The Gospel as Mercy’s Triumph Over Judgment

Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Featured, Gospel, Holy Spirit, James, Justification, Law, Love, Paradigms, Romans, Sanctification | 118 comments

As I have been arguing, once one realizes that the gospel paradigm he holds is one that would never give rise to the teachings of the New Testament concerning issues such as justification, works, and final salvation on the day of judgment, the question that he must ask is, “If someone holding my existing paradigm wouldn’t have said these things in this way, what kind of paradigm would result in teachings like these?” In my last post in this series, therefore, I switched gears from discussing unlikelihood of a proto-Protestant paradigm giving birth to the NT data to seeking to determine what kind of paradigm would have.

My thesis is that the Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor that the New Covenant bestows is what fulfills the law and graciously results in our gaining eternal life, and this basic supposition is what gave rise to the inspired words that the NT authors wrote.

We saw Jesus answer the scribe’s question about the greatest commandment by highlighting the dual command of love, and when the scribe recognized the superiority of love to all the sacrifices of the Mosaic law, Jesus told him that he “is not far from the kingdom of God.” We saw next that Paul carried this idea further by insisting that when it comes to justification, it is not circumcision that matters, but “faith working through love.” He then cited the command to love one’s neighbor and echoed Jesus’ assessment that this is what fulfills “the whole law.” This love can only be exhibited as a “fruit of the Spirit,” and that if we “sow to the Spirit” we will “reap eternal life.” As expected, Paul both follows and develops the progression that Jesus taught.

What about the other NT writers? We would expect that if this pattern is indeed given by Christ, it would be found throughout the writings of the apostles. Consider the words of James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. . . . But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (1:22, 25).

James here is clearly echoing Paul’s words in Romans. There Paul says that it is not the “hearers” but the “doers” of the law who will be justified (2:13), and that it was the “law of the Spirit” that had set him free from the “law of sin” (8:2). James continues:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. . . . So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (2:8, 12-13).

Not surprisingly, we see the exact same pattern here that we discovered previously in Jesus and Paul. All three cite the command to love our neighbor, all three situate the command in a New Covenant context, and all three allude to an eternal reward for doing so (“You are not far from the kingdom”; “You will reap eternal life”; “Mercy triumphs over judgment”).

Therefore if Jesus, Paul, and James were operating with an understanding of the gospel according to which the law’s demand for love of God and neighbor is actually fulfilled through the New Covenant gift of the Spirit resulting in eternal life for those who exhibit this divine love, then the things they taught are exactly what we would have expected of them given that basic gospel paradigm.

118 Comments

  1. Interesting post Jason. I know it’s not the primary focus of your post, but I find it interesting that you cite Romans 2:13 since I was just listening to Dr. James White in discussion with N.T. Wright on the New Testament doctrine of justification, imputation, and the like. I realize that Reformed Christians have many standard ways of dealing with Romans 2, but N.T. Wright apparently challenges their traditional views on that text and many other popular passages concerning justification. Are you at all aware of Wright’s work? I know he is not a Catholic, but I am curious of whether his analysis is in line with certain Catholic emphases.

    Also, regarding this post, I have heard Reformed Christians speak to the fact that James is writing to and addressing Christians. Thus, much of his letter contains exhortation as to how Christians ought to conduct themselves as to avoid hypocrisy and advance the Kingdom of God.

  2. JohnD,

    I can’t speak for Jason, but I will note that many have said that N.T. Wright’s work is compatible in at least some ways with Roman doctrine. In fact, I don’t think it is any accident that Jason became Roman Catholic after a period in which he was prosecuting Federal Visionism in the PCA. Federal Visionists have a high regard for Wright, and so his prosecution would have forced him to read much of the New Perspective. I would say he did so without really being prepared for it, but I don’t mean that in a cruel way.

    What is ironic about all this is that Wright doesn’t think traditional Roman Catholicism or Protestantism actually get Paul right, and he hasn’t become a Roman Catholic himself. Other major NPP proponents such as Dunn and Sanders are likewise not Roman Catholic. So, regardless of what people say about where the NPP leads, it is very strange that its major defenders don’t think it means that Rome is correct.

    Interestingly, Wright has even said that if New Testament scholarship been influenced more by Calvin and the Reformed tradition than Luther and certain aspects of his position, there would have been no need for the NPP in the first place.

  3. A confusion of law and gospel…yet again.

    The law (what we should, ought, or must be doing)…can never change a heart. Only the gospel of grace and mercy can do that.

    Outside of that grace and mercy…we don’t stand a chance by what ‘we do’.

  4. John,

    Interesting post Jason. I know it’s not the primary focus of your post, but I find it interesting that you cite Romans 2:13 since I was just listening to Dr. James White in discussion with N.T. Wright on the New Testament doctrine of justification, imputation, and the like. I realize that Reformed Christians have many standard ways of dealing with Romans 2, but N.T. Wright apparently challenges their traditional views on that text and many other popular passages concerning justification. Are you at all aware of Wright’s work? I know he is not a Catholic, but I am curious of whether his analysis is in line with certain Catholic emphases.

    Yes, I have read a fair bit of Wright. I vehemently opposed his stuff on Paul while I was Reformed, and it wasn’t until I had begun to investigate Catholicism that I re-read him and found him to make a lot of sense, especially on the early chapters of Romans.

    Also, regarding this post, I have heard Reformed Christians speak to the fact that James is writing to and addressing Christians. Thus, much of his letter contains exhortation as to how Christians ought to conduct themselves as to avoid hypocrisy and advance the Kingdom of God.

    I have written a few posts on James. In short, I think that he is describing what Catholics understand as the ongoing dynamic of justification (since he says that Abraham is justified in Gen. 22 despite having been justified already once (or perhaps more than once) before).

  5. Give this one a whirl:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/turning-the-church-into-a-christian-boot-camp.mp3

    He mentions Roman Catholicism in this one…but it applies equally as well to Baptist/non-denom/Calvinst/Lutheran…and other traditions.

  6. “My thesis is that the Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor that the New Covenant bestows is what fulfills the law and graciously results in our gaining eternal life, and this basic supposition is what gave rise to the inspired words that the NT authors wrote.”

    I’m curious about something, Jason. Given the thesis you propose above, how were Old Testament saints to gain eternal life? If you’ve already addressed this question in another post, please direct me there. Thanks.

  7. Ken,

    I think a Catholic would answer this similarly to how a Reformed person would. OT saints gained eternal life by faith and by virtue of their sacramental participation in the mysteries of the coming Messiah. But of course, none of them truly “gained eternal life” until after the resurrection.

  8. Jason,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. And thanks as well for cleaning up my previous posts. 🙂 Assuming I’m understanding you correctly, allow me to ask you this follow-up: When it was all said and done, were OT saints not required to perform Spirit-wrought acts of obedience to the Law in order to be finally justified? I’m speaking of obedience to the Law in terms of love and purity, not in terms of ceremonial obedience.

  9. Ken,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. And thanks as well for cleaning up my previous posts. Assuming I’m understanding you correctly, allow me to ask you this follow-up: When it was all said and done, were OT saints not required to perform Spirit-wrought acts of obedience to the Law in order to be finally justified? I’m speaking of obedience to the Law in terms of love and purity, not in terms of ceremonial obedience.

    There was a sense in which OT saints experienced the work of the Spirit, else they couldn’t have pleased God at all (but we know that they did). But at the same time we must remember that the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost brought about such a spiritual economy that compared to it John could say of the pre-Pentecost period, “The Spirit was not yet given, because Christ was not yet glorified.”

    We must also remember that whatever Spirit-wrought works OT saints did, they did not from the law, but through faith in the coming Messiah. So two Israelites could be in line to offer a sacrifice in the temple, and one is trusting it that, while the other is looking beyond it to the true sacrifice to come.

    So yes, love of God and neighbor was always required, but the OT saints who exhibited it did so in spite of, and not because of, their covenantal context.

  10. Deuteronomy 30:6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

    Moses must have plagiarized Paul’s lesson of Romans 2:29.

  11. And yet the New Testament says that the old covenant saints were not justified by the works of the law that they did by the Spirit…

  12. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:

    We must also remember that whatever Spirit-wrought works OT saints did, they did not from the law, but through faith in the coming Messiah. So two Israelites could be in line to offer a sacrifice in the temple, and one is trusting it that, while the other is looking beyond it to the true sacrifice to come.

    Word.

    The way that I like to put it is that non-Catholic religions (whether Pre or Post Christic*) may be paths to salvation but not paths of salvation. Only in the Catholic Religion, due preeminently to the incorporative power of Incarno-Sacramentalism, is the path and the destination one and the same.

    *Note: OT Jewish covenant has a caveat, inasmuch as it was the only path with a Post-Edenic, formal, public divine-approbation. But this caveat is of secondary importance, since there was no more inherent power in the OT covenant than there was in paganism.

  13. This is a continuation of my response to Chris from last week’s discussion. My contention is that love is a work of the law (Lev. 19:17–18) and to invest justifying significance in it is to deny the statement “by works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” I’m posting it here because this is where the discussion is happening now, and it is pertinent to this current post by Jason.

    This is why love is seen throughout the NT as the greatest theological virtue and what fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Again, if we’re going to say that love is a part of the Law, we must accept that faith is too (which I believe SS previously mentioned). Faithfulness time and time again is exhorted and taught and commanded by the Mosaic Law. If Abraham and David and other believers were justified by Faith, then we cannot say that they were justified by faith in the context of “being a work of the Law”. In the same way, love is not in the context of “being a work of the Law”, since it comes from the same place as faith.

    I’m glad you brought this up. It is something I have considered in great detail off and on for at least the past 8 years or so. Here are some answers:

    1. It is curious that the Law does not command us to have faith or command us to trust in the Lord. The law speaks of “committing a breach of faith” (Lev. 5:15). It speaks of “faithfully obeying” (Deut. 28:1). But I don’t see a commandment to have faith or to trust God. (Perhaps I have missed it, and if so, I’d be happy to be pointed to it.) Faith seems to be more something that is assumed than commanded.

    On the other hand, we are actually given commands to love. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18); “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” (Deut. 6:5). It’s striking that love is a command but faith is not, it hints that there is something about faith that does not make it a work of the law or the doing of a commandment.

    Now, one might say that the command to have faith is at least implicit in the command for Israel to circumcise their hearts (Deut. 10:12–22). But on whether that makes faith a work of the law in the same way that love is, see below. Furthermore, this command is hardly amenable to Roman synergism, as by the end of the book of Deuteronomy, it is clear that sinners cannot do this circumcision but instead God must do it (Deut. 30:1–10). Of course, Rome makes a place for this in baptism, but its failure to affirm perseverance makes its doctrine of heart circumcision flawed at best. In Deuteronomy 30, all those whose hearts are circumcised keep/fulfill the law (v. 6). In fact, there is no hint that such will fail to do so, hence they persevere. They will obey God. God will delight in the people when they serve Him, not if they serve Him (vv. 8, 10). In other words, there is no such thing as a person whose heart is circumcised who does not obey the Lord. Rome gives us people who have circumcised hearts but then disobey God unto damnation or that throw out their fleshly hearts and put the heart of stone back in.

    2. Paul opposes faith and law in a way that he does not oppose law and love. See Galatians 3:10–14; Romans 4; Phil. 3:9 for said opposition between law and faith. On the other hand, love is the fulfillment of the law: Rom. 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to limit fulfillment to “doing the law,” it certainly includes practicing what the law demands. In some way, there is a greater continuity between law and love than between law and faith. In fact, it is plain from Paul that law is in some way opposed to faith, at least the kind of faith he describes.

    3. When Paul uses faith, he is not necessarily talking about faithfulness in the way that the law does when it enjoins faithfulness. I think that should be obvious from the way he opposes faith and law but does not oppose love and law.

    I understand that the Hebrew word for faith often means faithfulness, but Paul is not using it that way, at least in Galatians 3 or Romans 4, and that is clear in how he opposes believing and doing. I realize that for first century Judaism this may seem radical, even impossible. But if most century Jews did not believe in Jesus, and if Jesus is the Messiah, then we have to admit that most first century Jews got a lot of things wrong, including the Old Testament view of law and faith. After all, Jesus said that if they really believed Moses—if they really understood and accepted the full import of Torah—they would have believed in him (John 5:46).

    Paul uses the term law in different ways. It can mean the five books of Moses. It can mean other things as well. But when he is talking about justification, he typically uses it to refer to the commandments revealed to Moses. And as Stephen Westerholm and many others have demonstrated, in such a context Paul refers to the commandments apart from the sacrificial system.

    We can see this in Galatians 3:10–14. Paul says all those who rely on the works of the law are cursed. This is a strange thing for him to say, for did not the Jews have sacrifices to atone for the curse or sin that was the transgression of the Mosaic law? Well, no, because Paul was convinced that the OT sacrifices had no power in themselves to deal with sin. Jesus is the true sacrifice for propitiation and expiation. God was just passing over sins before then (Rom. 3:25; see also Hebrews 9–10).

    But the curse aspect is not simply because the OT sacrifices were ineffectual. And the curse is not simply because the people were doing old covenant things. Paul says cursed are those who do not do all things written in the Book of the Law (Gal. 3:10). The Book of the Law is Deuteronomy, which is essentially a repetition of all the commandments given earlier.

    The problem with circumcision was not simply that it was the mark of an older covenant. The problem is what the Judaizers were investing in it. The Judaizers did not think they were returning to the old covenant by imposing circumcision, they thought they were making Gentiles truly acceptable to God in the new covenant. They thought something more had to be done to make us right before God and a part of His family. That is the Roman doctrine of justification.

    Paul can say elsewhere that circumcision and uncircumcision are indifferent matters (1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6). Would he have a problem with Gentiles getting circumcised today, which is common throughout America? Even Jason has said no. The reason is that the purpose for it today is not to make one right with God but for hygiene. The meaning invested in it is completely different. Once we start investing commandments with the significance that we can be finally justified only by doing them, however, we have to do them all perfectly. Those who do the works of the law in such a way are obligated to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3). Love goes beyond the written code, but it is still a work of the law. Investing one’s final justification in it, no matter how wonderful love is, is another gospel according to Galatians 1.

    4. In fact, when Paul does appeal to Abraham as an illustration of faith, it’s not faithfulness in the sense of doing some kind of work that he highlights. He goes to Gen. 15:6, where the only thing that Abraham does is believe.

  14. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    And yet the New Testament says that the old covenant saints were not justified by the works of the law that they did by the Spirit…

    I think that the point being currently unpacked is that, in the Catholic view, the OT law is just as inherently impotent whether it’s “perfectly kept by a perfect keeper” or not.

