The Gospel as Love of God and Neighbor

Posted by on February 24, 2013 in Covenant Theology, Featured, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Law, Love, Paradigms, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, Sanctification | 147 comments

We have spent quite a bit of time considering statements by Jesus, Paul, and James and discussing the question, “If these men were operating from a proto-Reformed paradigm, would they have said that ?” My argument has been that while the passages we have looked at may be able to be forced into a Reformed rubric, they would not have arisen from one.

The next question that naturally arises in this enquiry is, “If a Reformed paradigm wouldn’t have given rise to these various New Testament teachings, what kind of paradigm would have?” In other words, what sort of basic gospel rubric is most likely to have occasioned the statements of Jesus, Paul, and James that we have been considering?

My thesis for this next stage in our discussion is that the gospel paradigm from which the NT figures were operating (at least with respect to how redemption is applied to us) went something like this: Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension inaugurated the New Covenant through which the Holy Spirit was given to God’s people, thereby enabling us to exhibit the love of God and neighbor that fulfills the law and graciously results in our eternal inheritance in the age to come.

Jesus hinted at the redemptive-historical shift ushered in by his own presence when he told the Samaritan woman in John 4 that “the hour is coming, and is now here,” that worship will be a heavenly and Spiritual exercise rather than a mere earthly and geographically-specific one. Another sneak peek into this matter is given in Mark’s gospel:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (12:28-34).

What I find interesting here is what Mark includes but the other synoptics omit: the exchange between Jesus and the scribe once his question was answered. The latter clearly understood that the Mosaic law was not an end in itself, but was rather eclipsed in eternal significance by love of God and neighbor.

Moreover, Jesus’ response to the scribe’s wisdom and understanding — “You are not far from the kingdom of God” — indicates that this “new command” was not issued in a merely pedagogical, first-use-of-the-law manner intended only to demonstrate man’s sinful inability to obey it, for if it had been, we would surely have expected the exchange to have had a different feel to it. Indeed, I would argue that the reason Jesus encouraged this scribe by highlighting his nearness to the kingdom was that, like with the Samaritan woman, the hour was coming (and was already beginning to dawn) when the source of that agape  would be poured out upon the people of God and infused into their hearts (Gal. 4:1-6; Rom. 5:5).

For the remainder of this series, then, my case will be that Paul, Peter, James, and John pick up on this basic idea and unpack it, showing that Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor graciously issuing forth in the consummation of our union with Christ in the age to come is nothing less than the New Covenant gospel itself.

 

147 Comments

  1. Moreover, Jesus’ response to the scribe’s wisdom and understanding — “You are not far from the kingdom of God” — indicates that this “new command” was not issued in a merely pedagogical, first-use-of-the-law manner intended only to demonstrate man’s sinful inability to obey it, for if it had been, we would surely have expected the exchange to have had a different feel to it.

    If anything, Jesus would have condemned his answer, which borders on a works-based understanding of salvation.

  2. That is a perverted gospel.

    The gospel is this, ‘your sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake’.

    You are forgiven. God no longer holds your rebellion against you. The war is over. All is forgiven. That’s the gospel.

    Now…you are free. Free from the religious self-ascendancy project…and freed for the neighbor.

    And I’ll tell you from personal experience…when you finally have that yoke of self-focused religion taken off of you, then you are truly free. It is GREAT!

  3. The Jews knew (long before Jesus) that the law could be distilled down to “love God and your neighbor as self” (short version). They said as much.

    They didn’t need Jesus for that. You didn’t need the Cross for that.

  4. But the OT prophets are clear that in order to actually exhibit this divine love a circumcision of the heart was needed, which the law of Moses could not provide.

  5. The point is that none of us are up to it.

    Not you, or me, or anyone past or present, outside of Jesus.

    We don’t need a tune-up, how-to manual. That won’t help. It’s far too late for that.

    What we need is to recognize our great need…and then recognize the One sent to meet that need…on the Cross.

  6. But as I said in the post, we’re talking about redemption applied, not just redemption accomplished. What we need, I argue, is the renovation of our fallen nature that indeed makes us “up to it” (which is what my citation of the promise of internal circumcision is about, which you ignored).

  7. Redemption applied and accomplished is the same thing when God is the One who does it all.

    What follows has no bearing on God’s redemptive or applied work in us. It’s a mere by-product of that work and should not look to credit ourselves in any way for it.

  8. Let me guess: when you look up “Sanctification” in your Lutheran Dogmatics the entry says, “See Justification.”

  9. He does them both, Jason. He’s a real God, and He’s up to it. He doesn’t need our measly help (more of a hinderance, actually).

    “The Lord sanctifies and justifies”, also appears in Scripture. They are two sides of the same coin.

    Once you abandon the need to help God in all of this stuff, a whole new (free) world will open up to you.

    It happened for me, and a great many others.

  10. ‘Calls’ – ‘Gathers’ – ‘Enlightens’ – ‘Sanctifies ‘

    These words are explained very well; here:

    http://theoldadam.com/2012/01/25/preaching-this-sermon-would-probably-get-you-thrown-out-of-saddleback-church-calvary-chapel-or-willowcreek/

    It’s worth it, if nothing more than to understand the Lutheran point of view…and understand it (you will) better than 80% of Lutherans.

  11. I came across an awesome verse the other day that completely fits this:

    1 John 3: 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

    This summarizes everything.

  12. Awesome, Nick!

    I have finally found someone who is keeping God’s Commandments.

    Congratulations! (assuming that is why you made those comments)

  13. I know I’m just a Reformed Christian working with a pair of Reformed digms, but why can’t this passage simply mean that the scribe understood quite well that the only way to be justified is to love God and man unfailingly and that to grasp this is to be near the kingdom of God?

    I’m reminded of the Good Samaritan passage, where the expert in the law knew pretty well that the one who had mercy on the beaten man was the one who was the true neighbor and thereby earned eternal life. Jesus told him to go and do likewise.

    In neither case does it occur to me that they are only “…issued in a merely pedagogical, first-use-of-the-law manner intended only to demonstrate man’s sinful inability to obey it…” sort of way. They seem to me issued more so to buttress Jesus’ unique ability to fulfill the law. After all, the Reformed can say without blinking that salvation is indeed by works.

  14. “After all, the Reformed can say without blinking that salvation is indeed by works.”

    Amen, Zrim.

    Just not our own.

  15. +JMJ+

    Zrim

    … but why can’t this passage simply mean that the scribe understood quite well that the only way to be justified is to love God and man unfailingly…

    Well, the passage doesn’t say love God and neighbor “unfailingly”. It says to love with [insert anthropological constituents here].

    I’m not quite sure how to unpack this, but it seems significant. Perhaps this has something to do with viewing Christ as the Unfailing Law-Keeper as opposed to viewing Christ as the one who enables Man to love with his very own being.

  16. Whenever someone (even yourself) tries to tell you that you are doing a pretty good job of loving your neighbor, you ought listen to this and receive a much needed wake-up call:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-last-day-of-jesus-life.mp3

    It is a burnished mirror for those capable of seeing themselves as they really are.

  17. Something to keep in mind: If, as I maintain, the application of redemption includes the believer being indwelt by the Spirit and thus enabled to exhibit love for God and neighbor (which can easily be established from the Johannine literature alone), then the issue becomes, “Does this Spirit-wrought love actually please God, or not? If not, then what’s the point? And why do the NT writers teach that love of neighbor ‘fulfills the law’? But if this Spirit-wrought love does please God in a fulfills-the-law kind of way, then why, biblically, can’t the gospel be that God does in Christ what the law could not, to the point of actually enabling us to sufficiently please him?”

    And again, I am asking for this question to be answered from Scripture, and not from systematic theological objections like “This robs God of glory,” or, “This contradicts monergism.”

  18. can’t the gospel be?

    You bet it can, see Peter’s sermon and the clearest exposition of the Gospel, Acts 2:14-36.

    “33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear

  19. Jason, you said, “Does this Spirit-wrought love actually please God, or not?” Don’t the Reformed answer yes, since Spirit-wrought love will only take place in the regenerate? They would not deny God is pleased by the Spirit-wrought works performed by the regenerate please and glorify God. They would just add that those works are all the while tainted by the regenerate man’s stony nature though his heart is no longer stony. Here’s the WCF to that effect:

    “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.”

  20. Wosbald, it seems rather obvious that to love God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind and neighbor as self is a call to love unfailingly. The alternative is to say we’re just called to love the best we can or imperfectly. Maybe I’m just greedy, but I’d prefer love of God and man to be absolutely perfect—otherwise this whole project called Christianity seems sort of lame and I’ll return to the relative comforts of unbelief.

    JJS, I know you gotta fever for more Bible, baby, but how about basic religious instinct? Whatever the Bible means by saying that love of neighbor fulfills the law, taken together with other parts of Scripture that at least give pause to the conclusion that anything we do even by the Spirit, can it really mean we sufficiently please God? Where or where is the sense of abiding sin? And what about having a lot to lose by staking so much to our works but nothing to lose by staking them to Christ alone?

  21. can it really mean we sufficiently please God

    “Well done, good and faithful servant”

    Q.E.D.

  22. Where or where is the sense of abiding sin?

    Just en passant, while I am not catholic, one of the most helpful insights relating to the above and the praxis came to me via Thomas A Kempis’ “OIC”. I would happily drop all my commentaries in exchange for a page of his thoughts if I had to.

  23. Jason,

    Very nice post.

    It’s becoming very clear to me why so many Reformed have a hard time grasping Catholicism.

    I’ll be honest, love of God and neighbor has been drilled into me since I was a kid. Twelve years of Catholic School and I didn’t truly understand it until I was in my late twenties. If that’s the case, I can understand why Protestants who have never really learned it would have a hard time grasping it.

    It’s interesting how a Protestant and Catholic can approach the same words and see things so differently.

  24. +JMJ+

    Zrim wrote:

    Wosbald, it seems rather obvious that to love God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind and neighbor as self is a call to love unfailingly. The alternative is to say we’re just called to love the best we can or imperfectly.

    So, “with” means “unfailingly”? That certainly doesn’t seem obvious. At least, not from the text.

    “If you want to arrive at the monster truck rally, then go with your car.” The car is that vehicle by which one arrives at said destination.

    “If you want to arrive at the monster truck rally, then go unfailingly.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

    Our own car is that vehicle by which we arrive at the monster truck rally, just as our own Being (heart, soul, mind, strength) is that vehicle by which we arrive at heaven.

  25. Wosbald, my upper-middle class paradigm doesn’t do monster truck rallies, so I don’t follow you.

    Still, if “love with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” isn’t synonymous with “love unfailingly” then I don’t see how I’m not left with said alternative. If God is calling us to only partial or imperfect love and holiness then whatever else Christianity has to offer, it’s not much and I’ll pass, thanks anyway. Plus now I’m free from having to closely associate with a lot of people I don’t much like and carry on with a lot of odd rituals and habits that keep me from certain things I do like.

  26. If God is calling us to only partial or imperfect love and holiness then whatever else Christianity has to offer, it’s not much and I’ll pass, thanks anyway

    Entirely question begging given the very words of Christ “Well done, good and faithful servant”. You are operating out of a medieval accounting paradigm of debits and credits, not the proper jewish paradigm.

    Plus now I’m free from having to closely associate with a lot of people I don’t much like and carry on with a lot of odd rituals and habits that keep me from certain things I do like

    Non sequitur. A wife/husband who makes minor mistakes but nevertheless perseveres in bettering themselves is demonstrating love for their spouse. It is the kindness of their spouse which leads them to grow deeper in their love. And likewise it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance. You are badly mistaken.

  27. If anyone is tempted to balk at the idea of our truly pleasing God by our Spirit-wrought works, we could always make respective lists of biblical passages, one describing God being pleased with his children, and the other explaining how God may act pleased but, due to indwelling sin in us, actually considers our works as offensive and noxious to him. But something tells me that list would disproportionately favor the idea that our Father is really and truly pleased with us, such that in Christ he can accept our works of sacrifice and love without having to cross his fingers, hold his nose, or impute worth to them externally.

    And regarding the WCF’s position on our sanctification, it ties a direct line between our person and our works, and how God accepts both for the same reason. So while we’re ever and always “et peccator” and therefore in ourselves unacceptable, but God can clothe us with an external garment to cover our filthiness, so with our works: they are never actually acceptable to God, but God can treat them as though they are. This, to my mind, if very different from saying that God is really and truly pleased with his children.

    In a word, in Reformed theology God says it is so, but in Catholic theology he also makes it so.

  28. But something tells me that list would disproportionately favor the idea that our Father is really and truly pleased with us, such that in Christ he can accept our works of sacrifice and love without having to cross his fingers, hold his nose, or impute worth to them externally

    Along the lines of Hume and the problem of induction, all one has to do is point to the eschaton and Jesus commending His faithful servants. That ‘black swan’ dismantles the idea that it is impossible to truly please God (akin to the idea that all swans are white).

  29. To tie into Jason’s last post. I think it’s wrong to say there is a battle of paradigms here. I say this because for a paradigm to be valid in the first place requires it’s founding pillars to be well established. The problem is that the Reformed paradigm is built upon a series of significant assumptions that are not actually found in Scripture. This means that the paradigm is man-made (and thus man-centered) rather than Biblically-made (and God-centered). I am especially thinking of Christ’s Imputed Active Obedience at this point, and since this cannot be established from Scripture, then there is no ‘competing’ Reformed paradigm to ‘challenge’ the Catholic Biblical paradigm of a Christian fulfilling the law through supernaturally loving God and neighbor by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    I believe the only way to make a breakthrough is by relentlessly challenging Reformed assumptions, since this will get them to realize they don’t have a leg to stand on in the first place. If we give off the impression they have a leg to stand on, they will continue to neutralize difficult Scriptural texts with impunity.

  30. Nick: And of course, the imputation of active obedience is predicated on the so-called list paradigm, the idea that God demands absolute and sinless law-keeping in order to justify us (otherwise, Christ’s obedience would not need to be imputed).

  31. Agreed. In fact, I’m writing up a post now where I’m examining how the Bible uses the term “righteousness,” and the results I’m seeing is that “righteousness” is never used to mean “keep the law perfectly.” That’s pretty serious, because its another direct undermining of the very possibility of a list-paradigm.

  32. Jason,

    “Does this Spirit-wrought love actually please God, or not? If not, then what’s the point? And why do the NT writers teach that love of neighbor ‘fulfills the law’? But if this Spirit-wrought love does please God in a fulfills-the-law kind of way, then why, biblically, can’t the gospel be that God does in Christ what the law could not, to the point of actually enabling us to sufficiently please him?”

    Is the objective to please God?

    I would think the objective is to love God. The greatest commandment isn’t to please God. It’s to love Him with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. So, it’s in loving God through obedience to Christ (per John) that we are united to Christ and thus united to God.

    Fulfilling the law is unity with God. In loving God–through obedience, the law is fulfilled and we are truly one with Him. We have attained the highest plane.

    In loving our neighbor, we are bringing God–who is love– to our neighbor and sharing the Gospel with Him. The Gospel is Love. The Gospel is God’s love for the world. Through loving our neighbor, we are spreading the Gospel.

    Following the law results in a legalistic, pharsaic understanding of God–which is not what God wants. God wants us to love Him and be obedient to Him. Not for any reward or to please Him, but rather because we love Him.

  33. Jason–

    You said:

    “Does this Spirit-wrought love actually please God, or not?”

    It definitely does.

    “And why do the NT writers teach that love of neighbor ‘fulfills the law’?”

    Because it does.

    “But if this Spirit-wrought love does please God in a fulfills-the-law kind of way, then why, biblically, can’t the gospel be that God does in Christ what the law could not, to the point of actually enabling us to sufficiently please him?”

    It can.

    The differences between us, Jason, are at a deeper level. We don’t happen to think that Jesus colors outside of the lines, waiting for us to come along and clean up his mess. He gets it right, first time, every time. We can please because Christ pleases. We will finish the race because Christ finished it. You leave it up to yourself. This simply will not do.

    “You do not do, you do not do
    Any more, black shoe
    In which I have lived like a foot
    For thirty years, poor and white,
    Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.”

