Why a Legal Fiction is not Pulp Fiction

Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Atonement, Catholicism, Featured, Gospel, Imputation, Justification, Law, Presbyterianism, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, Romans, Sola Fide | 153 comments

*** By Jonathan Prejean ***

Recently, I’ve read several comments from Reformed Christians on the question of Catholics calling the Reformed doctrine of imputation a “legal fiction.” Based on my reading of those comments, some Reformed Christians see the description “legal fiction” as similar to saying that it is “made up” and not true. But that would only be relevant in the literary context, when one is trying to distinguish factual descriptions from fictitious ones.

In literary fiction, one makes up something that didn’t actually happen. The Reformed response is then essentially that the law can treat something as being the case for purposes of the law, even if it isn’t literally the case. But that’s just the definition of a legal fiction; indeed, that’s the entire purpose of a legal fiction.

“Legal fiction” isn’t itself a pejorative term. In adoption, for example, the adoptive parents are treated like the natural parents under the law, and the natural parents are no longer treated like parents under the law. That’s a perfectly reasonable legal fiction for the benefit of the adopted children. Adoption is therefore a legitimate legal fiction, and the Bible appeals to that specific legal fiction in describing our salvation.

A theological example of a legal fiction is non-imputation of sin, where God does not reckon a man’s sins against him even though the person did actually commit sins. Notably, the entire system of sacrifice and atonement under the Mosaic Law was a legal fiction; it allowed people to be treated as ritually pure under the law, even though they had committed sins. Sins were forgiven for purposes of the law, even though they were not, in an absolute sense, forgiven.

So the problem isn’t that the Reformed doctrine is a fiction, because there are plenty of perfectly legitimate legal fictions. The problem is that it’s a legal fiction. Legal fictions are fine for solving problems under the law, but when a legal fiction is applied to something outside of the law, then the results can be absurd. For example, although a corporation is treated as a natural person for many purposes by means of a legal fiction, it would be ridiculous to let a corporation get married.

At that point, a legal fiction becomes more like a literary fiction; it’s not dealing with reality anymore. And that is the Catholic objection to the Reformed doctrine: not that it is a legal fiction, but that it is applying a legal fiction where it has no business being applied. And that in turn is a question of substantive justice, right and wrong in reality, as opposed to procedural justice, right and wrong for purposes of the law. We let people be adopted as a matter of legal fiction because that serves substantive justice. Conversely, letting corporations get married would be ridiculous for the same reason.

From the Catholic perspective, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and James are extended meditations on why the Pharisees were confusing a legal fiction, the system of ritual that allowed Israel to foreshadow the coming of the Messiah, with substantive justice, actual cleansing from sin. But St. Paul says we are not justified by works of the Law, and St. James says we wouldn’t have a chance if the Law were the standard of substantive justice, and the author of Hebrews says that the sacrifices had no power to actually make atonement. Paul explains the difference between overlooked sins under the Law and the substantive justice of the atonement in Romans 3:

For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

That doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong with the Law, only that it shouldn’t be taken beyond its intended purpose so as to make it the standard of substantive divine justice. “Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully.” (1 Tim. 1:8). So the Catholic critique is not simply that imputation relies on a legal fiction, which isn’t a bad thing, but that it takes a legal fiction beyond where it can possibly apply. Atonement is a matter of substantive justice, and it cannot be provided by a legal fiction.

153 Comments

  1. +JMJ+

    Comments are enabled. Jason is posting.

    We have the tools. We have the talent. It’s Miller Time.™

  2. Substantive justice? Do this and live? Don’t do this and die? You really want justice?

  3. (FYI, Jonathan wrote this one.)

  4. @Dr. Hart:
    Substantive justice is unavoidable; it’s just a question of which law applies. We should all prefer the law of Christ to the law of nature in that respect.

    But the point of this post is that the Mosaic Law was never even intended to be a standard for substantive justice. Barring exceptional circumstances, God doesn’t kill people for violating the Law. Conversely, obeying the Law doesn’t make people righteous before God (i.e., substantively righteous).

  5. Darryl,

    It’s a mistake to interpret “Do this and live” as something along the lines of “Keep the law sinlessly and receive eternal life as your reward.”

  6. Jonathan,

    “Legal Fiction ” is an appropriate assessment, because imputation impounds the gift rather than effectively delivering it. A sequestered gift is no gift at all. The Reformed system on the whole suffers from a lack of efficacy. And efficacy is how I interpret the concept of ” substantive justice “.

  7. Jonathan,
    You mention the case of adoption. Of course, for Catholics, being adopted as sons in the Son is much more than a legal fiction. Its actually allows us to partake of the divine nature. It justifies.
    From what I read, I don’t get the feeling that Protestants do much more than pay lip service to being made sons of God. They speak a lot of regeneration/being born again, but this divine indwelling of the Holy Ghost does not really do much more than free up the enslaved will so the sinner can make make an act of faith and thereby receive the alien righteousness of Christ for forensic justification.
    If my impression if correct, is adoption just a legal fiction for the Reformed?

  8. Jonathan–

    Sorry. All joking aside, I’ve read through your post a couple of times, and you seem to be missing something usually rather important…an argument.

    You claim that procedural justice can serve substantive justice in the case of adoption but not in the case of atonement. But you never say why that might be. Not that I could discern.

    (Corporations, by the way, do merge to become identified with one another in terms of finances and responsibilities. Rather like a marriage. Not a very definitive example in your part, attempting to show inappropriate applicability.)

  9. Jonathan–

    I cannot see where your position is even a Roman Catholic one.

    Dave Armstrong says this about the imputation of Christ’s righteousness:

    Another way of looking at this is to say that Canon 9 doesn’t absolutely forbid imputed justification, either, as an aspect of justification, but rather, only the notion that justification consists solely of imputation. The next canon makes it clear that there is indeed a proper sense of imputed justification or “extrinsic” or “declarative” or “external” righteousness:

    Canon X. If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

    Again, what is asserted is the denial of a minimalist view. The first clause espouses initial imputed, external justification (“the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us”). But the second clause condemns the legalistic extreme of making this alone the cause of justification, as if there is no cooperation required (assuming the person proceeds on with his life after initial justification). Imputation is present (and indeed necessary) but not sufficient unto salvation, in and of itself. The next canon reiterates:

    Canon XI. If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

    We are initially justified by “the justice of Christ” and “grace,” but we are not justified by a “sole imputation.” Imputation is, thus, a truth of Catholic soteriology, but it is not the “whole ball of wax” of salvation.

