Raise Your Hand… If You’re Sure!

Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Assurance, Catholicism, Featured, Predestination, Presbyterianism, Protestantism, Reformed Theology | 115 comments

One of the biggest purported “selling points” of Reformed theology has always been the doctrine of assurance. It is not uncommon to hear things like, “In Rome you’re stuck on a never-ending sacramental treadmill, but what you get in Geneva is the peace that comes from the full assurance of faith. Why would anyone trade assurance for fear and uncertainty?”

I would respectfully demure at this point.

While it is true that Reformed theology offers the elect absolute assurance of final salvation (since they have been chosen before the foundation of the world, have had their sins atoned for by the blood of Christ, are effectually called to Christ by the Spirit, and will be given the gift of perseverance unto the end), these ideas are not all exclusive to Geneva. As a Catholic, I also believe that there is a group of people called “the elect” who, having been chosen before the foundation of the world, cannot but gain their final heavenly inheritance. Just because the Catholic allows free will to play a bigger role in all of this doesn’t change the fact that both sides believe that a set number of saints will wind up in heaven, and that this number was known to God (in some sense) before Genesis 1:1.

“But,” the Reformed will surely say, “the mere existence of a group of elect people isn’t enough to bring about real assurance, since unlike you, we further insist upon the doctrines of particular redemption and effectual calling that bolster our comfort.”

At this point I would agree that Reformed theology, at least theoretically, appears to offer a better product, assurance-wise, than Catholicism does. But the thing is, that product’s theoretical superiority is of no practical value, for the obvious reason that no person can know with absolute certainty that he is a member of the elect. Can a Reformed person have a reasonable moral certitude that he is chosen? Sure. But so can a Catholic. And without some kind of special revelation or sneak-peek at the Book of Life by which one’s elect status is placed beyond the possibility of dispute, we’re all pretty much in the same boat.

In fact, a case could be made that the Catholic has moments available to him in which he can be more assured than the Calvinist can. You see, the fact that we all (Calvinists included) know loads of people who ten years ago gave as much evidence of their salvation as we currently give of our own, but who now completely disavow Christianity altogether,  means that it is completely possible that the same will be true of us in ten years’ time. In a word, none of us can be assured, right now at this very moment, that we will not reject Jesus tomorrow.

But here’s the rub for the Calvinist: If he does reject Jesus tomorrow, or ten years from tomorrow, and dies in that state, then according to Reformed theology he never knew Christ in the first place. Let that sink in. If Reformed stalwarts like Eric or Robert reject Christ and never repent, then they are unregenerate and unjustified right now, even as they defend the Reformed faith here and elsewhere on a daily basis. And according to Calvinism, every single Christian is in this state at every moment of his life: he is a possible reprobate who has been foreordained to destruction from all eternity.

The Catholic, on the other hand, while he also knows that if he dies outside a state of grace he will be damned like the Calvinist will, can know with absolute certainty that when he receives divine forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation, he is at that moment a completely justified Christian. There is no hint of fear that his experience of present grace is, due to the doctrine of election, a possible illusion of false hope.

In short, yes, Reformed theology offers wonderful assurance, but it is an offer that applies to an invisible group to which one may, or may not, belong.

115 Comments

  1. Jason–

    Yes, IF we are deceived concerning our present status and IF we fall away, then and only then should we consider ourselves never to have been regenerate and never to have been justified. But those are two big IF’s!!

    As for the Catholic, if he or she falls away into apostasy or unrepentant mortal sin, then that person was never finally justified (i.e., justified in a Protestant sense) and probably not regenerate in a Protestant sense, either.

    Regeneration, for Protestants, is probably most congruent with the Catholic concept of “second conversion,” where the mature Catholic makes the faith their own through repentance and inner renewal. Here it is from the pages of the CCC:

    1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, (is) at once holy and always in need of purification, (and) follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.

    1429 St. Peter’s conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus’ look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him. The second conversion also has a communitarian dimension, as is clear in the Lord’s call to a whole Church: “Repent!”

    St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.”

    1430 Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.

    1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).

    1432 The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!” God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. the human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.

    However, I have never read anywhere that such a “second conversion” is anything more than advisable. It is certainly not required, is it? I assume that the conversion inherent in baptism is sufficient in the lives of most Catholics.

    In the meantime, the only way that a Catholic can have anything beyond “reasonable moral certitude” (which, I’m surmising, translates to, “Well, I guess I’m saved, aren’t I?) is through individual special revelation of their personal perseverance, a very rare occurrence.

    Though we would consider someone who falls away never to have been regenerate in the first place, that doesn’t mean that we believe them to have been incapable of spiritual insight. If baptized, they are “enlightened”; they do participate in the benefits of the communion of saints. They are like the stalk of grain planted in shallow or rocky ground. They show signs of life for a time, but the new “life” within them is not genuinely spiritual in nature. It does not issue forth with genuine fruit of any sort.

  2. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Though we would consider someone who falls away never to have been regenerate in the first place, that doesn’t mean that we believe them to have been incapable of spiritual insight. If baptized, they are “enlightened”; they do participate in the benefits of the communion of saints. They are like the stalk of grain planted in shallow or rocky ground. They show signs of life for a time, but the new “life” within them is not genuinely spiritual in nature. It does not issue forth with genuine fruit of any sort.

    So, they’re capable of a “spiritual insight” which is “not genuinely spiritual in nature”?

    :???:

    Their disingenuous spiritual insight sounds a lot like, as Calvin put it, a “false pretense as to faith, of which they were wholly destitute.” Sounds a lot like saying that they’re “not incapable” of something which is false and tricksy.

  3. I think the Reformed perspective is that we Catholics must have to work really hard to maintain our salvation and gain assurance. I think the right perspective, however, is that we would have to work really hard to LOSE our salvation…that’s the real assurance! My toddler could certainly, if her will were strong enough and persisted against me long enough get away from me and come to harm, but I can assure you that I would do everything possible to keep her from getting away from my protection. Hopefully the analogy with God and us is clear.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  4. JeffB–

    So at what point, if were you granted the resources of God, would you allow your toddler to “get away” from you and “come to harm”?

    Exactly how strong-willed and persistent would that precious little one have to be before you let go?

  5. Eric, you write:

    However, I have never read anywhere that such a “second conversion” is anything more than advisable. It is certainly not required, is it?

    Eric, Christians can be divided into two camps, those that believe in Lordship Salvation and those that believe in Non-Lordship Salvation. Catholics are firmly in the camp of Lordship Salvation. When the Lord commands us to do something (like listen to the church that he personally founded), we need to do it if we are to be saved. Furthermore, Jesus gives us the explicit criteria that he will use for separating the sheep from the goats at the end of time, and that criteria is not “faith alone”. It is in the second conversion that the Christian has the opportunity to manifests the works of mercy that will make him either a sheep or a goat. The “goat” Christian that lives a life void of charity has no reason to believe he will be saved.

    So, no, Catholics do not think that manifesting agape to our neighbors is just a swell thing that we might do that is merely advisable. Manifesting charity (agape) to our neighbors in need is what separates the sheep from the goats. Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

    What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
    James 2:14-17

    Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
    1 John 4:7-8

    A Christian can choose to be a goat by not manifesting charity to those in need. That would be damnation through the sins of omission.

    Eric you write:

    I assume that the conversion inherent in baptism is sufficient in the lives of most Catholics.

    That is a bad assumption. Besides damning himself through the sins of omission, a Christian can damn himself through the sins of commission:

    Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
    James 1:21-22
    .

    Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.
    1 John 3:7-8

    No adult should expect to be saved that is merely a hearer of the word, and not a doer of the word.

  6. JeffB,

    Actually, given the list of potentially mortal sins on Wikipedia, that font of all knowledge, it seems really easy to slip up, or at least to never be sure of when you’ve committed a mortal sin or not:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortal_sin

    There are all sorts of sins on that list that neither you nor your priest will ever be sure that crossed over the line from grave to mortal given the requirements that must be met for a sin to be mortal: Drug Abuse, Indifference, Rich nation’s refusal to aid those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves (though seems like refusal would make it mortal), Suicide, the various sexual sins such as masturbation and pornography, lying, lukewarmness, etc.) Seems to us that all the penances, indulgences, etc. are meant for you all to “cover your bases,” not to mention last rites to give you one last chance to cover any mortal sins you may have forgotten or overlooked. Seems that the very existence of these things shows an insufficient hope in God’s free forgiveness and an assurance of pardon. You just have to keep DOING stuff to make up for your faults.

  7. Robert,

    There are 3 conditions for one to be culpable for mortal sin. One cannot be ignorant and commit a mortal sin. One is also forgiven of all sin in confession if they honestly confess all they know/think is sin (although if they later were to recall a sin they had forgotten, they are recommended to confess it later). There are countless sins we don’t know of (Luther’s problem), which would be venial – one knows when they commit mortal sin because that’s one of the 2 conditions – full knowledge and full consent. Venial sins are of course forgiven in many ways outside of confession (eucharist, prayer, acts of charity).

    “Seems to us that all the penances, indulgences, etc. are meant for you all to “cover your bases,””

    This would relate to temporal punishment, not forgiveness.

    “You just have to keep DOING stuff to make up for your faults.”

    Just like you have to DO stuff to restore God’s countenance to you in sanctification. WCF:
    “although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

  8. James,

    All we do is repent. We don’t have to say 15 Hail Marys or any of the other nonsense Rome puts on people. The forgiveness—including the remission of all punishment temporal and eternal—is by faith and repentance alone (faith and repentance being two sides of the same coin).

    So yes, there is a significant difference.

  9. Robert,

    All you do is repent. Right. And what is involved in repentance? Actions (that YOU DO) of some sort perhaps? You’re not sitting there like a zombie in repentance.

    “We don’t have to say 15 Hail Marys or any of the other nonsense Rome puts on people. ”

    Cool so you don’t really need to bother apologizing to the guy you sinned against. Or trying to make amends for your wrongs like Zaccheus who gave four-fold back. Nope, repentance is just some mental disposition on my part. More zombie sanctification.

  10. Btw the penances offered by the priest usually isn’t just some blanket say 20 “our fathers” – it’s usually a reflection on a scripture focused on the particular sin/failing as well as some prayers perhaps. Why prayer and meditation with God is somehow “nonsense” is beyond me though. When you repent, don’t you pray and meditate? WCF says you should (along with begging pardon, humbling yourself, renewing your faith and repentance).

  11. Dear Jason,

    I heard you preach when you interned at ACPC years ago. I appreciate your lengthy struggle to cross over to the Mother Church. My journey has been going on for more years than I care to remember. There are so many bright and capable people, such as yourself, that have such great gifts for preaching and teaching, that I wonder what changes the CC will go through in the future in terms of cult (how we worship). I attended a Catholic Church for about a year and found myself pining for preaching that was challenging me to actually confront my failures, seek God, etc. What I am saying, is that I can see the day when your Church turns guys like you lose. When that day comes, I believe the response will be overwhelming.

    All the best to you.

    Brad

  12. ….And according to Calvinism, every single Christian is in this state at every moment of his life: he is a possible reprobate who has been foreordained to destruction from all eternity.

    Response:
    This is not in accord with Calvinism. Neither election, nor reprobation, signify a state or something in the Christian. It is from the certainty of our effectual calling, followed by other graces, that we are assured of our eternal election. Since election does not cause the necessary invisible graces (like faith or repentance), then it cannot be an essential property of a Christian life. Moreover, if election falls short as a cause or essential property, then a Christian as a “possible reprobate” is impossible !

    Thanks,
    Eric W

  13. James,

    Cool so you don’t really need to bother apologizing to the guy you sinned against. Or trying to make amends for your wrongs like Zaccheus who gave four-fold back.

    Fruits of repentance, not repentance itself.

  14. Just because the Catholic allows free will to play a bigger role….

    Jason,

    At the outset I just wanted to point out that how large a role that free will plays is a matter of some debate within Catholic theology. You can still to this day take the Jesuit position concerning the primacy of the free will and not be out of accord with current Roman Catholic dogma. The Reformed perspective is that if we are justified we WILL be glorified. Christ says He know His sheep and they will NEVER perish. So our question to the Catholic is this – can someone for whom Christ died be eternally lost when he commits some sort of mortal sin? My observation is that Catholics respond differently to the question based on their understanding of the role of free will.

    We believe that if Christ died for us we don’t have to have to worry that some sort of mortal sin (see Robert’s comments from 11:06 am today) might separate us from Christ’s love. This is at the heat of what we mean by assurance. By eternal assurance, we do not mean that if we say a little prayer that we will never be lost, we mean that if we are in Christ we cannot be lost. If you believe that an act of your free will can place you outside of the love of Christ then you are saying that Christ does not preserve His elect. But this is where I think we get to a place where Roman Catholicism does not have a ready answer for us because there is a division within Roman Catholicism on the role that free will plays.

    So here is the question for the Roman Catholic – Can the person who Christ dies for be lost by an at of their free will?

  15. Mateo–

    But of course it is possible to be a “doer of the Word” without being motivated by agape. If one is baptized, goes regularly to Mass, confesses yearly, and works toward the good of his or her neighbor…but does all of these out of a sense of duty, are you telling me this person’s lack of overt charity will keep them from the beatific vision? Or will it simply doom them to a good many “years” in Purgatory till they learn to love God properly?

