Jesus, Justification, and Every Idle Word

Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Catholicism, Featured, Justification, Paradigms, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, Sola Fide | 91 comments

One of the charges I have made here is that Protestants tend to want to avoid the gospels when discussing justification and rush ahead to Paul since, after all, “Jesus didn’t really deal with justification anyway” (this tendency is prevalent throughout the comments in the previous few threads here). I would like to adduce a passage in which Jesus did speak of justification explicitly, but before I do I think something needs to be cleared up.

When discussing this issue, we must beware of the word/concept exegetical fallacy, which says that every time a word is used its corresponding concept is in view, or, that unless a word is used its corresponding concept is not in view. For example, it is wrong to insist that if Jesus used the word dikaioo  (justify), he must mean exactly what Paul meant when he used the same term. And likewise, it is wrong to insist that if Jesus did not use the word dikaioo, that therefore he wasn’t dealing with the concept of justification as Paul outlined it. How, then, do we determine which gospels passages are relevant for our discussion? My contention is that if the context of the term’s usage is sinners on the day of judgment, then all other things being equal, the passage is pertinent to the issue of justification whether the specific term “justify” is used or not (whereas a passage like this is not relevant since the term is being employed metaphorically and not soteriologically).

When our criteria are thus established, it becomes clear that Jesus dealt with the issue of justification — as in, sinners being saved from sin in this age and receiving eternal life in the age to come — a lot more frequently than Protestants often allow. Moreover, when Protestants claim that Jesus doesn’t address justification specifically (as they have regarding every single passage adduced here lately), they are defining the term in such a way as to exclude it from Jesus’ lexicon from the get-go. “Wait a minute,” we hear, “Jesus is just talking about sinners being saved and receiving eternal life on the last day, he’s not talking about a once-for-all forensic declaration of acquittal from the courtroom of heaven based upon the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience received through faith alone! So this text isn’t dealing with justification at all, which is why I’d like to direct your attention to what Paul says in Galatians…”

The problem with this approach is that it begs the question by assuming a prior definition of justification whose narrowness makes anything Jesus said extremely difficult to apply. But if we agree from the outset that our view of justification should be informed by all the relevant texts regardless of whether they contain the word “justification,” then lo and behold, we just may end up with a doctrine of salvation that is not only Pauline, but fully biblical because it is also Petrine, Johannine, and Christian.

That said, consider this statement from Jesus (which, incidentally, happens to be the first time the term “justify” is used in the New Testament in a soteriological context):

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:33-37).

A few things to note: (1) Prior to anything good done by a person, that person must be “made good”; (2) The context is sinners on the day of judgment; (3) Jesus refers to a future justification on that day; and (4) The criterion Jesus sets forth for justification, while surely not the only one, is not faith alone, but the words we utter.

Now, is it possible to understand this passage through Reformed, sola fide lenses? Of course. For example, we could say that Jesus’ use of “justified” in this passage, even though it is its first soteriological usage in the New Testament, is an exception to a Pauline rule that would emerge decades later, and thus should be eliminated from the group of texts that inform our doctrine of justification (along with James’s teaching on the subject). But wouldn’t a better and more faithful approach be to allow our definition of justification to be as broad as the biblical passages that actually use the term in a soteriological context? If we adopt this latter approach, we will conclude that justification is not a once-for-all event, but that there is indeed such a thing as future justification (which interestingly is what Paul had in mind the first time he used the word in Romans). And moreover, this event is not such that our works play no contributory role, but rather is something in which our works are intimately and causally involved (which virtually every passage in the New Testament about the final judgment attests to explicitly).

A proto-Protestant paradigm, therefore, is simply far less able to account for these words of Jesus than is one that reflects the basics of Catholic soteriology.

91 Comments

  1. One objection I anticipate goes like this: “But the Reformed do have a doctrine of the final judgment according to works as WCF 33 attests, but we must be careful not to refer to it as ‘justification.'”

    While I sympathize with that approach and would urge it upon FV-ers masquerading as Reformed people, it still unnaturally and arbitrarily limits the Reformed doctrine of justification to Paul’s words alone, rather than allowing the voice of Jesus and James to contribute.

  2. “Jesus didn’t really deal with justification anyway” .

    I don’t know any Christians who believe that.

    When they asked Jesus, “What is it to do the works of the Father” Jesus answered, “This is what it is, believe in the one whom the Father has sent.”

    And…”I am the way, the truth and the life”. I didn’t catch anything there about ‘us’.

    When the grace of God grabs a hold us, we will surely do the “good works” that He is looking for. Most probably not even being aware that we are doing them, since no one can really point to a “good work” and say “see there…that is a Christian good work”, since the pagans and Muslims are also able to do those same works.

    Christ is looking for those who, in their freedom from all the religious ladder-climbing, just go and do, without giving thought or weighing the consequences from the standpoint of themselves.

    “When did we do those things?” They were not even aware they were doing things to please God…they were just doing what was needed. When people are constantly preached to about doing “good works” to please God or to help them gain approval in God’s eyes, it wrecks the whole unselfconscious character of those works and the motivation behind them.

  3. “When did we do those things?” They were not even aware they were doing things to please God…they were just doing what was needed.

    @TheOldAdam – I really like the point you make here. Our good works should be the natural outcome of a life lived in cooperation with the grace of God and His spirit who resides within us.

    However, the reason we are constantly warned in the NT to not just tall the talk but walk the walk is because there are many who do not believe that obedience to God’s word after we have been brought into fellowship with Him is necessary to attain Eternal Life. Especially in evangelical congregations.

    Jason makes a really good point about Protestants not quoting Jesus’ words on justification. In the 25 years I have been a Christian, I’ve been in Mennonite, Presbyterian, evangelica and Pentecostal churches and I’ve never ONCE heard Jesus words being quoted on the topic of justification. It has ALWAYS been a Pauline treatise that is expounded.

    Thanks for your thoughts and thank you Jason for this well articulated article.

    Dan

  4. Jason,

    Couple of observations here:

    1. If God does not demand absolute and total perfection from human beings, which as you have noted is necessary for the Protestant paradigm to work and the Roman Catholic paradigm to be invalidated, why is every idle word taken into account by God on judgment day? If God is not concerned with perfect obedience, why doesn’t he just overlook some of these careless words?

    2. I don’t know if you are reading the comments on the posting prior to this one about the final judgment anymore, so I’ll repeat what I said there: What you are presenting is not the Roman paradigm. It’s about a quarter of the Roman paradigm. For if Rome is right, I must believe a whole lot of other things about Mary, the pope, and a host of other issues in order to achieve full and final salvation.

    3. Since you are not presenting the fullness of Rome’s actual soteriological paradigm, there is no good reason for any of us to run to Rome. A host of other paradigms also suggest what you are suggesting about Spirit-empowered works contributing to or causing our final salvation. Eastern Orthodoxy does, and it does not have the historical problems that bedevil Rome and its claims for itself. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have essentially the same view of salvation despite their denial of orthodox views of God and Christ. They can make other verses fit their theology. If you say they can’t based on exegesis, you are betraying that you are still far too Protestant in your thinking.

    4. This passage is not using justification in a forensic or legal sense as it is elsewhere in the New Testament but to simply to say that our words reveal the state of our hearts, our true commitments. The Pharisees were supposed to be fundamentally committed to Yahweh, but their words about Jesus revealed otherwise. If I am truly committed to Jesus, my words are going to reflect that commitment, which will be revealed to all on that final day even as it is now evident from my words. The state of the heart is fundamental, which I know you would agree with, but the question is what state of the heart is demanded for salvation. As we read elsewhere, it is a heart that rests in Jesus alone, not my works of righteousness, not law-obedience, nothing else but the free mercy of Christ. Despite Rome’s language games, that is not what Romanism confesses. If it were, there would not be such a complicated overlay of indulgences, Marian devotion, papal infallibility (the pope is infallible except when he’s not), invented doctrines of the 20th century (bodily assumption of Mary) that are essential for salvation, penance, and more.

    5. The passage points to a fundamental change in nature that is necessary. The heart must be made into a good tree in order to bear good fruit. Rome believes that baptism makes our hearts into good trees, but there is no guarantee that the tree will stay good. We might be truly justified at one point, become atheists and thus, presumably, bad trees. The passage says nothing about that, which again means that you are not giving the full Roman paradigm. At best you are giving a proto-Roman paradigm, but your church does not say that it is enough to believe a proto-Roman paradigm. Actually, your infallible Magisterium is horribly unclear on this, for apparently we need Spirit-wrought agape to merit final justification but Muslims, who can’t have the Spirit because they deny Christ, can also be finally justified if they follow what they know. At least that is the position today. Given the history of Roman Catholicism, it will likely change in the future. Even so, many other groups hold to a proto-Roman paradigm, so why is Rome right based on a standard other than Rome itself?

  5. Dan Soares,

    Good comments.

    Truth be told, however, no one walks the walk.

    We all fall short in thought, word, and deed. In what we have done, and in what we have failed to do.

  6. Hello Robert,

    Did you see my response to you on the last Rich Young Ruler post (December 9, 2012 at 1:35 am)?

    I’m not sure if you’re waiting for Jason specifically to address the points you made here, but here’s are my thoughts about what you said:

    (1) The point of “every idle word” is not that God is focused on 100% sinlessness (which wouldn’t even render an intelligible reading of this passage), but rather that the smallest of our actions will be taken into account and will all contribute to either increase or decrease in our share in glory.

    (2) The way I see it, everything comes down to the doctrine of Justification. If the Protestant view is shown to be wrong and unscriptural, which I’ve shown it is thoroughly made up of traditions of men, the Protestantism has no credibility whatsoever and the Seeker must default to Catholicism. So you shouldn’t worry about Mary, the Pope, etc, etc, because you’ve got to realize that if you’ve botched the mother of all doctrines, Justification, you’re likely to have totally misunderstood other things.

    (3) Then you should be open to looking into Eastern Orthodoxy, Mormonism, and JWs. What you cannot do, especially if your real motivation is to be honest and true to yourself, is to remain in a religious tradition you know contains serious errors (e.g. on Justification).

    (4) How can you say the passage is not using Justification in a forensic/leagal sense when Jesus contrasts “Justify” with “Condemn”? That’s precisely why Protestants run to Romans 8:33-34 where Paul does this very thing (and I’d argue is speaking of the final justification just as Jesus is).
    You also said:

    As we read elsewhere, it is a heart that rests in Jesus alone, not my works of righteousness, not law-obedience, nothing else but the free mercy of Christ.

    Where are you reading this?

    (5) You said:

    Rome believes that baptism makes our hearts into good trees, but there is no guarantee that the tree will stay good. We might be truly justified at one point, become atheists and thus, presumably, bad trees. The passage says nothing about that, which again means that you are not giving the full Roman paradigm.

    That’s just silly. Nobody who accepts the principle of Scripture-Interprets-Scripture would ever make such a claim. You’re demanding every mention of Justification be a full-fledged treatment of every aspect of the doctrine, which isn’t even true for texts like Romans 4 and Galatians 3.
    This comment really baffles me because (a) if you believe a good tree can only produce good fruit (all monergistically of course), then there’s absolutely no explanation for how/why Christians can still sin, and (b) there are texts that conform precisely to the Catholic understanding of good trees:

    Matthew 3: 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father [cf Romans 4],’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

    Luke 13: 6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

    The Bible is clear here and elsewhere that good fruit is never guaranteed (which is an unfortunate assumption Protestants have made).

    I really hope Robert that you’re here to be true to yourself (i.e. not overlooking the weaknesses in your own theology) just as much as you want to show Catholics how wrong they are. I really hope you’re not one of those Protestants who is so hardened against Catholicism that they’re shut off to rational discussion.

  7. Nick,

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I did read the response to me on the Rich Young Ruler several days ago, so I’ll try and intersperse some of my response to it in the comments here.

    1. Of course, you are right that justification is the main issue ultimately. My point in referring again and again to the Roman paradigm is that I have not yet seen one Roman Catholic on this blog, Jason or you, present the full Catholic doctrine of justification. I don’t expect you to find it in every text, just as you shouldn’t expect to find the full Protestant definition of justification in every text.

    What Jason is presenting sounds relatively simple: By the work of Christ we can receive the Holy Spirit who engenders love in our heart, and as we do those Spirit-wrought good works while we trust in Christ we thereby can receive our final salvation. That sounds really nice and simple, but it’s not the Roman paradigm. The Roman paradigm says that grace is infused into my soul at baptism, putting me into a state of justification. That state of justification is precarious, as mortal sin can kill it. If that happens, then I need to make confession to a priest and do penance. My venial sins will not kill the grace of justification, but since I have to be perfectly clean before I can enter heaven, any venial sin for which I have not made satisfaction must be satisfied in purgatory. (So, again, Rome, no less than Protestantism demands perfection for entry into heaven). In addition to all that, it is a good work to gain indulgences for myself and for friends and family that may be in purgatory, cause that will get them out faster. So, I should take advantage whenever the infallible Magisterium declares a plenary indulgence. On top of all that, I must believe in the immaculate conception of Mary and her bodily assumption, for those have been infallibly declared to be de fide expressions of the faith. And at the end of the day, you can do all this and still be unsure of your justification. For as Trent and Catholic writers have said again and again, assurance of salvation is anathema. I’m sure I’ve left something out.

    The point is that it is not enough for me to believe my Spirit-wrought works contribute to justification, I still need everything else.

    More to come, Lord Willing.

  8. What Jason is presenting sounds relatively simple: By the work of Christ we can receive the Holy Spirit who engenders love in our heart, and as we do those Spirit-wrought good works while we trust in Christ we thereby can receive our final salvation. That sounds really nice and simple, but it’s not the Roman paradigm.

    Robert,

    A while back I tried to persuade Jason that it would worth clearly stating the Catholic paradigm and then comparing the two paradigms, but he was more interested in just testing the Reformed paradigm with Scripture at that point. And that’s fine if that’s he wants to do, but at some point the Catholic paradigm needs to be looked at for it’s ability to explain the Scriptural data. But of course the problem here is that the Catholic paradigm was formed from more than just Scripture. And it’s the hazy and nebulous oral tradition of the Church that, along with Scripture, forms the deposit of the faith for the RC’s which is ostensibly the basis for the Catholic doctrine of justification (and the Catholic doctrine of everything else). So if the agreement between Scripture and the Catholic paradigm is poor, which we would hold that it is, it really doesn’t matter since the inconsistencies can always be covered by the oral tradition of the RCC. Now it would be nice to be able to get our hands around what this oral tradition is, but nobody ever seems to be able to define this for us. So while the Catholics here could honor your request to define the Catholic paradigm of justification, they will never be able to give you a complete set of data in order for you to test their paradigm.

    As I allude to above, another thing that would be nice to see in this thread is a discussion of how our respective paradigms are formed, rather than just how they operate to interpret the Scriptural data. You would think that an analysis of how a paradigm is formed would logically precede a discussion of how it is utilized, but I’m not sure Jason would agree.

  9. Robert,

    What you’re saying is “not the Roman paradigm” is simply a two-sentence summary of the full-fledged doctrine, touching upon the most crucial aspect that divides us. So you should not be getting bent out of shape and keep harping on issues like Purgatory, since that’s one step removed from the main issue.

    In my experience in apologetics with Reformed, there is only one right way to do things, and that’s to go directly to the texts of Scripture and be honest about what they will or will not allow. And since we’ve gone directly to the texts of Scripture, there is no room for tangents, and thus when I see things like Purgatory and the Assumption brought up I’ve learned by experience that the opponent has concede the Catholic has made a better case from the Scripture under consideration.

    In this specific situation, one of the main problems the Reformed is in is that they cannot have Jesus be speaking of Justification in a Forensic sense. This is immediately where you went and you’ve had to rest everything on this. That’s why I went straight to that point, showing you Jesus contrasted Justify to Condemn (on the Day of *Judgment*), and appealed to the parallel in Romans 8:33f.

    Either you come up with a honest-to-God exegetical reason of why this couldn’t be Justify in a Forensic sense, or you admit it is so and concede a crucial point to the Catholic paradigm and admit there is no good way for a Protestant to interpret this text.

  10. Old Adam,

    “Jesus didn’t really deal with justification anyway” … I don’t know any Christians who believe that.

    Several have made that claim here over the last few posts, insisting that Jesus didn’t deal with justification with any specificity, and for that we need to consult Paul. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    When they asked Jesus, “What is it to do the works of the Father” Jesus answered, “This is what it is, believe in the one whom the Father has sent.”

    And…”I am the way, the truth and the life”. I didn’t catch anything there about ‘us’.

    This is a perfect example of what happens when one’s paradigm can only account for a small selection of the available data (in your case, the passages that speak of the need for faith). You can reproduce those texts, but what you don’t realize is that Catholics believe those texts as well since we too believe that without faith salvation is impossible. The difference between us is that our paradigm can also account for the passages that yours cannot (the ones that speak of the causal connection between our works and salvation). I addressed this in the addendum to my post on the final judgment.

    When the grace of God grabs a hold us, we will surely do the “good works” that He is looking for. Most probably not even being aware that we are doing them, since no one can really point to a “good work” and say “see there…that is a Christian good work”, since the pagans and Muslims are also able to do those same works.

    Christ is looking for those who, in their freedom from all the religious ladder-climbing, just go and do, without giving thought or weighing the consequences from the standpoint of themselves.

    Agreed, for the most part (Paul did display a keen awareness of his sacrificial fulfillment of the law of Christ, and said he would rather die than be deprived of his ground for boasting in his own going above the call of duty. But in the main, we agree).

  11. All,

    I haven’t been able to gain access to the site all day Monday, which is why I am so far behind responding to comments. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

  12. Nick,

    I do understand that what is being talked about is the main issue that divides us. But it is not merely tangential to bring up purgatory, the assumption of Mary, et. al., for those things are part and parcel of what the Roman Catholic Church says I must believe in order to be justified. Am I going to be justified if I accept the basic paradigm Jason is presenting and yet knowingly reject purgatory, the need to be in communion with the bishop of Rome, Mary as the queen of heaven, the need for penance, etc., etc.? You and I both know that the answer to that question is no.