    –Sylvia Plath

  34. Eric,

    We don’t happen to think that Jesus colors outside of the lines, waiting for us to come along and clean up his mess. He gets it right, first time, every time. We can please because Christ pleases. We will finish the race because Christ finished it. You leave it up to yourself.

    You’re not even trying to understand my position anymore, which I find uncharitable and unworthy of further interaction. I mean, if after all this time you think you are responding to what I actually think, then I am either a bad communicator, you are incapable of understanding my view, or you are unwilling to understand my view. And I am not a bad communicator.

  35. Jason–

    You have said in past threads that here is a forensic element to justification. Now you seem to be dissing every possibility of imputation. Which is it…and why?

    Also, do you judge other people’s children on the same basis that you judge your own? Are you as easily pleased with other people’s children (even one’s who are as objectively loving as your own)? Are you telling me that you do not in any way grade your kids “on a curve”? Is your attitude that they are moving from one level of perfection to another? Or that they may not be perfect, but who cares? After all, they’re yours!

  36. I judge my children as their father, because that’s what I am. And God judges his children in the same way. So if he says that love fulfills the law, and if he bestows that love freely upon his children and enables them to walk in it, then I have no other choice but to believe that he is pleased when I do so. He doesn’t have to beat his real Son to death so that he can find a way to not do the same to me.

  37. In Christ, God is pleased with you before you even start the day.

    He is looking for folks who trust in Him and what He has done in Christ. He is looking for un-self-conscious givers of themselves.

    Those who do out of fear of punishment or hope of reward don’t catch His eye…but more than likely His ire. Because there’s no trust in it.

  38. TOA,

    In Christ, God is pleased with you before you even start the day.

    I agree but that is not the objective. For example, my objective in life hasn’t been to please my parents. It’s to love my parents. My parents being pleased with me is a side result of my loving them.

    He is looking for folks who trust in Him and what He has done in Christ. He is looking for un-self-conscious givers of themselves.

    While I don’t disagree with you, that’s not exactly how Scripture words it.

    God is looking for folks who love Him. Those who love Him are obedient to Him. Those who are obedient to Him are united to Him. Those who are united to Him can attain eternal salvation. This is found throughout Scripture.

    Those who do out of fear of punishment or hope of reward don’t catch His eye…but more than likely His ire. Because there’s no trust in it.

    The Catholic view is that this approach to God is an imperfect one. To do out of fear or reward is still preferable to outright rebellion or rejection which would be much worse.

  39. +JMJ+

    Zrim wrote:

    Still, if “love with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” isn’t synonymous with “love unfailingly” then I don’t see how I’m not left with said alternative.

    Well, if you didn’t start out with the assumption that “Love is Quantitative and not Qualitative”, then you wouldn’t be forced to change the text to read ‘unfailingly’ instead of ‘with’. That would give you a viable alternative.

  40. He is looking for un-self-conscious givers of themselves.

    IOW, you are conscious of your un-self-consciousness… Consciousness is a tricky thing you know, and it’s also a good thing, to those who walk in the Spirit.

    20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.

    21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

    Perhaps the story should have said:

    ‘See, I have gained 5 more. But I swear I’m NOT concscious about it Lord! I swear!’….

    The Master is happy. We should be happy too that the Gospel allows us to love Him and neighbor/ obey His will and thereby please Him.

    Paul was pleased too in the Thessalonians:

    “19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

  41. When they were at the judgement and they said, “we did this, that and the other thing…in your name”…Jesus said, “depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.”

    Then to those who weren’t even aware that they were doing good works, He said, “blessed are you…”

    Law (doing, to please God) on the brain, does not produce un-selfconscious, free people. It produces law bangers and people who constantly are telling other people what to do, and comparing themselves to people they believe are cutting it.

    The truth of the matter is that none of us are up to it.

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

  42. Jason–

    Cosmic child abuse? Really??

    Has this conversation degenerated to such depths???

    (Under your scenario, our “elder brother” still gets beat up. Just to no purpose.)

  43. You end up looking and sounding like the Pharisee in the Temple.

    And your pride keeps you from seeing it. (law bangers – advocates of doing God pleasing things in addition to what Christ has done)

    God does not need our good works. Our neighbors do.

  44. When they were at the judgement and they said, “we did this, that and the other thing…in your name”…Jesus said, “depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.”

    The servant with 5 talents was a worker of iniquity? Wow, that’s news to me.

    Then to those who weren’t even aware that they were doing good works, He said, “blessed are you…”

    Again, the servants in the POTT were conscious of their doing. That is sufficient to prove that unselfconsciousness is not a necessary/required state to be acceptable to God.

    Law (doing, to please God) on the brain, does not produce un-selfconscious, free people. It produces law bangers and people who constantly are telling other people what to do, and comparing themselves to people they believe are cutting it.

    And Lutheranism of your kind produces consciously unselfconscious people who are constantly comparing their unconscious selves to others whom they believe aren’t cutting it and constantly telling other people what not to do. Hey, just saying. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  45. A wife/husband who makes minor mistakes but nevertheless perseveres in bettering themselves is demonstrating love for their spouse. It is the kindness of their spouse which leads them to grow deeper in their love. And likewise it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance. You are badly mistaken.

    SS, I’ll see your point but up the ante. A scandalized wife who perseveres with her boorish husband demonstrates the kind of love we’re talking about here, which is not one easily grasped by the human heart. That’s the kind of love God displays and calls us to. Your love-analogy is nice but it isn’t very compelling.

    Wosbald, but I don’t start with the premise that love is quantitative and not qualitative. I start with one that says love is both.

    So back to your original point that “perhaps this has something to do with viewing Christ as the Unfailing Law-Keeper as opposed to viewing Christ as the one who enables man to love with his very own being.” Being so enabled by the Spirit is affirmed by the Reformed. But being represented by Christ is prior. Frankly, it isn’t clear what need anybody has of the cross if his purpose is to simply enable men to love.

  46. “And Lutheranism of your kind produces consciously unselfconscious people who are constantly comparing their unconscious selves to others whom they believe aren’t cutting it and constantly telling other people what not to do. Hey, just saying. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

    We have been set free from all self-focused stuff.

    Freed for the neighbor. Or not.

    Our telling brings freedom. Law (works) telling brings a yoke of slavery and a putting of the self at the center. And moving Christ a bit further out.

  47. Jason–

    Sorry. I didn’t see your earlier comment to “coloring outside the lines.”

    The problem is not that you are an inarticulate writer, but an inconsistent thinker.

    I attack one part of your system and you say, “That doesn’t jibe with what I said over here.”

    To which I would say, “Correct, it doesn’t jibe.”

    You moan, “You’re actually trying NOT to understand me.”

    I respond, “No, sir, I am trying to understand what you are REALLY saying…because one part of what you’re telling me isn’t jibing with the rest of what you’re telling me.”

  48. SS, I’ll see your point but up the ante. A scandalized wife who perseveres with her boorish husband demonstrates the kind of love we’re talking about here, which is not one easily grasped by the human heart. That’s the kind of love God displays and calls us to. Your love-analogy is nice but it isn’t very compelling

    Years ago, a famous and well respected american christian author/pastor was caught in an affair with someone at his church. Given the magnitude of the embarrassment and humiliation, everyone expected his wife to file for a quiet and quick divorce. When she was asked, “How could you put up with that?”, she shocked many with her answer:

    “If he could have put up with me for so long and my many failures, I can put up with his”.

    That’s a love enabled by the Spirit, which through patient continuance seeks glory, honor and immortality. That’s the kind of love God has enabled us to walk in and the kind of love displayed by this wife towards her husband. Today this husband is much stronger in the faith than he has ever been and doing great work for the kingdom of God. In other words, he has loved his wife and God by submitting his pride to the hundreds of hours of counseling and through repentance has provided many an encouragement for others. I’ll dare to say that God is pleased with that, and yes I do find that love very compelling. I understand if you can’t because of your theological rose colored glasses. I’ve seen first rate academic scholarship casually dismissed as ‘not compelling’ simply because it rocks the boat a little much, so nothing new here.

    Being so enabled by the Spirit is affirmed by the Reformed. But being represented by Christ is prior. Frankly, it isn’t clear what need anybody has of the cross if his purpose is to simply enable men to love.

    No substantial issues with that. We love because He first loved us and we forgive because He first forgave us, your last sentence above is a non sequitur because it omits this truth.

  49. We have been set free from all self-focused stuff.

    And everyone else hasn’t. I get it, you’ve made your point.

    Jason certaintly has exhibited great Spirit led patience with your troll like posting. I can’t say I would have done the same if this were my blog. Hats off to Jason, thanks for teaching me a thing or two.

  50. “We have been set free from all self-focused stuff.”

    “And everyone else hasn’t. I get it, you’ve made your point.”

    Apparently not. There’s a whole lot of self-focused religion going on. Not just here. But all over the place.

    And precious little Christian freedom.

  51. The religious Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t get it, either.

    They too were all wrapped up in what they were doing or not doing. And failed to see their Savior standing right in front of their face.

    It’s one way, or the other way. It’s not both.

  52. Old Adam,

    I’m going to have to ask you to refrain from posting nothing but reiterations of your dogmatic opinions, as you’re beginning to sound like one of those pull-the-string dolls that offers up 2 or 3 pre-recorded one-liners. If you want to comment, then give us something of substance that actually demonstrates an understanding of what others are saying, and a biblical rebuttal to it.

    Thanks.

  53. +JMJ+

    Zrim wrote:

    Being so enabled by the Spirit is affirmed by the Reformed. But being represented by Christ is prior.

    But it doesn’t say that in the text. It sets nothing prior to Love; it says nothing about something else which really fulfills the law. Which is why you have to alter the wording to make it fit.

    And that’s okay. But it does explain why you’re not arguing from the text.

  54. I’ll dare to say that God is pleased with that, and yes I do find that love very compelling. I understand if you can’t because of your theological rose colored glasses.

    SS, I don’t follow. Your example of compelling love was the same as mine so how would I not understand it? Still, I’ve not been saying that God isn’t pleased with our good works done in faith (he is). Rather, I’ve been pushing back against the assertion that he is sufficiently pleased, as in comparing Jesus’ atoning sacrifice in his life and death with ours done in faith.

    We love because He first loved us and we forgive because He first forgave us, your last sentence above is a non sequitur because it omits this truth.

    Yes, but to the Reformed mind it isn’t clear why the cross was necessary in the moral influence theory of the atonement. JJS suggested above that God “doesn’t have to beat his real Son to death so that he can find a way to not do the same to me.” But why does he need to bruise him up to get me to love him and my neighbor? The cross only makes sense in the penal substitution theory, or to follow JJS’s own line of reasoning: who would come up with the cross who had the moral influence theory?

  55. Wosbald, I didn’t say that Christ’s representation being prior was in the particular text. I was merely making a point about Reformed ways of reading all of Scripture. But sorry, I’m still not clear on how I am altering the text.

  56. +JMJ+

    Zrim wrote:

    Wosbald, I didn’t say that Christ’s representation being prior was in the particular text.

    Finally. Thank you.

    ——————————————-

    Zrim wrote:

    But sorry, I’m still not clear on how I am altering the text.

    Dude, no offense intended, but I’m not going to go around the mulberry bush. Go back and read our exchange.

    ——————————————-

    Zrim wrote:

    Frankly, it isn’t clear what need anybody has of the cross if his purpose is to simply enable men to love.

    So, love is ‘simply’ love. Merely love? Interesting. A rather dismissive and low view of Love’s Power and Reality. This is significant, methinks.

    On another note, what’s interesting is that this seems to have been the only substantive objection so far, however it does go against Jason’s request that the question of “Whether Inherent Love fulfills the Law, and thus, whether the Gospel is that Christ enables this Love?” be answered from Scripture, and not from systematic theological objections like “This robs God of glory” or “This contradicts monergism” or “Then, the purpose of the Cross wouldn’t be clear.”

  57. ZRIM,

    21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

    The burden of proof is on you to show that God isn’t ‘sufficiently’ pleased. You used the example of a wife enduring a boorish husband to make the point that our behavior as christians cannot be fully pleasing. I responded by highlighting that the Spirit overcomes weakness and sin when we walk in Him, and allows us to genuinely please God.

    But why does he need to bruise him up to get me to love him and my neighbor? The cross only makes sense in the penal substitution theory, …

    The Father didn’t ‘need’ to bruise the Son. The Son laid His life down voluntarily and out of love for mankind. We have discussed penal substitution at length in prior threads, I’d refer you to those for an extended conversation on the assumptions behind the ‘penal’ aspect of substitution (i.e, the idea that the Father was bound by necessity, having to punish first to satisfy His need for justice before forgiveness could be offered).

  58. SS,

    I’m sorry, but though you have talked about the atonement on other threads, your view is ultimately incoherent.

    1. You have said that the Son did not have to die as a penal substitute but to shed his blood as an expiation. But then you have said that the Father did not intend His Son to die except as to make a good thing out of a bad situation. So, Jesus either had to die to effect our forgiveness or he didn’t, and even on your view it seems that there is a necessity.

    2. If you say there is no necessity, that God could have forgiven us without the death of his son, then you can’t say his blood was necessary to provide expiation.

    3. If you say there is no necessity, you are hard pressed to explain why God didn’t just wave his hand and forgive us. Seems even more cruel of him to send his son to die when he did not have to, when there was nothing in his character that compelled the atonement.

    4. But if expiation was needed in some sense, then God the Father did will the atonement, and he did so in more than just the working the good out of a bad situation.

    5. You have also said that God instituted the sacrifices to prefigure Christ, which implies necessity of some kind. But I thought the atonement was not necessary in your view?

    All in all, despite your attempt to get the Father not to will the death of His Son, it seems that He sent the Son, desiring and intending him to die at the very least to provide expiation. If so, then be consistent, for such is just as “barbaric” as what you, C.H. Dodd, and countless others have said about penal substitution.

    Finally, who is denying that the Son’s death was voluntary. He volunteered to lay down his life because the Trinity decided that a people would be saved for God’s glory. But having decided to save a people, God’s justice needed to be met, lest he prove Himself a liar. God is compelled by His own unchanging character to act in certain ways. The God you present keeps changing his mind along with his character.

  59. A few thoughts:

    Zrim, your hesitance at the idea of comparing Jesus’ cross-bearing and our own is precisely the thing that gets to the heart of the differences between Catholics and Protestants. For the Protestant, things are so stipulative and forensic that any notion of our participating in Jesus’ redemptive work just fails to register (which I’m guessing is why, when he was pressed, Darryl Hart admitted that he is very uncomfortable asking anyone to pray for him since it impinges upon Jesus’ sole mediatorship, but that he does so simply out of obedience to the NT).

    But for the Catholic, the incarnation creates a real and ontological connection between God and man (all the while preserving the Creator/creature distinction), one that makes possible exactly what you are balking at. In fact, I would need to set aside an entire half day to find and then list all the NT passages that assume this very thing, namely, that our cross-bearing, our suffering, our ministry, our Eucharistic sacrifice, our sacrifices of praise, and our love, are all extensions of what Jesus has done for us.

    Second, the objection about the “moral influence theory” of the cross begs the question because the way it was framed assumes penal substitution and then asks, “If God didn’t beat the hell out of his Son to monergistically justify us, why is it better that he did so to get us to love him and neighbor?” But of course, the Catholic doesn’t believe that the Father was on the giving end of the cat-of-nine-tails, nor did he wield the hammer, nor was he the wearer of the boot on his Son’s neck. The movement at the cross was bottom-up and not top-down, with the Son willingly offering himself in sacrificial love to the Father (as Adam should have done originally). Now, since that offering was more pleasing than our sins are displeasing, we can fulfill our destiny by offering ourselves up to God sacrificially both daily, but especially in the Eucharist.

    Third, this business about whether God is “sufficiently pleased” is virtually Unitarian. God by his very nature is a Father who eternally generates a Son, and his every interaction with his Son is as a Father, because that is who he is—he is not by nature a Judge or a Creator. Therefore, God’s interaction with his adopted children is also as a Father to his spiritual offspring reborn in Christ. Therefore if our Father says he is pleased by X, or that it is Y that fulfills the law, this does not mean that X and Y don’t really sufficiently please him since his Judgeship couldn’t abide anything less than the sheer perfection that Christ the Lawkeeper alone could render. No, the Father is very clear that what he has always wanted from man is love, and that this love is provided in Christ by the Spirit. The parables demonstrate this (as SS has shown repeatedly), and every other NT writer says it as well. And to date, no one has attempted to show otherwise from Scripture.