    To what extent is inner renewal absolutely necessary, and on what basis do [some] Catholics disparage the Protestant view of renewal as unbiblical or even demonic?

  16. Great post Jason.

    I’m hoping some of the reformed folks could specifically respond to the following paragraph:

    But here’s the rub for the Calvinist: If he does reject Jesus tomorrow, or ten years from tomorrow, and dies in that state, then according to Reformed theology he never knew Christ in the first place. Let that sink in. If Reformed stalwarts like Eric or Robert reject Christ and never repent, then they are unregenerate and unjustified right now, even as they defend the Reformed faith here and elsewhere on a daily basis. And according to Calvinism, every single Christian is in this state at every moment of his life: he is a possible reprobate who has been foreordained to destruction from all eternity.

    To me it sounds like this is a very good critique of what you consider to be a huge selling point of your theological system. Most of the comments above are just hashing out the battle of which is more certain. I’d like to hear something a little more personal about how this is operates within your own system (and not compared to a different system). Certainly, Jason isn’t the first person to come up with this objection. Its something you’ve thought about. How do you resolve it in your mind without an appeal to being better than a competing system?

  17. Andrew McCallum –

    You asked, “So here is the question for the Roman Catholic – Can the person who Christ dies for be lost by an at of their free will?”

    I think this question might be answered in this post over at CTC which compares Catholic and protestant conceptions of the Atonement. Specifically, it compares how Jesus died for all in the Catholic paradigm and in the reformed paradigm, Jesus died only for the elect.

    So the answer is “yes,” but you must remember we mean something different when we speak of what it means that Jesus died for somebody. I can see how in the reformed understanding of the atonement Jesus couldn’t “lose” a Christian, but we don’t hold your view of the atonement. Re-read the article I linked.

    I hope that helps.

  18. Andrew,

    A catholic could hold Christ’s death was sufficient for all, efficient for the elect (Christ dying for all, even the non-elect, is what brings about the non-elect’s resurrection and immortality). And that only the elect are granted infallibly efficacious grace that was ordained by God before the foundation of the world – so then any such elect who fell into mortal sin would infallibly be restored before death (similar to Calvinist view of gross backsliders). This does not mean the non-elect were not given sufficient grace – it was truly sufficient even if efficacious grace was not granted with it – so they cannot charge God with commanding the impossible.

  19. Eric you write:

    But of course it is possible to be a “doer of the Word” without being motivated by agape. If one is baptized, goes regularly to Mass, confesses yearly, and works toward the good of his or her neighbor…but does all of these out of a sense of duty, are you telling me this person’s lack of overt charity will keep them from the beatific vision?

    Eric, what do you think agape is? Something that primarily involves consoling emotional feelings?

    Does the mother that drags herself out of bed to change her baby’s diaper at 3:00 a.m. “out of a sense of motherly duty” displaying unselfish love or not? It is hard for me to imagine a Christian that actually “works toward the good of his or her neighbor” that would not doing that out of some sense of love, however imperfect. But to your point, is it possible to have “faith alone” and no charity? Yes, of course that is possible, and Paul explicitly speaks about this:

    … if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
    1 Cor. 15:2

    Eric, you ask:

    To what extent is inner renewal absolutely necessary, and on what basis do [some] Catholics disparage the Protestant view of renewal as unbiblical or even demonic?

    Some Protestant sects teach non-Lordship salvation, and this view is seen as unbiblical to the point of being demonic if the non-Lordship behavior is actually manifested in a soul damning action. Millions of evangelical Protestants believe that there is no sin that they could possibly commit that would cause them to lose their salvation. Eric, what about the Christian that backslides and dies as an unrepentant Satan worshiper? Are you going to try to argue with me that the bible teaches that men that die as unrepentant Satan worshipers can go to heaven? What about unrepentant murderers? Unrepentant fornicators?

    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.
    Revelation 21:8

  20. Mateo–

    It depends on whether the “unrepentant” murderer, fornicator, or Satan worshiper is elect or not. And, before you fly off the handle, let me briefly explain Luther’s rhetoric when he said the following:

    “No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.”

    I have yet to see a Catholic interpreter get this one right, which is incredibly odd, as it is fully biblical…without controversy, as far as I can tell. Catholic commentators just don’t have their “thinking caps” on, for some reason!!

    Paul tells never to sin willfully, with the express intention on our part of proving that, no matter what we ever think to do, grace will still abound all the more. Implicit in this statement (that we are not to take advantage of the overwhelming graciousness of God) is the notion that when we do, in fact, go ahead and sin, GRACE DOES ABOUND. And there ARE NO limitations on what God will forgive. Luther is using hyperbole to focus on the limitless grace of God. He does indeed forgive murderers and fornicators and Satan worshipers.

    This most emphatically does NOT mean that good works are unnecessary or that repentance is unnecessary or even that we can get away with sinning willfully. It simply means that the grace of God is limitless.

    If that is the case, then one can imagine scenarios where a devout believer (in fact, someone regenerate and elect) goes momentarily off the skids and commits a heinous act, only to be immediately killed (before any regret or repentance has a chance to kick in). God knows that this person WOULD have repented in dust and ashes had he or she been given the requisite time, and God forgives the seemingly unforgivable. Declaring that this heinous act is NOT “beyond the pale” of God’s grace is not some weird form of Antinomianism: it is simply biblical.

    King David was a murderer. Saul of Tarsus had the blood of Christians on his hands. Peter betrayed Jesus, denying Christ three times on the day of his trial. The woman caught in adultery was…caught in adultery. The woman at the well had had five husbands and was not wedded to her current partner. Great sin IS often expunged. Great sin is “covered by the blood” no less than any other lesser sin.

  21. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    So here is the question for the Roman Catholic – Can the person who Christ dies for be lost by an act of their free will?

    Considering that Christ died for all men without exception, then… well… you do the math. :lol:

  22. Eric,

    “God knows that this person WOULD have repented in dust and ashes had he or she been given the requisite time, and God forgives the seemingly unforgivable. ”

    This is kind of weird coming from a Calvinist – so God works with counterfactuals in his salvation? I would think it would be the case that the elect would be predestined not to die before performing their act of repentance.

  23. Maybe said already, but

    But the thing is, that product’s theoretical superiority is of no practical value, for the obvious reason that no person can know with absolute certainty…

    Isn’t this what we said about the alleged superiority of RC epistemological certainty?

    Also “demure” is an adjective. You’re looking for the verb “demur”.

  24. Eric, you write:

    … there ARE NO limitations on what God will forgive. … He does indeed forgive murderers and fornicators and Satan worshipers.

    Eric, God forgives Satan worshipers, murderers and fornicators, but only if these sinners ask God to forgive them of the sins that they have committed, are sorry for committing these sins, and have made a firm amendment to repent (turn away) from these sins.

    God has gone so far as to found His own church on earth and give to certain men the power to hear confession and grant absolution for the sins that were confessed with a contrite heart and a firm resolution of repentance:

    ] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
    John 20: 21-23
    .
    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    1 John 1:9

    Note that Apostle John has been given the authority by God to not only forgive sins if they are confessed, but to also to retain sins that are confessed (that is, the Apostle John has the authority to not grant absolution for a confessed sin). When would John be obliged to retain sins that were confessed? That would be the case of where the penitent is NOT making a firm resolution of turn away from his sin. The man’s lack of repentance makes the sin unforgivable. That is why Martin Luther is wrong if he is saying that a man can commit adultery and be forgiven if the man has NOT made a firm resolution to repent of adultery. Being sorry for committing adultery is not enough; the man (or woman) must also make the decision to never commit that sin again. The last words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery were “go, and do not sin again.” John 8:11

    … one can imagine scenarios where a devout believer (in fact, someone regenerate and elect) goes momentarily off the skids and commits a heinous act, only to be immediately killed (before any regret or repentance has a chance to kick in). God knows that this person WOULD have repented in dust and ashes had he or she been given the requisite time, and God forgives the seemingly unforgivable.

    This is merely speculation on your part, but if you are going to speculate, then I can also speculate that God would always give the person one last chance to show contrition and repent before he or she is really dead. But all this speculation is besides the point, because I did not ask you if God could forgive Satan worshipers, murderers or fornicators. I asked you if you believed that the bible teaches that men that die as unrepentant Satan worshipers, unrepentant murderers, and unrepentant fornicators can expect to see heaven.

    You have not answered that question.

  25. Jason, you write:

    “But,” the Reformed will surely say, “the mere existence of a group of elect people isn’t enough to bring about real assurance, since unlike you, we further insist upon the doctrines of particular redemption and effectual calling that bolster our comfort.”
    .
    At this point I would agree that Reformed theology, at least theoretically, appears to offer a better product, assurance-wise, than Catholicism does. But the thing is, that product’s theoretical superiority is of no practical value, for the obvious reason that no person can know with absolute certainty that he is a member of the elect. Can a Reformed person have a reasonable moral certitude that he is chosen? Sure. But so can a Catholic.

    Jason, in the Reformed system, can person really have a “reasonable” assurance that he will be one of the people that end up in Heaven? I don’t see how that is possible.

    The Calvinists are proclaiming that even the elect are still totally depraved after they have been justified, since, in their view, justification is merely a forensic act that proclaims the sinner to be “not guilty” without bringing about his sanctification. Since total depravity is retained by the justified, it would also be the case that some people can think that they are one the people that God has decided to save, but are, in fact, operating under a delusion. These people are the Calvinists that are already-damned-but-don’t-know-it-yet. Total depravity is a consequence of the Fall, and it is total depravity that leads to people living in delusional fantasies.

    It seems to me, that the only way that a Calvinist could be sure that he is one of the people that are going to make it to heaven would be for him to look to something that would confirm his election. That something would be the progressive sanctification that he is seeing in his life. But the Calvinists are also saying that both the really-trully-elect and the deluded already-damned-but-don’t-know-it-yet reprobate can resist sanctifying grace by choosing to commit sin. The deluded can go for years operating under their delusions before their delusional bubble is burst by committing some heinous sin – in which the refrain following their fall will be “that person was never saved in the first place”.

    You see, the fact that we all (Calvinists included) know loads of people who ten years ago gave as much evidence of their salvation as we currently give of our own, but who now completely disavow Christianity altogether,  means that it is completely possible that the same will be true of us in ten years’ time. In a word, none of us can be assured, right now at this very moment, that we will not reject Jesus tomorrow.

    Exactly! But the situation is far worse for the Calvinist than it is for the Catholic. As a Catholic I believe that God loves all men unconditionally, and that God desires to save all men – which is why I have absolutely no doubt at all that God loves me and wants to save me. I can begin my process of sanctification with the absolute assurance that God desires for me to become holy, and that God will give me the grace that is sufficient to accomplish that end.

    The Calvinist, on the other hand, claims that God only loves a limited set of special people enough to save them. The Calvinist does not believe that God loves all men unconditionally, and that means that a Calvinist has absolutely no way of knowing at the beginning of his journey of sanctification that he is one of the elect. The Calvinist can only have assurance that he is one of the elect some time after he begins his process of sanctification. The Calvinist makes that determination by trying to discern signs of holiness that he may be manifesting in his life. But the Calvinist is also claiming that he is not a puppet whose strings are pulled by irresistible sanctifying grace, since the Calvinist knows in his heart that he is quite capable of resisting sanctifying grace, and does, in fact, commit sin by resisting sanctifying grace. That is not the worst of it, since the Calvinist religion teaches that no man will ever overcome sin while he is alive. So the very thing that leads men into delusion is also something that no man can ever overcome in this life. Which is why I would say that the Calvinist has no cause for assurance while he is alive, since he could be deluding himself at this very moment into thinking that he is not one of the already-damned-but-don’t-know-it-yet.

  26. As a Catholic I believe that God loves all men unconditionally, and that God desires to save all men – which is why I have absolutely no doubt at all that God loves me and wants to save me. I can begin my process of sanctification with the absolute assurance that God desires for me to become holy, and that God will give me the grace that is sufficient to accomplish that end.

    If God loves all men unconditionally, why don’t all men end up in heaven? Your answer is human free will, right? How can you be assured that your free will won’t decide to “reject Jesus tomorrow” or 10-20-30 years from now? One system knows that the elect persevere, but doesn’t know who’s elect, the other system knows current status but has no guarantee of perseverance — what’s the difference, other than some temperaments might feel subjectively more assured in one system vs the other?

    FWIW, I’ve never understood WCF 18.2-3 to my own satisfaction ” This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith…This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.”

    Jason, did you ever feel “infallibly assured”? I never did, and I feel less so now than a few years ago, directly because of YOU (but not because of this post).

  27. Ruberad,

    If God loves all men unconditionally, why don’t all men end up in heaven? Your answer is human free will, right? How can you be assured that your free will won’t decide to “reject Jesus tomorrow” or 10-20-30 years from now? One system knows that the elect persevere, but doesn’t know who’s elect, the other system knows current status but has no guarantee of perseverance — what’s the difference, other than some temperaments might feel subjectively more assured in one system vs the other?

    This is the same as the prodigal son. The Prodigal son is always the son of the father but chooses to leave. The father is always there waiting for the son’s return but the son needs to realize his depravity and return back to the father who will receive him with great joy.