    As far as honest-to-God exegesis, you are not going to like what I am about to say. I misspoke a bit when I said this passage was not given in a judicial context. What I meant is that it is not addressing the exact same issue in that judicial context as Paul does. For Jesus is clearly talking about our words revealing the condition of our hearts, and the condition of our hearts, if I understand Roman Catholicism correctly, is the most important thing of all. Jesus is not talking about our words making us righteous or our words making us unrighteous, which must be factored in if we are talking about the Roman Catholic paradigm, for I cannot be justified in Romanism unless righteousness inheres in my soul. I must be first made righteous before God will account me as righteous.

    In the passage, Jesus talks about the heart first being made righteous and then producing righteous words and not about righteous words causing righteousness to inhere in my soul. This fits very nicely with the Reformed conception of monergistic regeneration that cannot be lost but not so well with Roman Catholic synergism, which allows for the heart to go from good to bad several times in a week so that you never can be sure what your words will say about the state of your heart at the last day. And even in all this, Jesus does not give the heart made righteous as the ground of our justification. Words reveal the status of our heart, and what must our heart do to be saved? It is to reject all trust in oneself and to trust Jesus alone. That is the point of the parable of the Rich Young Ruler, the point of John 3, the point of Paul, and so on.

    And all that must be the case because God demands absolute perfection. In comments on another post, Jason says that such cannot be the case because God is by nature a father. Well, even if we argue from earthly fatherhood to the fatherhood of God, even earthly fathers expect perfect obedience from their children. If not, why do they discipline them? Not every punishment is the same, sometimes its only harsh words, but all good fathers discipline their children.

    But, of course, sometimes we fathers overlook the sin of our children, but that says far more about us as imperfect people with imperfect standards. God is by nature a Father and by nature a perfectly just Judge. Every sin must be atoned for, and under the old covenant that was done by both individual confession and corporate atonement on the Day of Atonement for sins that were both confessed and that might have been missed. Why is this atonement needed if God does not demand absolute perfection? Why were Aaron’s sons struck dead by offering strange fire, probably a mixture of the wrong incense herbs? Why was Uzzah struck dead for reaching out to steady the ark? It certainly seems like these are minor things, but they indicate how seriously God takes His law. He will not tolerate any defection from it, which means we cannot put our trust in our deeds at all for our justification, for all of our deeds are at best a mixture of righteous and unrighteous acts and motives.

    Isa. 64:6 says that our works are like a polluted garment. Isaiah, who had the Spirit of God and thus the Spirit-wrought works of righteousness Rome is looking for, said this about himself. If he did not have what was needed, what hope do you and I have? Our only hope is Christ, through whom God saved us but not on account of any of our works (Eph. 2:8–10; Titus 3:4–5). It is Christ alone and nothing in us, for Jesus promised in John 6 that He will certainly receive all that the Father has given to Him and raise them up on the last day. As long as justification can be lost, then this text cannot be true, for if God hands someone over to Christ for justification, that justification cannot be lost. It is certain. All those whom God justified He also glorified (Rom. 8). There is no such thing as a person who was once justified not being glorified. God doesn’t give people to Jesus, take them back, give them again, take them back, give them again, and then take them back forever. THAT would not be a loving father. But that is what Rome must believe.

    I’ll conclude with comments by John Calvin on the Matthew 12 passage:

    By thy words thou shalt be justified. This was a common proverb, which he applied to the present subject; for I have no doubt that this was a saying which the people had frequently in their mouths, that “every man is condemned or acquitted by his own acknowledgment.” But Christ turns it to a meaning somewhat different, that a wicked speech, being the indication of concealed malice, is enough to condemn a man. The attempt which the Papists make to torture this passage, so as to set aside the righteousness of faith, is childish. A man is justified by his words, not because his speech is the ground of his justification, (for we obtain by faith the favor of God, so that he reckons us to be righteous persons;) but because pure speech 142 absolves us in such a manner, that we are not condemned as wicked persons by our tongue. Is it not absurd to infer from this, that men deserve a single drop of righteousness in the sight of God? On the contrary, this passage upholds our doctrine; for, although Christ does not here treat of the ground of our justification, yet the contrast between the two words points out the meaning of the word justify. The Papists reckon it absurd in us to say, that a man is justified by faith, because they explain the word justified to mean, that he becomes, and is, actually righteous; while we understand it to mean, that he is accounted righteous, and is acquitted before the tribunal of God, as is evident from numerous passages of Scripture. And is not the same thing confirmed by Christ, when he draws a contrast between justified and condemned?

  13. Robert,

    Thanks for addressing the main issue at hand. There are two points that still need to be hammered out though:

    (1) The term “justify” here is contrasted to “condemn,” and I see no way out of making this into a different “justify” and “condemn” contrast of Romans 8:33f. It is fair to say that “justify” here doesn’t mean “make righteous,” but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. What matters is that the meaning is coherent and fits both passages. Clearly, we cannot say “justify” in this text means prove to God that you were really saved in the first place, and thus Justify here can only mean God finds a legal basis to declare one righteous. So it is a soteric forensic Justification that Jesus was speaking of.

    (2) This leads to the second issue, which is what is the basis that God declares the individual to be righteous? Here’s where I think you unwittingly left the realm of exegesis and projected some pretty serious Reformed assumptions onto the text:

    Words reveal the status of our heart, and what must our heart do to be saved? It is to reject all trust in oneself and to trust Jesus alone.

    It is agreed that words reveal the status of our heart, but the question isn’t what must our heart do to be saved (especially when you’re using “heart saved” to mean forensically justified). Nor is the answer rejecting trust in ourselves and fleeing to Jesus alone. The issue is, on what basis does the declaration of righteousness take place. The fact is, the text says it is our words that God looks at to make the decision. This is devastating for your view because we see the exact opposite of what we needed to see, and that is Christ’s Righteousness being the sole ‘ground’ of our being declared righteous. It does no good to mention how the heart became good or how the works were done, what matters is that, exegetically speaking, the words of the Christian are the basis of the soteric-forensic declaration.

    You brought up the point about: “that must be the case because God demands absolute perfection.” I’ve said elsewhere, the grand presupposition of “God demands absolute perfection” is not something taught in Scripture but rather a tradition of men, but if it were true then it would undoubtedly make sense to end up projecting “Christ’s righteousness” onto the Biblical texts. Yet not only is it never taught, the fact Scripture shows that the basis is not Christ’s Righteousness but rather the Christians own words slams the door on going back to that that grand presupposition. In other words, it’s refuted on two counts. To refute it on three counts, it is clear that the Justification that takes place at the time of conversion is principally concerned with receiving the reconciliation/forgiveness that the Mosaic Law couldn’t give (Acts 13:38-39; Rom 4:6-8), in which forgiveness obviously takes place outside the courtroom, and would be absurd to suggest God demands absolute perfection while also giving pardon of sins.

    Your quote of Isaiah 64:6 does no good here, for it assumes just what you’re supposed to prove, namely that (a) the Justification one receives at conversion is that “absolute perfection” forensic type, and (b) that no good works can be done by the Christian ever, which is ridiculous and plainly contrary to Scripture. This is why I consider Isaiah 64:6 one of the most abused texts in all Scripture, including ignoring the very context which says: “You [God] meet him [the man] who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” This context explicitly refutes the idea Isaiah 64:6 has in mind some sort of radical sinfulness in mind. What 64:6 is really concerned about is that the Jews kept turning to sin to the point any good they did reeked of hypocrisy and insincerity, for example the offering of sacrifices when their overall lifestyle wasn’t changing.

    You concluded by saying:

    It is Christ alone and nothing in us, for Jesus promised in John 6 that He will certainly receive all that the Father has given to Him and raise them up on the last day. As long as justification can be lost, then this text cannot be true, for if God hands someone over to Christ for justification, that justification cannot be lost. It is certain. All those whom God justified He also glorified (Rom. 8). There is no such thing as a person who was once justified not being glorified. God doesn’t give people to Jesus, take them back, give them again, take them back, give them again, and then take them back forever. THAT would not be a loving father. But that is what Rome must believe.

    It is comments like these that show the real difficulty is that Protestants desire infallible certainty, and they’ll do anything for it, including make up whatever doctrines they need. This is the logic Luther employed and this is the logic folks here like Old Adam have employed: since X seems like a good idea, then that’s what we should go with. But this is manifestly not how one is to approach Scripture!
    I don’t want to go on a tangent, but I’ll highlight some of the problems in your comments: (1) nothing you said suggests “Christ alone and nothing in us,” that’s something you want to be true but not exegetically true; (2) John 6 does not use the word justify, but if you want to grant that Jesus can be speaking of justification then I’ll point out the verbs employed there are Present Tense, refuting any notion of a once-and-for-all past tense handing off; (3) you assume the ‘glorified’ in Romans 8:30 is eschatological glory, where as comparing this with the parallel text of Ephesians 1 shows it refers to the glorious adoption by the Holy Spirit (cf St John Chrysostom’s commentary); (4) there are examples of people in the Bible losing their justification, David and Judas are slam dunk cases.

    I feel that I must once again caution against what is essentially an emotionalist approach to the Bible rather than letting the text speak.

  14. Quick point: I am not claiming to be presenting the entire Catholic soteriology in these posts (which isn’t something I have to do anyway, since it is Protestants and not Catholics who insist that their entire soteriology can be deduced from Scripture alone).

    My aim is simply to show that the basics of the Catholic gospel can account for the problem passages that a proto-Protestant position cannot.

  15. I think what we are seeing here is a good example of what happens when a paradigm that accounts for all the data is challenged by one that only accounts for a small selection of it. Over and over again passages are adduced as evidence against the Catholic position on the grounds that they mention the need for faith to be saved. But as I have been arguing (and as I highlighted in my addendum to the Last Judgment post), those passages don’t work to destroy the Catholic position.

    If it were the case that the Catholic believed in works alone and the Protestant believed in faith alone, then each side would be in the same boat, and would only have to find passages that mention as necessary the thing his opponents says is unnecessary, and the case would be closed. Since the Protestant indeed rejects the idea that works play a causal role in our final salvation, the Catholic’s job is pretty easy (as these posts show). But it’s not that easy for the Protestant since Catholics believe that Spirit-wrought faith and works are contributory to final salvation. To show the unworkability of the Catholic paradigm, therefore, a Protestant must produce a text that either says that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our final salvation, or one that says that the only works that do play this role are Jesus.’ And if that weren’t impossible enough, he must also figure out how to explain away all the passages adduced by Catholics that say the very opposite.

    Thus far, despite all the red herrings about popes and purgatory, none of this has happened.

  16. Here are a few short paragraphs, from a Lutheran pastor, who says that we are capable of some good:

    http://www.lightofthemaster.net/apps/blog/a-33

    But, that that is not the point.

  17. My aim is simply to show that the basics of the Catholic gospel

    Jason – In my Sunday School class I was teaching this past Sunday I spent some time talking about the basics of the Medieval RCC gospel as a backdrop to consider the Reformation teachings on justification. One of those basics was the relationship of all the sacraments to justification. My impression from reading Ott and Trent as well as various historical works, was that the role of the sacraments in the justification of the believer after he had lost the grace of justification was basic to the Catholic understanding of the gospel. So would you agree that this is basic to the Catholic gospel and if so, are you planning to bring up the matter as one of those things that the Scripture speaks to? Or do you feel that the role the sacraments play in justification is not one of “the basics of the Catholic gospel” and that the standard Catholic works on the matter have overstated their case? But if the relationship is basic to the Catholic gospel then I would really like to know what you think that the Scriptures have to say about the relationship of the seven sacraments to justification. At the beginning of the upcoming class I will do some review of last week, so if you have some insight that I could share with my class that would be great.

    a Protestant must produce a text that either says that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our final salvation, or one that says that the only works that do play this role are Jesus.’ And if that weren’t impossible enough, he must also figure out how to explain away all the passages adduced by Catholics that say the very opposite. Thus far, despite all the red herrings about popes and purgatory, none of this has happened.

    So do you mean that Protestants must produce texts to demonstrate that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification? You of course do realize that Protestants DO believe that works play a role in our final salvation, so maybe you just misstated what you write above. If you mean that that Protestants must produce texts that that Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification then I would answer that a number of Protestants have done this. I did it. There are no short age of texts that have been suggested to you that explicitly speak to the relationship of works and justification that show we are justified apart from works, or works of the law, or works of righteousness. Your tact I assume is to show that the various texts that describe our justified state before God being apart from the agency of works really mean apart from the agency of works except when those works are works done in Spirit-wrought holiness. But maybe I am wrong.

    I could add that your paradigm does not accept what seems to me to be the obvious interpretation of such texts (that we are justified apart from works – without qualification), but I guess that would just be stating the obvious, right? Hmmm…., maybe I should ask you about how your paradigm was formed rather than just on how your paradigm shapes your understanding of the texts that I put to you.

  18. Hello Andrew M,

    You wrote:

    If you mean that that Protestants must produce texts that that Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification then I would answer that a number of Protestants have done this. I did it.

    Where? Where did you lay out all the verses demonstrating that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification? Please provide a link. Thanks in advance.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Where did you lay out all the verses demonstrating that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification?

    Good evening Bryan,

    Jason was looking for “a text” and I think we have responded to him throughout the threads from the last several months. I have not put together any comprehensive list.

    Whenever we have brought up the texts which most explicitly link justification and works we are accused of “rushing ahead to Paul.” He challenges to produce “a text” but then castigates us when we bring up the most obvious ones. Jason says that, a Protestant must produce a text that either says that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our final salvation… and then concludes at the end of his last post that “none of this has happened.” So I was just pointing out that we had produced many such texts that say in a number of different ways that works play no role in obtaining our justification, and these texts do not qualify the kind of works or the origin of these works. Now Jason’s response here I assume would be to say that such passages DO qualify the statement because he believes that some works (those wrought by the Spirit) do indeed play a role in obtaining justification. But then, he does not want to “rush ahead to Paul.”

    Hey as long as you are here, maybe you could take a crack at the question I pose to Jason – Do you think that the relationship between the seven sacraments and justification, as such relationship is defined in the classic Catholics works I mention, part of the “basics of the Catholic gospel?” Is so, what does Scripture have to say about the relationship of the seven sacraments to justification. If it is not basic, then what is basic to the Catholic doctrine of justification?

  20. Andrew,

    I wrote, “My aim is simply to show that [my paradigm sets forth] the basics of the Catholic gospel,” and you responded:

    My impression from reading Ott and Trent as well as various historical works, was that the role of the sacraments in the justification of the believer after he had lost the grace of justification was basic to the Catholic understanding of the gospel. So would you agree that this is basic to the Catholic gospel and if so, are you planning to bring up the matter as one of those things that the Scripture speaks to? … But if the relationship is basic to the Catholic gospel then I would really like to know what you think that the Scriptures have to say about the relationship of the seven sacraments to justification.

    Yes, I believe Jesus put in place an ecclesial system in which a person receives spiritual blessings like forgiveness of sins by means of sacraments like baptism and reconciliation. Jesus gave his apostles authority to forgive sins or to retain them, to bind and to loose (and it would seem that in order for an apostle to exercise this spiritual gift, he would need to hear an auricular confession). But for the purposes of this study, no, I will probably not delve into this issue. Reformed people do not disagree with what I am saying in principle (and Calvin even advocated ministers hearing confessions), so I would rather stick to areas of Scripture where our disagreements are more sharp.

    I wrote that in order to establish his paradigm, “a Protestant must produce a text that either says that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our final salvation, or one that says that the only works that do play this role are Jesus. And if that weren’t impossible enough, he must also figure out how to explain away all the passages adduced by Catholics that say the very opposite. Thus far, despite all the red herrings about popes and purgatory, none of this has happened.” You responded:

    So do you mean that Protestants must produce texts to demonstrate that our Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification? You of course do realize that Protestants DO believe that works play a role in our final salvation, so maybe you just misstated what you write above.

    As you surely know, we differ on whether justification is a once for all event or an initial event followed by a process culminating on the last day. That said, I usually use the phrase “causal-” or “contributory role,” which I should have done here but forgot.

    If you mean that that Protestants must produce texts that that Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification then I would answer that a number of Protestants have done this. I did it. There are no short age of texts that have been suggested to you that explicitly speak to the relationship of works and justification that show we are justified apart from works, or works of the law, or works of righteousness. Your tact I assume is to show that the various texts that describe our justified state before God being apart from the agency of works really mean apart from the agency of works except when those works are works done in Spirit-wrought holiness. But maybe I am wrong.

    The only texts you or anyone else has produced are texts that either say that our initial justification is irrespective of works, or that our justification is without works of the Mosaic law (with both of which Catholics agree). Unless you want to continue going in a circle, you need to demonstrate (and not just continue to assert) that in those texts Paul is including Spirit-wrought works in his insistence on salvation by grace. But it may be a better idea to wait until we get to Paul specifically before we discuss that.

    I could add that your paradigm does not accept what seems to me to be the obvious interpretation of such texts (that we are justified apart from works – without qualification), but I guess that would just be stating the obvious, right? Hmmm…., maybe I should ask you about how your paradigm was formed rather than just on how your paradigm shapes your understanding of the texts that I put to you.

    See my statement above about how we agree that we are initially justified apart from works of any kind (which the CC has always taught).

  21. All,

    Please note the new “Notify Me of New Comments Via Email” feature below the combox. It will make following the ongoing discussions much easier.

  22. Jason–

    You said:

    “If it were the case that the Catholic believed in works alone and the Protestant believed in faith alone, then each side would be in the same boat, and would only have to find passages that mention as necessary the thing his opponents says is unnecessary, and the case would be closed. Since the Protestant indeed rejects the idea that works play a causal role in our final salvation, the Catholic’s job is pretty easy (as these posts show). But it’s not that easy for the Protestant since Catholics believe that Spirit-wrought faith and works are contributory to final salvation.”