    Unfortunately, for both you and Mr. Armstrong, infants who die after baptism have nothing but Initial Justification, and thus, are indeed justified by a “sole imputation.” Christ’s righteousness and Christ’s righteousness alone is sufficient for their Final Justification. Evidently, infants can be saved by an Atonement which is nothing more than a “literary fiction,” as you term it.

  10. Eric,
    Infants are filled with grace and the Holy Spirit at Baptism. I distinctly recall telling you of the case of Origen of Alexandria’s father who would tip-toe up to baby Origen’s cradle, undo the sleeping child’s night shirt at the breast and adore the indwelling Holy Spirit.

  11. Eric,

    “Unfortunately, for both you and Mr. Armstrong, infants who die after baptism have nothing but Initial Justification, and thus, are indeed justified by a “sole imputation.” Christ’s righteousness and Christ’s righteousness alone is sufficient for their Final Justification. Evidently, infants can be saved by an Atonement which is nothing more than a “literary fiction,” as you term it.”

    Where do you come up with this stuff? See Jim’s statement. Armstrong is not saying baptized babies are justified by sole imputation.
    Catechism: “With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us. ..Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.”

    Armstrong is saying nothing different – imputation can be affirmed in a sense, provided infusion is not denied and the declaration truly reflects reality (i.e. no Horton cartoon). Which is nothing new – Davenant, an anti-Catholic Anglican, wrote against Bellarmine’s position and cited him:
    “[Bellarmine] therefore adds, that ‘Christ is made unto us righteousness, inasmuch as he satisfied the Father for us, and bestowed upon us that satisfaction;’ and in this sense he admits that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, ‘provided it be not denied, that there is besides in us inherent righteousness, to which in the just judgment of God, not punishment but glory is due.’ See how the force of truth has almost constrained Bellarmine to bow, though with unwilling neck, to the Protestant doctrine!”

    But of course Davenant wrote 500 pages rebutting such a view, so “almost” wasn’t good enough for him. Just like Benedict’s statement on faith alone wasn’t good enough for RS Clark. And so on.

  12. James–

    Protestants in no way deny infusion. The Horton cartoon only depicts justification.

    If you accept imputation (in some sense), I assume it must come at least logically prior to infusion. Are you seriously contending Christ couldn’t decide to take a little one off to heaven before infusing it with righteousness? Isn’t that a little silly? The imputation of HIS OWN righteousness wouldn’t be enough. No, no, no, no. It would take the infusion of HIS OWN righteousness…because that would then be “inherent” righteousness in the kid. Then whole notion is absolutely ludicrous.

    We’re not even talking about the glorification of this child. Obviously, from whichever side we approach this–Catholic or Protestant–the babe will be made inherently righteous before seeing glory. All we’re talking about is the decision to take him there: Catholics believe it cannot be made until the tyke is inherently morally transformed…even though the entirety of action… both in terms of imputation AND infusion is Christ’s and Christ’s alone.

    I mean, let’s get real. The child is not capable of moral behavior, let alone moral transformation. In any practical sense, the infusion of agape grants nothing more than potential moral ability. Infants cannot cooperate with cooperative grace.

  13. Jim–

    And I distinctly recall informing you over and over again that Protestant sanctification actually transforms. Our adoption as sons also allows US to participate in the divine nature. We just don’t become part of a Hinduistic Oversoul like you guys.

    When we are “born from above” at the second birth (Protestant regeneration), we are filled with grace and the Holy Spirit. And he never, ever leaves or forsakes us. Perhaps you would like to come worship at my breast while I sleep. I’m warning you though, my wife would NOT understand!

    🙂

  14. James–

    Notice that Dave Armstrong implies that an exception is granted to the one who dies before cooperation is possible:

    But the second clause condemns the legalistic extreme of making [imputation] alone the cause of justification, as if there is no cooperation required (assuming the person proceeds on with his life after initial justification).

    If an exception is indeed granted to anyone, Jonathan’s argument that a “sole imputation” of righteousness is an inappropriate application of the Atonement is automatically null and void.

  15. Eric,
    Sorry but as I can’t have absolute assurance that you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit while I can have that assurance that every single Baptized baby is indwelt by the Trinity.
    Unfortunately for you, assuming your kids are Baptized, you can’t enjoy the assurance Origen’s father had as you can’t be sure if any of your whelps are elect. If, God forbid, a tragedy would strike, you and your wife would not know with certainty your child was in heaven.

  16. Eric,
    You say a person must be imputed as righteous before an infusion of grace. I am just guessing but your error is because you hold to penal substitution. First Christ must die for the elect individual and then the Holy Spirit regenerates him, right?
    For us, Christ died for the sin of Adam and for all men who share his nature. All men could,( in a sense, ) be said to be imputed righteous from the objective Redemption on Calvary. After that, the Holy Spirit is sent to all men, Catholics, Buddhists, Baptists, atheists. He, like Jesus to the Church a Laodacea, stands at the door and knocks. If the door is open and regeneration takes place, the person is reckoned/ declared or IMPUTED righteous and an heir of heaven because he IS.

  17. Jim–

    Of course, your “assurance” is only as good as the validity of the Roman claim to be the church that Christ founded. Since I am SURE that such is not the case, it would be rather silly of me to put give any credence to your assurance.

    There is no “door” to an infant’s heart–Buddhist or Catholic–which Jesus knocks upon, hoping for reply.

  18. Eric,
    Glad to see you haven’t lost your spunk.
    There is indeed a door to a baby’s heart ( metaphorically speaking, of course ) and unlike an adult’s, it is never barred by actual sin or heretical opinions. That is why infant Baptism is 100% of the time efficacious ex opere operato. No preparatory study, catechumenate or penance needed. No act of Faith. Nada. All Baptized babies are elect.

  19. Eric,
    My assurance? No entiendo.
    Are you speaking of my assurance that Christ died for me and wants me in heaven?
    Eric, Christ died for all men and wants all men saved. The Good Book says so loud and clear. If I didn’t believe that, I could have no assurance that he died for me.

    As for my assurance that I am in the right place, the Catholic Church, that comes from doing the research. You can have it too. Start by lining up the claimants to be Christ’s Church. Shoot ’em down one by one. At the end of the day, only the Church built by Christ on Peter will be left standing.
    It’s easy to find. The address is 00120 Via del Pellegrino, Vatican City, Rome, Italy across the Tiber River. It’s a big domed building. You can’t miss it.