    At baptism, we become adopted sons of the father. We never lose that “sonship” but can always “wander off to a faraway land.”

    I think the Reformed system believes (assumes?) that we will always stay working for the Father but Scripture tells us that that is not always the case.

  28. Ruberad you ask:

    If God loves all men unconditionally, why don’t all men end up in heaven?

    I know that God loves all men unconditionally because when the scriptures speak of God’s love the word in Greek that the scriptures use is agape, which is, by definition, unconditional love. Salvation is never spoken of being unconditional. The Gospel is repent and be saved. So repentance is a condition of salvation, and it is the man that has to repent, not God.

    Your answer is human free will, right?

    That would need to be qualified. God predestines without regard to merit, but reprobates only in regard to demerit. God lays before every man the choice of blessing or curse, life or death. The man that rejects the sufficient grace that God gives to every man has made the choice for curse. But the man that accepts the grace of God is only able to make that choice because the choice was grace enabled by the sufficient grace that God has given him.

    How can you be assured that your free will won’t decide to “reject Jesus tomorrow” or 10-20-30 years from now?

    I rejected Jesus when I was in my twenties, and lived as an apostate for about fifteen years. How do I know I would never be that stupid again? I can’t. And neither can anyone else know that they will never be that stupid. The warning passages about committing the sin of apostasy are in the scriptures for a reason.

    One system knows that the elect persevere, but doesn’t know who’s elect, the other system knows current status but has no guarantee of perseverance …?

    If we define the elect as those that make it into Heaven, then both “systems” agree that the elect, by definition, persevere. But there are other valid ways to define the elect. For example, in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) there is a Rite of Acceptance for Catechumens, and a Rite of Election for Catechumens:

    This Rite of Acceptance then begins the Period of the Catechumenate, during which the catechumens receive catechetical, ascetically and liturgical training. Catechetical instruction is of the utmost importance; “This catechesis leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts but also to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they desire to participate” (RCIA, No. 75). During this time, the catechumens should undergo a conversion of mind and action, becoming acquainted with the teachings of the faith and acquiring a spirit of charity. The sponsors and parish community assist the catechumens by their example and support. At Sunday Mass, the catechumens receive special exorcisms, blessings and anointings following the homily; however, after the Liturgy of the Word, they leave the Church. The Catechumenate may extend over a prolonged period of time, even years if necessary.
    .
    The Rite of Election closes the Period of the Catechumenate. This rite normally coincides with the first Sunday of Lent. At this rite, upon the testimony of sponsors and catechists and the catechumens’ affirmation of their intention to join the Church, the Church makes its “election” of these catechumens to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. In the presence of the bishop (or his delegate), they inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect at the cathedral as a pledge of fidelity. Now the catechumens are called “the elect’ or “the illuminandi” (“those who will be enlightened”). They now begin a Period of Purification and Enlightenment — the final, intense preparation for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. On the next five Sundays of Lent, three scrutinies (rites for self-searching and repentance) and the presentations of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer take place. This period concludes with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
    .
    Ref: The Rite of Election: RCIA, by Fr. William Saunders
    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0179.html

    In the Catholic Church some catechumens are called the elect, and these people have not yet been justified by sacramental regeneration. So unless we are simply defining the “elect” to be those people that actually make it into Heaven, a Catholic cannot say that a catechumen that has his name entered into the Book of the Elect is guaranteed to make it into Heaven.

    One system knows that the elect persevere, but doesn’t know who’s elect, the other system knows current status but has no guarantee of perseverance — what’s the difference, other than some temperaments might feel subjectively more assured in one system vs the other?

    Whats the difference? The Catholic can have the supernatural virtue of hope, since he knows without a doubt that God desires to save him. The Calvinist cannot know that God desires to save him, since God might not want to save him. Maybe God is letting him live under the delusion that he is one of the elect, when he really isn’t. I don’t see how the Calvinist can even have the virtue of hope, less yet the certainty of his election.

    FWIW, I’ve never understood WCF 18.2-3 to my own satisfaction ” This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith…This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.”

    No one can understand this since it is utter nonsense. WCF 18.2-3 is saying that the only way to know if you are a member of the elect is to make that discernment, and that you can make that discernment without extraordinary revelation. But the natural man is fallen, and the Fall is the cause of why people live in delusional fantasies. Why, especially in Calvinism with its total depravity doctrine, would a man’s natural reasoning give him the discernment of something that can ONLY be known by supernatural revelation?

  29. James–

    I’m not at all sure that something we would have done had we had enough time should be considered a “counterfactual.” In general, counterfactuals refer to other options we might have chosen other than the one we did. Here, death stops us in our tracks…from making any choice whatever.

    It is interesting to note that the Catholic Catechism claims something similar to what I claimed (in terms of the conundrum of suicide):

    2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

  30. Mateo–

    1. I’m not sure how you can label as “unrepentant” those who never had a chance to exercise the option to repent.

    2. The consensus of Reformed theologians, as far as I am aware, is that total depravity does not continue to be the case after regeneration. We are no longer in rebellion, no longer at enmity with God, and we now seek quite naturally after God. None of these are characteristics of the totally depraved. I know Reymond and Berkhof concur with this. Perhaps someone else can give us a more detailed rendering of the Reformed stance on this issue.

  31. Eric, I am not the one putting the air-quotes around the word unrepenant, you are. I am not asking you anything about “unrepentant” sinners.

    Eric, do you believe that the bible teaches that men that die as unrepentant Satan worshipers, unrepentant murderers, and unrepentant fornicators can expect to see heaven?

    You have still not answered that simple question.

    The consensus of Reformed theologians, as far as I am aware, is that total depravity does not continue to be the case after regeneration.

    Of course they do, because the Reformed do not believe that justification brings about an infused righteousness, they believe instead, that justification only brings about an imputed righteousness. To use Luther’s analogy, the unjustified man is a pile of dung. The justified man is a pile of dung that is covered by snow. The difference between the justified man and the unjustified man is merely the snow covering, and not what is underneath the snow.

  32. Eric, you write;

    It is interesting to note that the Catholic Catechism claims something similar to what I claimed (in terms of the conundrum of suicide)…

    No Eric, the CCC quote that you gave sides with what I said. The CCC says that even in the case of suicide that “ by ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.”

    Note that the CCC says nothing about God forgiving a grave sin (in this case suicide) without the sinner repenting.

  33. Mateo,

    Of course they do, because the Reformed do not believe that justification brings about an infused righteousness, they believe instead, that justification only brings about an imputed righteousness. To use Luther’s analogy, the unjustified man is a pile of dung. The justified man is a pile of dung that is covered by snow. The difference between the justified man and the unjustified man is merely the snow covering, and not what is underneath the snow.

    Bunch of errors here:

    1. That image of a pile of dung, as far as I am aware, is not likely from Luther, though it is accurate enough when it pertains to JUSTIFICATION.
    2. There is no such thing as a person who is justified but who has not also been transformed. Does. not. exist. That transformation and what it produces, however, are not the grounds upon which we are made citizens of heaven.

    As far as your discussion with Eric, let me jump in and say it all depends of what you mean by unrepentant. If by unrepentant you mean a life characterized by sin with no evidence of hatred for it, then of course no one is saved without it. If you mean that someone whose life has otherwise been characterized by godliness happens to sin and in the midst of it have a heart attack and die without having a chance to repent, well, if that person had truly been in Christ then He is going straight to heaven. If he was in Christ, he would have repented had he lived long enough to do so.

    The statement quoted from the CCC seems to allude to the possibility of post-mortem repentance. That is a problem, as such a stance puts you only a hair’s breadth away from full-on post-mortem salvation for everyone. It is good, however, that the CCC recognizes that suicide is not the unforgivable sin.

  34. Mateo–

    Yeah, what Robert said.

    You simply must stop believing in Catholic myths and their ingrained misconceptions of Reformed theology. People have done exhaustive searches of Luther’s work and not found the “snow-covered dung” analogy anywhere within it.

    Justification brings about only an imputed righteousness, but union with Christ and its accompanying manifestations of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification bring about an inherent, infused righteousness.

  35. Robert, you write:

    The statement quoted from the CCC seems to allude to the possibility of post-mortem repentance.

    No, this statement does not allude to post-mortem repentance for grave sin, since it is a dogma of the Catholic Church that there is no such thing. (See below, 1861). What the CCC is saying is that before the person that has committed suicide is actually dead, that “ by ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.”

    It is good, however, that the CCC recognizes that suicide is not the unforgivable sin.

    The CCC speaks as to what constitutes the unforgivable sin:

    1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
    .
    1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
    .
    1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
    .
    1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.
    .
    1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

    Robert you write:

    As far as your discussion with Eric, let me jump in and say it all depends of what you mean by unrepentant.

    What I mean by unrepentant is unrepentant. I do not mean “unrepentant”, which to me anyway, means only seeming to be unrepentant.

    If by unrepentant you mean a life characterized by sin with no evidence of hatred for it, then of course no one is saved without it.

    Interesting statement Robert. Do you believe that an integral part of the Gospel is “repent and be saved”?

    If you mean that someone whose life has otherwise been characterized by godliness happens to sin and in the midst of it have a heart attack and die without having a chance to repent, well, if that person had truly been in Christ then He is going straight to heaven.

    That is you opinion based on your private interpretation of the scriptures. Robert, what if the Christian man died of a heart attack while having sex with a whore? How do you reconcile your personal opinion with what Paul teaches in first Corinthians:

    Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?
    1 Cor. 6:16-19
    .
    Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.
    1 Cor 3:16-17

    Robert, how would a Christian “destroy God’s temple” other than by freely choosing to commit unrepentant mortal sin?

  36. Eric, you write:

    Justification brings about only an imputed righteousness, but union with Christ and its accompanying manifestations of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification bring about an inherent, infused righteousness.

    What you are saying to me is that justifying grace brings about only an imputed righteousness.

    So what grace, then, brings about “regeneration, conversion, and sanctification”? I would assume that in Calvinism this would have to be sanctifying grace, which you have admitted to be always resistible, since you retain that capacity to commit sin until the day you die.

    Which brings me right back to the question that you have not yet answered.

    Eric, do you believe that the bible teaches that men that die as unrepentant Satan worshipers, unrepentant murderers, and unrepentant fornicators can expect to see heaven?

  37. Justification brings about only an imputed righteousness, but union with Christ and its accompanying manifestations of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification bring about an inherent, infused righteousness.

    I’m not sure about that; WCF c16 “Of Good Works”: “..as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

    Still sounds pretty imputed to me.

  38. Which brings me right back to the question that you have not yet answered.

    Eric, do you believe that the bible teaches that men that die as unrepentant Satan worshipers, unrepentant murderers, and unrepentant fornicators can expect to see heaven?

    I’ll take a stab; Consider a sincere Christian (a Catholic even) who struggles continually with lust. Cheats on his wife, she divorces him even though he always repents, as he gets older maybe his libido wanes, maybe he is maturing in holiness, but he fornicates less, but one day he succumbs to a devil-sent temptress, knows it’s wrong while he’s doing it, hates himself and his sinfulness the whole time, and at the peak of, um, heart rate, has a heart attack and dies so hard and fast and painfully he has no ability to form a thought of repentance. Or maybe a robber comes in, or the whore’s pimp, and shoots him in the back of the head for some reason. Sure, he could go to heaven.

    Or a devout Christian finds himself in a situation of rage where he attacks a man, stabs him, and then the guy shoots him in the face; he is dead before he realizes there is even a gun. Yes, he could go to heaven.

    I can’t think of a scenario involving accidental satan worship, but you get the picture.

  39. Mateo,

    Well, Father Byron’s personal interpretation of the RCC on this site seems to allow for the one who committed suicide to go to heaven without conscious repentance before death: http://www.catholicdigest.com/articles/faith/knowledge/2007/04-01/do-people-who-commit-suicide-go-to-hell

    So, God really wants to save everybody but if someone slips up and sins and dies before repentance his hands are tied. Interesting. Doesn’t seem very loving to me.

    All sin is mortal mateo: James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

  40. Robert,

    James 2:10 does indeed refer to mortal sin. But that does not mean all sin is mortal, or that it is impossible to keep the royal law through Christ’s grace. The person who murders but doesn’t commit adultery breaks the law in the same way the adulterer who doesn’t murder does by violating the single underlying principle girding what fulfills the law – agape (James 2:8).

  41. Robert,

    There are things that mitigate culpability. For example, a person with severe mental illness commits suicide without really understanding what they are doing. Do we judge God if he chooses to consider that?

    You said all sin is mortal but St. John disagrees with you:

    1 John: 16-17:

    If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

  42. Dave,

    I know that verse from 1 John. The problem is that it doesn’t support the Roman idea of a category of mortal sins that kill justifying grace in the soul. The same book speaks of those going out who were never truly of the community, which is best context for this pronouncement. Those who commit the sin of which John speaks were never truly of the faith to begin with and thus never justified.

  43. James,

    The person who murders but doesn’t commit adultery breaks the law in the same way the adulterer who doesn’t murder does by violating the single underlying principle girding what fulfills the law – agape (James 2:8).

    Sure, but that obliterates the distinction between moral and venial sin. If breaking one commandment violates the principle of agape, then either all sins or mortal or no sins are mortal. In every case, agape has been broken.