    And so, there is no such animal as a work of the OT law done by the Spirit. Any works of OT saints that proleptically participated in Christ were, by definition, not inherently impotent OT works.

  15. The keeping of the law is fine. (whether fallen humanity can do it purely for selfless reasons is in question)

    Nevertheless, keeping the law is just that.

    It certainly is NOT the gospel.

  16. But when Paul looks to what laws should guide the new covenant believer he looks to the old covenant law. Love your neighbor as yourself was not a new thing. Sure, given the example of Christ, we know more about what true love looks like today, but that does not make it less than the law.

    And again, Paul says the curse is on those who do not do ALL the works of the law, not those who do them not by the Spirit or those who do the works of some other law by the Spirit.

    The new covenant moral law is essentially the same as the old covenant moral law. If the latter, done by the Spirit a la Abraham or David cannot justify, the former cannot either.

  17. I understand that the Hebrew word for faith often means faithfulness, but Paul is not using it that way, at least in Galatians 3 or Romans 4, and that is clear in how he opposes believing and doing.

    Mere assertions again. Your arguments have been refuted long ago Robert, and repeating them will not make them true.

    In Galatians and Romans Paul is dealing with the Essene-like beliefs of his opponents. That is why he speaks the way he does in Gal 3, for example. Mosaic law keeping could not bring the favor of God now that Christ had come and had transcended/fulfilled the Law, showing us the true intepretation of the Law. And it does not follow at all that faith for Paul did not entail faithfulness. This is typical western reductionism which gives no regard at all to the jewish roots of the faith. Gal 2:20

    “20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”

    This is a continual faithfulness to the Son of God, effected by faith in the Son of God. If you have faith in the Son of God and you are a gentile, you do not need circumcision to be justified. However, if you have faith in Christ, you do need to obey His commands (cf. Matt 28:20) and build on the rock, that your house may stand.

    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. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

    In reformed theology, this man does not exist, and Christ is a liar, because no one can put His words into practice and be wise, as a result.

  18. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    And again, Paul says the curse is on those who do not do ALL the works of the law, not those who do them not by the Spirit or those who do the works of some other law by the Spirit.

    As I said above, the Catholic position is that works of the Spirit are, by definition, not inherently impotent works of the OT law (regardless of whether we are talking “ALL the works” or not).

    So, as long as we’re talking about things that Paul did not say, he also didn’t say “ALL of the works of ALL of the laws”. The possibility there may have been “other laws” to which Paul was not referencing in your chosen script seems to be borne out by Jason’s scriptural references (in this very blog entry!) to “the perfect law”, “the law of liberty” and “the royal law”.

  19. What makes a work of the law a work of the law is that it is a work that is prescribed solely from the law of Moses, and as such, is not accompanied by the power of the Spirit to keep it. The NC command to love God and neighbor by definition does not fit this criterion, and therefore it is wrong to say that when the NC commands that we love God and neighbor it is reissuing a work of the law. The very suggestion is preposterous, actually.

    Robert, I already explained this to you, but the key is John’s statement in his first epistle, where he issues this command and calls it both “a new command” as well as “a command you have had from the beginning.” What makes it new is that “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already beginning to shine.”

    It’s the eschatological and covenantal context from which the command springs, and not the substance of the command itself, that makes it different, and makes it new.

  20. Law is law, is law, is law.

    Any demand that our existence places upon us to fulfill our humanity, is an expression of God’s Law.

    This 1o Commandments only stuff, or Mosiac Law only…is an entry level understanding of the law.

  21. SS,

    No mere assertion has been made, as I have made a rather substantial point as to how Paul opposes believing and doing in the matter of justification. Virtually none of those thoughts are original to me, but they come from Westerholm, Moo, and many others.

    You can state that Galatians is a Halakhic letter all you want. You can say that the Galatians have Essenic beliefs all you want. You haven’t substantiated either point except to rely on parallelomania. Obviously, you think you have substantiated your point. Obviously, I think I have substantiated mine. Those who have taken the time to read all the comments on the threads will be the best judge of who has refuted who.

    As far as the continual quoting of that last statement on the Sermon on the Mount, let me correct you as far as Reformed Theology goes. No Reformed standard bearer—Calvin, the Westminster Divines, etc.—would say that we cannot put Christ’s words into practice and thereby become wise. None of them would say that we must obey Christ in order to stand. What they would say is that no one can do so perfectly and so, therefore, no one can merit justification. What they would say is that those who have been justified freely by grace inevitably persevere to the end in putting Christ’s words into practice. But even then, God does not weigh our works in order to determine whether we are deserving of heaven. Only in Christ can we be citizens in kingdom, not in Christ plus our works of obedience.

  22. Robert: “I have made a rather substantial point as to how Paul opposes believing and doing in the matter of justification.”

    Paul: “The doers of the law will be justified.”

  23. Jason and Wosbald,

    Where does Scripture say that a work of the law means that it is one prescribed solely in the law of Moses?

    No doubt the covenantal context is important, but again, you have admitted that insofar as the old covenant believer pleased God, he did so by the Spirit. But by the Spirit, He followed the Mosaic law, which is substantially the same as the law of Christ (albeit, the Mosaic law is a somewhat truncated version of the law of Christ). That was the only law the old covenant believer had. That was the only way an evaluation of righteousness or unrighteousness could have been made. It was the only way Paul or Jesus could evaluate someone as righteous our unrighteous.

    You essentially want to say that one could not be justified by the law of Moses but one can be justified by the law of Christ when walking by the Spirit. But if the law of Moses, at least in its moral aspects, is coterminous with the law of Christ, and if the OT saints who followed it did so by the Spirit, then what Paul says about Abraham and David not being justified by their doing of the law applies equally to us. By the Spirit, we follow the same law that Abraham and David did, although we have a much fuller understanding of it and a richer experience of the Spirit than they did.

    There has been a change with the inauguration of the new covenant, but the substance and essence of law, salvation, and the Spirit is the same. We just get “more” of it living on this side of the cross. You can deny that if you want to, but the only way to do that is to affirm that the old covenant saints had a different path of salvation. And you’ve already denied that!

    The Old Adam is essentially right—your view of the law is too small, too reductionistic. But it is consistent with the idea that sin really hasn’t rendered us dead and consistent with the idea that grace is more of a shot of adrenaline than resurrection power.

  24. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman:

    Robert: “I have made a rather substantial point as to how Paul opposes believing and doing in the matter of justification.”
    .
    Paul: “The doers of the law will be justified.”

    That was easy.™

  25. Robert,

    I don’t know how much simpler I can make it (and my guess is if I were just Doug Moo saying what I am saying you wouldn’t be fighting it as much): God has done in Christ what the law of Moses could not, so that now the righteous requirement of the law (love) is fulfilled in us who walk after the Spirit.

    That’s all I’m claiming.

    Both the logical and biblically explicit result of this is that we can now sow to the Spirit and reap everlasting life, or as James puts it in the text we’re supposed to be talking about, we can “so act as to be judged under the law of liberty,” the royal law of Christ.

    Please tell us all what you think that means.

  26. Jason,

    Paul: “The law is not of faith.” Jesus: “You shall be perfect as God is perfect.”

    Yes, the doers of the law will be justified. But does Paul believe that anyone but Jesus can do the law and secure their final justification? I realize that your answer to that question is “yes.” But your case for that is certainly not airtight, and it is severely lacking, despite the number of words that you wrote. Until you actually deal with the major Reformed commentators on this point, you aren’t really answering anything but only making a case that will convince those who haven’t taken the time to seriously consider the text.

    Murray et al say that Paul believes no one can do the law enough for justification. Schreiner says Paul is talking about Christians in at least part of Romans 2 but he says that does not deny imputation. Moo says Paul has an eye toward Christians in Romans 2, but he still substantially agrees with a more traditional Reformed reading. Until you, a former Reformed pastor who was supposed to have affirmed and loved the doctrines of grace, deal with such individuals, you are not handling the text responsibly.

  27. None of them would say that we must obey Christ in order to stand. What they would say is that no one can do so perfectly and so, therefore, no one can merit justification.

    And they are sorely mistaken:

    Heb 5:10

    “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him

    Your comments above show your ignorance of the jewish roots of the text: the parable of the wise/foolish builder is eschatological in nature and deals with the judgment . If the house stands at the eschaton, it is impossible to conclude anything but the fact that ultimate justification is in view here, this because Christ makes an explicit causal connection between the praxis of his commands (as in the entirety of the Sermon of the Mount) and standing at the end

    “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. “

  28. Robert, give me an argument and refutation of my case on Rom. 2. You’ve had months to do it, but you instead conveniently act as though your tortured interpretation is the only one on the table.

  29. Yes, the doers of the law will be justified. But does Paul believe that anyone but Jesus can do the law and secure their final justification?

    Schreiner says Paul is talking about Christians in at least part of Romans 2 but he says that does not deny imputation.

    If Christians are in view in Romans 2, then do you concede that the doers of the law are justified, period?

  30. Jason,

    Your reading of Romans 2 falls largely flat when you get to Romans 3 because Paul says no one does the law. Now I realize that you wrote a whole post on Romans 3 saying that the traditional reading of this text is wrong in imputing a universal inability to keep the law because the Psalms Paul cites refer originally to other wicked Israelites. But while that may sound plausible at first, I think you are wrong. First, Paul introduces those quotes by reminding us of the charge that Jew and Gentile are under sin. And, second, I believe Paul is using what Moo and Cranfield call a “lesser to the greater argument.” The Psalms can apply equally well to Gentiles because, after all, if wicked Jews are under sin, how much more are Gentiles who had no hope because they are apart from the covenant promises (Eph. 2:12) universally guilty and unable to keep the law. As the New Testament frequently does, Paul takes a text and broadens its application in a way that is consistent with but not tied inseparably from its original context. If he does not do that or does not have the right to do that, you might as well throw nearly every NT citation of the Old out.

    All people are included in the scope of Paul’s argument, although he makes particular reference to the Jew in Romans 3:19–20 because it had to be proven that they were no better off. So, despite everything you wrote in that post, you have by no means demonstrated that Paul believes anyone can do the law unto their justification.

    You also unnecessarily limit works of the law in Romans 3 to the works that distinguish Jew from Gentile. But if Westerholm, Moo, et al cannot convince you of that, I certainly won’t be able to. It’s there arguments that you need to refute, not mine because I am in substantial agreement with them and find much of their work cogent. But the fact that you rarely mention them, and certainly do not interact with their substantive scholarship in any sustained way, again supports my contention that you are not handling the text responsibly.

  31. SS,

    The doers of the law will be justified. The question is what counts as doing the law. That is where we differ. For you, “good enough” is all that is required. For me, it is perfection, as it is for Paul: “cursed are those who do not do all that the law says.”

  32. The doers of the law will be justified. The question is what counts as doing the law. That is where we differ. For you, “good enough” is all that is required. For me, it is perfection, as it is for Paul: “cursed are those who do not do all that the law says.”

    Rom 2:14-15

    14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law , they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts , their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

    Rom 2:26

    ” 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements , will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.”

    Are those who are not circumcised and keep the law’s requirements under the law’s curse?

  33. Hello Robert,
    You wrote:

    “The Judaizers did not think they were returning to the old covenant by imposing circumcision, they thought they were making Gentiles truly acceptable to God in the new covenant. They thought something more had to be done to make us right before God and a part of His family. That is the Roman doctrine of justification.”

    That is not the Roman doctrine of justification, at least in the sense I think you meant to imply. I think you are conflating initial justification with subsequent increase in justification (and yes, I know you would say Catholics confuse this with sanctification but let me continue for a moment). The Judaizers were saying that in order to become a true Christian, you had to become a Jew, including all of the cultural marks of identity, namely following the Mosaic Law. This is what all of the discussions about Law have to do with, and it’s completely anachronistic to read back into the NT concerns about legalism in general versus faith. I know as a former (Reformed) Protestant, I was trained (directly or simply by cultural osmosis) to view every reference to law or justification or “how one is saved” as a strict contrast between some idea of “works righteousness” as opposed to “faith,” but I believe now that that approach is the wrong one because it forces the text to address problems it wasn’t actually addressing: it’s not legalistic “I have to have faith in Christ plus do x,yz to be saved…vs…just have faith”; rather it’s “do you have to become a Jew or not.” At least one time, just try reading the text with that assumption and see what it does for you.

    Paul is not offering up obedience to the Law as some alternate means of being saved so long as you never slip up even once. He’s saying if you want to adopt Jewish identity by being circumcised, you have to go all the way and follow *all* the law. If the law was our schoolmaster, we can’t now go back and just slip in and out of class as we please. If you’ve graduated to something better (the new covenant), you shouldn’t be going back to school at all, but if you *do*, then you have to subject yourself to all the school’s rules again just like you were in school because you had to be. Incidentally, James as well isn’t talking about the law as some alternate means of salvation so long as it’s followed completely. He’s also saying you can’t pick and choose: you can’t pat yourself on the back for not murdering and at the same time show favoritism to the rich.

    Our initial justification comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. There is no “Jesus plus x,y,z.” But justification is being made righteous and that righteousness can be perfected, not in the sense of it being imperfect (or insufficient) to begin with but rather in the sense of its maturing in us. Every graduate from medical school (even the bottom of the class) is a doctor..period. But as doctors practice their art, it can truly be said that they become “more” a doctor with time, maturing in and perfecting what inherent training, skill, knowledge they have (“increasing in justification”). I’m sure someone can come up with a better analogy.

    The sanctifying grace we receive at initial justification fulfills the law since it gives us the ability to act in perfect love. Carrying out actions in perfect love (which may include elements of the Law or may go far beyond it) increases and deepens our justification.

    Sorry for the long post…with limited time, I’m trying to cover all the bases I can.
    Peace,
    Jeff

  34. SS,

    Circumcised or uncircumcised, all those who rely on the works of the law and do not keep it perfectly are under God’s curse:

    Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”[d] 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[e] through faith.

  35. Robert,

    What are the main points of Moo’s interpretation of Romans 2?

    Also, have you examined N.T. Wright’s interpretations of Romans? He argues that the classic texts used to demonstrate the imputation of the righteousness of Christ do not in fact say what many people have since he reformation taken them to mean.

  36. Robert,

    That is precisely the point of Rom 2:26-27 and Rom 2:14-15 quoted earlier:

    Paul describes those who are not circumcised (hence not under the yoke of the Mosaic Law) and yet who keep the Law’s requirements. They obey the Law. ‘They’ are gentile believers in Christ who fulfill Christ’s Law by nature of being in the New Covenant.

