric is simply saying that the human has no role whatsoever in justification. It’s not both/and but either/or – from the Reformed perspective. Thus, whatever Spirit-wrought, grace-infused divine love is still attributable to human effort, indeed expected as such.

  66. Jason Loh,

    You said: “But the fact of the matter is that coming from a Reformed (Reformation) position, Eric is simply saying that the human has no role whatsoever in justification.”

    While the Reformed position does teach the believer plays no role whatsoever in justification (and Eric surely believes this), that is unfortunately not what Eric was talking about when he produced all those quotes. Instead, he asked things like “Who fills us with the fruit of righteousness? Who works in us to accomplish his good pleasure? WHO does the sanctifying?” Like I said, that is a typical (though unconscious) dodge that the Reformed often make when a Catholic produces Biblical passages that state something other than Christ’s imputed righteousness is the basis by which we’re judged worthy to enter Heaven.

    You said: “It’s not both/and but either/or – from the Reformed perspective.”

    Agreed, that is the *Reformed* perspective.
    What we’re saying is that this is *not* the *Biblical* perspective 😉

  67. Jason–

    With all due respect, the Catholic argument is that cooperation with cooperative grace “effects” (i.e., brings about) justification. So, no, under the Catholic paradigm, God does not do the sanctifying; he merely assists (which has been the thrust of this whole series on your part). Sorry if you cannot see that. Like most Catholics, you want to have your cake and eat it, too. God cannot both unambiguously assist AND be under complete control.

    Calvinists hold to a compatibilist antinomy on this point: our cooperation is under God’s complete control. Thomists basically claim to do the same, but as far as I am concerned, do so inconsistently. The reasons for this, as I have said before, are the weakening of the concept of election where prevenient grace is distributed to all, not merely the elect (as was the case for Augustine) and the positing of the ability of the elect to apostatize (also contra Augustine).

    Under such a semi-Augustinian system, men are in a weakened state rather than being dead in sin, and can come to God on their own. They are also free to reject God after being regenerated. One ends up with a soteriology which is scarcely distinguishable from classical Arminianism (and in fact, Wesley was quite influenced by his mother’s anti-Puritan Anglo-Catholicism).

    Enough of your feigned “shock” already. Yes, I realize that you claim to attribute our sanctification to God and God alone. I am saying that in actuality, you do no such thing.

  68. Nick–

    You are sadly misinformed.

    Read a little Calvin and you will see that the ground of our justification is union with Christ.

    As for the Augustinian Doctrines of Grace being Pauline: yes, I agree. That is why I hold to them.

    You might well benefit from doing the same.

  69. Jason,

    I am not denying that theological understanding develops in the church, but what I am doing is questioning whether Rome has a consistent basis for believing that it does. In Protestantism, you have Scripture as the starting point and control of theology to make sure it does not stray too far from what the apostles actually said. No positing of equally authoritative apostolic tradition that apparently only the magisterium has access to. Once a oral tradition with content not found in the NT is posited, there is no sure way to check whether the traditions that gave rise to later doctrines were actually present from the beginning. With a partim-partim view of tradition, you can just say it was there without having to prove it because one would affirm that the tradition was present, at least in a far more developed form than it would be in the material sufficiency view, from the beginning and is given only when the magisterium says so. The magisterium possesses the oral tradition and it decides when it will be shared with the world. (of course, then we would have to trust church leaders who have not always proven themselves trustworthy).

    Things are a bit more complex with the material sufficiency view, but at the end of the day, you still have things introduced into the history of theology that were not there before, and all the magisterium has to do is say that they were there without really having to prove it. A fine example of this is the Roman doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary. When you have a doctrine that no orthodox person even mentions at all in the first five centuries, and when you have a doctrine that first appears in writings later condemned by the church as heretical, then material sufficiency and doctrinal development really isn’t working the way Newman and others said it would. Something, apparently part of the essence of faith, just pops up late in the post-apostolic period, and we’re supposed to believe it was there, least in seed form, from the beginning. Forgive me if I find that hard to accept.

    You are correct that I counter your exegesis with Protestant systematics. So, it is not “hard” for me to hear what you said. However, I must question the very basis for your exegesis in this post and raise doubts as to whether what you are doing is actually exegesis, at least here. That is because you assume several things without proving them, not the least of which that blamelessness and the righteousness God demands for a judicial declaration of righteous are the same thing. This is grounded in your discussion of John the Baptist’s parents, to which you allude above. Here is the key portion from your earlier post:

    Now at this point my Reformed paradigm would compel me to attribute this status that Zechariah and Elizabeth shared to their (proleptic) possession of an alien righteousness, since no one can be soteriologically righteous by any means other than the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ through faith alone. The problem, obviously, is that not only does Luke not attribute their righteousness to a source external to them, he explicitly attributes it to their own blameless (not sinless) walking in God’s commands. And it would have done me no good whatsoever to stop here and insist that this obedience was Spirit-wrought, since this would have played right into the Catholic’s hands. After all, the whole point of the Catholic gospel is that the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus make it possible for the Father to produce spiritual fruit in our lives by which he is glorified (John 15:8).

    The problem is that Scripture talks about righteousness in many different ways. Even in Paul we have that in his distinction between the righteousness from the law and the righteousness that is by faith (Rom. 10:6). You simply cannot conflate blamelessness and righteousness, nor can you read righteousness the same way in every text, which is what Roman Catholicism ends up doing in its essential combination of justification and sanctification.

    The distinction between blamelessness and righteousness is clearest in the Psalms. On the one hand, you have David asserting His own blamelessness/righteousness in Psalm 18:20–24 and many other passages in the Psalms. On the other hand, David says in Psalm 143:2: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” There must be different ways of looking at righteousness, for David can call himself righteous and unrighteous at the same time. From one perspective He is unrighteous, from another He is righteous. From the perspective of God’s demand for perfect obedience to God’s law, he in himself is unrighteous (the demand which is established in several places: Lev. 18:5; Matt. 5:48; Rom. 5:19; Gal. 3:10–12; and many other texts). From the perspective of God’s demand for righteousness as the fruit of regeneration/faith/salvation (which is established in the giving of the law after salvation from Egypt; Rom. 6; James 2:14–26; and many other texts), he is blameless/righteous because he lives a life that, in the main, conforms to God’s law.

    It is good to see that you are finally getting to Romans for the whole matter of righteousness, justification, and sanctification. This is where you should have started. Though it too is an occasional epistle, Romans is less occasional than a letter like 1 Corinthians because he is dealing less with particular issues in his audience. It really is the closest thing we have to a systematic presentation of the key issues in the entire debate. What Jesus says in the gospels, what James says, and even what Paul says elsewhere have bearing on the issue at hand, but only when they have bearing on the issue at hand. Sometimes Paul speaks about righteousness as the fruit of sanctification (which I would say is what is happening in your Philippians post), sometimes Paul speaks of righteousness as the ground of justification (Romans 5), sometimes Paul speaks about the righteousness of God’s own character (Rom. 3:25). I’m sure there are other examples, but you get the point.

    I’ve said it in other posts, and I’ll say it again: You have not proven that Jesus and Paul are always or even occasionally talking about the same issues. What we are getting is thoughts like, to paraphase: Oh, sure I can see the proto-Protestant paradigm fitting the texts, but the proto-Roman Catholic paradigm is far more likely to have given rise to the New Testament. If Paul or Jesus held the proto-Protestant paradigm, they never would have said things this way. As long as my righteousness is seen as the fruit of justification only, it will never have the importance Jesus assigns to it. Talk about bald assertions with no proof.

    You want proof that sanctification is distinct from and the fruit of justification? It is found, among other places in the very structure of Romans itself. Paul belabors the point of justification and forgiveness of sin as his primary emphasis up to Romans 5, where he lists peace as one benefit among many of justification. He then goes forth in chapters 6–8 to discuss the consequences of this justification: Since we have been united to Christ, you must present yourself as a slave to righteousness. Union and all that entails, including the declaration that we are righteous in Christ, comes before the command to be righteous, with the inevitable conclusion that if one does not produce fruit of righteousness, then one was never united to Christ in the first place. No fruit without union, no union without fruit.