    In a word, if I as the father of my kids get to decide what I am pleased by, then why would we not allow the eternal Father, from whom (according to Ephesians) all earthly fatherhood is derived, to also decide what does and does not please him?

  60. With the Holy Spirit (along with the Father and Son) indwelling in your soul, how can God not be pleased with that person? Tell me of a more intimate bond that this!

    Protestants fail to appreciate and recognize the mind-blowing mystery of Divine Indwelling, and in fact they relegate it to footnote status since it only occurs after the forensic requirements are met. This is why I’ve said it only makes sense that the Reformed see the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a crutch to help the Christian hobble around and help until the leg is healed, at which point the crutch is no longer needed (as it was with Adam).

    So it’s not a relationship with the Trinity that saves, but meeting a checklist of requirements.

  61. Robert said:

    1. You have said that the Son did not have to die as a penal substitute but to shed his blood as an expiation. But then you have said that the Father did not intend His Son to die except as to make a good thing out of a bad situation. So, Jesus either had to die to effect our forgiveness or he didn’t, and even on your view it seems that there is a necessity.

    What I have said and say is that the Son was our substitute indeed, but not a penal substitute. Go back and read a little more carefully. I am using penal here in the technical sense. The Father did indeed choose to take on flesh in the Son through the Incarnation, in order to cure the curse of sin and death by His death and Resurrection-life. As the EO remind us, He won the victory trampling death by death. There was no necessity in the sense that God had to to punish the Son before He could forgive. He could have forgiven us in any way of His liking! But He chose to endure the Cross in order to convey in the most compelling way the depth of His love for mankind , and He did so by turning what man meant for evil into the greatest good. As Christ said, what greater love hath a man than this, but to lay his life down for his friends. There are no greater means through which man could have apprehended, comprehended and experienced the love of God than the cross and the Resurrection. So God condescended to our deepest needs. At the cross, He exhausts the power of evil and sin, and triumphs over it, thereby providing us with not only atonement but also a victorious referent in our own battle with sin (1 Peter 2:24)

    2. If you say there is no necessity, that God could have forgiven us without the death of his son, then you can’t say his blood was necessary to provide expiation.

    The point is not simply that God could have forgiven us in any manner of His choosing, but also that He did choose to actualize the economy we see portrayed in the Scriptures. One that involves the choosing of a people unto Himself, the institution of sacrifice to teach them grace, forgiveness and repentance, the prophets who foresaw the coming of the fulfilment of the Law in Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. The life is in the blood says Leviticus, and it is Jesus’ life, released through the cross and the resurrection, that is available to the one who believes in Him. He is at once the Hilasterion/ Mercy-Seat, the Priest and the sacrifice by which life giving blood is released to wash away our sins.

    3. If you say there is no necessity, you are hard pressed to explain why God didn’t just wave his hand and forgive us. Seems even more cruel of him to send his son to die when he did not have to, when there was nothing in his character that compelled the atonement.

    See above. Also, it is not more cruel of Him, but instead rather the opposite, and should give all men pause, that God would so condescend to man to rescue him from the bondage of sin and death.

    4. But if expiation was needed in some sense, then God the Father did will the atonement, and he did so in more than just the working the good out of a bad situation.

    I certainly do not dispute that expiation was the chosen means through which God enacted His economy of salvation. What I dispute is that God had no other economy or means at His disposal to forgive. Did Christ not forgive freely while He walked on earth, long before He was crucified and anyone could even behold or come to realize that He shed His blood for them? Did He not say to the adultress, I do not condemn you, go and sin no more. It was not until Anselm and the 11th century, that the ‘penal’ aspect of penal substitution surfaced in seed form. It was virtually unknown of in the earliest church.

    5. You have also said that God instituted the sacrifices to prefigure Christ, which implies necessity of some kind. But I thought the atonement was not necessary in your view?

    See above.

  62. Protestants fail to appreciate and recognize the mind-blowing mystery of Divine Indwelling, and in fact they relegate it to footnote status since it only occurs after the forensic requirements are met.

    This is so true, and tragically so. The indwelling is only a ‘vestigial’ reality and redundant under a reformed paradigm, because the forensic accomplishes everything salvific. I believe Luther began to realize the depth of his blunders towards the end of his life, but by then it was too late, the misunderstanding had already propagated.

  63. JJS, well, of course to you’re quite right that at the heart of our disagreement is the Catholic casting of matters in ontological and metaphysical categories and Protestants in legal and
    moral categories. But I always scratch my head at the assertion that the former still somehow preserves the Creator/creature distinction. If when the Reformed say of human telos glorification and the Roman says deification, how does the Catholic maintain that he has preserved the Ccd with a straight face? What possible stake do you have in saying so, instead of just balking at the distinction as one simply borne of Reformed paradigms? I mean, if we’re going to become divinized then it must be a distinction without any meaningful difference.

    PS Wosbald, yes, I know much of this is getting quite away from JJS’s “…request that the question of ‘Whether Inherent Love fulfills the Law, and thus, whether the Gospel is that Christ enables this Love?’ be answered from Scripture, and not from systematic theological objections…” But you have to keep in mind that Protestants aren’t biblicists. We make plenty of room for systematics, tradition, confession, etc. to interpret biblical texts.

  64. Zrim,

    Have you read any Catholic defenses of deification that address the CCD? Which ones? If not, then you’ll prolly go even balder from all that head-scratching you’re choosing to do. . . .

  65. +JMJ+

    Zrim wrote:

    JJS, well, of course to you’re quite right that at the heart of our disagreement is the Catholic casting of matters in ontological and metaphysical categories and Protestants in legal and moral categories. But I always scratch my head at the assertion that the former still somehow preserves the Creator/creature distinction. If when the Reformed say of human telos glorification and the Roman says deification, how does the Catholic maintain that he has preserved the Ccd with a straight face? What possible stake do you have in saying so, instead of just balking at the distinction as one simply borne of Reformed paradigms? I mean, if we’re going to become divinized then it must be a distinction without any meaningful difference.

    The CCD is only one half of the Mystery of Deification (or more broadly, the Mystery of Nature and Supernature/Grace). By your accounting, if Jesus is fully God, then he also being fully Man is “a distinction without any meaningful difference.”

    Unresolveability (within the confines of an abstract “system”) goes with the territory of Mystery/Paradox. One half of a Mystery, all by its lonesome, is no Mystery at all.

  66. And Zrim, your suspicion about deification (which all the fathers believed) on the basis of its supposed violation of the C/CD also falls prey to my earlier charge of Protestantism not being sufficiently Trinitarian. God is not a Creator by nature, and therefore to make that aspect of him the starting point of theology is to forget that before he created anything he was a Father, and he would still be a Father if Gen. 1:1 never happened.

    Plus, the C/CD needs to be underestood in the light of the Incarnation, according to which Godhead and Manhood are forever hypostatically conjoined.

  67. Jason,

    I’ll respond more later, but it does not seem correct to say that God is only a Father by nature and not Creator as well. Did His nature change when He created the world? I also see no room in much of your comments for the understanding that before creation, in eternity past, the Father was a holy Father and a just Father. Just some mushy-squishy view of God as a loving Father that ends up transforming him more into a kindly grandfather who indulges his children than one who has any real standards. But I hope to expand on that more later.

    Some have also argued that there is no essential difference between the Reformed concept of glorification and at least some versions of the EO doctrine of deification, since neither understanding collapses the Creator into the creature. The language may be different, but the concepts are quite similar, if not identical.

  68. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I also see no room in much of your comments for the understanding that before creation, in eternity past, the Father was a holy Father and a just Father. Just some mushy-squishy view of God as a loving Father that ends up transforming him more into a kindly grandfather who indulges his children than one who has any real standards. But I hope to expand on that more later.

    His “real standard” is exactly the issue in question. What part of you isn’t getting the memo? We’re saying that God’s Real Standard is Love, and we are offering various scripts as support. If you want to say that such is not the case, if you want to say that God has some other, prior Real Standard, after which “mushy-squishy love” can be tacked-on as a nicety, then you prolly should do likewise and actually try to offer some scriptural support.

  69. For the remainder of this series, then, my case will be that Paul, Peter, James, and John pick up on this basic idea and unpack it, showing that Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor graciously issuing forth in the consummation of our union with Christ in the age to come is nothing less than the New Covenant gospel itself.

    The reformers likewise affirmed that this freedom from the dominion of sin and the dominion of Spirit-wrought love is the New Testament Gospel along with the extrinsic covering of our unrighteousness with the perfect righteousness of Christ’s Blood. Thus, the Good News is often spoken of as the promise of freedom not only from the guilt but also from the power of sin (or, as the old-time Christian radio drama calls it–being “Unshackled”). Thus, from the perspective of the reformers, the words of Christ to the lawyer (“you are not far from the Kingdom of God”) can certainly encompass both the 1st use of the Law (as noted by Zrim) and also the 3rd use of the law by the infusion of agape (as you note in your article).

    Calvin notes that the Gospel encompasses both justification and sanctification:
    Moreover if it is true, and nothing can be more certain, than that a complete summary of the Gospel is included under these two heads, viz., repentance and the remission of sins, do we not see that the Lord justifies his people freely, and at the same time renews them to true holiness by the sanctification of his Spirit? (Institutes 3:3:19) http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/

    Hence, whenever our salvation is treated of, let these two things be remembered, that we cannot be reckoned God’s sons unless he freely expiate our sins, and thus reconcile himself to us: and then not unless he also rule us by his Spirit. Now we must hold, that what God hath joined man ought not to separate. Those, therefore, who through relying on the indulgence of God permit themselves to give way to sin, rend his covenant and impiously sever it. Why so? because God has joined these two things together, viz., that he will be propitious to his sons, and will also renew their hearts. Hence those who lay hold of only one member of the sentence, namely, the pardon, because God bears with them, and omit the other, are as false and sacrilegious as if they abolished half of God’s covenant (Comm. on Eze. 11:19-20). http://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol22/htm/xv.xii.htm

    Or, as Luther notes regarding Christ purchasing not only remission but also our inward transformation:
    He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).

    From the above passages and many others it is clear that the reformers agree completely (and this is especially so with the Lutheran and Anglican reformers who correctly held the distinction between faith killing (agape extinguishing) and non-faith killing states of sin) that the NT Gospel encompasses the promise that of infused agape which infallibly frees from the dominion of sin. That said, inasmuch as we are not sinless (as all acknowledge) there is lack in every believer’s love towards God and neighbor-i.e. our Spirit-wrought love or infused agape is tainted with hate from our sinful flesh (the Scripture often defines hate as the lack of love–e.g. not providing for a brother in need–and not just animosity). This lack of love/hatred in every believer is spiritual murder, adultery, idolatry, theft, falsehood, blasphemy, dishonoring, perversion, and every other sin. Consequently, as Ps 143:2 (paraphrased in Rom 3:20) makes clear, it is impossible for the regenerate believer to ever be (forensically) justified** on the basis of his intrinsic state, because the ever-present taint or presence of hatred/lack of love leaves even our otherwise Spirit-wrought works as “a filthy rag” and “mere unrighteousness” (and ourselves condemned) before God apart from the mercy in Christ according to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Augustine likewise says in reference to Ps 143:2 that at our best we are still “crooked” before God, and hence speaks elsewhere of the blessing of perfect extrinsic righteousness (reckoning of perfect extrinsic agape) apart from our imperfect intrinsic righteousness/agape–noting that “all the commandments are fulfilled when that which is not fulfilled is forgiven.” Hence, Scripture and Tradition make clear that the NT Good News of Spirit-wrought love/intrinsic righteousness is incomplete without the Good News of perfect extrinsic/forensic righteousness attained only through the covering of Christ’s perfectly righteous Blood.

    God Bless,
    W.A.Scott

    p.s. **Of course, “justified” can have a broader usage than the typical primary forensic use (e.g. Rom 6:7 according to Calvin, or James 2–which refers according to Cranmer to that justification which is a declaration, continuance, and increase of the justification described by Paul). Note: Roman Catholic scholars held the forensic use to be the primary NT usage of “justified” in the joint statement with the Anglican church.

    p.p.s. “He doesn’t have to beat his real Son to death so that he can find a way to not do the same to me.” Is 53 appears to say the exact thing you’re denying–not to mention Tradition (Gregory the Great notes: “The Father is righteous,’ in punishing a righteous man, ‘He ordereth all things righteously,’ in that by these means He justifies all things…For the rust of sin could not be cleared away, but by the fire of torment” http://www.lectionarycentral.com/GregoryMoralia/Book03.html) I won’t go into detail on this since I’ve written a massive post on the Called to Communion thread (Reformed and Catholic Perspectives on the Atonement thread) that is yet to be posted.

  70. Correction (removed “that”):
    From the above passages and many others it is clear that the reformers agree completely (and this is especially so with the Lutheran and Anglican reformers who correctly held the distinction between faith killing (agape extinguishing) and non-faith killing states of sin) that the NT Gospel encompasses the promise *–* of infused agape which infallibly frees from the dominion of sin.

    Apologies for any other typos and sloppy writing…

  71. Ouch, one more confusing sentence (no doubt there are others):
    The reformers likewise affirmed that this freedom from the dominion of sin *through* the dominion of Spirit-wrought love is the New Testament Gospel along with the extrinsic covering of our unrighteousness with the perfect righteousness of Christ’s Blood.

  72. Wosbald,

    You wrote:

    His “real standard” is exactly the issue in question. What part of you isn’t getting the memo? We’re saying that God’s Real Standard is Love, and we are offering various scripts as support. If you want to say that such is not the case, if you want to say that God has some other, prior Real Standard, after which “mushy-squishy love” can be tacked-on as a nicety, then you prolly should do likewise and actually try to offer some scriptural supp

    .

    I can easily agree that God’s real standard is Love—His own love, which is absolutely and always perfect. The problem isn’t so much that the emphasis is on love, it is the emphasis on love without any reference to God’s character beyond vague statements that since God is by nature a Father, that must mean our imperfect love is good enough for Him since the imperfect love of my children is good enough for me. My point is simply that God’s love is a holy love, and His holy love is a perfect love, which ours must be as well if it is to avail us anything before the judgment seat of God. You have never fulfilled the love of God perfectly. Jason has never fulfilled the love of God perfectly. I have never fulfilled the love of God perfectly.

    None of us loves God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength every minute of every day. But that is what He requires. Even Roman Catholicism recognizes this, otherwise there would be no need for purgatory, indulgences, or any of the other additions that it promotes. Even you believe that the stain that imperfect love leaves behind must be purged before you can enjoy the beatific vision. The question is how this stain can be removed.

    In the Roman system, God graciously gives man a boost to help him meet a standard of good enough. In Reformed theology, God guarantees that we meet His perfect standard by the imputed righteousness of Christ and ensures our final transformation into His image by infusing irreversibly His love and righteousness into our soul. The former gives us a cease fire with God that threatens to break forth back into full-scale warfare at any moment. The latter gives us true and lasting peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

    Jesus said we must be perfect as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48). So, He either provides a way to see us as perfect without compromising His justice as He shows fallen creatures mercy (Reformed theology), or He lowers His standard and gives us the help to meet it, compromising His justice and truthfulness (Romanism). Which agains raises the question as to why Jesus was even necessary in the first place, a question that Rome cannot answer coherently given the new view that one does not even have to know about the incarnation, that one can even deny the incarnation, and still have a share in the age to come.

  73. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I can easily agree that God’s real standard is Love.

    Great. So, having this Love fulfills the law. There is nothing prior to it. No “damnable plus” that must be retroactively added to this Love in order to really fulfill the law.

  74. Wosbald,

    God is perfect Love, so only perfect Love meets God’s standard for justification. And none of us have that. None of us loves God with our entire being at all times, and none of us loves our neighbor as ourselves at all times. Even Rome believes our love falls far short of what God demands, else there would be no need for confession, penance, et. al.

  75. Wosbald and Jason,

    My essential point is that the view you are advocating denies the simplicity of God. God is love. God is holy. God is righteous. God is just. God is kind. God is good. He is not love at the expense of His being holy, which is the logical end of Rome’s position.