    This observation is incredibly simplistic, and, as a result, totally untrue. The relationship between faith and works in either paradigm is quite complex…as people have been noting in response to you. Protestant soteriology does not just cover faith alone (or even “faith alone” alone). Depending upon what one means by the phrase, Protestants can just as easily remark that “Spirit-wrought faith and works are contributory to final salvation.” Thus, your supposed advantage instantly disappears.

    In fact, we have no problem with Jesus saying we will be judged by our works. In the present scenario, good fruit means a good tree and a good tree means a good keeper of the orchard (Christ). All of the fruit comes through his management of the grove. Trees don’t usually get a share of the profits. They don’t tend to say, “Look, what a good tree I have made myself into!” (Soli deo gloria!)

    Good works are only good if they are produced by our maker. Therefore, the “ground” of our justification is faith alone (=union with Christ). We Protestants don’t go back and forth between being a good tree and a bad tree as in Catholic soteriology. We don’t go back and forth between being a sheep or a goat based on mortal sin. Regenerate good trees (or sheep) produce good fruit. Unregenerate bad trees (or goats) produce bad fruit…just as this passage implies.

  23. So, was Jason bearing good fruits before his conversion? Is he still bearing good fruits? If he isn’t now, would he start bearing good fruits again if he became a Protestant again?

  24. “They don’t tend to say, “Look, what a good tree I have made myself into!” (Soli deo gloria!)”

    Luke 17:10

    “10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do , should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

  25. Eric,

    For some reason I cannot get my response through to you (having to do with the Baptist’s Forebears thread) due to technical difficulties. It looks like I will have to retype everything.

    But regarding the above and fruit tree, the issue in the parable of the fig tree is not whether fruit good or bad is produced, but instead barren-ness. The tree is fertilized, but then the owner comes back to look for fruit. As per Luke 17:10, you can see the obvious patron-client overtones to the texts. Barren faith is not always and everywhere the result of a counterfeit conversion. If that were the case then you have no grounds for the assurance of your salvation. But if instead one allow for both counterfeit conversion AND apostasy/falling away/love growing cold, then that provides a better paradigm for understanding the NT as a whole.

    Peace,
    SS

  26. A couple of you have mentioned that you’re having trouble commenting on the Blameless Forebears thread. I just set it to break comments up into multiple pages if there are more than 80 in a thread. Hopefully that helps.

  27. Eric,

    I wrote, “If it were the case that the Catholic believed in works alone and the Protestant believed in faith alone, then each side would be in the same boat, and would only have to find passages that mention as necessary the thing his opponent says is unnecessary, and the case would be closed. Since the Protestant indeed rejects the idea that works play a causal role in our final salvation, the Catholic’s job is pretty easy (as these posts show). But it’s not that easy for the Protestant since Catholics believe that Spirit-wrought faith and works are contributory to final salvation.” You responded:

    This observation is incredibly simplistic, and, as a result, totally untrue. The relationship between faith and works in either paradigm is quite complex…as people have been noting in response to you.

    I admit that I was attempting to simplify things in that comment, but my overall point still stands: texts that speak of the need for faith do not damage the Catholic paradigm at all, while texts that describe a contributory role for works in justification do in fact damage the Protestant paradigm severely.

    Protestant soteriology does not just cover faith alone (or even “faith alone” alone). Depending upon what one means by the phrase, Protestants can just as easily remark that “Spirit-wrought faith and works are contributory to final salvation.” Thus, your supposed advantage instantly disappears.

    Well, I have been deliberately using as benign language as possible in order to avoid quibbling over words like “justification” (which, as you know, we define differently). So I have NOT been saying “We merit justification by works” but rather, “Our Spirit-wrought works contribute causally to our final salvation,” since there are fewer ambiguous terms there.

    But if you find yourself in basic agreement with my thesis, please don’t look at that as some kind of miserable failure on my part. I am trying to present things in such a way as to make finding agreement easier, not harder. Of course, if you can bring yourself to agree that our Spirit-wrought works contribute causally to our final salvation, I would then urge you to consider the greater claims of the Catholic Church more seriously, but that’s a discussion for another day.

    Good works are only good if they are produced by our maker. Therefore, the “ground” of our justification is faith alone (=union with Christ).

    Actually, in Reformed theology the “ground” of your justification is not faith alone, but the active and passive obedience of Christ.

    We Protestants don’t go back and forth between being a good tree and a bad tree as in Catholic soteriology. We don’t go back and forth between being a sheep or a goat based on mortal sin. Regenerate good trees (or sheep) produce good fruit. Unregenerate bad trees (or goats) produce bad fruit…just as this passage implies.

    But you are simul iustus et pecator. And if a good tree produces good fruit, and if you as a justified saint produce bad fruit at times (which I’m sure you will admit you do), then how does that square with your being a good tree only?

    Your claims are too strong, is what I’m saying. They prove too much.

  28. Jason–

    Thanks for your comments. You didn’t quite get my points. My fault, no doubt.

    1. Texts that describe a contributory role for works do no damage to our paradigm. All Protestants acknowledge such a role. It must be determined whether or not this role may be thought of as causal. Here, I think, you have not proved your point (nor do I think such a point is provable).

    2. In another thread you spoke of my presenting a zero-sum game concerning credit given to God. No Protestant denies God shares his glory in appropriate, creaturely ways. What he can never do is share his unique glory, and to this the credit for justification belongs. I am not sure, but you may even agree to that. I get the impression that Catholic soteriology often unnecessarily confuses the two glories.

    3. Once again, I am in agreement that our works contribute to the process, but not causally. In fact, I find such a notion absurd. It’s kind of like when you let a five-year-old on your lap “take” the wheel of a car and “drive.” Though it may contribute to the learning process of the toddler, in no way, shape, or form does he or she have actual control of the automobile. (At least, I hope not!) Our efforts, however noble or intense, have no real relationship to our Father’s actions on our behalf. They are really not worthy of being compared.

    4. I do not know exactly how God judges our fruit. From his point of view, because of our union with Christ, the works of the regenerate are (in some sense) only good. Our inherent righteous should increase as we grow in the faith, but until glorification it will always be earthly, and thus tainted. I agree that some of my works remain bad. The more mature in the faith we become, the more we recognize our points of failure. The more those come into the light, the more we can work on them.

    Do you really buy the Catholic (and Methodist) notion that perfection is possible in this lifetime? Simul iustus et peccator has been proven by my own experience of myself (and of every other Christian I have ever met) over and over and over again. How can one possibly challenge it?

    Yes, my claims are nuanced…but I hardly believe they prove too much.

  29. SS-

    Matthew 12:33-37 is not the “parable of the fig tree.” Though it shares some things in common, it is not the same.

    In my book, apostasy is always merely “apparent,” so there is no real difference between apostasy and counterfeit conversion.

  30. The only texts you or anyone else has produced are texts that either say that our initial justification is irrespective of works, or that our justification is without works of the Mosaic law (with both of which Catholics agree).

    But of course those texts don’t make qualifications between initial and final justification and don’t say that they are ONLY speaking about Mosaic law (although I’m not sure exactly what you think demarcates Mosaic law). These texts often just say “works”, and sometimes say “works of the law” (no qualification on law), and sometimes say other things like “works of righteousness.” You are giving us the RCC spin on these texts. The Jews of Jesus day would have said of their works exactly what the Catholics today say of theirs – they were done in love for God. But these works according to Scripture don’t justify. The Scriptures say that for those who do not look to works (unqualified) to justify, they have peace with Christ and will be glorified. But if the Catholic paradigm is correct then they only have peace with Christ only until such time that they sin in a way that they lose this justification and thus loose this peace with Christ. And their glorification according to Rome, contra Paul, is anything but certain if justification can be lost. All of this seems to me to indicate that you are going to have a devil of a time trying to force the Catholic paradigm onto these texts.

    But I would note, as you do, that you have not posted a thread whose subject was to take on these texts that the Protestants have put forth. In fact you have downright discouraged us in our “rush ahead to Paul” so far. But given your admonitions I think you are being a little premature when you tell us (per your 12/11, 12:42 am comment) that we have not produced any texts which show that Spirit-wrought works play no role in our justification. Yes, we have produced them despite your discouragement to go to the classic texts which so closely and explicitly discuss the relationship of justification and works. Now you think you have a way around what seems to me to be the obvious, and one that does create a Procrustean bed out of the Roman dogmatic system, but I think you should hold off in claiming victory until you have more completely addressed passages which you are warning us away from at this point.

    so I would rather stick to areas of Scripture where our disagreements are more sharp….

    Perhaps the Tridentine statements on loosing the grace of justification and this grace being regained by all of the Catholic sacraments was not a matter of sharp disagreement when you were a Protestant (you know, that would really explain something if it were true), but it is a matter of sharp distinction with the Reformed folks I know. I’m sure you get tired of folks asking you to define the Catholic paradigm, but I think all of us Reformed folks are rather unclear as to what you think are the “basics” of the Catholic gospel.

    But it may be a better idea to wait until we get to Paul specifically before we discuss that.

    Or maybe better to wait until we get into Paul before you tell us that we have not produced any texts….? Yes, maybe that would be a good idea.

  31. Andrew,

    I think the point that you are missing (or refuse to tangle with) is the very basic and straightforward premise that Jason is putting forth for consideration. Upon reading these texts in the gospels whose paradigm makes the most sense of the verses at hand? He is taking them in isolation and promising to get to the epistles at a later time. So far you have sort of retreated to this “the texts are to ambiguous for either one of us to make sense of” line of reasoning. The argument is that as these texts don’t deal with sacraments that they don’t represent the true catholic paradigm. Catholics belief in sacraments would fall under the broad umbrella of spirit wrought works theologically…. so i’m not sure if this sort of argumentation can even get off the ground. The analogy of the toddler being allowed to drive the car was precious but completely irrelevant to the texts that we are considering. The father in your illustration wasn’t saying to the child “I tell you on the day of judgement you will give account for every little turn of this wheel you have made!” Clearly the most obvious thing to take from this passage is that our works DO play some casual roll. The only way you could miss Christs explicit point is by holding to a paradigm that doesn’t have any satisfactory way to do the verse justice. I would submit to you that the only thing such a protestant CAN say is “these verses are just to ambiguous and confusing” because otherwise you would have to (gasp!) take Christ at his word

  32. Kenneth–

    This is one of the problems I have with Catholics. You all seem to be under the impression that we have a puny little god. You need to gain some sense of imagination or your take on analogies will remain completely out of perspective. No, God won’t judge us for every “little turn of the wheel we make.” In truth, our accomplishments will be far less significant than that.

    There is nothing even slightly obvious in this passage that our works will play any causal role whatsoever. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” is a logical fallacy last I checked.

  33. Andrew,

    You said something that I think was pretty revealing:

    These texts often just say “works”, and sometimes say “works of the law” (no qualification on law), and sometimes say other things like “works of righteousness.”

    Talk like this seems to me to concede that your theology and soteriology is not so much concerned with exegesis as it is getting away of the ‘disturbing’ idea that justification can be lost and thus we cannot have assurance. You and others here speak as if it all comes down to assurance, not so much what the Bible says. That’s not good. In reality, you need to be as concerned about what kind of “works” are being spoken of as well as what the Bible even means by “faith” (e.g. exegetically show it means “empty hand”). What many Protestants don’t know is that there is actually a massive shift taking place in Protestant scholarship on the very issue of works of the law, and when it becomes more propagated it will vindicate the Catholic position. Consider this quote from a Reformed scholar in the 2009 Presbyterian & Reformed book THE LAW IS NOT OF FAITH

    From , PAGE 249:
    Few contributions to Pauline studies in the last several decades are more important than THE NOW WIDELY RECOGNIZED lexical reality that for Paul, [ho Nomos, ‘the law’] means `the Sinai covenant’ far more consistently than it means anything else. As DOUGLASS MOO has said: `What is VITAL for any accurate understanding of Paul’s doctrine of law is to realize that PAUL USES NOMOS [LAW] MOST OFTEN AND MOST BASICALLY OF THE MOSAIC LAW.` That is, Paul uses the term VERY DIFFERENTLY THAN THE TERM LATER CAME TO BE USED in Christian theology, ORDINARILY to denote something like Gods’s demand. Again, Moo is right to correct this notion: `As we have seen, THE REFORMERS, AS MOST THEOLOGIANS TODAY, use `law’ to mean anything that demands something of us. In this sense, `law’ is a basic factor in all human history; and man is in every age, whether in the OT or NT, confronted with `law.’ What is crucial to recognize is that THIS IS NOT the way in which Paul usually uses the term nomos.'”

    Given that respectable scholars like Douglass Moo are saying Nomos (Law) almost always means Mosaic Law should be a red flag to you, and at the very least it should make you think twice about being effectively indifferent to the actual meaning

  34. Testing — I’ve been having trouble responding or even seeing this page.

  35. Jason,

    I haven’t been able to see the site in a few days, but I finally got to it through Google Reader. I’m working on a response to Nick that will address much, but just a quick note to what you have just said:

    Quick point: I am not claiming to be presenting the entire Catholic soteriology in these posts (which isn’t something I have to do anyway, since it is Protestants and not Catholics who insist that their entire soteriology can be deduced from Scripture alone).
    My aim is simply to show that the basics of the Catholic gospel can account for the problem passages that a proto-Protestant position cannot.

    Ultimately, I’m really not asking you, at least not, yet to present all of Roman Catholic soteriology based on Scripture alone. What I am asking you to do is present the actual Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, which you have not yet done. I am assuming that you want to argue that Rome is the true church, but that argument just does not follow from what you have said, even if what you have said is a “better” paradigm, which it is not. I could just as easily be Eastern Orthodox, which would still mean that I am not in communion with the Roman pontiff, which would mean, at least up until Vatican II, that I am not in a state of justification according to your infallible Magisterium.

    And incidentally, it is the Roman Catholic Church, not the Catholic Church. Rome is the least catholic church of all.

  36. I think what we are seeing here is a good example of what happens when Roman Catholics are unwilling to present what the Roman Catholic paradigm actually is and simplify it to the point where it really doesn’t argue for Roman Catholicism at all, even if it is correct. Over and over again passages that do not address the same concerns as the meritorious ground of our justification are adduced as evidence against the Protestant position on the grounds that they mention our works in relation to justification. But as I have been arguing, those passages don’t work to destroy the Protestant position on justification, as better Reformed exegetes than me have been arguing for centuries.

    If it were the case that Roman Catholics believed simply that our Spirit-wrought works plus our faith contribute to our justification, then there would be no reason to prefer the Roman church to Eastern Orthodoxy or a host of other pseudo-Protestant groups that essentially believe the same thing. If it were the case that Roman Catholics believed simply that our Spirit-wrought works plus our faith are the grounds for our justification because together they make up the righteousness that is superior to that of the Pharisees, then the job for Roman Catholics should be easy. All they would have to do is actually prove that God does not demand absolute perfection and that the righteousness that is better than the righteousness of the Pharisees is the Spirit-wrought righteousness that we work in cooperation with the justifying grace of God infused at baptism, recovered through penance, and so on. And if that weren’t enough, the Roman Catholic would have to explain away the fact that Cyprian and many other church fathers from the first few hundred years does not support belief in the supremacy of Rome, not to mention the bodily assumption of Mary, which is part of the faith we must believe in for justification (when Rome feels like taking its own decrees into account).

    Thus far, despite the gross misunderstandings of sola Scriptura (such as when Jason argued in another thread it should be easy for us to find the imputation of Christ’s righteousness on Jesus’ lips in the gospels if it were true) and the assumption of concepts that are foreign to Scripture such as venial/mortal sin distinction, that hasn’t happened.

    Jason, the way you are arguing again confirms that what you have bought into is a very Protestantized version of Roman doctrine. That is how they get you. All that other stuff like Mary as the co-redemptrix, indulgences, rosaries, veneration, and the more explicitly idolatrous aspects of Roman doctrine will come later—doctrines that one must believe in order to be justified in Roman dogma. Either that, or the next move you will make could be over to agnosticism/atheism, which is the path I have seen so many tread before. Oh, how I wish it weren’t so. Lord willing, and the right choice, is that you will repent of your error.

  37. Nick,

    You wrote:

    The term “justify” here is contrasted to “condemn,” and I see no way out of making this into a different “justify” and “condemn” contrast of Romans 8:33f. It is fair to say that “justify” here doesn’t mean “make righteous,” but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. What matters is that the meaning is coherent and fits both passages. Clearly, we cannot say “justify” in this text means prove to God that you were really saved in the first place, and thus Justify here can only mean God finds a legal basis to declare one righteous. So it is a soteric forensic Justification that Jesus was speaking of.

    The fact that you cannot see the difference between this Matthean passage and Romans is one of many reasons why you are Roman Catholic and I am a Protestant. And the fact that “justify” in this context does not mean “make righteous” does matter, for that is what the Roman paradigm demands. The Roman paradigm also demands that you start everywhere else on the doctrine of justification except for those places where it is defined most thoroughly and completely. Which means that you have to take this Matthean passage, which is clearly proverbial in nature, as just about every commentator I read states (at least about v. 37) and read it in away that makes it definitional for doctrine. That is not a sound hermeneutic. If I did that with the Proverbs, which often links blessing with inherent righteousness, then I’d be as good as Job’s friends at theology, and I would think that Rome would frown upon their thinking. The text simply says that on the final day, our words will reveal the state of our hearts, no more, no less. The context is also specifically about Jesus, what our words say about him. Our words reveal the state of our hearts, whether we trust in Jesus or not. The Pharisees are condemned for their words for by their words they reject Jesus.

    The fact of the matter that a good confession is also a work of the law. And by works of the law no one shall be justified. Paul says this explicitly, and Jesus by His Sermon on the Mount and his other interactions presses home the point that even when we think we’ve done the law, we really haven’t. And that applies even when we think we’ve done the law via Spirit-wrought agape, for the words of the gospels are for Spirit-filled Christians to read. If you can read the Sermon on the Mount and walk away thinking that you have met God’s demands, then you need to read it again.