    You don’t have fruit without union and you don’t have union without fruit. On this point, Rome and Protestant would see eye to eye, except that the Protestant says that one who is truly united to Christ never can be cut off while Rome essentially believes that one can be truly united to Christ in baptism and then lose this union, get it back, lose this union, get it back so on and so forth via mortal sin and the penitential system. And then, while the Bible speaks of a sin that leads to death, Rome comes up with a whole bunch of them as long as they meet certain criteria without, ironically, providing the church with a full list of what such sins would be. I would think that if Rome really wanted her people to stay away from these mortal sins, they could at least do them the favor of being more explicit about what they are. After all, we are talking about salvation, right?

    As far as my comments about the 2 kingdoms position you have documented thus far in your career and my charging you with shallow thinking because you haven’t said much about it in relation to your conversion to Rome, the best way to prove me wrong would be to explain how you have modified some of your 2 kingdoms views (some would say your radical 2 kingdoms views) or how submission to a church authority that is also head of a geo-political nation-state is not incompatible with your former writings on the subject. I realize you are busy, so I invite you to do it when you have time.

    Finally, you still need to address the issue of how one builds a paradigm. I see much of what you are doing as methodologically flawed. In the first place, you are giving what you call a “proto-Roman Catholic” paradigm, which means that you must strip many matters from it that in Rome’s view are essential issues in relation to salvation—penance, indulgences, devotion to Mary are just the start. I really don’t see how you can do that if such issues are key to salvation or required of all Christians, especially when such things as the bodily assumption of Mary, a belief Rome requires of all Christians, is absent from the New Testament and not talked about in the earliest days of the church. You have to understand that introducing doctrines apparently unknown to the earliest church looks to Protestants as if Roman Catholicism keeps changing its mind or adding to what is necessary to believe to be a Christian. I realize you have to present this strip-downed version to make your case, since so many Roman Catholic beliefs are not grounded in Scripture but tradition, but isn’t the stripped-down proto-Roman view you present just conceding the Protestant case that Rome goes far beyond Scripture in so many matters?

    It’s also methodologically flawed because it is, in practice, no different than what many “higher critics” do with their New Testament scholarship. You know that scores of New Testament scholars will say that Paul cannot be the author of certain letters attributed to him because he doesn’t use certain vocabulary or because he does not talk about doctrine X. It is therefore far more likely, in their view, that a Pauline school or some other source gave rise to those letters. How is that substantially different from saying that the New Testament texts do not arise from a “proto-Protestant” position because they do not talk about things in certain places the way you think they should if they held to traditional Reformed theology? That is what you have charged, essentially, in most of your paradigm posts thus far. It seems to me that it would be inconsistent to affirm Pauline authorship of the “disputed” letters based on such things as different circumstances and then not allow something similar for the New Testament texts you find problematic when it comes to Reformed theology.

  70. Nick, you wrote:

    Eric,

    You said: “Imputed righteousness and Pelagianism have absolutely nothing in common.”

    Actually, they have everything in common. What Adam was supposed to do apart from God’s grace, namely keep the law perfectly, Jesus ended up doing (apart from God’s grace). That’s textbook Pelagianism. On the flip side, Augustinianism (which is simply Pauline soteriology) teaches that only those works arising from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make one worthy to enter the Kingdom.

    Pelagianism teaches man doesn’t have to be in intimate communion with God to be saved, which is what Protestantism teaches as well, and why the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an afterthought to their soteriology. After all, if Adam didn’t need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then neither do we, meaning this indwelling serves a purely negative function (e.g. restoring man to heath until he reaches a point where no longer needs God again).

    I’m really sure where you are getting this from, for you are making all manner of poorly grounded and incorrect assertions. Let me address several points, though not necessarily in order

    1. As Eric noted in his reply to Jason, union with Christ effected by the Holy Spirit, is key to Reformed theology. Read Calvin and any number of modern Reformed theologians, such as Robert Letham, on the subject. The Holy Spirit is key to Reformed theology through and through, which is why Calvin is so often called the theologian of the Holy Spirit.
    2. Adam was supposed to rely on God, specifically His Word, which is a gracious gift even before the fall. The problem started when Adam started believing the Serpent and not the gracious word of God. So, Adam had to rely on God’s grace.
    3. The issue in Pelagianism is whether we need salvific grace to overcome our natural antipathy to the Lord. Even Rome believes that such is necessary, as do Protestants. We get no benefit from Christ’s righteousness unless we receive it by faith, which is impossible without grace. We as Reformed thinkers just believe that God’s grace is effectual and always saves those whom God intends to save. That in the end, it cannot be resisted but will convert the sinner, and that salvation cannot be lost. That is what semi-Pelagians deny, which is why we would charge Rome with semi-Pelagianism.
    4. Adam, before the fall, and we, after the fall, are in radically different states. We need salvific grace, Adam didn’t until he believed the serpent.
    5. Prior to the fall, Adam was in intimate communion with God, walking with Him in the cool of the day. Protestants do not deny that. The Bible is silent on the Holy Spirit before the fall except that he was hovering over the primordial waters, so we really do not know what Adam’s relationship to the Spirit was other than it was an intimate one. Even if he did not possess the indwelling Spirit, He was in intimate fellowship with Him.
    6. Protestants believe we need the Holy Spirit to be saved. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no faith, and without faith, there is no justification. Actually, the Roman Catholic church, in practice, denies the absolute need for the Spirit. At least in this century (after all, it was different before), Rome allows for non-Christians to have a faith of some kind and be saved by following the light of what they know. But how do they have the indwelling Spirit without knowing Christ? And how do they have saving faith without the Holy Spirit? Do they work it up in themselves? In the Roman System, how do they have the indwelling Spirit without baptism or confirmation? How do they have faith? How is Christ necessary for salvation? Wouldn’t it be better for Rome never to send missionaries and let people die doing good deeds without knowing Christ. If they do good deeds and then reject Him because they reject the message of the gospel, are they not going to hell?

  71. You don’t have fruit without union and you don’t have union without fruit. On this point, Rome and Protestant would see eye to eye, except that the Protestant says that one who is truly united to Christ never can be cut off

    And that is precisely a large part of the problem given that such a belief has never been in the deposit of the faith once and for all delivered. It is nowhere to be found in Paul, Peter, James and John, and nowhere to be found in the Apostolic Fathers.

    Romans 11:22

    “22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

    I’ve said it before and I will keep on saying it: Western Christianity has committed the great mistake of severing itself physically and theologically from the root that supports it. That root is fundamentally jewish in nature: all of the apostles were jews and believers in Messiah. And part of their messianic jewishness (anachronistic but for lack of a better term) involved an understanding of covenant that the protestant today would strongly object to, and yet! They understood that fruitfulness in the faith would determine one’s final standing with God, one’s initial justification by faith notwithstanding. And this is vividly seen in Romans 11:22 among many other passages. One sees the conditional nature of the new covenant and the very real salvific threat that laxness (repeated in Rev 3:16) presents.

    “16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

  72. SS,

    Reformed Protestants actually understand the covenant quite well, including the fact that there is a distinction between visible Israel and invisible Israel. “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Rom. 9:6). One can be a part of the visible church and not part of the invisible church. That idea is found throughout the New Testament, one of the most important texts being 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Those that are cut off are those that were only a part of the visible church.

    The problem with all other doctrines of salvation besides the Reformed understanding is that they do not do justice to the texts that tell us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, including ourselves (Rom. 8). Those whom God justifies, He also glorifies. No such thing as a person who was justified but not glorified. All that the Father gives to Jesus come to Him AND He raises them up at the last day (John 6). There is no such thing as a person God gives to Jesus who does not come to Him and whom He does not raise up at the last day. The text is rather clear on that point. Yes, I know it is in the present tense, which is why the Reformed have always taught the perseverance of the saints. All those whom God has chosen for salvation persevere to the end and only those who persevere to the end have been chosen for salvation. So, again, no such thing as a person who God has given to Christ who does not continually come to Him from the beginning to the end.