  20. Eric,
    So you are not confused, all baptized babies are elect to grace. Should they die before reaching the age of reason, you can be sure they are also elect to glory.

  21. I really appreciate Jonathan saying,
    “The Law shouldn’t be taken beyond its intended purpose so as to make it the standard of substantive divine justice.”

    I would like to add that God is not fair.

    He is much more that fair . . . He is Just.

    And generous and abundantly merciful.

    On the Cross, Justice and Mercy kissed.

    Oh defintiely, God is not fair.

  22. Eric,

    “Protestants in no way deny infusion. The Horton cartoon only depicts justification. ”

    Yes, I know, nor did I imply such. The whole point is the cartoon depicts justification. The point of Armstrong and Bellarmine’s and the catechism statements is that the cartoon is wrong – the declaration truly reflects reality – so the cartoon makes no sense. Initial justification/baptism doesn’t do sole imputation just as final justification doesn’t. Faith, hope, charity are infused at initial justification which puts the person in a state of grace. At final justification, if they still have those infused gifts they are still in a state of grace and thus saved. No divide as you are positing with your remark on baptized infants.

    And as an aside, even if infusion takes place in Protestantism it’s still not enough – as Davenant remarked – the problem with Bellarmine’s statement was ‘provided it be not denied, that there is besides in us inherent righteousness, to which in the just judgment of God, not punishment but glory is due.’ Is glory or punishment due to the inherent righteousness in Protestant sanctification when under the *just* judgment of God? Punishment as all your catechisms state (for your inherent righteousness is always inchoate and tainted), hence your need for the cartoon at judgment.

    “Are you seriously contending Christ couldn’t decide to take a little one off to heaven before infusing it with
    righteousness? Isn’t that a little silly?”

    It’s not silly because infusion takes place simultaneously with imputation – the declaration effects reality. Let there be light – there was actual true light, not reckoned as if there was light.

    “The imputation of HIS OWN righteousness wouldn’t be enough. No, no, no, no. It would take the infusion of HIS OWN righteousness…because that would then be “inherent” righteousness in the kid. Then whole notion is absolutely ludicrous.”

    Maybe it’s ludicrous – but it’s catholic teaching – which you originally were implying Armstrong and Jonathan weren’t following or were inconsistent. You disagree with catholic teaching – no surprise – but that doesn’t mean the theology is inconsistent when concerning initial justification and/or baptized infants as you were arguing.

    “If an exception is indeed granted to anyone, Jonathan’s argument that a “sole imputation” of righteousness is an inappropriate application of the Atonement is automatically null and void.”

    Infusion still occurs in the baptized infant.

  23. James–

    1. The declaration affects reality in Reformed thought, as well. I’ve spoken before how Horton lines it up with “speech act” or with creation by fiat (Let there be light) just as you have done.

    2. The divide between justification and sanctification, between imputation and infusion, is a logical one for Protestantism, too. There is no temporal difference. They are simultaneous.

    3. Our inherent righteousness is due glory…in the form of responsibilities and rewards.

    4. When I say that this particular Catholic teaching is ludicrous, I mean that it is meaningless. You are making a distinction where none need exist.

    5. The point was NOT that infusion doesn’t occur with an infant, but that cooperation does not.

  24. Eric,

    1. Do you need the cartoon at judgment or not?

    2. Do you need the cartoon at judgment or not?

    3. Yes so you equivocate on Bellarmine’s words to make it work. Davenant knew what he meant – it wasn’t just heavenly responsibilities/rewards ontop of entrance into glory.

    4. It is hardly meaningless to say imputation effects infusion that save us. That’s why the Reformation happened. If it’s meaningless – stop hating bro.

    5. Does a baby present an obstacle to grace?

    And yes your original point was that infusion does not happen with an infant – I’ll remind you of your words: “Unfortunately, for both you and Mr. Armstrong, infants who die after baptism have nothing but Initial Justification, and thus, are indeed justified by a “sole imputation.” Christ’s righteousness and Christ’s righteousness alone is sufficient for their Final Justification. Evidently, infants can be saved by an Atonement which is nothing more than a “literary fiction,” as you term it.”
    Someone who has nothing “but initial justification” is not “thus indeed justified by a sole imputation”. They are infused. A person who has nothing “but initial justification” is saved in exactly the same way as someone who has nothing “but final justification after x number of years” Which is exactly what Armstrong meant when saying:
    “We are initially justified by “the justice of Christ” and “grace,” but we are not justified by a “sole imputation.” Imputation is, thus, a truth of Catholic soteriology, but it is not the “whole ball of wax” of salvation.”
    which is what you were objecting to (“Unfortunately…”). Canon XI you cited above applies to baptized infants and deathbeds just as much as it applies to those who live long lives after baptism.

  25. James–

    1. Do you need the Cross at judgment or not?

    2. do you need the Cross at judgment or not?

    3. Equivocate e-schmivocate. Inherent righteousness in sanctification is real and accounted for.

    4. Neither imputation nor infusion really mean anything in and of themselves. Whether they are sufficient as is…or require cooperation…THAT is the question. I’ll stop hating when you acknowledge that infusion is sufficient.

    5. Yes, a baby definitely presents an obstacle to cooperative grace. It’s not able to cooperate!

    My original point was that if cooperation is not required for infants, it cannot be required for anyone. (Or, at the very least, one cannot deride Protestant justification as a “literary fiction.”)

    Infusion by itself means nothing. One doesn’t win a Super Bowl based on athletic potential. The player has to strap on his cleats and grind it out on the field. Otherwise, what we have is a “legal fiction” of one sort or another.

  26. Boys,
    The Council of Trent said loud and clear we are justified SOLELY by the infusion of grace. No double imputation as tried at Ratisbon to bring Catholics and Protestants together.
    Eric keeps insisting that he believes in infusion. So what? It isn’t enough to save without the added alien righteousness imputed on top of it.
    The Biblical texts that speak of rebirth, being made an entirely new creation and having all sins wiped out in Baptism are sufficient to prove our position ( according to Trent ).