  76. Robert,

    You may remember that I have presented a biblical case and have asked for a biblical rebuttal. Vague charges of denying a theological principle don’t cut it. If they did, then it would seem that the NT figures who insist that love fulfills the law also fall prey to your charge of bad systematics.

  77. W.A. Scott,

    From the above passages and many others it is clear that the reformers agree completely…

    The Reformed certainly do not agree completely with what I am saying, unless you think they would agree that the infusion of agape renders extra nos imputation completely unnecessary, and that our Spirit-wrought works participate in Christ’s redeeming work, and are therefore meritorious and contributory to our final justification.

  78. Hello Jason,

    I figured you’d read enough of my posts to know that I was in no way intimating that the reformers agreed with everything you hold in relation to infused agape and the Gospel, but I apologize for any confusion. Rather, I was noting where there is agreement.

    God bless, WA Scott

  79. No need to apologize, WAS, I probably didn’t read your comments thoroughly enough. For the record, yes, the Reformed most certainly do believe in the infusion of grace in sanctification (and I have heard Catholics make it sound like they don’t, and that annoys me).

    My contention, though, is that the two duplex beneficiae (justification and sanctification) do not co-exist very well. Each makes the other unnecessary.

  80. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:

    For the record, yes, the Reformed most certainly do believe in the infusion of grace in sanctification (and I have heard Catholics make it sound like they don’t, and that annoys me).

    I hope that this isn’t me. I understand that the Reformed do believe in this, but that something else is needed prior to fulfill the law.

    However, the denial of the sacramento-ontological connection between God and Man sure does make it seem that this infusion is not as inherent in Man’s Being as it is for Catholics (e.g. WCF 16:5). As you said, the Justification/Sanctification distinction makes each other unnecessary. Though far afield from the discussion at hand, maybe you could unpack it if/when it becomes more germane.

  81. Not you, Wosbald! I’m referring to stuff I came across some years ago.

  82. Jason,

    You may remember that you have not adequately dealt with the objection that the love demanded by God in the law is a perfect love, hence Jesus’ citation of the law of love and the demand for love immediately prior to his call for us to be as perfect as God is perfect in Matt. 5:48. You may also remember that the Reformed do not deny that we fulfill God’s law in our sanctification. You may also remember that you still have not accounted for the fact that the way we fulfill the law is different from how Jesus’ fulfills it; at the very least, our fulfilling is a consequence of His fulfilling of it.

    You may also remember that the first time Jesus mentions “the gospel” in his ministry, it is a message to be believed and not something that one does (Mark 1:14). You obviously don’t see how you are confusing the gospel with the consequences of the gospel. (Wait for it, wait for it: I am reading the Bible from within my own paradigm, which means that such things can be conveniently ignored or brushed aside.)

    You have also forgotten, or most likely are ignorant of the fact, that Romanism demands perfect love. Otherwise, there is no need for purgatory, indulgences, penance, etc. etc. etc.

  83. Is 53 appears to say the exact thing you’re denying

    WA,

    You are correct, it only appears to say such a thing. We’ve been there and done that.

  84. Jesus mentions “the gospel” in his ministry, it is a message to be believed and not something that one does (Mark 1:14).

    A more classic example of reading one’s paradigm and culture into the Biblical text one could not find.

    http://www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html

  85. the objection that the love demanded by God in the law is a perfect love, hence Jesus’ citation of the law of love and the demand for love immediately prior to his call for us to be as perfect as God is perfect in Matt. 5:48

    The perfection in view is not the perfection taught by the Reformed view. In the proper Jewish paradigm, it is a covenantal perfection, which finds its fullest meaning in the maturity of faith in Messiah. In fact, teleioi, which is the word used for perfect in Matt 5:48, is best transliterated as mature . This maturity is not a pie in the sky/you will never experience such, but rather a tangible reality for the one who walks in and after the Spirit hence fulfilling the law (Romans 8:3-4). That it is maturity in view and not a 100/100 score/mentality is most readily proved by John the Beloved’s statement in 1 John 1:9

    If we confess our sins , He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    This shows that maturity does not refer to an absolute sinless perfection, but rather to a growing victory of sin made possible by the ongoing and onworking Grace of God. This is covenantal nomism transcended , where the Law being kept now is the Law of Christ, i.e., the Law of Love, made possible by the atonement and the release of the Spirit poured out onto all flesh who would believe (not go forward and raise a hand, but believe in the Jewish sense, meaning to fully appropriate the entirety of Christ, i.e, not just a recognition of His identity but also an embracing of all of His teaching). See prior post which details more on the true nature of pistis: the jewish sense of faith involves faithfulness, trust, steadfastness. I have said so countless times on this site, but not surprisingly, this is falling of deaf ears. After all the wild branches continue to boast over the natural branches and what the latter have to teach us about true faith.

  86. And speaking of Mark 1:14, why not include v 15 as well?

    “14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news”

  87. SS,

    Because repentance is the flipside of faith. You don’t have one without the other.

    You also miss the rather obvious point that even if you translate teleios as “mature” in Matthew 5:48, it is still God’s level of maturity that is the standard, if one could even say God is mature. Hence, perfection is still the standard.

    I realize how offensive it is for natural man to believe that God actually demands nothing less from us than perfect obedience, so I understand the blatant reading of your paradigm into Jesus’ perfectly plain point. (tonue firmly planted halfway in cheek).

    God Himself is the standard. Call it “maturity” if you want, but if God is the standard, it is a perfect standard, otherwise God is also continuing to grow into maturity. You may have an eclectic theology, but I haven’t once pegged you as a process thinker.

    The boundless nature of God’s mercy is seen only if perfection is his demand. Otherwise, he isn’t doing anything more in showing mercy and forgiveness than the pagan next door who forgives his children.

  88. SS,

    And no Reformed person says that faith is going forward and raising a hand. Notitia plus assensus plus fiducia equals faith in the traditional Reformed way of putting things. Content plus affirming the content’s truth plus fully trusting in that content or better, person.

  89. SS,

    Thank you for quoting John 1:9. I believe that. I just happen to believe God is holy and just as well, and that He does not ignore His holiness when He forgives us. If God is not perfectly just and holy, He is not perfectly merciful. The problem with your view and the view of the Roman Catholic is as much in its denial of God’s extravagant mercy as its denial of His unchanging justice.

  90. Jesus mentions “the gospel” in his ministry, it is a message to be believed and not something that one does (Mark 1:14).

    Because repentance is the flipside of faith. You don’t have one without the other.

    You have contradicted yourself in the span of two posts and your earlier statement is incorrect. The message to be believed inherently involves doing . Did not Zacchaeus make restitution four times for what he had stolen? Nowadays, when someone turns to Christ, does that not involve doing likewise in actively turning away from the world and repentance? (something rarely preached at the typical american protestant crusade/rally where the emphasis is on the ‘ticket to heaven’ business).

    You also miss the rather obvious point that even if you translate teleios as “mature” in Matthew 5:48, it is still God’s level of maturity that is the standard, if one could even say God is mature. Hence, perfection is still the standard.

    No Robert. It is only ‘obvious’ if you read your paradigm into it. Reread the end of the section carefully:

    “47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore , as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    The entire passage in Matt 5 deals with God writing His law upon our hearts. In other words, Christ shows us exactly what He means when He says I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Everything He exhorts us to, He has done Himself and enables His disciples to do. That is precisely the good news, beyond the fact that the disciples are reconciled with God, i.e., that the Kingdom of God has broken through into the world. Whereas before they was no hope of righteousness, today there is, all because Christ conquered evil. One may object: well, how many people do you know live by the Sermon on the Mount. That there are only a few who adhere to His commands precisely proves Christ correct when He says many are called but few are chosen. But the point is that it is entirely possible, and that is the Good News.

    The “Therefore” in v 48 is highly significant to say the least. God’s perfection includes the perfection of love, even love for one’s enemies. This was never more readily apparent than at the cross when Christ asked the Father to forgive those who knew not what they were doing. And this is the perfection that every Spirit led believer is fully enabled to experience (see Stephen in his final moments as he was stoned for example). Likewise with the perfection which seeks not to exact revenge, or covet or ignore the poor, or send away one’s wife just because one can and so on. Yaakov, the brother of the Lord who wrote the book of James, was known by the Pharisees to be a devout and upright man. He was another example of those few who actually lived by the commands of the Messiah.

    If God is not perfectly just and holy, He is not perfectly merciful.

    He is perfectly just and holy and merciful, but He is on His own terms and not the terms put together by the Reformed faith. He has given His children the provision for forgiveness as evidenced by 1 John 1:9, and as Yeshua said to His disciples, your body is clean and only your feet need washed. That provision was paid for in the rich mercy and justice/holiness of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Having our feet washed so to speak, by the confession process seen in 1 John 1:9, allows us to be perfect in God’s sight in the manner in which He has defined it. Your assertion only begs the question.

  91. Also, Paul speaks to the Thessalonians of the judgment coming against those “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That alone should put a stop to this idea that the gospel only involves believing and not doing anything. The gospel is indeed an announcement, but it is also an ongoing cruciform and self-sacrificial lifestyle.

  92. Plus, those who say that our perfection must be as absolute as God’s should re-read Horton on analogical discourse. There is no common reservoir of perfection from which God and we both draw.

  93. “24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

    This v 24, coming at the end of the Sermon of the Mount is incontrovertible evidence for the fact that everything which precedes it was never meant to be taken in the sense in which protestants take them, i.e., “that’s all great and beautiful and all that, but too hard and impossible to do and therefore I’ll just count on a credit to my account to be my refuge at the judgment”. EPIC mistake.

  94. Robert,

    You may remember that you have not adequately dealt with the objection that the love demanded by God in the law is a perfect love, hence Jesus’ citation of the law of love and the demand for love immediately prior to his call for us to be as perfect as God is perfect in Matt. 5:48.

    What you’re doing is taking the gospel and just turning it into a new law (ironically enough), as though the NT commands to love God and neighbor are just a veiled way of telling Israel to fulfill a law which they have no power to keep. The NT is clear (1) that we have God’s love infused into us (Rom. 5:5), and (2) that we can actually exhibit this love in such a way as to please God. Consider this passage:

    Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit… So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us (I Jn. 4:11-13, 16-19)

    There is no doubt on John’s part that the Spirit-infused love of God is something that God’s children actually do exhibit, to the point that they need not fear judgment on the last day, but can have complete confidence. So enough with this whole preposterous idea that “the law may be fulfilled by love, but it has to be a perfect love, which no one can actually offer.” Every single NT writer says that we can indeed offer this love to God and neighbor because it is the fruit of the Spirit.

    You may also remember that the Reformed do not deny that we fulfill God’s law in our sanctification. You may also remember that you still have not accounted for the fact that the way we fulfill the law is different from how Jesus’ fulfills it; at the very least, our fulfilling is a consequence of His fulfilling of it.

    There’s no stark biblical difference between justification and sanctification for the Catholic, so your first sentence begs the question by assuming as part of your argument that there is. And no one denies that our love is a consequence of Christ’s. I have been saying that very thing for months. Seriously, how many times have I talked about “Spirit-wrought love”? I’ve probably done so in this very thread.

    You may also remember that the first time Jesus mentions “the gospel” in his ministry, it is a message to be believed and not something that one does (Mark 1:14). You obviously don’t see how you are confusing the gospel with the consequences of the gospel. (Wait for it, wait for it: I am reading the Bible from within my own paradigm, which means that such things can be conveniently ignored or brushed aside.)

    As has been mentioned already, the NT speaks of the gospel not just as something to be believed, but something to be obeyed. For example:

    But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (Rom. 10:16)

    … in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (II Thess. 1:8)

    For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? ( I Pet. 4:17)

    This idea (that you may have gotten from Horton because he says it all the time) that “the gospel is to be believed, not lived” is pure crap, the kind of torturous infliction of systematic theology on the Scriptures that only a Lutheran could come up with and propagate with a straight face.

    You have also forgotten, or most likely are ignorant of the fact, that Romanism demands perfect love. Otherwise, there is no need for purgatory, indulgences, penance, etc. etc. etc.

    You are so beholden to your paradigm without even realizing it that statements like this seem like worthwhile arguments to you, but in fact are simply examples of judging one paradigm by the theology of another. This whole objection assumes what is itself in dispute by speaking of agape as though it itself is not sufficient unless it conforms to some other law of perfection.

    And so you beg the question by assuming your entire position even though it is the very thing that I am arguing is unbiblical, and then you turn around and say I am “most likely ignorant” for not seeing my folly. Stuff like this makes me wonder why I even bother.

  95. Jason, Jason, Jason,

    First, by ignorant I simply mean that when you take your Roman Catholic theology from the Protestantized, post-modern claptrap advocated on Called to Communion, you are bound to be unaware that Romanism historically demands a perfection of some sort to see heaven. You are so beholden to C2C’s paradigm, that you can’t even read Roman Catholic theology properly, which has been pointed out to you by men who have studied Romanism far longer than you have.

    Second, that’s great to throw out the call to obey the gospel. I do not deny that call. The questions are, what does obeying the gospel mean? How much obedience is necessary? What happens if I obey today but not tomorrow and how does that impact my peace with God? What happens if I commit a mortal sin but never realize it and thus never have a chance to repent? What does this obedience avail for me? What does this obedience mean if God justifies the ungodly? (And don’t throw out the whole initial justification idea, for if you want to get ired at my “imposition of systematic categories,” I can think of no greater systematic imposition than that one).

    Third, you can talk about Spirit-wrought love of God all you want, but at the end of the day, the love you claim to have for God is not exclusively Spirit-wrought. God gives you a boost, an infusion of agape, but if you do not consent to it, you get nothing. You are working it up, with the help of grace. This, of course, takes us back to the monergism-synergism debate.

    Fourth, Yes, Christians can fulfill the law of love in a way that pleases God. They just never do so in a way that merits entrance into heaven.

    Fifth, analogical reservoir? Analogical language does not mean meaningless language. Our love cannot be perfect in the sense that it is an eternal love, an uncreated love, etc. etc. But certainly, our love can be perfect in the sense that, if there were no sin, our entire being could be consumed with nothing but selfless love for God and neighbor that is appropriate to the creature. An offering up of one’s self in complete sacrifice to the Father—and no one does that, hence 1 John 1:8–9. You have said that such is what was demanded of Adam. If that is not truly demanded, God changed his standards after the fall.

    Sixth, why is that whenever somebody says something you don’t agree with or that points out where your argument fails to take into account key portions of biblical data, they are begging the question?

  96. SS,

    I likewise agree that there is insufficient preaching of repentance in American Christianity. But that is not the fault of Reformed theology.

    You have not answered the charge that God Himself is the standard of perfection. Yes God provides an atonement and forgiveness, but to say that we can fulfill the law of God in such a way to merit entrance into heaven simply because God commands us to is a Pelagian assumption. Furthermore, there is no need for cleansing if, in fact, we can keep the law to the full extent that God demands. We can’t because of the remaining presence of sin. From one perspective, yes we can fulfill God’s law of love because the power of sin has been broken. From another, we cannot fulfill it because we still have the presence and effects of sin in and among us. The fact that God provides cleansing even under the new covenant period in which we live proves that we cannot live up to His demands in a way that merits the reward of eternal life.

    Yes, repentance and even faith is, in some sense, something that we actively do. But why do we do it? If, in the final analysis it is all up to us, which must be the case in all non-Reformed systems, our salvation is based on our inherent goodness. There is something better about those who choose to believe if, in fact, that choice is not guaranteed by God Himself. At the very least, they are more spiritually “in tune” than others.

    God is the standard of perfection. He always perfectly loves His enemies. That is what we are called to as well. But we can’t do it as He does, for if we could, there would be no need for a provision of ongoing forgiveness even after we are converted. The glory of the gospel is that God forgives us without setting aside His standards but fulfilling them in Christ. Your view of God’s justice, the gravity of sin, and the glory of His mercy is too weak.