    God’s grace really is that radical. It really does keep us till the end. It really does mean that nothing we do gives us eternal life or in any way, shape, or form contributes to securing eternal life for us. It’s impossible for men to accept without the sovereign work of God.

    The Reformed do not deny that the new covenant is conditional, at least in its present form. This is especially true of Reformed biblical theologians. The conditions are continual faith and repentance until the end of life. We are just confident that if God has justified us, if God has regenerated us, that we will surely continue in faith and repentance to the end. That is because God surely preserves us and causes us to persevere to the end without fail.

    If there is something in us that contributes in any way to our securing eternal life, then we have something to boast in. Rome leaves us something to boast in. Sure, Rome won’t say that they do, but if one can be justified in baptism and then lose it or if one can be justified in baptism and then not bring it to completion, then you are left with two groups of people: 1. Those whom God justifies and who choose to cooperate; and 2. Those whom God justifies and who choose not to cooperate. Why does group 1. choose to cooperate? It boils down to something in that group—some heightened spiritual sensitivity, some greater intellectual awareness of what it means to be a Christian, something. Something makes that group better in some way, for they obey the command to repent and believe while the second group doesn’t. And this something is what they ultimately work up in themselves. If I get the same justifying grace as you, but you choose to cooperate with it while I don’t, how is it that you have something that I don’t? How is that not a cause for boasting?

    Which is why Reformed thinkers insist that synergism in its variety of forms — Romanism, Orthodoxy, Arminianism — ultimately makes grace not grace.

    I have not read deSilva’s book that you keep mentioning. I could be wrong about this, but based on what I can see in his book from what Amazon makes available, the index, and other such things, it appears he relies very heavily on contemporary Roman sources and contemporary extrabiblical Jewish sources for his work, whatever his conclusion are. If that is indeed the case, then I would question his methodology, for although those sources are important, the primary context for the New Testament are the Old Testament texts themselves. I could be wrong about his work, as I have not read it, but from what I can see, it raises questions about how he weighs sources.

  73. The fact that not all physical descendants of Abraham are Israel does not negate or obviate the fact that God has not abandoned the Jewish people. He will save a remnant of physical descendants of Abraham as Paul affirms in Romans 11. More so, Paul tells us something else: he says don’t think for a minute that you gentiles can boast over the jews because the latter have been cut off, but realize that it is them, the root, who support you. (of course, were he here today, it would be a massive facepalm for him on that measure alone). That jewish root, comprised of jewish believers in Messiah (not gentile wannabes), has a much deeper understanding of grace and faith and protestants would do well to listen to what they have to say.

    You have not dealt with Paul’s warning to the gentiles at all; merely appealing to John’s identification of gnostics and/or docetists in 1 John 2:19 merely highlights the exegetical fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer. In essence, to the reformed, every text that speaks of being cut off, of apostasy, of falling away is a nail in need of the same blunt hammer. But we know that a hammer is a good tool for certain tasks, and a very ill suited, and sometimes outright dangerous tool for other tasks. The existence of counterfeit believers is not a one size fits all reality, but rather one of the realities of life, the other one being a real falling away. This is precisely why Paul warned the Romans so vividly in Romans 8:13

    “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”

    and to the Thessalonians he said not to quench the Spirit. The Jewish understanding of the presence of God was that one could lose that grace by grave sin, sin unto death. As I have explained elsewhere on this site, the golden chain in Rom 8:28-30 does not teach that one cannot fall away. The context of the chapter has to do with Paul’s encouraging and warning the Romans of the love of God in the midst of great perseuction and trial, but also of the risks involved in turning away from God. When he states the golden chain, he is very much like a speak at commencement who seeks to encourage the attendees: “Dear friends, you know that those that Almer Mater matriculated she has educated, and those she has educated she had graduated”. Will those freshmen, sophomores and juniors hearing the speech then believe that they will necessarily graduate? Of course not, they know that they can forfeit that privilege by not attending their classes, immoral behavior leading to explusion. They don’t take such a speech as dogma, but instead as what one would expect of a commencement speaker who is rallying the troops. That is what is happening in Romans 8. Matter of fact, earlier, Paul is very clear in v 13, you live by the flesh, you die. The burden of proof is upon you to show me that every believer who falls away in the NT is someone who was a counterfeit. Why don’t you start with those who have fallen away in Heb 6:4-8. They are described as having partaken of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for one, in the New Covenant, to have partaken of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to those who love Him, and not have been truly justified.

    Re your comments on David DeSilva’s methods, they are quite baffling. If one were to use that logic, one should also reject DA Carson’s Justification and Variegated Nomism as well. DeSilva is simply showing you how first century jews and gentiles understood grace and the patron client backdrop to grace. To do that properly, one must engage with the texts you seem to be afraid of. I would urge you and other reformed reading to consider the recommendation of the book by no less than Frederick Danker, professor emeritus at the Lutheran Chicago school of theology who says: “seminarians and ministers dare not ignore the probing insights offered in this probing study.” If a Lutheran can recommend it, and you know I care little if anything for Luther, I think that should give any protestant pause.

  74. SS–

    So, have you expunged John 10:28 and Romans 8:39 from your version of the biblical text?

    The Apostolic Fathers didn’t say anything at all, as far as I am aware, concerning perseverance one way or the other. Are you arguing from silence?

    Augustine, on the other hand, did have something to say:

    “For, assuredly, when that gift of God is granted to them—which is sufficiently plainly shown to be God’s gift, since it is asked of Him—that gift of God, then, being granted to them that they may not be led into temptation, none of the saints fails to keep his perseverance in holiness even to the end. For there is not anyone who ceases to persevere in the Christian purpose unless he is first of all led into temptation. If, therefore, it be granted to him according to his prayer that he may not be led, certainly by the gift of God he persists in that sanctification which by the gift of God he has received.”

    And who receives the gift? It is given to all those who genuinely pray for it, the Lord’s Prayer being deemed sufficient:

    “So that when a humble and submissive confession comes first and all is attributed to God, whatever is sought for suppliantly, with the fear of God, may be granted by His own loving-kindness.”

  75. The Apostolic Fathers didn’t say anything at all, as far as I am aware, concerning perseverance one way or the other

    Eric, come again? You have got to me kidding me. Please, by all means, go to amazon.com or christianbook.com and order a copy of the Apostolic Fathers by Michael W Holmes. Read 1st and 2nd Clement, Polycarp, Hermas, Barnabas among others.

  76. Re John 10:28: The context here is the establishment of Christ as the true Shephered as opposed to the false shepherds who abandon and abuse the flock. It is a deliberate picture drawn from Jeremiah 23:3. When Christ says no can pluck them out of my hand, he is not speaking to willful apostasy, but rather to the fact that no marauder can snatch a believer who is in Christ. When you understand that Christ was affirming His authority and identity there, you will understand that the passage does not speak to a voluntary departure from the faith. For explicit teaching on that, just forward 5 chapters later to John 15:6 where Jesus draws from Ezekiel 15.

    Likewise, I have no more expunged Rom 8:39 from my Bible than you have Romans 8:13 or Hebrews 6:4-8. Again, the verse speaks to the encouragement of Paul who desires to see all endure to the end. It does not mean that apostasy is impossible, only that Paul was seeking to bolster their faith (see my prior reply to Robert above).

  77. SS–

    Why would I kid?

    The Apostolic Fathers are online, so I have access. I browsed through all the chapter titles of Clement, Ignatius. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Mathetes, Polycarp….

    Nothing looked even potentially germane. Mind telling me where you found any information on the potential apostasy of the elect? Or anything at all beyond Polycarp’s encouragement to persevere in the face of persecution?