  44. Robert,

    No. Agape has not been broken in venial sin. That’s the point. Agape and our sanctification can be “wounded” in venial sin, but agape/charity is not destroyed like it is with mortal sin. Keeping the commandments is compatible with venial sin which is compatible with agape. Keeping does not equal Wesleyan perfectionism – one can fulfill the spirit of the law, and yet not the letter.

    Agape is a virtue. Think in the natural order – one can have a particular virtue while not perfectly acting out that virtue at all times – they don’t therefore lose the virtue, just as the inverse is true (one who makes a single great act of humility or generosity does not therefore make him someone considered “humble” or “generous”).

  45. Robert,

    Regarding John, it seems in the passage Dave quoted that John is referring to believers when he says “a brother” and thus seems to imply believers can commit both mortal and venial.

    Also, what do you make of the other passages in that same letter where John says no one who is born of God sins (1 John 3:9, 5:18), but also says:
    “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

    A mortal/venial sin distinction seems to reconcile these 2 points. How do you view it?

  46. James,

    On the first point, I would say that the NT authors often describe people according to their outward profession without necessarily making a judgment as to the reality of their faith. If a person looks and acts like a brother, we are to assume he is a brother. When he goes astray, we hold out hope that he is a brother who will return. There also seems to be an application at times of language to people who aren’t truly in the kingdom as if they were. I’m thinking of things like “not all Israel is Israel.” One could easily say “not all brothers are brothers.”

    As far as the second point, I’m not sure why you think there is an issue that needs to be resolved. The intent of John seems to be that no one in Christ makes it a habitual practice to sin/His life is not characterized by the same drive to sin as those outside of the faith/does not continue in sin. The verbs are all present tense and participles if I remember correctly. I don’t have my Greek text in front of me.

    In any case, I’m not sure how you think the mortal/venial sin distinction solves an apparent problem. Are the ones who are in Christ and not sinning the ones who commit venial sin and the ones described in 1:8–10 those who commit mortal sin? If so, then why have repentance for venial sin. I’m just not following you here.

  47. James,

    Back to the James passage. The James text still says that the whole law is broken if just one statute is not kept. It doesn’t talk about wounding agape. It says, essentially, break one break them all. Of course, he doesn’t literally mean that the one who steals has committed murder. He’s basically saying that at least from one perspective, the one who commits a minor sin is in no better standing with God than one who commits a grave sin. IOW, don’t think you’ll escape the law’s judgment if you only break the minor laws—and BTW, the law curses anyone who doesn’t do all of what it says (Gal. 3).

  48. Robert,

    Ones who are in Christ are not committing mortal sin. One who are in Christ and sin in 1:8-10 are committing venial sin. Believers don’t sin in one sense, and yet they do sin in another. Believers don’t commit mortal sin, and yet they do commit venial sin. That’s all I mean in those John passages.

    As for “The intent of John seems to be that no one in Christ makes it a habitual practice to sin and does not continue in sin” – do you not every minute of your life habitually and continually sin against the 2 great commandments? If you’re in Christ, how are you continuing in that sin?

  49. Robert,

    “BTW, the law curses anyone who doesn’t do all of what it says (Gal. 3)”

    Good things Gal 3 is talking about the Old Covenant law that was never meant to save but only point to Christ who would enable us to keep the royal law of love. If you go back to OC law, I agree you’re in trouble by negating Christ.

    So, is it impossible to keep the commandments in any sense then?

    “love is the fulfilling of the law”

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

    “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”

    “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”

    “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

    “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did”

    “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love”

    and so on….

    These are all just hypothetical and law-gospel commands to force us to despair? Or does sanctification and the indwelling of the Trinity/agape within us actually DO something to us so that we may fulfill the law through love/agape?

    If these are so burdensome and impossible to keep, why does John say they are not burdensome?

    Keeping is not perfectionism – infused agape is 100% righteousness, although our degree of participation in it varies with each believer. If it is not perfectionism, and we still sin, the mortal/venial distinction is reasonable.

  50. Robert,

    Back to the James passage. The James text still says that the whole law is broken if just one statute is not kept. It doesn’t talk about wounding agape. It says, essentially, break one break them all. Of course, he doesn’t literally mean that the one who steals has committed murder. He’s basically saying that at least from one perspective, the one who commits a minor sin is in no better standing with God than one who commits a grave sin. IOW, don’t think you’ll escape the law’s judgment if you only break the minor laws—and BTW, the law curses anyone who doesn’t do all of what it says (Gal. 3).

    I think you’re missing the point of James and you’re reading it too legalistically. What James is saying is that we are not to be following laws and rules. We are supposed to be loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are supposed to give ourselves COMPLETELY to God. If we follow the rules “religiously” but are still showing favoritism to the rich and ignoring the poor (as the example shows in James) then we are guilty of sin as our heart is not in the right place.

    i.e.: We aren’t getting what Christ taught

    So, we are guilty of ALL the law as our heart lacks charity.

    In mortal sin, our heart has lacked charity and we have done something grave–intentionally and knowingly. That’s a problem.

    JAMES ON VENIAL SIN

    James also explains in James 1: 15:

    Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

    This implies that mature sin gives birth to death but that there must also be a sin that has not reached maturity which does not bring forth death. It’s still bad but has not reached the maturity which gives birth to death. i.e. venial.

  51. James,

    Christians can keep the law in the power of the Spirit. They will not keep it perfectly. Perfection is required for justification. This is the problem with non-Protestant soteriological.

    Yes the law was never intended to justify sinners, but that is not because of law but because of our fallenness. Paul and the other New Testament authors assume an essential continuity between the old covenant law and the new covenant law. When he speaks of fulfilling the law of love in Romans and elsewhere, the concrete examples of what that means are the Ten Commandments. The Apostles all do that.

    Old covenant saints had the Holy Spirit and were saved the same way new covenant saints are. There is a greater fullness of the Spirit today, but the OC saints were not destitute of it. If the could not be justified by spirit-agape doing of the law, neither can we.

    If one wants to base justification in ant way on their works, that is fine. Just realize that such means absolute and total perfection. Break one commandment and you’ve broken the whole shebang. Jesus tells us to be as perfect as God is perfect. This is why imputation is necessary.Infusion of love and “good enough” law keeping is not enough. God is perfectly holy. The Roman system, as well as other non-reformation all systems do not seem to get this at all.

  52. Eric, Robert, and RubeRad, the answer to my question is simple. The bible does not teach that men who die as unrepentant Satan worshipers, unrepentant murders, and unrepentant fornicators should expect to see heaven.

    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.
    Revelation 21:8

    For people who claim the scriptures are perspicuous, you Calvinists seem to have a hard time seeing the obvious.

    Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
    Gal 5:19-21

  53. RubeRad–

    Yeah, in this particular area, it appears that the WCF gets it slightly wrong. 1 Corinthians 3 fairly unmistakably declares that some of our good works do indeed “endure the severity of God’s [purgatorial] judgment” intact.

    In Romans 7, Paul talks about the conflict between what we are in the flesh as opposed to what we are in our “inner being.” The former is still sinful whereas the latter, as a new creature in Christ, is pure. In one sense, it is no longer we who sin. In another, all our good works are tainted by the flesh (as the WCF describes). They do say our works can be “sincere,” as well as partially “unblamable” and “unreprovable.” Their emphasis is to delineate between what derives from the Spirit and what derives from our flesh. So when the WCF says “us,” they clearly mean the flesh. When Paul says it is no long “I” who sin, he means his mind, his inner being, his spirit. Our good works, in terms of being good, may very well derive wholly from the spirit, but they are still OUR good works, prepared beforehand that WE should walk in them. Alien, imputed righteousness saves us, but infused righteousness makes us inherently holy. We are, after all, in the vine and bear fruit in season.

    “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower…drives my green age.”

  54. Robert,

    “Perfection is required for justification.”

    Indeed. That’s why Christ’s righteousness is infused within us. Agape is 100% perfect/righteous.

    “Yes the law was never intended to justify sinners, but that is not because of law but because of our fallenness.”

    No, the OC law could never save, even if we could obey it.

    “Old covenant saints had the Holy Spirit and were saved the same way new covenant saints are. There is a greater fullness of the Spirit today, but the OC saints were not destitute of it. If the could not be justified by spirit-agape doing of the law, neither can we.”

    I agree OC saints were saved the same way:
    “And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”

    That’s why Aquinas can say:
    “there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law.”

    They still had charity/grace of the HS – the same that is infused in us in initial justification in the NC and belonged to the New Law (“love fulfills the law”). This is why we still apply the mortal/venial distinction to OT saints who are described as “blameless” or “upright” even though all sin.

    Also we are not “justified by spirit-agape doing of the law” in terms of initial justification. Only subsequent increase in justification.

    “If one wants to base justification in any way on their works, that is fine.”

    Once again, conflating initial justification with increasing said justification (Eric does the same thing).

    “Just realize that such means absolute and total perfection. Break one commandment and you’ve broken the whole shebang.”

    I just cited a litany of verses saying our participation in agape fulfills the law and that we can obey the commandments – they are not burdensome. Your denial that we can keep the commandments minimizes the outpouring of agape and sanctifying grace that the HS infuses into us, and basically makes us no better than we were before Christ, except now we have a buffer to protect us. Union with Christ is a nice little afterthought that doesn’t actually do too much. And Calvinists say we detract glory from God.

    Breaking one commandment and your guilty of all is true for mortal sin, not venial sin as we’ve been discussing above.

    “Jesus tells us to be as perfect as God is perfect. This is why imputation is necessary.”

    No this is why infusion is necessary. Agape is God’s righteousness within us – it is therefore not less than perfect.

    I am also still interested in your response to my previous post about John and how your habitual/continual sin does not make you outside of Christ.

  55. Robert,

    I want to clarify something since I think I was too harsh in part of my reply. I had said:
    “Your denial that we can keep the commandments minimizes the outpouring of agape and sanctifying grace that the HS infuses into us”

    but I reread and see you had said:
    “Christians can keep the law in the power of the Spirit. They will not keep it perfectly.”

    I can agree that we do not keep it perfectly in the sense that you understand it. What I deny is that agape/charity does not fulfill the law (we do keep the commandments in that sense – that is why they are not burdensome). Which is what your statement I was responding to seemed to indicate by saying:
    “Just realize that such means absolute and total perfection. Break one commandment and you’ve broken the whole shebang.”

    We fulfill the law by agape. This does not mean we then have to keep the law perfectly according to the letter – we keep it by the spirit – according to agape. Keeping it by the letter negates Christ and the NC and returns us to the OC (it makes them burdensome again contra John; Christ came to fulfill the law, not keep us slaves of it). When agape is destroyed, we have broken the whole shebang. Which is what mortal sin does.

    Anyways, I did not mean that one paragraph in my previous reply to have so much bite – I should’ve worded it differently.

  56. James,

    No prob. I can get heated too, sometimes.

    No, the OC law could never save, even if we could obey it.

    In Romans 7, Paul says that the law promises life but that it is on account of our sin that it brings death. The law itself is good and spiritual. It promises life to those who keep it perfectly. The problem is that no one can keep it perfectly. If we could, it could justify us.

    This fits with Galatians 3 where Paul says a curse is on those who do not do ALL the law says. Ergo, a blessing falls on those who do ALL it says (original context being Deut. 28). Paul says in the same context that if justification was through the law, it would be the law God gave. As it is, the law imprisons people unders sin (before Christ) not because the law is bad but because it is good and we are bad and we twist it.

    Finally, there are so many passages that Jesus talks about the law to fulfill all righteousness.

    So, I agree that the law cannot justify us. The problem, however is not with the law it is with us. If we weren’t sinners, we could keep the law and be accounted righteous. That is what Jesus did as a man. God, in the covenantal context, never intended the old covenant law to justify sinners. But if one could do the law, one could be justified by it. This is why Paul says in Galatians that if you try to take on one work of the law for justification, you have to do it all. Those who do the law will be justified by the law (Rom. 2:13). The problem is that we are sinners and Paul is insistent that we cannot be justified by the law if we are sinners. So what we have is, for want of a better term, theory and reality. In theory, the law could justify us assuming that we could keep it flawlessly. The reality is that we are sinners and can’t do it perfectly. This is why we need Christ and his covering of perfect righteousness. Ultimately, all those who will be justified will be justified by keeping the law, but it will not be their keeping of the law but Christ’s keeping of the law.

    As far as increasing in justification, that just doesn’t fit what Paul says. You are either fully justified or you are not. Justification gives one peace with God, not a cease-fire that comes and goes based on life in the body but eternal peace, eternal shalom.

    I thought I answered the question about 1 John, but maybe I didn’t. I’ll get back to you.

  57. Eric,

    I’m not sure the WCF is denying your point. It could be, but I’m not sure that it is. If the works that follow justification are accepted in Christ, then there is a sense in which they pass through the fire and are purified. I think when it says they cannot withstand God’s judgment, it is pointing back to justification and that if we try to rest on them for our position before God, they won’t make it because of the judicial standard of perfection. However, when meting our rewards, God sees that they are not the basis of our standing before him, so he purifies them through fire, accepting them through Christ not to get us in the kingdom but to reward us according to what we have done.

    I could be wrong about this.