  27. Eric,

    Yes, I know you hasten to assure us that Protestants do indeed believe in sanctification and that it always accompanies forensic justification. But doesn’t the life of sanctification follow upon the declaration of justification? A real faith will always have good works flowing from and vindicating saving faith, you will insist ( although you will assure us it doesn’t save as you aren’t a Pelagian ).
    Then, you will say that those good works are shot through with imperfection, self seeking or vainglory. You will say the Law demands nothing less than absolute perfection. In order to meet the just requirements of the Law, we need a perfect righteousness that only be found in Christ’s perfect obedience in keeping the Law on our behalf and in His death. Do I have it right?
    Okay, my turn. Trent says the Law is fulfilled when we are in a state of grace. The Council appeals to the passages in scripture that speak of a clean heart with the Law written on it, and the Charity that causes us to keep the commandments. It also says that post Baptismal concupiscence does not break the Law as it is not sin as it doesn’t proceed from the will.
    Justification is not a rapping gavel, Eric. It is the Holy Spirit coming into our soul and like a seal in hot wax, imprinting His likeness. This likeness is sanctifying grace. The Spirit also brings with Him the virtue of Charity that empowers us to act. Still, even before we ever perform one meritorious deed, we are sanctified and ready for heaven.
    The Holy Spirit is the bond of Love between the father and the Son. He is Love Himself. Rom 5:5 says the Love of/for/from God is poured into our hearts ( doors remember? ) by the Holy Spirit Who is given as our gift and guest. We are enabled to love God with the Love God loves Himself. This is all before we do one single good work.
    Works increase our sanctification and keep us from falling into sin but even if a person dies immediately after Baptism without having lived a sanctified life, he goes to heaven. Even later venial sin, while requiring purification, does not drive out the Spirit and wipe out sanctifying grace. It does not unjustify us.
    What is with this imputation you guys keep talking about? If I have the Holy Ghost ( and therefore the Father and the Son ) dwelling within me, why do I need another source of my justification? Why do I need a fiction added to reality?

  28. Eric,

    1. So I take that as a yes

    2. So I take that as a yes

    As Jim said “It isn’t enough to save without the added alien righteousness imputed on top of it.” which is the whole point no matter how much you praise infusion in sanctification.

    3. Yes you believe in inherent righteousness. No, you do not believe it can satisfy God’s *just* judgment, but deserves rather punishment instead of glory contra Bellarmine’s statement. And I’ll add that it doesn’t matter whether you qualify that as entrance into glory or rewards ontop of glory. You say you are due glory in sanctification in terms of responsibilities/rewards – but not under God’s *just* judgment because as all your confessions state – your good works in sanctification are still shot through with sin and defiled and worthy of damnation without imputation.

    4. When I acknowledge infusion is sufficient? I assume you meant imputation?

    5. Don’t babies and mentally disabled people need to cooperate in sanctification which is a necessary outgrowth of justification in your view? So are they never justified in your view then?

    “My original point was that if cooperation is not required for infants, it cannot be required for anyone. (Or, at the very least, one cannot deride Protestant justification as a “literary fiction.”)”

    This does not follow even if we grant your assertion (which I don’t – babies don’t present an obstacle to grace) – how does it follow that if someone does not cooperate, they are then not infused at justification? The legal fiction charge to Protestantism is due not to cooperation or lack thereof, but to its denial of infusion as able to withstand judgment for entrance into glory.

    “Infusion by itself means nothing. One doesn’t win a Super Bowl based on athletic potential. The player has to strap on his cleats and grind it out on the field. Otherwise, what we have is a “legal fiction” of one sort or another.”

    What are you talking about? Again, a baby and deathbed with no works are still saved by infusion as Trent says in canon 11. Initial justification is no different than final justification. There’s none of this “potential” stuff going on and there certainly is not a legal fiction going on. You just keep asserting that for some reason.

  29. Jim–

    You’re confused. Nothing is being added.

  30. James–

    1. You ducked my question.

    2. You ducked my question.

    As I told Jim, nothing is being added. You can mix and match imputation and infusion all you like. What we don’t like about your version of infusion is that it leaks out.

    3. My point is that, unless you’re an idiot, YOU DON’T BELIEVE your own inherent righteousness satisfies God’s just judgment; thus the need for Purgatory in the vast percentage of cases. (Plus, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t discount the significance of the Cross even after you have “arrived” in terms of inherent righteousness.) Even in Catholic soteriology, we are never given God’s just judgment. His grace is slathered on everything. The whole concept of good works “shot through with sin and defiled” only makes sense within the paradigm. Since you have no concept of that, I’d drop it for the moment if I were you. You’ll only get more confused than you already are.

    4. I don’t really care what you call the benefits of Christ’s grace–imputation, infusion, union–I only care that you find it sufficient.

    5. I leave babies and mentally handicapped folks to the wisdom and grace of God. I’m betting he’ll do just fine without my input.

    No, James, the “legal fiction” epithet has absolutely nothing to do with infusion and everything to do with progressive justification. If we are not saved through our own developing inherent righteousness in which we cooperatively participate, then it is accomplished by an outside party (Christ), making it not on the up and up somehow, ethically and legally. I’m fine with (leakproof/sufficient) infusion withstanding judgment for entrance into glory.

    I “assert” that infusion’s being enough for babies lines up with imputation’s being enough for believers. In both cases, justifying righteousness is totally derived from an alien source.

  31. Eric,

    1/2. You ducked my question first. So I win. But to indulge you, what does Trent say is our meritorious cause of justification? Now would you like to answer my original question directly and clearly or will you do more vague vacillating statements on infusion and imputation? You like the cartoon only when you don’t, but then actually you do.

    3. Trent – “we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life” But thank you for pointing out that you agree with Davenant’s objection despite your praising of infusion.

    4. Imputation and infusion are not synonymous. I know you keep vacillating and trying to make them be that depending on the context, but it’s not the case.

    5. Can God violate his own justice and standards by divine fiat? So you simply shrug and leave it to mystery, but refuse to allow any flexibility in how infusion is applied to infants because it doesn’t fit your definition of “cooperation”. Convenient.

    “No, James, the “legal fiction” epithet has absolutely nothing to do with infusion and everything to do with progressive justification.”

    If you believed in infusion in such a manner as to do away with the legal fiction charge, you wouldn’t need the cartoon at judgment. So yes it has everything to do with infusion (and its definition) rather than absolutely nothing to do with it.

    “I’m fine with (leakproof/sufficient) infusion withstanding judgment for entrance into glory.”

    Okay so every christian’s inherent righteousness is in perfect conformity with the law and can meet God’s strict perfect and holy standard of justice right? No need for the cartoon at judgment? Then why did you qualify above when agreeing with Bellarmine’s statement that it only applied to heavenly reward/responsibilities?