  78. Eric,

    I have a question for you regarding your quote from Augustine: Do you know what he believed regarding the assurance of salvation and its relationship to perseverance?

  79. Jason, if you could fix the above posts, I did not use the i feature and for some reason the text is still formatted.

    Thanks

  80. SS–

    Romans 8:13

    living according to the flesh=the non-elect
    living according to the spirit=the elect

    Hebrews 6:4-8

    the “enlightened” who fall away are the non-elect who are baptized

    Both of us can fit uncomfortable verses into our respective paradigms. The question is, which fits better with the whole arc of Scripture?

    The lost sheep that the Good Shepherd goes back to find…was he willfully apostate?

  81. SS–

    To some extent we do not know and cannot know exactly what Augustine meant on certain subjects. He never took part in the controversies that trouble us, and we tend to interpret much of what he says according to our own paradigms.

    In general, he did not engage the presumptive sort of assurance embraced by some of the Puritans. Many Reformed thinkers take a similar stance on assurance. No one knows absolutely for sure until we come right up to death and actually persevere. Most formulations of the perseverance of the saints take this uncertainty into account: we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

    However, this does not preclude a calm trust that the Lord is faithful. I believe this is what you find in Augustine. What gums up the works slightly is that Augustine is working off that faulty translation of dikaiosune. Calvin complains that “even though [Augustine] admirably deprives man of all credit for righteousness and transfers it to God’s grace, he still subsumes grace under sanctification, by which we are reborn in newness of life through the spirit.”

    Calvin doesn’t entirely dismiss Augustine’s position on grace and sanctification, but does reject “his manner of saying it.” This is my take on Augustine, as well. Were he writing during the Reformation instead of 1200 years earlier, we would have seen how clearly he was on our side. When perseverance is solidly maintained, the rest falls into place.

  82. Eric,
    You need to distinguish within Augustine his view of the elect and his view of the regenerate. All elect are regenerate and justified and persevere but not all regenerate are elect – they can fall away.

    Also you are shortchanging Thomism by simply dismissing them as inconsistent when it comes to efficacious grace. Id recommend reading Garrigou Lagranges work for starters.

  83. Interlocutor–

    Thank you. Part of the reason I am here is to learn.

    Where in Augustine does he directly say that some of the regenerate are not elect? Or is that someone’s interpretation of what he had to say? Also, Augustine believed in baptismal regeneration. I would have no major problem with his saying that some of the baptized are not elect.

    I think we should be very careful in interpreting Augustine. He does not conform to all of our categories and terminologies. He is both incredibly influential and incredibly early. Everybody will have a tendency to read back into him. And I think that includes the experts.

    Where would you suggest I begin in Garrigou-Lagrange’s work? He was, as I am sure you are aware, fairly prolific.

  84. I don’t have citations onhand, but the ECFs universally taught baptismal regeneration and the possibility of apostasy, meaning that the circle of regenerate was larger than the circle of the elect. If someone reads them under the Reformed assumption that those two circles are identical in number, it will be pretty easy to derive conclusions that they themselves did not intend.

  85. Eric,

    +1 on interlocutor’s comments.

    “Many Reformed thinkers take a similar stance on assurance. No one knows absolutely for sure until we come right up to death and actually persevere. Most formulations of the perseverance of the saints take this uncertainty into account: we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. However, this does not preclude a calm trust that the Lord is faithful ….”

    It does preclude a calm trust, precisely because the reformed define the elect tautologically. In other words, if no one knows absolutely for sure until death whether they are elect or not, then no one can have a genuine assurance of their salvation. This is an unintended consequence of the logical fallacy of the tautology, but a harmful one nevertheless. Asserting that this belief does not preclude a calm trust is then offered as a palliative, but nevertheless does not remove the blunt implications of the fallacy.

    Contrast this stance with the epistemological principle outlined by John in 1 John 3:

    19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us

    In other words, we know we are truly saved when the Spirit bears witness in our hearts that we are bearing fruit and abiding in Christ. Notice how unarbitrary this is: it’s not just a matter of believing we are the elect, but rather, believing because we see the evidence of Christ’s love in us, as we keep His commands.

    Someone who ascribes to the tautology as the only explanation for apostasy is much more likely to despair in their struggle against sin, because they can never know until the very end. I have known more than one case of a reformed believer truly doubting whether they were elect on their death bed. This is not God’s will for us as 1 John 3 demonstrates. If however, one believes that it is also possible for a regenerate believer to fall away by allowing his love to grow cold, then one is much more inclined to take the steps towards repentance and to be restored to fellowship with God, because one would not be misled into despairing that they are of the damned.

    Re the AF, here are some of the quotes showing they believed in the apostasy of true believers:

    Barnabas (c 70-130): “The whole past time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger…Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called, we fall asleep in our sins… Let us beware lest we be found to be, as it is written, the “many who are called” but not “the few who are chosen”.”

    Clement (c 96): “Since all things are seen and heard by God, let us fear Him and forsake those wicked works that proceed from evil desires. By doing that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For where can any of us flee from His mighty hand?”

    2nd Clement (c 150) “Let us therefore repent with the whole heart, so that none of us perish by the way. Let us practice righteousness so that we may be saved unto the end

    Hermas (c 150) “For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect , that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he will not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits… If you do not guard yourself against aner, you and your house will lose all hope of salvation.”

    Peace,
    SS.

  86. SS–

    Good grief! Not knowing absolutely for sure is a good thing, a great thing even. I am at peace. Something I never was as an Arminian. I never despair. I have the comfort of the Lord’s promises. There’s no tautology anywhere in sight. It’s exactly what one would expect from a just and loving God.

    You said:

    “In other words, we know we are truly saved when the Spirit bears witness in our hearts that we are bearing fruit and abiding in Christ.”

    Guess how many Reformed folks would have difficulty with that statement…..

    None!!

    As to the AF quotes, only the Hermas citation deals explicitly with the elect, and then only in such an odd, idiosyncratic way that even you would not dare agree with him.

    Better luck next time, my friend!

  87. Jason–

    Come back to me, citations in hand, and we’ll talk. (And though SS did not say ECF’s but AF’s, I’ll take either one. )

    The baptismally regenerate are not necessarily synonymous with the Reformationally regenerate (and certainly not with the Calvinistically regenerate). How will we know specifically which the ECF’s had in mind without imposing our own paradigm? You assume that they are Catholic in their affinities because of institutional continuity (or because Catholics have written most of the scholarship on the Early Church). In other words, how do you know what “they themselves” intended? Show me from context (as you would with Scripture) how they side with you and not us.

    Do you know of any quotes wherein the elect themselves are subject to the potentiality of apostasy?

  88. Good grief! Not knowing absolutely for sure is a good thing, a great thing even. I am at peace. Something I never was as an Arminian. I never despair. I have the comfort of the Lord’s promises. There’s no tautology anywhere in sight. It’s exactly what one would expect from a just and loving God.

    Merely saying there is no tautology does not make it so. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. A loving God does not ultimately stand in the way of someone who wants out as was the case with those believers who had once partaken of the Holy Spirit (and hence were justified), but then denied Christ.

    As to the AF quotes, only the Hermas citation deals explicitly with the elect, and then only in such an odd, idiosyncratic way that even you would not dare agree with him.

    Thanks for the chuckle. I agree 100% with Hermas, there is indeed a point beyond which no one can be brought to repentance. But praise be to God, that He has given us all things pertaining to godliness (2 Peter 1:4) that we may not even remotely approach that point and have true assurance. The fact is that even protestant scholars recognize that the AF believed in the apostasy of regenerate believers. You can resist that all you want in your own little idiosyncratic world, but it is what it is.

    Why do you think so many protestants get nervous as soon as one mentions the AF? Ooohh, suddenly we’ve entered the twilight zone (cue in sinister music). Suddenly we’re not too sure about these poor simpletons who were probably false teachers, and were so dumb they couldn’t understand grace (see TF Torrance). So we would rather people not read them, but have no qualms when they reach for Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, John Piper, Joel Osteen etc. Surely these are all great men of orthodoxy, after all look at the size of their churches and orthodoxy.

