Did the Rich Young Ruler Hear the Gospel?

Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Catholicism, Exegesis, Featured, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Law, Love, Paradigms, Protestantism, Sola Fide | 89 comments

As we continue our series comparing Protestant and Catholic paradigms and their respective explanatory value for the New Testament data, I would like to turn our attention to Jesus and his teachings. First off, let’s consider the case of the rich young ruler. When asked by this man what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments,” and more specifically, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Now at first glance this instruction appears odd if Jesus was indeed operating from a paradigm that said that our works can never contribute to our gaining eternal life, and that final salvation is only possible through the imputation of an alien righteousness received by faith alone. Yet as those holding this paradigm are quick to argue, Jesus is not betraying sola fide here at all, but instead is employing the “first use of the law” as a means to show this young man his sinful attachment to his many possessions, and thereby drive him to seek the forgiveness that comes from the gospel of grace alone. In other words, Jesus is not giving this man normative advice for gaining eternal life, but is seeking to demonstrate to him the impossibility of gaining eternal life by such a course.

On its face there is nothing particularly objectionable about this interpretation — this approach on Jesus’ part could very well have been valid and wise. However, I do not believe that this is what Jesus was intending to do. Rather, I think he actually meant what he said when he instructed the man to sell his possessions in order to gain heavenly treasure.

My first reason for saying this is the context immediately following this episode (vv. 23ff). Jesus tells his disciples that it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven, whereupon the disciples express amazement, asking, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus’ response is important: “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The indication seems to be that what Jesus demanded of the rich young ruler was only impossible when attempted with human strength and the arm of the flesh, but was indeed “possible with God” and his power. Moreover, this seems to have been how Peter understood the Lord. After Jesus’ assurance, he replied, “See? We have left all and followed you. What then will we have?” If Jesus’ command to the rich man to leave his earthly treasure for heavenly was not intended to be taken literally or normatively, then it would appear that Peter failed to grasp Jesus’ point at all (and in fairness, it wouldn’t be the first or last time). But if this had been another of Peter’s blunders, we would expect Jesus to have rebuked him as he did at other times. But instead, Jesus actually assured his disciples that they, and all others who sacrifice their earthly possessions for him, would inherit eternal life. In short, if Jesus was merely dealing with the rich man in a pedagogical, first-use-of-the-law manner, then not only did his disciples miss his point entirely, but Jesus in fact reinforced their misunderstanding.

In addition to the immediate context, the broader testimony of the New Testament supplies ample justification for viewing Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler as normative instruction rather than a mere first-use tactic to highlight this man’s inability to sacrifice sufficiently to enter the eternal kingdom. Examples include: (1) Jesus’ instruction in the sermon on the mount to store up treasure in heaven rather than on earth. Are we not to understand this as normative? (2) Jesus’ beatitude in his sermon on the plain, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Is this not simply a shorthand way of teaching what the episode of the rich young ruler describes? Is this beatitude to be taken literally and normatively, or as merely hypothetical? (3) Paul’s instruction to “the rich in this present age,” who are not to “set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy,” who are “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” — is this instruction merely legal and pedagogical, or is it meant to be obeyed in order to gain a future reward?

The list could go on and on. My point is that when one’s paradigm insists that no human works, even if Spirit-wrought, can contribute to our eternal inheritance, then there is no other choice but to interpret our passage in a merely legal way, with Jesus’ instruction serving only to show the impossibility of gaining eternal life through sacrifice. But when Jesus says that this striving for eternal life is “impossible with men, but with God all things are possible,” he is plainly contradicting this paradigm.

If, on the other hand, Jesus’ paradigm were such that a person under the New Covenant can gain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because it comes from Spirit-infused agape rather than strict obedience to the letter of the law, then he would have said to this young man exactly what the gospels tell us he said, namely, that the rich man’s having “kept all these commands from his youth” was not enough without his also having the Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor that would induce him to sell his goods, give to the poor, and follow Jesus.

So while this episode can be understood through the imputation paradigm, such an approach causes the interpretation arrived at to be unnatural and somewhat inconsistent with the immediate and broader contexts. But a Catholic paradigm — whose understanding of the gospel involves salvation through Spirit-wrought faith and works of sacrifice, mercy, and love — allows Jesus’ words to be taken in their most natural sense without need for qualification or theological gymnastics to explain them.

 

89 Comments

  1. All,

    Two quick things:

    1. Here is Calvin’s take on this passage. You’ll see that he understands Jesus’ words as law and not gospel:

    This passage was erroneously interpreted by some of the ancients, whom the Papists have followed, as if Christ taught that, by beeping the law, we may merit eternal life On the contrary, Christ did not take into consideration what men can do, but replied to the question, What is the righteousness of works? or, What does the Law require? And certainly we ought to believe that God comprehended in his law the way of living holily and righteously, in which righteousness is included; for not without reason did Moses make this statement,

    He that does these things shall live in them, (Leviticus 18:5;)

    and again,

    I call heaven and earth to witness that l have this day showed you life, (Deuteronomy 30:19.)

    We have no right, therefore, to deny that the keeping of the law is righteousness, by which any man who kept the law perfectly — if there were such a man — would obtain life for himself. But as we are all destitute of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23,) nothing but cursing will be found in the law; and nothing remains for us but to betake ourselves to the undeserved gift of righteousness. And therefore Paul lays down a twofold righteousness, the righteousness of the law, (Romans 10:5,) and the righteousness of faith, (Romans 10:6.) He makes the first to consist in works, and the second, in the free grace of Christ.

    Hence we infer, that this reply of Christ is legal, because it was proper that the young man who inquired about the righteousness of works should first be taught that no man is accounted righteous before God unless he has fulfilled the law, “unless he has fulfilled all the law in every point.” (which is impossible,) that, convinced of his weakness, he might betake himself to the assistance of faith. I acknowledge, therefore, that, as God has promised the reward of eternal life to those who keep his law, we ought to hold by this way, if the weakness of our flesh did not prevent; but Scripture teaches us, that it is through our own fault that it becomes necessary for us to receive as a gift what we cannot obtain by works. If it be objected, that it is in vain to hold out to us the righteousness which is in the law, (Romans 10:5,) which no man will ever be able to reach, I reply, since it is the first part of instruction, by which we are led to the righteousness which is obtained by prayer, it is far from being superfluous; and, therefore, when Paul says, that the doers of the law are justified, (Romans 2:13,) he excludes all from the righteousness of the law.

    This passage sets aside all the inventions which the Papists have contrived in order to obtain salvation. For not only are they mistaken in wishing to lay God under obligation to them by their good works, to bestow salvation as a debt; but when they apply themselves to do what is right, they leave out of view the doctrine of the law, and attend chiefly to their pretended devotions, as they call them, not that they openly reject the law of God, but that they greatly prefer human traditions.

    2. When you comment in this thread and others, the more often you all interact with one another the easier it is on me. While I try to address all the comments I can, when every comment is addressed specifically to me it (understandably) makes others hesitant to jump in and answer them. But when this happens we end up with me having ten distinct discussions with each of you, rather than all of us having one discussion together. So if someone brings up an objection and you feel like you have an answer, then by all means please feel free to offer it, as this will keep the discussion flowing and take some pressure off of me. Thanks.

  2. Similarly, some years ago the framing of the Parable of the Good Samaritan hit me between the eyes:

    Luke 10

    English Standard Version (ESV)

    Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

    10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
    Woe to Unrepentant Cities

    13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.

    16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
    The Return of the Seventy-Two

    17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
    Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will

    21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[b] 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

    23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
    The Parable of the Good Samaritan

    Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

    Point blank: “Do this” — love God and neighbor — and you will live.”

  3. Jesus goes right to the ‘heart’ of the matter.

    He exposes the rich young ruler, as He exposes us all, and our need to be propped up by something else, other than the Living Word of God.

    Jesus takes the young man right to the 1st Commandment. “I am the Lord your God and you will have no others.”

    Oops. But we do have others. Those things which drive us and command our attention, ahead of everything else…they are our gods. Idolatry is what we do. That’s why we need a Savior…and not a self-help, improvement guru.

    Thanks.

  4. Jason,

    The story of the rich young ruler hits home with me…as I look back to my stint on wall street… better the riches of Christ than what this world has to offer (not that I have tasted of the latter, but having observed the culture).

    Peace,
    S

  5. Here’s one of the issues at play, which I haven’t seen resolved from the RC side; second Adam fulfillment. I have yet to see a successful exegesis of the Law where you simultaneously have perfect second Adam fulfillment in Christ but then a change of working principle of the law wherein a believer is ONLY subject to spirit wrought less than perfect consecration FOR ongoing Justification that renders a legal verdict of Not guilty. It may be there for the RC theologically, but since this is about scriptural legibility I’ve never seen it. And I’m not talking about walking in our good works, I’m talking about coherence between Christ’s perfect fulfillment and the RC’s JUSTIFICATION via spirit-wrought works as regards the demands of Law as context for second Adam incarnation and mission and accomplishment AND sinless(perfect) fulfillment and our judicial vindication. You thought the 3 uses was ham-fisted(which it can be at times) the other side requires abandoning the text. It’s not enough to say James seems to say as much, you have to navigate 2nd adam fulfillment and justice in the Garden.

  6. Sean,

    Could you clarify a bit what it is you’re asking? Are you asking about the relationship between the need for Jesus’ perfect law-keeping on the one hand, and the lack of that demand for his people on the other?

  7. Jason,

    That’s the heart of it, but I’m not asking for a theological explanation but an exegetical one that doesn’t simply trade on already agreed distinctions between sanctification and justification. So, we both agree we are to walk in good works. But in RC this is part of ongoing justification, in part because ‘perfect’ law keeping is not considered but yet perfect law keeping is in play for Jesus. Protestants can do the exegesis on James and render it evidentiary and Gaffin can be considered novel and untested, certainly not received in his future justification. So, I’m looking for exegetical ‘deliverance’ on the 2nd adam front that makes that transition from perfect to imperfect that can’t just as easily be explained in sanctification categories for protestants but forensic and legal categories for RC’s

  8. It guess it could read ……………sanctification categories for protestants but instead forensic and legal categories for RC’S

  9. These Protestants (Lutherans) believe what Galatians 6:25-27 says. “All of you who were baptized have put on Christ.” There is our perfection. It is Christ. And what could possibly need to be added to His finished work on the Cross? We say, ‘nothing’.

    As far as sanctification goes, we believe that getting used to our justification is our sanctification. It is ‘forgetting about ourselves’. Self-consciousness is a sin of sinfulness. That’s why when Jesus said to them, “when I was hungry you fed me, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink, when I was in prison, you visited me”…they answered, “when did we do those things?” The law…what they were supposed ‘to do’ was not even on their minds. They just saw a need and did it. No taint of self, to ruin their motives.

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

    Not because of our help…but in spite of it.

  10. “Self-consciousness is a sin of sinfulness.”

    That should have read:

    “…is a sign of our sinfulness.”

  11. If Jesus’ command to the rich man to leave his earthly treasure for heavenly was not intended to be taken literally or normatively, then it would appear that Peter failed to grasp Jesus’ point at all (and in fairness, it wouldn’t be the first or last time). But if this had been another of Peter’s blunders, we would expect Jesus to have rebuked him as he did at other times.

    Jason,

    Why do you think we would think that it should not be taken literally? Jesus commanded the rich young ruler to sell his goods and yes, the rich young ruler should have done just this. He had created an idol out of wealth and he needed to put it away. But the rich young man walks away sorrowful because Jesus words show him that he has not kept the law. What Rom. 3:20 promises had come pass in this example – the law did demonstrate to this man that he had sinned and had not really kept the law. And I’m guessing that you will not deny that there is indeed an example here of the first use of the law. But you want to go beyond this it seems and suggest from the text that there is something additional. So if the young man went away and did what Jesus commanded would he have inherited eternal life? Would he have been in some sense closer to being justified? Would his keeping of the law helped to justify him in some sense? Well I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I will say that based on Rom 3:20 and many other passages that the works of the law do not justify. They don’t justify even a little. I’m not sure how you want to get beyond the obvious implication of so many such passages and suggest that there is some sort of partial justification by an infusion of works.

    On Mark 10, Jesus takes the opportunity of Peter’s confession to encourage His disciples to assure them that everyone who follows Him will be rewarded in Heaven. I think you are making a very large leap here to suggest that Jesus is saying that if someone follows Him and keeps His law that this law keeping will help to justify the person in the sight of God. I think we should take the text on face value – Peter sees this man walk away and, as one needing constant encouragement to his faith, Peter assures Jesus that he will not walk away. And Jesus responds with encouragement. So why go beyond this?