  97. You have not answered the charge that God Himself is the standard of perfection. Yes God provides an atonement and forgiveness, but to say that we can fulfill the law of God in such a way to merit entrance into heaven simply because God commands us to is a Pelagian assumption. Furthermore, there is no need for cleansing if, in fact, we can keep the law to the full extent that God demands. We can’t because of the remaining presence of sin. From one perspective, yes we can fulfill God’s law of love because the power of sin has been broken. From another, we cannot fulfill it because we still have the presence and effects of sin in and among us. The fact that God provides cleansing even under the new covenant period in which we live proves that we cannot live up to His demands in a way that merits the reward of eternal life.

    I have answered you and with Scripture. You just don’t like the answer and don’t even bother to form a Scriptural response but instead keep parroting your talking points.

    Psalm 145:

    The Lord is gracious and merciful , slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

    The fact that God provides cleansing under the new covenant (1 John 1:9) in addition to the old covenant proves that He is a GRACIOUS God and not the god reformed theology makes him out to be. The New Covenant (Jer 31, fulfilled by Christ and Shavuot) has brought to life Covenant Nomism which had collapsed under the jews to nomism only. Further your pelagian ad hominem only shows the lack of an argument.When Christ’s energeia indwell a believer, by definition this leaves no room for pelagianism because the indwelling of the Spirit effects such a union with the believer such that it is not the mere addition of the old + the new, but rather a new creature entirely. Behold the old has gone, the new has come. The pelagian charge is grounded in a medieval and linear mindset, which seeks to stack old and new along side each other in additive fashion. This belies complete ignorance of the economy.

    Yes, repentance and even faith is, in some sense, something that we actively do. But why do we do it? If, in the final analysis it is all up to us, which must be the case in all non-Reformed systems, our salvation is based on our inherent goodness. There is something better about those who choose to believe if, in fact, that choice is not guaranteed by God Himself. At the very least, they are more spiritually “in tune” than others.

    Why do we do it? This is why:

    6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

    “12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him”

    God is the standard of perfection. He always perfectly loves His enemies. That is what we are called to as well. But we can’t do it as He does , for if we could, there would be no need for a provision of ongoing forgiveness even after we are converted. The glory of the gospel is that God forgives us without setting aside His standards but fulfilling them in Christ. Your view of God’s justice, the gravity of sin, and the glory of His mercy is too weak.

    Again, I will point you to Stephen’s story in Acts, which you have not responded to or engaged with at all. He is one of many examples throughout history of pure love, even for one’s enemies. Your view of God’s justice, the gravity of sin and the glory of His mercy is simply too reformed/medieval.

  98. This idea (that you may have gotten from Horton because he says it all the time) that “the gospel is to be believed, not lived” is pure crap, the kind of torturous infliction of systematic theology on the Scriptures that only a Lutheran could come up with and propagate with a straight face.

    I second that, UTTER garbage.

  99. +JMJ+

    One thing that this thread has driven home for me is that, for Reformists, the NT Gospel isn’t the paradigm shift or the quantum leap of Divine Love that it is for Catholics. Instead, it has something of a “finally getting the ducks in a row after so many aeons of trying” kind of vibe. The “love stuff” comes later, as a consequence.

    “Fulfill” simply means something different in each paradigm. For Catholics, it means something like “inclusively transcending/unfolding.” For the Reformed, it means something like “filling out a form”.

  100. SS,

    Certain parts of your last response seem to stem from misunderstandings of the Reformed view.

    1. You said, “The fact that God provides cleansing under the new covenant (1 John 1:9) in addition to the old covenant proves that He is a GRACIOUS God and not the god reformed theology makes him out to be.” That last part is just odd. The Reformed would agree that God is indeed a gracious God. Perhaps you have an argument in mind that would demonstrate how the Reformed hold to a non-gracious God, but such an argument is absent from your post.

    2. You respond in this way to one of Robert’s questions, “Why do we do it? This is why:…” and then you present various verses of Scripture that emphasize perseverance and persistence in doing the good for God’s glory. I’m not sure if this is an intentional dodge, but your answer does not address what Robert intended when he asked, “But why do we [repent and believe]?” Robert is not asking for your *motive* in repenting and believing, but rather he wants to know the *ultimate causal reasons* for someone’s repentance. Is it something that is ultimately up to man or ultimately up to God? That was the thrust of his question.

    3. An interesting note that Robert may not be aware of. As a Catholic, you do not deny your faith in affirming it is ultimately up to God whether any particular believer is saved. It is a minority view, but Thomists hold to a sovereign God whose decree extends to all free actions, which includes repentance and faith (for example, I refer you to Fr. Garrigou Lagrange as well as parts of John Salza’s book on Predestination). So, Catholics may affirm Monergism, though the majority of Roman Catholics today do not.

  101. “This idea (that you may have gotten from Horton because he says it all the time) that “the gospel is to be believed, not lived” is pure crap”

    This just seems to be a case of talking past each other. The Gospel defined by the Reformed is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day in accordance with the Scriptures; and, it is finished [1 Corinthians 15, John 19:30]. So, when they say “the gospel is to be believed not lived” they are explaining that it does not make logical sense to say “live the gospel” when the gospel refers specifically to God’s historical, redemptive work, on behalf of his people, that was carried out in the 1st century.

    Catholics may not object to that view. However, it is likely that the Catholic views “live the gospel” as “live your life in thankfulness to the creator who has provided salvation through the saving work of Christ” or perhaps, “live out a life of goodness since the God who has done good things for you ought to be praise and obeyed.”

  102. JohnD,

    You probably weren’t aware of it, but SS is not Roman Catholic. Of course, if live the gospel simply means live a life of thankfulness for what God has done, then I have no problem with that, nor would any other Reformed person. The problem, as you know of course, is that the Roman Catholic position is “live a life of thankfulness for what God has done in order to secure a just status that will merit your final justification and entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” At least that is the traditional Roman position.

  103. Robert, Thanks for the clarification. Sorry SS, I did not know.

  104. +JMJ+

    JohnD

    As a Catholic, you do not deny your faith in affirming it is ultimately up to God whether any particular believer is saved.

    Actually, you do. I know it’s off-topic, but just sayin’.

  105. John,

    This just seems to be a case of talking past each other. The Gospel defined by the Reformed is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day in accordance with the Scriptures; and, it is finished [1 Corinthians 15, John 19:30]. So, when they say “the gospel is to be believed not lived” they are explaining that it does not make logical sense to say “live the gospel” when the gospel refers specifically to God’s historical, redemptive work, on behalf of his people, that was carried out in the 1st century.

    Catholics may not object to that view. However, it is likely that the Catholic views “live the gospel” as “live your life in thankfulness to the creator who has provided salvation through the saving work of Christ” or perhaps, “live out a life of goodness since the God who has done good things for you ought to be praise and obeyed.”

    I was referring to the way the Reformed often define the gospel theologically. While they would admit that the NT speaks about obeying the gospel, they would also say that, theologically speaking, the law commands and the gospel promises. And some would go as far as to say that all imperatives in the Bible are examples of law. This kind of law/gospel hermeneutic does severe violence to the newness of the NC, and to covenant theology in general, in my opinion.

  106. The Reformed would agree that God is indeed a gracious God. Perhaps you have an argument in mind that would demonstrate how the Reformed hold to a non-gracious God, but such an argument is absent from your post.

    What is in view is not Grace per se as it is Grace in relation to the idea of the believer’s perfection. Reformed theology, with its mistaken insistence on extra nos imputation, by default assumes letter- of-the-law-perfection. Under such a paradigm, it necessarily follows that since no one can claim to be without sin (regardless of the degree thereof) even post baptism, then perfection is simply not possible, as worthy a goal as it is to strive for it (cf. perseverance of the saints etc). The flaw in this medieval phronema (bequeathed to and naively assumed by modern day western protestant theology without critical thinking) lies in the premise of letter-of-the-law perfection and behind that premise stands the anachronistic western/rationalist mindset.

    If you want to understand Grace, first understand that it is a semitic concept , introduced to that culture by the Almighty Himself. It wasn’t introduced to the visigoths, the franks, saxons, or celts but instead to Jews. When a Jew reads his Scriptures (which have been so graciously shared with us gentiles) which proclaim that the Hashem is Gracious, or when they speak of perfection, he hears something very different than what you hear. Consider a few old treasures from the storehouse:

    Gen 6:9

    “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations”

    Gen 17:1-2

    “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless . 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.

    Gen 26:4-5

    “4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.

    Did Abraham keep the commandments perfectly in the western/reformed/protestant sense of the word? Absolutely not, we can read of his mistakes and lapses on the way to Canaan. But was he perfect in the semitic sense? Indeed he was. So was Noah, described as “tamim”, meaning that he was mature, whole, sound . This does not imply that he was sinless but rather that he was sound in God’s sight.

    So when Jesus says “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”, it is the same concept of tamim which is in view. To which the rejoinder is: but doesn’t He say “as your Father in heaven is perfect”? The implication in the question is that the Father is sinless so Christ is asking us to be sinless. This is sorely mistaken because it is reading the verse without regard for the context in which it appears. When used in this manner, it becomes a classic example of a pretext for prooftext. The perfection Christ is speaking of here is relational and not ontological . I adduce here every single command given prior to v 48: they all deal with our relating to one another, mirroring and transcending the 2nd half of the decalogue. So when Yeshua said “as your Father in heaven is perfect” He is describing the perfection of the Father in His energies and relationship with His creation , as opposed to His essence:

    45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

    The above being a wondrous example of the grace of God towards even His enemies, which highlights/underscores the relational aspect of perfection. Consider what follows the command in v 48 in chapter 6:

    “9 In this manner, therefore, pray: …

    “12 And forgive us our debts,
    As we forgive our debtors.”

    There it is again, the Graciousness of the Father, as it relates to the perfection of the believer. Not a perfection found in the letter of the law, but a relational perfection of love which finds its purest expression in our encounter with the other/Other. I will string one more pearl to all this:

    At the very end of the Sermon on the Mount which climaxes with the parable of the wise and foolish builders: Jesus says this:

    24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock”

    Again, this is incontrovertible proof that the perfection of Matt 5:48, properly understood in its semitic context, was never meant to be construed as unattainable but rather as a state of grace which is available to Him who loves the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (cf. Jude 21, 24).

    he wants to know the *ultimate causal reasons* for someone’s repentance. Is it something that is ultimately up to man or ultimately up to God? That was the thrust of his question.

    This has been discussed many a time on this site John. You’ll forgive me for referring you to prior threads. Suffice it to say that behind the question lies the premise that the indwelling of the Spirit is a mere vestigial consequence of forensic justification; an indwelling in which union with God or participation in Christ is rendered at the seams into a binary process. The obvious problem with this is that it is predicated on monergism. For your question to hold its validity you must first prove that monergism is orthodox and that is a semitic concept, and not assume it a priori, thereby begging the question. Good luck with that.

    Sorry SS, I did not know.

    No need to apologize and thank you for the questions.

  107. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    What is in view is not Grace per se as it is Grace in relation to the idea of the believer’s perfection. Reformed theology, with its mistaken insistence on extra nos imputation, by default assumes letter- of-the-law-perfection. Under such a paradigm, it necessarily follows that since no one can claim to be without sin (regardless of the degree thereof) even post baptism, then perfection is simply not possible, as worthy a goal as it is to strive for it (cf. perseverance of the saints etc).

    That’s well put. Love covers, with its inherent perfection, a multitude of sins. That’s not an easy fit for those with an absolute demand for bivalent categorization.

    SS wrote:

    If you want to understand Grace, first understand that it is a semitic concept, introduced to that culture by the Almighty Himself. It wasn’t introduced to the visigoths, the franks, saxons, or celts but instead to Jews. When a Jew reads his Scriptures (which have been so graciously shared with us gentiles) which proclaim that the Hashem is Gracious, or when they speak of perfection, he hears something very different than what you hear. Consider a few old treasures from the storehouse:

    I think that’s a bit of an overreach. All ancient faith traditions have the concept of Grace. e.g. Anugraha in Hindu.

  108. Hi Wosbald,

    I had in mind grace as it is conferred unto the believer in covenantal/personal rapport. As far as I understand, Anugraha, while retaining a degree of resemblance to the semitic concept, ultimately contributes to a conflation the Creator/creature distinction. The contrast I have in mind here is with the appearance of Hashem to Moses in the burning bush, an historical manifestation of God’s grace which upholds the CCD. I highly doubt that there is anything that can come close to such graciousness in ancient faiths, when framed as such. But we digress.

  109. Jason–

    You are often frustrated with us Reformed (well, the ones who bother to engage you in dialogue). Sometimes you feel like we’re “not really trying anymore.”

    And yet you are the one who supposedly should be able for us to bridge the paradigm gap. With your experience, you should be “fluent in both tongues” and lend a hand to patiently translate our halting attempts at communication (a la Alasdair MacIntyre). Instead, you are the consummate polemicist, sticking unflinchingly to your talking points.

    You observed the following above (to Robert, I believe):

    “There’s no stark biblical difference between justification and sanctification for the Catholic, so your first sentence begs the question by assuming as part of your argument that there is. And no one denies that our love is a consequence of Christ’s. I have been saying that very thing for months. Seriously, how many times have I talked about “Spirit-wrought love”? I’ve probably done so in this very thread.”

    The problem, Jason, is that there is no stark biblical difference between [the RC notion of] justification and [the RC notion of] sanctification for us Protestants, either. The “salvation process” includes initial justification and sanctification in both paradigms. (The only real distinction being that in Protestant thought “initial justification” is permanent.) As I have said before (in almost as “ad nauseum” a manner as your repetitions of “spirit-wrought love”), the distinction between “justification” and “sanctification” in the Protestant mind is more analytical than real, for they are but one seamless reality–rather on the order of the sameness of the warmth and light of the sun–both of them emanating from “union with Christ.” (The grace of being found in union with Christ is much the same as RC “sanctifying grace” though this corresponding Protestant grace cannot be lost.)

    As I have also said (many times) before, I have no major personal problem with considering “spirit-wrought works of charity” as contributory towards justification in some sense…as long as our cooperation with cooperative grace also derives from Christ (which at one point you said you could agree with). As long as everything we accomplish in thought, word, or deed is considered attributable to Christ, I as a Protestant stand content.

    Of course, we would still have the outstanding disagreement over the power of unrepentant mortal sin to nullify sanctifying grace.

    By the by, we Reformed are fairly frustrated with you, as well. We have to berate you constantly for misrepresenting us (in spite of the fact that you should have the advantage: having graduated from a Reformed seminary).

    Consider this comment of yours over on C2C:

    “Yes, I understand that the Reformed position includes sanctification along with justification. However, in the Reformed system sanctification is a mere afterthought or concession, in my opinion. The Reformed confessions go out of their way to insist that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant, and that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness. Moreover, since in justification all our past, present, and future sins are forgiven (in the Reformed system), sanctification virtually becomes an optional response.

    So while you’re technically correct that the Reformed gospel doesn’t limit things to justification, I think in practice it in fact does.”

    Your “opinion” of the Reformed concept of sanctification is not informed by any recognizable version of actual Reformed convictions! Yes, all our good works are tainted. (Just as you have, no doubt, observed concerning all of your own works.) The mature Christian is the one who becomes more and more cognizant of his sins, the less and less sinful he becomes. Our vision clears up!

    But you know the emphasis on the “already” and the “not yet” of Reformed soteriology. Our works are “already” perfect in God’s eyes (we have already been as good as glorified). On the other hand, our works still stand in need of improvement: they are “not yet” ready for prime time in the here and now.

    You certainly should be quite aware that good works are essential in Reformed soteriology. They are part of the gracious means for getting us where we want to go. What you misunderstand, evidently, is the perseverance of the saints. It is not at all the same as OSAS! We actually must work and sweat and strain.

    We are dumped in the English Channel (on the French side) and told to swim to the “green and pleasant” strand of William Blake’s newly-built “Jerusalem.” We are assured that we have the ability to cross, given the assistance we will be afforded. We dive in. We either struggle or slice through the waves. Our heart is set on those white cliffs of Dover. There is no going back. (To France? Are you kidding me?) There is no sinking beneath the surf and disappearing. There is only one way left: straight ahead. In the end, when we all make it safely ashore, not one of us comments that the effort was “optional.” No one’s swimming strokes were technically perfect. Everyone had setbacks along the way, and yet no one was drowned. Furthermore, there were no hidden jet skis for the lucky few. Everyone had to swim the entire route!