    (shaking my head)

  89. SS–

    Well, this is fun!

    I let it slide first time around, but a “tautology” is circular reasoning. (SS is wrong in this case…well, because SS is wrong.) I assumed you meant some sort of non sequitur or antinomy; I’m not a stickler on such things.

    Why in heaven’s name (literally) would God NOT stand in the way of someone who wanted out? I suppose if you captained a hot air balloon–and someone wanted out when you had the thing hundreds of feet in the air–you’d just let them jump because, hey, it’s a free country!

    So, you read Romans 8:38-39…

    “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    …and say to yourself, “Hmm, God doesn’t say anything about protecting us from our own stupid, stubborn selves. I guess he doesn’t include that!” ?????

    What part of “anything else in all creation” do you not understand? Remind me not to let you look after my toddlers. You’d protect them from bullies and lightning storms, but let go of their tiny hands and let them wander off across the street on their own. Whoops, car! (But at least you were protecting their “freedom of will.” You wouldn’t want to be accused of tyranny and oppression, now, would you?)

    Start protecting the authority of Scripture with as much enthusiasm as you champion the U.S. Bill of Rights. When Paul says “for freedom Christ has set you free,” he is not arguing for greater entrepreneurship or for ever more choices in pursuing the American Dream.

  90. SS–

    Evidently, we have to split up longer posts. so here is part two:

    Many of those who actually did agree with Hermas put off getting baptized until their deathbeds. Is this your own particular practice? Hermas’ belief is not in anybody’s mainstream, so where do you get off calling me idiosyncratic?

    I knew a girl who took the “impossible” in Hebrews 6:4 literally. She was a Jewish girl who had converted to Evangelicalism. Her parents found out and had her packed off to Israel for “de-programming.” (She had not been in anything even approaching a cult.) She de-converted and took this verse as proof that she could never come back to the faith.

    I myself take it as hyperbole. Look at verse 8:

    “But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.”

    It is in ‘danger’ of being cursed, but is not so yet. If it continues on its present course, “in the end it will be burned.”

  91. SS–

    And part three:

    I know of no Protestants who quake in their boots when the AF’s get mentioned. For what possible reason would they? A few of the beliefs of these early heroes–and those immediately on their tails–are either clearly unbiblical or unorthodox–nobody I know of hangs on their every word. They are authoritative after a fashion, but only “after a fashion.”

    If you know of Protestant scholars who address the issue of the Early Church and the apostasy of the elect, please cite them rather than asserting their positions! (In J.N.D. Kelly’s “Early Christian Doctrines,” for example, he only rarely uses the terms “elect” and “regenerate” and never in conjunction with “apostasy.”)

    Augustine clearly does NOT believe in the apostasy of the elect, and his view of “regeneration” is not the Protestant view. He equates “regeneration” with baptism. So, yes, some of the baptized become apostate. No Reformed theologian would disagree.

    Effectual calling, on the other hand–what Augustine calls here the “calling according to purpose”–is the process whereby a soul becomes regenerate. In other words, those whom the Reformed would term “regenerate” are indeed elect in Augustine’s book. He simply doesn’t use the word! (It had not yet been coined, after all.)

    Here is a passage from Augustine’s “On the Gift of Perseverance” (ch. 21):

    “But of two pious men, why to the one should be given perseverance unto the end, and to the other it should not be given, God’s judgments are even more unsearchable. Yet to believers it ought to be a most certain fact that the former is of the predestinated, the latter is not. “For if they had been of us,” says one of the predestinated, who had drunk this secret from the breast of the Lord, “certainly they would have continued with us.” What, I ask, is the meaning of, “They were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would certainly have continued with us”? Were not both created by God—both born of Adam—both made from the earth, and given from Him who said, “I have created all breath,” souls of one and the same nature? Lastly, had not both been called, and followed Him that called them? And had not both become, from wicked men, justified men, and both been renewed by the laver of regeneration? But if he were to hear this who beyond all doubt knew what he was saying, he might answer and say: These things are true. In respect of all these things, they were of us. Nevertheless, in respect of a certain other distinction, they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they certainly would have continued with us. What then is this distinction? God’s books lie open, let us not turn away our view; the divine Scripture cries aloud, let us give it a hearing. They were not of them, because they had not been “called according to the purpose;” they had not been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; they had not gained a lot in Him; they had not been predestinated according to His purpose who worketh all things. For if they had been this, they would have been of them, and without doubt they would have continued with them.”

    I apologize in advance for some parts of this post. I realize they are a bit “over the top.” Feel free to toss them in the air and let the wind drive the chaff away! (I was tired, and you stepped on a nerve….)

    Every blessing upon you, my friend. 🙂

  92. Eric,

    No offense taken. Do know that I enjoy the back and forth, rough shod notwithstanding. But disagreement aside, dare I say we can all rejoice that we can have a discussion such as this one without resorting to crusades, crosses and torture, if youknowhatamsayin’. I know that the Father of Lights would have us discuss our differences in peace. With that said, let’s turn to your jumbalaya of straw men, non sequiturs, and anecdotal evidence, shall we?

    The reformed definition of the perseverance of the elect is tautological/circular in that it assumes what it tries to prove. Let me illustrate with Calvin’s understanding of Heb 6:4-8:

    “To all this I answer, That God indeed favors none but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and that by this they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after his image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why he should not grant the reprobate also some taste of his grace, why he should not irradiate their minds with some sparks of his light, why he should not give them some perception of his goodness, and in some sort engrave his word on their hearts. Otherwise, where would be the temporal faith mentioned by Mark 4:17? ”

    Monsieur Jean basically believed that those who have fallen away (past/aorist tense) after having been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good Word and the powers of the age to come, were essentially reprobates. Mais c’est du n’importe quoi comme on dirait a Geneve. What I find most fascinating and telling in the prose above is the embarrasingly ostentatious equivocation in his response to the glowing description of these believers’ past: suddenly we see the idea that it is not grace proper which had been granted them, but rather this is ‘some taste grace’, it is not enlightenment in view, but this has now been downgraded to ‘ some sparks of light’, it is not a taste of the good Word, but rather a mere ‘perception of his goodness’. Any objective observer will notice that there is indeed an obvious sense of unease at the text, which requires the addition/insertion of modifiers to mitigate what was likely massive cognitive dissonance. No wonder Luther wanted it thrown out of the canon…

    The tautology is this: Why do the elect persevere to the end? Because they are the elect. And why are they the elect? Because they persevere to the end. This is the basic logical fallacy at work in the equivocation you see above, where ‘Sieur Jeannot jumps out of the frying pan to land in the fire (pun intended see v 8). What do I mean by that? In his desperate attempt to preserve his systematic theology, he is forced to draw the conclusion that these believers are actually reprobates, and this despite the overwhelming evidence that they were regenerate believers; for surely, the descriptors employed, if applied to our loved ones today or even our own selves, would grant any of us much comfort and assurance regarding the state of our/their souls. After all, enlightenment is in the purview of the regenerate only, who receive Christ, the only Light of the World who dispels darkness. Likewise regarding the partakers of the Holy Spirit: a basic lexical overview of metochos in the book of Hebrews reveals that the word is everywhere used of genuine believers and not reprobates. The Holy Spirit is granted at baptism and one cannot be a partaker and not be justified. Tasting the heavenly gift is a reference to the inner experience (not a dabbling in, but a true experience of, Christ did not dabble in death, he tasted it for us) of the regenerate believer. So by attempting to lessen these descriptors, Calvin and those who follow his interpretation have boxed themselves into a corner, perhaps without realizing it: they have destroyed any reliable sense of assurance a believer may have!

    My friend, if you are enlightened, a partaker, have tasted the heavenly gift, tasted the Word etc and then turn around and tell me that you will never truly know until you die, then I say your assurance is no assurance at all, but a travesty of it.