    “I “assert” that infusion’s being enough for babies lines up with imputation’s being enough for believers. In both cases, justifying righteousness is totally derived from an alien source.”

    This is part of the problem – the issue is not the source of the righteousness – it is about where it is in relation to us. Of course infused righteousness comes from Christ (one doesn’t infuse ones self with their own righteousness) – it does not remain external and alien to us, as it does in ongoing extra nos imputation in Protestantism. And again please don’t come back with “but Protestants believe in infusion in sanctification!” – we all know that – the problem always has been you want the cartoon at judgment. Because you need to be considered righteous while not actually righteous (to satisfy God’s perfect standards). Hence the legal fiction.

  32. James–

    1/2–

    Ah, yes, the suffering and death of Christ as the meritorious cause…

    So, then we are agreed concerning the cartoon.

    3. Well, fine…so Trent doesn’t agree with Trent. What else is new?

    4. I could care less that they are not synonymous. I never said that they were. In fact, you’d have to think me pretty ignorant to even entertain such an assumption. My point is NOT that they are synonymous, but that it doesn’t make any blasted difference that they are not.

    5. I said nothing about divine fiat. I’m a credobaptist. Babies are not a part of the soteriological system. We punt to mystery. I am trusting of God. For you, on the other hand, babies are part of the system, and mere potentiality by means of infusion doesn’t fit anybody’s definition of cooperation.

    6. We’ve already agreed to agree on the cartoon. Infusion does not do away with the need for the Cross.

    7. You agreed that we both need the cartoon at judgment, so what’s your point? Stay consistent, James. You can do it!

    8. This is where you are wrong: the issue is very much THE SOURCE of the righteousness. This is what alien righteousness is talking about. The SOURCE of the righteousness. No one has EVER said that it remains extrinsic to us or that we have no relation to it. Of the five Tridentine “causes of justification,” not one speaks of cooperation.

  33. James–

    Sorry, that was probably a little too cutesy. So let me add: all that the cartoon is really saying is that the judgment of our sin is filtered through the reality of the Cross. Christ died for our sins even in Catholic theology, last time I checked. 1 Corinthians 15:3 is still in your Bibles. Bryan Cross actually states that the cartoon is more or less correct if applied only to venial sin (Aquinas and Trent, part 7). The Protestant view of regenerate sin and the Catholic view of venial sin have a great deal in common. I think you are placing far more tension into this silly cartoon than is really there. My guess is, if we were able to parse out the details across paradigms, there would be very little disagreement between us concerning this particular cartoon. It’s not really worth fighting over.

  34. @Eric:
    Here’s what I don’t get. You know Dave Armstrong and I are on the same page and that we aren’t ignorant about what Trent said. So why not just take that for granted (i.e., we know the subject) and figure out what we must mean, rather than taking a view that you know is going to end up being wrong?

    Infants don’t need imputation, because they haven’t done anything wrong, even venial sin. In fact, infants are generally the only people who need no imputation, no legal fiction, in order to reach Heaven. You’re still thinking of justification as something that people have to do, and that’s the entire point of not being saved by works. Infants are saved without doing anything at all, not because of imputed obedience, but because obedience is not actually required. They have done all they need to be saved, to have righteousness infused in them, by passively receiving baptism. They have been morally transformed, not potentially but actually, without one shred of obedience, That should be enough to show you that no degree of obedience or imputation is required for righteousness to be infused. They don’t need the Cross to cover their personal sins.

    Upon reaching moral responsibility, however, the situation changes. Those people will need at least some degree of imputation with respect to past sins and venial sins. In that respect, imputation is true. But if salvation were *only* imputation, then we wouldn’t even have the bare minimum of righteousness that infants, who aren’t capable of doing anything, would have. The difference is that we can also grow in righteousness, which is something that infants can’t do. That is the opportunity we are given as adult Christians. But because that carries with it the possibility of moral failure, we also need the Cross to cover our sins to some degree, i.e., the legal fiction.

    If you can get why babies need righteousness to be infused even though they can’t possibly have done anything wrong under the Law (viz., why babies do not need imputation but still need baptism), then you will go a long way toward understanding the Catholic theology of justification. They have no need of any legal fiction, but they still need grace. The legal fiction, the change of status under the law, isn’t enough. It can’t change the substantive justice of their situation, which is that the human nature they inherited was in a deficient condition when passed to them on account of Adam’s sin.

    This whole “source” analysis is therefore entirely wrong. Infants can’t do anything, and for that very reason, their righteousness is 100% infused and 0% imputed. Only people who are moral agents under the law need imputation, because they are the only ones who can sin.

  35. Eric,
    You give no scripture to prove your case.
    Anyway, I think you need to start by defining the term “grace”. Protestants calling it “unmerited favor” falls short of what it is revealed to be.
    Then, define heaven and/or the Beatific Vision. You do know itt starts in this life by grace, right? Grace is to the beatific Vision as the acorn is to the oak.
    St. Paul says Faith and Hope will Fall away but the greatest of the theological virtues, Charity (which is infused into us along with grace ) will not.
    An imputed righteousness received by the empty hand of Faith, a virtue that will pass away, has no place in heaven.
    In heaven we will “see him as He is”. No mental image. Direct contact with God face to face. We will be somehow fused with him. Grace does this. Nothing unholy can fuse with God.
    Before going further with this topic, you need to stop and define some terms. And buttress it with revelation and not just opinion.

  36. Eric,
    What is your spin on the analogy of the Vine and the branches. What does it mean for the branches to live by the same life as the Vine? Is that life merely imputed?
    And Romans 5:5. What does that mean to you?

  37. Jonathan–

    To say that one can be actually morally transformed “without one shred of obedience” is out-and-out nonsensical gibberish.

    It simply doesn’t mean anything.

    Infants have neither the capacity to be sinful nor the capacity to be sinless. (I’m sorry, but to speak of frogs and salamanders as sinless is absolutely inane.) It is similarly irrelevant to describe infants in terms of sin.

    Until and unless you can begin to speak of potentialities when it comes to any spiritual benefit granted our young ones, I will continue to question your basic sanity.