    We are all like the rich young man. We all have idols in our heart that keep us from God. Without His atoning work all of the law keeping in the world does not get us one bit closer to God.

  12. There seems to be a presupposition here that Protestants somehow don’t value good works. This in spite of the fact that the longest section in the Augsburg Confession is the one on good works. Spirit-wrought works of love produce in us Protestants just as much inherent righteousness as in Catholics. The question is not whether we should do good works, not whether Christ would encourage us to do so, but whether our acceptance in him comes as a result of those works. Probably none of us will actually outdo the Pharisees or the rich young ruler in terms of law keeping, and yet they are not accepted.

    What it comes down to is this: hand in hand with Jesus, we perform our works of love. The Catholic says that our cooperation with this assistance gains us our salvation. The Protestant says that it is our trust and reliance on him that gains eternal life. We go about hand in hand with Jesus, doing just as many works as Catholics, but we prefer to give all credit to him. Even if we in cooperate, is it anywhere close to equal? Are our motives ever pure? Are our works in any way worthy of being compared to his?

    As Paul emotes in Philippians 3:

    “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider [my good works] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

    It doesn’t come “from God and me.” It comes from God. Just God. And nobody else but God.

    About the whole “do this and live” business. Do WHAT and live? Love the Lord thy God with all thy heartsoulstrengthmind and they neighbor as thyself. How does one command agape? It must be supplied.

    What are the Catholics so afraid of? Calvinism is little more than a devotional method which allows us to give total credit to Christ. What is it that makes you all WANT to retain just a wee little bit of bragging rights so darn badly?

  13. Point blank: “Do this” — love God and neighbor — and you will live.”

    Right Leroy, love God and neighbor perfectly and you will live. But don’t forget that you have to do it perfectly. You cannot just keep part of the law sometime. If the law is your goal you are a debtor to the WHOLE law. So good luck on the law keeping if your aim is as a means of justification.

    Oh yes, I meant to say that my comments were made to anyone, not just Jason and Leroy.

  14. Hi Eric!

    In response to some comments you made:

    “What it comes down to is this: hand in hand with Jesus, we perform our works of love. The Catholic says that our cooperation with this assistance gains us our salvation. The Protestant says that it is our trust and reliance on him that gains eternal life.”

    I think a more accurate representation of what the Catholic believes using your examples is closer to “all the above”. I say that for a couple of reasons. Turning to the Jolly Green Giant (sorry, my catechism is massive and green):

    1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

    Later, the CCC says:

    “1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent: (2008, 2068)

    When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.42”

    When I read these passages, I don’t see an (and forgive me, I do not feel this is the best descriptor of the point you are trying to make) ‘either, or’ situation (“either you are a Catholic who says our cooperation with God leads to salvation, or a Protestant who puts our faith and trust in Christ alone – therefore giving Our Savior all the credit”). Rather, with the passages from the CCC in mind, I see submission to the righteous work of Jesus Christ through faith and then the natural pull by God’s grace towards conversion and charity via the Holy Spirit – things that we must still assent to through our free will.

    If I misstated your point, I apologize. It is my hope that my 2 cents were nonetheless thoughtful/appreciated.

  15. … I guess to better summarize my point, I am trying to state that “charitable works and personal conversion are the natural results flowing from placing faith in Jesus Christ, not a substitution for placing trust and reliance in Him.”

  16. “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

    I don’t know anyone, and I have never known anyone, that lives like that. Not a one.

    We are bound to sin and cannot free ourselves.

    We actually need a Savior.

    Thanks be to God He has given us One.

  17. All,

    It’s late and I just rolled in. Will get to comments on the morrow….

  18. Andrew,

    Why do you think we would think that it should not be taken literally? Jesus commanded the rich young ruler to sell his goods and yes, the rich young ruler should have done just this. He had created an idol out of wealth and he needed to put it away. But the rich young man walks away sorrowful because Jesus words show him that he has not kept the law.

    I don’t doubt that you think that the RYR should have literally followed Jesus, but that’s only half the instruction. What you deny is not the following Jesus part, but the “if you would be perfect” and “you will receive eternal life in the age to come” part. The rest of your comment demonstrates your denial of the connection, which is why I said that you don’t in fact take Jesus command and promise in a normative way, but in a way intended to show the young man his sinfulness. As Calvin said, Jesus’ words were legal, and not gospel.

    What Rom. 3:20 promises had come pass in this example – the law did demonstrate to this man that he had sinned and had not really kept the law.

    There is a difference between “being justified by the works of the law” (which is impossible), and exhibiting the agape-driven righteousness of the New Covenant (which, as Jesus says, is “possible with God”). But as long as you see Paul’s dismissal of Mosaic works of the law for justification as a dismissal of all works whatsoever (including the work of leaving behind earthly treasure out of love for God and neighbor), then you will always miss my point. In my brief experience, this is exactly what happens when Catholics dialogue with Protestants.

    And I’m guessing that you will not deny that there is indeed an example here of the first use of the law. But you want to go beyond this it seems and suggest from the text that there is something additional. So if the young man went away and did what Jesus commanded would he have inherited eternal life? Would he have been in some sense closer to being justified? Would his keeping of the law helped to justify him in some sense? Well I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I will say that based on Rom 3:20 and many other passages that the works of the law do not justify. They don’t justify even a little. I’m not sure how you want to get beyond the obvious implication of so many such passages and suggest that there is some sort of partial justification by an infusion of works.

    How am I going “beyond the text” or saying there’s “something additional” when all I am doing is reading the words right off the page? When the RYR asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said that law-keeping was not enough, but that he also needed to walk away from his earthly treasure and follow him (instruction that is found all over the NT as I showed). After the man left, Jesus said that what he was asking was “possible with God,” and when Peter claimed that the 12 had in fact done what Jesus asked the RYR to do, Jesus agreed and told them that they, and all who did likewise, would receive eternal life.

    I am claiming nothing beyond what’s right there in the text. It is you who is going to Rom. 3:20 and claiming that that text overturns what Jesus said in Luke 18. But as I said above, Rom. 3 is talking about a different covenantal arrangement. But as long as you see all necessary works as compromising grace, you’ll never see what makes the new covenant new.

    I think you are making a very large leap here to suggest that Jesus is saying that if someone follows Him and keeps His law that this law keeping will help to justify the person in the sight of God. I think we should take the text on face value – Peter sees this man walk away and, as one needing constant encouragement to his faith, Peter assures Jesus that he will not walk away. And Jesus responds with encouragement. So why go beyond this?

    Let’s try to keep to more theologically neutral terms since, as you know, the word “justification” doesn’t mean the same thing in our circles. Here’s what I am saying: Obeying the Mosaic law is impossible for gaining eternal life, as Jesus tells the RYR. What is needed is love of God and neighbor, which the RYR would have shown if he had sold his good to provide for the poor and followed Jesus. If he had done this, he would have received eternal life in the age to come. There is no “leap” there, it’s what the passage explicitly and plainly says. Is there something in this paragraph that you think goes beyond the text?

  19. Sean,

    That’s the heart of it, but I’m not asking for a theological explanation but an exegetical one that doesn’t simply trade on already agreed distinctions between sanctification and justification. So, we both agree we are to walk in good works. But in RC this is part of ongoing justification, in part because ‘perfect’ law keeping is not considered but yet perfect law keeping is in play for Jesus. … So, I’m looking for exegetical ‘deliverance’ on the 2nd adam front that makes that transition from perfect to imperfect that can’t just as easily be explained in sanctification categories for protestants but forensic and legal categories for RC’s

    As you know, Catholics see justification as accomplished initially in baptism (Tit. 3:5-7), progressively throughout our lives (Rom. 4:6-8; Jas. 2:21), and finally on the last day (Rom. 2:13; Matt. 12:37). A lot can be said by way of exegesis of the passages I listed which I don’t have the time for here and now. But suffice it to say that the NT applies both the word dikaioo/dikaiosune as well as the concept of justification in ways broader than the Reformed paradigm allows.

    Now regarding the whole perfect/imperfect law-keeping things, we need to be clear what is being claimed. The first Adam was a primal priest and as such was called to offer himself back to his Creator as a loving sacrifice (what exactly this would have looked like is another question). Jesus, as second Adam, did indeed offer himself to his Father as a loving sacrifice whose life and death satisfied the Father. We, as members of Christ’s body, are to mimic Jesus and offer ourselves to God sacrificially (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 5:1).

    So when I deny that God demands “perfect obedience to the letter of the law,” I am not saying that he has lessened his demands in some way. God has always wanted us to offer ourselves as sacrifices out of love to him and neighbor. By virtue of the love of God poured into our hearts we possess the very righteousness that God wants, one that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.

    Is that getting at your question?

  20. Quick note: Both Steve and Andrew have made a claim that they appear to believe is theologically neutral, namely, that our love of God and neighbor must be perfect according to the letter of the law. But no Catholic would disagree that our Spirit-wrought love is not impeccable or perfect by that standard. But this is not the issue.

    When the Bible describes someone as “blameless,” it doesn’t mean sinless, nor does it mean “good enough according to an easier standard.” What it means is that such a person in fact has the very righteousness that the law intended all along: divinely infused agape and sanctifying grace.

    So to say “I have never met anyone who loves perfectly” is to criticize the Catholic position for not living up to Protestant expectations, which is question-begging.

  21. Jason,

    So you’re not holding to strict justice(klinean-for modern reference sake) in the garden or need of perfect law-keeping from the second-Adam?

  22. “greater than the reformed paradigm allows”. Well that would be an opinion, I suppose. I’d have to take up Moo and Westerholm and maybe Irons and Gordon and see if they would agree with that statement. I’ll grant that we tend to speak more distinctly of the different phases of salvation, but the reformed do speak of salvation more broadly considered. And of course final justification(contra Gaffin maybe) is better spoken of as glorification than final judicial declaration or exoneration.

  23. Sean,

    So you’re not holding to strict justice (klinean-for modern reference sake) in the garden or need of perfect law-keeping from the second-Adam?

    Here’s what the CCC says about Christ’s mission:

    517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life: already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty; in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience; in his word which purifies its hearers; in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”; and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.

    518 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:

    When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a “short cut” to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus. For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men

    532 Jesus’ obedience to his mother and legal father fulfils the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. the everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: “Not my will. . .” The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.

    539 The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfils Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: he “binds the strong man” to take back his plunder. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.

    578 Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all-embracing detail – according to his own words, down to “the least of these commandments”.He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly. On their own admission the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its precepts. This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God’s forgiveness for their transgressions of the Law. the Law indeed makes up one inseparable whole, and St. James recalls, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

    580 The perfect fulfilment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son. In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”. Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.

    So you can see that the key to all of this is recapitulation and Christ’s role as second Adam. But not to be lost in all this is the fact that Adam was “the son of God,” and Israel was “Yahweh’s firstborn son.” So Jesus, as the true Son by nature, was not working for his Father’s approval but was rather offering himself as the sacrificial offering that had been the Father’s intention all along.

  24. Jason,

    So no Imputation, even covenantally considered? I get the paradigm difference over ontological and forensic. But 2nd Adam motif is acquisition, it is impartation. It’s not so much that protestantism doesn’t have progressive consideration in sanctification(life in the spirit) but Rome so emphasizes ‘becoming'(thomistic) as to eclipse the forensic, and never adequately squares with the Law’s demands or strict justice as Paul lays out(dikaioo in relation to covenant demands-Moo) or even makes sense of the incarnation and the NEED for a second adam(except maybe ontologically considered-not as accomplishment but as access to becoming, thus the priesthood and rites and sacramentalism). And there is strong exegesis against dikaioo being progressive but declarative. ‘He justifies the ungodly’.

  25. Sean,

    So no Imputation, even covenantally considered? I get the paradigm difference over ontological and forensic. But 2nd Adam motif is acquisition, it is impartation.

    I think you’re correct to highlight the difference between ontological and forensic, but I’m not sure you’re going far enough with it.

    In the Protestant schema, by his sin Adam incurs guilt, and that guilt is imputed to his offspring. In the Catholic schema, by his sin Adam loses sanctifying grace and becomes the possessor of a corrupt human nature, which he then passes along to his offspring through ordinary human generation.

    This is crucial because, for the Catholic, Jesus does not come to rectify a covenantal and forensic problem so much as to fix an ontological problem by assuming our nature and then redeeming it so that he could be the head of a new race of divinized mortals.

    A good way to think about this is to ask whether Jesus’ humanity was merely covenantal, or whether it was ontological. I think Chalcedon makes it pretty clear that the Son is as united to us with respect to his humanity as he is to his Father with respect to his divinity.