    Simply because you have a parallel construction between Matt. 12:37 and Rom. 8:33f does not mean that both Paul and Jesus are talking about the exact same thing. And quoting Rom. 8:33f is not a good idea for Rome, as the text says nothing can separate those who have been justified from the love of Christ. But Rome says that nothing can separate the justified person from the love of Christ unto salvation except for the justified person Himself.

  38. Nick,

    You wrote:

    (2) This leads to the second issue, which is what is the basis that God declares the individual to be righteous? Here’s where I think you unwittingly left the realm of exegesis and projected some pretty serious Reformed assumptions onto the text:
    Words reveal the status of our heart, and what must our heart do to be saved? It is to reject all trust in oneself and to trust Jesus alone.
    It is agreed that words reveal the status of our heart, but the question isn’t what must our heart do to be saved (especially when you’re using “heart saved” to mean forensically justified). Nor is the answer rejecting trust in ourselves and fleeing to Jesus alone. The issue is, on what basis does the declaration of righteousness take place. The fact is, the text says it is our words that God looks at to make the decision. This is devastating for your view because we see the exact opposite of what we needed to see, and that is Christ’s Righteousness being the sole ‘ground’ of our being declared righteous. It does no good to mention how the heart became good or how the works were done, what matters is that, exegetically speaking, the words of the Christian are the basis of the soteric-forensic declaration.

    As I noted above, you have assumed that Matthew’s text and Paul’s text are addressing the exact same thing. They are not. The term justification in Scripture has different nuances depending on its contexts. You’re flattening out the richness of apostolic teaching.

    I’ve said elsewhere, the grand presupposition of “God demands absolute perfection” is not something taught in Scripture but rather a tradition of men, but if it were true then it would undoubtedly make sense to end up projecting “Christ’s righteousness” onto the Biblical texts.

    1. If God does not demand absolute perfection, then there is no reason for me to be a Christian and nothing sets the Christian faith apart from other religions. Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, et al all assume that we can be right with God if we are good enough but not perfect. That is, at the end of the day, what the Roman position boils down to. The only difference is that at some points in your history you have said that being good enough absolutely requires submission to the Roman pontiff while currently this submission is not absolutely required, at least since Vatican II. At some points in your history you have said that being good enough requires conscious faith in Christ and adherence to the Roman Catholic Church and at least today say that it is possible for non-Christians to be good enough for heaven. Tell me, which one is it?

    2. God’s demand for absolute perfection is the warp and woof of Scripture. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden for committing one sin (Gen. 3). God requires atonement for every sin in the Mosaic law, even those that are forgotten or unacknowledged (Lev. 16). Jesus tells us that we must be perfect as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48). That is clearly a comment on Lev. 11:45, which says that we must be holy because God is holy. James says that failure at just one point of the law makes us liable for ALL of it (James 2:10). Paul says that if we try to justify ourselves by circumcision then we are obligated to the whole law for our justification (Gal. 5:3). I noted the aforementioned examples of God striking Uzzah dead simply for trying to steady the ark, which I might add, had to have been motivated by a good intention. We have a repeated emphasis in the New Testament on the complete sinlessness of Christ. If absolute perfection is not required, why this emphasis? If absolute perfection is not required, why does Isa. 53 emphasize it as well? If God does not demand absolute perfection, why are the requirements for the priest to go into the Holy of Holies so strenuous? If absolute perfection is not required, why are so many Israelites killed for the mistake of idolatry in Ex. 32? If absolute perfection is not required, why does it take the act of righteousness of a perfect man for me to be justified in Rom. 5:12–21? I could go on.

  39. Eric,

    I am sorry that you took from my post that I believe you worship a puny God. That certainly wasn’t my intention. I was merely asserting that in light of the very scripture that we are considering my analogy was the better fit. You are simply asserting that Christ doesn’t really mean what he says here which is absolutely baffling to me! If the father says to the son “I tell you on the day of judgement you will be held accountable for every turn of the wheel” how does it make sinse for the child to retort ” actually no, you don’t mean that, because I already know that my big brothers score will be imputed to me through no work of my own”. I have found it more helpful to take the “both and” approach instead of the “either or” that the reformed seen to cherish. I hope that these discussions are made in love by both parties, I will strive to better watch my posts in the future so that they are not offensive.

    Robert,

    You are absolutely correct in asserting that at this point the Eastern Orthodox position is equally as valid as the Catholic Church’s based on the evidence we have reviewed this far! What’s important to note is that the Orthadox and RCC paradigms BOTH better account for the totality of scripture in regards to our salvation than does your own current view. That is a telling admission on your part and I applaud your bravery in tacitly conceeding the point. We aren’t yet considering the beliefs that Cyprian held…. Although I would wager his overall theology is closer to mine than yours… Especially in regards to justification and the Church’s role in that very process. Your constant red hearings of indulgences bodily assumptions etc are tiresome as THEY ARE NOT THE SUBJECT of this thread. Goodness gracious there are plenty of places you COULD go to debate those things…. Perhaps we will in fact do that later. But for now stop retreating and give a strong case for your own paradigm in relation to the verse at hand. I would submit to you that it cannot be done. I think that your posts have all but admitted as such

  40. Eric,

    1. Texts that describe a contributory role for works do no damage to our paradigm. All Protestants acknowledge such a role. It must be determined whether or not this role may be thought of as causal. Here, I think, you have not proved your point (nor do I think such a point is provable).

    I understand the Protestant position, but I don’t think it is coherent. If in justification all of your past, present, and future sins are forgiven (not to mention your status as elect placed beyond doubt), then it seems to me that any good works you do are not contributory at all, let alone causal. Sanctification is a mere footnote, and your Spirit-wrought works play no role whatsoever. So you can say that I am saying nothing beyond what you already affirm, but I have a hard time believing that.

    But to alleviate my suspicions, perhaps you could explain to me exactly how your works contribute to your final salvation given what you believe justification accomplishes?

    2. In another thread you spoke of my presenting a zero-sum game concerning credit given to God. No Protestant denies God shares his glory in appropriate, creaturely ways. What he can never do is share his unique glory, and to this the credit for justification belongs. I am not sure, but you may even agree to that. I get the impression that Catholic soteriology often unnecessarily confuses the two glories.

    You’ll have to unpack your “two glories” idea, as I have never heard this phrase used (you don’t have to as it’s not super pertinent, but you’re free to do so). My point was simply that all Protestants speak as though man having any causal or graciously meritorious role in his salvation by definition devalues the sufficiency of the cross, and that this is not a theologically neutral idea, but depends on a zero-sum take on the credit God gets for saving us.

    3. Once again, I am in agreement that our works contribute to the process, but not causally. In fact, I find such a notion absurd. It’s kind of like when you let a five-year-old on your lap “take” the wheel of a car and “drive.” Though it may contribute to the learning process of the toddler, in no way, shape, or form does he or she have actual control of the automobile. (At least, I hope not!) Our efforts, however noble or intense, have no real relationship to our Father’s actions on our behalf. They are really not worthy of being compared.

    Then you embrace the Catholic position. All you need to do now is embrace the Bible’s language from which the Catholic position stems. I mean, it’s not hard to find the NT speaking of our being “worthy” of our eternal reward, right? The Catholic simply agrees, with all the necessary qualification that you list in place.

    4. I do not know exactly how God judges our fruit. From his point of view, because of our union with Christ, the works of the regenerate are (in some sense) only good. Our inherent righteous should increase as we grow in the faith, but until glorification it will always be earthly, and thus tainted. I agree that some of my works remain bad. The more mature in the faith we become, the more we recognize our points of failure. The more those come into the light, the more we can work on them.

    Again, you’re just confirming the Catholic view that you claim to reject. You were adamant in your last comment that the fault of the Catholic view is that a tree can go from being good to being bad. I pointed out that if a good tree can only ever bear good fruit, and if you occasionally bear bad fruit, then your position is in practice no different from the Catholic one. And here you’re essentially agreeing with this.

    Do you really buy the Catholic (and Methodist) notion that perfection is possible in this lifetime? Simul iustus et peccator has been proven by my own experience of myself (and of every other Christian I have ever met) over and over and over again. How can one possibly challenge it?

    The church since long before Luther’s phrase was first uttered believed what the CC teaches about perfection. But like with so many other issues, Eric, I think our differences are less stark than you seem to think. I will post on this eventually, but the word that the NT uses for “perfect” (teleios) is also translated as “mature” (which is hardly beyond anyone’s capacity in this life). Moreover, the NT applies the label “blameless” lots of times in ways that are not hypothetical, but which also do not entail sinlessness. Your problem is that you’re operating from within a paradigm that insists that God demands letter-of-the-law sinlessness without exception, and therefore, you hear from the word “perfect” something that neither the NT or the Catholic Church intends by it.

    Eric, I really think that the more we discuss these things, the more you will see that the CC’s soteriology is not the Pelagian villain that many think it is. I really hope you stick around and continue to discuss these things.

  41. Kenneth,

    I have nowhere admitted that the EO or Roman paradigm better account for the data at hand, all I have said is that should what Jason is saying be true, it is certainly not enough to prove the infallibility of the Roman pontiff or that I must be a part of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Furthermore, what I have said is not a red herring because the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is just not as simple as what you are saying. It is not as simple as faith in Christ plus Spirit-wrought good works, at least not anymore because in the Roman system, faith in Christ plus Spirit-wrought good works both need qualification. For is it not the case that faith in Christ, according to Rome, also means faith in Mary’s immaculate conception and bodily assumption? The presentation of the Roman Catholic paradigm is extremely limited in these posts, and it reflects Protestant-like thinking. Let’s just say that I accept Jason’s basic paradigm and affirm that faith in Christ plus Spirit-wrought works are required for my justification and then knowingly affirm that the pope is not the vicar of Christ and that Mary was not immaculately conceived nor assumed bodily. Would I be in a state of justification? You and I both know the answer to that question is no.

    I have provided several responses to the specific text in question here, not the least of which is that Jason is treating a Proverbial text as a clear, didactic teaching portion of Scripture. There are a host of reasons why we should not build our doctrine that way.

    The whole premise of the Roman Catholic position is extremely misguided. You have to assume that there was this proto-Catholic paradigm in the early church that gave rise to the New Testament texts. Then you have to find evidence for the proto-Catholic paradigm in the early church, and since the earliest sure witness we have to what the earliest church actually believes is the New Testament, you then have to look at the New Testament. But then when you look at the New Testament, you refuse to let the clearest didactic portions of Scripture that actually make a full argument on the subject be your starting point but instead you go to other places where justification is mentioned in passing or in a different context and read the Roman paradigm back into it. Then, when texts are suggested that explicitly deny what you are asserting, you accuse Protestants of rushing ahead to Paul. Well, we could just as well argue that you are rushing ahead to Matthew.

    The only sure source we have for what the church in the apostolic era believed is the New Testament. As much as possible, that must be the building block for our paradigm because its the only evidence we have. We all bring presuppositions to the text, but the task is not to see what previously existing paradigm works but whether one could actually build that paradigm on the text. You and I both know that Rome cannot build its paradigm on the text, but a lot of the methodology that Jason is employing assumes that one can, even while he consciously denies that.

    I’m still waiting for evidence that the paradigm Jason suggests was present before the post-apostolic era, let alone the New Testament.

    Saying that Jesus and Paul must be talking about the same exact thing because they use the same term and similar phrasing is not an argument. It is an exegetical fallacy. Jesus is clearly not talking about the basis by which we enter the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 12:33–37. Our words justify us or condemn us because they reveal the condition of our hearts. A good heart inevitably pours forth good words and a bad heart inevitably pours forth bad words, and what is the condition of the heart that Jesus requires — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is yet another proof that Christ’s ultimate standard is perfection.

    Roman Catholicism, like all other non-Christian religions, only works by lowering God’s standards. Ultimately, your god is really not all that holy or righteous.

  42. Andrew,

    Or maybe better to wait until we get into Paul before you tell us that we have not produced any texts….? Yes, maybe that would be a good idea.

    I do think we should table this until we get to Paul. But I would direct you to Nick’s comment above, where he highlighted the fact that the direction nearly all NT scholarship is now going vindicates the Catholic position. In a word, Paul’s negative statements about the law and what its works can accomplish simply cannot be interpreted in a blanket, a-covenantal way, as if Paul sees faith working through love as no different soteriologically than erga nomou.

    Hang tight. As Michael said to Vito, “We’ll get there, Pop.”

  43. Robert,

    You said in response to me:

    The fact that you cannot see the difference between this Matthean passage and Romans is one of many reasons why you are Roman Catholic and I am a Protestant. And the fact that “justify” in this context does not mean “make righteous” does matter, for that is what the Roman paradigm demands. The Roman paradigm also demands that you start everywhere else on the doctrine of justification except for those places where it is defined most thoroughly and completely.

    I think all three of your sentences here are unfair caricatures. You need to show why the justify/condemn dichotomy in Romans 8:33f *must* be different than the dichotomy made by Christ. I bring this up precisely because I recognize that your paradigm must desperately try to explain away the forensic context of Christ’s words, despite the fact this very argument is employed by Protestants when appealing to 8:33f. To simply say I cannot see it because I’m Catholic comes off as a cop out. Next, nothing in Catholicism demands that every time dikaioo (justify) appears in Scripture then it can only mean “make righteous” in a transformational sense. Lastly, the Roman paradigm does not mean that we start with a single verse from Jesus or James and force everything else to conform; as we’ll see in the upcoming threads on Paul, it’s actually the Protestants guilty of this (e.g. completely ignoring Romans 4:18-22 and Galatians 3:14ff).

    Also, I don’t want to get into a tit-for-tat type of discussion since it just wears people out. All Jason and I and others are asking for is to stick with the exegesis, since once things are allowed to go “beyond what is written” then naturally all kinds of sophistry pops up.

    The fact of the matter that a good confession is also a work of the law.

    I’ll bite my tongue on this for now.

  44. All,

    The appeal to recent scholarship on the direction of current scholarship as to the meaning of “law” in Paul is particularly rich considering that I know that Jason and others will refuse to apply this same standard to the Roman Catholicism. The same scholarship will also point out that there was no uniform doctrine of justification in the earliest church, that there was no monoepiscopate in Rome in the earliest church, that there was no treasury of merit in the earliest church, that there was no belief in the bodily assumption of Mary in the earliest church, that there was no belief in scapulars, rosaries, and so on in the early church.

    Furthermore, the same scholar, Doug Moo, who has been quoted on this blog here and elsewhere notes in his commentary on Romans that although Paul means the works of the Mosaic law in most of his uses of “works of the law,” when Paul is referring of the Gentiles failure to do the law, he is referring to their failure to do the moral standards that are essentially identical with the standards given in Moses. So when Paul states that the works of the law do not justify, He is talking both about the law written on the consciences of all people and its particular form as found in the Mosaic code.

    And finally, the current opinions of “most scholars” have never determined Protestant theology. But it is the current position of the Roman Catholic church that has always determined Roman Catholic theology. For your position is sola ecclesia—whatever the current church says is my final authority.

    Nick,

    My point in noting that your Catholicism prevents you from seeing the Matthean passage as a Protestant would is not meant as a cop-out, and it rather just states the obvious. Jason wants us to get out of our paradigms and look at the text, so what I have said fits rather nicely with what he has said, I think. I also want to note again that if anyone is guilty of forcing the text to fit their paradigm it is Roman Catholics. Jason bought into the Roman paradigm whole hog and then came to the text. Is it true that Protestants do that as well? Perhaps in many or most cases, but we also try to go through the exegesis to figure out the text. And that means exegesis not of the isolated pericope but of the whole context. And I have yet to see any exegesis of this text in its context by you or Jason. You rip the pericope out of the context of Matthew’s gospel as a whole and then read it as if the question Jesus is addressing is exactly the same as the one Paul did.

    Right now I only have an English translation in front of me, but I am almost certain that it correctly reflects the use of Dikaioo in Jesus and the gospels. Of course, as Jason notes, the exact term does not have to be present for Jesus to have the concept in mind, but looking at Jesus’ use of this term alone, Jesus speaks of being justified in 4 passages: Matt. 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:35; 18:14. Matt. 11:19 and Luke 7:35 very clearly do not speak of individuals being justified in the forensic sense of being declared righteous but in speaking of wisdom, they are referring to wisdom being evidenced or vindicated by its deeds. Luke 18:14 seems rather clearly to me to be speaking of being declared righteous apart from works, for it is the one who humbly confesses his sin, trusting in God’s mercy, that is justified. Yes, I know that in another thread someone tried to say that humbling oneself is a work, but that is a ridiculous stretch. If faith is our full dependence on the Lord, then humility is essentially a synonym, for true humility recognizes that we must fully depend on the Lord.

    That leaves us with Matthew 12:37, the text in question. Based on the other 3 uses of the term on the lips of Jesus, it would seem unlikely that He is using it to address the exact same question as Paul, for he does not do so clearly in two places, and in the third , if he is addressing it to the same question as Paul, is using the term in a wholly consistent manner. The only other place in Matthew he uses the term, it clearly means “vindicate,” which should at least predispose us to seeing that meaning in the other place it is used in Matthew, which, incidentally, is after he first uses it to mean vindicate. And such a meaning fits very naturally with the whole context of Matthew 12:33–37 where Jesus talks about words and what they say about the condition of one’s heart. By our words we will be vindicated on the last day or by our words we will not be vindicated. When our words are weighed on the last day, it will be clear to all whether we actually trusted in Jesus or not. That fits very well with Paul and James.

    What does not fit so well is the idea that Jesus is asserting that our works contribute in some meritorious way to securing our justification, especially since Jesus says we must be perfect, James says even one sin makes us guilty of the whole of God’s law, and Paul’s repeated insistence that by works of the law no flesh shall be justified. The works of the law of which he speaks refer in the first instance, in many cases, to the ceremonial law and the universal moral law codified particularly in the Torah. By extension, this means all good works, since what many would call natural law is in Paul’s mind identical to the moral law, particularly as expressed in the Ten Commandments. And even if Paul always means “works of the Mosaic law” when he says “works of the law,” he very clearly does not mean that in Ephesians 2 or Titus 3, which note that by faith, NOT works of righteousness we were saved.