    ” 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements , will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.”

  37. Robert,

    You constantly accuse me of fallacy when I, in your words, skip to the end of Paul’s arguments rather than let him build his case from the beginning. And yet this is exactly what you are doing with Romans: you are beginning in ch. 3 and then arguing backwards to ch. 2, insisting that Paul can’t be saying that there are Gentiles lawkeepers since he says later that none are righteous.

    But this just assumes what you are trying to prove. If Paul is saying what I say he is saying in ch. 2, then your interpretation of ch. 3 must be incorrect.

    So please, feel free to resurrect the Rom. 2:13 thread and answer my argument. Simply appealing to what you think he means in ch. 3 to unlock ch. 2 won’t cut it.

  38. @THE OLD ADAM

    Excellent post brother! (per: podcast you linked to)

    Loved the message about dragging people from vice to grace, rather than vice to virtue. A nice defence of the difference between the Two Kingdoms, implicitly, as well.

    “Law cannot make anyone virtuous.” But the Holy Gospel can and does.

    Amen my Lutheran brother!

    I always love seeing Lutheran gentlemen Old Adam Lives defending law/gospel on the regular. Can you dig it? Though a humble Old School Negro Presbyterian, I’m always a-men-ing when Lutherans shout from the hills about law/gospel.

  39. David,

    God bless you, my friend.

    Just passing along what was given to me.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

  40. In the interest of steering things a bit more back on track, here are some questions that I would like to see discussed from this passage in James:

    1. If James’s “be doers of the word and not hearers only… for a doer who acts will be blessed” is parallel to Paul’s “it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified,” then why is Paul’s statement non-normative while James’s is normative?

    2. While we’re on the topic of parallels with Rom. 2, James speaks of “the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres” who “will be blessed in his doing,” while Paul speaks of those to whom “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life… [and] glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good.” Are these not parallels? If not, why not? If so, why is one normative and the other not? Did James forget to read Rom. 3?

    3. If the “royal law” or “law of liberty” is not the Mosaic law (and how can it be?) but the dual command of love (which James says it is), then what does James mean by “If you really fulfill the royal law, you are doing well”? Are there such people?

    4. Building on #3, can it be denied that for James, loving our neighbor by showing him mercy is precisely what he means by “acting as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty”? And assuming this is meant to be a welcome prospect (which is obvious), then how is this not a perfect summary of the Catholic gospel? We by the grace of the new covenant sow to the Spirit by loving our neighbor, resulting in our being found graciously worthy to receive eternal life on judgment day. This is exactly what Paul teaches in Rom. 2, and what James is teaching here.

    Please refocus your comments on these points.

  41. It’s all related, Jason.

    By the way, just curious…how are you doing with those acts of love for the neighbor?

  42. Well, I’m constantly putting up with your comments which utterly fail to offer anything resembling substance or exegesis, so I’d say I’m doing pretty awesome.

  43. You’re a good man, Jason!

    (nice one!)

  44. Old Adam, in a previous thread you asked me the same question that you asked Jason. Can you elaborate on why you ask that question?

  45. OldAdam,

    How would you respond to your own question? Here’s a hint, you constantly harrass on this site, continually refuse to meaningfully engage (unlike other protestants who have), post in a drive-by fashion with snide comments.

    I guess it’s all good no matter how much you break the royal law, after all you’re one of the elect and saved aren’t you!

  46. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    OldAdam,
    .
    How would you respond to your own question? Here’s a hint, you constantly harrass on this site, continually refuse to meaningfully engage (unlike other protestants who have), post in a drive-by fashion with snide comments.
    .
    I guess it’s all good no matter how much you break the royal law, after all you’re one of the elect and saved aren’t you!

    You need to understand the classical Protestant evangel. Natural Man has to be demoralized, defeated and broken. He has to have that “true revelation of his sin and the holiness of God”. So, to this mindset, the synergist is just an accomplice that enables Natural Man to remain in his delusion that he not “utterly opposite to all good”. Therefore, by breaking your spirit and teaching you that “everything you know is wrong”, the Protestant rhetorician believes that he is helping you. He doesn’t have to answer any questions, since his first task is to brutally divest you of your self-delusion. Everything else follows from this.

    I admit that there is a certain internal consistency to this paradigm, as long as one discounts its inconsistency, firstly, with the internal synergy of Nature (which is enough to discount, a priori,the monergistic evangel) and secondly, with the interspherical synergy of the Incarnation.

  47. Here are some comments on some of your points Jason:

    1) They are both normative. The “doers of the law will be justified” is descriptive; those who are saved are in Christ who perfectly kept the law. Thus, by being united to the one and only “doer of the law” men can be justified.

    3) Only Christ fulfilled the law in the sense of confirming it in full measure. However, Christians with faith working through love also “fulfill” the law, though not in full measure. Remember, James is writing to Christians is he not?

    4) You said, “We by the grace of the new covenant sow to the Spirit by loving our neighbor, resulting in our being found graciously worthy to receive eternal life on judgment day.” I think that’s a nice summary of the Catholic Gospel. However, is it not true under Catholic theology that the people will be found “graciously worthy” as long as they don’t die in mortal sin? I think that is where the synergy bothers some people. Man must strive to avoid mortal sin, and as long as he does that, then he receives the gift of eternal life. It just doesn’t sound as good as the Good News that union with Christ by grace through faith saves completely.

  48. +JMJ+

    JohnD wrote:

    4) You [Jason] said, “We by the grace of the new covenant sow to the Spirit by loving our neighbor, resulting in our being found graciously worthy to receive eternal life on judgment day.” I think that’s a nice summary of the Catholic Gospel. However, is it not true under Catholic theology that the people will be found “graciously worthy” as long as they don’t die in mortal sin? I think that is where the synergy bothers some people. Man must strive to avoid mortal sin, and as long as he does that, then he receives the gift of eternal life. It just doesn’t sound as good as the Good News that union with Christ by grace through faith saves completely.

    I suppose it depends upon what one means by “Good”. To the Catholic, the Good News is that it has been revealed that Man can now actually be objectively spiritually good. We can love God with God’s own Love.

    Before the Incarnation, Man knew that he should be good. He even hoped against hope that he could actually be good. However, this hope is undirected. It doesn’t find a specific object for this hope. This is the faith of the Natural Man. Man had faith that one day it would be made clear that he could be good. As much as Natural Man keeps this faith, he can anticipatorily participate in the Spirit given by Christ. This is how the OT saints and all of those outside of the visible, formal boundaries of the Church were/are saved.

    But in Christ it was finally revealed, in full daylight before the world, that the way of goodness had finally arrived. Now is the day of salvation. In Christ, Heaven and Earth are forever joined within a living Person. To the Catholic, this is Good News indeed.

  49. Chris,

    “…in a previous thread you asked me the same question that you asked Jason. Can you elaborate on why you ask that question?”

    Sure. Because those who advocate law (‘what we do’ to become right with God in some way) usually are more interested in what others do. When they are forced to really look at themselves in the face of these demands of the law…they are forced to see what really lies at the heart of man. A selfish nature that is truly unwilling to love God and the neighbor as self. That’s if they are honest with themselves. If not…the problem can be really bad. Ether pride, or despair will set in. There’s no other outcome.

    I’m not accusing anyone here of anything. Just asking the questions.

  50. John,

    1) They are both normative. The “doers of the law will be justified” is descriptive; those who are saved are in Christ who perfectly kept the law. Thus, by being united to the one and only “doer of the law” men can be justified.

    This falls far short of what the NT actually says (although it comports well with Reformed systematics).

    Paul’s appeal to the Gentiles in Rom. 2:14ff demonstrates that the “doing” of the law applies not to Christ but to the Gentiles themselves, whom Paul says “obey the precepts of the law.” This is parallel with Jesus’ teaching that on the last day it will be those who heard his sayings and did them who will be saved, and with James’s teaching that the eternally blessed man is the hearer and doer of the word. There is no way you can simply apply to Jesus alone this “doing” without ignoring the plain teaching of Scripture (from which the Reformed claim to derive their doctrine).

    3) Only Christ fulfilled the law in the sense of confirming it in full measure. However, Christians with faith working through love also “fulfill” the law, though not in full measure. Remember, James is writing to Christians is he not?

    You’re presupposing the so-called list paradigm here, as though your understanding of law-keeping were something we both share. But it’s not. Catholics don’t believe that keeping the law “in full measure” is tantamount to Jesus’ perfect obedience to the letter of the law, but that the law is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor (which Jesus rendered and then infused into us by the Spirit, thereby recreating us in his image and undoing the work of the first Adam).

    4) You said, “We by the grace of the new covenant sow to the Spirit by loving our neighbor, resulting in our being found graciously worthy to receive eternal life on judgment day.” I think that’s a nice summary of the Catholic Gospel. However, is it not true under Catholic theology that the people will be found “graciously worthy” as long as they don’t die in mortal sin? I think that is where the synergy bothers some people. Man must strive to avoid mortal sin, and as long as he does that, then he receives the gift of eternal life. It just doesn’t sound as good as the Good News that union with Christ by grace through faith saves completely.

    Your objection also applies to the NT itself, unless you can show me (1) that it nowhere tells us to strive against sin, (2) that it nowhere tells us that those who commit certain sins will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, and (3) that it teaches somewhere that monergism is true and thus that we are not active participants in the salvation process.

    You will not be able to show me any of those 3 things, which means that people being “bothered by synergism” is not really my concern.

  51. Jason, thanks for the response, here is a brief reply:

    1) I’m not applying the doing of the law ONLY to Jesus; men do the law and keep its precepts, just not perfectly or completely. I was getting at the fact that all the references of those who “endure to the end” “persevere in good works” and so forth can be read as descriptions of the elect on the Reformed view. The Reformed don’t deny that men do good works and express faith working through love. These are the spirit-wrought works of sanctification as you like to put it.

    4) Good points here. But how would you interpret Romans 8:7? It seems that the will of man needs to be objectively changed before it is able to subject itself to the will of God. By the way, Catholicism doesn’t preclude monergism to my knowledge. I believe there are Thomists that hold to it, specifically in regard to unconditional election, but I think in regard to God’s eternal divine decrees ordaining whatsoever comes to pass as well.

  52. Jason et al,

    I’ve been in meetings and unable to respond to some of you. It’s not that I’m ignoring you, for whatever that’s worth. I hope to write more later today, but I wanted to respond briefly to Jason’s last comment:

    There is no way you can simply apply to Jesus alone this “doing” without ignoring the plain teaching of Scripture (from which the Reformed claim to derive their doctrine).

    The only sense in which the doing of law applies to Jesus alone is that he alone did it completely, perfectly, in every sense of the word, at all times, in all motives, etc. etc. Which Reformed standard bearer says that Christians do not fulfill the law? Where does Roman Catholicism say that Christians are able to keep the law in the same way Jesus did? Does not the whole system of priestly absolution, mortal and venial sin, penance, etc. admit at the outset that none of us can keep the law in the same way Jesus did?

    The question, at the end of the day, is whether God actually demands a perfection of His creatures that conforms to His character — Matthew 5:48. To my mind, none of you who hold to the “gospel” Jason is describing have adequately dealt with the fact that Jesus makes God’s own perfection the standard He demands.

    You’re presupposing the so-called list paradigm here, as though your understanding of law-keeping were something we both share. But it’s not. Catholics don’t believe that keeping the law “in full measure” is tantamount to Jesus’ perfect obedience to the letter of the law, but that the law is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor (which Jesus rendered and then infused into us by the Spirit, thereby recreating us in his image and undoing the work of the first Adam).

    Here we go with the “list paradigm” again. It’s not Protestants that say you have to be justified in baptism, then visit a priest for absolution when you commit post-baptismal sins, then do acts of contrition and penance prescribed by the priest (in list form, no less — 5 Hail Marys, 6 Our Fathers, etc.), then have last rights, then spend an indeterminate amount in purgatory, etc.

    But do Roman Catholics not believe that Jesus had to fulfill the law perfectly? If He had sinned even once, could he have been the spotless lamb of God? If he had failed to love God and neighbor fully even once, would we have an atonement? You all can make all the qualifications you want, but at the end of the day, you have to say that Jesus fulfilled the law in a manner different than we do, and that such was required of him.

    As far as our recreation by God, of course that happens. But do Roman Catholics really believe Christ undid the work of Adam? If we are just put back in the original state he had, which you must affirm if mortal sin can put us out of a state of grace, how are we better off, how is the obedience of the One, namely Christ, greater in its effects than the disobedience of Adam? It doesn’t really overcome the problem because it just makes us like Adam (Rom. 5).

    As far as monergism, where does it mean we are not active participants in the salvation process? Do the Reformed not believe we are active in our sanctification, at least in some sense? Where does monergism preclude striving against sin? Where does monergism say that there are no sins that preclude us from getting into heaven?

    All monergism is saying is that God intervenes to sovereignly effect a permanent change in our disposition so that we will inevitably persevere in all that is mentioned above. It is simply preserving the fact that Jesus is a perfect Savior, that His work is sufficient to redeem all those He wants to redeem. No matter how Roman Catholicism pretties it up, Rome denies the sufficiency of Christ. He did not do enough to guarantee the salvation of anyone. Sure, he made it possible, and by happenstance there are a few people who exercise their wills the right way, but that’s largely an accident of history unless you adopt a Reformed view of predestination and God’s decrees.

    One system says Christ is sufficient to save, that he glorifies those whom he justifies. Another says he might glorify those whom he justifies or that he glorifies some of whom he justifies. The final deciding factor in one’s salvation is not the work of Christ but whether or not the individual consents to cooperate with the work of Christ. In the latter system, grace is necessary but insufficient; it’s a shot of adrenaline, not life-giving and life-sustaining power and favor. In the latter system, grace keeps you in the state of terminal illness with the cure just out of reach, and hopefully you’ll get a hold of it when you die. In the former system, grace provides the cure and inoculates you from catching the terminal illness again. But, to borrow the example of polio, you still have to learn to walk. The question is whether or not you actually will. Rome says you might if you cross off A,B, and C (list paradigm!). The Reformed say you will because you have actually been changed in a way that sticks.

    I’ll choose option A. Choose the latter and you aren’t really dead in sin before conversion. You’re on life support, and the medicine is lying next to you on the table. The ironic thing is that for all the talk of incarnation and resurrection on these boards, it is Rome that denies we have been raised with Christ and share in a resurrection like his. Christ died and was raised, never to die again and we with him (Rom. 6; Eph. 2:1–10). Rome denies that. We are raised with Christ (sorta) because we can die again.