    It’s not so much that protestantism doesn’t have progressive consideration in sanctification(life in the spirit) but Rome so emphasizes ‘becoming’(thomistic) as to eclipse the forensic, and never adequately squares with the Law’s demands or strict justice as Paul lays out(dikaioo in relation to covenant demands-Moo) or even makes sense of the incarnation and the NEED for a second adam(except maybe ontologically considered-not as accomplishment but as access to becoming, thus the priesthood and rites and sacramentalism).

    As with all discussions about emphasis, this is just really hard to navigate. From the Catholic perspective there is a forensic and declarative aspect to our salvation, but the underlying rubric is the Trinity and Fatherhood of God. God by his very nature is not a Judge, or even a Creator, but a Father. This is why the CC understands our salvation in such familial terms: God, as Father, is fathering a divine family with his natural Son as Head and we his adopted children as members of his mystical body. This is always the overarching story, with the forensic as but a part of it.

    And there is strong exegesis against dikaioo being progressive but declarative. ‘He justifies the ungodly’.

    This is not a theologically neutral statement since the Catholic denies that our theology is derived from the lexical method alone. I wish I could remember the source, but I recently read a quote from an ECF who highlighted the uniqueness of the gospel precisely in the fact that God, unlike a mere secular judge, justifies us not by mere declaration but also by a transformation of our fallen nature.

    The Catholic gospel and its understanding of justification is more glorious than any gospel derived merely from the natural realm and its secular courts, is what I’m saying.

    But to your citation, the CC teaches that initial justification is of the ungodly, by sheer grace alone, and without any effort whatsoever on the part of the recipient.

  26. Jason,

    I appreciate the interaction. I agree that these considerations rapidly encroach on paradigmatic issues, including the magisterium-tradition-scripture doctrinal development of Rome vs Protestant’s sola scriptura-tradition(confession)-local church rule. You had laid out that you were going to go about this presuming the protestant paradigm(scriptural legibility). It’s much easier said than done. We have metaphysical differences from the get-go that really make the dialogue difficult, before we even engage exegesis. As you know reformed protestants are going to have the legal grant entrance to the familial post-lapse. And we don’t see a necessary dichotomy even in the garden of strict justice, even legal relationship between suzerain-vassal as an impediment to either familial relations and ultimately ontological completion-glory-reward(though not divination). But these are long-standing, historically discernible disagreements.

  27. Mikey B.–

    I actually like your summary:

    “[C]haritable works and personal conversion are the natural results flowing from placing faith in Jesus Christ, not a substitution for placing trust and reliance in Him.”

    I like it because it would be recognized by any self-respecting Protestant as a dandy little summary of our position. Care to switch sides?

    The following little blurb which you quoted from CCC #1993 (evidently a quote from the Council of Trent) displays, unfortunately, the blatantly humanistic turn the Catholic Church took from Gregory the Great onward in moderating the more biblical insights of Augustine:

    “When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.?

    Augustine understood that if man “could” reject it, he “would” reject it. (That’s what happened in the garden for goodness sake!) If God wanted to promote the autonomy of man, he could make him capable of cooperation right out of the womb (Pelagianism). The present Thomistic system (basic semi-Augustinianism), nonetheless, reduces to a similar stance: elevating the abilities of man beyond the biblical observation from Romans 3:

    “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

    Though Thomists will stipulate that they believe in the Total Depravity of mankind, the rest of their soteriology belies the assertion. Without a deep understanding of the gravity of sin, one cannot hope to have a deep understanding of the joy of grace.

  28. How am I going “beyond the text” or saying there’s “something additional” when all I am doing is reading the words right off the page?

    Jason,

    Let’s start with this comment. I suggested that Jesus was using the law to impart a knowledge of sin here. The young man thought he was keeping the law but when Jesus pointed out that he had not actually kep the law the young man went away sorrowful – he came to realize that what he thought he was doing was not enough. My comment to you here was that I don’t think Catholics deny the first use of the law. Catholics believe that the law can bring a knowledge of sin. Am I right here? So you are not denying that there could be some aspect of Jesus’ use of the law to teach the young man, right? But then you want to go beyond the law as teacher and suggest that by keeping the works of the law this young Jewish man could gain eternal life. The Catholic perspective does not deny that the law can be used to convict of sin. But the Catholic perspective wants to go beyond this. It sees Jesus command to keep the law as a way, at least partially, to gain eternal life. Am I getting something wrong about Catholicism here? The “beyond” here is your wanting to go beyond the pedagogical use of the law. And I am questioning whether this is justified.

    If we are really reading the words “right of the page” then I think we must assume that Jesus is telling the man that if he goes home and sells what he has that he will be saved. Jesus does not qualify this, so, as I asked before, should we assume that if the man had literally obeyed the words of Jesus, would he have been saved? Or maybe we can’t just read “the words right off the page.” What do you think? Could it be that Jesus was JUST trying to teach the man about his attempt to keep the law?

    There is a difference between “being justified by the works of the law” (which is impossible), and exhibiting the agape-driven righteousness of the New Covenant (which, as Jesus says, is “possible with God”). But as long as you see Paul’s dismissal of Mosaic works of the law for justification as a dismissal of all works whatsoever (including the work of leaving behind earthly treasure out of love for God and neighbor), then you will always miss my point.

    Jason, I really don’t think I’m missing your point. As we have discussed before, I’m making the case that you are trying to prove your point from passages which don’t speak to the issue at hand, at least not directly. We are told in passages like Gal. 3 that we are not saved by works. The Catholics response is that we have been partially saved by some works of righteousness. You are right that I am dismissing the possibility of “all works whatsoever” saving us. I’m denying this because there are so many passages which deny it. How does not being saved by works of righteousness get translated into being partly saved by “agape driver righteousness?” What does it mean to have agape if we ask Jesus? Jesus said that if you love Him to keep His commandments. And of course well you should. But how does this keeping of commandments (that is, agape driven righteousness) become the basis for which we are justified by God in light of the passages which speak EXPLICITLY to the relationship of justification and faith/works?

    But you prefer to turn to passages like Mark 10 and Phil 3 where the role of works in saving us is not explicitly dealt with. In Roman 3, to take my first example, the relationship of faith/works and justification is explicitly dealt with. But how many sermons on justification do you think have been preached from Mark 10?

    What is needed is love of God and neighbor, which the RYR would have shown if he had sold his good to provide for the poor and followed Jesus. If he had done this, he would have received eternal life in the age to come.

    Wow, so this justification thing is just this simple! We just do good works and we are saved. I guess we can forget about faith then? Remember, we are just taking Jesus words at face value here. And do we just forget about the passages about faith apart from works (let’s say as in Titus 3) and go to this passage which is not directly addressing justification? Or mabye could it be that this text does not mention justification, propitiation, etc because that is not what the text has in mind?

    What you deny is not the following Jesus part, but the “if you would be perfect” and “you will receive eternal life in the age to come” part. The rest of your comment demonstrates your denial of the connection, which is why I said that you don’t in fact take Jesus command and promise in a normative way, but in a way intended to show the young man his sinfulness.

    No, I do take it in a normative way. I believe that Jesus was commanding the RYR to sell all his goods. Maybe “normative” is not a good choice of words here? I don’t take the passage in a sense that denies the aforementioned pedagogical method I see Jesus utilizing. The answer to what would have happened is the RYR had really gone home and sold all his goods is that Jesus would have shown him where else he had broken the law. Do you really think that if the RYR had come back to Jesus after having sold his goods that Jesus would have told him, “great job, young man, you have taken me literally and normatively, and now that you have kept the law the way I told you to, you have done enough law-keeping to justify yourself and you can pass into the kingdom of God – you are fully justified!” Or maybe should we be remembering that the Jews had layers upon layers of misunderstanding of the keeping of the law and Jesus was just beginning to pull back the onion, so as to speak? Or again, are you denying that there could be any pedagogical use of the law at play here?

    Just to push the point a little further – Jesus said there is “one thing you lack.” Just one thing? Really? That’s all this young man needed was one more thing and that would have been it and he would have been saved? What do you think? Did the RYR literally lack JUST one thing before he was being saved, or is Jesus trying to teach the RYR something about the this young man’s understanding of the law?

  29. Jason–

    In your remarks to Sean, you stated:

    “I recently read a quote from an ECF who highlighted the uniqueness of the gospel precisely in the fact that God, unlike a mere secular judge, justifies us not by mere declaration but also by a transformation of our fallen nature.”

    I’d love it if you could find the source of this indirect ECF quote. It sounds just like the notion of “double justification” temporarily accepted by Protestant and Catholic alike at Regensburg though decidedly rejected by Trent.

  30. Eric: I’ll work on it.

    Andrew: Great comments, I will try to address them soon.

  31. Andrew,

    I suggested that Jesus was using the law to impart a knowledge of sin here. The young man thought he was keeping the law but when Jesus pointed out that he had not actually kep the law the young man went away sorrowful – he came to realize that what he thought he was doing was not enough.

    For starters I think we need to note that there were two law-related issues here: the first had to do with the Mosaic commands that the RYR said he kept (which Jesus did not dispute), and the second was Jesus’ additional command that he sell his good and give to the poor, and then follow Christ. The fact that Jesus said that he “lacked one thing” is significant. Obedience to Moses is insufficient, what we need is love for God and neighbor, which is what Jesus was demanding.

    My comment to you here was that I don’t think Catholics deny the first use of the law. Catholics believe that the law can bring a knowledge of sin. Am I right here? So you are not denying that there could be some aspect of Jesus’ use of the law to teach the young man, right?

    Yes, the law can be used to expose sin. As I said in my post, there would have been nothing wrong if Jesus had merely intended to use the law in this way.

    But then you want to go beyond the law as teacher and suggest that by keeping the works of the law this young Jewish man could gain eternal life. The Catholic perspective does not deny that the law can be used to convict of sin. But the Catholic perspective wants to go beyond this. It sees Jesus command to keep the law as a way, at least partially, to gain eternal life. Am I getting something wrong about Catholicism here? The “beyond” here is your wanting to go beyond the pedagogical use of the law. And I am questioning whether this is justified.

    Here’s what you’re doing: “Even the CC says that the law can be used to expose sin. But you then go beyond this use and claim that Jesus is doing more than that!” Do you see the flaw here? Just because the law can be used in a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be used that way here. This leap you’re making is causing you to completely ignore everything I have adduced from the passage itself to show that Jesus is making a real promise to the RYR. Where is your interaction with my actual case?

    So I am dumbfounded when you say that the problem is what I want to do with the text. My argument is that this is what the text itself is clearly doing, and you are just ignoring that.

    If we are really reading the words “right of the page” then I think we must assume that Jesus is telling the man that if he goes home and sells what he has that he will be saved. Jesus does not qualify this, so, as I asked before, should we assume that if the man had literally obeyed the words of Jesus, would he have been saved? Or maybe we can’t just read “the words right off the page.” What do you think? Could it be that Jesus was JUST trying to teach the man about his attempt to keep the law?

    Ding ding ding!

    I’m glad you can finally see that when I say I am reading the words off the page, I mean it (although your suspicion shows that you are not willing to do the same).

    I’ll make the case again, please don’t ignore me this time: Jesus told the man that his obedience to Moses was not enough (Get it? The law cannot save because it cannot produce agape in the heart, by which the law is truly fulfilled.). But if this man had demonstrated love of God and neighbor by giving his wealth to the poor and following Christ, he would, in the words of Jesus, “have treasure in heaven.”

    This is a perfect example of Paul’s dictum, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters, but what matters is faith working through love.”

    My position on this should be beyond dispute since Peter, in response to Jesus’ assurance that what he was asking of the rich man (forsake earthly treasure for heavenly) was “possible with God,” actually tells Jesus that he and the rest of the 12 had in fact done this very thing: “We have left all and followed you. What will we have?” If Peter had misunderstood Jesus by interpreting his promise as keepable (which you clearly think is the case), Jesus would have corrected him. But instead, Jesus confirmed that Peter had correctly understood his promise to the RYR: “All who forsake earthly treasure for my sake will receive eternal life.” Jesus clearly intended to convey that the 12 fit that category.

    So your difficulty is not with me, but with what Jesus clearly teaches in this passage.

    As we have discussed before, I’m making the case that you are trying to prove your point from passages which don’t speak to the issue at hand, at least not directly. We are told in passages like Gal. 3….

    It’s interesting that when I charge Protestants with doing exactly what you’re doing here (dismissing what Jesus has to say as less relevant than Paul), I am told that I never understood Protestantism in the first place. And yet here you are, doing exactly that.