    Now re your hot air balloon straw man. It won’t fly because I said earlier that God will not ultimately stand in the way of a believer who turns back. Of course, He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger. He will send many warnings, sometimes chastisements along the way to call this believer home. But just as is the case with a rebellious teenager, after years of struggle and warning, and cutting off of privileges, and pleading, and grace, and mercy, and slowness of anger, there comes a time, when a parent has to pick up the cold dead body of his son or daughter and bury them. It is not that the parent’s/God’s arm is too short to redeem, restore and renew. It is rather that, as the Jews (whom you are not listening to, they are the root supporting us gentiles, it is to them that we owe an enormous debt) put it, “Everything is in the hands of God, except the fear of God”. Were it not so, one would have no other choice but to contemplate that we would then be nothing but mere automatons in His hands. What sort of a relationship is that? As Ravi Zacharias would say “There is no compulsion in love”. If you want that, turn to the Quran instead.

    Let us take your analogy of the child running in the street: The parent warns once, twice runs into the street to save him. Yet, the child continues while his mother is cooking a meal for him with her back turned, and the third time, is hit by a car. Will you blame the parent and tell him or her that she has failed his child or do you blame the child’s rebellion?

    You are using Rom 8:38-39 prooftext as a pretext because context is lacking. The context of those words is Paul’s desire to exhort and encourage the Romans in the face of persecution. It is not a context dealing with a debate between a calvinist and a catholic. When the same mother says to her rebellious child, “I forgive you and know that in high school, you will witness much evil, but do not partake in it, and always know that nothing can separate you from my love”, does this necessarily imply that said child will not go and tempt fate one last time, only to choke on her vomit after binge drinking or doing drugs? Earlier in the same passage you quote Paul says this:

    “12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”

    He says “brethren” Given your beliefs, it is incumbent upon you to prove that they do indeed live by the flesh, they were actually all reprobate to begin with. Nowhere does the word ‘brethren’ necessitate this inference. Brethren means brothers and sisters: you who have been justified by faith! If you live by the flesh you die. Just like the father says to the son “You will always be my son, you are my son, so don’t do as your friends do and stay away from drugs. You do them, you die”. Does that mean that if the son indulges and dies that he was never a true son to begin with? Or does it mean that he allowed unbelief to enter his heart, and acted upon it, reaping what he sowed?

    “7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows , that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

    Part Deux later.

    Peace,
    SS.

  93. I am deeply sorry for that Israeli girl. Had I known her I would have directed her to a Messianic Jewish congregation in Jerusalem, and she would have had the proper understanding of Heb 6:4-8 given to her: namely that if she was even worried about having fallen away, then indeed this is cause for great rejoicing inasmuch as it indicates that a flicker of hope/life remains in her heart, one that can be rekindled to repentance. Because had she been of those who had fallen away, she would effectively be utterly dead to any pricking of her conscience. Once that line is crossed, there is no coming back. So in response to the inevitable question: “Tell me where that line is! Where is that line I have to cross!” (as one angry Baptist once asked me, pounding the table), I simply say this: “When a parent tells their child not to go stand on the rocks by the ocean lest they be carried away, does it make any sense for the child to demand where it is exactly, at spot X, that they should not stand? Or is it reasonable to assume that a child who has obeyed his parents will not even remotely come close to any dangerous point on the landscape?” Indeed the latter makes more sense, the former, a meaningless and reckless and foolish request grounded in arrogance, not the humility of the obedience of faith.

    Re Hermas and putting off of baptisms. Eric, you’ve got so much straw going on here, I’m gonna start believing you deal in hay as your day job. It is evidently a willful and crude misunderstanding of Hermas’ warning, which if properly heard and heeded should have the exact opposite effect. If it’s true that the elect can fall away, why would one delay baptism and hence delay the receipt of the Holy Spirit and the remission of sins? The argument makes no sense to the fair observer.

    Re the hyperbole you see in v 8. Ah, yes, I was expecting this one earlier, i.e., the ole hypothetical argument which has been debunked long ago. Even the jokesters at the NIV have caught up with the times and corrected their glaring mistranslation of Heb 6:6 to “and have fallen away” from “if they fall away”. Massive difference there all due to the word kai. The issue is not that the author of Hebrews was convinced of better things or that there was some hypothetical danger. The issue is that the danger of apostasy was very real precisely because some who had been enlightened, partaken of the HS, tasted the good word and powers of the age etc actually HAD FALLEN AWAY. Done, finito, Capri c’est Fini. That is why the passage is so powerful and meaningful and should be heeded down to this very day. Tell the Jews who experienced God’s wrath seen in Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 15, Romans 11 that it was hyperbole to be cut off. It was very real to them, and the risk is real to us as well, contra Calvin and the reformed/baptists etc.

    If you truly understood NT grace, in the proper context of a patron-client culture and society, you would understand the above in a much deeper way. I still recommend David De Silva’s book and his bibliography. I know you’re suspicious. But hey, if I can read the Institutes, surely you can read De Silva (who was commended by Fred Danker, a Lutheran nonetheless).

    SS.

  94. SS–

    A tautology doesn’t prove anything because it is merely a definition. The definition itself, however, may be true or false. “The elect are those who persevere, and those who persevere are the elect” is pretty close to how Augustine defined things. I don’t have a problem with it.

    None of the different paradigms know quite what to do with those who appear to believe and follow only to fall away. They are fairly analogous to the grain that falls on shallow soil or upon thorns and briars in the Parable of the Sower. What we don’t have in that parable is any plant that originally lands on one of the bad soils but sends out a “runner” in order to root in the good soil. Nor do we have a plant that starts out in the good soil only to be plucked up and pitched on the rocky ground.

    Calvinists think the outliers were never elect to begin with. Lutherans think the elect both can and cannot fall away all at the same time (they hold it in tension!) Most everyone else believes genuine believers have the power to apostatize.

    All of them think that “believers” can fall away and must guard themselves against apostasy. The only real practical difference between the three options is that the Reformed put it all in God’s hands (as the parable puts it in the hands of the sower). Think about it for a while, and you will understand what I mean. The three paradigms are virtually identical except for the humility of the Reformed paradigm.

    I happen to believe that that humility is incredibly significant. I believe that genuinely understanding the gratuity of the gospel requires that humility.

    “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.”

    –Charles Haddon Spurgeon

  95. SS–

    Forgot to throw this in. Concerning my own little Parable of the Toddlers: I don’t subscribe to your thought because I simply do not believe anyone gets beyond toddler stage. If God let’s any of his children go–if he let’s go of the toddlers’ hands–then he is a monster I will not worship. Calvinism makes sense of God for me. Things are in his hands, and he is faithful. Your paradigm inevitably leaves it up to people themselves. To me, that’s kind of like juggling with the solar system and hoping nothing falls out of place. It is simply totally unfair to leave it up to people themselves: their different upbringings, weaknesses, levels of intelligence, opportunities to hear the gospel, etc. will advantage some and severely disadvantage others.

  96. Hello Eric,

    As a fellow sola fides, imputed alien righteousness, predestinarian monergist (but of the Augustinian rather than Calvinist stripe), I find it somewhat ironic that you’re using very similar fairness arguments (“totally unfair” if people allowed to fall away and this makes God a “monster’) against apostasy that the Arminians use against Calvinism….As I’m sure you’d agree–one thing that must be acknowledged by anyone who embraces the “sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace” as Spurgeon calls it (whether Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc) is that while God is completely just–He is not (and never will be) “fair.”

    As Augustine says (note the true regeneration of the reprobate (non-elect)–including the gift of faith, hope, and love):
    “It is, indeed, to be wondered at, and greatly to be wondered at, that to some of His own children— whom He has regenerated in Christ— to whom He has given faith, hope, and love, God does not give perseverance also”
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1513.htm

    Augustine (and Luther himself) affirmed that while the elect to glory always receive the gift of true faith and the gift of perseverance to the end–many reprobate (non-elect) also receive the gift of true faith although none receive the gift of perseverance to the end (i.e. they have been made part of the “elect” in the broader sense used by Hermas, but they were never of the the number of those elect to glory from the foundation of the earth).