  38. Eric,
    Where did you hear that infused righteousness leaks? Tim Staples? Actually, sanctifying grace doesn’t leak out. Venial sins do not diminish sanctifying grace.
    Does the idea of losing all grace by one mortal sin disturb you? It should. It is biblical.
    Another thing, purgatory is not a case of imputation.
    Finally, your understanding of the Law is skewed. You do realize that O.T saints were able to keep the law by Faith and Charity? When we have sanctifying grace the Law is kept and we keep the Law. The Bible says so.
    Venial sins and concupiscence don’t break the Law and drive out the Holy Spirit. The Law always allowed for infractions and imperfection. The just man, not the wicked one, falls 7 times a day without becoming a wicked law breaker.
    You need to actually present your case from revelation and and not just smart alec comments.

  39. Jim–

    1. The normal Protestant definition of “charis” as ‘free and undeserved favor’ works just fine.

    2. The three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are ALL said to remain in 1 Corinthians 13 by St. Paul. (Why, even Romans 5:5, which you alluded to says our “hope will not put us to shame.”)

    3. Imputation always includes infusion, so there is no problem with vine/branch analogies. With you guys, sap is always leaking out onto the ground. Hope is always failing. That’s not the Jesus of the Bible.

  40. Jim–

    Don’t tell me how to defend my case, and I won’t tell you how to defend yours. I don’t get the impression that you appropriately honor or understand Scripture. I’m not here to waste my time.

  41. Eric,

    St. Paul tells the Galatians they have fallen from grace. How does one fall from unmerited favor?

    How can people, whether Mary or Stephen be filled with unmerited favor?

    Noah’s humility merited unmerited favor?
    St. Paul is told that, ” My grace is sufficient for thee” to overcome a temptation or something. This means that grace is a power or “dunemis” from which we get the word dynamite.

    You say you are not here to waste your time. Why are you here? This blog just reopened a few days ago and right out of the gate you are back to your old prissy arrogance and hostility. I don’t know why you post here as you know everything already and don’t care to engage other than to insult and sneer.

  42. Eric,
    The Jesus of the Bible did not teach OSAS. If you think He did, once again, show me from the Bible that you say I neither honor nor understand.

    In the Bible you claim to understand and honor so much more profoundly than me, explain the parable of the Unforgiving Servant who had debt cancelled, was forgiven, but because he was unforgiving himself, ended up in hell.

    Surely, you can waste a little time explaining this parable for the sake of lurkers who may be curious.

  43. Jim–

    Either you already know how we interpret these verses, or you should. Why don’t you take the time?

    I’m guessing you have never had children or you would know how someone with “permanent, free, and undeserved” favor still ends up in his parents’ “doghouse” from time to time.

    Neither Jesus nor I teach OSAS.

  44. Eric,
    You don’t adhere to OSAS? Then why do you complain about “leaking”?

  45. Eric,
    Please tell me you hadn’t thought this through before posting. Tell me you posted in a mad haste to throw a barb about my assumed disdain for the written Word of God.

    “The three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are ALL said to remain in 1 Corinthians 13 by St. Paul. (Why, even Romans 5:5, which you alluded to says our “hope will not put us to shame.”)

    Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
    Will Faith ( what is not seen ) remain when we “see Him as He is”? Will we still be hoping after all of our desires are fulfilled in the Lord?

    Eric, there is no Faith or Hope in heaven. Only Love. And that starts now and goes on for eternity.

  46. Jim–

    1. You have been told plenty of times before that the Reformed do not hold to OSAS. Whatever it takes for you to get it straight, do it.

    2. Faith is basically just trust, and thus, I have faith it shall be retained in heaven. Heaven is never depicted as static, so hope in some form will hopefully remain, as well. In their “fulfilled” forms, both will stick around without a doubt…just as love has and does and will.

    You’re extrapolating from one form of of our present faith–we walk by faith and not by sight–to all expressions of trust in God. Charity will be transformed by glory, too, you know.

    We are in Christ now, and we will be in Christ in heaven. Imputation is the bottom line…the “blue screen” upon which all the action is projected…the broth into which all the fixings for the soup are plunged. You guys believe in it. You just don’t know that you do. We will never stand completely on our own, nor would we want to.

  47. Eric,

    “3. Well, fine…so Trent doesn’t agree with Trent. What else is new?”

    Assertions are easy. That you think Trent is inconsistent might be an indicator your argument against Jonathan is off the mark.

    “This is where you are wrong: the issue is very much THE SOURCE of the righteousness. This is what alien righteousness is talking about. The SOURCE of the righteousness. No one has EVER said that it remains extrinsic to us or that we have no relation to it.”

    This is just plain wrong. Why would Protestants go nuclear over Trent when it affirms the source of our righteousness is external to us (“Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ.”)? Because they want the cartoon at judgment – the extra nos forensic imputation is ongoing from regeneration to glorification. You may be infused with righteousness, but it is ever-inchoate and imperfect, hence the cartoon at judgment – none of your confessions or theologians say that once infusion happens the extra nos forensic imputed rigtheousness fades away or is no longer needed – it remains always primary in the picture and so the righteousness upon which you are granted glorification does indeed remain extrinsic to you and forensically imputed.
    Indeed such imputation is required even in the sphere of sanctification with infused righteousness since all your works are defiled and worthy of damnation otherwise.

    “all that the cartoon is really saying is that the judgment of our sin is filtered through the reality of the Cross. Christ died for our sins even in Catholic theology, last time I checked. ”

    Yes Christ died for our sins. Affirming that in no way necessitates ongoing extra nos imputation as grounds for justification/glorification, nor does it necessitate denying that our inherent righteousness is the sole formal cause of our justification as Trent states (and which every Protestant goes nuclear over – hence Horton’s cartoon and the entire catalogue of Protestant polemical literature the past 5 centuries).

    “Bryan Cross actually states that the cartoon is more or less correct if applied only to venial sin (Aquinas and Trent, part 7). ”

    Here’s what Cross says:
    “So, if the sign held by the person in the cartoon above is referring to venial sin, then it is true that the baptized person remains a sinner. But even so, it is not that Christ’s righteousness hides or covers his venial sin. God sees every venial sin. But He sees it as venial, as still coming from a heart that loves Him above all else. And so He sees it with mercy, not wrath. Yet if the sign in the cartoon is referring to mortal sin, then the cartoon is heretical, because then it is affirming the second error condemned in this fifth paragraph of the Fifth Session of Trent.
    The reason why it is impossible to be simultaneously in a state of mortal sin, and justified, is because God cannot lie. God can only count as righteous that which is actually inherently righteous. That’s because the relational problem between man and God necessarily depends upon the internal condition of man.”