    The issue in Luke 18 is very specific: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” (how much more relevant can you get?). As I demonstrated, Jesus’ answer is clear and direct, and it contains a promise that was real, possible to keep, and intended to be obeyed (and had been by the 12). This passage speaks to the issue at hand, you just don’t like what it says about it because it doesn’t fit your paradigm.

    We are told in passages like Gal. 3 that we are not saved by works. The Catholics response is that we have been partially saved by some works of righteousness.

    Andrew, after all these years of dialoguing with Catholics, I refuse to believe you actually think this is what a Catholic commentary on Gal. 3 would teach. If you do, then this whole thing has been a huge waste of time.

    You are right that I am dismissing the possibility of “all works whatsoever” saving us. I’m denying this because there are so many passages which deny it. How does not being saved by works of righteousness get translated into being partly saved by “agape driver righteousness?” What does it mean to have agape if we ask Jesus? Jesus said that if you love Him to keep His commandments. And of course well you should. But how does this keeping of commandments (that is, agape driven righteousness) become the basis for which we are justified by God in light of the passages which speak EXPLICITLY to the relationship of justification and faith/works?

    As I said in my last comment to you, you seem to ignore the difference between the OC and the NC by statements like this, as if Paul’s argument in Galatians had nothing whatsoever to do with Moses, boundary markers, circumcision, Gentiles, or table fellowship.

    This covenantal myopia is why you can’t see that Paul in Gal. 5 is setting “faith working through love” and “sowing to the Spirit to reap eternal life” in the category of New Covenant gospel, and instead see it as “works of the law” and therefore non-contributory to salvation. You’re stuck in an old mindset that’s virtually Lutheran, which is why you see all of Paul’s condemnation of Judaizers who wanted Moses to justify them as condemnation of Catholics who think that the law of the Spirit causes God’s righteousness to be fulfilled in us. It’s a paradigm thing, and you seem unable to break out of yours even for discussion (or even to recognize that you have a paradigm at all).

    In Roman 3, to take my first example, the relationship of faith/works and justification is explicitly dealt with.

    Yes, and Rom. 3 is about the Mosaic law, whose inability to justify is something we agree on. When Paul says, “Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law,” what law is he talking about? And who does he mean by “under the law”? Or when he says that a righteousness has now been revealed which is “apart from the law, though the law testifies to it,” what law is he referring to? Just ask Douglas Moo: he is talking about the law of Moses. If you want to find out what Paul thinks about Spirit-wrought works of love, read Rom. 8.

    I wrote, “What is needed is love of God and neighbor, which the RYR would have shown if he had sold his good to provide for the poor and followed Jesus. If he had done this, he would have received eternal life in the age to come.” And you responded:

    Wow, so this justification thing is just this simple! We just do good works and we are saved. I guess we can forget about faith then?

    It doesn’t even seem like you’re trying anymore.

    And by the way, there’s absolutely nothing in my statement that’s not explicitly said in the text we’re looking at, so you could very well have given the same response to Jesus when he promised the rich man eternal life if he sold his goods and followed him.

    And as to faith, Jesus was essentially asking for faith working through love, which Calvin considers law and not gospel.

    Remember, we are just taking Jesus words at face value here. And do we just forget about the passages about faith apart from works (let’s say as in Titus 3)…

    Or James 2, which say that such faith is dead?

    … and go to this passage which is not directly addressing justification? Or mabye could it be that this text does not mention justification, propitiation, etc because that is not what the text has in mind?

    Andrew, do you recognize at all that we are each working from different paradigms, each of which defines justification very differently? And do you realize that a text can be addressing a concept even if the word is not expressly used? Because the only answer I can come up with, given what you say here, is “No, I do not realize those things.”

    No, I do take it in a normative way. I believe that Jesus was commanding the RYR to sell all his goods. Maybe “normative” is not a good choice of words here? I don’t take the passage in a sense that denies the aforementioned pedagogical method I see Jesus utilizing. The answer to what would have happened is the RYR had really gone home and sold all his goods is that Jesus would have shown him where else he had broken the law.

    But again, this just utterly ignores the evidence from the context that I keep adducing and you keep forgetting to deal with. If you are right, then why, when Peter claimed to have fulfilled Jesus’ demands, didn’t Jesus “show him where else he had broken the law”? Instead, Jesus agreed with him and reiterated his promise of eternal life, which he said they would in fact receive in the age to come.

    Andrew, this is perhaps the most blatant example I have ever seen of someone allowing a prior-held theological paradigm to blind them from seeing what is so incredibly clear in a passage of Scripture. Brother, I sincerely ask you to read this response and seriously take a day and think on it prayerfully, and ask God whether you’re being honest before his Word.

    Do you really think that if the RYR had come back to Jesus after having sold his goods that Jesus would have told him, “great job, young man, you have taken me literally and normatively, and now that you have kept the law the way I told you to, you have done enough law-keeping to justify yourself and you can pass into the kingdom of God – you are fully justified!”

    You mean, would Jesus have said to him pretty much what he said to Peter? Umm, yes? Except without all the ridiculous stuff about “justifying oneself.”

    Or again, are you denying that there could be any pedagogical use of the law at play here?

    Like I said in my post, as well as above, all I am denying is that if something could be happening that therefore it is happening. Jesus could have just employed the first-use with the RYR, but if he had, the entire passage would read differently. I would prefer to let the text drive how I understand it rather than what my theology says could have—and therefore must have—happened.

    Just to push the point a little further – Jesus said there is “one thing you lack.” Just one thing? Really? That’s all this young man needed was one more thing and that would have been it and he would have been saved? What do you think? Did the RYR literally lack JUST one thing before he was being saved, or is Jesus trying to teach the RYR something about the this young man’s understanding of the law?

    You’re not even trying to mask how uncomfortable you are with Jesus’ words, Andrew. Yes, the man lacked one thing as our Lord said. He lacked the faith working through love by which the law’s demands are satisfied.

  32. Jason,

    Huge props to you for your patience in addressing the questions and charges raised here and elsewhere. We may not agree on everything, but I can sense your willing commitment to a charitable discussion. I also share your frustration in that it appears that in these kinds of discussions, all roads inevitably and eventually lead to Rome and Galatia… I wanted to encourage you to hold off on directly addressing Rom 3 and Gal 3 until you’ve raised all that the Lord said and taught. But of course, you may have a different view on how to proceed. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it.

    Scripture itself warns of us through Peter’s voice of the difficult nature of Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3). So it makes complete sense to first begin with re-examining Christ’s words before we try to understand Paul. Sadly, the reverse has been done with and since the reformation, I feel, where a misreading of the difficult Pauline passages is used as the defacto interpretative lens for Christ’s teaching and parables. But this cannot and will not do, the proof if that being 42,000 denominations…

    I always marvel at claims of Paul’s ‘clear’ teaching, especially in Romans and Galatians…. Really? Then why paper after paper and ink upon ink of deliberations on the meaning of nomos, or ta erga tou nomou? Why the torture over what Lohmeyer, Grafe, Kummel, Kleinknecht, Cranfield, Feuillet, Friedrich, Wright, Dunn have to say about justification/law/gospel. and the list just goes on and on and on. If men of such intellect cannot agree, who are we kidding when we claim Paul’s ‘clear’ teaching! The man was a colossus and way ahead of his time. We should of course study him, but let’s approach his writing with the caution that it deserves (2 Peter 3:16).

    So forward to the rest of your posts. Bring them forward, POTT, POTS, parable of the unfaithful servant, of the bridesmaids and so on, all of them.

    Peace,
    S

  33. Thanks, SS.

    It’s interesting, because the Protestant position seems to be, “Jesus can’t be teaching what he seems to be teaching because Paul says something else,” whereas when when your paradigm is not Imputation but Faith Working Through Love, there is a seamless transtition from Jesus to Paul.

    And no, it doesn’t cut both ways at all. At no point does the Catholic have to dismiss what Paul seems to be saying the way a Protestant has to dismiss what Jesus seems to be saying. This just makes my point about the two paradigms’ respective explanatory value.

  34. Andrew,
    I am sure Jason will bring up this passage soon, but I wanted it mentioned now. You imply that if the rich young ruler had returned and had done what Jesus said, this would not agree with what Paul later teaches.
    What I am wondering is what you would do with an example we actually do have. That of Zacheus. He was rich and had earned his money as a tax collector. When Zacheus, prompted by Spirit wrought faith encounters Jesus he responds essentially opposite the Rich young ruler. He pledged to give away half his earnings and to repay fourfold whatever he gained dishonestly. From your paradigm Andrew Jesus should reply with something that Paul later says to Titus. He should have said, “Zacheus, it is not by works of righteousness that you do, but accepting my mercy is what saves.” But instead in reply to this pledge of works Jesus says “Salvation has come to this house.” So the big misunderstanding Andrew is you fail to distinguish between works of the law and faith working through love. Faith s not just mental assent or verbal confession. It is faith interwoven with works of love. Faith and works of love are two sides of the same coin. Jesus by his mercy pours his Spirit out through baptism and we then act in faith by following Jesus. And following Jesus includes works of love. All praise remains with Jesus.

  35. Protestants (well, some of us anyway) don’t dismiss what Jesus says…about anything.

    We just know that the goodness that He is, is pointed out quite clearly in his commands and teaching. And that word of law (what we must be, and or do) exposes us, and the great chasm that exists between what is required and what we are willing to do.

  36. And that word of law (what we must be, and or do) exposes us, and the great chasm that exists between what is required and what we are willing to do.

    … Except in all the cases we’re discussing, Steve. Was Jesus wrong about Zaccheus? About Peter and the twelve?

  37. Steve,

    Was there a great chasm that existed between what the law required and what Moses himself did/was willing to do with regards to the law?

    Thanks,
    S.

  38. Jesus was not wrong about anything.

    When he said that “all men are liars”…he meant it. When he spoke all of all the things that come out of the hearts of men (and it ain’t pretty) he was right.

    The Lord gave the promise directly to Abraham. But He gave the Law to Moses through an intermediary, a messenger boy (angel).

    Which carries more weight? What ‘we do’ (the law)…or what God does, in His promises?

  39. Steve,

    Re: “The Lord gave the promise directly to Abraham. But He gave the Law to Moses through an intermediary, a messenger boy (angel).”

    Be that as it may, was there a great chasm between what Moses did in response to the Law and the requirement of the Law?

  40. SS,

    Of course! Moses killed a man. Moses was not “perfect”. He was a real sinner.

    Forget Moses…look at David. The apple of God’s eye. The man after God’s own heart. Another murderer…and adulterer, and liar.

  41. Ok, so would you say that Moses, despite his imperfect obedience to the law, was nevertheless saved?

  42. We know that Moses appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration. I would think that if God chooses someone, He would save them. Unless maybe if they walked away from Him and did not repent…such as Judas.

  43. … My first attempt at using HTML did not go so well. Apologies, guys.

  44. Moderator – will you delete my horrible original post with all of its bad HTML?

    Hello again, Eric. Thank you for your time and response.

    I also appreciate the compliment! But, I want to be clear about something, just to make sure that I am not being misunderstood (and maybe this is overkill on my part!). When I say,

    Poor choice of wording and ill-placed commas aside, I am not espousing that “placing trust and reliance in Him” is a sole substitution for charitable works, personal conversion. Or vice-versa -which was the original point I was trying to make. Rather, the two go hand-in-hand. Faith, trust, reliance brings about charitable works and personal conversion; conversion/works/getting cats out of trees/etc enriches, or brings life to, faith. And I think this is the clear message in the ol’ CCC and something congruent with James 2:14-26. Now, if we were on the same page to begin with, I can only think back to some observations my wife, a very faith-filled Protestant going through RCIA for conversion to the RCC, made. Early on in our relationshiphe made the comment that (to paraphrase) whereas our beliefs were really not drastically all that different, but the dictionaries that we used *were* – which was where the craziness came from. This came from discussion over rapture, purgatory , solo fide, etc., if you can believe it!

    “Care to switch sides?”

    What? And leave a faith grounded in 1) the eucharist, 2) the other sacraments, and 3) apostolic succession/authority? Respectfully: thank you for the offer, but I’ll pass 😉 . Understandably, I’m sure those are very controversial to the Calvinist and are topics for another day/thread..

    As for the rest of your post, I will be honest: I gotta show some humility by admitting that, outside of having seen the terms Pelagianism, Thomistic system, semi-Augustinianism, etc. tossed around in conversation at other blogs and having taken a quick sojourn to wikipedia – I am just not studied enough in those topics enough to discuss them in intelligent detail or to debate them, especially from the RCC’s perspective. I will have to ‘tap out’ and let Jason take over . It will give me something to read up on, though.