    Is it unfair for God to allow many who have been made “partakers in the Holy Spirit” (Heb 6) and “sanctified with the Blood” (Heb 10), etc to resist God’s continued grace in their life, to come back under the dominion of their unregenerate old man and perish in that state-while ensuring that others will never fall away utterly? Absolutely.

    It’s also unfair that God saves any of us to begin with-while passing over many who may be far less sinful than we are (and hence allowing so many to resist His Call while overcoming this resistance through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in those who believe).

    Assurance is not an issue here–I had less assurance when I was a Calvinist (a number of years ago) than I have had since embracing the teaching of the Scripture and the early Church on falling from grace (I don’t have time to explain all the reasons here–but affirming the Scripture’s teaching on the real danger of falling away is no danger to true assurance–but it can definitely be harmful to false assurance). Side Note on Assurance: Augustine unfortunately emphasized the “unknowability” of God’s secret counsels/decress of election at the expense of confidence in one’s own (or, even another’s) election–In contrast, the reformers reemphasized the Scriptural truth that we can (and in fact are commanded to–2 Peter 1:10) have a firm or “absolute” assurance of our election to glory and therefore to have complete confidence that we are going to heaven when we die.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Spurgeon* was an amazing servant of Christ (and an awesome preacher)–but if we take this particular assertion of his literally (although I’m not sure how strictly he meant himself to be taken)–then Billy Graham taught a false gospel and many of the great servants of Christ who I know from non-Calvinist churches (e.g. many Baptist churches, etc) have never actually heard the Gospel.

    *Interesting side note: Spurgeon was actually “charismatic” (he reports having supernatural prophesies at times while preaching) http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/gifts-in-church-history/

    Further, Luther himself taught a false gospel if Spurgeon’s reckoning is taken literally and his God must qualify as a “monster” that you “will not worship.”

    Luther notes in his Smalcald Articles:
    43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, … and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
    http://bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#repentance

    Consequently, because of this danger of losing faith and the Spirit after being saved–Luther frequently gives warnings in his writings and sermons such as the following:
    “The apostle refers to this subject in Romans 7: 5, 8, 23, and elsewhere, frequently explaining how, in the saints, there continue to remain various lusts of original sin, which constantly rise in the effort to break out, even gross external vices. These have to be resisted. They are strong enough utterly to enslave a man, to subject him to the deepest guilt, as Paul complains (Rom 7, 23); and they will surely do it unless the individual, by faith and the aid of the Holy Spirit, oppose and conquer them. 29. Therefore, saints must, by a vigorous and unceasing warfare, subdue their sinful lusts if they would not lose God’s grace and their faith. Paul says in Romans 8, 13: “If ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” In order, then, to retain the Spirit and the incipient divine life, the Christian must contend against himself.”
    http://www.orlutheran.com/html/mlseco31.html

    Likewise, many other great reformers who proclaimed the truth of sola fides had a false gospel and worshiped a “monster”–for example, Hugh Latimer who was put to death under Queen Mary:
    [THE SIXTH SERMON, PREACHED ON THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1552, BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER–written shortly before the Roman Catholic Queen Mary became Queen of England in 1553]
    For scripture saith, Septiea cadit Justus, ” The righteous man falleth seven times;” that is, oftentimes: for his works are not so perfect as they ought to be. For I pray you, who is he that loveth his neighbour so perfectly and vehemently as he ought to do? Now this imperfection is sin, but it is a venial sin, not a mortal : therefore he that feeleth his imperfections, feeleth the ill1 motions in his heart, but followeth them not, consenteth not unto the wickedness are to do them ; these be venial sins, which shall not be unto us to our damnation…I put the case, Joseph had not resisted the temptations of his master’s wife, but had followed her, and fulfilled the act of lechery with her ; had weighed the matter after a worldly fashion, thinking, “I have my mistress’s favour already, and so by that mean I shall have my master’s favour too ; nobody knowing of it.” Now if he had done so, this act had been a deadly sin ; for any act that is done against the law of God willingly and if sin have wittingly, is a deadly sin. And that man or woman that committeth such an act, loseth the Holy Ghost and the remission of sins ; and so becometh the child of the devil, being before the child of God. For a regenerate man or woman, that believeth, ought to have dominion over sin ; but as soon as sin hath rule over him, he is gone: for she leadeth him to delectation of it, and from delectation to consenting, and so from consenting to the act itself. Now he that is led so with sin, he is in the state of damnation, and sinneth damnably. And so ye may perceive which be they that sin deadly, and what is the deadly sin; namely, that he sinneth deadly that wittingly falleth in sin: therefore it is a perilous thing to be in such an estate, to be in the state of damnation and everlasting perdition.”
    The entire Sermon can be read here:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=EFoJAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA8&dq=latimer&ei=Y-tOSeCdM6TCMYOenY0M#PPR5,M1

    [Note: Venial sins/mortal sins for the many reformers who affirmed the concept–was not a distinction between what was worthy of eternal damnation–for all sins are worthy of damnation and require the infinite worth of Christ’s Blood to cover them. Rather, it was distinguishing between a mortal state of sin/backslidden state where one is fallen under the “dominion of sin” (and thus, under the dominion of the old unregenerate man) versus being under the dominion of the Holy Spirit (which is the case for all who have true faith). Of course, not all falling away is the utter falling away spoken of in Heb 6:4–it seems clear that if someone is still alive, no matter how far they have fallen from Christ, the hope of repentance is to be assumed (and if there is genuine sorrow and desire to repent–that is proof from Heb 6:4 itself that the utter falling away hasn’t occurred)]

    Despite my disagreement on the issue of apostasy–I consider Calvin one of the greatest theologians of the Church. Also, many who hold this position are among the greatest saints I know (far more godly than a weak sinner like myself) and a blessing to sit under and have fellowship with.

    God Bless,
    W.A.Scott

    p.s. I’ll have little or no time for any follow up posts–thanks for the interesting posts

    p.p.s. Going back to a point much earlier in the thread–the reformers explicitly affirmed that eternal life was a “reward” for our faith and good works as the Scriptures themselves make clear (e.g. Matthew 25). They noted, however, that it was a reward given according to promise (on the basis of Christ and His infinite merits) and not according to the true or strict deserving of our good works (which, again, are “filthy rags” and “unrighteousness” if strictly judged apart from mercy in Christ–as St. Bernard of Clairvaux notes).

  97. Eric,

    I haven’t commented yet, but I’ve been following Jason’s posts and the combox discussions with great interest. You said, “I simply do not believe anyone gets beyond toddler stage”. May I direct you then to Ephesians 4:13-14:
    until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

    You go on to say, “To me, that’s kind of like juggling with the solar system and hoping nothing falls out of place.”
    And yet it seems to me that is exactly what God has chosen to do. He chooses a murderer with a speech impediment to lead His people out of Egypt; he chooses a shepherd to be a king; he chooses to build His Church on a fisherman with an acute case of foot-in-mouth disease; and He lets the hope of salvation of the human race hang on whether or not a young Jewish girl says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” If God was trying to avoid the risk of losing control of His creation, (if we can talk of anything being risky for God), why did He even place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden? He fairly explicitly laid the fate of all humanity and of the universe He had just created on the shoulders of Adam and Eve.

    God loves us when we are spiritual toddlers. But He does not intend for us to remain toddlers forever, He intends for us to grow up into spiritual adults – and part of being an adult is having responsibility: real things really depend on the choices that we really make. Does this sound scary? Yes. Is God “juggling with the solar system”? Yes – He is risking that one of His priceless treasures (you and I) will be ruined forever. Is it impossible for us to become creatures worthy of such a high calling? Just as impossible as it is for God Almighty to be born of a woman and laid in a manger. But as Gabriel said to Mary, “With God all things are possible.” God specializes in transforming people who are open to Him so that the impossible becomes possible – even juggling the solar system.