    Do you see that there is still no sense of God counting things “as if” or contrary to how they really are? There is still no legal fiction going on in God’s judgment of the sinner, whether it be mortal sin or venial sin. Mercy does not necessitate imputed righteousness.

    If the “source” business was really the bottom line – then I don’t see why you have a problem with Trent’s affirmation of inherent righteousness as the sole formal cause. RCism does not deny the source and origin of our righteousness comes from outside since as said before it’s nonsensical otherwise. And if you affirm that, then you would affirm the mortal/venial sin distinction. But you (and your confessions) have problem with all of those, because you are still wanting the cartoon.

    This conversation has diverged a bit from the original issue you raised which was that Armstrong/Jonathan somehow were being inconsistent in the legal fiction charge with imputation. I take it that has been sufficiently addressed to show why it is not the case, your claims of “gibberish” notwithstanding. We are not saved by “potentialities” – initial justification is not the same as progressive/additional justification – it is instantaneous. Once transferred to that state of grace, we can then grow in it until final justification, where the same standard will be used as one who dies immediately after initial justification – our infused righteousness.

  48. James–

    Hey, I really like Trent in parts. But that it is demonstrably inconsistent is beyond debate. I don’t feel up to arguing it at the moment. Even reasonable Catholics become Sophists at this point.

    I am a Protestant, and I am not going nuclear. I agree with Trent on the source of our righteousness being extra nos. Furthermore, I have no problem with how Trent states the formal cause of justification. God makes us just, renews our minds, and through the Holy Spirit distributes gifts of grace to us.

    Mercy and forgiveness do indeed necessitate something akin to imputation. I’m sorry you are blind to that fact, but it remains true nonetheless. Or sin is not “hidden” from God under the Protestant model any more than the Catholic model. It is graciously ignored. There is little difference between us here. But for some reason you dearly want there to be.

    I also have no problem with inherent righteousness being the sole formal cause…just as long as none of the other causes are superseded by it. The reason I cannot accept the mortal/venial distinction is that it embraces the genuineness of apostasy which in turn negates perseverance. If you can accept that those who leave us were never truly of us, then I can ascribe mortal sin to them.

    All that infants possess are potentialities, so any claim of instantaneous inherent righteousness (which they are not even capable of) is pure fantasy.

  49. @Eric:
    I’ve found your thinking so odd on this subject that it’s hard to know where to begin. Babies aren’t potentially human beings; they are human beings. They aren’t potentially united to Christ; they are actually united to Christ in exactly the same way that every Christian is. Specifically, their wills are actually divinized by the Holy Spirit, not potentially divinized.

    Infants have no capacity to actively grow in righteousness, but it’s like the old saw about what you call the lowest ranked graduate of med school (“doctor”). In is in. For purposes of righteousness before God, they’ve done everything they need by receiving grace. The law is completely fulfilled, and growing in righteousness doesn’t affect that status at all. People, including infants, don’t need to *do* anything in order to be righteous before God. Salvation is by grace, not works, remember?

    You seem to think of justification as some kind of “potential” that will be ultimately realized through sanctification, as if we are somehow “growing into” union with Christ but not really there yet. In the meantime, the end state is imputed to us. But that still suggests that we have to do something, to fulfill our potential to actually be righteous before God. If salvation requires us to actualize a potential, how can it be ultimately by grace?

    Imputation can’t be like a mortgage, credit now for performance later. Otherwise, we’re still in debt.

  50. Jonathan–

    Ditto. I find’your thinking so odd I hardly known where to begin.

    How can one speak of a divinized will in someone with no power to choose? (That paraplegic over there has a divinized walking gait!)

    Evidently, you’re so used to speaking this way that you’ve never stopped to think about it.

  51. @Eric:
    Got it. So when Jesus was an infant, His human soul must not have been united to God. At least, not until He grew up, right?

    I agree that somebody is not thinking this through. You need to distinguish possession of a power (nature) from exercise of the power (person). Infants, including the infant Jesus, possess the power of will, and that is all God needs to be in communion with someone. The exercise of will can make this communion grow, but it isn’t necessary for its initiation.

  52. Eric,

    “Mercy and forgiveness do indeed necessitate something akin to imputation”.

    If by “impute” you mean reckon or reckonize, fine. In Romans 4 God recognized Abraham’s interior disposition and declared him righteous for it.
    Phineas’ zeal in spearing the two fornicators was imputed as righteousness too.

    If you mean to say Christ’s perfect law keeping and death are applied to our account, as if we had done it or in our stead, we have a problem.

    For starters, it is not found in the source of revelation we share, the Bible.
    Secondly, in a system that says Christ’s active Law keeping and passive obedience on Calvary as our penal substitute are legally imputed to us, what is the organic connection between that and our sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Certainly not the Sacraments,

  53. Eric,

    Thanks for the correction but I am aware of the distinction between OSAS vs Perseverance or the saints. I even know how some Calvinists hasten to say, “not perseverance but preservation of the saints”.
    But that is for James White and Dave White to haggle over on their video. On this blog, you said you had a problem with infused righteousness because “IT LEAKS”.
    Burro that I am, I do know what leak means. Every day or so
    I have to pump up my bike tire. I don’t know what happens over night, but the air somehow gets out and I am confronted with a flat tire every morning. I am baffled.
    That homey little example is as erudite as I can get. “Leak” is a big word for me.

    You also said to another blogger who happened to run afoul of you by posting here, “Evidently, you’re so used to speaking this way that you’ve never stopped to think about it.”

    Why Eric? Why the constant snottiness? I thought that when the blog re-opened everyone would want a clean slate and start fresh. You seem to have a constant chip on your shoulder.

  54. Jonathan,

    Wouldn’t you say the case of the baptized baby, who can perform no meritorious or “divinized” deeds and increase his holiness/sonship/justification, he is still a partaker of the divine nature. And if such, an heir.
    Nature precedes action. Before acting, the baby is already divinized and an adopted son. An heir cannot merit his inheritance ( although he can earn disinheritance ). The baptized baby is on his way to heaven as he is equipped to live in God’s presence.
    While there are verses in scripture that teach we can keep the Law by Charity, in the case of the baby, the Law is kept in him by the Charity shed into his heart by the Spirit.

  55. @Jim:
    Yep. Not sure what is so difficult for Eric on that point.