    Thank you, Eric, for being gracious and engaging me in this conversation.

    … and thanks to Jason if you pick up where I tap out!

  45. Steve,
    Re:

    “We know that Moses appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration. I would think that if God chooses someone, He would save them. Unless maybe if they walked away from Him and did not repent…such as Judas.”

    In the other thread on Z&E, you said this:

    “The demand of the law is a perfect demand that requires perfect obedience >/b>, which none of us are up to.

    And yet, you’ve just admitted that God does not require a ‘letter-of-the law’ perfect obedience for salvation, since you accept that Moses was saved.

    It is clear that God does not require a legalistic type of perfect obedience for salvation as is claimed by Luther and the Reformers. What he does require however, is the obedience of faith (see Rom 1:5), which Moses had, while he strived to obey the law:

    Hebrews 11:28

    “28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood , so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.”

    QED.

  46. Mikey–

    Thanks for the humility on your part and sorry for the big words on my end. The ideas of faith are so complex and monumental that the greatest of human minds cannot comprehend them by half, and yet so clear and accessible that the simplest soul can fully take them in. I doubt that you’re behind me in any substantial way. Truthfully, I know only a very little bit of vocabulary compared to many.

    I think you have the cycle right. Faith brings charitable work brings more and better faith which then brings more and better charity with its accompanying works. Your wife is partly correct. Our beliefs are very close. But she is also partly wrong. Our beliefs are drastically different.

    Provided your soteriology [the study of salvation] is Thomistic [according to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and, in large part, Trent, whereby election and depravity are accepted but perseverance more or less rejected], we are close on the basic sinful condition of man, much in need of a Savior. Jesuits can give lip service to many of the same things you do, but are technically much farther from you than I am (were you to graph it on the entire range of soteriological beliefs). On the other hand, you and I are on opposite sides of what I would call the “grace line.” As a consequence, we’re close yet oh, so far.

    Roman Catholic “sanctifying grace” (wherein you are kept or covered against the ways your sanctification is not yet complete) is almost identical to Protestant justification except for one thing: sanctifying grace can be lost and justification cannot be. That’s really the crux of the difference. That’s why Protestants will speak of Catholics earning their salvation (because they have to maintain it through their own efforts). The exact same thing can be said for most Arminian Protestants. In the end, they have to maintain their own salvation. No sola fide. The problem is that we are our own greatest enemies. If we are not protected against ourselves, we’re really not protected at all.

    My faith is grounded in Christ himself (who is truly present in the sacraments). I believe in spiritual succession. Purely physical succession just doesn’t work. Churches can have their lampstands withdrawn. You simply cannot tie your salvation to a particular church. Churches apostatize; they leave the true vine. If you are bonded to your church “come hell or high water,” they just might come…for you will not be bonded to the living Christ.

    His love is bigger than you think.

    Pelagianism= man is more or less able to work out his own salvation, initiating the search for God by himself, eventually deciding for God on his own, then choosing to follow the commands of God through his own strength.

    Semi-Augustinianism= Augustinianism minus reprobation [God elects those destined for hell] and perseverance [God protects his elect from apostasy, without fail].

  47. SS,

    God will save whom He will save.

    And it has nothing to do with what ‘we do’ or ‘don’t do’.

    He saves by grace through faith. It’s all over the New Testament.

    Thanks.

  48. It’s funny the reaction of folks when the grace of God “comes upon them” (is announced).

    They rear up for a fight. They just won’t have it. They insist on some role for themselves.

    Very funny. (not haha)

  49. Steve,

    You have contradicted yourself on the notion that perfect obedience to the law in a letter-of -the-law type of manner is what God requires. It perhaps would be more productive for you to ponder that, than to merely restate your opinions over and over without any meaningful interaction with what is being discussed. I think most would recognize that is the respectful and charitable thing to do. Oh, but wait, I forgot, you believe that nothing you do or don’t do has any bearing on your salvation correct? God has chosen you regardless?

    Moses exhibited the obedience of faith when he kept the passover and obeyed God’s command to apply the blood on the doorposts. He left everything he knew in Egypt to take God’s people out. Contrast that with the RYR who was unwilling to obey Christ to leave his possessions behind to follow Him. In both cases, unquestionably, it is the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5, 16:26) that is in view. Moses in the affirmative, RYR in the negative.

    God saves by grace through faith. It’s all over the OT and the NT.

    That faith is always expressed in obedience to his commands, as Christ says:

    “10 If you keep my commands , you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love”

    failing which:

    “6 If you do not remain in me , you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

    Peace,
    S

  50. Eric,

    Re:

    “That’s why Protestants will speak of Catholics earning their salvation (because they have to maintain it through their own efforts).”

    Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. See the post above discussing the obedience of faith and the consequences of a lack of such obedience.

    Thanks,
    S.

  51. Eric,

    … sanctifying grace can be lost and justification cannot be.

    I’m curious what you make of Paul’s citation of David in Rom. 4 (quoting Psa. 32), in which the apostle has David speaking of the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputes righteousness rather than sin, given the fact that David’s psalm is in response to his sin with Bathsheba.

    Was David receiving justification for the first time after his sin? If not, why did he speak as though he was?

  52. Steve,

    It’s funny the reaction of folks when the grace of God “comes upon them” (is announced). They rear up for a fight. They just won’t have it. They insist on some role for themselves.

    If that’s what you think is happening here, then I would humbly suggest that you don’t understand your opponents as well as you think you do. The participation Catholics argue for is an example of how much more gracious they understand the gospel to be than the Protestant version.

    I really need to address this in a future post, because it is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding I encounter.

  53. Steve,

    I have read your comments for quite some time on various Catholic blogs. I have noticed that you always just skirt interacting with the arguments that are presented. You either post a link to another blog, or just restate your opinions in various ways avoiding any serious engagement with questions asked of you. Your comments on this post are another example of it.

    I don’t say this to be combative at all. It just doesn’t move the dialogue forward. It only serves to reinforce the general belief among many that Protestants don’t really have solid answers to some of these issues.

  54. Brian O.,

    Come on, Brian. I have answered all the questions of me here.

    It all boils down to if we get something from our supposed obedience. And the answer is NO. And I have said so in many different ways here, with many different examples.

  55. No one, outside of Christ Jesus, has shown perfect obedience to the law. NO ONE.

    Doesn’t this all boil down to us? Can we…will we…keep the law? NO.

    It’s far too late for any of us to recapture an innocence which we never really had to begin with.

    “No one is good. No not one.” “No one seeks for God.”

    So much for our goodness.

    We are, as the Bible tells us, “saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

  56. Steve,

    You’ve provided links to audio in the past, here’s one for you: Doug Moo speaking at Denver seminary.

    http://www.denverseminary.edu/sermon/fresh-thoughts-on-justification-in-paul-and-james/

    He is known to have done more than just a bit of theology over the decades, and has some very interesting comments to make on justification and salvation. Perhaps as importantly he is spoken of very highly by those who disagree with him, which I think is a good reason to take what he is saying seriously.

    Peace,
    S.

  57. Steve,

    My point was not that you don’t answer questions and make comments. My point was that you do not interact with the arguments presented to you. Your last comment is another example”

    No one, outside of Christ Jesus, has shown perfect obedience to the law. NO ONE.
    Doesn’t this all boil down to us? Can we…will we…keep the law? NO.
    It’s far too late for any of us to recapture an innocence which we never really had to begin with.
    “No one is good. No not one.” “No one seeks for God.”
    So much for our goodness.
    We are, as the Bible tells us, “saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

    This is just reasserting your position without directly addressing the specific arguments made by Jason or others in the comment box.

  58. Brian,

    There (recently) were a lot of questions directed to me regarding the obedience of those in the Bible. Right?

    I answered those, not only by what I stated in the comment that you have highlighted, but by naming Moses and David and showing just how much of real sinners that they were. I could have used St. Peter, St. Paul, or anyone else in Scripture.

    The point being that the rich young ruler is like us. Willing to make other gods out of things in his life ahead of the call to abandon it all for Jesus.

    Do you have a specific question for me on that score (which is, like it or not, the force of this post and question about the rye. The rye, is us. And Jesus exposes him…as He exposes us…with all the demands of the law and all the demands that our existence places upon us. We just are not up to it. But He is.

    Thanks.

  59. I am still waiting for someone to engage the arguments I have made from the RYR passage, as well as the argument from the Zaccheus passage.

  60. Steve,

    Do you have a specific question for me on that score

    No, I don’t have a question for you. My comments were made to encourage you to interact with the arguments being made in the article and the comments section. You seem to be focusing on the overall topic without attending to the specific arguments made in the article. See Jason Stellman’s last comment.

  61. If, on the other hand, Jesus’ paradigm were such that a person under the New Covenant can gain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because it comes from Spirit-infused agape rather than strict obedience to the letter of the law, then he would have said to this young man exactly what the gospels tell us he said, namely, that the rich man’s having “kept all these commands from his youth” was not enough without his also having the Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor that would induce him to sell his goods, give to the poor, and follow Jesus

    Jason, re your paragraph above, Doug Moo might have some relevant thoughts to our discussion in this paper?

    http://www.djmoo.com/articles/lawofmoses.pdf

    What caught my attention was the first paragraph on pg 201, where he says:

    “In sum then, Paul in Gal 5:14 highlights love as that activity which brings to its intended goal what the law aimed at. It remains necessary for Paul that Christians “fulfill” the law (cf. especially Rom 8:4) but nowhere does he require that Christians “do” it. The distinction is not just a semantic one. “Fulfilling” the law in Paul is attached not to the obedience of precepts but to the attitude of love and the work of the Spirit. For even in Rom 8:4, the meaning is not that the Spirit enables us to do the law, but that because we are indwelt by the Spirit, the law has been fulfilled in us.” Thus, the continuity in God’s demand (the law must be fulfilled) is met by a discontinuity in method (not in ‘doing’ but in love and by the Spirit…”

    This ‘bidness’ of fulfilling the law might be relevant to the story of the RYR in the following manner: one can retain the idea of a second use of the law by Jesus, but nothing compels us to hold that this is the only teaching in view here. What is really exciting and truly Gospel, is that Jesus is telling the RYR that by selling all and following Him, he will truly fulfill the Mosaic Law.

    What’s so breath taking about this encounter between the RYR and Christ is that this is precisely where the continuum between old and new is fulfilled, i.e., where the Mosaic law is brought to its true end-goal in Christ. And so in the invitation to literally and spiritually follow Christ, we see a prototype of what Paul speaks of in Romans 8:4, where he says that we walk after the Spirit and not the flesh. Even the very use of ‘walk’ here is a wonderful parallel, because that is precisely what the RYR would have done, had he taken the red pill. He would have walked after Jesus…

    One more thought: it is clear in the train of thought in Romans 8, that Paul does not hold to any sort of determinism in walking after the Spirit, because anticipating the antinomian charge, he clearly lays down the warning in 8:13

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

    The ‘you will live’ part is most likely echoing Lev 18:5, but in a ‘fulfilled’ sense, if that makes sense?

    This is usually where the Protestant gets upset, because that understand of Rom 8:13 rubs the wrong way. But that is precisely because he is operating under the presupposition of imputation of Christ’s active/passive obedience. But if one instead understands that salvation is Christ’s union with us, as much as it is our initial and final justification, then there is no tension at all. Matter of fact one could say that Christ’s Union with us (recapitulation in Irenaeus is probably the most elegant model for this) is the middle section (sanctification) of the glorious symphony that is salvation, joining together our initial and final justification/glorification.

  62. Jason,

    BTW, hope you get a chance to listen to Moo’s speech at Denver Seminary, I posted the link above.

    I was holding my breath at the key points…. he is brave! Maybe now that he’s more established in his career he feels like he can finally take on some of the very passages we’ve been discussing and do them justice. What he said about Piper’s thoughts about ‘where he’s going with these fresh insights’ must have caused some trepidation in the crowd…

  63. Thanks, SS. I have loved Moo for a while now. I wonder if his insights into the NC gift of the Spirit will lead him out of Protestantism?