  98. One quick correction of an ambiguity in my post (among many other typos and sloppy writing):
    “Despite my disagreement on the issue of apostasy–I consider Calvin one of the greatest theologians of the Church. *Also, I know many who hold Calvin’s position on apostasy and they are among the greatest saints I’ve come in contact with* (far more godly than a weak sinner like myself) and a blessing to sit under and have fellowship with.”

  99. W.A.–

    Thank you for your graciousness and for the time and effort you put into your post.

    I use the “unfairness” argument precisely because Arminians use one. God is not fair if his actions are viewed through human eyes, but I would be willing to bet you a few heavenly rewards that when we get to heaven and hear his explanations we will agree that he was eminently fair not only with us but with everyone alike.

    I think you may be misreading Augustine. Exactly what does he mean by “regeneration”? He cannot mean what Calvin means. For Calvin it is inseparably linked to election. Therefore, they are talking about two separate concepts. For Augustine, those who have been genuinely converted and who will inevitably persevere are termed the elect…just as they are with Calvin. (Baptismal regeneration is a blessing for Augustine, but not necessarily a permanent one.) As a result, I think Calvin and Augustine agree on the bigger picture though they disagree concerning baptismal regeneration.

    By the way, Calvinists affirm “the Scripture’s teaching on the real danger of falling away.” The perseverance of the saints is not an easy road to travel and no presumption can go into it. But there is a confident hope (in Christ) and an assurance of his guiding hand. It is decidedly palpable.

    If I am not mistaken, Spurgeon was far less judgmental toward Arminians than he was toward Arminianism. I’m much the same way. I may view Wesley’s God as technically a monster, but I have great respect for Wesley. (Perhaps you know the story of Charles Simeon and Wesley in which Simeon grilled Wesley on some basic tenets of the faith and more or less pronounced him an honorary Calvinist. Wesley, for his part, eulogized his friend George Whitefield–a staunch Calvinist–as likely to be far closer to the throne of grace in heaven than he himself.) True believers can disagree significantly. There is so much that is difficult to understand on this side of the vale.

    On the other hand, whole churches with bad theology lead many astray. We need to be ever vigilant to give a defense for the hope that lies within us. It is important for us to fight through these things.

  100. Faramir–

    You misunderstood my analogy. I was not saying that Christians don’t mature in the faith, but that even the maturest Christian there has ever been is toddler-ish relatively speaking. None of us come anywhere near the actual righteousness of Christ inherently. We stand in need, and God provides. He takes our hand, even as a parent with a little child….

    The planets of the solar system do not have perfectly circular orbits as once imagined, and yet they are held in place by the power of his hand. He risks nothing. Such an idea is absurd. The fact that he uses fallible means to effect infallible ends does not imply that he is for even one infintesimal moment out of control.

  101. Thanks for the message Eric.The problem is that Augustine not only spoke of the reprobate as being “regenerated” but also as “justified” and having “faith that works by love,” etc.

    e.g. A few excerpts from Rebuke and Grace on losing salvation (and there are many other examples from Augustine).
    It is, indeed, to be wondered at, and greatly to be wondered at, that to some of His own children—whom He has regenerated in Christ—to whom He has given faith, hope, and love, God does not give perseverance also [Rebuke and Grace Chp 18]
    If, however, being already regenerate and justified, he relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say, “I have not received,” because of his own free choice to evil he has lost the grace of God, that he had received. [Rebuke and Grace Chapter 9]
    …some of the children of perdition, who have not received the gift of perseverance to the end, begin to live in the faith which works by love, and live for some time faithfully and righteously, and afterwards fall away, and are not taken away from this life before this happens to them.[Rebuke and Grace Chp 40]
    Or they receive the grace of God, but they are only for a season, and do not persevere; they forsake and are forsaken. For by their free will, as they have not received the gift of perseverance, they are sent away by the righteous and hidden judgment of God. – Rebuke and Grace Chapter 42
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1513.htm

    Again, the view of Augustine–namely, that God justly and sovereignly bestows the gift of saving faith on some of the reprobate while withholding the gift of perseverance to the end–is shared by that other great monergist, Luther. As I’m sure you would agree–one need not be Arminian (both Augustine and Luther were every bit as monergistic and predestinarian as Calvin) to affirm that we can fall from grace.

    To sum up this belief: God ordains that He will pass over a certain number of those He has given the gift of faith to in order that they might justly be left to the rebellion of their flesh, just as He passes over a large number of reprobate without even bestowing the gift of faith in order that they might be justly be left to their rebellious flesh. In contrast, in the case of His elect–though their flesh is just as rebellious as the reprobate–He ensures by His efficacious grace that their rebellious flesh will neither prevent them from initially believing in Him or persevering in the end. [As I noted above–this position does not harm true assurance of Salvation (nor the Scriptural truths of sola fide and imputed alien righteousness–seeing Luther and many other reformers held this position). As I mentioned earlier–I had less assurance a number of years ago as a 5 point Calvinist than I have since coming to this position. Funny thing–if memory serves me, the Scripture had already moved me to the Augustinian position before I even knew what Augustine and other great monergists believed on the matter–So, my coming to this position was definitely not the result of checking Scripture at the door in order to follow the historic teachings of the Church on apostasy. It would be great to discuss the Scriptural foundation for the Augustinian position–unfortunately, not enough time…]

    God Bless,

    W.A. Scott

    p.s. Thanks for the interchange–and I’m out of here for good (lot’s of work and baby on the way)!

  102. p.p.s. Hope you can stand to wade through the post (I just read it–it was so terribly written that it almost brought tears to my eyes :-))

  103. Sorry gentlemen–the last half of my post following the quotes from Augustine was too horribly written to be left uncorrected (I’m wondering if I was only partially conscious when I posted it–it was pretty early in the morning…). Anyhow, here’s a quick brush-up and perhaps more readable draft of the second half of the post:

    Just to reiterate, the view of Augustine–i.e. that God sovereignly bestows the gift of saving faith on some of the reprobate while withholding the gift of perseverance–is shared by that other great monergist, Luther. In other words, one need not be Arminian (both Augustine and Luther were every bit as monergistic and predestinarian as Calvin) to affirm that we can fall from grace.

    To sum up briefly how Augustine’s belief on falling from grace fits within his predestinarian schemata: God ordains to pass over a certain number of those to whom He has sovereignly bestowed the gift of faith in order that they might justly be left to the backsliding of their rebellious flesh. This parallels God passing over a large number without even bestowing the gift of faith in order that they might be justly left to the unbelief of their rebellious flesh. In contrast, in the case of the elect–while their flesh is just as rebellious as the reprobate–God ensures by His efficacious grace that their rebellious flesh will neither prevent them from initially believing in Him or from persevering in the end.

    [As was noted above, this position need not harm true assurance of Salvation (nor the Scriptural truths of sola fide and imputed alien righteousness–seeing Luther and many other reformers held this position). This is the case not only at a theoretical level but also from my own experience. Funny thing–if memory serves me, the Scripture had already moved me to the Augustinian position before I even knew what Augustine and other great monergists believed on the matter. Coming to this position was definitely not the result of checking Scripture at the door in order to follow the historic teachings of the Church on apostasy. It would be great to discuss the Scriptural foundation for the Augustinian position–unfortunately, not enough time…]

  104. Jason,

    I have a question about sanctification. As a Protestant I had always thought of it like this: after our original sin/actual sins are covered by Christ’s righteousness, we cooperate with God to progressively remove that pollution of sin from ourselves and so grow in holiness — in Christlikeness.

    How would you explain sanctification in Catholic theology? I’m confused, because in Catholic justification/baptism our original sin has been cleansed, and our past actual sins cleansed as well. We have been made righteous in the sense of not having our sins reckoned, and having the Romans 5:5 agape poured into us. So what is “growth in holiness/Christlikeness” if we’re not progressively removing the pollution of sin from ourselves?

    –Christie

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