    The guy you were responding to (I think it was Joey) was not “technically” correct…he was correct period! You, conversely, either never understood Reformed thought or do not understand it now. Though we try to explain it to you over and over and over and over….

    Are you frustrated? Yeah, well, so are we.

  110. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Hi Wosbald,
    I had in mind grace as it is conferred unto the believer in covenantal/personal rapport. As far as I understand, Anugraha, while retaining a degree of resemblance to the semitic concept, ultimately contributes to a conflation the Creator/creature distinction. The contrast I have in mind here is with the appearance of Hashem to Moses in the burning bush, an historical manifestation of God’s grace which upholds the CCD. I highly doubt that there is anything that can come close to such graciousness in ancient faiths, when framed as such. But we digress.

    I would disagree with that. I would say that the ancient Jews had no lock on anything special as regards the Common Wisdom of Mankind. The only thing which they had “distinctive” compared to other traditions was an especial, organic covenantal relationship.

    I would say the same goes for the RCC. Catholicism has no unique doctrinal distinctive except for Incarnation and Trinity. These form the universal hermeneutic for Christian life; these two Interpretive Keys are that which renew and transfigure (without deforming) the Common Wisdom of Mankind. Catholics certainly have no lock on the understanding of Grace, except as considered under these auspices. Under the light of Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism, the whole of Christian life is nothing more than the Common Wisdom transformed and deified.

    This doesn’t preclude the possibility that some traditions may have degraded so far that the Common Wisdom has been obscured by years deformation. These would be in positive need of cultural reinvigoration. But this reinvigoration always waters a seed that is latent and potential within that culture.

    But once one thinks that one is absolutely bound to “Culture X” in order to get the real scoop on a common doctrine like Grace, one sets oneself up for a sort of ethno-provinciality.

    As you said, perhaps we’re digressing, but, considering that committed Reformists seem to believe that they’ve got the lock on Grace, perhaps we’re not. I would agree that the Reformed understanding of Grace (understood without the dynamic balancing-effect of true human freedom) is certainly out of step with the Common Wisdom. So in that sense, they’ve got a lock on it. But that’s only because no one else would want to claim it for their own.

  111. SS,

    Your answer to me about Matt. 5:48 has been to tell me what the word teleios can mean and that is hardly an answer from Scripture,when the verse says we are to be teleioi as God is teleios. His own character is the standard no matter how you translate or define the word. You have no answer for that, nor does Jason, other than to say, but isn’t God merciful?

    That’s wonderful to pull out the concept of blamelessness from the Old Testament and then use it as if that is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:48. I’m sorry, but in none of those cases that you give was God’s character the standard; all that is being observed is a comparative righteousness. Jesus explores and intensifies what God means when He calls for righteousness before him, and he builds off the distinction between blamelessness and perfection already evident in the Old Testament. David can say on the one hand that he is righteous and keeps the law. On the other hand he can say that no one—including himself—keeps the law (Ps. 34:15–18; 143:2). Christians can be blameless, but until the presence of sin is removed they cannot be perfect, and blamelessness is not enough for justification, else the Messiah is not needed.

    The fact of the matter is that Jesus, Paul, and the apostles did not hold the same views of perfection that were current in second-temple Judaism and that some modern Messianic Jews such as Shulam hold and that you are imputing to them. If they did, far more first-century Jews would have believed in the Messiah. Jesus, Paul and the rest of the Apostles were accurate interpreters of the Old Testament. The Sermon on the Mount demands perfection if even our thoughts can break the law of God. Paul says in Galatians 3 that those who do not do ALL the works of the law are under a curse. That is his apostolic interpretive addition. Paul knows that God requires perfection.

    As far as your example about Stephen showing perfect love at the point of his death, well even if I grant that such was the case at that point, you have not proved anything about what God demands. Did he perfectly love his enemies before then? What about before his conversion? If he had lived longer, would he always have loved his enemies. Keeping the law at one point even for a millisecond is not enough. A life of perfect unwavering obedience is what God requires. I realize that’s hard to hear. It goes against everything we are naturally inclined to believe. We want to believe God grades on a curve. Out of all the religions of the world, only Reformational Protestantism says otherwise. Roman Catholics deny this. Muslims deny this. Modern Jews deny this. Eastern religions, as far as they speak in such categories, deny this. The Eastern Orthodox deny this. You and your eclectic theology deny this. Does that not trouble you that your soteriology is not fundamentally different from many non-Christian religions? Union with God does not set Christian soteriology apart from other religions. Sufi Muslims are looking forward to that. Eastern religions look forward to union with an impersonal being. The demand for perfection does. Incarnation does not set Christianity apart, for Hinduism knows of the phenomenon.

    God is merciful, but if He does not punish us for our sin, He is a liar. Again and again and again, the Bible tells us that soul that sins shall die, that death is the penalty for our transgression. It is or it isn’t. You present a God who ignores His just demands and wipes sin away, providing an atonement that is nothing more than a good example. Then you want also to point to Christ’s death as an expiation, justifying it by saying that the life is in the blood. Yes it is. But again, you cannot answer the why did Christ have to die question if all that was necessary to cleanse us of our sin was the shedding of blood. And regardless of when he made the decision, once God chose to “actualize” the salvific economy He gives, that blood spilling became necessary.

    The thing that sets the forgiveness of the biblical God apart from the forgiveness of, say, Islam, is that the God of the Bible forgives without setting aside His own character. The Qur’an and Islamic teaching have many verses that extol the graciousness and mercifulness of God. God essentially waves sin away in those religions because they have no atonement (although there are strange vestiges of it in the slaughtering ceremony associated with the hajj). If Christ did not pay the penalty for our sins, God set aside His demands that we die for transgression. It really is as simple as that.

    Paul says in Romans 3 that God is both Just and the Justifier. The God you and Jason present ultimately amounts to a God without wrath giving men the boost they need to come into the kingdom through the ministrations of a cross whose efficacy it totally dependent on dead sinners making a good decision. He’s the unjust justifier.

    I’ll give you credit for one thing, however, and that is despite the incoherency of your view, at least you still seem to affirm that knowing and believing in Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation. Roman Catholicism doesn’t even go that far any more.

  112. Wosbald,

    You do realize that until Vatican II, Roman Catholicism said grace and salvation were only available through the Roman church, right? How do you explain that?

  113. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,
    You do realize that until Vatican II, Roman Catholicism said grace and salvation were only available through the Roman church, right? How do you explain that?

    I would understand it in the way that the Church has always understood it (both before and after Vat II)… in dynamic tension with the teaching that Spirit always blows where He will.

  114. Your answer to me about Matt. 5:48 has been to tell me what the word teleios can mean and that is hardly an answer from Scripture,when the verse says we are to be teleioi as God is teleios. His own character is the standard no matter how you translate or define the word. You have no answer for that, nor does Jason, other than to say, but isn’t God merciful?

    I have answered you from Scripture, referencing the usage of tamim for example as a description of Noah. The perfection in view there is also closely related to the blamelessness which is Abraham’s. As I have explained above, the perfection which Christ refers to in Matt 5:48, when read in its proper context , is a relational perfection. That God for instance could send rain down on righteous and unrighteous alike is a powerful example of that relational perfection. God is no way obligated to send down rain on anyone, especially not His enemies, but He nevertheless chooses to do so. That is perfect love. On the day of Judgment, they will have no excuse and every enemy’s mouth will be stopped, precisely because of that perfect love.

    That’s wonderful to pull out the concept of blamelessness from the Old Testament and then use it as if that is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:48. I’m sorry, but in none of those cases that you give was God’s character the standard; all that is being observed is a comparative righteousness. Jesus explores and intensifies what God means when He calls for righteousness before him, and he builds off the distinction between blamelessness and perfection already evident in the Old Testament. David can say on the one hand that he is righteous and keeps the law. On the other hand he can say that no one—including himself—keeps the law (Ps. 34:15–18; 143:2). Christians can be blameless, but until the presence of sin is removed they cannot be perfect, and blamelessness is not enough for justification, else the Messiah is not needed.

    Would agree with much of this. Yes, it takes the washing away of sin by the blood of the lamb to be justified and it is because He has tasted death and conquered it that a believer has the opportunity to practice love for neighbor and God, in keeping with the commands of Christ seen in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the doer of these latter things, as Jesus says, who is the wise builder building on the rock. And that the wise builder can even build at all is purely the result of the cornerstone enabling him to do so.

    The fact of the matter is that Jesus, Paul, and the apostles did not hold the same views of perfection that were current in second-temple Judaism and that some modern Messianic Jews such as Shulam hold and that you are imputing to them.

    Simply stating so does not make it so. That you would even assert such and hand wave Shulam’s stellar academic work with nary a rebuttal in sight tells me that you have nothing to present.

    If they did, far more first-century Jews would have believed in the Messiah.

    Meaningless conjecture.

    Jesus, Paul and the rest of the Apostles were accurate interpreters of the Old Testament. The Sermon on the Mount demands perfection if even our thoughts can break the law of God.

    Mere assertion here. Again zero analysis, nothing from scripture, only table pounding and paradigmatic assertions.

    Paul says in Galatians 3 that those who do not do ALL the works of the law are under a curse. That is his apostolic interpretive addition. Paul knows that God requires perfection.

    Paul is saying simply that a relying on the Mosaic Law to be justified when Christ has already justified one is folly. And that’s what the gentile Galatians were doing. Christ was not sufficient for them, they thought they needed physical circumcision as well, which clearly was a huge mistake. Where in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus make physical circumcision a command? Nowhere. What Jesus requires for our perfection however is circumcision of the heart so to speak, which leads one to true love for the other and which is made possible by His death and resurrection and imparting of the Spirit.

    As far as your example about Stephen showing perfect love at the point of his death, well even if I grant that such was the case at that point, you have not proved anything about what God demands.

    You remind me of those who when provided with evidence, still chose to cover their ears and cry “blasphemy”. No wonder no sign was given them but the sign of Jonah.

    Did he perfectly love his enemies before then? What about before his conversion? If he had lived longer, would he always have loved his enemies. Keeping the law at one point even for a millisecond is not enough. A life of perfect unwavering obedience is what God requires.

    Meaningless conjecture. The point about Stephen is that he did exactly what Christ would have had him do, in the face of persecution at the hands of his enemies. Instead of retaliating and cursing, he asked God to forgive them. And by the way, Stephen was not ‘keeping the law’, i.e, keeping the Mosaic Law. Stephen fulfilled the Law. Big difference, see Romans 8:3-4.

    I realize that’s hard to hear. It goes against everything we are naturally inclined to believe. We want to believe God grades on a curve. Out of all the religions of the world, only Reformational Protestantism says otherwise. Roman Catholics deny this. Muslims deny this. Modern Jews deny this. Eastern religions, as far as they speak in such categories, deny this. The Eastern Orthodox deny this. You and your eclectic theology deny this. Does that not trouble you that your soteriology is not fundamentally different from many non-Christian religions? Union with God does not set Christian soteriology apart from other religions. Sufi Muslims are looking forward to that. Eastern religions look forward to union with an impersonal being. The demand for perfection does. Incarnation does not set Christianity apart, for Hinduism knows of the phenomenon.

    I have trouble believing that I am reading this… Can somebody point me to the facts pointing to the incarnation of the monkey god, or the elephant god or whatever it is that is worshipped out there? Apparently I didn’t get the memo. Did hanuman or shiva walk the earth under Pontius Pilate? I repeat, the Incarnation as historical and theological fact has NO parallel in other religions. It is unique to the faith. I understand that this is problematic for you, but it is what it is.

    “16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty”

    God is merciful, but if He does not punish us for our sin, He is a liar. Again and again and again, the Bible tells us that soul that sins shall die, that death is the penalty for our transgression. It is or it isn’t. You present a God who ignores His just demands and wipes sin away, providing an atonement that is nothing more than a good example.

    This is an ad hominem/misrepresentation of my view. Nowhere have I said that the atonement is nothing more than a good example. As I have stated before, the atonement is indispensable to the expiation of sin. Is that a small matter worth trivializing? The expiation of sin…? Without atonement there is no forgiveness possible. How then is it nothing but a good example? Christ bore our sin in His flesh so that we may not taste the wages of sin, which is death. This is what the early church affirmed and what I affirm as well.

    Then you want also to point to Christ’s death as an expiation, justifying it by saying that the life is in the blood. Yes it is. But again, you cannot answer the why did Christ have to die question if all that was necessary to cleanse us of our sin was the shedding of blood. And regardless of when he made the decision, once God chose to “actualize” the salvific economy He gives, that blood spilling became necessary.

    Now you’re just repeating yourself, and the bitterness in your tone is really quite telling. As has been explained to you before, your question presupposes what it tries to prove. I’ll refer the readers to prior posts on this thread but especially to the last couple of threads that deal with the objections that are re-raised above. All that has been thoroughly answered. I’d be happy to engage with your argument if you can provide a counter argument grounded in Scripture, not mere table pounding as if that amounts to anything.

    The thing that sets the forgiveness of the biblical God apart from the forgiveness of, say, Islam, is that the God of the Bible forgives without setting aside His own character. The Qur’an and Islamic teaching have many verses that extol the graciousness and mercifulness of God. God essentially waves sin away in those religions because they have no atonement (although there are strange vestiges of it in the slaughtering ceremony associated with the hajj). If Christ did not pay the penalty for our sins, God set aside His demands that we die for transgression. It really is as simple as that.

    Paul says in Romans 3 that God is both Just and the Justifier. The God you and Jason present ultimately amounts to a God without wrath giving men the boost they need to come into the kingdom through the ministrations of a cross whose efficacy it totally dependent on dead sinners making a good decision. He’s the unjust justifier.

    More straw man arguments and misrepresentation. I’m not going to waste any more time responding to this.

  115. But once one thinks that one is absolutely bound to “Culture X” in order to get the real scoop on a common doctrine like Grace, one sets oneself up for a sort of ethno-provinciality.

    Is this ethno-provinciality?

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

  116. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    I have trouble believing that I am reading this… Can somebody point me to the facts pointing to the incarnation of the monkey god, or the elephant god or whatever it is that is worshipped out there? Apparently I didn’t get the memo. Did hanuman or shiva walk the earth under Pontius Pilate? I repeat, the Incarnation as historical and theological fact has NO parallel in other religions.It is unique to the faith. I understand that this is problematic for you, but it is what it is.

    This is absolutely correct. Avatar is not Incarnation. As I’ve said before, an avatara would be quite analogous to the Burning Bush. This isn’t to denigrate ancient faith traditions, especially as I’ve a lot of respect for Hinduism, but this still doesn’t change the fact that Incarnation is an unimagined quantum leap beyond.

    ——————————-

    SS wrote:

    Is this ethno-provinciality?“
    .
    17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

    It sounds like it, based upon how you seem to be interpreting it. At any rate, it’s simply an observation. Something that you might want to contemplate.

  117. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I realize that’s hard to hear. It goes against everything we are naturally inclined to believe. We want to believe God grades on a curve. Out of all the religions of the world, only Reformational Protestantism says otherwise. Roman Catholics deny this. Muslims deny this. Modern Jews deny this. Eastern religions, as far as they speak in such categories, deny this. The Eastern Orthodox deny this. You and your eclectic theology deny this. Does that not trouble you that your soteriology is not fundamentally different from many non-Christian religions? Union with God does not set Christian soteriology apart from other religions. Sufi Muslims are looking forward to that. Eastern religions look forward to union with an impersonal being. The demand for perfection does. Incarnation does not set Christianity apart, for Hinduism knows of the phenomenon.

    As I said above, the Incarnation issue is simply a nonstarter. The only thing that this tells me is that you fail to appreciate the quantum leap that is the Incarnation.

    As far as common soteriology is concerned, who cares? Not I. The mysterious relationship of Freedom and Grace is something nobly common to Man. A natural truth. This Mystery is finally resolved within the Person of the God-Man. If anything, perhaps the Reformed should be the ones who are troubled that they are going so strongly against the universal consensus of Mankind.