  53. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    But do Roman Catholics not believe that Jesus had to fulfill the law perfectly? If He had sinned even once, could he have been the spotless lamb of God? If he had failed to love God and neighbor fully even once, would we have an atonement?

    Here’s precisely where we diverge. Divine Love (Charity/Agape) is not a punctuated, bounded reality as is Sin. It is not an evanescent reality with a purely worldly, quantifiable and defined existence It is not a bunch of punctuated events at which Christ “was supposed to love God and neighbor”, events which totaled up to “100% Love” and which meant that Christ loved “every time, on time, right in the bullseye”. This is a Sin’s-Eye-View of Love.

    Classical Protestantism interprets Love through the Filter of Sin instead of vice versa. Doing this, Love is distorted and appears in the image of Sin: human, limited, punctuated and definable.

    When the perfect has come, that which is in part will be done away. Only the Old Man, who sees things through the hard lesson of Sin, sees “parts”. But for the New Man “parts” are done away. Love has no parts because it is Perfect. Love is not, as the Old Man likes to think, Perfect because it has “all the parts”.

    The lesson of the NT is that we must interpret Sin through the Filter of Love. We must no longer view the world through the glasses of the Old Man, through glasses that lens Divine Things through our own creation: Sin. When one looks at Sin in the filter of Divine Love, there is nothing to see. The ‘parts’ disappear. Sin disappears.

  54. Old Adam, you said this:

    “Sure. Because those who advocate law (‘what we do’ to become right with God in some way) usually are more interested in what others do. When they are forced to really look at themselves in the face of these demands of the law…they are forced to see what really lies at the heart of man. A selfish nature that is truly unwilling to love God and the neighbor as self. That’s if they are honest with themselves. If not…the problem can be really bad. Ether pride, or despair will set in. There’s no other outcome.”

    To a certain extent I can see where you’re coming from, though I don’t think I’m advocating Law in the sense that you’re aiming for (the Mosaic Law, or “The Law that we must perfectly keep”).

    On one hand, I do have to agree, there are many times where I have been selfish and have looked at the deeds of others. There is truth in this, though I would point out that this happens to all people, whether you advocate “Law” or not. On the other hand, as a Catholic I must constantly and consistently face myself before the demands of Christ (or the Law, whatever you prefer, since the Natural Law cannot be separated from Christ or His teaching or His Cross) through what is known as an Examination of Conscience. The Church doesn’t exclude us from a continual life of repentance and faith, it pushes us towards that.

    You’re right, there can be despair or pride, both are equally possible. Yet you and I come to different conclusions with this fact of selfishness. You see that selfishness and understand it as the depravity of man, whereas I understand it to be concupiscence, which affects all men, whether you are regenerated or not. Surely, you of all people continually check your heart and realize that there are vestiges of selfishness and pride, yes? The problem with your question is ultimately that it doesn’t take into account the Christian teaching of concupiscence, but only interprets all men as those who are like the Judaizers, trying to maintain the Old Covenant which has already been closed.

  55. The Old Adam–

    Steve, right? I was just wondering where you have found productive Reformed-Lutheran dialogue on the web.

    The Brothers of John the Steadfast? Beggar’s All? Cyber Brethren? Just and Sinner? Worldview Everlasting?

    Just thought you might be able to point me in the right direction….

  56. Jason–

    Nothing significantly new on this thread, and I’m unfortunately cramped for time these days.

    I did want to mention something from the last thread, and I don’t mean to be pointing the finger at you. (You simply provided a convenient example.)

    Robert wrote to you concerning “faith working through love”:

    “Yes it is. Which Protestant believes that it isn’t. You have jumped from that statement to affirming the Roman doctrine of justification that it comes through infant baptism plus me adding works of love in order to make sure I get final justification. You haven’t exegeted the verse. Is it the faith that produces love that avails for justification (Protestantism) or is it the faith that seeks to add love as a meritorious work that avails for justification (Rome)?”

    You responded:

    Calvin expressly prohibits you from mentioning love when speaking of justification in his commentary on Gal. 5:6. So your description of the Protestant position—that “faith produces the love that avails for justification”—may be Augustinian, but it is not Reformed. Sorry.

    Calvin, of course, does no such thing. He advises the Reformed to refrain from the use of the word in explaining justification to avoid unnecessary confusion (brought about by Catholic misuse of this verse).

    Here is the applicable passage from Calvin:

    “There would be no difficulty in this passage, were it not for the dishonest manner in which it has been tortured by the Papists to uphold the righteousness of works. When they attempt to refute our doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, they take this line of argument. If the faith which justifies us be that “which worketh by love,” then faith alone does not justify. I answer, they do not comprehend their own silly talk; still less do they comprehend our statements. It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification. The Papists themselves are accustomed to tear faith after a murderous fashion, sometimes presenting it out of all shape and unaccompanied by love, and at other times, in its true character. We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; but when the question comes to be in what manner we are justified, we then set aside all works.

    With respect to the present passage, Paul enters into no dispute whether love cooperates with faith in justification; but, in order to avoid the appearance of representing Christians as idle and as resembling blocks of wood, he points out what are the true exercises of believers. When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner. As in Christ Jesus he commends faith accompanied by love, so before the coming of Christ ceremonies were required. But this has nothing to do with obtaining righteousness, as the Papists themselves allow; and neither must it be supposed that love possesses any such influence.

    My point is that we are often sloppy in reading what our dialogue partners write. Robert did not actually say, “Faith produces the love that avails for justification.” What he said–in question form–was that “the faith that avails for justification [invariably] produces love.” The difference is significant. And although his words could be construed to read as you interpreted them, you–as a former Reformed aficionado–should know better.

    It would have been far more gracious of me to have found a Reformed error in interpretation (which we will readily admit are numerous). I apologize for that. I simply found this one interesting.

    Let’s read and re-read each other. We have no access to inflection and intonation in reading as we do in speech. As a result, misinterpretation is hard not to fall into. Due diligence, my friends! (…to all of us)

  57. 1) They are both normative. The “doers of the law will be justified” is descriptive; those who are saved are in Christ who perfectly kept the law. Thus, by being united to the one and only “doer of the law” men can be justified.

    This is a logically bankrupt statement: it assumes what it tries to prove. What kind of proof, from the text of Romans 2, is there that it is descriptive? None. This meaning is imported into the verse and wholly eisegetical.
    This beauty is then concluded with ‘thus’, proving what it has inserted into the text! Talk about the plain meaning of Scripture…

    The other problem with this kind of mere assertion is this: it completely and utterly ignores the Jewish background of the text. Not one first century believer would have understood “The doers of the law shall be justified” as referring to imputation! To assert so beggars belief! Yes, they would have asked themselves “but how can the gentiles do the law, when we have not been able to” or “what law are you talking about”. But never “oh you mean does the law because of the alien righteousness imputed to him?” The reformed are so anachronistic, it’s embarrassing to read, frankly.

  58. SS,

    But the first century believers would have realized that they can’t do the law in the way that God requires for justification, because they had Matthew 5:48— remember, where Jesus makes God’s own character the standard. They also had the Psalms where David can talk about being righteous but also that no one is righteous. You have not adequately dealt with either of those points.

    Which Jewish background to the text? Was it the common Pharisaical interpretation? What about the Sadducees? Essenes of the non-Qumran variety? Qumranic Essenes? Zealots? Samaritans (if we want to count them as Jews?) There really isn’t a Jewish background to the text. There is an Old Testament background, and the Jews argued about that among themselves. Which group got it right? Which group helps us best understand Paul and Jesus?

    Obviously, no one on their first reading of Rom. 2:13 has imputation as their first thought. You have to follow Paul’s argument through to the end. In Romans 3, Paul says no one does the law. I understand that you and Jason deny that. Okay, he says no one seeks after God. No first century Jew would read that and accept it in an untroubled fashion. Were there not proselytes who sought after God?

    You aren’t letting Paul or Jesus speak in a way that is different from their contemporaries. But the very fact one group of first-century Jews developed into rabbinic Judaism, several disappeared, one kept on following John the Baptist, and one developed into the Christian church proves that there was all manner of disagreement. There was no one Jewish background to the text. There was an Old Testament background, and different Jewish groups disagreed over what the Old Testament meant.

  59. Eric,

    Yes, Eric…it’s Steve.

    Gee whiz…you got me. I sort of hit ’em all, now and then (or most of the ones you mentioned). There’s a lot of good stuff there. I throw in my 2 cents, for better, or worse.

    I think you’re on the right track. I come from a centrist Lutheran congregation where freedom is the key. So we usually bump heads now and then with anyone who tries to add anything at all to the finished work of Christ. And that includes Lutherans of all stripes.

    If I come across any other sites that I think you might enjoy, I’ll e-mail them to you.

    You can send me an e at sma9231961@aol.com (then I’ll have your e-address)

    Thanks, friend.

  60. Wosbald,

    Having read your words, I will admit that I am not exactly sure what you are trying to say. That may be my fault.

    Sin disappears when we look at it through the eyes of love. So, if I look at Osama bin Laden through the eyes of love, he would no longer be a murderer or have committed murder?

    Actually, I just want a simple answer to a simple question: If Jesus had sinned in any way, no matter how you want to define it, punctuated or unpunctuated, evanescent and unevanescent, could he have saved anyone?

    And for all the talk about punctuation, commandments, old man, new man, there are an awful lot of punctuated commands about how we express love in the New Testament.

  61. But the first century believers would have realized that they can’t do the law in the way that God requires for justification, because they had Matthew 5:48— remember, where Jesus makes God’s own character the standard. They also had the Psalms where David can talk about being righteous but also that no one is righteous. You have not adequately dealt with either of those points.

    I have already shown that your interpretation of perfection in Matt 5:48 is eisegetical. Jesus concludes his train of thought, which includes Matt 5:48 with the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The latter is eschatological and deals with judgment , if one does what He commands, one builds on the rock and is declared wise. Regardless of what type of jew was hearing these words, whether it be pharisee, sadducee, essene, or whoever else was present, NONE of them would have understood the parable to imply the impossibility of keeping God’s commands in a way conducive to justification. Matter of fact, the reason why they hated Jesus is precisely because He claimed to have properly interpreted the Mosaic Law, causing it to stand via the New Covenant instituted by the shedding of His blood, death and resurrection. The same Mosaic Law that they thought they were solely justified by.

    Which Jewish background to the text? Was it the common Pharisaical interpretation? What about the Sadducees? Essenes of the non-Qumran variety? Qumranic Essenes? Zealots? Samaritans (if we want to count them as Jews?) There really isn’t a Jewish background to the text. There is an Old Testament background, and the Jews argued about that among themselves. Which group got it right? Which group helps us best understand Paul and Jesus?

    See above. None of the above groups would have heard the Sermon on the Mount and said “Wow, I really better believe in the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness to myself. Forget what Jesus said about building on the rock, that was nice and all. But he didn’t really mean all that, all that was just tongue in cheek ‘you can’t do this’ nonsense”

    Obviously, no one on their first reading of Rom. 2:13 has imputation as their first thought. You have to follow Paul’s argument through to the end. In Romans 3, Paul says no one does the law. I understand that you and Jason deny that. Okay, he says no one seeks after God. No first century Jew would read that and accept it in an untroubled fashion. Were there not proselytes who sought after God?

    No, you don’t have to follow his argument to the end. Why such an imperative? Where does it say that Romans 2 does not or cannot exist in and of itself as unit? As has been explained to you many times before, Paul is elliptical in his writing, hinting at what is to come and referring back to what has already been argued. In Romans 2, he hints at the development of his thesis in Rom 6-8. In Rom 3, he establishes the theme that men are not justified by the works of the law (strong Essenic overtones in the phrase itself, which carries over to Paul’s usage of the word law/nomos itself), but by the faith of and faith in Christ. This faith entails faithfulness to Christ’s commands. That this is so is evident from Rom 3:31 itself, which is loud and clear. None one of this necessitates the belief that Rom 2:7 or Rom 2:13 are mere descriptive statements. When Paul said no one seeks after God, he was making the point that the jew has no advantage over the gentile. That is a totally different emphasis than the one you are making which is to state that no one can truly build their house on the rock and be wise in the eyes of God.

    You aren’t letting Paul or Jesus speak in a way that is different from their contemporaries. But the very fact one group of first-century Jews developed into rabbinic Judaism, several disappeared, one kept on following John the Baptist, and one developed into the Christian church proves that there was all manner of disagreement. There was no one Jewish background to the text. There was an Old Testament background, and different Jewish groups disagreed over what the Old Testament meant.

    That there was all manner of disagreement is irrelevant to this discussion. What is relevant is this: none of those groups would have understood Rom 2:13 in the reformed/protestant sense.

  62. SS–

    What exactly is this “Reformed sense” of Romans 2:13 that none of these groups would have understood? My (Reformed) interpretation is this: “…those who actually obey the law who will be declared righteous.”

    I do believe that is how they would have understood it, as well. Heck, you probably think the same thing!

    Our differences are not exegetical, but systematic. Systematics back then would have been in a very, very rudimentary form. Our systematics are reasonable, well traveled, and well documented. Jason’s RC systematics can say the same thing. Your systematics are a little more sketchy (in terms of being established), but I don’t detect anything particularly innovative or off-the-wall in them. They seem downright sensible to me. I can even relate to your attraction to the Apostolic Fathers as a “common ground” resource to lead us out of this morrass. All of us should probably grant a little more respect to each other. We are trying to show one another where the other has strayed from the path a bit. No one is “out in left field” here. We all believe in “sola gratia” and are attempting to ascertain what that entails. Yes, we disagree. Yes, some of us (or all of us) are dead wrong in what that means. Our differing positions more than likely have serious spiritual consequences, positively and negatively. But I do believe we’re all after the same goal: to show that salvation is all of Christ without extricating believers from the process altogether. How does it all fit together? How are we involved? To this last question, we would all answer, “Much, in every way.” Your desire for holiness does not outstrip mine; and mine does not outstrip Jason’s. We neither disagree on the necessity for works nor the significance of good works. We simply disagree on the role of good works.

    I read the AF’s and find absolutely nothing that conflicts with my paradigm. You can do the same. Catholics and Lutherans do the same. This is a metaphysical tussle we are in, and I’m not sure anything less than a raw metaphysical dialogue will accomplish much. I believe the Reformed paradigm matches best with the heart and mind of God that I see displayed in the pages of Scripture, in the annals of history, in the reasoned quest for truth, and in the experiences of my own life. It resonates profoundly with the voice of the Shepherd who never leaves me and always comforts me, a voice that I associate with my deepest comprehension of love.