    So you want to stick to the exegesis of this specific text, there it is. But I’ll note again that such is not what you are doing. The Roman Catholic paradigm that is supposed to explain this text is not the paradigm that you, Jason, or any other Roman Catholic has presented. There’s a whole lot more to it, and much of it is not present in any church father. So while the core issue is the sufficiency of Christ’s work for our justification (Reformed) vs. its necessity (Rome), the very fact that Rome is historically wrong and deceptive on so much of its other doctrine should predispose us against the position to begin with. Protestants do not have this problem. We do not claim that the early church fathers are unified for or against a certain position on justification or, well, just about anything. We do not claim an unbroken line of tradition. We do not claim that the church is infallible. We actually believe the Spirit speaks through His Word so that His people hear His voice.

  45. Robert,

    Ultimately, I’m really not asking you, at least not, yet to present all of Roman Catholic soteriology based on Scripture alone. What I am asking you to do is present the actual Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, which you have not yet done. I am assuming that you want to argue that Rome is the true church, but that argument just does not follow from what you have said, even if what you have said is a “better” paradigm, which it is not. I could just as easily be Eastern Orthodox, which would still mean that I am not in communion with the Roman pontiff, which would mean, at least up until Vatican II, that I am not in a state of justification according to your infallible Magisterium.

    I don’t know how many different ways to say it, Robert. I am presenting a basic Catholic paradigm (and not necessarily a fully-developed Catholic soteriology) and arguing that it makes more sense out of the NT data than a Protestant paradigm ever could. It doesn’t matter if EO agrees with Rome on certain points, or if one could read these posts and become EO. My argument doesn’t depend at all on these things.

    Did Catholic soteriology develop over the centuries? Of course, no one denies that. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether a Protestant paradigm can account for the statements of Jesus we’re considering, and thus far I have not seen any good arguments for why it can.

  46. Jason,

    I know that you are trying to present a basic Catholic paradigm. The problem is that your church does not allow for the existence of a basic Catholic paradigm. You MUST believe in the bodily assumption of Mary to be justified. You MUST affirm the primacy of the Roman pontiff to be justified. At least that is what some of your church documents say. Others suggest that even Muslims who deny this and more can be justified.

    I promise that I’m really not trying to be a troll, I just want to know where the church gives you the right to believe that only the basic Catholic paradigm birthed the NT. Is it not true that all Roman doctrines, at least the ones that have been infallibly proclaimed, are said to be handed over from the apostles? It seems to me that you must believe that the full-orbed Catholic doctrine of soteriology birthed the New Testament.

    I provided a basic exegesis of the passage in its context, and in the context of the rest of the gospels in the comment above this. Others have commented as well. No one has adequately answered it but has condemned us for running to Paul, telling us that modern scholarship supports the Catholic position on justification (which scholarship, if used consistently and in its entirety, destroys Rome’s claims to authority), and so on.

    I really have no illusions that you are going to actually be consistent, for you have unfortunately not shown that willingness yet. I just pray that any visitors who read your threads and these comments will notice how biblically, theologically, and historically inconsistent you have been and that your decision to Rome was made before you really dealt with the core claims of the Roman church. Like so many others who have swum the Tiber, you made your choice then went and talked to some big names just so you could tell everyone that no one was able to answer you. It is tragic, and I’m praying that you have not committed apostasy but that you will repent of your error.

  47. Test. Now it looks like posts are not going through for me.

  48. Robert,

    I originally (and have repeatedly) said: the grand presupposition of “God demands absolute perfection” is not something taught in Scripture but rather a tradition of men.

    You responded in two points:
    “1. If God does not demand absolute perfection, then there is no reason for me to be a Christian and nothing sets the Christian faith apart from other religions.”

    This completely validates and confirms my point. It “traditions of men” that produced this “absolute perfection” doctrine and not actually God’s Word. But surely Christianity is abundantly different for other more crucial reasons? Your response came off as saying the Trinity and Incarnation are really irrelevant in the big scheme of things, since the only thing that matters about any religion is perfect obedience and the only thing that sets us apart is that we had a way to attain this perfect obedience vicariously while the other false religions did not.

  49. Jason–

    First. let me state that I greatly appreciated the tone of your comments. In a lot of ways, you’re right. The differences between us are not that great. (Unfortunately, some of the very small differences happen to wield tremendous influence over other tenets hither and yon. Each side becomes rather defensive, as a result.)

    Obviously, from my point of view, if you truly understood the Protestant paradigm, you couldn’t think it incoherent. Here in this life, we sometimes forgive people who don’t deserve it, simply for our own peace of mind. But reconciliation doesn’t happen unless there is movement from both sides. Complete and perfect justification transpiring at regeneration would be rather empty without our progress in sanctification. In this way, we contribute toward our reconciliation. (If we didn’t, it couldn’t be called reconciliation.) Though justification is a done deal, it is not a completed process. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The Reformed concept of perseverance is not at all the same as the Baptist’s “once saved always saved.” There is “sweat equity” involved (like in Habitat for Humanity). We may be guaranteed–as tortoises–that we’ll beat that “waskily wabbit” to the finish line. But we still have to “run” the race as swiftly as our short, wobbly legs will take us.

    God makes great use of our good works, but he does not need them. He alone saves us. We embrace and follow him.

    The “two glories” concept is certainly not unique to me. I’ve seen it all over the place though not necessarily in those words. People often speak of a “reflected” glory which is appropriate for us to ascribe to God’s creation and creatures, including us.

    I’m not sure whether you hear me agreeing with you more than you should (after all, our slight differences are nonetheless stark) or whether you comprehend the ways in which the Reformation could have been avoided but for the inflexibility of both sides. Double justification–agreed to by Seripando, Pole, Eck, and Contarini on the Catholic part, and by Melanchthon and Bucer and Calvin(!) on the Protestant—still holds out some amount of promise. Unfortunately, without an Augustinian take on perseverance, it tends to devolve into the present RC paradigm (for example, in Anglo-Catholicism, following the lead of Newman).

    I look forward to the day when Rome can acknowledge Calvin as one of the great doctors of the church (along with Augustine and Aquinas). Oh, what might have been were it not for the intervention of Reformation and Counter-Reformation political considerations! There are modern-day Catholics who have little problem with sola fide (e.g., the scholars of ECT [Neuhaus, Dulles] or Francis Beckwith or possibly even B16). I could probably swim the Tiber if the only considerations were soteriological. Though I would be in the decided minority, I believe I would be accepted. On the other hand, when it comes to hyperdulia, (which cannot escape the charge of Mariolatry no matter how well intentioned), it’s a different story. I’m not purely dogmatic about such things, however. Along with a number of the major Reformers, I might be able to accept perpetual virginity (though that’s tough sledding exegetically) and even the bodily Assumption. As you might imagine, I find the Immaculate Conception irredeemably unbiblical and cannot imagine myself changing that position.

    If you mean ‘mature’ by your use of the word “perfect,” I have no major problem with it. But then, neither would Luther (nor the phrase “simul iustus et peccator”).

    The Catholic position is technically neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian. Nevertheless, I tend to group everyone who rejects perseverance together. Thus, Arminian Protestants tend to get lumped in the same boat with Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. Many (if not most) current Evangelicals are de facto semi-Pelagians: whenever their decisional-regeneration theology neglects to emphasize prevenient grace. A few are downright Pelagian (e.g., the fans of Charles Finney).

    Perseverance changes everything. With it, Christ is all in all from beginning to end (no matter how many of our good works are involved). Without it, mankind is put back in the driver’s seat. And in that case, as others have mentioned, the Christian God becomes comparable to the unitarian [Jewish] version of Yahweh or the Muslim Allah. Or, as Michael Horton has put it, one is left with a Christless Christianity. Not in the sense that Christ is not mentioned, but in the sense that his inclusion is devoid of its true power. We hold the reigns.

    I look forward to delving into what we may or may not hold in common. I tire of sheer polemics.

    All the best.

  50. Nick,

    Last night at 9:26 PM you said:

    Given that respectable scholars like Douglass Moo are saying Nomos (Law) almost always means Mosaic Law should be a red flag to you, and at the very least it should make you think twice about being effectively indifferent to the actual meaning

    I’ve read this exact passage from Moo, but in the original rather than just as a quote. You might note that in my last note to Jason I told him that he probably ought to delineate just what he means by “Mosaic law.” Moo goes into great detail as to what he means by the term. And my first response back to you WOULD be to ask you if you think that Moo and Jason are on the same page as to just what this thing called “Mosaic law” is, and what the implications of keeping of this law have for our salvation. BUT, Jason is asking us to table the discussion until he gets to the passages that you and I (and Moo) speak of, so I will do as he suggests.

    Talk to you soon. Cheers….

  51. Kenneth–

    I’ve been trying to tell you that your analogy is the better fit only if you consider things very narrowly. (By the way, what I meant by the “puny god” comment was that Catholics have too small a concept of God: that you all are “under the impression” that we [all Christians] have a puny god. In other words, you literally did not offend me one iota (though now that you know what I was saying, you might be offended….)

    Christ sometimes comes right out and says that what he is actually saying is not what people think he is saying. The gospel is ofttimes veiled…probably even to believers. You simply must consider all of Scripture in interpreting Jesus’ words (or Paul’s words or John’s words or whosoever’s words).

    It hasn’t been mentioned in these threads, as far as I know, but liberal “exegetes” like to point out that Jesus himself–as opposed to the puritanical Paul–never said anything against homosexuality. While technically true, it is meaningless in light of Jesus’ Sitz im Leben. Our Lord would have had to have outwardly praised homosexuality as a lifestyle in order for exegetes to come to the conclusion that he had rejected the complete consensus of his day.

    Similarly, here, Jesus would have had to say that faith is not enough, that one must work hard in order to obtain justification. And then (since James did not) he would have to clarify that he was not talking about sanctification. He would have to had said something like this: “Now to the one who works, [the] wages [of eternal life] are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is [dead].”

    Also, of course, Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians would have to be declared “epistles of straw” and booted out of the canon.

    If you look back at the passage we are considering [Matthew 12], you will notice a number of things:

    1. There are no mixed judgments. Men are either acquitted or condemned.
    2. Evil men speak no good whatsoever. They are incapable of such.
    3. Presumably, good men speak no evil whatsoever. Likewise, incapable.

    We have to assume that something like what Jason is talking about holds sway: God sees regenerate men as only good, as perfect. Their new-creature hearts produce no evil. The actions that occasionally pour forth from their old-creature hearts are not counted against them.

    I am always shocked when Catholics argue against the concept of imputation. All it means is that something is reckoned or accounted to someone. To be declared forgiven is imputation. (RC agape paradigm/sanctifying grace/initial justification—all basically the same as imputed righteousness.) The absolution granted you by a priest is imputed to you. It is as biblical as a biblical notion can get. Unless, of course, you wish to discount the forgiveness of God. (No plenary indulgences for you!)

    Of course, you might try to say that sanctifying grace is infused into an infant undergoing baptism. So then, God does not declare them forgiven? In the Catholic Rite of Baptism, after one has renounced the devil and all his “pomps,” the priest anoints the catechumen (or infant) with oil, saying: “I anoint you + with the oil of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord, that you may have everlasting life.” Sounds like imputation to me. In Protestantism, imputation always goes hand in hand with infusion. Yes, we are declared righteous. But in the same motion we are united with Christ and infused with all his benefits. Some Protestants shy away from all talk of infusion (or impartation) because of its association with Catholicism. But Francis Turretin, for example, boldly speaks of “infused righteousness” in connection with sanctification in his work on justification.

    Remind me what the both/and vs. the either/or approach is all about. I am momentarily blanking on that.

    Have a great day!

  52. Robert,

    I know that you are trying to present a basic Catholic paradigm. The problem is that your church does not allow for the existence of a basic Catholic paradigm. You MUST believe in the bodily assumption of Mary to be justified. You MUST affirm the primacy of the Roman pontiff to be justified. At least that is what some of your church documents say. Others suggest that even Muslims who deny this and more can be justified.

    I promise that I’m really not trying to be a troll, I just want to know where the church gives you the right to believe that only the basic Catholic paradigm birthed the NT. Is it not true that all Roman doctrines, at least the ones that have been infallibly proclaimed, are said to be handed over from the apostles? It seems to me that you must believe that the full-orbed Catholic doctrine of soteriology birthed the New Testament.

    Given your tone and overall posture toward me near the end of your last comment, this will probably be my last comment to you. You’re free to continue to engage anyone here you like, and I hope you do. But for my part, I don’t have much interest in dialoguing with someone who assumes the worst about me.

    Anyways, you’re still failing to get my point, so I’ll try, one last time, to clarify it. I am not claiming that the CC allows for anyone to only affirm a generic Catholicism, or to deny the assumption or papal primacy (nor did I intend to indicate otherwise). You seem to be unaware of, or unclear about, the idea of doctrinal development in the CC, but suffice it to say that the Church claims the right to recognize explicitly teachings that are implicit in the deposit of faith. This means that before, say, Nicaea there were ideas about the Trinity that were not considered formal heresy (since the Church had not yet spoken officially to the issue). This means that it is both possible and likely that the paradigm adopted by the biblical writers and ECFs was simpler than the more fully-developed Catholic theology today (and should the Lord tarry for centuries more, the CC’s present theology will be seen as simpler than what will be insisted upon in the future). So I don’t need to prove that each and every Catholic teaching was held explicitly by the NT writers in order to argue that the paradigm they employed was consistent with the CC’s teachings today, and inconsistent with Protestantism’s.

    I provided a basic exegesis of the passage in its context, and in the context of the rest of the gospels in the comment above this. Others have commented as well. No one has adequately answered it but has condemned us for running to Paul, telling us that modern scholarship supports the Catholic position on justification (which scholarship, if used consistently and in its entirety, destroys Rome’s claims to authority), and so on.

    You are right that I have not addressed your comment above (I have not read it yet, actually). But the whole “running to Paul” thing has been happening for long before that comment was posted. We’ll get to Paul, I promise.

    I really have no illusions that you are going to actually be consistent, for you have unfortunately not shown that willingness yet. I just pray that any visitors who read your threads and these comments will notice how biblically, theologically, and historically inconsistent you have been and that your decision to Rome was made before you really dealt with the core claims of the Roman church. Like so many others who have swum the Tiber, you made your choice then went and talked to some big names just so you could tell everyone that no one was able to answer you. It is tragic, and I’m praying that you have not committed apostasy but that you will repent of your error.

    I trust you—and others—can see from this why I will not be engaging you any longer. You presume to know my mind and motives and then to accuse me of duplicity, all of which is unbecoming of Christian charity. Unfortunately I have become so used to such treatment from Reformed people that it doesn’t really bother me anymore. But that doesn’t mean I need to spend my time dignifying it, either.

  53. Jason,

    I don’t really expect you to interact with me, but I hope you read this, and I hope that everyone else does as well:

    You seem to be unaware of, or unclear about, the idea of doctrinal development in the CC, but suffice it to say that the Church claims the right to recognize explicitly teachings that are implicit in the deposit of faith. This means that before, say, Nicaea there were ideas about the Trinity that were not considered formal heresy (since the Church had not yet spoken officially to the issue). This means that it is both possible and likely that the paradigm adopted by the biblical writers and ECFs was simpler than the more fully-developed Catholic theology today (and should the Lord tarry for centuries more, the CC’s present theology will be seen as simpler than what will be insisted upon in the future). So I don’t need to prove that each and every Catholic teaching was held explicitly by the NT writers in order to argue that the paradigm they employed was consistent with the CC’s teachings today, and inconsistent with Protestantism’s.

    The idea of doctrinal development is fine, well, and good. You know that even the Reformed affirm this to some degree with the principle that things deduced from Scripture are binding when they are deduced by good and necessary consequence. But I would argue that what the Roman Catholic Church does with this principle goes far beyond the apostolic deposit of faith and actually contradicts what we have in the only verifiable deposit, namely, sacred Scripture. And I would also note that you largely have Cardinal Newman to thank for this idea of doctrinal development, which is a very Protestant interpolation given the longer history of the partim-partim view of revelation in the Roman tradition. All I can go by are your comments and your interview with Called to Communion, as well as the accounts of others when they met with you just before you climbed out of the Tiber into the arms of Romanism. When you asked questions about “How was the church supposed to know when they were to forget the oral teaching of the apostles after John died?,” you betray an assumption that this oral teaching was different than what is written in Scripture, at least when you were considering Rome’s claims. But you are smart enough to know that such a position is really untenable when you actually start looking at history, so you have to go to the material sufficiency view.

    And sure, your simple position is consistent with Scripture—when you ignore the clear didactic portions of Scripture and wrench proverbial sayings and accounts of historical narratives out of context. But then, so too is the Mormon position, the Jehovah’s Witnesses position, and a host of other heresies.

    I trust you—and others—can see from this why I will not be engaging you any longer. You presume to know my mind and motives and then to accuse me of duplicity, all of which is unbecoming of Christian charity. Unfortunately I have become so used to such treatment from Reformed people that it doesn’t really bother me anymore. But that doesn’t mean I need to spend my time dignifying it, either.

    I did not mean to accuse of conscious duplicitly, for I am sure that you are unaware that you started your look at Rome’s claims after having accepted that they were true. I can only go by your public comments, your Called to Communion interview, James White’s account of your meeting with him and his response to your interview, and your interaction with Roman Catholics online. And what they show is that you wrestled for many years with Rome before letting your local session know, and given that you were the prosecutor of Leithart it seems that you wrestled for years without letting your presbytery know, because I can’t see how the PCA would tolerate you being the prosecutor if denominational leaders knew you were seriously considering Rome (I could be wrong about this second point, however). Your comments also show that you refuse to apply the same standards to Rome that you apply to Protestantism, that you argued with Rome and gave very tepid responses on online forums, and more. Furthermore, your embrace of Rome actually demands that you give up most of your radical two kingdoms’ paradigm for what the church is supposed to do in relation to politics, economic, and social issues (given all that the church says about these issues and what society should do about them), and you have not yet done that. All of that, plus your comments to Bryan Cross that church history is really not your thing, indicate that your investigation of Rome’s claims was rather shallow and that you did not let your church know until you had basically made the decision, at least subconsciously.