    In any case, the chief problem with Rome is not that they deny my second point but that while saying we cannot merit initial justification and our status as God’s child, they also call for meriting final justification, so we ultimately do merit our adoption and position in the kingodm.

  58. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Eric,
    .
    I’m not sure the WCF is denying your point. It could be, but I’m not sure that it is. If the works that follow justification are accepted in Christ, then there is a sense in which they pass through the fire and are purified. I think when it says they cannot withstand God’s judgment, it is pointing back to justification and that if we try to rest on them for our position before God, they won’t make it because of the judicial standard of perfection. However, when meting our rewards, God sees that they are not the basis of our standing before him, so he purifies them through fire, accepting them through Christ not to get us in the kingdom but to reward us according to what we have done.
    .
    I could be wrong about this.
    .
    In any case, the chief problem with Rome is not that they deny my second point but that while saying we cannot merit initial justification and our status as God’s child, they also call for meriting final justification, so we ultimately do merit our adoption and position in the kingdom.

    Yup. The idea that Creation, in any way, touches or participates in the Incarnation is simply anathema to Reformism. Instead, the Salvific Economy must transpire invisibly, extrinsically, forensically, vicariously.

    Which is exactly why the WCF must necessarily deny Eric’s point. Barring this denial, Sacramentalism would, again, become conceptually viable and the path to Rome would be reopened.

  59. Just a couple thoughts from Jason’s post that haven’t been brought up yet. The first is the so called, “Sacramental Treadmill.” When reformed Christians (or anyone else) accuses me of being on a sacramental treadmill its very easy for me to brush aside. I just can’t take this argument seriously because I don’t experience the sacraments as a treadmill. A treadmill is a device that allows you to walk without actually getting anywhere. Its also very tiring. That is what certain commenters here want to believe the spiritual life according to Rome is, but it just isn’t in my own experience. I actually have made real, significant progress. My love for God and my love for other people (which I believe is my fulfilling of the law) has really increased because of a life of prayer built around the Mass, adoration of the blessed sacrament, the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, and the occasional fast – all things dismissed by most protestants to varying degrees. I even point to the day of my confirmation as a day that has bore tangible fruit and led to significant spiritual growth.

    Furthermore, there are many Calvinists out there who do worry about whether or not they are really chosen or not. I know a couple former Calvinists who say as much, including a priest from my diocese who was raised in a very heartless reformed system (I understand his situation is not typical). At least in there cases they experience much more assurance than they did as Calvinists. But I sometimes feel like many Reformed folks envision me just sitting in my home worrying if I committed a mortal sin today. This just isn’t my life and while I know a few scrupulous Catholics, there are also plenty of scrupulous reformed folks out there as well.

    I guess a question for Robert, Eric, and Rube would be this: how do you make sense of this growth since the spiritual and theological system I espouse is corrupt. Is all of this just in my head like a religious placebo effect? Is the theology of Rome only partially corrupt – can it still “save.”? Or is the source of my spiritual progress something different than I think it is?

  60. Eric,

    First, the last comment was from me and I mistakenly put your name.

    Wosbald,

    Sure creation participates in the incarnation. Was not Jesus’ human body created. Further, we are nourished by Him in both His humanity and deity.

    What we are not are little incarnations of God. The hypostatic union is a unique thing.

  61. Robert–

    You’re probably right. I don’t actually think the WCF is denying my point, but they certainly need to clarify their rhetoric concerning it. Elsewise, we get commentary like Wosbald’s. The Salvific Economy in Calvinism is quite visible, intrinsic, actual, and personal. And you cannot get closer participation with the Incarnation than Union with Christ, abiding in the Vine and having his “sap” run through us.

    Wosbald–

    You might also notice that I–yes, even I–hold to my own point and do in nowise deny it (which might be at least part of the reason why it is called MY point). :)

    And yet I am not even slightly drawn towards the paradigm of Papalist Whorism (sorry, but when are you going to quit using the term “Reformism”? :( )

  62. Fr. Bryan–

    Let me begin by saying that, at least from my view here on this side of the grave, you appear to have enviable spiritual maturity. I deeply admire you irenic nature, and wish you cold post more often. I myself am nowhere near to being a good “poster child” for the Reformed faith.

    With no reason to believe otherwise, I suspect your spiritual growth is due to an authentic interchange with Jesus Christ, who is able to surmount the obstacles of bad theology for those he has granted a good heart. I certainly do not believe that all of the elect are in Calvinist churches. (There are many wolves within and sheep without, as Mr. Augustine observed.) I do not believe fortress Rome can save, but I do believe Christ can save many within its walls.

    Besides, our respective spiritualities have much in common: You celebrate the Mass; we meditate on Christ’s atoning sacrifice. You adore the blessed sacrament; we adore our blessed Redeemer present in the sacrament. You are reconciled to Christ through frequent confession, penance, and absolution; we typically do this corporately at every worship service and individually at church through pastoral counseling and at home through accountability groups. You find great significance in fasting, as do we. Calvinists are big on the spiritual disciplines. (Well, those which don’t involve labyrinths or navel gazing or “centering” prayer!)

    Soteriologically, I feel pretty much at home with those Thomists who clearly love God. Their error is fairly akin to the missteps of Lutheranism. Still, I do have a good deal of trouble with the fact that they believe themselves to be salvifically closer to Molinists than to Calvinists. That causes me no small amount of cognitive dissonance.

    I actually have much more of a problem with what I can only call sacramentolatry and Mariolatry. I tried giving you guys the benefit of the doubt for such a long, long time. At long last, I can no longer do so in good faith. For me, there is a humongous disconnect between what Catholics say are their intentions and what they actually practice. I can only imagine what kind of a deleterious effect it is having on your faith. Jeroboam I, the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, could not afford to have his people go south to Jerusalem and so, set up alternate temples at Bethel and at Dan. Within each, he placed a graven image of a bull. Many, many biblical scholars believe his intention was to worship Yahweh thereby, invisibly riding on each bull. Apparently, God wasn’t particularly impressed with his “intentions.” At any rate, I worry for you. But I worry far more for the countless Catholics I have known who clearly ARE on a sacramental and ritualistic treadmill, some of whom–no, many of whom–are deeply, deeply superstitious.

    A little bit of your rhetoric comes across as somewhat arrogant to Calvinist ears despite the thoroughly humble tone. Your claims of “fulfilling the law,” a strong “life of prayer,” “tangible fruit,” and significant “spiritual growth” sound a tad foreign. Mature, devout Calvinists are likely to limit our claims to all that CHRIST has done…for us, in us, and through us. And I don’t think it’s just some ploy. It’s deeply ingrained into our characters. (I use “our” just because it was the clearest pronoun under the circumstances, not because I myself am particularly spiritually advanced.)

    I know myself well enough to say I could not adopt core Catholic beliefs without crashing and burning spiritually. I could join the Church and progress spiritually just as long as I avoided Marian dogmas, adoration of the Eucharist, and the weird-me-out, thoroughly unbiblical notion of mortal sin. How might you fare in a Reformed environment, do you suppose?

    There is no good reason I can think of for a well-catechised Calvinist to be unsure of his or her calling (unless, of course they are actively more committed to their life of sin than to their risen Lord). Those who earnestly wish to repent, though they may continue to struggle, have no such worries.

  63. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    You might also notice that I–yes, even I–hold to my own point and do in nowise deny it (which might be at least part of the reason why it is called MY point). :smile:

    Glad to hear it. That means that the door to Catholicism is conceptually open to you.

  64. Dear Eric,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and courteous reply. It probably merits more of a response than I can give now, but I have jut under an hour before my busy part of the week gets rolling. All I want to do is acknowledge that I read your reply and appreciated it.

    I’ll briefly comment that the way I interpret comments about my own “progress” in life (understood as an increase in my love for God and other people) is not that I have done this to myself but that God has done this to me. Particularly, as I understand it, God has applied the paschal mystery to my own life. My spiritual life is far from ideal so don’t think that I see myself as being perfect. However, I do recognize that God has led me towards perfection.

    You also asked how I would do in a reformed setting, and the answer is bad. I couldn’t do it with a radical shift in my worldview. This isn’t so much because of theology. It is more because I cannot accept Sola Scriptura, which I believe is a very irrational doctrine. If Sola Scriptura is true and if the argument for this is really that his sheep recognize his voice, than I’m just not his sheep because I don’t see Sola Scriptura in the Bible at all.

  65. Robert,

    We may be talking past each other on OC law. What I mean is that the OC law could never save even if we could obey it, because that would negate the need for Christ and sanctifying grace, that is we would essentially be Pelagians. That’s why the primary purpose of the OC law was not just to give us a list of commands to keep (this is indeed one of its purposes, to reflect God to us, but not the central one), but to foreshadow what it would be ultimately fulfilled in – which was Christ and agape. Agape is the fulfillment of the law – it was always mean to be a temporary, incomplete measure. Christ did not come to simply help us better keep it through agape – He came to fulfill it.

    “If we weren’t sinners, we could keep the law and be accounted righteous.In theory, the law could justify us assuming that we could keep it flawlessly.”

    You need to qualify this to avoid Pelagianism.

    “This is why Paul says in Galatians that if you try to take on one work of the law for justification, you have to do it all.”

    I agree, because you are negating the whole purpose of Christ and the NC – someone doing that is still thinking of the OC law on its own, instead of the NC and agape fulfilling it (from which we can then fulfill it by our own participation in agape).

    “The reality is that we are sinners and can’t do it perfectly. This is why we need Christ and his covering of perfect righteousness.”

    We can’t do it perfectly, I agree, but that is because we were never meant to keep the OC law perfectly – the NC was not a repair-job on the OC – the OC’s purpose was to point to the NC. That’s the point of “agape fulfills the law” and Aquinas’ point about the OT saints and John’s point about the commandments not being burdensome but that we can still keep them in the NC. Agape is a gift of the NC. To retreat to the mentality of the OC negates Christ and the purpose of the NC – it is to again think of the letter of the law, rather than the spirit.

    “Ultimately, all those who will be justified will be justified by keeping the law, but it will not be their keeping of the law but Christ’s keeping of the law.”

    We are initially justfied by the infusion of Christ’s love so that we may participate in the divine nature. We do not then “keep the law” in the sense you seem to propose because that again negates the NC – what we do is then express acts of agape – which indeed does *fulfill* the law as all the NT testifies to.

    “As far as increasing in justification, that just doesn’t fit what Paul says. You are either fully justified or you are not.”

    Again, we are 100% righteous at initial justification. God is agape – when agape is given to us it’s not like just a little bit here to get you started. It is full and complete – we are truly righteous – hence why baptized babies and deathbed converts are saved. As John says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” “As He is, so also are we” – 100% righteous. But we can then participate in it to deepen our union and participation in it (“love is perfected with us”) – again it’s a difference of capacity, not quality.

    I agree that we are either fully saved or we are not. That does not mean there are not degrees of justification.

    “Justification gives one peace with God, not a cease-fire that comes and goes based on life in the body but eternal peace, eternal shalom.”

    It gives us peace in a sense (as Fr Bryan said, we don’t sit in our rooms every day sweating over whether we’ve committed mortal sin – we can have a moral confidence, not a moral certainty), but we work it out with fear and trembling – Paul calls it a race, not a trophy ceremony.

  66. Eric,

    Are the works WCF speaks of partly yours and partly God’s? Or are they all yours and all God’s? Are they actually, truly good?
    This is why RCs/EOs don’t think the notion of infusion/theosis in Protestantism really goes very far or is consonant with the traditional understanding – no one is every truly inherently righteous, so any works of the justified are still always tainted with your sin and corrupt and so God must always “look over” that to “reward” them.

    Or, put another way. Could you hold to Trent’s statement (forget the venial/mortal distinction and just think of sin):
    “If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or-which is more intolerable still-mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.”

    Robert,

    “In any case, the chief problem with Rome is not that they deny my second point but that while saying we cannot merit initial justification and our status as God’s child, they also call for meriting final justification, so we ultimately do merit our adoption and position in the kingdom.”

    No. We’ve done this before. We are adopted and in the kingdom at initial justification. Full stop. We cannot merit the grace of final perseverance. Full stop. If we really held to what you said, we could not say baptized babies or deathbed conversions went to heaven.

    Within the state of grace after initial justification, we can then merit further grace and deeper participation (that is the reward – God is our ultimate happiness). Our adoption was not merited – our “position” if you mean our degree of glory – then yes (God rewards our works done in sanctifying grace with a deeper participation in Him).
    What we can merit is eternal life (among other things as the CCC states). What does that mean? Two ways I’ve heard it discussed – because Christ is eternal life, and we can merit deeper participation/union within Him, we merit eternal life in that sense. Another way, if after we were initially justified, we never did a single meritorious work/work of agape, we would necessarily have committed an act of mortal sin through omission and hence have killed agape within our soul.

  67. Eric,

    I don’t actually think the WCF is denying my point, but they certainly need to clarify their rhetoric concerning it. Elsewise, we get commentary like Wosbald’s.

    Maybe so. Probably it says what it says given the close proximity to the Reformation and the need to be more consistently against the tendency toward Anglo-Catholicism. That’s just conjecture on my part.

    There are certain segments of the Reformed community that could certainly use an emphasis on sanctification and our participation in it.