  63. Eric,

    “Your desire for holiness does not outstrip mine; and mine does not outstrip Jason’s.”

    I love the view that holiness is given to us… totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think. we are ‘declared’ holy, for Jesus’ sake.

    In that, you can have real assurance. Real freedom. We can relax in Christ and enjoy the gift of holiness. Radical? Maybe. But that’s what we believe.

    __

    I do like the attitude that you have, and others here, as well, that we all are basically after the same thing. We want to get it right. (not that that saves us)

  64. I can even relate to your attraction to the Apostolic Fathers as a “common ground” resource to lead us out of this morrass

    It is no longer enough to point to the AF. The only way to genuinely have an ecumenical effort worthy of the name is to return to the New Testament and the church as it was constituted then, i.e, with jewish disciples of Christ (and by jewish I don’t mean jewish converts to christianity) and gentile disciples side by side. And it would behoove us to listen to the jewish disciples again, as it was once done, when Yaakov, Peter, John and others held the first council, in Jerusalem. I have heard what these contemporaries have to say, and let me tell you, their doctrine can not in any way shape or form be said to be compatible with the doctrines you hold dear.

  65. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,
    Having read your words, I will admit that I am not exactly sure what you are trying to say. That may be my fault…
    If Jesus had sinned in any way… could he have saved anyone?

    I’m not sure how much clearer I can make it, beyond that which I wrote above. But I will try one more time.

    Your question simply makes no sense to Catholics. For Catholics, Love’s perfection must not be seen as an amalgamation of particularized instances of “not sinning” here and “loving” there, such that, when “all of the parts are in place”, then perfection will have been reached.

    Christ’s mission was not a unilinear progression of instances of “not sinning” on the one hand and “loving” on the other. Instances that, when totaled up, equal perfection. This is simply an Old Man (i.e. limited) view of perfection. It is the epitome of OT thinking. One must leave the captivity of the OT behind (the things and the thinking of a child) and adhere to that which the OT covenant could never have fulfilled regardless of how “perfectly” it was kept by anyone, even by the God-Man. This is a deterministically defined concept of perfection. “Doing this” and “not doing that” determines a quantifiable standard, even if one euphemistically conceives of this quantity as something which “nears infinity”. This is a poor conception of God’s Infinitude.

    For Catholics, the Good News is that Divine Love’s intrinsic perfection can now be ours. It is intrinsically perfect (rather than deterministically perfect) because it is an ontological Reality. It is the perfect Reality of God’s own Life inhering in Man’s soul. Divine Love is not a quantifiable list, regardless of how “infinitely long” that list may purport to be, that is imputed to our account.

    If you can can digest this (even theoretically), then the Catholic worldview will become clearer. But until you acknowledge this radical paradigmatic difference, the Catholic Gospel of Agape will continue to escape you.

    ——————————–

    SS wrote:

    Matter of fact, the reason why they hated Jesus is precisely because He claimed to have properly interpreted the Mosaic Law, causing it to stand via the New Covenant instituted by the shedding of His blood, death and resurrection. The same Mosaic Law that they thought they were solely justified by.

    Aye. In accord with what I said above, the Reformed paradigm actually vindicates the Pharisees et al. Righteousness, indeed, comes through the law. Vicariously, yes. But through the law, nonetheless.

  66. SS,

    I fully admit my attempt at a Reformed explanation was sloppy. I would agree that the Reformed sense of the test is just as Eric said a few comments ago. “Those who keep the law will be declared righteous by God.”

    When I say the Reformed will take this as descriptive, I mean that it is descriptive of those who will be declared righteous. The “how” of the becoming a “doer of a law” is not present in this text, but I made it sound like that was part of my interpretation which was sloppy. So, I think Reformed Christians can affirm that doers of the law are justified AND that only Christ does the whole law, and thus, only those who are united to him can be justified.

  67. +JMJ+

    Addendum: Robert, I know that my language can often be confusing. Perhaps, if I add a more concrete example, it may help you unpack my comments above.

    Let’s take an example: Suppose we are talking about a specific instance of Jesus showing Divine Love to a specific person such as a Roman centurion. Catholics do not believe that, in Justification, this specific act of love is extrinsically imputed to us, such that we are legally counted to have performed this act even though we have not. Instead, Catholics believe that we are given the exact same Spirit, that same Divine Love, which animated the specific Christic act of Love in question.

    For Catholics, this Divine Love which inheres in us is Justification. Acts of Love, ontologically identified with us by this inherent Spirit of Love, become our own proper meritorious acts that synergistically increase our Justification. In our Incarnationally-informed view, God and Man operate in our Being as one single Person. In such a way, the Body of Christ truly continues (or preserves) the Christic Work in the world and extends It through time. Christ really and directly works in the world through the ministrations of the Body.

    Hope this helps to clarify my comments above.

  68. Wosbald,

    Can you please document what you are saying by official Magisterium teaching. There is a lot of “this is what Roman Catholics believe” being thrown around here, but most of the time the references I am getting are to C2C. Bryan Cross and the gang are not the Magisterium. Much of what you are saying sounds just like them.

    It is really quite hard, to be honest, to take what you are saying seriously when you have to spend a fixed amount of time in purgatory according to the sins you have committed and that indulgences can be granted to lessen or eliminate this time. If love is not punctiliar, how can the failure to love (sin) be so? Some kind of quantifiable measurement is going on, because without it, you could not even define sin and sin. Some kind of quantifiable measurement is going on, because without it, there could be no assigning of specific numbers of “our Fathers,” etc. to make satisfaction in penance.

  69. Hey Robert,
    Just to be clear, I’m sure no-one equates C2C with the Magisterium. The only reason that website comes up frequently in these contexts is that they have done a lot of work addressing Reformed objections specifically and in presenting Catholic teaching in a way that is geared towards (though not exclusively meant for) the Reformed. We all have or had the same questions and objections so it makes sense to refer to a place that has thorough discussions on those questions. Both in the original posts and in the (often *long* followup comments), there is copious documentation from Magisterial sources. I do not consciously parrot what I’ve read there but if by whatever personal means we end up at the same truths, we’re of course going to sound somewhat similar when presenting them.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  70. SS,

    Again, you keep telling me that my reading of Matthew 5:48 is eisegetical. How is Jesus not making God’s own character the standard in that verse? And if Jesus is making God’s own character the standard in that verse, how is he not saying that despite our best attempts at obeying him and despite our successes in doing so, that we always and ever falling short of the full scope of God’s demands? Is this not what 1 John 1:8–9 tells us?

    I’ll say it again, I have nowhere denied that believers can obey Christ, build on Him as the foundation, and be declared wise. If I have, I don’t mean it the way you think I mean it. Neither would I deny that that passage is eschatological. I would simply say that justification is the foundation that produces, inevitably, this building and that justification is not something that comes and goes. Unlike Rome and you, I actually believe that Jesus has by His one offering already perfected those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14), that those who are today truly being sanctified are not going to fall out of his grasp.

    If, as you say, no contemporary Jew would have thought himself unable to keep God’s law to the extent that God requires, that really proves very little. None of Jesus’ disciples could believe he had to die and, that once he had died, that he would be resurrected. Do we make their failure to understand this truth the measurement of what the truth actually was? Moreover the law in and of itself tells us that no one can meet it to the extent that God requires. The addition of sacrifices, in fact, tells us that we cannot meet God’s standard, and that only works if his standard is perfection. If we really could meet God’s standard, there is no need for sacrifice and no need for forgiveness.

    A Jew that converts to Christianity is, by definition, a Messianic Jew. You don’t magically get more of a right to speak for Jews simply because when you convert you keep on holding to Jewish traditions, many of which are likely Talmudic and likely post-first century in origin. If a Jew becomes a Christian and decides that the Reformed tradition or the Lutheran tradition or another tradition is the best fulfillment and expression of the Old Testament, who are you to say that he is wrong? If a Jewish follower of Jesus no longer wants to observe the Jewish holidays, get circumcised, or observe any other markers of Jewish identity, he does not thereby become less Jewish or unJewish, especially when Paul says so many of those things are adiaphora. You, as a Gentile, certainly do not have any right to lecture Jews and Gentiles on who the real Messianic Jews are.

  71. Exactly.

    Makes one wonder then, why the Cross?

    God could just as easily sent down a menu with certain sins and corresponding times in purgatory.

    __

    And if the Popes (Fathers) really do have the ability to lessen the amount of years spent ‘there’…then why not, with great Christian charity, just let everybody out of there? (I borrowed that last one from Luther)

  72. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Can you please document what you are saying by official Magisterium teaching. There is a lot of “this is what Roman Catholics believe” being thrown around here, but most of the time the references I am getting are to C2C. Bryan Cross and the gang are not the Magisterium. Much of what you are saying sounds just like them.

    I don’t have to document anything. As I’ve already explained, I’m not a Magisteriphile. In fact, most well-adjusted Catholics aren’t. I speak with my basic Catholic authority on basic Catholic teaching and present it in my own way. You can find the same essential teaching throughout the Catholic world. I encourage you to check it out. Come and see.

    At any rate, it’s enough for me know that you obviously understand what I’m saying. The fact that you dislike it enough to want to change the subject seems to indicate as much. So… getting back to topic, what do you dislike about it? Do you find something offensive about believing that the animating Spirit of Christ, God’s own Love, inheres in us ontologically?

  73. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. . . . But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (1:22, 25).”

    (From the body of Jason’s post)

    OK..

    Here it is, explained from a slightly different angle. About the demand of the law…and our ‘doing it’ :

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/what-the-law-intends-1.mp3

    I think you’ll like it. He teaches much like Jason teaches (stylistically)…and that is a good thing.

  74. Wosbald,

    Well, if you aren’t a “Magisteriphile,” then you are a Protestantized Roman Catholic. And according to the standards of the faith you claim to profess, you need to document where you are getting your teaching from the infallible teaching authority. There is no point on stressing the benefit of said infallible authority and as a Roman Catholic, only the Magisterium can speak for the church. You can give me your opinions, but according to the standards of your own religion, they cannot be better than anyone else’s without the endorsement of God’s living voice on earth.

    Does the Spirit effect an ontological change in us? Absolutely. Does that eliminate the need for perfect law-keeping to stand before a holy God. No. And again, for all of this talk about maturity/immaturity, punctiliar/non-punctiliar perfection, your own faith fails the standard you are setting. It is Roman Catholics who assume that people remain immature under Christ. Protestants were not the ones who for centuries refused to let people read the Bible in their own language, but Rome who feels its people is not mature enough to understand it, did. Protestants aren’t the ones who have invented all manner of rules and observances to keep people in line. Protestants are not the ones who assign specific years in purgatory to specific sins and then allow for a specific number of years shaved off when the right indulgence is obtained. Protestants aren’t the ones who then refuse to tell their people how many years were assigned and how many were shaved off. That smacks rather of, “we better not let the people know because then they will get morally lax.” That shows you just how mature Rome really thinks that you are.

    Rome’s demands are punctiliar and precise as any Protestant’s. In fact, they are more so. We just confess that Christ met those demands. Rome tells us that we still have to meet them, that we might not meet them even if we have been ontologically changed, and that it might still take years to make them after we die in purgatory.

  75. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Well, if you aren’t a “Magisteriphile,” then you are a Protestantized Roman Catholic. And according to the standards of the faith you claim to profess, you need to document where you are getting your teaching from the infallible teaching authority. There is no point on stressing the benefit of said infallible authority and as a Roman Catholic, only the Magisterium can speak for the church. You can give me your opinions, but according to the standards of your own religion, they cannot be better than anyone else’s without the endorsement of God’s living voice on earth.

    If I asked a group of Hindus the same questions, over and over, regarding issues that touch at the heart of the Hindu experience, dismissed their answers, and then tried to explain to them their own beliefs and the inter-relational nuances of their own culture, one could probably conclude, fairly, that either:
    1. I’m not paying attention,
    2. I don’t want to know,
    3. I like poking Hindus,
    or…
    4. I don’t think that Hindus know anything about Hinduism.

    You, right now, are meeting God’s living Voice on earth, and it is Us. What part of “Incarno-Sacramental ontological incorporation into the Body” ain’t registering?

    Robert wrote:

    Does the Spirit effect an ontological change in us? Absolutely. Does that eliminate the need for perfect law-keeping to stand before a holy God. No.

    Interesting. So, God being ontologically identified with us is not good enough for God? God isn’t good enough for Himself?

  76. And this, Robert, is why we say you’re operating under the list paradigm. It’s not about checklists or the lack of need for agape, it’s about the insistence that God demands “perfect law-keeping.”

  77. Wosbald,

    I am perfectly willing to let Roman Catholics speak, but since you are not a part of the Magisterium, and since only the Magisterium can speak authoritatively for the church, it is perfectly acceptable for me to ask you where the Magisterium says what you are saying. After all, you and other Roman Catholics are the ones calling Protestants to abandon the “chaos” of Protestantism for the assurance provided by the living, infallible, visible voice of God on earth. According to the standards of your own councils and popes, you ain’t it.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you have to have a visible church identified by apostolic succession in order to make a dogma more than mere fallible opinion and then go off offering your own fallible opinions on Roman doctrine and expect anyone who is Protestant by conviction and not by tradition to find it convincing.

    And Jason, again with the whole “list paradigm.” That is a disingenuous charge from a religion that places a whole list of requirements on its adherents in order that they cross all their t’s and dot all their i’s so that just in case they miss something they might get into heaven.

    While you would not say that God demands “perfect law-keeping” (though the doctrine of purgatory calls that claim seriously into question because it implies a perfection of some sort is demanded to see God), the fact that you have to keep doing stuff to hold on to your justification, to increase it, and to recover it just means that you are guilty of what you accuse Protestants of. The difference, of course, is that you can never be sure that you have done it all. That you haven’t met the standard of good enough even if perfection isn’t demanded.

    Granted, Protestants have to deal with the assurance question as well. The locus is different, we are sure that Christ has done enough to save us, the question is whether our faith is genuine. If our faith is genuine, we are assured of heaven, For you and other Roman Catholics, you can have genuine faith and still not know whether or not you are saved. (the inevitable conclusion of your reading of James 2 of saying that dead faith is genuine faith). You never know when you have done enough. You never know if you have confessed enough. You never know if you have done enough works to make it.

    Rome gives you a double whammy. You don’t know if your faith is genuine, and even if it is and you know that it is, you have no assurance that you are in a state of salvation. Bellarmine said assurance was the greatest Protestant heresy, and that only makes sense if one affirms that genuine faith but not salvation is possible.