  118. SS,

    You wrote:

    I have answered you from Scripture, referencing the usage of tamim for example as a description of Noah. The perfection in view there is also closely related to the blamelessness which is Abraham’s. As I have explained above, the perfection which Christ refers to in Matt 5:48, when read in its proper context , is a relational perfection. That God for instance could send rain down on righteous and unrighteous alike is a powerful example of that relational perfection. God is no way obligated to send down rain on anyone, especially not His enemies, but He nevertheless chooses to do so. That is perfect love. On the day of Judgment, they will have no excuse and every enemy’s mouth will be stopped, precisely because of that perfect love.

    That is still not an answer. The standard for relational perfection, if you want to call it that, is still God Himself, who at all times and in all places shows perfect love. He is relationally perfect in absolutely everything that he does at all points at what he exists, at all times, from eternity past and into eternity future. Christ says we are to be perfect as He is perfect. We must be relationally perfect at all times that we exist. Noah was perfect in his generation. Based on the standards of that generation, he was pretty darn great. Jesus sets God as the standard. You cannot get away from that. It’s offensive, I know, but it’s what the Messiah says.

    What is unique about the Christian view of incarnation is that it happened once. There are millions of followers of Vishnu who believe he actually incarnates himself multiple times. There is far more historical support to the Christian claim, of course. My point is simply that from the perspective of the world, the fact that the divine would take on human flesh is not wholly unique to Christianity. The Trinity is. The idea that God would demand absolute perfection is. Incarnation and union with the divine is not.

    Galatians 3:10 does not say that that the Galatians are cursed merely because they were going to the law after having been justified by Jesus. He says that those who rely on the law are cursed because “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” The context is explaining why it is folly to rely on the law, and it is folly because the law demands that you do everything in it without fail because that is what is required for justification. Later he says that if one accepts circumcision, one is obligated to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3). Just one command is not enough; the whole thing must be kept without fail if one is to be justified by the law. The choice is justification by law—perfection—or justification by Christ—his perfection.

    I talked about this with Jason on another thread, and I’ll say it to you now. Paul anticipated the false charge of antinomianism because of the gospel of free grace he was preaching, a gospel that makes no place for law in securing our just status before the Father. He knew it would come. No one would ever think that you were promoting anything like antinomianism. Paul’s view of grace was so radical, so free, that he knew people would mishear it. No one would mishear you because you do not share his view of grace.

    Call it bitterness if you want, but your view of God’s holiness and grace is deficient, weak, and unbiblical. Until you can demonstrate how Jesus means anything less than full, total, and absolute perfection in all that we say, do, think, feel, and act when he makes God Himself the standard we must conform to, then my point is proven. The readers will have to decide who has made the better case.

    Finally, it all goes back to the monergism-synergism debate once again. For Reformational Protestants, God saves everyone He intends to save. He guarantees redemption. For you, Jason, and others, God saves some of those He intends to save and counts on fallen sinners to complete their own salvation. If you think you can do that, you really don’t understand how sinful you—all of us—really are.

  119. Wosbald,

    You wrote:

    If anything, perhaps the Reformed should be the ones who are troubled that they are going so strongly against the universal consensus of Mankind.

    Not when Paul says that all men suppress the little knowledge of God that they do have (Rom. 1).

  120. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Not when Paul says that all men suppress the little knowledge of God that they do have (Rom. 1).

    I’m just giving you a friendly admonishment to return to Reality. If you won’t listen to Us, listen to Mankind. Listen to the truth of your own nature.

  121. Wosbald,

    I’m just giving you a friendly admonishment to return to special revelation, which tells us the religious instincts of mankind are not to be trusted:

    I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Gen. 8:21)

    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom. 1:18–25)

  122. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,
    I’m just giving you a friendly admonishment to return to special revelation, which tells us the religious instincts of mankind are not to be trusted…

    You’re the one who started the scorched earth campaign against other faiths, implying that zigging when Mankind zags is an unquestionable proof of truth and purity.

  123. Eric,

    Regarding my getting frustrated with Robert, it had nothing to do with an inability to paradigm-surf. It’s just that after all this time, for him to describe with a straight face my position as “believing it’s all up to me,” it tells me that he is either unwilling or unable to let me describe my own view and then characterize it according to what I actually said. Dialogue can’t happen in such cases.

  124. That is still not an answer. The standard for relational perfection, if you want to call it that, is still God Himself, who at all times and in all places shows perfect love. He is relationally perfect in absolutely everything that he does at all points at what he exists, at all times, from eternity past and into eternity future. Christ says we are to be perfect as He is perfect. We must be relationally perfect at all times that we exist. Noah was perfect in his generation. Based on the standards of that generation, he was pretty darn great. Jesus sets God as the standard. You cannot get away from that. It’s offensive, I know, but it’s what the Messiah says.

    No argument here, only table pounding. If you admit that Noah was perfect, how much more then, on an a fortiori basis will the perfection that Christ speaks of be available to the one who abides in Him. That’s an integral part of the Gospel, and I rejoice over it . Yes, Christ raised the standard, and He also raised the stakes by sending the Spirit to enable us to be like Noah although this time, in our own generation. I think for example of Polycarp, who went willingly to his death at the stake, glorifying God while forgiving his enemies.

    What is unique about the Christian view of incarnation is that it happened once. There are millions of followers of Vishnu who believe he actually incarnates himself multiple times. There is far more historical support to the Christian claim, of course. My point is simply that from the perspective of the world, the fact that the divine would take on human flesh is not wholly unique to Christianity. The Trinity is. The idea that God would demand absolute perfection is. Incarnation and union with the divine is not.

    Excuse me? Historical support for Vishnu?…

    Again, the Incarnation is unique to the faith. In no other faith do you have a notion of God condescending to His creation to 1) Redeem them from sin and death 2) Restore them into His image and 3) Release them into the world to Recover His Kingdom.

    Galatians 3:10 does not say that that the Galatians are cursed merely because they were going to the law after having been justified by Jesus. He says that those who rely on the law are cursed because “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” The context is explaining why it is folly to rely on the law, and it is folly because the law demands that you do everything in it without fail because that is what is required for justification. Later he says that if one accepts circumcision, one is obligated to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3). Just one command is not enough; the whole thing must be kept without fail if one is to be justified by the law. The choice is justification by law—perfection—or justification by Christ—his perfection.

    No problem with much of the above: anyone who relies on the Mosaic Law to be justified is under a curse because the Law in and of itself does not have the power to enable anyone to keep it. For those who have faith in Christ however, justification is a reality; not just an punctiliar event, but instead a process, as Paul states:

    “5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

    and

    “for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified”

    The Good News/Gospel is precisely that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and released Abraham’s blessing:

    “13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”[h]), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith

    This is a direct echo back to Gen 26:4-5: The blessing of Abraham also, by definition, involves the obedience of Abraham who believed God as it is said:

    “I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed ; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

    Again, Abraham was not sinless in his obedience, but rather leaned on the grace of God while seeking after Him with all his heart. How much more now that Messiah has come can this promise be materialized in the life of a believer. For Abraham saw Christ’s day and rejoiced in it.

    Paul’s view of grace was so radical, so free, that he knew people would mishear it. No one would mishear you because you do not share his view of grace.

    Non sequitur. You are also assuming what you are trying to prove. Paul’s view of grace was that this grace was infinitely costly and valuable, and to be cherished by its recipient. This is why he directly and openly warned believers not to engage in behavior which would cheapen and presume upon that grace. To the Galatians, he says:

    “and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    That is the furthest thing from ‘free grace’, and instead describes the patron client paradigm of his thought.

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

    Paul anticipated an antinomian charge because his objectors were not covenantal nomists. They were nomists, period. They earned their justification, as opposed to receiving it by faith, as Abraham had. And Paul, to no leave no room for ambiguity, warns that the grace which justifies carries with it great responsibility, failing which nothing short but eternal punishment is to be reaped. Our preaching today should imitate Paul’s: we should tell all of the SBNRs out there (spiritual but not religious) that they cannot earn God’s grace and that the wages of sin is death. And when they believe the Gospel that Christ is risen and Lord over all and offered forgiveness, they should be taught that they are now clients of their patron who has bestowed immense riches upon them, and who expects them to be fruitful out of gratitude for His benefaction.

    Finally, it all goes back to the monergism-synergism debate once again. For Reformational Protestants, God saves everyone He intends to save. He guarantees redemption. For you, Jason, and others, God saves some of those He intends to save and counts on fallen sinners to complete their own salvation. If you think you can do that, you really don’t understand how sinful you—all of us—really are

    No Robert, I understand the power of sin. But here’s the good news: I also understand the power of Christ to overcome sin, and also understand that He is a gracious God who will deal mercifully with believers when the time comes for them to stand before him.

    Enjoy your Sunday,
    SS.

  125. Jason,

    I understand your position, I just press the logical conclusions of it, which you are unwilling to do. If the grace of God does not guarantee anything, you are the deciding factor in whether or not you will be saved. Jesus only does so much, you must complete it by your “free will” choice to believe, a choice that you may or may not make even though you have received the same justifying grace in your baptism as your neighbor. It’s up to you to make the right response and achieve the final completion of your salvation. At the end of the day, with a little bit of help from God, you are saving yourself.

  126. SS,

    You are still not dealing with the fact that Jesus makes God Himself the standard in Matthew 5:48. Just answer me this question: is God the standard that Jesus presents in Matthew 5:48 at the conclusion of all that He says about law, love, blessing, and relationship or is God not the standard?

    God is gracious, and he expects that we serve Him out of thankfulness for what He has done in Christ. No argument there at all. The question is, by what standard does God accept us as citizens of His kingdom. Is it grace alone through Christ alone by faith alone, or is it by grace through Christ by faith and what we do. The former makes salvation all of God. The latter makes salvation of God and man. Now, you may not agree that the Bible teaches the former, but if so, you have to affirm the latter.

  127. Jason,

    I have to say that the most discouraging thing about your conversion to Rome is that you are a smart guy who fell for a rather obvious error. Every time somebody points out the logical conclusions of Rome’s position on C2C, they are either accused of begging the question essentially because they will not accept the claims of Rome for itself. One need not accept Rome’s claims to understand it and the path it finally leads down when people follow it consistently. It takes a great deal of theological mind-twisting to believe that Rome—indeed any non-Reformed soteriology–does not teach that you finally must guarantee your salvation. If you can lose and recover justification; if your good works are part of the declaration of your just status and there is no guarantee that two people with the same grace will both do them, you are finally saving yourself, with God’s help.

    Even though you are following the typical Roman convert route of mischaracterizing portions of the Reformed position, I believe that you do understand it, at least in its basic form, but that you reject it. But all that proves to me is that you never truly realized just how bad off you are in and of yourself and how that when the Bible says God is holy and just, it actually means it.

    For many years, I accepted Roman Catholics as my brothers in Christ. I defended the pope and pointed out to others that Roman Catholics really and sincerely believe that they do not worship Mary and the Saints. I even participated in at least 3 masses, including the Eucharist, believing that while Roman theology was deficient in some ways that they still said salvation was ultimately all of Christ. I cannot do any of that today because I have a greater understanding of my own sin, God’s holiness, where Roman theology has led historically, its view of the Eucharist, what grace actually means, and what Christ actually accomplished.

    That is why I must point out what I do. That is why I cannot say to you “peace in Christ.” You don’t have peace. You don’t have shalom. You have a cease-fire that threatens to break out into full-scale war at any point.

  128. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I understand your position, I just press the logical conclusions of it, which you are unwilling to do. If the grace of God does not guarantee anything, you are the deciding factor in whether or not you will be saved. Jesus only does so much, you must complete it by your “free will” choice to believe, a choice that you may or may not make even though you have received the same justifying grace in your baptism as your neighbor. It’s up to you to make the right response and achieve the final completion of your salvation. At the end of the day, with a little bit of help from God, you are saving yourself.

    As Catholics keep saying… There is no logical conclusion, because we are not talking about something which is a matter of logic. And that’s the point which you’re just not getting (or don’t want to get).

    For Catholics. soteriological formulation is a tension between two equally authoritative, but logically unresolveable, propositions. Any Catholic knows this implicitly if not explicitly. Salvation is not “ultimately” up to either God or Man. It’s your insistence upon applying to Catholics the troublesomely bivalent word, “ultimately”, that is causing the problem.

    So, yeah, with help from Man, God is saving us. Just as with help from God, we are saving ourselves.

    So, there’s the crux of your problem. You don’t want to accept that Catholics take the Both/And Position. And so, you seem to want to misrepresent us as disingenuously giving lip-service to the Both/And Position whilst we are really taking the Either/Or Position.

    And you can’t very well attack the Both/And Position, in principle, since you take the same position in regard to Christ being both fully God and fully Man. That, right there, puts you in a bad way.

  129. You are still not dealing with the fact that Jesus makes God Himself the standard in Matthew 5:48. Just answer me this question: is God the standard that Jesus presents in Matthew 5:48 at the conclusion of all that He says about law, love, blessing, and relationship or is God not the standard?

    The issue isn’t with the standard but rather with the defeatist reformed view that a Spirit indwelled believer cannot practice that standard. This is not only entirely question begging, but also the context of the Sermon on the Mount shows the objective reader that Christ fully expected His disciples to fulfill it.

    ““ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock”

    For the reformed position, this wise man does not exist. He is pure fiction. You devalue the Gospel and reduce it to an acquittal while paying lip service to union with Christ.

    God is gracious, and he expects that we serve Him out of thankfulness for what He has done in Christ. No argument there at all. The question is, by what standard does God accept us as citizens of His kingdom. Is it grace alone through Christ alone by faith alone, or is it by grace through Christ by faith and what we do. The former makes salvation all of God. The latter makes salvation of God and man. Now, you may not agree that the Bible teaches the former, but if so, you have to affirm the latter.

    Everything we do is by faith (cf. Gal 2:20), so you present a false dichotomy. This is the intention which animates the life of a Spirit led believer. Even the most minute steps are steps grounded in the assurance that God has the power to deliver and bring forth the Kingdom. This is the economy decreed by the Father, one in which we are told 2 things:

    Jude 21, 23:

    keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”

    “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”

  130. Robert,

    I understand your position, I just press the logical conclusions of it, which you are unwilling to do.

    I call BS on this. I have long felt that the whole tactic of “pushing my opponent’s view to its logical conclusion” is both uncharitable (because it violates the golden rule) as well as prohibitive to real dialogue (which such people often don’t actually want).

    Every belief system — whether Calvinism or Christianity as a whole — can be made to look retarded when its opponents insist on doing this. It’s a simpleton’s way of arguing. As a Calvinist, I’m sure you spend way more time than you want to dispelling popular myths among evangelicals about “once saved always saved” and how you don’t believe in prayer or evangelism. Well, now you’re turning around and using the same lazy tactic here, and I simply don’t respect it.

    Any system worthy of the name is complex and nuanced, and needs to be explained by those who adopt it, not dismissed by those too proud to have an open mind.

  131. To whoever wrote the comment from “Jason,” please show me where I have misrepresented the Reformed position. Handwaving general accusations don’t prove anything.

  132. Hello SS,
    “You are correct, it only appears to say such a thing. We’ve been there and done that.”

    We have–unfortunately I had to cut off that conversation because of time constraints. Anyway, I’ve posted some ridiculously long posts arguing on behalf on penal substitution at CTC (two of which were just posted) so that will have to suffice for my input on the issue at this time. Anyhow, too many God-given responsibilities upon me to continue the dialogue, so this will be my last posting on this blog for the foreseeable future. God Bless. W.A. Scott

    p.s. Thought I’d mention that my son was born since the last thread I participated in here on Jason’s blog –he’s our firstborn and an awesome blessing…

  133. Congrats, W.A.!

  134. Hi W.A.

    Congrats to you and your wife and hang in there with the sleep deprivation! When someone asked Benjamin Disraeli for proof of the existence of God, he said “The Jew”. I agree with him, but would also add “and a mom at 3am in the morning rocking baby back to sleep”

    I will check out your posts at C2C. I’m also getting ready to restart posting there at the Tu Quoque thread, which in my view, is the single most important thread on that site. It’s the one upon which everything else stands. I’m only halfway through the comments there, but it’s been a very interesting read so far…

    Come back when time allows, this discussion needs more input from guys like you.

    Peace,
    SS.