  68. James,

    No. We’ve done this before. We are adopted and in the kingdom at initial justification. Full stop. We cannot merit the grace of final perseverance. Full stop. If we really held to what you said, we could not say baptized babies or deathbed conversions went to heaven.

    But if mortal sin kills agape within the soul, are you still justified? As baptized babies and deathbed converts going to heaven, to me that just seems to be an inconsistency on Rome’s part. If they can get in without having any works following their justification, why the stress on meriting final justification. It would seem that they get initial and final justification at the same time (at least deathbed converts would). The Reformed are just saying that for those who truly are in Christ, we get initially and finally justified at the same time. Better yet, initial and final justification are the same thing. Better still, justification is an eschatological verdict brought forward into the present. What is declared now will certainly be declared then.

    What we can merit is eternal life (among other things as the CCC states). What does that mean? Two ways I’ve heard it discussed – because Christ is eternal life, and we can merit deeper participation/union within Him, we merit eternal life in that sense. Another way, if after we were initially justified, we never did a single meritorious work/work of agape, we would necessarily have committed an act of mortal sin through omission and hence have killed agape within our soul.

    Well, the first way you mention I really have little problem with. I’m not sure about the word merit, but the overall understanding seems fine. The second is problematic, not because good works are not necessary but because it talks about losing justification and separating initial justification and final justification. If justification is indeed an eschatological verdict brought forward into the present, then it is inconceivable that a justified person would ever lose that status. Paul says all that have been justified have been glorified. It is as good as done, which means a truly justified person will never fail to be glorified.

  69. Robert,

    “But if mortal sin kills agape within the soul, are you still justified?”

    Nope. As I’ve said before, when justified, we’re in a relationship with God. Relationships require participation by both parties to maintain and deepen. God’s grace does not obliterate our nature to turn us into zombies, but elevates our nature, allowing us to freely participate (or not to our own shame). This is also why we truly merit, not just psuedo-merit in sanctification as the WCF seems to imply. We can kill agape which is the life of God within us. But remember agape is a virtue, hence the mortal/venial sin distinction. Natural order example again – a married person who has the virtue of fidelity can be considered faithful when he is asleep, or even when he is tempted by fleeting thoughts of a friend or office worker if he resists. If he was to indulge them and commit adultery though, we wouldn’t consider him a “faithful” person (or even if he did not commit adultery but just constantly and consistently indulged and offered no resistance to lustful thoughts/fantasies – unopposed venial sin can indeed lead to mortal sin if left unchecked).

    “As baptized babies and deathbed converts going to heaven, to me that just seems to be an inconsistency on Rome’s part. If they can get in without having any works following their justification, why the stress on meriting final justification. It would seem that they get initial and final justification at the same time (at least deathbed converts would).”

    This is why I don’t think you fully grasp the nature of infused righteousness RCs say we experience at conversion/justification, or else you wouldn’t say we’re being inconsistent. A person who has just been baptized or deathbed converted a moment ago is 100% righteous, because of the infused agape he has received. The divine life and indwelling of the Trinity is not like just a tiny bit there, chomping at the bit so more of it can be let in by us until it is 100% in us. As the person then grows in agape by his cooperation (sacraments, prayer, works of charity), he grows in righteousness; this is the meaning of increasing in justification. It is going from perfection to still greater perfection, not from imperfection to less imperfection until some final perfection we merit (of course in initial justification, we do go straight from imperfection to perfection, but I’m talking about increase). The capacity versus quality distinction again.

    “Paul says all that have been justified have been glorified.”

    Do you think that being glorified must mean in the eschatological sense – or could it not mean taken in (assuming RC/EO position) a sense of theosis/infusion now on earth as a present reality for the justified? We are indeed glorified now in a sense because we are participating in the divine nature and have the indwelling of the Trinity (“As He is, so also are we”). “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Glorification indeed.

  70. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,
    .
    Sure creation participates in the incarnation. Was not Jesus’ human body created. Further, we are nourished by Him in both His humanity and deity.
    .
    What we are not are little incarnations of God. The hypostatic union is a unique thing.

    Reformism simply has no room for Creation en bloc to participate in the Incarnation in the Here-and-Now. Instead, the glory and purity of the “unique event” of the Incarnation is safeguarded by restricting Its visibility and tangibility to an isolated and discreet historical anomaly.

  71. James–

    Actually, I would concur with Trent that our good works are perfectly good but that they are accompanied by fleshly motivations and concurrent actions that are far less than swell. The Reformed speak much of the “already” and the “not yet.” All our good actions are derived from and empowered by the Spirit. Nevertheless, we actually do perform them. They have no role in justification as we are already justified. They do have a role in our sanctification for we are not yet actualized in terms of the maturity of our holiness. You speak of going from perfection to a greater perfection. I think I could live with that in terms of what we have already by the Spirit. But in the flesh, we will in this lifetime always be imperfect. Our flesh has not yet been glorified, and it is insanity or prevarication to say otherwise. You are simply not living in the reality of the situation. You end up with a whole lot of “believers” who think they are basically good people. They only sin venially…and so, they basically do not sin. I would think that must bring on a complacency. There’s no intense struggle with sin. As a result, sanctification will be stunted.

  72. Wosbald–

    Both Reformism and Babylonism posit a participation in the Incarnation in the here and now. We both feed corporeally on the true body of our risen Lord. You do that by being brought to the foot of the Cross (across time). We do that by being brought to the foot of our Savior’s throne in heaven (across “space”).

    It’s kind of difficult to compare to see who has the “advantage” incarnationally.

  73. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    .
    Both Reformism and Babylonism posit a participation in the Incarnation in the here and now. We both feed corporeally on the true body of our risen Lord. You do that by being brought to the foot of the Cross (across time). We do that by being brought to the foot of our Savior’s throne in heaven (across “space”).
    .
    It’s kind of difficult to compare to see who has the “advantage” incarnationally.

    Considering that one is operatively efficacious whilst the other is not, I think that the answer is rather easy to see.

  74. Fr. Bryan–

    You cannot help but see Sola Scriptura as a possible interpretation of the Bereans holding Paul accountable to Scripture. I don’t think any of the positions hold a commanding advantage exegetically.

    What I would have you think on is this quote from the wit of Winston Churchill:

    “Democracy is the worst form of government…except for all the others that have been tried.”

    I don’t like Sola Scriptura either. It gives rise to subjectivism far too easily. It can indeed be implicated in the splintering of the churches spawned by the Reformation into such a plethora of denominations. But one can tell when it has been compromised. With the Catholic system of a Magisterium interpreting everything from the established precedents of Scripture, Tradition, and Dogma, one can never know to what extent things have been compromised. Everything must be accepted on faith.

    To my mind, that puts too much power into the hands of a self-appointed few. There are no real checks and balances. An error once established remains forever.

    Sola Scriptura is more like the accountability system employed by the scientific community: a system of established paradigms constantly challenged or enhanced by a peer-reviewed debate. It is a democracy rather than an oligarchy. As such, it is my belief, it is frought with far fewer protected hobby horses, far fewer unassailable accretions to the faith.

    Both systems appear to be vulnerable to modernity’s skepticism. Here is where the passages affirming that the members of the Good Shepherd’s flock “hear his voice” forcefully comes into play. Every church trends toward the humanistic, toward the secular, towards liberalism. It is something we all must be ever vigilant to struggle against. The good fight of faith is almost invariably fought against the current of the times in which one is providentially placed.

  75. Wosbald–

    Actually, there is very little difference on that account. Both are effective for those of faith and work to the detriment of those not of faith.

  76. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    .
    Actually, there is very little difference on that account. Both are effective for those of faith and work to the detriment of those not of faith.

    Putting the stress on the right syllable… In Catholicism, those of faith receive the whole, living Person of Jesus Christ whilst those not of faith also receive the whole, living Person of Jesus Christ.

  77. James,

    I just have to keep going back to the simple point that God’s love is perfect and perseveres. If we share in it in any sense or participate in his nature, then we must persevere, otherwise God gives us something less of Himself in our union with Him. Our final salvation is finally dependent on us avoiding mortal sin>

    As far as glorification, every time the Bible speaks of it it is speaking of a consummate event. If you want to talk about a consummate event with present ramifications as far as some kind of thesis/transformation, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. But the point there is still that if one is enjoying some kind of glorification now, it will certainly come to fruition in the future. The context of the so-called gold chain in Romans 8 is final salvation. There just isn’t anyone who is justified who won’t be glorified.

    Natural order example again – a married person who has the virtue of fidelity can be considered faithful when he is asleep, or even when he is tempted by fleeting thoughts of a friend or office worker if he resists. If he was to indulge them and commit adultery though, we wouldn’t consider him a “faithful” person .

    All analogies break down, but I think this is a bad one for RC. The person who commits adultery, in RC has killed justification, thus He is cut off from Christ or effectively divorced. On the other hand, the legal reality is that the people are still married, and while relational repair will be needed, it can happen without ever losing one’s legal status of being married. That’s the Protestant doctrine of justification in proper relationship with sanctification.

  78. Wosbald–

    For someone to knowingly take the Eucharist while out of a state of grace is considered sacrilege by the Catholic church. The faithless individual who “receives” the whole, living Person of Jesus Christ does so without accruing any spiritual benefit. If he or she does it knowingly, they incur spiritual harm: they are answerable for the body and blood of the Lord (according to 1 Corinthians 11, which thus far has not been snipped out of the Catholic Bible). It is, therefore, to their detriment.

    How in heaven’s name is that an advantage?

  79. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    .
    For someone to knowingly take the Eucharist while out of a state of grace is considered sacrilege by the Catholic church. The faithless individual who “receives” the whole, living Person of Jesus Christ does so without accruing any spiritual benefit. If he or she does it knowingly, they incur spiritual harm: they are answerable for the body and blood of the Lord (according to 1 Corinthians 11, which thus far has not been snipped out of the Catholic Bible). It is, therefore, to their detriment.
    .
    How in heaven’s name is that an advantage?

    Your challenge was “to compare to see who has the ‘advantage’ incarnationally”. In the Catholic paradigm, the faithful and unfaithful, all alike, receive the whole, living Person of Jesus. In the Reformed paradigm, all do not. So, I think that the answer as to “which paradigm is Incarnational?” is rather easy to see.

  80. Eric,

    I appreciate you are open to the language of Trent on good works and perhaps a corrective on WCF – although I note WCF’s language of good works being defiled/imperfect/tainted/worthy of damnation on their own insofar as they come from us and such is not unique to it – plenty of other Reformed catechisms speak similarly, as does Calvin. I’m not going to charge you with inconsistency, but it seems that WCF’s and the other Reformed witnesses’ line of reasoning does indeed make sense in your system given you allege the impossibility of venial sin, as well as (I assume given your tradition) that concupiscence is sin proper. The notion of infusion and associated distinction between venial sin/concupiscence and mortal sin is what allows for our sanctifying works to truly be good (not just considered “as if” they are good) in RCism.

    “You speak of going from perfection to a greater perfection. I think I could live with that in terms of what we have already by the Spirit. But in the flesh, we will in this lifetime always be imperfect.”

    This is why I think you might actually agree with WCF. In sanctification, are you actually growing from perfection to greater perfection? Or are you instead moving from imperfection to less imperfection? If the latter, it seems you your works would still always be imperfect/defiled/unworthy until death because you are never fully righteous, only partially righteous in sanctification.

    “Our flesh has not yet been glorified, and it is insanity or prevarication to say otherwise.”

    Okay, I don’t know if it’s insanity when NT writers speak of the reality of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and divine life within us. I of course agree glorification primarily can be taken in an eschatological sense, I just think it can also be taken in a present context for believers as well.

    “You end up with a whole lot of “believers” who think they are basically good people. They only sin venially…and so, they basically do not sin. I would think that must bring on a complacency. There’s no intense struggle with sin. As a result, sanctification will be stunted.”

    This I must take issue with. The confiteor/Penitential act is said at every mass. And the response of Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof during the consecration. Also if believing in venial sin brings on complacency or stunted sanctification, many heroes of the faith of the early church would be accused of sham holiness which I don’t think you would allege (not to mention the struggle with sin that is all over spiritual literature of every century). It’s interesting – most Protestant criticisms of RCism are the typical “you just gotta keep on moving, keep on doing those good works to hope you measure up” – this is probably the first I heard of a criticism on the other extreme.

    Just a sidebar – I asked Robert about this but he might have missed it. Given your rejection of venial/mortal sin (all sin is mortal) – do you agree with Robert that “The intent of John seems to be that no one in Christ makes it a habitual practice to sin and does not continue in sin”. This is a standard Protestant perspective I think. So my question was, do you not every minute of your life habitually and continually sin against the 2 great commandments with your imperfect thoughts/motives and sins of omission? If you’re in Christ, how are you continuing in that sin?

  81. Robert,

    Fair enough – we may just have to agree to disagree. The marriage example you bring up was used by Luther as well to support imputation – it’s not a bad argument – although if we think marriage actually does something ontologically to the spouses and their souls, then it loses force. But Protestants don’t consider marriage a sacrament officially, although I don’t know if that therefore means they do not think something truly happens to the soul at marriage or not. Catholics can believe in imputation if that means the reckoning of righteousness actually produces real internal righteousness (as in the sacramental marriage example).