  64. “… My point is that when one’s paradigm insists that no human works, even if Spirit-wrought, can contribute to our eternal inheritance, then there is no other choice but to interpret our passage in a merely legal way, with Jesus’ instruction serving only to show the impossibility of gaining eternal life through sacrifice. But when Jesus says that this striving for eternal life is “impossible with men, but with God all things are possible,” he is plainly contradicting this paradigm.
    If, on the other hand, Jesus’ paradigm were such that a person under the New Covenant can gain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because it comes from Spirit-infused agape rather than strict obedience to the letter of the law, then he would have said to this young man exactly what the gospels tell us he said, namely, that the rich man’s having “kept all these commands from his youth” was not enough without his also having the Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor that would induce him to sell his goods, give to the poor, and follow Jesus.”

    Jesus is exposing what we all are. In active rebellion to the Living God. Even if he had sold all his goods, that would not change the fact of his sin-soaked heart, as it would not change ours. “All of our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.” We need a Savior. Not a hand up.

  65. Steve,

    You’re just table-pounding. Interact with my argument instead of just reiterating your position. We all know it already.

  66. How many different ways do I have to say it? I have repeatedly tried to say ‘NO’…we have NO goodness in us. Our motives are all shot to hell. The RYR wasn’t going to do the right thing (obey Jesus)…and neither do we.

    Hello…

    is this thing on? 😀

  67. Steve, there is a difference between you saying what you think more and more loudly on the one hand, and actually engaging my exegetical arguments on the other.

    I have offered specific textual reasons why I understand the RYR episode the way I do, and you have ignored them all. You are just confirming the suspicion that many of us hold that Lutherans/Reformed use their systematic theology to suppress what the Scripture actually says.

    Just saying. . . .

  68. Funny…I was thinking the same thing about you, about ignoring what Scripture says about how man is in bondage to sin, filthy rags, and all.

    I cannot figure out why you cannot take what I am saying and plug it into whether the ryr or anyone other person on earth is capable of being good, obedient, or a co-participant in his/her salvation.

    I went to the heart of the matter. Please excuse me. And I am Lutheran, all the way, not Reformed.

    This is my last comment on this posting. I hope you’ll give this dunderhead another shot on a different post. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, this time.

    Thanks, Jason.

  69. Jason–

    You know, I have never given a whole lot of thought as to the specifics of exactly when and how OT figures might be considered regenerate. The incident with Batsheva is certainly a turning point in David’s life. If we look at Psalm 22, also concerning his guilt, it reads like an earnest reaching out to a Savior. Jesus used its opening words from the cross, and phrases like –“they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”–are used of him. So I suppose it may be possible that David was not justified until after this key time of repentance and renewal.

    How is this relevant to the discussion here? Anyone who is “simul justus et peccator” will be forgiven along and along, as well as to begin with. David was told his dynasty would never ever end.

    Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will NEVER count against him!

    The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
    I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
    That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
    I will never, no never, no never forsake!

  70. Jason – Sorry to take so long to get back with you – very busy at the moment. I will be out for the weekend, and will read any response you might have then. If it’s not too late to be relevant I will respond to you Sunday might. And to you too Michael!

    Obedience to Moses is insufficient, what we need is love for God and neighbor, which is what Jesus was demanding.

    Jason,

    This is a very strange juxtaposition given Jesus’ thoughts on the subject. The whole idea of the law is summarized in the fact that we are to love God and neighbor! In fact that’s exactly what Jesus told the Jews when they asked him. The whole summary of the law is that we are to love God and love our neighbor – the Law of Moses is centered in love for God! The point Jesus gets across to the RYR is that he has not loved God because he had not kept God’s commandments. Externally he thought he had, but internally it was obvious he had not. This was the problem with all of the Jews who rejected Jesus. Jesus used all sorts of creative ways to demonstrate this fact.

    Here’s what you’re doing: “Even the CC says that the law can be used to expose sin. But you then go beyond this use and claim that Jesus is doing more than that!” Do you see the flaw here? Just because the law can be used in a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be used that way here. This leap you’re making is causing you to completely ignore everything I have adduced from the passage itself to show that Jesus is making a real promise to the RYR. Where is your interaction with my actual case?

    Unfortunately Jason, you are misunderstanding my point here. Yes you are right, just because the law is used in a certain way does not mean that it could be used in another way. I’m not debating this at all. I’m just pointing out that we both agree (and I’m glad to hear you confirm this) that Jesus uses the law pedagogically here. And given that he does this, then what rationale do we have for saying that there is an additional use of the law here? If we stop here and say that this is all that Jesus is doing then we don’t force the text into saying something about justification and works since, as I later pointed out, that is not the task of this particular text. This is all I meant by my “beyond” comment. If we are to go beyond what the obvious use of the law in this text is then we ought to have very good contextual evidence for doing so, and I’m suggesting that this is lacking in this particular text (which your evidence attempts to get to, and which I believe I have addressed – more on this later).

    I’m glad you can finally see that when I say I am reading the words off the page, I mean it (although your suspicion shows that you are not willing to do the same).

    No I am not taking the words right off the page if we just mean that if the man had gone back and sold his goods that he would now be saved. I also don’t take the words right off the page when Jesus says he is a door. I don’t think he is literally a door. And I don’t think that Jesus literally meant that if this man were to go back and sell his wealth that he would be saved. I used a reductio absurdum later on in my comment and you said that “It doesn’t even seem like you’re trying anymore.” But I am trying – I am trying to get you to respond to my point that Jesus is obviously not teaching some crass legalistic works righteousness here. People cannot sell their wealth and then be saved, right? So we cannot just take the words literally right off the page, can we? So I hope you are not just taking Jesus words right off the page – you are trying to read into them some sort of general causal connection between doing good works and gaining salvation. But as previously pointed out, the relationship between our justification and our works are not taken up by this text. If we want that, then we go to other texts which do explicitly take the matter up. What we are left with here is the pedagogical use of the law.

    as if Paul’s argument in Galatians had nothing whatsoever to do with Moses, boundary markers, circumcision, Gentiles, or table fellowship.

    No, Paul’s comments have everything to do with Moses. I guess I don’t what you are getting at with this comment.

    This covenantal myopia is why you can’t see that Paul in Gal. 5 is setting “faith working through love” and “sowing to the Spirit to reap eternal life” in the category of New Covenant gospel, and instead see it as “works of the law” and therefore non-contributory to salvation.

    Well as I’ve said to you so many times before, verses like those that speak of faith working through love don’t make the case that the works that are the evidence of that love become, along with faith, a basis for our justification. If we ask the question that you pose – could someone who takes the Reformed paradigm on justification say the things that these verses say, the answer is a resounding “yes.” And conversely if we take the Catholic paradigm, such as this is defined at Trent and elsewhere, and ask if someone believing this could be said by someone who wrote the texts that so clearly say that we are justified apart from works (not just works of the law) then the answer seems to me to be a resounding “no.” I see many more problems with the Catholic paradigm than just this, but this certainly is a big obstacle for it.

    Or James 2, which say that such faith is dead?

    Right, faith without works is dead. Dead faith is not alive and cannot save. James insisted that he would test someone’s faith by their works and if there was no works then that faith could not save.

    But again, this just utterly ignores the evidence from the context that I keep adducing and you keep forgetting to deal with. If you are right, then why, when Peter claimed to have fulfilled Jesus’ demands, didn’t Jesus “show him where else he had broken the law”?

    Jason, you admitted yourself that Peter was often on shaky ground in his understanding of Jesus. Do you really want to go out on a limb and put the basis of your case on Peter correctly understanding Jesus at this point? How do you know that Peter was claiming that he had fulfilled Jesus’s demands? How many times had an immature Peter professed to following Jesus even when there is little evidence that he understood the full import of Jesus’ teaching? And even if Peter did correctly understand, why are you assuming that Jesus would deal with Peter just like he did with the RYR? Jesus was God Almighty and knew both men inside out. So what insights do you bring to the table about Peter and the RYR to say that Jesus would deal with both men the same way? And BTW, I’m just repeating myself here so why do you keep on saying that I am not addressing the evidence you present? What have I not addressed more than once?

    Andrew said: Do you really think that if the RYR had come back to Jesus after having sold his goods that Jesus would have told him, “great job, young man, you have taken me literally and normatively, and now that you have kept the law the way I told you to, you have done enough law-keeping to justify yourself and you can pass into the kingdom of God – you are fully justified!”

    Jason replied: You mean, would Jesus have said to him pretty much what he said to Peter? Umm, yes?

    Umm, no, that is in no way equivalent, especially since we have no idea what Peter’s understanding of Jesus words were in the text following the teaching to the RYR. I think you are ignoring the obvious here, Jason. The simple answer is that the RYR would not have been justified before God because he sold his worldly goods. This would be crass works righteousness, and I cannot believe that you would not agree with me here. So since Jesus is not teaching crass works righteousness, then maybe Jesus is doing something else entirely besides teaching a relationship between works and justification. We have already agreed that Jesus is using the law to teach the RYR about the law and sin, and I see no reason from Peter’s thoughts (whatever those were) to say that, in addition to the pedagogical use of the law here, that there is some additional use of the law that makes works the basis for God’s justification of us.

    You’re not even trying to mask how uncomfortable you are with Jesus’ words, Andrew. Yes, the man lacked one thing as our Lord said.

    Jason, no human being has ever in the history of the world ever really lacked one thing (that is one act of righteousness) before obtaining pardon before God. We are all victims of many sins. And this man’s pride and ignorance in coming to the Lord with his boast of being righteousness shows just that. Can you really not see this? Jesus so often uses speech laden with craft and cunning when speaking with the Jews. So why do you want to take Jesus in a wooden and literal fashion as if Jesus was not capable of using subtle pedagogical techniques to get his point across?

    Cheers….

  71. Hi Jason,

    Apologies for not joining the ‘conversation’ and merely responding to your post, but…

    Why wasn’t the Rich Young Ruler properly positioned to receive life–justified, or whatever–entirely apart from any necessity or intention to sell all his stuff and follow Jesus? Don’t Jesus’s initial words to him suggest that he could in fact inherit eternal life by just following the commandments (without engaging in radical poverty and/or discipleship)? Did Jesus lie when he initially promised life to this man in consequence of keeping the commandments? Shouldn’t his response to the man, when the man said he had done all these things, have been ‘Great! you’re well on your way to life.’ If not, why not?

  72. And (just because I can’t help myself), regarding Calvin:

    It’s probably worth pointing out that Calvin’s comments relate to a harmony of the Gospels, not Matthew’s account of the Rich Young Ruler in distinction from the accounts found in the other synoptic gospels. I.e., Calvin’s interpretation of this event — which is by no means the only historic interpretation of those subscribing to justification by faith alone — takes into consideration Luke’s comment that this man approached Jesus wanting to ‘justify himself’ (which, last time I checked, is bad form according to both Roman and Protestant theologies).

    Just wouldn’t want you to bear false witness against your neighbour, even if he has been dead for over four centuries.

  73. Andrew and Aaron,

    As far as I understand him (and I’m not catholic btw), Jason isn’t questioning Jesus’ first use of the law (maybe I’ve misread him). What he is questioning is the inference from the text that the first use of the law is the only teaching in view.

    Your insistence on the 1st use of the law and only that results in missing the forest for the trees. Yes, Jesus is telling him that he is not fulfilling the law. But beyond that, note the Healer’s prescription for life: he doesn’t say “believe in my perfect obedience and imputation of my active obedience to you”. He says, sell all and follow me. In other words, He says, “If you want eternal life, you must pick up your cross, deny yourself and walk after me.”

    What would that have entailed? It would have entailed faith in Christ, faith in Him as Messiah and His Savior as well as someone who would provide for his needs when he had sold everything and faith in all of His teaching since following Him would have included the opportunity to be taught by Him. This would be a walking after Him, prototypical of Paul’s teaching to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh. This the obedience of faith which is both punctiliar and a process. Justified at the moment of belief but also it is the doer of the law who shall be justified says Paul. Had the RYR done what Jesus told him, he would have fulfilled the Mosaic Law and been saved, not by imputation, but by the obedience of faith.

  74. Andrew,

    This is a very strange juxtaposition given Jesus’ thoughts on the subject. The whole idea of the law is summarized in the fact that we are to love God and neighbor!

    You’re missing my point. Attaining the goal of the law cannot be done via Moses, because his law commands but does not empower. By telling the 12 that “with God this is possible,” Jesus is saying that he can give the power to accomplish what Moses had always intended.

    … Jesus uses the law pedagogically here. And given that he does this, then what rationale do we have for saying that there is an additional use of the law here? If we stop here and say that this is all that Jesus is doing then we don’t force the text into saying something about justification and works since, as I later pointed out, that is not the task of this particular text.

    Sigh.

    I told you the rationale already, it’s right there in the text. I am tiring of repeating myself.