    I am not trying to be mean about this, but if you are going to go public with the events that led to your conversion to Rome and allow everyone to see your history of wrestling with these claims through your comments and posts here, your old blog, and CTC, then you have given others everything they need to see what happened. And much of what happened in your case is a repeat of others who made a decision, at least unconsciously, and then talked to others well-versed in Protestantism so that they could assuage their consciences and say “Well, I went to the best, and they couldn’t convince me.”

  54. Nick,

    <blockquote cite="http://www.creedcodecult.com/jesus-justification-and-every-idle-word/comment-page-1/#comment-20725&quot;

    1. If God does not demand absolute perfection, then there is no reason for me to be a Christian and nothing sets the Christian faith apart from other religions.”
    This completely validates and confirms my point. It “traditions of men” that produced this “absolute perfection” doctrine and not actually God’s Word. But surely Christianity is abundantly different for other more crucial reasons? Your response came off as saying the Trinity and Incarnation are really irrelevant in the big scheme of things, since the only thing that matters about any religion is perfect obedience and the only thing that sets us apart is that we had a way to attain this perfect obedience vicariously while the other false religions did not.

    I assume you are still going to address the loads of biblical data that supports the Protestant position that God demands perfection. But let me just answer this:

    Of all the things you specifically list here, perhaps only the Trinity is something with no analogue in other religions. You know that Hinduism believes in incarnation, though it is a repeated event. The Trinity is part of the essence of the gospel, but it only makes sense given the demand for absolute perfection. And their are myriads of reasons for this, but I’ll make a brief comment given the context right here in this point that we are talking about other religions. If, in the Catholic paradigm, one can be saved by explicitly denying the crucifixion but following the light they have (Islam) or denying the existence of a personal god and following the light they have (Buddhism), then it would seem that the Trinity is really not all that essential to salvation in the Roman paradigm. For if I can be saved while denying that the Son of God became incarnate to atone for sin, then what is the point of changing my belief system? The differences in the doctrine of God that set Christianity apart from other religions collapse because I really don’t need to believe at all in the uniqueness of the Savior, and hence the Trinity, for salvation. They are distinctions in name but not ultimately in essence, for God really does not care all that much if we believe them. But if God demands absolute perfection, then the distinctions hold. God’s standard is so high, so perfect, that only a perfect man could satisfy it. Which means that you need a unique incarnation in which the God-man lives an absolutely perfect life. Which means that you must believe what this incarnate God-man says about the triune nature of the Creator. If God’s standard isn’t perfection, then you just need good enough. There is ultimately no need for the incarnation or the cross. And the logical outcome of that is to believe that you can go to heaven without believing consciously in Christ or the atonement or the Trinity. And that is exactly what we see in modern Roman Catholicism. At least when the infallible magisterium used to believe one had to be a part of the Roman Catholic Church for salvation, they were more consistent with the essential nature of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and other elements of the Christian faith.

    The notion of vicarious substitution does not set Christianity apart from other religions. Muslims have an idea of vicarious substitution — some hadiths say that Christians and Jews will take the place of some Muslims in hell. Modern Jews believe their contrite hearts can atone for sin, and if they had a temple, they would be sacrificing animals today according to Old Testament regulations. I could go on. What sets Christianity apart from other religions is the sufficiency of the vicarious substitute, as the book of Hebrews teaches, Roman Catholic doctrine notwithstanding. And sufficiency only exists when you have a God who demands perfection and then offers Himself as the perfection that His law demands. Once you deny the need for perfection, all distinctions between religions ultimately collapse. You just have to follow the light as best you know it and do good works. No need for a triune God, no need for the Holy Spirit, no sufficient atonement, no need for conscious faith in Christ for salvation, etc. etc. The fact that Rome has capitulated and affirmed ways of salvation outside of conscious faith in Christ and obedience to his church (this century—remember it used to be otherwise) proves my point. If “good enough” is all that is needed, then there is no reason to be a Christian. If God requires perfection, one must be a Christian.

  55. Messed upon the html, the very first paragraph in the preceding statement is not my post but Nick’s comment to which I was responding (just in case you haven’t been following the discussion).

  56. Robert,

    You wrote:

    But I would argue that what the Roman Catholic Church does with this principle goes far beyond the apostolic deposit of faith and actually contradicts what we have in the only verifiable deposit, namely, sacred Scripture.

    Instead of using the subjunctive “I would argue,” and leaving your argument hidden, why not actually provide your argument? Anyone can simply assert that the Church has gone beyond authentic development of the apostolic deposit, and “contradicts” Scripture. Where is your non-question-begging argument demonstrating this to be so?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  57. Bryan,

    I’m sure you well know all of the Protestant arguments against the modern Roman Catholic view of the papacy, the bodily assumption and Immaculate Conception of Mary, the doctrine of justification, its conception of biblical and ecclesiastical authority, transubstantiation, indulgences, the veneration of saints and relics, and so on. If Calvin, Luther, the Westminster Divines, Turretin, Bavinck, Buchanan, Murray, Van Til, Frame, Gerstner, Nicole, Mathison, Sproul, Cyprian, Clement, Augustine and even many modern Roman Catholic scholars cannot convince you that Rome is wrong on any of these individual doctrines (depending on the ones they address) from the historical, biblical, and ecclesiastical evidence, then I surely doubt that I could. I realize that some of the names I have listed would not hold a Reformed position, but all of them deny core elements of Roman Catholic doctrine even if they differ on the matters they address. And Roman Catholicism stands or falls as an entire system. Your own church documents demand that if the pope is infallible and if your teachings reflect both oral and written apostolic tradition (assuming, of course, that they differ, which as a Protestant I deny). Which is again why it is very misleading to present a very basic Roman Catholic paradigm of Spirit-wrought works as accounting for the New Testament evidence. Rome demands that you believe all of her dogma to be justified, not just the Protestantized version that pretends to have exegetical support from the gospels.

    I take a specific interest in Jason mainly because I am in the PCA and know him through several personal contacts, which is one of the main reasons I am commenting here at all.

    Otherwise, I am a nobody. If you and Jason really believe that the Roman Catholic position is the logical source of the New Testament and the only position fully consistent with Scripture and tradition, then put your money where your mouth is and do a formal debate with James White that is recorded and distributed on YouTube, aomin.org, and Called to Communion. If you are right, your position should easily withstand the scrutiny of someone who is far better than I am in historical study and exegesis. I know he has a standing debate challenge to you and Jason on the Marian dogmas, but I am sure he would address any other issue with you as well.

  58. Robert,

    Your response does not include any argument (let alone a non-question begging argument) supporting your claim that the Catholic Church “goes far beyond the apostolic deposit of faith and actually contradicts what we have in … sacred Scripture.” Instead, the thrust of your reply is a personal attack against me, claiming that nothing you could say would persuade me. But that’s an ad hominem, which is a fallacy. So as of now, it appears that are unable or unwilling to provide the argument you claimed you “would” make, demonstrating the truth of your claim about the Catholic Church going beyond the apostolic deposit and contradicting Scripture. If you do have such an argument, but are unwilling to produce it, the only good reason I can think of for your unwillingness to do so is that you’re worried (and justifiably so, I might add) that it would not stand up to scrutiny. If we are seeking the truth, we have no need to fear subjecting our evidence and argumentation to evaluation. Only false ideologies have reason to fear evaluation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. Bryan,

    My comment was not meant as an attack on you personally, so if you take it that way then let me apologize for my lack of clarity. My only point is that if men far more learned than I am, men who spent decades studying these issues, cannot convince you, than I do not think I can. I’m not insulting you, nor am I saying that your position is wrong simply because of who you are or the fact that you haven’t been convinced. All I am saying is that the arguments I would make are substantially the same as those made by the men I listed, depending on the issue. For instance, my argument on sola Scriptura would not differ measurably from Keith Mathison’s argument in his book. He wrote a whole book on the subject, plus a paper that you interacted with on Called to Communion and elsewhere. You have not been convinced by it. That is not necessarily a reflection on your abilities or character, it is just pointing out the obvious. I cannot offer anything new to the discussion, and I do not have the time to rehash what has been said elsewhere. Anyone who is interested in that particular discussion can read the book and find the discussion online.

    I have not committed the ad hominem fallacy. I have no standing in the evangelical Reformed community; I’m just trying to feed my family. I have a 2 and a half year old and a 3 month old plus visiitors coming and going. You have a standing debate challenge from James White, the man whom Jason called the “go-to guy” when it came to Reformed responses to Roman Catholicism, one who has read far more papal documents than I have, and one who can read the church fathers in the original languages. Neither you, nor Jason, have agreed to debate him. That is far more telling about the weakness of your position than the fact that I am not going to rehash arguments against Roman Catholicism simply because I don’t have the time.

    Jason is not working right now. He has the time for a formal debate. You have enough time to run CTC, record podcasts, and moderate vast comment threads. Forgive me for being presumptuous, but this evidence seems to indicate to me that you have time for a formal debate as well. Do it for all our sakes. If Rome’s position really is as strong and clear as you say it is, it will benefit us all.

  60. Robert,

    Still no argument from you supporting your claim that the Catholic Church “goes far beyond the apostolic deposit of faith and actually contradicts what we have in … sacred Scripture.” Instead, you offer a red herring about how much time I have, and debating James White.

    Anyone can make assertions. I can do it too. Watch: “Reformed theology is anti-biblical.” But if all we do is trade assertions that the other guy is wrong, we won’t get anywhere in terms of resolving the disagreement. That’s why it is pointless. So if we’re going to have a meaningful conversation, and not merely a futile exchange in which we simply hear ourselves talk, we have to be committed to providing evidence and argumentation for our claims.

    If you’re not willing to support your claims, then what is your purpose here? Do you think you will convince people (who don’t hold your position) by merely making assertions and pounding the table? I hope not. If, as you claim, you “have no standing in the evangelical Reformed community,” then I don’t see why you would expect people to accept your assertions, merely because you assert them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. That works both ways Bryan. Who are you, that it should matter. So what if you or Jason can refute someone in a combox. All it proves is that you bested that individual, it neither renders you correct in your assertions and reasoned defense necessarily nor does it count as official apology for your communion, unless you’ve been granted magisterial charter of which I’m not aware. I’m not sure I value any of these engagements when nobody shows all their cards such that when an impasse is reached one pulls the paradigmatic differences card from their sleeve and accuses the other of ‘begging the question’. It seems to be a rather stacked deck no matter which direction you come at it. Everybody ends up paying a nickel and making a choice.

  62. Bryan,

    I have in numerous points in this thread pointed out the faulty exegesis of the Roman paradigm, at least in regards to the specific Matthean text under discussion. I have noted again and again how the exegesis of this passage in the Roman paradigm explicitly contradicts other New Testament texts, and I also provided an exegesis of this passage in its context not only in Matthew but also in the context of all 4 gospels where justification is explicitly mentioned. No one has actually dealt with that yet.

    As far as other places where the Roman Catholic Church goes beyond and even contradicts Scripture, there are almost too many to list. But if you want one that is rather simple to refute, how about the Immaculate Conception. Here’s a quote from the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi:

    It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall, and her mother’s rights and her mother’s love were included in the holocaust.

    1. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that Mary is free of original or actual sin. In fact, she calls God her “Savior” (Luke 1:47).
    2. Less significant, she talks about God’s mercy being extended to those who fear Him. Surely you would agree that Mary feared God. Why would she need mercy if she never sinned? (I realize that this in itself proves nothing, for clearly we could say that Jesus feared God; this is more of a preponderance of evidence thing in relation to the other points).
    3. Mark 3:20–35 indicates that Jesus’ family thought He was out of His mind. It doesn’t say His family except for Mary, and in fact the context shows that she agreed with their estimation given that she shows up with His brothers in v. 32. Please tell me how this was not sin or that it does not argue against the encyclical statement that Mary was ALWAYS more united to her son than others. Please tell me how Mary was ALWAYS more united to her son than others if Jesus relativizes His family relations and says that whoever does the will of God is regarded as His brother, sister, and mother?
    4. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, not all have sinned EXCEPT Mary. There is nothing in the context that would say that Paul held such a view or that it is qualified in any other way except to mean all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God except for Christ.
    5. And though it does not touch directly on the Immaculate Conception, please tell me where apostolic tradition says Mary offered her Son to God on Golgotha. Hebrews 7:27; 9:14 says that Jesus offered Himself to God. Romans talks about the Father not sparing His Son. In the gospels, Jesus talks about the Son of Man giving Himself as a ransom. We find nothing about Mary offering up her Son on Golgotha.

    Please do not tell me that Jesus’ merit was proleptically applied to Mary so that she could be born without original sin and never commit actual sin unless you can demonstrate that this is what Luke and/or Mary had in mind when we read the record of her calling God Savior. I know that argument. I am also unlikely to be impressed by any exegesis that presents Mary as the new Eve, for even if that were true, and it is not, Eve still committed actual sins. I am also unlikely to be impressed by any Scott Hahn-like exegesis that sees Mary as foreshadowed in the ark of the covenant, Solomon’s mother, and so on. Tell me how the idea of Mary as being free of original and actual sin does not contradict what the Bible says.

    I realize that you have likely seen many of these arguments before. So let me apologize for their brevity. As I said I am busy.

  63. That works both ways Bryan. Who are you, that it should matter. So what if you or Jason can refute someone in a combox. All it proves is that you bested that individual, it neither renders you correct in your assertions and reasoned defense necessarily nor does it count as official apology for your communion, unless you’ve been granted magisterial charter of which I’m not aware. I’m not sure I value any of these engagements when nobody shows all their cards such that when an impasse is reached one pulls the paradigmatic differences card from their sleeve and accuses the other of ‘begging the question’. It seems to be a rather stacked deck no matter which direction you come at it. Everybody ends up paying a nickel and making a choice.

    Thank you, Sean,

    I’ll note once more that no one has dealt with my exegesis, provided to Nick, of the passage in question in the context of the 4 gospels and Matthew itself. No running to Paul right away there, so to speak. It’s also real easy to say “you just don’t understand my paradigm” or to bring a paradigm to the text, prove it by passages that do not necessarily address the core disputes of the Reformation, and then force the passages that do most clearly address those disputes into it. It’s also real easy to defend your own paradigm when you are unwilling to apply the same standards to your paradigm that you apply to others. “The best of modern scholarship; the consensus of modern scholarship, etc., etc.” is not an argument, especially since the same scholarship Jason, Nick, and others cite would basically reject a host of core Roman Catholic claims, and especially since the best of modern scholarship that is appointed by the pope himself bring all sorts of presuppositions that undercut Rome’s longstanding views of gospel authorship, the authenticity of the Paulines, etc. The failure to apply the same standards to your own position that you apply to others is a sure sign of a failed argument.

  64. Nick has been having trouble accessing the site, so he asked me to post this for him:

    Your second point:

    2. God’s demand for absolute perfection is the warp and woof of Scripture. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden for committing one sin (Gen. 3). God requires atonement for every sin in the Mosaic law, even those that are forgotten or unacknowledged (Lev. 16). Jesus tells us that we must be perfect as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48). That is clearly a comment on Lev. 11:45, which says that we must be holy because God is holy. James says that failure at just one point of the law makes us liable for ALL of it (James 2:10). Paul says that if we try to justify ourselves by circumcision then we are obligated to the whole law for our justification (Gal. 5:3). I noted the aforementioned examples of God striking Uzzah dead simply for trying to steady the ark. We have a repeated emphasis in the New Testament on the complete sinlessness of Christ. If absolute perfection is not required, why this emphasis? If absolute perfection is not required, why does Isa. 53 emphasize it as well? If God does not demand absolute perfection, why are the requirements for the priest to go into the Holy of Holies so strenuous? If absolute perfection is not required, why are so many Israelites killed for the mistake of idolatry in Ex. 32? If absolute perfection is not required, why does it take the act of righteousness of a perfect man for me to be justified in Rom. 5:12–21? I could go on.

    If you look carefully at the proofs you’ve provided, you’ll see that they don’t really say what you’re thinking they say. For example, Adam and Eve were kicked out for a grave offense, which is not the same as a general rule of God demanding absolute perfection. Same for your Uzzah example, the point isn’t that Uzzah was to be perfect, but that he committed a grave offense of profanation. As for atonement in the Mosaic Law, most people don’t know this, but Levitical atonement only applied to minor and unintentional sins, not grave ones (Numbers 15:27-30; Leviticus 4:2). Grave sins (e.g. murder) excommunicated one from the Mosaic Covenant; they could not be atoned for (Numbers 35:31-33). In other words, one could be a good Jew, righteous under the Law, as long as they were living within the parameters of the Mosaic Law. Hence your Exodus 32 quote of why God wiped out many of them for the excommunicable sin of Idolatry.

    Now let’s consider the Matthew 5:48, where the context 43-47 is about loving your enemies. The point isn’t that we be perfect in the sense of degree, but perfect in the sense of quality, that just as God shows love on saints and sinners alike, we cannot take the easy route of “love your neighbor but hate your enemy.” The Protestant approach to this verse completely rips it out of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount context, where they take it and use it as an excuse for needing Christ’s vicarious perfection in order to be saved, when Jesus was speaking quite practically to the audience of how THEY must live their lives. This is why Protestants dispense entirely with the Sermon on the Mount, running off to Paul, where they can then return to the Sermon and be grateful that Jesus did all that for them.

    James 2:10 is another common example of single verses ripped out and an entire theology built around them. All James is saying is that one cannot selectively pick which laws apply to them and which don’t. They cannot be Cafeteria Christians, they must rather “fulfill the law” (v8). He concludes (v12-13) this very pericope by saying one will receive a *merciful* judgment from God in *proportion* to how merciful they acted. That totally demolishes the “absolute perfection” thesis.