    So, related to that – this is a question for you and Eric. Would it not be possible and coherent for God to simply continue to impute righteousness and continue to look at you under Christ’s righteousness rather than you becoming fully and completely righteous internally after death for eternity? If not, why not?

  82. Wosbald–

    Yeah, right. Clear as mud….

  83. Wosbald wrote:

    In the Catholic paradigm, the faithful and unfaithful, all alike, receive the whole, living Person of Jesus. In the Reformed paradigm, all do not. So, I think that the answer as to “which paradigm is Incarnational?” is rather easy to see.

    Eric: It may be a bit cheeky, but a case could be made that when Protestantism and Catholicism are compared, it is the latter that in fact places the focus on God’s objective work rather than on man’s subjective reaction to it.

    After all, Caiaphas encountered the Incarnate Word, even though he didn’t realize it, and that encounter will (assuming he died unrepentant) add to his guilt on the last Day.

    Likewise, Christ is present and offered in the Eucharist, objectively, full stop. Saying that he is only received when some internal condition is met by the worshiper is like ecclesial docetism: it’s like saying that the carpenter from Nazareth only becomes the Son of God when someone chooses to believe that he is, but otherwise he’s just some guy.

  84. Robert and Eric,

    I was able to borrow a computer for a while and so would like to take a stab at your objection that all those who are ever regenerate must persevere. I will rely heavily on Saint Thomas so buckle up.

    Thomas teaches that because Gods will is the cause of goodnes in things and some things are better than others, it necessarily follows that God wills different grades of goodness in His universe.God wills this variety of goodness in His universe because it is befitting for the Supreme Good to communicate His goodness to the greatest extent possible. So then for example is the existence of one type of flower is good the existence of billions of types of flowers is better. Further, it is better for a diversity of colors in these flowers to exist rather than just one color of flowers. Thomas elaborates saying

    Hence we must say that the distinction and multitude of things come from the intention of the first agent, who is God. For He brought things into being in order that His goodness might be communicated to creatures, and be represented by them; and because His goodness could not be adequetely represented by one creature alone, He produced many and diverse creatures, that what waswanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another. For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided; hence the whole universe together participates in the divine godness more perfectly, and represents it better than any single creature whatever

    The inequality that God wills in the universe includes not only different grades of goodnes but also that some things fail in their goodness This, too, God wills for the perfection of the universe.Aquinas says

    one grade of goodness is that of the good which can not fail. Another grade of goodness is that of the good which can fail in goodness, and this grade is to be found in existence it self….. so the perfection of the universe requires that there should be some which can fail in their goodness and thence it follows that sometimes they do fail. Now it is in this that evil consists, namely, in the fact that a thing fails in goodness

    So we can see if Thomas is correct that many good things would be taken away if evil were not permitted to exist. Now lets compare this basic and simple teaching to that of grace and salvation. 1 Cor 12:4-6 “now there are diversities of graces, but the same spirit; And there are diversities of ministries but the same Lord; And there are diversities of operations, but the same God who worketh in all”

    These different grades of goodness, whether in grace or ministries or operation, mean that some men achieve their goodness (the elect) and other men fail in their goodness (the reprobate). Through this diversity of goodness, the perfection of the universe is achieved. To communicate His goodness to the greatest extent God wills to show His mercy AND His justice and not merely His mercy alone. In His mercy He saves… in His justice is punishes. God endures the vessels of wrath presicely so that He might show to all creation the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy. This is n0t to say that He wills the damnation of the reprobate in the same way that He wills election, but that he wills to permit the reprobate to sin for the greater good of all things. The catechism teaches that “He permits evil, however, because He respects the freedom of His creatures and mysteriously knows how to derive good from it” CCC 311

    Many will recieve grace and not persevere. They are predestined to grace but not predestined to glory. 2 Thess 2:12 Paul says that ” God hath chosen you first fruits unto salvation, in sancitification of the Spirit and faith of the truth”. Because paul is writing to the Church at Thessolinica (which fell away from the faith) he is speaking of their predestination to grace and not to glory. Similarly Peter writes “But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 peter 2;9 Saint Peter is writing to all of the Churches in Asia minor (which fell away from the faith), he is also speaking to their predestination to grace not glory. So many will never know Christ, will never be baptised and will never be predestined to grace. They will be given sufficient grace to do all of these things…. but God wills to allow them to reject it. Others will be predestined to grace, they will be baptized and they will “believe for a while” and then fall away. They were given sufficient grace to persevere… but God willed to allow them to refuse it. Finally the elect God wills to predestine to glory. They will be baptized and persevere until the end. These varying degrees of graces and goodness are for the good of the whole universe and more perfectly express Gods goodness than if there were only the elect and the damned with none inbetween……

  85. Jason,

    Eric: It may be a bit cheeky, but a case could be made that when Protestantism and Catholicism are compared, it is the latter that in fact places the focus on God’s objective work rather than on man’s subjective reaction to it.
    After all, Caiaphas encountered the Incarnate Word, even though he didn’t realize it, and that encounter will (assuming he died unrepentant) add to his guilt on the last Day.
    Likewise, Christ is present and offered in the Eucharist, objectively, full stop. Saying that he is only received when some internal condition is met by the worshiper is like ecclesial docetism: it’s like saying that the carpenter from Nazareth only becomes the Son of God when someone chooses to believe that he is, but otherwise he’s just some guy.

    You’re going to have to come up with a better example than this if you want to prove your point. Do you really want to say that Caiaphas “received” the incarnate Word? He was in the presence of the incarnate Word, sure, but received him?

    You really should know better. The most sacramental of the Reformed will say that Jesus is present, but the only ones who receive him as a blessing are those of faith. Otherwise, those taking the Supper without faith are cursed. How in the world is that substantially different than the RC view. Would it not be at least a very grave sin to knowingly take the Eucharist and not be in a state of grace and faith?

  86. Jason–

    One of the few things we should be able to agree on is that Christ most emphatically is NOT objectively (as in demonstrably, evidentially, empirically) present in the Eucharist. Any competent chemist can tell us that.

    You all are the exact opposite of Docetic: in fact, a “panolatrist” (or whatever word one might wish to coin for someone who worships bread as his deity) would charge you with Docetism for thinking that his “god” took on only the appearance of bread but was really flesh and blood.

    So, I don’t think you “cheeky,” just flat our wrong that any such case can be made. This is really not worth fighting about, however. If we were to concede that unbelievers also fed on the body and blood of Christ, though to their detriment, you would be no more inclined to accept or even tolerate our take on the Eucharist. This is a non-issue.

  87. Kenneth–

    Part of this is merely semantic. We choose to call those who are predestined to grace but not glory, “unregenerate.” True regeneration to us is something that cannot be taken away. Whatever the state of those plants which spring to life temporarily only to wither and die, it is qualitatively different from those crops which sprout up from good soil and pro-DUCE PRO-duce.

  88. Eric,

    do you think that Paul and Peter were I’m error when writing to communities that would eventually lose the faith and calling them “a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”?

  89. Kenneth–

    You’re still using Douay-Rheims?? Is that at all normal? Is that like a fundamentalist KJV-only sort of thing to do?

    The Greek here, of course, calls us “his own possession” although ‘purchased’ certainly fits (kind of like Luther’s “addition” of ‘allein’ [alone] in Romans 3:28). I am assuming the KJV rendering of “peculiar” means something along the lines of a people who are “uniquely his.”

    So, at any rate, now whole communities stand or fall, do they? No more wheat and tares imagery? Peter couldn’t have possibly been speaking to the “invisible” church (i.e., the faithful, you know…the wheat?) within these communities?

  90. We could use whatever translation you like I personally prefer the Douay Rheims. Yes, I suppose he could have been speaking to the wheat only… although eventually these communities lost the faith all together. Ill concede the point though.

    Part of this is merely semantic. We choose to call those who are predestined to grace but not glory, “unregenerate.” True regeneration to us is something that cannot be taken away. Whatever the state of those plants which spring to life temporarily only to wither and die, it is qualitatively different from those crops which sprout up from good soil and pro-DUCE PRO-duce.

    It really isn’t merely semantic. We believe that people can really and truly be born again and regenerate infused with the Holy Spirit and marked for Christ and then turn away and fail to persevere. This is not semantics. There is no reason to believe that there is a “qualitative difference” between those who fall away and those who persevere other than one was granted a greater grace to fight to the end and the other allowed to fail and turn away. Aquinas gives one explanation of why God might allow this to be the case instead of their being merely the elect and the corpse of the damned who will never experience Gods grace. What is wrong with Aquinas theory in particular?

    “See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22; see also Heb. 10:26–29, 2 Pet. 2:20–21).

    The mental jumping jacks required to explain away these passages is completely unnecessary. You can still have a strong view of election and sovereignty without Calvinism or reformed theology.

  91. Kenneth,

    There is no reason to believe that there is a “qualitative difference” between those who fall away and those who persevere other than one was granted a greater grace to fight to the end and the other allowed to fail and turn away.

    If that is not a qualitative difference, I don’t know what is. Unless you want to say that efficient grace is the same thing as sufficient grace but it’s just a lot more of it. To use Starbucks terms, it’s grande grace and not just tall grace..

  92. Robert,

    The reprobate was given efficacious grace to become a child of God. When they fell away they then rejected sufficient grace. I don’t expect you to change your mind. i just want you to know all your options for whenever you eventually cross the Tiber

  93. Kenneth–

    I assume you mean those reprobate who are baptized or converted before they fall away. Other unlucky unbelievers, those who are infidels from cradle to grave, only receive sufficient grace, isn’t that right?

    I don’t know about Robert, but I don’t need to know what options I have were I ever to cross that garbage-strewn stream. (This past May, Rome officials suspended all river cruises until such time as the ubiquitous trash and pollution could be sufficiently cleaned up.) The Bride of Christ is not unblemished, but she is surely not unspeakably wretched either.

    I feel close to Thomists. They are almost, almost there. Unfortunately, I probably have to side with Wosbald after all. We are close, but still light years distant. Amyraldians pose only a “hypothetical” universal offer of salvation. Nothing actual, just theoretical. Yet it is enough to swing them (and those Dispensational Baptists who call themselves 4-point Calvinists) into a de facto Arminianism. The same with you. You are so close to acknowledging God’s sovereignty, but some misguided commitment to the significance of mankind’s role in his own salvation unravels that acknowledgement. You are obstinately opposed to grace, just grace, and nothing-but-nothing else besides grace. Such a pity.

    No matter how you try to spin it, being given “greater grace” IS a qualitative difference.

    I do believe there is a middle category of those with “apparent” or “temporary” faith. They have not been given this “greater grace” that irrevocably unites them with Christ. They can look for all the world like true believers. Heck, they can fool true believers for long stretches of time. John Murray, in recognizing the stern biblical warnings directed at believers not to apostatize, says that Scripture itself leads us to the conclusion that it is ever so possible to have “uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with the supernatural forces which are operative in God’s kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in [them] which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet be not partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life.”

    You can call these people converted or born again or regenerate if you like. We do not. They may have all kinds of similarities to us. But they will not stand the test of time. They are simply NOT authentic as we define authentic. They do not have the God-instilled character to stand fast. No one who displays anything short of that is truly bound tight to Christ. I don’t care how many “warm fuzzies” and “tingles” and “burning bosoms” they experience. I don’t care how many magnificent deeds they perform or how many countless hours they spend on their knees. True believers see it through to the end, or they are not true believers! True believers endure….

    So part of it IS semantic. To us a true believer endures BY DEFINITION.

  94. Kenneth,

    So now efficacious grace is given to the reprobate? I thought that was only given to the elect. Or are we coming up with yet a third kind of grace? And all this just to get around God being a moral monster?

    If sufficient grace really is enough so that all people who come to faith have the ability to persevere, then efficient grace is entirely superfluous. It’s unnecessary, and you are left with some de facto Arminianism.

    To say someone can but won’t without efficient grace is really not all that different from Calvinism. You are still denying that everyone CAN persevere in every sense of the word, because efficient grace is otherwise unnecessary. It’s an extra gift that people don’t need in any meaningful sense.

    Eric is correct. True believers endure. Jesus tells some to depart because He never knew them.

    As far as crossing the Tiber, I’ll be a happy Protestant, by God’s grace, till the day I die. I know a rigged game when I see it, and the RC game is rigged so that the authorities always have a halfway plausible way out if you can contort their words enough. Just like politicians. RC infallibility is like the defense of “it depends on what the meaning of the word is,” just on a larger scale.

    That, plus the way Rome trivializes sin is a big problem among other things.

  95. Robert,

    Efficacious grace would have had to have been given to them (the reprobate) in order for them to “believe for a little while”. Again, sufficient grace is always rejected and in order for someone to draw to Christ efficacious grace is required. This necessarily entails that those who are Christians and then fell away were brought into the Church by efficacious grace and then left it by rejecting sufficient grace. That was the whole point of my post on Aquinas explaining the various graces and goods and things failing in their good etc etc (which no one will interact with). Again, I remind you, that having the ability to do something does not mean that someone actually WILL ever do that in which they have the ability to perform. A slug HAVING wings doesnt mean the slug will use them.

    You are still denying that everyone CAN persevere in every sense of the word, because efficient grace is otherwise unnecessary.

    No, I am denying that everyone WILL persevere not that they CAN persevere. Im affirming that they can and denying that they will.