  78. +JMJ+

    I think it safe to surmise that such a non-answer is implicit confirmation that God’s own Love, His very Self, is not a good enough standard for God. Only that which is good enough is a record of perfect law-keeping. Agape Paradigm, meet List-Paradigm.

  79. Robert, you said, “Does the Spirit effect an ontological change in us? Absolutely. Does that eliminate the need for perfect law-keeping to stand before a holy God. No.”

    Where do you think this is taught most clearly?

  80. Jason, you said, “…the law’s demand for love of God and neighbor is actually fulfilled through the New Covenant gift of the Spirit resulting in eternal life for those who exhibit this divine love…”

    1) Could you elaborate a little more on what you mean by “fulfill the law” here?

    2) Also, how do you understand the statement that Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it?

  81. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I am perfectly willing to let Roman Catholics speak, but since you are not a part of the Magisterium, and since only the Magisterium can speak authoritatively for the church, it is perfectly acceptable for me to ask you where the Magisterium says what you are saying. After all, you and other Roman Catholics are the ones calling Protestants to abandon the “chaos” of Protestantism for the assurance provided by the living, infallible, visible voice of God on earth. According to the standards of your own councils and popes, you ain’t it.
    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you have to have a visible church identified by apostolic succession in order to make a dogma more than mere fallible opinion and then go off offering your own fallible opinions on Roman doctrine and expect anyone who is Protestant by conviction and not by tradition to find it convincing.

    Yes, Robert, I can have it both ways. I can have it both ways because I’m a Catholic. Admittedly (blessedly, even), the Sensus Catholicus and the Magesterium can’t be logically reconciled. However, I can, indeed, have them both. I can have them both simply because they both exist in living tension within the flesh-and-blood Church. They are “real, everyday life” things. Catholicism is s a real-life cultural experience. So, your logic puzzle, as compelling as it may be, is ultimately irrelevant to Us. I would understand if it’s important to you, but it’s just not important to Catholics.

    That’s why you have to truly be, in your words, “perfectly willing to let Roman Catholics speak”. Who are you to tell me what I, as a Catholic, can or cannot have? That I shouldn’t necessarily expect you to “find it convincing” is a fair point. The imperatives of logical abstraction seem to be all-important to you, whereas for Catholics, they’re only relatively important. Such is life.

  82. Again, you keep telling me that my reading of Matthew 5:48 is eisegetical. How is Jesus not making God’s own character the standard in that verse? And if Jesus is making God’s own character the standard in that verse, how is he not saying that despite our best attempts at obeying him and despite our successes in doing so, that we always and ever falling short of the full scope of God’s demands? Is this not what 1 John 1:8–9 tells us?

    That Jesus has set a very high bar is obviously true. What does not not follow is that the standard cannot be realized in the lives of His followers in a manner conducive to final justification, just because it is high. . To argue such is to argue for a gospel-less Gospel, which is no Gospel at all. When Christ says “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful in few things, I will make you ruler over many things, come share your Master’s happinesss” (Matt 25:23), He makes a direct causal connection between the stewardship of His grace and the eternal fate of the servant. Likewise, in the parable of the builders, it is those who hear His sayings and do them who are granted a positive outcome at the judgment.

    I’ll say it again, I have nowhere denied that believers can obey Christ, build on Him as the foundation, and be declared wise. If I have, I don’t mean it the way you think I mean it. Neither would I deny that that passage is eschatological. I would simply say that justification is the foundation that produces, inevitably, this building and that justification is not something that comes and goes. Unlike Rome and you, I actually believe that Jesus has by His one offering already perfected those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14), that those who are today truly being sanctified are not going to fall out of his grasp.

    When a Father tells His Son, “Dad scored a 1600 on his SAT, and nothing less than perfection is demand from you” and his son returns with a 1500/1600, will He withhold his praise, love and joy? Or will He rejoice with the boy? Indeed, he will say”You have been faithful with your studies, come share my happiness”. And whose slip will the college admission’s office be examined for entry into the college? The Father’s or the Son’s?

    It is this very type of grace which is apparent in 1 John 1:8-9 and which supports the fact that while Christ’s Law is demanding, God will graciously forgive those who earnestly strive for holiness/build on the rock. (cf. Heb 12:14). What the reformed tradition denies is that building on the rock is intrinsically tied to final justification, which is 100% mistaken. It is the doers of the law who shall be justified, those who with patient continuance seek after glory, honor and immortality (Rom 2:7, 13).

    Now if instead of striving to obey his father, this son ignores his instruction and tutoring and goes out to squander his time and resources on foolish pursuits? And when he returns with a 700/1600, will his father be pleased and reward him? The idea that justification is a past event with irrevocable consequences is one which has its genesis in gnosticism, not in the jewish roots of the New Testament. No, the one who has no white clothes on at the wedding banquet is thrown out.

    If, as you say, no contemporary Jew would have thought himself unable to keep God’s law to the extent that God requires, that really proves very little.

    That is not what is said, though I understand why must reach for a subterfuge here. What I said was that no first century Jew would understood the parable of the wise and foolish builders in the way a 21st century protestant such as yourself, or even a 16th century protestant like Luther or Calvin would. And this regardless of whether this jew was pharisee, sadducee, essene, zealot or otherwise. None of them would understand Jesus to be saying that final justification at the judgment would be a guaranteed event by virtue of their believing. Each one of them would understand Him to be issuing forth commands that were expected to be faithfully followed. Were they shocked? I’m sure they were. Did they wonder how on earth was this even possible? I’m sure they did. But at Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out, all men now had access to the Resurrection Power of Christ, to be doers of His Law, and not hearers only, and more so, to be doers of His Law and justified one day for the doing (cf. Matt 7:24, 25:23).

    A Jew that converts to Christianity is, by definition, a Messianic Jew.

    This statement is the product of a western paradigm. When Paul was asked to define himself, he didn’t say “I am Messianic Jew”. He said “I am a Jew”, period. When he circumcised Timothy and shaved his own head in keeping with purity laws, he affirmed his jewish identity. Yes a jewish disciple of Christ, and 100% jew. That he did not require circumcision of Titus does not obviate the fact that He himself never defined himself as anything but jewish.

    Likewise for Kephas, Ya’akov, Yohanan. You western gentiles keep boasting over these natural branches in your ignorance and arrogance. The fact remains that the church was founded by a Jew, and led by Jews and not gentiles in the beginning. That is how it was meant to be. But since, the birds of the air ahve long perched in its branches, fostering every unclean thing upon those who could not know any better. But the day or redemption draws near and what was done in the darkness will be brought to light. Even so, God reserves a remnant for Himself, the gates of hell will not prevail indeed.

  83. John,

    Jason, you said, “…the law’s demand for love of God and neighbor is actually fulfilled through the New Covenant gift of the Spirit resulting in eternal life for those who exhibit this divine love…”

    1) Could you elaborate a little more on what you mean by “fulfill the law” here?

    The word pleroo means to bring something to its intended fruition, so when the NT writers say that love fulfills the law, they mean that the Spirit infusing agape into our hearts (Rom. 5:5) brings about in us the spiritual fruit that God has always desired.

    2) Also, how do you understand the statement that Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it?

    Jesus brought the law to its desired end or telos by making possible the spiritual gift of agape that the law of Moses commanded but could not bestow.

  84. Thanks for the reply. There is no doubt that the Reformed take a different view on “fulfill the law” in both cases.

  85. For those in Christ, it’s possible to love God above all else and yet express that love imperfectly. Perfect expression of charity requires a perfect knowledge of His will and a perfect integrity of spirit, soul, and body. But the gift of agape fulfills the law even without the gifts of perfect knowledge and perfect integrity. Love poured out by the Spirit is the essence of righteousness, whereas conversion through knowledge and integrity are fruits of the Spirit, and these fruits necessarily follow charity.

    Calvin didn’t acknowledge a distinction between mortal and venial sin. Mortal sin is an act where God’s goodness and righteousness, and therefore God Himself, is rejected for some worldly thing. In mortal sin, the once-believer rejects agape in favor of one of Satan’s empty promises. However, not all imperfect acts destroy agape. An imperfect act is venial when it is done out of lack of knowledge or true lack of self-control – if and only if the love of God (above all else) persists. Consider a bad habit repeated without forethought, an fleeting unintentional mental fantasy of some wrong thing, an act not explicitly against love but probably not good either (e.g. smoking, speeding), or something that was hurtful but done with imperfect knowledge of its hurt, or an act which looked good at the time, but, in retrospect, was wrong (staying up too late to argue Catholic theology on a blog).

    Since Calvin saw no difference between mortal and venial sin, he naturally concluded it would be impossible for a believer to fulfill the law through love. However, Catholics have always acknowledged (as far back as Augustine and even John the apostle) that there is a distinction in sins. There is a difference between an act that is completely contrary to God and an act that is imperfect, yet compatible with agape, due to imperfect knowledge or self-control. Violation of the law vs. trespass upon the law.

    The implication for judgment is that Christ will consider both knowledge and intent of every action when judging our love for Him. A perfect judge would do no less than this. The basis for entrance to heaven will be one question: did we love God above all else? Thus, our first hope of heaven was when we were “made just” for the first time – when our past sins were forgiven and we were given the gift of the Spirit which poured out God’s love into our hearts.

    Will perfection be necessary before we are admitted into the pearly gates and see Him face to face? Absolutely. Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if we spent eternity doing stupid things with poor self-control. But He will finish the work He began in us. No imperfection will be able to withstand the merciful fire of His love.

    “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.”

    Our journey to healing of our bodies and souls has begun. God set our cure into effect when He forgave our past sins, freed us from sin, and poured out agape love into our hearts. But this was only the beginning of what God’s loving plan to fulfill what He made us to be. For all who persevere in charity, the healing of our soul and our ability to control our body will increase throughout this life. What doesn’t complete in this life will be completed by the time of the resurrection, when all who are in life are given perfect knowledge, perfect integrity of spirit, soul, and body, and an eternal life of joy.

  86. So well said. Amen.

  87. Wait a minute. You mean Roman Catholics do believe one has to be perfect in order to enter heaven! I’m shocked, shocked I say!

    So when Protestants tell Roman Catholics that Rome believes one must be perfect in order to enter glory, we’re wrong, but when a Romanist says it, he’s right?

    Rome, no less than Protestantism, understands that no one will see God without having perfectly fulfilled the law, whether you call it love or whatever. The difference is that we have confidence that our perfection has been met in Christ, while you finally get to that perfection after so many years in purgatory, if you can get to purgatory, that is.

    Jason, you taking advantage of the new pope’s plenary indulgence? Asking Mary for help out of purgatory yet? If you aren’t, you aren’t Roman Catholic.

  88. Robert, do you not believe in a process of sanctification for those in Christ?

  89. Jonathan,

    Yes I do. But the point at which it is concluded is at our death or Christ’s return, whichever comes first. And our progress in it is guaranteed by our regeneration and the fact that before the bar of God’s justice, we are reckoned as having met the demands of the law perfectly in Christ.

  90. So, when you say “it is concluded at our death or Christ’s return”, are you saying the work of sanctification is left unfinished, and that we spend eternity in an unglorified state?

  91. Jonathan,

    No, what I am saying is that there is no sanctification after death, ie, no purgatory. If I trust in Christ, at death I pass right into heaven and am glorified. To be more precise, my soul is glorified, since glorification is not consummated until my body is resurrected at the last day. God finishes the work of sanctification begun in this life at the moment of my death or Christ’s return, whichever comes first.

  92. Hi Robert,

    Does this “glorification of the soul” happen before death, at the moment of death (“in an instant”), or after death? What’s the difference between “sanctification of the soul” and “glorification of the soul” in your mind?

  93. Jonathan,

    I would say that sanctification is the process and glorification is final goal or result. God completes sanctification in an instant at my death when He glorifies me (every last remnant of sin and desire to sin is removed). In other words, there is no process of sanctification after my death.

  94. Robert,

    I’m glad to find agreement that sanctification is a process which needs to be completed, and that God does complete this process for those who die in Christ.

    You are insisting there is an important distinction – that the process completes “at death” (not after), and “in an instant” (not a matter of time). I have heard other Protestants say that sanctification is completed “in an instant”. I am curious where this idea comes from? Do you have a scriptural basis for this – I am unaware of what it is.

    Regardless of the source of this idea, I don’t think either is absolutely contrary to Catholic dogma. Neither Trent nor Florence council states that purgatory is a matter of time. However, it is dogma that souls who must endure final sanctification are helped through this transition by the prayers of the faithful militant.

    Personally, I’m very reassured by the belief that my mistakes and worldly attachments will be “burned” away so that my joy in God can be complete. For I do not want to spend eternity with a lingering regret for my mistakes (regret which I experience now, despite faith), or a lingering attachment to the things in this world. If the purging happens quickly, that’s great. If it takes some time, that’s still great – the receipt of the greatest reward (heaven) is worth it.

    There are just a few scriptural references which may refer to final sanctification, so I don’t think we have a lot to go by. But there’s more if you value the interpretations of the Fathers and the agreements of the councils. For example:

    1 Cor 3:13 “Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

    St. Augustine’s interpretation: “If the baptized person fulfills the obligations demanded of a Christian, he does well. If he does not–provided he keeps the faith, without which he would perish forever–no matter in what sin or impurity remains, he will be saved, as it were, by fire; as one who has built on the foundation, which is Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay straw, that is, not just and chasted works but wicked and unchaste works.”

    Origen: “For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (1 Cor.,3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones; neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works.”

    St. Gregory I: “Even as in the same fire gold glistens and straw smokes, so in the same fire the sinner burns and the elect is cleansed.”

  95. Hi Jason,

    You said:

    As I have been arguing, once one realizes that the gospel paradigm he holds is one that would never give rise to the teachings of the New Testament concerning issues such as justification, works, and final salvation on the day of judgment, the question that he must ask is, “If someone holding my existing paradigm wouldn’t have said these things in this way, what kind of paradigm would result in teachings like these?” In my last post in this series, therefore, I switched gears from discussing unlikelihood of a proto-Protestant paradigm giving birth to the NT data to seeking to determine what kind of paradigm would have.

    Quite reasonable.

    My thesis is that the Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor that the New Covenant bestows is what fulfills the law and graciously results in our gaining eternal life, and this basic supposition is what gave rise to the inspired words that the NT authors wrote.

    True. And that Old Covenant paradigm remains the basis of the New Covenant. We must still keep the Commandments of God:
    1 John 5:3
    For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    We saw Jesus answer the scribe’s question about the greatest commandment by highlighting the dual command of love, and when the scribe recognized the superiority of love to all the sacrifices of the Mosaic law, Jesus told him that he “is not far from the kingdom of God.”