    Do you see a trend here? That as these proof-texts are examined, the “God demands absolute perfection to be saved” becomes less and less exegetically derived and more and more about Luther and Calvin’s troubled consciences. And where is Paul in all this? No texts from him clearly stating the “abolute perfection” thesis? Your only Paul quote (Gal 5:3) says one is only responsible to keep the whole Law IF they get circumcised (meaning they’re not ordinarily bound to keep the Law at all!)!

  65. Robert wrote:

    Right now I only have an English translation in front of me, but I am almost certain that it correctly reflects the use of Dikaioo in Jesus and the gospels. Of course, as Jason notes, the exact term does not have to be present for Jesus to have the concept in mind, but looking at Jesus’ use of this term alone, Jesus speaks of being justified in 4 passages: Matt. 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:35; 18:14. Matt. 11:19 and Luke 7:35 very clearly do not speak of individuals being justified in the forensic sense of being declared righteous but in speaking of wisdom, they are referring to wisdom being evidenced or vindicated by its deeds. Luke 18:14 seems rather clearly to me to be speaking of being declared righteous apart from works, for it is the one who humbly confesses his sin, trusting in God’s mercy, that is justified. Yes, I know that in another thread someone tried to say that humbling oneself is a work, but that is a ridiculous stretch. If faith is our full dependence on the Lord, then humility is essentially a synonym, for true humility recognizes that we must fully depend on the Lord.

    Not much to disagree with here. Of course, whether this was the first time the publican was justified is not specified in the text, but that’s another issue.

    That leaves us with Matthew 12:37, the text in question. Based on the other 3 uses of the term on the lips of Jesus, it would seem unlikely that He is using it to address the exact same question as Paul, for he does not do so clearly in two places, and in the third , if he is addressing it to the same question as Paul, is using the term in a wholly consistent manner. The only other place in Matthew he uses the term, it clearly means “vindicate,” which should at least predispose us to seeing that meaning in the other place it is used in Matthew, which, incidentally, is after he first uses it to mean vindicate. And such a meaning fits very naturally with the whole context of Matthew 12:33–37 where Jesus talks about words and what they say about the condition of one’s heart. By our words we will be vindicated on the last day or by our words we will not be vindicated. When our words are weighed on the last day, it will be clear to all whether we actually trusted in Jesus or not. That fits very well with Paul and James.

    I think introducing the idea of vindication in what are clearly soteriological texts does more harm for the Protestant than good (an error which could easily be avoided if justification were understood to have an initial, an ongoing, and a future element). Robert claims here that soteriological justification is not in view in Matt. 12, but prefers the gloss “By your words you will be vindicated [and shown to be a believer], or by your words you will not be vindicated [but be shown to be an unbeliever].” The problem here is that Jesus does not contrast justification-in-the-sense-of-vindication with a lack of vindication, but with condemnation (which is obviously a forensic and soteriological concept). Thus the only reason the Protestant insists that Jesus’ use of “justified” needs to be changed to “vindicated”—thereby having him depart from Paul in how he uses the term—is because of a prior-held idea that justification is (1) once for all, and (2) irrespective of all works whatsoever. Therefore it is not exegesis that is doing the heavy lifting here, but a paradigm that gets in the way of what the text actually says.

    I’ll briefly address James since Robert alludes to it (although we should table any further discussion of James until I post on it specifically). If James is saying that, while we are soteriologically justified by faith alone, we are vindicated by faith and works, what error is he seeking to address and correct? Has anyone ever claimed that we are “vindicated by faith alone,” causing James to insist rather that we are vindicated by works? The answer is no, no one has claimed that we are vindicated by faith alone. But someone had claimed that we are justified by faith alone, namely Paul. So unless James is correcting an error that no one had ever propounded (which is unlikely), it stands to reason that James had Paul in mind and his formula of justification-apart-from-works-of-the-law, and was seeking to correct the error of his opponents who taught (along with Protestants today) that justification is irrespective of all works whatsoever.

    What does not fit so well is the idea that Jesus is asserting that our works contribute in some meritorious way to securing our justification, especially since Jesus says we must be perfect, James says even one sin makes us guilty of the whole of God’s law, and Paul’s repeated insistence that by works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

    First (and setting aside the phrase “in some meritorious way” to avoid unnecessary confusion), it is beyond the possibility of dispute that Jesus says that our works—in this case the things we say—contribute to our justification. Just look at it: “By your words you will be justified.”

    Regarding perfection, the term is often translated as “maturity” and urged normatively upon Christians in this age. Paul says to the Philippians that “as many as are perfect” (teleoi) should follow his example. Were there some in the church that had attained sinless perfection and some who had not? Or were there some to whom Jesus’ perfection had been imputed and some to whom it had not? Of course not. Rather, some were mature, and others not so much.

    And concerning “works of the law” in Rom. 3, it is clear that Paul is referring to Jewish works of the Mosaic law, as heaps of NT scholars ably prove. For example, when Paul says that “we conclude that a man is justified by faith, and not by works of the law,” he says in the very next verse that if this is not true, then “God would be the God of the Jews only, and not the God of the Gentiles” (vv. 28-29). If Paul had in mind all works whatsoever and not just Mosaic works, then his statement is a complete non-sequitur.

    And even if Paul always means “works of the Mosaic law” when he says “works of the law,” he very clearly does not mean that in Ephesians 2 or Titus 3, which note that by faith, NOT works of righteousness we were saved.

    We’ll get to Paul, I swear. But for the record, no one is arguing that we are saved or justified by our works alone, only that we are not saved without Spirit-wrought works of love to God and neighbor. Neither Eph. 2 nor Tit. 3 militates against my position.

    So you want to stick to the exegesis of this specific text, there it is. But I’ll note again that such is not what you are doing.

    On the contrary, and I trust that even our fair-minded Reformed readers will disagree with you (even if they also disagree with my conclusions).

  66. If Nick wants proof from Paul that God demands absolute perfection, you only need to go to Romans 2 where it says the doers of the law will be justified, then on to the arguments that no one does the law. Paul’s point is never that people do not do the law, it’s that no one does it all the way. There are reams and reams of exegesis that demonstrate this point from Protestants and Catholics. Galatians 3 likewise makes the point.

    David committed the grave sin of murder, yet he was forgiven. He was justified apart from the law, according to Romans 4, and not just the Mosaic law either but the law of good works, for as I have argued, the same people who have argued from Doug Moo that Paul almost always means “works of the Mosaic law” when he says “works of the law” fail to mention that Moo also says Paul has in mind good works of the law of nature that all Gentiles have on their hearts.

    Matthew 5:48 cannot just be about quality but also about degree, for you would certainly not argue that God is perfect in both quality but not degree. That is completely nonsensical, if you are not perfect in degree you are not perfect in quality. If I live my whole life and generally love my enemies except here or there, have I really loved them? If I make an omelet with 2 good and one rotten eggs, is it really worth eating.

    I am well aware of what the Mosaic law says about sins being committed with a high hand. But you are introducing categories of mortal and venial sins where they just do not belong.

    And finally, if God does not demand absolute perfection, why the repeated and incessant stress on the sinlessness of Christ? One sin would have blemished him, making him unfit to be a sacrifice.

    I could go on. Look, I can’t make you see what God demands. That is the Holy Spirit’s job ultimately. If you want to go on believing that good enough will get you into heaven, go right ahead. It’s a lot easier to believe that since billions of people on the planet think that. Entire religions are built on that concept. And as I have also noted, if God does not demand absolute perfection, every other doctrine that sets Christianity apart from other religions is essentially emptied of its meaning. I would not say that only about this idea, but also about the incarnation, the Trinity, etc. Christian theism holds together as a unit or you end up with a God who really does not take holiness all that seriously and who winks at sin. That is what you have in Roman Catholicism, that’s what you have in Islam, and every other non-Christian system of belief. Roman Catholicism long ago invalidated any claim it has to truth or uniqueness by making belief in the Trinity and the incarnation optional for salvation, but those ideas are part and parcel of belief that being good “enough” will get you into heaven.

  67. *** From Nick ***

    Robert,
    In case you or others didn’t know, there’s something wrong with the CCC server that prevents me from accessing the blog and responding (all other webpages load fine, so I know it’s not on my end). This has kept me off for about the last 24 hours.

    I will now address your comments on how to properly interpret the Matthean passage in question.

    Right now I only have an English translation in front of me, but I am almost certain that it correctly reflects the use of Dikaioo in Jesus and the gospels. Of course, as Jason notes, the exact term does not have to be present for Jesus to have the concept in mind, but looking at Jesus’ use of this term alone, Jesus speaks of being justified in 4 passages: Matt. 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:35; 18:14. Matt. 11:19 and Luke 7:35 very clearly do not speak of individuals being justified in the forensic sense of being declared righteous but in speaking of wisdom, they are referring to wisdom being evidenced or vindicated by its deeds.

    This is a poor argument since it’s plain that Jesus does not use dikaioo exclusively in one manner (as you admit with Luke 18:14 of the Pharisee and Publican), plus context must be the first place one looks before they look at overall usage of a term. You’d be guilty of the Lexical fallacy if all you’re applying to your exegesis is how dikaioo is ‘popularly used’ (i.e. 4 of the 6 times it’s used).

    Luke 18:14 seems rather clearly to me to be speaking of being declared righteous apart from works, for it is the one who humbly confesses his sin, trusting in God’s mercy, that is justified. Yes, I know that in another thread someone tried to say that humbling oneself is a work, but that is a ridiculous stretch. If faith is our full dependence on the Lord, then humility is essentially a synonym, for true humility recognizes that we must fully depend on the Lord.

    The issue of Luke 18:14 isn’t about faith-vs-works nor is it about converting for the first time; it’s just not. What I said on the other thread was not that humility is a work (at least that’s not what I meant), what I said was that the text says humility is what is said to be what justifies. Humility is not a synonym for faith (both men had faith), much less empty-handed-faith, since humility has value in God’s sight. And if Luke 18:14 is read in conjunction with Luke 16:15 – “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” – it is clear that what matters before God is the condition of the heart, not some external (alien) righteousness.

    And such a meaning fits very naturally with the whole context of Matthew 12:33–37 where Jesus talks about words and what they say about the condition of one’s heart. By our words we will be vindicated on the last day or by our words we will not be vindicated. When our words are weighed on the last day, it will be clear to all whether we actually trusted in Jesus or not. That fits very well with Paul and James.

    I’m honestly stunned that you’ve chosen to continue to harp on “condition of the heart” when that’s never part of the Reformed equation to begin with, since the ground is not one’s heart by Christ’s Righteousness. And to add to that, a ‘good heart’ certainly cannot mean an ‘unfallen natural heart’, but rather a heart containing infused agape and Holy Spirit. Also, you are still completely ignoring the forensic overtones of the verse: “on the day of *judgment* people will give *account*” for the words, which is immediately explained in terms of words justifying or *condemning*. If you are going to insist on “vindicate” I don’t see that as the problem, since it would be a forensic vindication, which actually makes perfect sense: the evidence is one’s words, a Judge looks at the evidence to make his verdict, and the verdict either leaves one vindicated or condemned.
    I also stand by my claim that however you decide to treat this text must be applied to Romans 8:33f, which will cause just as serious ramifications for your soteriology (esp considering it’s one of the few Pauline verses where dikaioo is placed in a forensic context).

    The works of the law of which he speaks refer in the first instance, in many cases, to the ceremonial law and the universal moral law codified particularly in the Torah. By extension, this means all good works, since what many would call natural law is in Paul’s mind identical to the moral law, particularly as expressed in the Ten Commandments.

    This is a fallacious argument. First, things like Baptism are neither part of the moral law nor the Mosaic Law. Second, you’re essentially ignoring the bigger issue which is that of Covenants. When you realize the issue is about Covenants, then you’ll realize that it’s not about what works overlap between Covenants, but rather what each Covenant promises. If I enter a Covenant which offers me a house if I get baptized and someone enters another Covenant that promises eternal life if they get Baptized, then the decisive issue is the Covenantal Promise and not the demands. By ignoring the Covenantal context, you cannot explain why Paul mentions ceremonial works in the first place, since the only thing that should matter is the moral works.

    And even if Paul always means “works of the Mosaic law” when he says “works of the law,” he very clearly does not mean that in Ephesians 2 or Titus 3, which note that by faith, NOT works of righteousness we were saved.

    Titus 3 says nothing about faith and it explicitly says Justification consists in an inner transformation (Eph 2:5 supports this as well, despite not using the term justify). And I’d say context supports the “works of the law” reading, see Ephesians 2:11ff and Titus 3:9. Remember, one must also take all of Paul’s teaching into consideration, so if Romans 3-4 and Galatians 2-3 are screaming “works of the Mosaic Law,” then you’d best think that’s what he means elsewhere.

  68. Robert,

    For the sake of focus, I’m going to set aside for now the question of the exegesis of Matthew, and address what you say about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, because you are claiming that this dogma is one example of an instance in which the Catholic Church either “goes far beyond the apostolic deposit of faith” or “actually contradicts what we have in … sacred Scripture.” What I had asked you above is to provide a non-question-begging argument demonstrating this. So you have provided five pieces of evidence regarding this dogma. Your first piece of evidence is this:

    Nowhere in Scripture are we told that Mary is free of original or actual sin. In fact, she calls God her “Savior” (Luke 1:47).

    That’s fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm, for two reasons. The “where’s that in the Bible?’ objection is question-begging, because in the Catholic paradigm, the apostolic deposit is not limited to Scripture alone, but contained also in the unwritten Tradition, as I have explained in “VIII. Scripture and Tradition” in my reply to Michael Horton’s last comment in our Modern Reformation interview.

    Second, Catholics also believe that Jesus is Mary’s Savior. One can be saved in two ways, either by being pulled out of the mud, or by being prevented from falling into the mud in the first place. The latter is the greater saving, explained Scotus. It is not necessary for Mary to have existed at enmity with God at some point in time in order for her to have been saved by God. According to the natural order following from Adam’s sin, every child conceived by a man was, like the father from whose seed he was conceived, deprived of original righteousness and sanctifying grace, and so was conceived with original sin. So, under this order, Mary would have been conceived with original sin, because she was conceived by her father Joachim. So preventing her from being deprived of sanctifying grace even for a moment, by infusing it into her soul at the very first moment of her existence, truly was a saving, a saving greater than that of anyone else who has ever lived and ever will live. This is explained in the lecture at “Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.” See also Volume XX of Scotus’s Lectura in Librum Tertium Sententiarum (Q.1 dis. 3), titled “Utrum Beata Virgo fuerit concepta in peccato originali” (whether the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin).

    So this first piece of evidence is fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm.

    Your second piece of evidence is the following:

    2. Less significant, she talks about God’s mercy being extended to those who fear Him. Surely you would agree that Mary feared God. Why would she need mercy if she never sinned? (I realize that this in itself proves nothing, for clearly we could say that Jesus feared God; this is more of a preponderance of evidence thing in relation to the other points).

    This is also fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm. Mary needed mercy not because of actual sin she committed, but because of the condition of original sin in which she would have been conceived had God not shown her mercy, as explained just above. Likewise, in the Catholic paradigm, there are different kinds of fear, and not every kind of fear is the result of sin. (See, for example, <a href="http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3019.htm&quot;Summa Theologica II-II Q.19.) So Mary’s having fear of the Lord does not entail that Mary had sinned or was conceived in sin.

    Your third piece of evidence is the following:

    Mark 3:20–35 indicates that Jesus’ family thought He was out of His mind. It doesn’t say His family except for Mary, and in fact the context shows that she agreed with their estimation given that she shows up with His brothers in v. 32. Please tell me how this was not sin or that it does not argue against the encyclical statement that Mary was ALWAYS more united to her son than others. Please tell me how Mary was ALWAYS more united to her son than others if Jesus relativizes His family relations and says that whoever does the will of God is regarded as His brother, sister, and mother?

    This passage is also fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm. Your question-begging interpretation of the passage, of course, is not. The passage in no place says that Mary thought Jesus was out of His mind, or that she agreed with the other family members who did. That’s an assumption you are making, and imposing on the text. Granted, it would be a natural assumption to make, if we weren’t to be guided by Tradition when approaching Scripture. But to use the solo scriptura hermeneutic to attack Catholicism would be the epitome of question-begging. (See “The Tradition and the Lexicon” linked below.) Further, the fact that Scripture doesn’t say “except Mary” is fully compatible with Mary not agreeing with those who thought Him out of His mind. The argument from silence is a fallacy. Moreover, in His answer to the “who are my mother and brothers” question, Jesus is talking about His supernatural family (those one with Him by grace). You infer from His distinction between His natural family and His supernatural family that His natural family is not included in His supernatural family. But that conclusion does not follow. The distinction between His natural family and His supernatural family does not imply or entail that His natural family (or His mother) are not members of His supernatural family. It is fully compatible with His mother being a member of His supernatural family all along.

    So this passage likewise is fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm.

    Your fourth piece of evidence is the following:

    4. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, not all have sinned EXCEPT Mary. There is nothing in the context that would say that Paul held such a view or that it is qualified in any other way except to mean all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God except for Christ.

    Here again you are using an argument from silence: namely, Scripture doesn’t say “except Mary,” therefore she is included in the “all.” But that argument is a non sequitur, because the conclusion does not follow. In the Catholic paradigm, the qualification of the “all” comes from Tradition. Again, attempting to use solo scriptura as a way of arguing against Catholicism simply begs the question. So this fourth piece of evidence is fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm.

    Your fifth piece of evidence is follows:

    5. And though it does not touch directly on the Immaculate Conception, please tell me where apostolic tradition says Mary offered her Son to God on Golgotha. Hebrews 7:27; 9:14 says that Jesus offered Himself to God. Romans talks about the Father not sparing His Son. In the gospels, Jesus talks about the Son of Man giving Himself as a ransom. We find nothing about Mary offering up her Son on Golgotha.