    No I am not taking the words right off the page if we just mean that if the man had gone back and sold his goods that he would now be saved…. And I don’t think that Jesus literally meant that if this man were to go back and sell his wealth that he would be saved.

    You’re ignoring my entire rationale for insisting that Jesus was giving a true and keepable promise. Are you able to repeat back to me why it is I think what I do? If not, you’re not paying attention. If so, why are you ignoring me?

    I am trying to get you to respond to my point that Jesus is obviously not teaching some crass legalistic works righteousness here. People cannot sell their wealth and then be saved, right? So we cannot just take the words literally right off the page, can we?

    Andrew, how many times, and in how many ways, do I need to explain that there is a difference between faith working through love and crass legalism? You have yet to grasp the most basic point of my position.

    … the relationship between our justification and our works are not taken up by this text. If we want that, then we go to other texts which do explicitly take the matter up. What we are left with here is the pedagogical use of the law.

    Mere assertion. I offered a rebuttal to this in my last comment to you, but instead of engaging it, you just choose to repeat yourself.

    I wrote, “… as if Paul’s argument in Galatians had nothing whatsoever to do with Moses, boundary markers, circumcision, Gentiles, or table fellowship.” And you responded:

    No, Paul’s comments have everything to do with Moses. I guess I don’t [see] what you are getting at with this comment.

    I have explained several times what I am getting at. You are ignoring Jesus and retreating to Galatians because you seem to think that Paul’s denial of justification by the works of the Mosaic law apply across the board to all works, including Spirit-wrought faith working through love. As long as you can’t tell the difference between the old and new covenants, you will never “see what I am getting at with these comments.”

    Well as I’ve said to you so many times before, verses like those that speak of faith working through love don’t make the case that the works that are the evidence of that love become, along with faith, a basis for our justification.

    No, you have never engaged my exegetical argument on Gal. 5-6. You sure deny it a lot, and tell me what you think instead. But engage it? Nope.

    If we ask the question that you pose – could someone who takes the Reformed paradigm on justification say the things that these verses say, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

    Your own position is a sufficient demolition of this claim, Andrew. You have shown over and over again that the only way you can bring yourself to agree with Jesus’ words to the RYR is by denying he meant what he said.

    Jason, you admitted yourself that Peter was often on shaky ground in his understanding of Jesus. Do you really want to go out on a limb and put the basis of your case on Peter correctly understanding Jesus at this point? How do you know that Peter was claiming that he had fulfilled Jesus’s demands?

    You have got to be kidding. Please tell me someone put you up to this. Because there is no way you could have written this otherwise. Do you really not know why I think Peter understood Jesus correctly?

    And even if Peter did correctly understand, why are you assuming that Jesus would deal with Peter just like he did with the RYR? Jesus was God Almighty and knew both men inside out. So what insights do you bring to the table about Peter and the RYR to say that Jesus would deal with both men the same way?

    Jesus: “RYR, sell all and follow me, and you’ll have treasure in heaven.”
    RYR: “Can’t do it, sorry.”
    Peter: “We did it.”
    Jesus: “I know. And you’ll have treasure in heaven.”

    You’re right, where would I have gotten the crazy idea that there’s a connection between Jesus’ promises to these two people.

    I think you are ignoring the obvious here, Jason. The simple answer is that the RYR would not have been justified before God because he sold his worldly goods. This would be crass works righteousness, and I cannot believe that you would not agree with me here.

    Do you remember my saying that we have different paradigms with differing definitions of justification that may account for your astonishment here?

    So since Jesus is not teaching crass works righteousness, then maybe Jesus is doing something else entirely besides teaching a relationship between works and justification. We have already agreed that Jesus is using the law to teach the RYR about the law and sin, and I see no reason from Peter’s thoughts (whatever those were) to say that, in addition to the pedagogical use of the law here, that there is some additional use of the law that makes works the basis for God’s justification of us.

    Your major premise reveals your inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between “crass works righteousness” and any other kind of works. And you’re using “law” like a Lutheran.

    I wrote, “You’re not even trying to mask how uncomfortable you are with Jesus’ words, Andrew. Yes, the man lacked one thing as our Lord said.” And you responded:

    Jason, no human being has ever in the history of the world ever really lacked one thing (that is one act of righteousness) before obtaining pardon before God. We are all victims of many sins. And this man’s pride and ignorance in coming to the Lord with his boast of being righteousness shows just that. Can you really not see this? Jesus so often uses speech laden with craft and cunning when speaking with the Jews. So why do you want to take Jesus in a wooden and literal fashion as if Jesus was not capable of using subtle pedagogical techniques to get his point across?

    It may be worth noting that in one version of this account (Mark’s?) we are told that Jesus looked at the RYR and “loved him.” Not sure if that detail affects the way you look at the man.

    Even though I’m pretty sure you will dismiss the passage I’m about to highlight as being completely irrelevant, in I Cor. 13 Paul sure makes it sound like one could have just about every good virtue imaginable but still having “nothing” if he has not love. The RYR lacked the “one thing” that would have made his obedience and faith living and pleasing to God, and that was love. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and under the new covenant the love of God is infused into our hearts by the Spirit. It is this one factor that makes all the difference, and it is its lack that Jesus highlighted since it would have made the RYR’s law-keeping less Mosaic and more Christian.

    Andrew, I am obviously frustrated (as are many of the Catholics I know who have dialogued with you over the years). If I have come across irritated then I apologize. I am clearly incapable of getting any of my points across with you, and I think it would be best if we just let things sit for a while before attempting to dialogue any further. You’re welcome to engage others in discussion here (and I hope you do), but it seems clear that I am not to be the one to help you grasp the Catholic position. But I do hope others may do a better job than I have done.

  75. Aaron,

    Why wasn’t the Rich Young Ruler properly positioned to receive life–justified, or whatever–entirely apart from any necessity or intention to sell all his stuff and follow Jesus? Don’t Jesus’s initial words to him suggest that he could in fact inherit eternal life by just following the commandments (without engaging in radical poverty and/or discipleship)? Did Jesus lie when he initially promised life to this man in consequence of keeping the commandments? Shouldn’t his response to the man, when the man said he had done all these things, have been ‘Great! you’re well on your way to life.’ If not, why not?

    The aim of the Mosaic law was always love of God and neighbor. The problem was that the law could only command but not empower. So the RYR could never—even if he was telling the truth about having “kept all these things from his youth”—have gained salvation through Moses.

    I don’t deny the pedagogical use of the law, only that this was all Jesus intended to do in this passage.

    The new covenant fulfills the old, in that (among other things) it bestows the Spirit as the source of God’s love. The love of God and neighbor that the RYR “lacked” would have been exhibited in his giving his goods to the poor and following Christ. But as long as he was unwilling to do this, he was devoid of the love through which Paul says faith must work in order to be justifying.

  76. Jason, Andrew and Aaron,

    Speaking of Galatians, Doug Moo mentioned Gal 5:5 as a verse that he is reconsidering and one that he has not given as much attention to in the past.

    “5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope

    What caught Moo’s eye was the ‘not yet’ aspect of righteousness which is in view here (he doesn’t deny the ‘already’ part, but is now considering the possibility of a future aspect to it as well as per Gal 5:5). He is saying, look, we have not done justice to righteousness, it is potentially much more complex than the Reformed tradition has understood it to be. Someone in the audience raised the question of sanctification and how it relates and Moo’s answer was that yes, that is possibly part of the puzzle here. In my view, sanctification is the glue/middle section that connects our initial and future justification.

    Thought that fits right in with our discussion here. I understand Paul in Gal 5:5 as pointing to a future justification that is spoken of more explicitly in Rom 2:13. How can these 2 verses help us understand Jesus’ response to the RYR? I think it’s worth discussing, as difficult as the process may be.

    Peace,
    S.

  77. Thanks Jason. So if I understand correctly, you’re reading the difference between the young man’s keeping of the commandments (including that to love his neighbour as himself) and a potential but never apparently realized radical poverty/discipleship as a distinction between sheer law-keeping and Spirit empowered love. It just seems like a large leap from the difference in the narrative to the theological distinction you’re recommending. Are there any textual clues at all here to indicate that Jesus envisions the distinction you’re suggesting? If Jesus wanted this young man to understand that what he needed was Spirit empowered love over and against fleshly law-keeping couldn’t he just have said something like that? ‘Cause if I were the rich young man and Jesus told me what I needed, in addition to keeping the commandments, was to sell all my stuff and follow him I’d think what I needed was to sell all my stuff and follow him.

    Unless I’m mistaken Rome has a fairly heavy investment in this particular text which runs more or less contrary to your interpretation. For nearly a millenium (and presumably longer, though I can’t speak to more recent Roman dogma) this was the go-to text to prove a distinction between commandments, the keeping of which were deemed sufficient for salvation, and counsels of perfection (poverty, chastity, obedience to a rule), which might facilitate salvation but weren’t strictly speaking necessary for it. Of course, that more traditional–dare I say catholic?–reading of the text does suggest that the law-keeping of the young man was (or is) sufficient for salvation. Your reading seems to suggest the opposite. Any thoughts?

  78. Jason/SS,
    To echo Andrew’s and Aaron’s comments, it is explicitly stated in the text the RYR claims to have kept the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”, and since you are apparently claiming Jesus’ acknowledgment and acceptance of him having kept all the commandments in a legalistic, non-agape, non-sermon on the mount expansive manner (e.g. murder and adultery are explicitly called out, but I assume you think RYR still suffered anger/lust), how do you view his keeping of loving your neighbor? He loved his neighbor, but not really? How would that play out – sacrificing/helping your neighbor with bitterness or resentment is not loving your neighbor as yourself so I’m just curious how he could fulfill that law but not in the agape-scoped sense you claim was lacking with him.

    Also, Aaron raised a good point I was about to make about RYR being a classic text over the centuries used to support the RC notion of supererogation and counsels of perfection; i.e. such behavior would have been “above and beyond” but not necessary for salvation, that bar had already been met. I’d be curious if you end up doing a post examining supererogation later as well.

  79. Interlocutor,

    I don’t know to what extent you are reading prior posts, but I think it’s clear that the issue is not that the first use of the law isn’t in view (this must be the 3rd or 4th time I’m repeating this…) I agree with you that Jesus was pointing out to the RYR that his law keeping could not save in and of itself, and that includes whatever love for neighbor the RYR may have wrought. But Jesus’ response to the RYR implies much more than simply the first use of the law.

    Sell all and follow me, is prototypical of “believe on the Lord and you shall be saved” as well as “walk after the Spirit and not the flesh, for it you walk after the flesh you will die”. Had the RYR done these things, he would have been saved, much like Moses who was under the law, was nevertheless saved by the obedience of faith, when he left everything to take his people out of Egypt (see Heb 11) among other works wrought by faith. As has been pointed out on this thread, Zacchaeus is a good example of one who actually took the red pill and to whom Jesus said “Today Salvation has come to this house”.

    This is a radically different paradigm than imputation, which does not spring naturally at all from the text, but instead needs to be forced into it. As for supererogation, I don’t believe in it (I’m not a catholic). That said, I’m here to do whatever I can to advance the dialogue between protestants and catholics.

    Peace,
    S.

  80. Also, Aaron raised a good point I was about to make about RYR being a classic text over the centuries used to support the RC notion of supererogation and counsels of perfection; i.e. such behavior would have been “above and beyond” but not necessary for salvation, that bar had already been met. I’d be curious if you end up doing a post examining supererogation later as well.

    I would just like quickly point out that we are all called to do God’s will, whatever He asks of us. It is made clear that God will never ask more of us than we can handle (all things are possible with God) and he asks different things from different people. We know that God called the RYR to give it all away and follow him. The RYR refused to do His will and forfeit (apparently) his salvation.

    What would be the status before God of other individuals in salvation history called to make great sacrifices? Individuals such as Moses, Abraham, St. Paul etc. if they refused to do what God asked of them? I would suggest that going “above and beyond” is completely dependent on what God asks each of us. He clearly asks more from some than others.

  81. What Jesus says is perfectly clear in Matthew’s version. The church tried to cover it up with modification made in Mark and Luke, and even changing some wording in Matthew itself.

    In the oldest mss of Matthew the question asked is “What good thing must I do to obtain eternal life?” and the answer given “Why do you ask me what is good? One thing is good, keep the commandments.” The church didn’t like it and so added “Good master” and changed “Why do you ask me what is good? One thing is good” into “Why do you call me good? None is good but God.” But manuscripts survive showing the original reading. They further try to water down the question in Luke, for in Matthew it is “what good thing must I do to OBTAIN eternal life, and in Luke INHERIT eternal life.