    Note how this formula was not foreign to the Old Covenant.
    Proverbs 21:3
    To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

    We saw next that Paul carried this idea further by insisting that when it comes to justification, it is not circumcision that matters, but “faith working through love.”

    Yes, righteousness by faith is equated to faith working by love.

    1. Both are unimportant in comparison with righteousness expressed in love of neighbor:
    Galatians 5:
    5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
    6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
    2. Note that the righteousness or justification is hoped for and we wait for it.
    3. The way I read it is this.
    The Circumcision is the Jew or the Law.
    The uncircumcision is the Gentile or the Law of Grace via the Sacraments.
    Both are judged by what they do in regards to love of neighbor. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been baptized or not. In fact, it does, for the baptized person who has not acted with love of neighbor will be more harshy judged than the one who is not baptized, all other things being the same.

    He then cited the command to love one’s neighbor and echoed Jesus’ assessment that this is what fulfills “the whole law.” This love can only be exhibited as a “fruit of the Spirit,” and that if we “sow to the Spirit” we will “reap eternal life.” As expected, Paul both follows and develops the progression that Jesus taught.

    Correct. Love fulfills both the Old Law and the New Law. Against love there is no law.

    What about the other NT writers? We would expect that if this pattern is indeed given by Christ, it would be found throughout the writings of the apostles. Consider the words of James:
    But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. . . . But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (1:22, 25).
    James here is clearly echoing Paul’s words in Romans.

    Excellent thought! I wonder if St. James had a copy of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans when he made these comments? Because these two verses mirror these two from St. Paul:

    Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.?
    James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

    Romans 3:28
    Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
    James 2:24
    Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    There Paul says that it is not the “hearers” but the “doers” of the law who will be justified (2:13),

    Note that this is true whether you are a Christian, justified in Baptism or a non-Christian, justified on the Last Day.

    1. Only those who keep the Law are justified in the Sacraments.
    2. Only those who keep the Law, including those who have received the Sacraments, will be justified on the Last Day.

    and that it was the “law of the Spirit” that had set him free from the “law of sin” (8:2). James continues:
    If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. . . . So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (2:8, 12-13).

    This is a Sacramental Teaching. Because it is in the Sacraments that mercy triumphs over judgement.

    Not surprisingly, we see the exact same pattern here that we discovered previously in Jesus and Paul. All three cite the command to love our neighbor, all three situate the command in a New Covenant context, and all three allude to an eternal reward for doing so (“You are not far from the kingdom”; “You will reap eternal life”; “Mercy triumphs over judgment”).
    Therefore if Jesus, Paul, and James were operating with an understanding of the gospel according to which the law’s demand for love of God and neighbor is actually fulfilled through the New Covenant gift of the Spirit resulting in eternal life for those who exhibit this divine love, then the things they taught are exactly what we would have expected of them given that basic gospel paradigm.

    Agreed.

  96. So far, only having glanced over this, I spotted one thing very new – that Catholics believe in initial justification and then increasing ‘justification’ (I suppose ‘sanctification’ is yet another thing)

    This definitive and progressive justification (akin to protestant definitive and progressive sanctification?) does explain to me why my Catholic friends are so relaxed about their own salvation when I had thought that catholic teaching would permit no such grounds.

    It seems a bit like ‘now you see it; now you don’t’ carrot and stick. To the wayward, the Church can say they will be judged on final works (other than as covered by confession/penance which will be sorted out in purgatory). For the nervous, Mother Church can remind them of their baptism and their initial but adequate justification.

    I have put it crudely and I apologise, but the danger of this is that it produces ‘tightrope’ salvation based on a ‘tightrope’ state of mind of supplicant. It is not so much that God’s mercy overwhelms his justice, but that both hang in the balance and the supplicant must walk warily between Scylla and Charybdis.

    In the case of my friends, perhaps they are nervous when with the priest and wayward out of church??? possible, surely

  97. RICHARD UK May 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm
    So far, only having glanced over this, I spotted one thing very new

    Very new TO YOU. Catholic Doctrine has been around from the time of the Apostles. It is Christ who taught Catholic Doctrine.

    – that Catholics believe in initial justification and then increasing ‘justification’ (I suppose ‘sanctification’ is yet another thing)

    You would be wrong. There is no such term as “initial justification” in the Catholic soteriology. Conversion is the beginning of Justification. Perhaps that is what you are confusing with the so-called “initial justification”. After conversion, one requests Baptism and is completely justified for the first time. If (or should I say, when) one commits sins after Baptism, then one must repent and ask forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and one is justified once more. This process of repeated washings by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments continues throughout our life.

    Sanctification is the process of adopting holy habits and becoming a more righteous individual and goes hand in hand with the process of justification.

    This definitive and progressive justification (akin to protestant definitive and progressive sanctification?)

    I don’t know anything about Protestant sanctification. But the Catholic Church teaches that we adopt holy habits and become holy as God is holy. As we add to our faith, knowledge and all good virtues, we make our election sure and attain to the heights of righteousness without which one will not see God.
    Revelation 22:12-15
    King James Version (KJV)
    12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

    However, I have heard that the Protestants consider Justification only a forensic or legal thing where the creature is not truly changed.

    But for the Catholic, we believe that the creature is new born when God washes Him in the waters of regeneration. And we believe our souls are truly cleansed in the fount of Sacramental confession. And that we become united to God in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

    does explain to me why my Catholic friends are so relaxed about their own salvation when I had thought that catholic teaching would permit no such grounds.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that? Perhaps you are comparing the Protestant preoccupation with salvation to the Catholic knowledge that God is our Judge. We are not preoccupied with judging our souls nor those of others because we trust in God and hope in Him. The Scripture says:

    1 Corinthians 4:2-5
    King James Version (KJV)
    2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

    It seems a bit like ‘now you see it; now you don’t’ carrot and stick. To the wayward, the Church can say they will be judged on final works (other than as covered by confession/penance which will be sorted out in purgatory). For the nervous, Mother Church can remind them of their baptism and their initial but adequate justification.
    I have put it crudely and I apologise, but the danger of this is that it produces ‘tightrope’ salvation based on a ‘tightrope’ state of mind of supplicant. It is not so much that God’s mercy overwhelms his justice, but that both hang in the balance and the supplicant must walk warily between Scylla and Charybdis.
    In the case of my friends, perhaps they are nervous when with the priest and wayward out of church??? possible, surely

    More likely, you don’t understand either Catholic soteriology nor Protestant. As for your friends, I don’t know them. If you don’t think they understand Catholic Doctrine, send them to the Catholic Church. But please don’t try to teach them anything about the Catholic Church yourself. Because it is obvious that you don’t understand the Catholic Teaching.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  98. De Maria

    1. No, it is not Roman catholic doctrine that is new to me; it is the notion of initial and then increasing JUSTIFICATION – which were concepts used by JeffB (13 March above). He is a former Protestant, presumably now a catholic. Your dispute is therefore with him, though your view does not seem that different in practice.

    2. Protestants don’t “consider Justification ‘only’ a forensic or legal thing where the creature is not ‘truly’ changed”. Yes, we do have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us in place of our unrighteousness (and our unrighteousenss is imputed to him etc – without such imputation how would Jesus bear the sins of the world??) And what God says goes, ie His reality is greater than our perception of reality, so we cannot say we are not ‘truly’ changed. ‘Down here’, yes we are as Luther said ‘simul peccator’ but for God we are also ‘simul iustus’ from start to finished. Yes, it is a complex notion

    3. ‘Protestant preoccupation with salvation’??!! I thought the whole Roman sacramental system shows the same preoccupation – a lot more time is spent on it!

    4. You write ‘If you don’t think they (ie my catholic friends) understand Catholic Doctrine, send them to the Catholic Church. But please don’t try to teach them anything about the Catholic Church yourself. Because it is obvious that you don’t understand the Catholic Teaching’. In fact I get my understanding of catholic doctrine from them and all 4 of them, in their 50s-60s like me, have been to catholic schools, and catholic churches, and two of them have taken post-grad catholic studies courses.

    5. Incidentally, you will understand that the tone of your last comments make it less attractive for me to exchange with you (especially when you say I don’t understand Protestant soteriology either).

  99. RICHARD UK May 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm
    De Maria
    1. No, it is not Roman catholic doctrine that is new to me; it is the notion of initial and then increasing JUSTIFICATION – which were concepts used by JeffB (13 March above). He is a former Protestant, presumably now a catholic. Your dispute is therefore with him, though your view does not seem that different in practice.

    Ok, well, let’s go to the source:
    CHAPTER V
    THE NECESSITY OF PREPARATION FOR JUSTIFICATION IN ADULTS, AND WHENCE IT PROCEEDS

    It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace;

    This is an excerpt from Trent, 6th Session, 5th Chapter. This is where I get that conversion is the beginning of (or perhaps “initial”) justification.

    As for increasing justification, I don’t remember mentioning that. But the same source says:

    CHAPTER X
    THE INCREASE OF THE JUSTIFICATION RECEIVED

    Having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends and domestics of God,[49] advancing from virtue to virtue,[50] they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day,[51] that is, mortifying the members[52] of their flesh, and presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification,[53] they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith cooperating with good works, increase in that justice received through the grace of Christ and are further justified, as it is written:
    He that is just, let him be justified still;[54] and, Be not afraid to be justified even to death;[55] and again, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?[56]

    This increase of justice holy Church asks for when she prays:
    “Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity.”[57]

    2. Protestants don’t “consider Justification ‘only’ a forensic or legal thing where the creature is not ‘truly’ changed”.

    Then what is that whole, “snow covered dung heap” thing?

    Yes, we do have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us in place of our unrighteousness (and our unrighteousenss is imputed to him etc – without such imputation how would Jesus bear the sins of the world??)

    Righteously. Jesus never sinned nor was He ever considered a sinner. He received the punishment we deserved.

    Do you see how you have contradicted yourself?

    Let’s start from the beginning. In the Catholic soteriology, God justifies us when we of our sins when we repent of them and turn to Him and request Baptism, believing His promise and calling His name. Then He washes our souls of all our sins and we are born again, children of God. New Creatures.

    Christ, did not become a sinner. He was like us in every way but sin. He suffered righteously for sins He did not commit.

    Again, I always heard that Protestants preach a forensic justification which does not change the inner man but is like a snow covered dung hill.

    And what God says goes, ie His reality is greater than our perception of reality, so we cannot say we are not ‘truly’ changed. ‘

    That agrees with Catholic Doctrine. We are born again, New Creatures.

    Down here’, yes we are as Luther said ‘simul peccator’ but for God we are also ‘simul iustus’ from start to finished. Yes, it is a complex notion

    This contradicts the Scripture which calls us to be righteous:
    1 John 3:7
    Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

    3. ‘Protestant preoccupation with salvation’??!! I thought the whole Roman sacramental system shows the same preoccupation – a lot more time is spent on it!

    1. You just contradicted yourself. You said your Catholic friends were, “…so relaxed about their own salvation….” Which is it? Are they relaxed about it or preoccupied with it?

    2. Good Catholics are preoccupied with obeying God’s will. We leave declarations of salvation to God.

    3. Whereas, Protestants are not only preoccupied with declaring themselves just and saved but also with condemning anyone who doesn’t.

    4. You write ‘If you don’t think they (ie my catholic friends) understand Catholic Doctrine, send them to the Catholic Church. But please don’t try to teach them anything about the Catholic Church yourself. Because it is obvious that you don’t understand the Catholic Teaching’. In fact I get my understanding of catholic doctrine from them and all 4 of them, in their 50s-60s like me, have been to catholic schools, and catholic churches, and two of them have taken post-grad catholic studies courses.

    Well, I’m not debating with your friends, but with you and your characterization of Catholics based upon your caricature of your Catholic friends. Perhaps you could invite your Catholic friends to this discussion and see whether they agree with me or with you.

    5. Incidentally, you will understand that the tone of your last comments make it less attractive for me to exchange with you (especially when you say I don’t understand Protestant soteriology either).

    Well now, when you go belittling Catholic Doctrine, calling it “a carrot and stick, now you see it now you don’t” type of theology, what do you expect?

    If you want to have a respectful exchange, I suggest you practice what you preach.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  100. De Maria said:

    Christ, did not become a sinner. He was like us in every way but sin. He suffered righteously for sins He did not commit.

    If Christ did not become a sinner, then He wasn’t a Saviour but only an *Example*. The it’s all Semi-Pelagianism (and even Pelagianism) all again.

  101. JASON LOH May 9, 2013 at 10:19 pm
    If Christ did not become a sinner, then He wasn’t a Saviour but only an *Example*. The it’s all Semi-Pelagianism (and even Pelagianism) all again.

    Scripture says:
    Hebrews 4:15
    King James Version (KJV)
    15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

    Where does Scripture say that Christ became a sinner?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  102. By the way, Jason Loh, Scripture also says:
    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:

  103. Scripture says:
    Hebrews 4:15
    King James Version (KJV)
    15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

    Where does Scripture say that Christ became a sinner?

    Yes, Our Lord experienced *temptation* and yet without sin.

    *And* on the Cross, Our Lord was literally made to be *sin.*

    1 Cor 5:21
    “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the *righteousness* of God IN him.”

  104. By the way, Jason Loh, Scripture also says:
    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:

    Yes, but “SEQUENCE” is very important.

    Do we receive Christ first as Saviour (Sacramentum) or Example (Exemplum)? Rome reverses the sequence so that we must first imitate Christ and only then can He be effectively our Saviour. Hence, the synergism and hence turning the Gospel into New Law.

    But Scripture says “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he *shall* SAVE HIS people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

    “For the law was given by Moses, but grace *and* truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)

    Infallibility! – in the proclamation of the Gospel of grace!

  105. JASON LOH May 9, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Yes, Our Lord experienced *temptation* and yet without sin.
    *And* on the Cross, Our Lord was literally made to be *sin.*
    1 Cor 5:21
    “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the *righteousness* of God IN him.”

    That verse does not call Jesus a sinner. It says that he was made sin who knew no sin. The phrase itself, if read literally, is an oxymoron. A self contradicting statement. But, if read metaphorically, the truth is revealed. Jesus was punished for sin even though He did not commit any sin. Therefore, Jesus died righteously:

    1 Peter 3:17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

    18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

  106. JASON LOH May 9, 2013 at 10:58 pm
    By the way, Jason Loh, Scripture also says:
    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:
    Yes, but “SEQUENCE” is very important.
    Do we receive Christ first as Saviour (Sacramentum) or Example (Exemplum)? Rome reverses the sequence so that we must first imitate Christ and only then can He be effectively our Saviour. Hence, the synergism and hence turning the Gospel into New Law.
    But Scripture says “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he *shall* SAVE HIS people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).
    “For the law was given by Moses, but grace *and* truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)
    Infallibility! – in the proclamation of the Gospel of grace!