    From the way you word this, you seem to think that if Jesus offered Himself to God the Father, and if the Father did not spare His Son, then somehow this indicates that Mary did not offer Jesus to God. But in the Catholic paradigm, there is no either/or here. So in the Catholic paradigm Mary’s offering her Son to the Father at the foot of the cross is fully compatible with Jesus’s simultaneously offering Himself to the Father, and God the Father not sparing His Son. Also, again, your point that Scripture doesn’t reveal whether Mary at the foot of the cross was offering up her Son to the Father is fully compatible with the Catholic paradigm, because in the Catholic paradigm, the apostolic deposit is not limited only to Scripture, as I explained above. The heart of Mary at the foot of the cross is revealed in the Tradition as developed by the Holy Spirit, according to which Mary, as the Second Eve, cooperates fully and entirely with the Second Adam, consenting to His mission to offer Himself up to the Father for our sins. Her “be it done unto me according to Thy will” did not end at the Annunciation, but continued throughout her life, and culminated at the cross in the hour for which He came into the world. I have explained that in much more detail in “Mary as Co-Redemptrix. So here too in this fifth piece of evidence there is nothing incompatible with the Catholic paradigm.

    Next you write:

    Please do not tell me that Jesus’ merit was proleptically applied to Mary so that she could be born without original sin and never commit actual sin unless you can demonstrate that this is what Luke and/or Mary had in mind when we read the record of her calling God Savior.

    Here you beg the question by presupposing that theological questions are answered ultimately by exegesis, when in the Catholic paradigm, exegesis is properly situated within, informed by, and subject to Tradition. See “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” See also paragraphs 29ff in Verbum Domini. Any word of Scripture has two authors: a human author, and the Divine Author. In the Catholic paradigm, because the Holy Spirit is the primary Author of Scripture, the meaning of Scripture is not limited to what was in the mind of the human author. So demanding that doctrine be limited not just to what was in the mind of the human author, but only to what can be demonstrated to have been in the mind of the human author, presupposes that Scripture has no Divine Author, and that the Holy Spirit does not guide the Church over time into a deeper understanding of the intention of that Divine Author. And that would beg the question against the Catholic paradigm, not just because such a demand ‘naturalizes’ Scripture by cutting out its Divine Author, but also because it presupposes ecclesial deism.

    (Jason, if you would rather we take this Immaculate Conception discussion elsewhere, just say so.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  69. “Paul’s point is never that people do not do the law, it’s that no one does it all the way.”

    Exactly. And their motives are not free of ‘self-taint’…some desire for reward, or fear of punishment.

    The doers that Jesus was happy with were the ones who were not even aware that they were doing anything. They were unselfconscious.

    I have never met a pure motive yet. Maybe that’s why the Bible calls “all our righteous deeds filthy rags”.

  70. Bryan,

    I just have a brief comment to your response in which you repeatedly accuse me of question begging when it comes to whether the Scripture works within the Catholic paradigm. Perhaps I was unclear, but the content of apostolic tradition and Scripture is the same. Scripture is apostolic tradition. So if I assume that there are a bunch of unwritten traditions and bring them to the Scripture, I can of course make the Scripture fit those traditions.

    I have accused Roman Catholicism of going beyond and contradicting Scripture. Why is it, Bryan, that every time a criticism of Roman Catholicism comes up that cannot be answered except by assuming the Roman Catholic Magisterium’s standards for judging itself, you accuse Protestants of begging the question? I see you do it again and again on CTC.

    When Rome is measured against any standard other than herself, she collapses under the weight of biblical and historical evidence. The scholars who supposedly are finding evidence that the Catholic paradigm (which one?) better accounts for Scriptures are the same scholars that will laugh if you tell them there is an unbroken tradition of popes and that doctrines such as indulgences, Marian piety, and so much else are grounded in Scripture.

    For Roman Catholicism to be true, you must argue in a vicious circle:

    The Magisterium defines what is Scripture and what is tradition
    The Magisterium gives the authoritative interpretation of the tradition
    The Magisterium gives the authoritative interpretation of itself (Bryan, you have explicitly argued this elsewhere)
    When something in tradition contradicts what the Magisterium teaches, the Magisterium tells us it is not a part of tradition.

    Do you not see how the deck is stacked? Do you not see how cultish this is. It’s the exact same as the Watchtower Society:

    The Watchtower society decides what is Scripture and what is tradition (it inserts words like “other” when talking about the creatures made through Christ and it conveniently ignores parts of its tradition that contradict itself)
    The Watchtower gives the authoritative interpretation of Scripture and tradition
    The Watchtower gives the authoritative interpretation of the Watchtower’s teaching when it is confusing or contradictory

  71. TheOldAdam,

    Dan is that you? Lol. I guess it is.

    Are those unworthy servants described in Luke 17:10 ‘unaware and unselfconscious (sic) of all they do’?

    SS.

  72. Robert,

    You wrote:

    Perhaps I was unclear, but the content of apostolic tradition and Scripture is the same. Scripture is apostolic tradition.

    You weren’t “unclear.” But you still apparently do not see how that assumption, namely, that Scripture alone is the apostolic tradition, is question-begging, i.e. presupposes the falsehood of Catholicism. I already provided a link above explaining that in the Catholic paradigm, the apostolic deposit was handed down not only in Scripture but also in an unwritten form. To presuppose the falsehood of the Catholic position, in arguing against the Catholic position, is to start with precisely what you’re trying to prove. That’s circular reasoning.

    You wrote:

    So if I assume that there are a bunch of unwritten traditions and bring them to the Scripture, I can of course make the Scripture fit those traditions.

    True. By making use of assumptions brought to Scripture, persons can and do make it say whatever they want. But, if in fact there is an unwritten component of the apostolic Tradition, and you rule it out a priori (on the ground that someone could falsely posit that there is an unwritten component of Tradition), you would be cutting yourself off from some of the divine revelation handed down from the Apostles. So your a priori claim puts you in the position of possibly being deprived of divine revelation. That’s why it is not a safe assumption.

    Why is it, Bryan, that every time a criticism of Roman Catholicism comes up that cannot be answered except by assuming the Roman Catholic Magisterium’s standards for judging itself, you accuse Protestants of begging the question?

    Because that’s just what question-begging is. When you construct an argument against some Catholic dogma, and you use premises that presuppose the falsehood of the Catholic Church, you beg the question, and thus fall into the fallacy of circular reasoning. It would be like using the presupposition that miracles cannot happen, as a premise in the argument that Jesus did not rise from the dead. In such a case you would recognize it as a question-begging argument. The difficulty for you, it seems, is recognizing the question-begging character of your arguments against Catholic dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception.

    You wrote:

    When Rome is measured against any standard other than herself, she collapses under the weight of biblical and historical evidence.

    Feel free to provide any biblical or historical evidence that “collapses” the teaching of the Catholic Church. Hand-waving is very easy.

    You wrote:

    It’s the exact same as the Watchtower Society:

    No, it is not. That’s because the evidence for the divine authority of the Magisterium is attested to by the motives of credibility, accessible by the natural light of reason. The Watchtower has no motives of credibility. I have written about the motives of credibility in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective.” Do a ‘control-F’ and search the comments for the term “motives of credibility,” because I explain it in much more detail in the comments there.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. “Are those unworthy servants described in Luke 17:10 ‘unaware and unselfconscious (sic) of all they do’?”

    They were unaware they these things would be God pleasing things.

    They just saw a need and did it, with no ulterior of self-concerned motive.

  74. Not that we’re talking about Paul yet or anything (!), but Paul is very upfront concerning how much he cares about his going above and beyond the call of duty so that he can have the right to boast in those things.

  75. I thought it was Paul who penned, “We are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

  76. The Old Adam,

    “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb 13.16). If we are not supposed to be aware or self-conscious of doing good deeds because we want to please God, why in the world would the sacred author write something so misleading?

  77. Adam,

    I wrote, “Paul is very upfront concerning how much he cares about his going above and beyond the call of duty so that he can have the right to boast in those things.” And you responded:

    I thought it was Paul who penned, “We are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

    He sure did. So you can either remove one of these two passages from your Bible or figure out how to harmonize them. But to wave off the apostle’s words simply because they don’t fit well with some other Pauline passage you like better only reveals the hermeneutic that so many Protestants employ, according to which one’s preferred texts just swallow up the ones that grate against your faulty paradigm (and as your response also shows, it’s not just that Paul eclipses Jesus, it’s that Paul can also eclipse himself).

    Much wiser, I think, to try to gain an understanding of the gospel that takes into account all the Scriptures have to say.

  78. hope you don’t mind my posting this daily office link here Jason, i just want to encourage all of us to keep seeking “home” and to worship in Spirit and Truth. these daily collects in audio have been a huge encouragement/ blessing to me. i hope others who are thirsty will find living water in these as well. for those unfamiliar they change every day.

    http://www.missionstclare.com/english/spoken/spoken.html

  79. i should clarify, by “home” i mean heaven. it is easy to forget we are souls longing for a better country, our home with our bridegroom.

  80. There’s nothing wrong with Christian encouragement. But telling people that they must do x, y, or z, to have the love of God is flat out wrong.

    The Christians will do…and he will not do. But through it all he remains a child of God.

  81. Steve,

    … telling people that they must do x, y, or z, to have the love of God is flat out wrong.

    “… whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (I John 3:10).

    “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3).

    “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (I John 3:17)

    “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20).

    “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I John 4:21).

    “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (I John 5:2).

    This small sampling of passages from a single NT book clearly shows that in order to have the love of God within, a person must do certain things. Or did I misunderstand your point?

  82. Steve,

    Read Luke 17:10 again, here’s a bit more context:

    7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

    Christ is speaking to His disciples. He tells them, when you have done all that were told to do, you should say, we have only done our duty. It is impossible logically to say “we have only done our duty” and not be aware of it. That is the first logical observation. The second is this: note that Christ says when you have done all you were told to do. There is nothing in the text that suggests that this should not be taken at face value. It is possible to do all that we are told to do. If you love me you will keep my commands says Christ. Why such pessimism? If you need to throw Luther out to hear Christ, then do it. Better to enter the kingdom with one guru missing than to be thrown into hell with all the false confidence of erudite but mistaken teachers.

  83. Re your pessimism, it is sub biblical. The good news of Christ being born is precisely that God has come to unite Himself to us, that we may be partakers of the divine nature, and that we may be fully equipped for every good work and for love of God and neighbor. Why is your Lutheran gospel so weak and impotent? Christ conquers as does him who is IN Christ, walking after the Spirit? Is this not the same Spirit who led the Hebrews across the Red Sea and through the desert? Did He not grant them the power to do the miraculous, that which was impossible in the flesh? Christ came to establish a new covenant yes, but it is a covenant nonetheless, as the verses above prove abundantly.

  84. Robert wrote:
    “If Nick wants proof from Paul that God demands absolute perfection, you only need to go to Romans 2 where it says the doers of the law will be justified, then on to the arguments that no one does the law. Paul’s point is never that people do not do the law, it’s that no one does it all the way. There are reams and reams of exegesis that demonstrate this point from Protestants and Catholics. Galatians 3 likewise makes the point.”

    The above is classic paradigmatic tunnel vision and your inference from Romans 2:13 is a complete non sequitur. Back up a few verses:

    “9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good

    Look at the contrast Paul makes in that very same passage: between trouble/distress and glory/honor/peace. And what is the contrasting factor? Deeds. Those who do evil vs those who do good. Exactly as one sees in Luke 17 and the parable of the unworthy servants. It is those who do their duty who are told that they should only say they are unworthy servants. The backdrop here is one of patronage! A patron client relationship in which the Patron, God, rescues man through Grace and then expects a return on that Grace/investment. Your idea that Romans 2 somehow teaches that someone cannot obey the law of Christ is nonsensical. If anything, it is precisely the opposite in view, because of the contrast. If you take v 10 as true insofar as it deals with judgment, you have to be consistent and take the rewards of glory honor and peace as being truly in view here, and as a function of the good that is done by persistence. It is not one’s glory that one seeks in persisting after good, it is God’s glory. Romans 2 is hinting at what lies ahead, at the fact that God’s faithfulness has not been thwarted, it has been vindicated through the gentile who now does the law, because Christ has written His law on his heart. . Paul is hinting at what lies ahead in Rom 6-8, and writes proleptically/symphonically here. IOW, these in view here are truly doers of the law in every sense! The hypothetical reading by contrast is complete nonsense.

    “David committed the grave sin of murder, yet he was forgiven. He was justified apart from the law, according to Romans 4, and not just the Mosaic law either but the law of good works, for as I have argued, the same people who have argued from Doug Moo that Paul almost always means “works of the Mosaic law” when he says “works of the law” fail to mention that Moo also says Paul has in mind good works of the law of nature that all Gentiles have on their hearts.”

    I agree with you re Moo and what has been left out of the conversation. What you might not know however is that Moo is reconsidering his stance on future justification. Listen to his talk at Denver for evidence at that. I do not believe that works of the law refer only to ceremonial markers (contra NPP/Dunn/Wright etc), but instead ergon tou theou refers to any/all works done in the flesh without any faith or belief in the coming Messiah/God’s faithfulness. Nevertheless, that does not mean that Luther/Calvin were correct. They completely bombed Romans 10:5 and failed to understand Paul’s true intent. It’s no wonder that Peter would warn of his difficult writing! Yes, it is true that the Jews had been taught by Moses to do the law with faith, but the reality was such that they the vast majority of them did not do such, and twisted the law to turn it into a sinful thing, by which they could put God into their debt. Circumcision etc were markers that were prototypical of this wrongful attitude of the heart. If you want confirmation that perfect obedience was mature obedience and not sinlessness, look to Zechariah and Elizabeth who are described as blameless and righteous in the sight of God . They were the exceptions that confirmed the rule that most of Israel had pursued the law in the flesh and without any faith in God.

    “Matthew 5:48 cannot just be about quality but also about degree, for you would certainly not argue that God is perfect in both quality but not degree. That is completely nonsensical, if you are not perfect in degree you are not perfect in quality. If I live my whole life and generally love my enemies except here or there, have I really loved them? If I make an omelet with 2 good and one rotten eggs, is it really worth eating.”

    Non sequitur. While it is true that God is perfect in both quality and degree, it does not follow that He requires letter of the law type righteousness. Is He not slow to anger, full or mercy and lovingkindness? Has He not made provision for our sins? Nevertheless, we have an obligation, now that we have been made His clients/bondservants to serve Him, failing which we will be cut off.

  85. SS,

    You crack me up :D.

    There is no Lutheran gospel. There is only THE gospel. And it is the forgiveness of sins, for the ungodly, for Jesus’ sake (not even our sakes).

    Nothing needs to be added. Not your good works…nor Popes…nor pilgrimages…nor indulgences…or anything at all that would water that gospel down and place the onus on us, instead of the completed work of Christ on the cross.

    And that’s pretty much it. No long tomes needed to explain that. But many just prefer the religious ladder climbing project. Have at it. Enjoy yourself.

  86. Steve,

    Glad to know that I lightened you up. I am not a catholic, by the way.

    So it’s not the Lutheran or Calvin’s gospel then? Why then do you worship in churches which explicitly call themselves Lutheran or Calvinistic? Oh, right, Luther and Calvin both preached ‘the gospel’… But wait, 5 pointers and lutherans don’t worship in the same church now do they and they are constantly debating each other. Covenant theology anyone? The emperor has no clothes, Steve. Wake up.

    No ladder climbing here, only a recognition that we are to do what we have been told to do and that the good news is precisely that we can do it.

    SS.

  87. I worship in my particular Lutheran church because we preach, teach, and confess the ‘pure gospel’. Many Lutheran churches have add-on’s such as a social gospel, or a inerrant texts, or “3rd uses” of the law…or whatever. We don’t go there. We believe in that pure gospel which says that Christ Jesus has done it all, and there is absolutely nothing that we need to do.

    And, as my pastor says, “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?”

  88. Of course, TOA, the problem is that the NT clearly tells us to do things, and it tells us that failure to do those things can have eternal consequences. The paradigm you’re adopting does not arise from the Bible, nor did the Bible writers use it.

  89. Steve,

    Why then does the author of Hebrews tell us to make every effort to be holy for without holiness no one will see the Lord? Are you making the effort Steve? Or are you like Luther, who was so uncomfortable with Hebrews that he wanted it thrown out of the canon? Did the author of Hebrews not get the memo that Jesus has done it all? And why does Jesus say that his brothers and sisters are those who actually do the will of His Father? You are reduced to massive inconsistency and indeterminancy in your position: “I may or may not have any works or progress in my salvation.” Well, you then have to deal with the unavoidable unintended consequences of such: under such a stance, you can never have real assurance that your salvation is genuine.

    1 John 3:

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

    Was John too resting in something else than Christ’s finished work?

    SS.

  90. The Bible is filled with law language and gospel language. The law (what we ought do) is never done, although we might talk a good game and kid ourselves. The gospel is already done…and given to you, freely. We will all do, and not do, to varying degrees…but that is not the point. The point is that the Lord knows this about us and does not hold it against us for His sake.

    In this, there is real rest. I was so worn out and I lacked for assurance when I was a Catholic and when I was an Evangelical. One never quite arrived in those churches. But I have heard the pure gospel, now…and I believe it. The resulting peace, rest, and freedom is so wonderful that I can never again to back under any yoke of any type of religious/spiritual ladder-climbing project or scheme.

    Thanks, fellas.

  91. Jason, you said: “Of course, TOA, the problem is that the NT clearly tells us to do things, and it tells us that failure to do those things can have eternal consequences. The paradigm you’re adopting does not arise from the Bible, nor did the Bible writers use it.”

    Yes, exactly.

    I find it helps to explain how it doesn’t necessarily detract from God’s glory to have us cooperate in our own salvation–that He, our Father, would have us work with Him intimately (albeit as children! who need help every step of the way! and who fall daily!). Now, I think, saints and their good works magnify the glory of God. Does a teacher get less honor because his student one day solves a problem on the chalkboard in his own writing? Does parent get less honor because his son grows up and marries? No! The teacher is more glorified by the success of his student, because he wrought that success! And the father’s glory is in the success of his son, because the son came from the father! I love Catholic soteriology–it is truly relational. God and man. God loves man.

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