  135. Jason–

    I have to admit I’m a bit nonplussed at your irritation with Robert over his insistence that, in the final analysis, Catholics must rely on their own wills to avoid disaster. I realize that even in a state of unrepentant mortal sin (i.e., “out” of a state of grace), believers can still call on the assistance of Christ. I further realize that they cannot come back purely on their own initiative.

    On the other hand, they can, of their own initiative, push God away. (And for obvious reasons, God would not be a part of this decision in any way.) Therefore, for those who do in fact remain, something within themselves allows them not to reject God. It is ultimately “up” to them in that sense. Either they themselves choose not to reject God, or they themselves choose to go ahead and reject the Redeemer. In this particular instance, God cannot help them one way or the other. As they are slipping away, they and they alone must exercise their own will. If at the point of decision, God in any sense persuaded them to go in his direction, he would have to do that for everyone. Then the difference between those who stay and those who go would come down to an evaluation of God’s effectiveness in persuasion. Do you really wish to argue that for some, he is not rhetorically effective?

    I do believe one can argue for an antinomy between how God saves us (with our cooperation) and how we “save” ourselves (with God’s COOPERATION) as Wosbald did. In such a case, to press too hard on the logic of the case might be uncharitable. But I’m not sure that’s what’s happening here.

    I cannot help but believe, until you show me otherwise, that Catholic soteriology logically entails (in the sense I described here) that final justification is ultimately up to the believer himself. (But perhaps I still don’t quite understand all the workings of “slipping out” of a state of grace.)

  136. SS,

    You said,

    The issue isn’t with the standard but rather with the defeatist reformed view that a Spirit indwelled believer cannot practice that standard. This is not only entirely question begging, but also the context of the Sermon on the Mount shows the objective reader that Christ fully expected His disciples to fulfill it.
    ““ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock”
    For the reformed position, this wise man does not exist. He is pure fiction. You devalue the Gospel and reduce it to an acquittal while paying lip service to union with Christ.

    You are dodging the issue—the issue is what God demands. You have not yet argued that Jesus does not make God Himself the standard. That is good. You just aren’t following through with the inevitable conclusions that flow from what it means if God is the standard of maturity, relational love, or whatever else you want to call it. Either he is or he isn’t the standard. If he is, there must be at least some sense in which he demands absolute perfection.

    Yes, Christ expects us to fulfill the Sermon on the Mount. What Reformed person says otherwise? The question is the sense in which this is expected. Is it to obey Jesus and merit righteousness to thereby earn or gain eternal life? Or is it to show our gratitude for God regarding us as having met his standard of perfect righteousness by faith in Christ alone despite the fact that sin remains in our thoughts, words, and deeds? Those are different ways of fulfilling it. Roman Catholics affirm the former, and you are essentially advocating the same.

    The first Beattitude is a blessing on the poor in spirit, namely the humble and repentant man (Matt. 5:2). So Jesus begins the whole sermon by basically saying that we are going to fail in our attempts to keep it. Does that mean we will never, ever, ever, ever, do what He says in any sense. No it doesn’t, and certain elements of the Reformed community should be faulted for implying as much. But it does mean that we cannot obey Christ perfectly, and that is the standard that God demands. The standard is His character. That has to be met somehow, else it is not really a standard. The standard, Protestants believe, is the extra nos imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Rome’s theology and your way of thinking have no real way to meet it, hence my contention that your view of God’s holiness and human sin is too low.

    To speak in more Reformed categories, the Sermon on the Mount is both a second use of the law and third use of the law kind of deal. It shows us our inability and leads us to Christ who, having secured the righteousness we can never get for ourselves, enables us by His Spirit to obey His commands fittingly but truly by virtue of our union with Christ. So, the conclusion of the sermon fits quite well in our “paradigm.” You, however, still cannot account for Matthew 5:48 in yours, and you won’t be able to until you see that God demands perfection in His heavenly court, not just “good enough with His help.”

    As far as whether the Reformed believe we can actually obey God, I’ll let Q&A 114 of the Heidelberg Catechism provide the answer. Have you never read it?:

    Q. But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly?

    A. No.
    In this life even the holiest
    have only a small beginning of this obedience.
    Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose,
    they do begin to live
    according to all, not only some,
    of God’s commandments.

  137. Jason,

    I agree wholeheartedly. My only question is, “how do you see that agape poured out?”

    You said:

    ….when the source of that agape would be poured out upon the people of God and infused into their hearts (Gal. 4:1-6; Rom. 5:5).

    Titus 3:5
    King James Version (KJV)
    5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

    My emphasis upon the Sacraments might lead some to believe that I think it is the only way by which God pours grace into the world. But that is far from true. I follow the Catholic Teaching:

    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

    Therefore the Scripture teaches that the Spirit blows where it will (John 3:8).

  138. Again another long one for me to digest!

    Jason, you commented “But as I said in the post, we’re talking about redemption applied, not just redemption accomplished. What we need, I argue, is the renovation of our fallen nature that indeed makes us “UP TO IT” (which is what my citation of the promise of internal circumcision is about, which you ignored).February 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm”.

    The problem with being, or becoming, ‘up to it’ – simply in these terms – is that Christian growth would then mean we would have fewer and fewer sins (or less sinfulness/conscupiscence) to confess each day – that does not seem to be the testimony of the saints. Theorectically with such Wesleyan perfectionism we could get to the pearly gates and say ‘thanks to prevenient and sustaining grace, I now have no sins to confess and as such deserve to be let in’!

    Of course there is something unsatisfying about the ‘legal fiction’ of imputed righteousness but that is because it is not explained with its full force. It is not that God describes something other than it ‘really’ is. It is that when God names something (eg righteous), it IS so – in His reality, the only reality that matters – you might say ‘in the heavenlies’. But yes, we do still the picture of our sordid selves ‘down here’ but (C S Lewis) this is almost akin to a reverberating memory or image. We can allow the greater and the lesser reality to coexist provided we see them as in different ‘aeons’. As Luther said ‘simul justus simul peccator’ – he could even have said ‘simul sanctus, simul peccator’ or ‘simul non peccator, simul peccator’.

    These ‘aeons’ are the beginning of the basis for ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (which after all does not read ‘I have been crucified alongside – but no doubt at a lesser level – with Christ). To take Gal 2 v 20 as an invitation to self-mortification has just a touch of the Messiah syndrome about it. Yes, we are told to lose our life, but this is not to lose our desires but to lose (set aside) our agenda – though boy, that is painful

  139. please kindly use this one to reply to mine above (silly me – forgot to tick the ‘alert’ box)

  140. Jason, you quote

    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. …The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care … to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

    My reading of Jn 3 v5 AND 6 is that ‘water’ related to the natural birth of man through his mother’s uterine waters. What then matters is subsequently being born of the Spirit. ‘Reborn’ is incorrect and very misleading if it implies that water is an agent of rebirth. This antithesis between earth and heaven is continued in v6 with flesh v spirit.

    The first line of 1257 is clearly wrong because Jesus Himself accepted the thief on the cross into His kingdom unbaptised. Fortunately the last sentence of 1257 gainsays the first by removing it as an essential step.

    1257 also states “The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism…” Jesus mentions only belief in John 5 v 24.

    Yes, water baptism is important but I am not even sure that the Great Commission must of necessity mean water baptism as opposed to baptising in/into/with the Spirit

    I hope you will retain any earlier appreciation that creeds and catechisms are fallible. This came home to me forcibly when I saw that Catholic Teaching had massaged and thereby set out 10 different Commandments from the ones listed in Exodus (and Deuteronomy)

  141. RICHARD UK May 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm
    Jason, you quote
    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. …The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care … to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
    My reading of Jn 3 v5 AND 6 is that ‘water’ related to the natural birth of man through his mother’s uterine waters.

    Because one is naturally born through the “uterine waters” of their mother, water is an apt symbol of birth. Therefore, in Water Baptism, the water poured on our bodies signifies and brings about the new birth of the Creature by the Spirit.

    What then matters is subsequently being born of the Spirit. ‘Reborn’ is incorrect and very misleading if it implies that water is an agent of rebirth.

    On the contrary, your statement simply shows a lack of faith in Christ. It is akin to Namaan who denied that God could cure him by the action of washing seven times in the waters of the Jordan. We believe that God can cause our new birth through water.

    This antithesis between earth and heaven is continued in v6 with flesh v spirit.
    The first line of 1257 is clearly wrong because Jesus Himself accepted the thief on the cross into His kingdom unbaptised.

    1. Scripture does not say that the Good Thief was not baptized.
    2. Scripture says that everyone in Judea was baptized by St. John.
    Matthew 3:5-7
    King James Version (KJV)
    5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

    3. Jesus and His disciples also baptized many.
    John 3:22-24
    King James Version (KJV)
    22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

    4. In addition, the Catholic Doctrine says that one may be baptized by blood. The Good Thief definitely meets this criteria since he was crucified alongside Jesus.
    5. Catholic Doctrine also says that one must suffer with Christ to be saved. The Good Thief meets this criteria.
    And finally, Catholic Doctrine says that one is saved if God says that one is saved. Jesus is God and Jesus saved the Good Thief, whether he was baptized or not.

    Fortunately the last sentence of 1257 gainsays the first by removing it as an essential step.
    1257 also states “The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism…” Jesus mentions only belief in John 5 v 24.
    Yes, water baptism is important but I am not even sure that the Great Commission must of necessity mean water baptism as opposed to baptising in/into/with the Spirit

    God has set out a normal means of salvation. By the Church. If anyone strikes out on their own to be saved according to their own ideas, they are on their own. But has been very clear that He saves the obedient:

    Hebrews 5:9
    And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

    I hope you will retain any earlier appreciation that creeds and catechisms are fallible.

    Perhaps. But Catholic Doctrine is infallible because the Church is the Pillar of Truth (1 Tim 3:15).

    This came home to me forcibly when I saw that Catholic Teaching had massaged and thereby set out 10 different Commandments from the ones listed in Exodus (and Deuteronomy)

    They are the exact same Commandments. Protestants have changed some things but the Catholic order is the best.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  142. De Maria

    TEN COMMANDMENTS

    The 2nd commandment as given on the tablets of stone to Moses is omitted in Catholic Teaching. (I have a good idea why)

    To make up the number, the 10th commandment is split into two

    (I will endeavor to address your other points too)

  143. De Maria

    1. Yes, water is an apt symbol of birth, but that does not mean that WATER BAPTISM actually brings about the new birth of a person, as you write. I know this is why Spanish conquistadors used to spray large groups of captured slaves with water hoses but these things don’t work ‘ex opera operato’. Faith, not a water hose, is the vehicle of grace.

    2. I know of no scripture that remotely implies that the good thief was baptised into saving faith by the shedding of his BLOOD. It is Jesus’ blood that matters, and it is effective for those who, by grace, have faith.

    3. God’s means of salvation is by faith in His Son, not by membership of the Roman Church. There is no need for the mediating role of the Roman church – the bible states our MEDIATOR is Jesus. That was made clear when the temple veil was torn.

    4. The ‘church’ in its proper sense is the COMMUNION of the saints (ie of believers), its composition invisible to all but God. As Paul writes, ‘Not all (visible) Israel is Israel’. Not all members of the Roman church are necessarily part of Jesus’ bride, and Jesus’ bride includes true believers who are not in the Roman church (otherwise why does the Pope not try to convert the Archbishop of Canterbury?)

    5. I can understand the psychological reassurance provided by an organised body like the Roman church but to go one step further and insist that church sacramental membership is a guaranteed way (if not the only way) to salvation is unwise

  144. RICHARD UK May 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm
    De Maria
    TEN COMMANDMENTS
    The 2nd commandment as given on the tablets of stone to Moses is omitted in Catholic Teaching. (I have a good idea why)
    To make up the number, the 10th commandment is split into two

    That is done because we don’t see women as property. You might want to read about the Ten Commandments. It is very interesting why they are enumerated as they are.

  145. RICHARD UK May 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm
    De Maria
    1. Yes, water is an apt symbol of birth, but that does not mean that WATER BAPTISM actually brings about the new birth of a person, as you write.

    Scripture says that it does. Baptism entails water and in Baptism one’s sins are washed away:
    Acts 22:16
    And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

    I know this is why Spanish conquistadors used to spray large groups of captured slaves with water hoses but these things don’t work ‘ex opera operato’.

    1. Let’s stick to the subject.
    2. The Catholic Church does not teach such a thing. So, if the Spanish were doing such a thing, which I doubt, sounds like another anti-Catholic lie, but if they did, it was their own mistake.

    Faith, not a water hose, is the vehicle of grace.

    That is Catholic Teaching.

    2. I know of no scripture that remotely implies that the good thief was baptised into saving faith by the shedding of his BLOOD.

    1. Then you don’t know Scripture. Because suffering with Christ and dying in defense of His name is what we call “Baptism of Blood”. And the Good Thief did both upon the Cross.

    2. You read Scripture differently than do we. We see the spiritual ramifications of the Word of God. Therefore we read the Scripture as the Scripture teaches it should be read:
    2 Corinthians 3:6
    Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

    It is Jesus’ blood that matters,

    That is why we consume His Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

    and it is effective for those who, by grace, have faith.

    And the Thief on the Cross expressed his faith when he defended Jesus against the blasphemous statements of the other thief. In so doing, the Good Thief was baptized of blood, because he died upon the Cross with Jesus:
    1 Peter 4:1
    Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

    Could anyone imitate Christ more perfectly than the Thief who died with arms spread upon the cross side by side with Jesus?
    Romans 8:17
    And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    3. God’s means of salvation is by faith in His Son, not by membership of the Roman Church.

    Those who have faith in Jesus Christ become members of the Catholic Church:
    Acts 2:47
    Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    There is no need for the mediating role of the Roman church – the bible states our MEDIATOR is Jesus. That was made clear when the temple veil was torn.

    Whether there is a need or not, the Word of God says that those who are to be saved are added to the Church. Read it again, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

    4. The ‘church’ in its proper sense is the COMMUNION of the saints (ie of believers),

    That is one sense of the word, “church”. But it is not the only sense.

    its composition invisible to all but God.

    1. That is why God knows who is saved, but you don’t.
    2. However, the hierarchy of the Church is visible. That is why we can take our brothers to the Church for infallible decisions about the faith. St. Athanasius and St. Augustine did so, several times, when combatting heresies. And it still goes on today. It is the visible Church which judges infallibly in these cases. And that is in accord with Scripture:
    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.

    As Paul writes, ‘Not all (visible) Israel is Israel’.

    Precisely. Therefore, not all Christians are Christian. Those Protestants who claim for themselves salvation are fooling themselves. God alone knows who will be saved.

    Not all members of the Roman church are necessarily part of Jesus’ bride, and Jesus’ bride includes true believers who are not in the Roman church (otherwise why does the Pope not try to convert the Archbishop of Canterbury?)

    You’re absolutely right. But you are merely digging a hole for yourself. Because you are proving Protestant doctrine false and at the same time proving Catholic Doctrine true.

    1. You have proven that Protestants can’t know who is saved.
    2. I have shown from Scripture that there are visible elements of the Church, the leadership, to whom we take our brethren who err in judgment.
    3. You have shown that the Catholic Church teaches that salvation is judged by God. And that most heretical baptisms are still valid.

    5. I can understand the psychological reassurance provided by an organised body like the Roman church but to go one step further and insist that church sacramental membership is a guaranteed way (if not the only way) to salvation is unwise

    1. The Church does not teach that the Sacraments guarantee one’s salvation.
    2. Salvation is guaranteed only to the righteous.
    3. And God alone knows who is righteous.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  146. De Maria,

    You are right that Romanism, at the end of the day teaches that the sacraments can’t guarantee one’s salvation. If I can approach the Eucharist thousands of time in my life and die in a state of mortal sin, then I lose.

  147. ROBERT May 10, 2013 at 6:33 am
    De Maria,
    You are right that Romanism, at the end of the day teaches that the sacraments can’t guarantee one’s salvation. If I can approach the Eucharist thousands of time in my life and die in a state of mortal sin, then I lose.

    That is correct, Robert. The Sacraments are fountains of grace which help us to withstand temptation and achieve righteousness. But God does not give away salvation without suffering and trials:
    1 Peter 1:7
    That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

    Romans 8:17
    And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    1 Peter 2:21
    For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

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