  96. Eric,

    You can call these people converted or born again or regenerate if you like. We do not. They may have all kinds of similarities to us. But they will not stand the test of time. They are simply NOT authentic as we define authentic. They do not have the God-instilled character to stand fast. No one who displays anything short of that is truly bound tight to Christ. I don’t care how many “warm fuzzies” and “tingles” and “burning bosoms” they experience. I don’t care how many magnificent deeds they perform or how many countless hours they spend on their knees. True believers see it through to the end, or they are not true believers! True believers endure….

    I noticed you said that they might have all kinds of similarities to US. How do you know that you are on of the elect? Some burning in the bosum? Good deeds? Believing all the right things and spending hours on your knees? You just listed those as qualities that mean nothing.

  97. Kenneth–

    Well, I could ask the same thing of you. How do YOU know? Is it from getting splishy-splashed with a few droplets of magic water by a guy in a funny looking robe from a profligate institution of questionable provenance?

    My own embrace of Calvinism is probably just convenient: under no other system do I stand a chance of making it…fondest, blindest, weakest (as Francis Thompson would say).

    All I know is that from my earliest days he would not, will not, leave me alone….and I have come quite desperately to throw all my hopes on him.

  98. In other words… You have a burning in your bosom. Right?

  99. Kenneth–

    Nope, wish I did actually. All true believers, in my ignorant opinion, live on the fine edge between desperate hope and calm assurance. In the end, all any of us has to rely on is our bosoms, burning or otherwise. Bosoms can burn and hearts can tingle with either truth or fantasy. Noggins can evaluate in much the same way. I find Calvinism convincing in all the myriad ways in which we can be convinced: historically, philosophically, biblically, ethically, theologically, sacramentally, and experientially (among others).

  100. As I understand Absolute Assurance is related to Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) in that, PSA says that Jesus Christ drank of the cup of God’s wrath SO THAT believers would not have to. In other words, Absolute Assurance is the fruit of PSA

    Is this right or wrong? But here’s the quote from Mark chapter 10 verse 35-40.

    35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. 36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? 37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

    39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

    40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

    If the “cup” which Jesus drank, signifies the cup of God’s wrath, why did the Apostles have to drink of that cup as well?

    John 3:36
    He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

    Therefore, according to a PSA reading of this verse, believers will not avoid the cup of God’s wrath. Which, I think, demolishes any vestige of Absolute Assurance.

    What say you?

  101. De Maria–

    We are spared the wrath of the second death. We are not spared suffering and death in this life.

    We are united to Christ. We represent him here on earth. We model his self-sacrificial behavior in order to present the truth of his sufferings to the world. We are also his followers, and the world will hate us as they hated him. We will suffer, as a result. We willingly and proudly share in his sufferings. If we die with him, we will also rise with him.

    Christ did not promise us an easy life. I kind of doubt even life after death will be easy: no sitting on a cloud, half-heartedly strumming a harp.

    Nietsche’s quote, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” can be extended for the Christian to include death. Our sufferings and our martyrdoms, especially when faced bravely, improve our faith and make us (and others) more productive for the kingdom.

    “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

    Being counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ…why should this detract from our sense of assurance? For he is there with us, every step of the way.

  102. Eric,

    Are you saying that the Cup of God’s wrath is endured in this life? So, are you saying that all, both the good and the wicked, suffer the Cup of God’s wrath?

    How does that jive with Scripture?

    Romans 1:18
    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

    Ephesians 5:6
    Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  103. De Maria–

    No, the Cup of God’s wrath is either endured or not endured in the world to come.

  104. ERIC November 23, 2013 at 12:50 am

    No, the Cup of God’s wrath is either endured or not endured in the world to come.

    Then, what did Jesus Christ endure upon the Cross? And, what was the cup which Jesus Christ said that the Apostles James and John would drink?

  105. How do the reformed read and interpret John 15? This seems to me to be the ultimate defeater text for the Reformed conception of Preservation of the Saints. In the text, Jesus seems to be speaking to those who are ACTUALLY believers, “you are already clean”, “remain in me”, etc. And yet, those believers have the possibility of “not remaining in Christ” and if that happens they will be “thrown into the fire and burned.”

    15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

    (please forgive me for using the NIV)

  106. almost forgot 9 which is just as significant:

    9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

  107. Jayson,

    The answer would be that we see John 15 as pertaining to those who only joined the visible church and were never invisibly united to Christ. Sometimes the Bible applies language to the entire church as if the entire church is made up of true converts with actual saving faith, although we know that the apostles themselves knew that there were some that professed faith without possessing it. 1 John speaks of people going out from us who were never truly of us.

    It is certainly true that we must remain in Christ to be saved. The question is whether one who has only an intellectual conversion to Christ and affirms true things about Him without ever entrusting Himself to Christ was ever actually saved in any meaningful sense. We can differentiate between saving faith and a faith that is mere intellectual assent. The latter will not save and will not endure.

    We also note that the apostles were not omniscient and could not see the true state of the hearts of their audience. They issue warnings to everyone, knowing that the Spirit makes those warnings effectual in the hearts of the elect so that they persevere. That seems to us to be a very reasonable position and easier to square with the Bible’s witness to the fact of Christ’s perfect salvation. You can easily reconcile that with a passage like Romans 8 which says all that are justified are glorified. From our perspective, any system that believes you can be justified and not persevere cannot deal with a text such as that one adequately.

  108. Jayson–

    We have already spoken to this quite a bit in the last couple of threads. The difference between the Thomists/Lutherans and us Calvinists is evaluating whether Scripture intends for us to interpret these ostensible “believers” as fully regenerate/converted/born again/saved souls who then lose that salvation…or as only enlightened temporary beneficiaries of God’s abundant grace. (We happen to think the latter makes more sense of the whole analogy. After all, Jayson, of what does a “lost salvation” consist? Isn’t it a rather meaningless phrase? With anything in life where you would have/should have/could have, the bottom line is that you didn’t . If you’re a “real” evergreen branch burnt to a crisp after the New Year’s celebrations or just the limb of an artificial Christmas Tree torched in the post-holiday fires, either way you’re nothing but charred toast.*)

    Of course, either side that pushes the analogy to its literal extremes will get burnt. If our need to “remain” in the vine is a defeater for us, then the fact that the Father himself “cuts off” those who do not produce fruit (his action rather than theirs) will be a defeater for you all. On the other hand, you can easily explain this discrepancy using your paradigm, as we can explain data which at first sight are conundrums to our system in like manner. Scripture itself cannot establish one or the other conclusively. It is our contention that the overall arc of of biblical evidence, when considered together, favors our take on things.

    *I once won the Nobel Prize (for Deceptology) but before the big day arrived–the ostentatious awards ceremony, the cute little speech, and the windfall of a payday–it was discovered that I was too closely related to Alfred Nobel himself and thus, ineligible. Was I a genuine winner or not? My Catholic friends said that I was, but those Calvinist Judases, spoil sports that they are, maintained that I didn’t “really” win. After all, you can’t find my name on the list of winners, I never got to deliver that brilliant oration I had practiced so conscientiously, and the only place I was able to spend any of my hard-earned winnings was in my pathetic little dreams. I dunno. Maybe they were right, after all….

  109. ROBERT November 25, 2013 at 11:53 am
    Jayson,…. You can easily reconcile that with a passage like Romans 8 which says all that are justified are glorified. From our perspective, any system that believes you can be justified and not persevere cannot deal with a text such as that one adequately.[/quote]

    Heb 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

    That describes people who are justified.

    5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

    This describes they who have been justified.

    2 Pet 2:

    20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

    This says they can fall away.

    they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

    That says that even they can fall away.

    1 Corinthians 10:

    12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  110. ERIC November 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm
    Jayson–
    We have already spoken to this quite a bit in the last couple of threads. The difference between the Thomists/Lutherans and us Calvinists is evaluating whether Scripture intends for us to interpret these ostensible “believers” as fully regenerate/converted/born again/saved souls who then lose that salvation…or as only enlightened temporary beneficiaries of God’s abundant grace. ….

    St. Peter is very clear:

    2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

    The angels were already in heaven. If they who were in heaven, could be cast out. What about those who are not yet in heaven? Can they lose their presumed salvation?

    The problem is that Protestant soteriology is based upon an illusion of self-judgement. But this is unbibilical:

    1 Corinthians 4:2-4
    King James Version (KJV)
    2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

    We are not our own judges. God is our Judge. And He does not judge by faith alone, but by deeds done in faith:

    Revelation 22:12-15
    King James Version (KJV)
    12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

    13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

    14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

    15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  111. //Robert, thanks for your reply. I appreciate it! Here are my thoughts in response.

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

    // But I don’t see that in Christ’s words. He says that we must *remain* united with him, and he with us, in order for us to be saved. He doesn’t say anything about visible and invisible. His words seem very clear. How can someone be in christ, and christ be in that person, but they are not Justified? How can one abide in his love, but not actually be in his love? It just seems like something is being forced upon the words of Christ that aren’t there.

    Sometimes the Bible applies language to the entire church as if the entire church is made up of true converts with actual saving faith, although we know that the apostles themselves knew that there were some that professed faith without possessing it. 1 John speaks of people going out from us who were never truly of us.

    //But Christ was clearly speaking to his followers. Christ certainly knew, even if the apostles didn’t, who belonged to him. Of course there are those, from the apostles limited, human perspective, seemed to be “in Christ”, but actually werent.

    It is certainly true that we must remain in Christ to be saved. The question is whether one who has only an intellectual conversion to Christ and affirms true things about Him without ever entrusting Himself to Christ was ever actually saved in any meaningful sense. We can differentiate between saving faith and a faith that is mere intellectual assent. The latter will not save and will not endure.

    //Again, this is not a distinction that Christ makes in this scripture. He is literally telling his followers how they must remain saved. He says nothing of intellectual assent. He emphasizes that our actions determine if we remain in him. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t deny that those who remain, remain because of God’s grace. But it seems clear that our actions determine whether or not we stay within the fold.

    We also note that the apostles were not omniscient and could not see the true state of the hearts of their audience. They issue warnings to everyone, knowing that the Spirit makes those warnings effectual in the hearts of the elect so that they persevere.

    //I do not disagree.

    That seems to us to be a very reasonable position and easier to square with the Bible’s witness to the fact of Christ’s perfect salvation. You can easily reconcile that with a passage like Romans 8 which says all that are justified are glorified.

    //Romans 8 is clearly speaking of those who are predestined to glory. Of course those who REMAIN in CHRIST are predestined to glory. The question is not whether those who are predestined remained, the question is whether or not there are those who are offered, partake, are not predestined, and therefore, fall.

    It seems to me that God’s Grace is SO abundant that even the reprobate can partake in the power and glory of his grace, even if they ultimately reject it.

  112. Thank you Jason for bringing up the theme of the saints -our brothers and sisters who already made it!
    I just received a grace through the intercession of the Saint of all saints, Mary, the Mother of Jesus and ours. Sure, I could go directly to the King, but why not through the Queen Mother?
    I am so sure her Son is not offended because I am honoring one of His best friends and Mother, for neither Mary nor the saints are in the way to Jesus, but are part of His Divine Throne.
    Mary pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
    In Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

  113. Jason,

    In short, yes, Reformed theology offers wonderful assurance, but it is an offer that applies to an invisible group to which one may, or may not, belong.

    If they don’t know that they are members of the elect, how can they have more assurance than a Catholic?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  114. De Maria, Thats a fallacy. Reformed dont teach assurance. the bible does. Romans 5:1,Romans 8:1, 1 John 5:13. If one is trusting in Christ alone they have this peace.

  115. KEVIN December 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm
    De Maria, Thats a fallacy. Reformed dont teach assurance. the bible does. Romans 5:1,

    Romans 5:1
    King James Version (KJV)
    5 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

    That says nothing about absolute assurance. It simply says and what we are justified we are at peace with Christ.

    This discourse continues for several chapters. If we look at Romans chapter 8, we see what St. Paul is talking about. He is talking about those who walk in the spirit. But not everyone walks in the spirit as he makes plain in this chapter.

    Romans 8
    King James Version (KJV)
    8 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
    9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

    Romans 8:1,

    see above

    1 John 5:13.

    1 John 5:13
    King James Version (KJV)
    13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

    This verse must be read in context. In the context is very much but one must keep the commandments in order to be saved.

    1 John 5
    King James Version (KJV)
    5 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    Within that context it is true, one is saved, if one keeps the Commandments. But who is the judge? Is it you? Or is it I? Or the Jesus Christ? What the Scriptures say?

    1 Corinthians 4:2-4
    King James Version (KJV)
    2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

    If the Bible taught the assurance of salvation anywhere, it would contradict these verses:

    2 Peter 2:21-22
    King James Version (KJV)
    21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

    Hebrews 6:4-6
    King James Version (KJV)
    4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

    1 Corinthians 10:12
    Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

    If one is trusting in Christ alone they have this peace.

    If one is trusting in Christ alone, that person is disobeying the word of Christ. Scripture tells us to trust the church.

    Matthew 18:17
    King James Version (KJV)
    17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

    Scripture tells us to submit to and obey those whom Christ has put over us. And Christ went to church in authority over us.

    Hebrews 13:17
    King James Version (KJV)
    17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

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