    Was given to the Catholic Church:
    Ephesians 3:10
    King James Version (KJV)
    10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    But you have proven your fallibility in contradicting Catholic Teaching.
    1st. The Catholic Church says nothing about sequence. Christ is our Saviour and our example. Period.
    2nd. Scripture says:
    Hebrews 5:9
    And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

    Therefore, Christ died for all, but only those who obey Him will be saved.

    3rd the Gospel is the Law of Christ:
    Galatians 6:2
    Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  107. That verse does not call Jesus a sinner. It says that he was made sin who knew no sin. The phrase itself, if read literally, is an oxymoron. A self contradicting statement. But, if read metaphorically, the truth is revealed. Jesus was punished for sin even though He did not commit any sin. Therefore, Jesus died righteously:

    1 Peter 3:17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

    18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

    Then Christian righteousness which is *divine* righteousness is also a *metaphor.* Then we are back to Jesus as Our Exemplar.

  108. Was given to the Catholic Church:
    Ephesians 3:10
    King James Version (KJV)
    10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    But you have proven your fallibility in contradicting Catholic Teaching.
    1st. The Catholic Church says nothing about sequence. Christ is our Saviour and our example. Period.
    2nd. Scripture says:
    Hebrews 5:9
    And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

    Therefore, Christ died for all, but only those who obey Him will be saved.

    3rd the Gospel is the Law of Christ:
    Galatians 6:2
    Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

    No sequence thus confusing Law and Gospel?

    Romans 3:28
    “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

    Galatians 2:16
    “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

    And again:
    “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he *shall* SAVE HIS people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

    “For the law was given by Moses, but grace *and* truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)

  109. Here is my understanding of Catholic atonement and justification.

    1. The source of atonement and justification is the cross
    2. As an unblemished, righteous lamb, He atoned for all the sins of humans
    3. Together with the Father, by dying for our sins, He poured out His love and mercy for us
    4. From this eternal love between the Father and Son proceeds the Holy Spirit
    5. This Spirit overcomes us and pours out faith, hope, and love into our hearts
    6. The love in our heart fulfills the law, thereby we are justified by living faith.
    7. This love of God above all things of this world frees us from our sins, because by this love, we desire and have the will to be obey Him.
    8. By obedience out of love we participate in God’s work. We do good works.
    9. By works that are truly righteous in the sight of God (works done out of living faith) we are further justified.

    So it is not by works of the law that we are justified, but by living faith, that is, the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, a love which fulfills the law, against which there is no law.

  110. “So it is not by works of the law that we are justified, but by living faith, that is, the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, a love which fulfills the law, against which there is no law.”

    St Paul says in Galatians 2:16 that justification is *apart* from the Law. This means love that fulfills the Law is excluded or else justification would then be ACCORDING to the Law since the Law DEMAND love and obedience.

  111. Hi Jason,

    Keep in mind that in Galatians, Paul is writing against the requirement of circumcision for the Gentiles – so for a Catholic, when he says the “Law” in Galatians, he is specifically talking about the Jewish Mosaic Law. So, he is making an argument that Christians do not need to follow this Jewish Mosaic Law.

    With that in mind, when he says we are “justified by grace through faith apart from the Law”, and when he says “love fulfills the Law”, we believe he is fundamentally saying the same thing.

    Love fulfills the Law not by following the Jewish Mosaic Law to the letter, but by fulfilling the fundamental justifying principle behind the Law, which is that of living faith. We are justified apart from the Law because we are not required to follow the letter of the law, e.g. circumcision is not required.

    For the Gentiles, it is not God’s will that we follow the Jewish Mosaic Law to the letter. Specifically, circumcision is not required. That does not mean “nothing” is required of us. Faith is required. We live by faith which means we are always trying to do God’s will, which above all is to love God above all, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Therefore, what counts in justification is faith working through love. (For Catholics, this statement of Paul is the climax of Paul’s message in Galatians).

    My understanding of Protestant theology is that Protestants believe we can have living faith without loving God above all else. But for Catholics, faith without agape is not living faith. Living faith (which is what Paul means when he says faith) implies love, and love implies obedience to His will.

  112. JASON LOH May 10, 2013 at 7:14 am
    Then Christian righteousness which is *divine* righteousness is also a *metaphor.* Then we are back to Jesus as Our Exemplar.

    The two are not mutually exclusive as you seem to believe. Jesus is divine righteousness and Jesus is our Saviour and also our Exemplar.

  113. JASON LOH May 10, 2013 at 7:22 am

    No sequence thus confusing Law and Gospel?
    Romans 3:28
    “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

    There is no confusion. The Law of Christ is the Gospel. And only doers of the Law are justified (Rom 2:13).

    Galatians 2:16
    “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,

    The Faith of Jesus Christ are the laws, rituals and rites which make up the Catholic Liturgy, Sacraments and Doctrine. There is a difference between faith IN Jesus Christ and the Faith OF Jesus Christ.

    even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,

    Those who believe in Jesus Christ observe the laws, rituals and rites of the Faith of Jesus Christ, which is the Liturgy, Sacraments and Doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

    Not by the Mosaic sacrifices of bulls and goats will any one be justified. But by the Faith of Jesus Christ which is Taught and Practivced in the Catholic Church.

    And again:
    “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he *shall* SAVE HIS people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).
    “For the law was given by Moses, but grace *and* truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)

    And so He is saving His people from their sins, via the Sacraments, Liturgy and Doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  114. JASON LOH May 10, 2013 at 8:35 am

    St Paul says in Galatians 2:16 that justification is *apart* from the Law. This means love that fulfills the Law is excluded or else justification would then be ACCORDING to the Law since the Law DEMAND love and obedience.

    God is love and He demands obedience without which no man can be saved:
    Hebrews 5:9
    And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

  115. Jonathan, yours of 10th May 11.16

    ——–

    Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting posts (and earlier your ones)

    1. I think I am becoming clearer about the root difference between Catholic and Protestant positions.

    2. We Protestants tend to see Galatians as having a much wider ambit and implication than perhaps you do, and I am not saying who is right. For us, it is not just circumcision, or table fellowship, or the other elements of the Mosaic code that Paul objects to. He objects to any notion of accepting any sense of ‘law’ as law. It is not that he is antinomian; instead he believes that Jesus upholds the law and then fulfils it for us, thereby removing it from the scene. That opens the way for a different situation, a different attitude, and a different process whereby God impacts on us. This is indeed heady stuff and will always appear like an invitation to licence.

    3. At the heart of this is the idea that the law, indeed any law, is a particular kind of thing. It is a requirement on us, by God in this case, to do a certain thing (without which we will be punished). And, as you will agree, the Law (whether interpreted as the Mosaic code or as the lex Christi) does not itself bring about the obedience that is required.

    4. From what you say, it therefore seems that Catholics attribute different meanings to three key words – Faith, Love and Law.

    5. For us Protestants, faith is a turning to God in the certain hope that he will help sinners (Heb 11 v6). It is an anticipation of what God will do (reward ie bless). From what you write, it would seem that faith has more to do with what we will do, more akin to obedience. (Protestants of course acknowledge that obedience must follow but for us it is a result of God’s action/blessing towards us, not a cause of God’s blessing of us)

    6. As I have tried to say, we also have different views on the law (however defined). We both agree that the law is a reflection of the character of God but when applied to us, it always remains (from our understanding of Paul) a condemning thing; indeed because of the sin in man, it has an active power to condemn. Your view of the law is that it is ‘do-able’, not by grit will-power but by the agape love that God pours into our hearts. Our problem with this is that man does not, even when regenerate, show that much of the agape love talked about. In other words, measured by objective behavioural and attitudinal standards (including works, and sins, of omission as well as of commission), there does not seem much of this agape love around, except in a tiny minority of ‘saints’ whose example indeed serves to condemn the rest of us*.

    7. Whereas you talk of an infusion of righteousness into us, we take a more sanguine line and rely on an imputation of righteousness for us. For you, it is more a question of Christ in us; for us, it is us in Christ’. I have no idea why God accepts our ‘union with Christ’ and His righteousness thus being imputed to us, but we agree that our sins are imputed to Him. Imputation is a notion completely alien to us since the Enlightenment (though not to the Philistines when Goliath was slain by David) but this is what is at stake when scripture talks of Adam and then Christ as (federal) heads – the old and the new Adam.

    8. For us therefore, what counts is whether we have the faith of Heb 11 v6 – that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will keep His covenantal promises and save His people from their sins (the reward). For you, what seems to count is that our performance based on the infusion of Spirit in us. If I might put it tentatively, I understood this to be the semi-Pelgianism anathematized at the Council of Orange

    9. Forgive me if I now seem additionally crass, but it seems as if, for you, the Spirit is primarily a fuel to empower us; for us He is a Person speaking words of reassurance; from that reassurance we are of course transformed – through the renewing of our minds and anyone with a new psychological perception of himself and the world will always have a new energy and attitude

    10. So for us, ‘justification is (by) faith’; when you write ‘justification is faith working through love’ I have to read that as ‘justification is by love’, and then love has become a work. Faith is not a work in the same way – faith is a state of mind not something we do)

    Richard

    * You write ‘My understanding of Protestant theology is that Protestants believe we can have living faith without loving God above all else. But for Catholics, faith without agape is not living faith. Living faith (which is what Paul means when he says faith) implies love, and love implies obedience to His will’.

    a. We all accept James’ critique of faith without works as a dead faith (like a dead tree), but the solution is not to add works to it (sticking Walmart fruit onto the tree!) as did the Pharisees. The solution is to go back to get a living faith from which the works of faith will flow naturally (though those works, if we call them part of sanctification, are God’s responsibility since sanctification is by faith too).

    b. But if you define living faith as incorporating ‘loving God above all else’, I would challenge you to name anyone who has done so (apart from Jesus Himself). Even for the best it is an aspiration not a reality (and of course God’s standard is perfection, nothing less). The fact that there is a penitential system to confess those failings does not mean they were not sins against God – just that He forgives them. That is why for Protestants, we come back to Heb 11 v6, that the heart of faith is to acknowledge one need of forgiveness. If we said that the heart of faith was to love, then we would be saying that we could be like God, albeit with God’s help

  116. Hi Richard, thanks for the thoughtful and charitable response.

    Yes, you could characterize the Catholic view of justification as “justification by love”. But we would call it “justification by faith informed by love”. We believe the justified man has all three of the theological virtues: faith, hope, and agape-love. But it is impossible to have agape without hope (desire for God’s will) and faith (belief in God), so if a man has agape, then we know he has living faith.

    You are also right that we believe the Holy Spirit empowers the Christian. Faith, hope, and love are “poured out by the Spirit”. And without love, man can do nothing good – for even a good act is not supernaturally righteous unless motivated by agape. And a man cannot love God without first receiving the grace of belief (faith) and then desire (hope) for God. In addition to the theological virtues, the gifts of the Spirit include wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, fear of the Lord, and courage.

    You are right to say that the amount of agape which Christians express seems small. I would say this about myself. What have I done that is good? If I have done anything good, it is only because of God’s grace that He empowered me to do it.

    Where I think you are misunderstanding (and this is the common misunderstanding) is that the virtue of agape is not a measure of the perfection or quality or number of man’s past works. It is not a doing, but a virtue. It is a change in character, and a change in will. It is a change in direction – towards God, instead of away from Him. The definition of perfect agape is not the amount, but rather the priority of God in a man’s life. The man with agape loves God above all else.

    A man can love God above all else but that love may be small. His expression of that love may be very lacking. His righteous acts may indeed amount to nothing. His sins may be great. But God sees righteousness in the change of a man’s character. For as the scripture says, “God is pleased with a contrite heart”. A man who loves God above all else is sorry and repentant for all his sins. He wants to be perfect and intends to do right, knowing that he can only do anything right with the help of His grace.

    Contrast “perfect” agape with “imperfect” agape. A man with imperfect agape can love God some, but agape is imperfect when a man loves something of the world more than God. So when it comes to the thing a man loves more than God, he is by character unwilling to stop sinning. Because he loves that sin more than God, he is a slave to that sin. But as Paul says, the baptized man, in whom the Holy Spirit has poured out the love of God, is not a slave to sin.

    So, do you now understand how love, in the Catholic definition, is not a work? Do you understand how it is not Pelagianism (for we do not believe a man can do anything good without grace), and it is not Semi-Pelagianism either (for we believe grace is first, it comes before transformation of heart, and transformation of the heart always precedes a good work)?

    Regarding your concern that no one can live perfectly as Christ is, I could explain, but if you’re interested, I recommend this article: “Why John Calvin did not recognize the distinction between mortal and venial sin”. You can look it up on google. The article explains why Catholics and St. Augustine recognized is a distinction between perfect love and perfect law-keeping. The article also theorizes why Calvin did not recognize this distinction.

  117. Hi Richard,

    One more thing. You mentioned perfect faith includes trust. If you’re talking about “living faith”, then that’s true. But St. Thomas would put trust under the category of “hope”. “Raw” faith is essentially belief – believing in all the characteristics of God – that He is love, that his mercy is without end, that speaks only the perfect truth. Even the demons can have raw faith. They know all these things about God, they just don’t want Him.

    Hope is more than Faith. Hope goes beyond Faith by desiring His love and trusting in His mercy and promises. A character of Hope and Faith are necessary for the formation of Love, for a man who does not love God, and does not trust Him cannot have the will to love Him.

    But I will reiterate, when we read Paul saying that we are justified by “faith”, Paul means “living faith”, which includes both “hope” (trust) and “love”. So the Catholic conception of living faith is not just a trustful faith. For a man can desire God and trust in God’s promises and yet still not be repentant of his sins and therefore not be willing to love God above the things of this world.

  118. Hi Robert,

    I keep finding one more part of your message I want to reply to:

    “(Protestants of course acknowledge that obedience must follow but for us it is a result of God’s action/blessing towards us, not a cause of God’s blessing of us)”

    It’s a false dilemma, because both are true.

    1. Obedience is a result of God’s blessing: No one can obey God without love, and the gift of love is poured out by the Spirit. God moves first.

    2. God’s blessing is a result of obedience: When a man acts righteously, doesn’t God bless him more and more? A righteous man, out of love for God, prays for an increase in grace, will not God increase in him the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Isn’t this the process of sanctification, whereby God gives to the justified more and more grace? He changes our hearts so that we want to act, and when we do, He adds to what He has already done.

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