    Ok, fine. The meaning from Matthew is clear. “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” Jesus lists off moral commandments. So if you keep the commandments, specifically the Moral commandments, you have obtained eternal life. But the man is not satisfied with eternal life, been there done that, “what more do I lack?” Jesus is surprised, the question has changed. Now its not how to obtain eternal life but how to be perfect: “if you want to be perfect….” And then the church adds its spin making this all about some concept it made up called “salvation” by having Peter ask “Lord, are there few who are saved?” But Jesus’ teaching here was not about salvation because he didn’t begin assuming a damned-by-default status of the man. He assumed the man was in a neutral status and only needed to obtain eternal life, not “get saved.” So this salvation stuff is ecclesiastical spin.

  82. You have got to be kidding. Please tell me someone put you up to this. Because there is no way you could have written this otherwise. Do you really not know why I think Peter understood Jesus correctly?

    Jason,

    Here is what you write in your original post:

    But if this had been another of Peter’s blunders, we would expect Jesus to have rebuked him as he did at other times.

    So isn’t this and what follows what you are getting at? In my last response to you I answered this is some detail, but you ignored what I had to say and instead wrote what you did above. Later on in your response you mention the fact that you are frustrated by my response and perhaps you are getting frustrated and just not reading what I have written. Don’t know. Maybe I have thrown too much at you at the same time. Anyway, I have tried to carefully respond to your point about 1) Peter’s understanding of Christ’s words and 2) Christ’s potentially dealing with Peter and RYR in different manners. But you don’t seem to have read or at least comprehended what I wrote. Pity, since I really do think it addresses your concerns.

    In the last post you put it in a different way:

    Jesus: “RYR, sell all and follow me, and you’ll have treasure in heaven.”
    RYR: “Can’t do it, sorry.”
    Peter: “We did it.”
    Jesus: “I know. And you’ll have treasure in heaven.”

    So I had tried to analyze the connection between statement #2 and #3 and then #3 and #4. But I guess you did not pick up on that. Again, pity….

    But OK, I understand getting frustrated with someone and if that’s what has happened in your attitude towards me then you are right, I’m not going to be able to get through.

    Andrew, how many times, and in how many ways, do I need to explain that there is a difference between faith working through love and crass legalism?

    Jason, I understand this. I know you believe this. Did you really think I believed otherwise? My whole point in all of this was to appeal to YOUR understanding that there is a difference between faith working through love and crass legalism. I was trying to draw out the implications of what I know you believe in the passage at hand.

    You’re welcome to engage others in discussion here (and I hope you do), but it seems clear that I am not to be the one to help you grasp the Catholic position

    Jason, I don’t think I’ve had any troubles understanding the Catholic position. Remember it’s been me rather than you who has been so insistent on looking to Trent, Aquinas, etc in order to define the Catholic position. Where I have struggled is getting you to grasp my critiques or firstly your choice of biblical texts that speak to the issue of the relationship between justification and faith/works, secondly on your analysis of such texts, and thirdly your lack of analysis on texts which do directly and specifically speak to the matter at hand. I really don’t think what I have written has been that difficult to understand, but again maybe I have tried to make too many points in the same post.

  83. I understand Paul in Gal 5:5 as pointing to a future justification that is spoken of more explicitly in Rom 2:13. How can these 2 verses help us understand Jesus’ response to the RYR? I think it’s worth discussing, as difficult as the process may be.

    SS,

    I think this passage fits nicely with Rom 5:1-11. We have been justified, therefore we are reconciled with God, therefore we have every reason to be confident that we shall be declared righteous by God, if of course we continue in Him.

    I would also look to Phil. 1:16 – He who begins a good work in us will carry it to completion. Again, there is a future hope here – we know that God will be faithful to His promises. This is what I see concerning the “hope of righteousness by faith.”

  84. Jason,

    I have been following your blog for some time, and can’t address everything in this post. I would respectfully ask you, however, to talk about what I see as some very fundamental hermeneutical errors in your postings. The first has to do with your interpretation of Roman Catholicism and second with your interpretation of Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor availing for our final justification.

    1. In several blog posts and your C2C interview, you question the validity of the Reformational idea that God demands absolute perfection of us. However it seems rather obvious to me that Roman Catholicism demands the same thing. Why else is purgatory necessary to get us into heaven? Doesn’t our need to be purged of all venial sin indicate a need for perfection on our part to be accepted before God? Roman Catholics and Protestants approach the issue differently, but it seems that both are in agreement that only perfect people can get to heaven. It just seems to me that you misunderstand the new religion that you are espousing. Am I wrong?

    2. How is Spirit-wrought love not a work of the Law? Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:4–6 both command us to love God and neighbor. Love is a work of the Law no less than anything else, is it not, even if it is wrought by the Spirit. Paul even says that love fulfills the law. How, then, does your paradigm not fall apart if love is a work of the law and by works of the law no one is justified (Gal. 2:15–15)?

    Thanks for addressing these issues.

  85. I realize I am behind on comments, and I hope to catch up soon.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but as yet no one has responded to the point made above about Zaccheus. If Paul’s words about obedience and justification prohibit Jesus’ words to the RYR from being taken literally, then what about Jesus’ response to the obedience of Zaccheus when he said, “Truly salvation has come to this house”?

  86. Jason,

    You are committing a rather basic hermeneutical error in your argument because I don’t think you are really allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. Of course, that fits within the Roman Catholic paradigm since only the magisterium is the infallible interpreter of Scripture. The problem, of course, is that the magisterium’s interpretation often differs from what Scripture would say when it is exegeted in its original languages. And the question for you, obviously, is what gives you the right to believe that your paradigm is acceptable within Roman Catholicism? Has the pope or a council made an infallible decree that asserts what you are asserting? Perhaps they have, but I am not aware of it. Why, then, would any one, Protestant or Catholic, be obligated to see your argument is valid? What right have you to interpret Scripture privately?

    In not allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture you are committing the error of believing that any passage that discusses salvation must contain everything in it related to the topic. So, since Zacchaeus is said to have had salvation come to his house after declaring his willingness to return 4-fold what he had taken, and since Jesus does not mention imputation in the text, you think that it must not be in view at all or at least that Jesus must be promoting some idea that our works avail for justification. But if you allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, the Reformed view takes this passage and Paul into account where you have not.

    In returning what he had taken, Zacchaeus is actually doing a work of the Law. Exodus 22:1 indicates that on at least some occasions, a 4-fold repayment of theft is in order. Double repayment is the norm. (For a fuller argument on this restitution principle, see Poythress, “Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses” 127–133.) If Zacchaues’ restitution somehow avails for his justification, then this text is directly at odds with Galatians 2:15–16, which says that by works of the Law no flesh shall be justified. If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture as under the Reformed paradigm, then the texts fit together perfectly. Jesus can declare that Zacchaeus has been saved because his works show evidence of his justified soul, not because his restitution merits anything as a work of love, Spirit-wrought or not. To expect Luke to explain all this in one text is something you bring to the text, not something that is actually required. God gave us a book of books, not just one book. Luke, nor Jesus, have a view that Zacchaeus’ restitution avails at all for justification. If so, why did Jesus pronounce the tax collector justified in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9–14). Based on the way you seem to want to put the whole of the doctrine of salvation into Jesus’ mouth every time He speaks, I would have to walk away from this passage saying that works are of absolutely no consequence whatsoever, even as a display of faith. If you approach this text as you approach Zacchaeus and the RYR, you refute your own position!

    I’m trying to be as respectful as I can here, so I apologize if I do not appear to be acting that way.

    Incidentally, I would like to know how Roman Catholic you have become. Are you venerating Mary and the saints yet? Are you seeking their intercession for dead friends and relatives that may be in purgatory? Have you been able to get any indulgences from the treasury of merit yet? Are you praying the rosary and going to confession? Do you wear the scapular and adore the Eucharistic host? I know that canon law prohibits the buying and selling of relics, but are you interested in acquiring any by legitimate means? What about attendance at daily mass? Just curious.

  87. That is, neither Luke nor Jesus have a view that says works avail for justification.

  88. Robert,

    You are missing the forest for the trees.

    I’ll expand later.

    Peace,
    S.

  89. Robert, (Dec 3, 7am)

    You said in your last post:

    In not allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture you are committing the error of believing that any passage that discusses salvation must contain everything in it related to the topic.

    You do realize that this applies to texts like Romans 4 as well? Namely, by the same token you cannot say Justification in all its aspects are necessarily covered in toto.

    You also said:

    In returning what he had taken, Zacchaeus is actually doing a work of the Law.

    Not exactly, at least not the way you’re thinking. This mistake stems from the Reformed misunderstanding of the Biblical term “fulfill”. You will see Reformed throw around the term “fulfilled” left and right and define it as “100% perfect obedience,” but this is flatly unbiblical and should be rejected. If you do a Lexical study on the Greek word “fulfill,” you will see it is used in regards to ‘realizing the fullness of’. This is why it is repeatedly used in the NT to signify an OT prophecy coming to pass (e.g. “that Scripture might be fulfilled”), which obviously does not mean nor imply “perfect obedience” in the slightest. Thus, when the Bible says Christians are called to “fulfill the law” (Rom 8:4; 13:8ff; Gal 5:14), this doesn’t have anything to do with 100% sinless living. So Zach wasn’t simply “doing” a work of the Law, but rather in virtue of his faith in Jesus, Zach was fulfilling the law.

    Exodus 22:1 indicates that on at least some occasions, a 4-fold repayment of theft is in order. Double repayment is the norm.

    I consider this a weak text to appeal to. It says in the case of theft of a sheep or ox, either 5 or 4 fold is required. I don’t see anything here suggesting this is a general principle nor that 2x payment is the norm.

    If Zacchaues’ restitution somehow avails for his justification, then this text is directly at odds with Galatians 2:15–16, which says that by works of the Law no flesh shall be justified.

    False. That’s only true if Zach sought justification by works of the Law, which he didn’t do by the *very fact* he had faith in Jesus and thus was put in the Christian category of fulfilling the Law of Galatians 5:14. This highlights the reason why Catholics have said Protestantism is simply a re-emergence of Pelagianism combined with Judaizing (the two are not synonyms).

    The reason why the Mosaic Law cannot justify is not because of sin or because it’s too hard, but because as a Covenant it never offered eternal life in the first place (which is the Judaizer heresy). This is why Paul forbids circumcision, because that act suggests the Mosaic Law is still valid and thus denies that it was abolished/fulllfiled in light of Christ. But this makes no sense in the Protestant view, because Paul would be forbidding circumcision only for justification, he’s actually be implying Christians do it for their Sanctification. (It does no good to say the Mosaic Law was divided into moral and ceremonial here, since this ceremonial act of circumcision was Paul’s favorite example of works of the Law.) And yet Protestants would suggest that Paul’s saying “by works of the Law NO FLESH shall be justified” really means “no flesh except Jesus and those who receive His perfect obedience,” despite the fact Paul is making a categorical denial. While Paul says the Law doesn’t justify at all, Protestants say the (Mosaic) Law is the only thing that Justifies, only that we need Jesus to do it for us. And yet look how Paul just demolishes the Judaizer teaching of Christ’s Active obedience in Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Notice that Paul puts righteousness as a *contrast* of Law vs Christ’s Death, no room for Active Obedience; that door is slammed shut with this verse. Under the Protestant view, righteousness certainly does come from the Law, and despite Christ abolishing the Law it none the less (astonishingly) remains the standard we need to meet for Justification. And to add insult to injury, since grace is opposed to works, this means that the only way to Keep the Law perfectly is by our own human efforts, meaning Jesus had to have kept the Law perfectly without reference to being “full of grace and truth” and led by the Holy Spirit. Augustine hammered Pelagianism for teaching this.

    If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture as under the Reformed paradigm, then the texts fit together perfectly. Jesus can declare that Zacchaeus has been saved because his works show evidence of his justified soul, not because his restitution merits anything as a work of love, Spirit-wrought or not.

    No offense, but I’ve never seen the Reformed actually apply that principle. For example, your very alternative interpretation doesn’t appeal to any Scripture at all. Instead, I see the dubious and unbiblical claim that those saved will automatically do good works (and this in spite of the fact Christians fall into sin throughout the NT). But since I deny that assumption is Scriptural, then I deny you can suggest this is what happened with Zach.

    why did Jesus pronounce the tax collector justified in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9–14)

    The Tax Collector was certainly not justified by faith alone here, but rather as the text explicitly states, by his humility. Not to mention the parable isn’t about 2 unregenerates coming to faith for the first time, but rather 2 Jews going to daily prayer at the temple

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

wordpress visitor