  56. Jonathan–

    I’m not the one being obtuse. A “power” which one cannot exercise is not a power. A power is something which one CAN do. Part of the definition of the word. A power is an actual ability and not a potential ability.

    We’re not speaking of imputation or union or mere infusion here. We’re speaking of inherent righteousness, which must include cooperation or persona effort of some sort.

    If we infuse antibodies into someone’s bloodstream (including an infant’s), we have immunized them against some particular illness. They don’t have to have a live pathogen introduced into their system for us to say they have immunity. But if we DO give them the virus, they have to BE ABLE to fight it off, not merely possess the ability to fight it off at some point in the future. That would be called POTENTIAL immunity.

  57. Eric,
    I believe you identify as prolife, yes?
    At what point does personhood begin? At the moment of conception?
    Maybe you don’t believe personhood starts at conception. You would concede the conceptus is human, has a human nature, right? Nature means the principal by which something acts. If it is not there at the beginning, how does it come to be later on? You do believe in immediate ensoulment, right? You do believe in the existence of the soul, yes? If not, what is the unifying principal of the material body?
    I don’t want to put words in your mouth but if you believe abortion is taking the life of a person, you must believe that the fetus has a human nature, a.k.a. rational nature and free will. Not until the brain and organs are developed and images and memories have been accumulated in the imagination can the child exercise the faculties of intellect and will although they are present in the soul.
    Grace is infused into the soul along with Faith, Hope, Charity ( and prudence, justice fortitude and temperance along with the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit ).
    The baby, born a child of the first Adam, is reborn in Baptism a new creation, a child of God and member of the Catholic Church.

  58. Jim–

    This is not about life…even for you. An unborn baby has no inherent righteousness according to you because he or she has not been baptized.

    An infant has no ability to make moral choices.

    Here’s a Scripture passage from that Bible thingamabob you pretend to honor with your lips.

    From the seventh chapter of Isaiah:

    Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

  59. Jim–

    Mercy and forgiveness involve the non-imputation of sin even in Catholic soteriology. Non-imputation is just a negative corollary of imputation. In God’s not imputing sin to you, he automatically imputes a lack of sinfulness…an innocence, at least in terms of the particular sin you are repenting of and which he is forgiving.

    In terms of inherent righteousness, both you and I are incomplete…and Christ completes what we are lacking. It makes little difference whether that filling up of our inadequacies is by the infusion of Christ’s perfect agape love or by the imputation of Christ’s perfect active obedience. You’re straining out gnats.

  60. Eric,

    “An unborn baby has no inherent righteousness according to you because he or she has not been baptized.”

    True. The baby has inherent value as a person in God’s image though.

    “An infant has no ability to make moral choices”.

    The baby has a rational soul, right? The same soul informs the matter, whether that matter is comprised of a few cells or billions, right? That ensouled person will be making moral choices, right? That soul will be in heaven or hell someday, right? What is the difference between a 1 day old person, a 1 year old person, a 1 decade…? What happens when that person, at 90 loses the ability to make moral choices? Euthanasia for the “former person”?
    Perhaps I am mistaken. You probably are pro-choice.

    As for the Bible quote, ??????????

  61. Eric,

    You said, ” Non-imputation is just a negative corollary of imputation. In God’s not imputing sin to you, he automatically imputes a lack of sinfulness…an innocence, at least in terms of the particular sin you are repenting of …”.

    The “sin you are repenting of”, Eric?

    The Bible says, “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”

    No guile is found in the guy, Eric?

    Your position is undone, Eric. God does not impute sin to a repentant and guileless person.

    Then you say, “In terms of inherent righteousness, both you and I are incomplete…”.

    No. If one is in a state of grace, they are complete ( if I am understanding how you are using the word ). Now, there are varying capacities that can be made complete. One’s capacity can be enlarged by works of Charity.
    The only “incompleteness” I may concede is what we call venial sin. I told you yesterday that venial sin does not cause grace to “leak”. It carries a debt of punishment in this life or purgatory but it does not diminish grace or “completeness”.
    When one is in a state of sanctifying grace, the Law is kept. Completely.

  62. Eric,

    “Mercy and forgiveness do indeed necessitate something akin to imputation.”

    Does not necessitate imputed righteousness which was part of Bryan’s point. If something is forgiven by the lawgiver , it’s *truly* forgiven – it’s not “as if” it’s forgiven.

    “Or sin is not “hidden” from God under the Protestant model any more than the Catholic model. It is graciously ignored.”

    Ignored because of imputed righteousness covering you, not because of the inchoate infused righteousness (ever-partially) renewing you.

    “There is little difference between us here. But for some reason you dearly want there to be.”

    I have no desire to create unnecessary wedges, but I do not let equivocations and misrepresentations fly by for the sake of ecumenism.

    “I also have no problem with inherent righteousness being the sole formal cause…just as long as none of the other causes are superseded by it. ”

    Trent outlines the other causes. Are you fine with that outline? If not, there’s the issue. You can’t have two “sole” formal causes – you want the cartoon except when you don’t.

    “The reason I cannot accept the mortal/venial distinction is that it embraces the genuineness of apostasy which in turn negates perseverance. If you can accept that those who leave us were never truly of us, then I can ascribe mortal sin to them.”

    Another part of the problem. You cannot have inherent righteousness as the sole formal cause without the mortal/venial distinction. You seemed to have a problem above with Trent’s statement the justified have “fully satisfied the divine law” by their inherent righteousness/works done in God – so again we see the problem with affirming inherent righteousness as sole formal cause but rejecting the mortal/venial distinction.

    “All that infants possess are potentialities, so any claim of instantaneous inherent righteousness (which they are not even capable of) is pure fantasy.”

    Until you disabuse yourself of that notion, you will continue to misinterpret Trent (e.g. its “inconsistencies” that you lazily assert without substantiation) and continue to think your charge of inconsistency with the legal fiction towards Jonathan/Armstrong actually carries weight. Infants are human and have a nature – part of that is will. They are not potential humans until that will is exercised to whatever degree you think passes your arbitrary standard of “potential” into reality. Your anthropology is simply bizarre, as Jonathan pointed out with the example of the infant Christ.

  63. Jim–

    You seem to be having your own fun little conversation completely divorced from any of the content of mine. I hope you’re having fun.

    You state that the ensouled WILL BE making moral choices. Yes, Jim, that’s called potentiality. Are you trying to make my points for me?

    Does the Catholic church allow an octogenarian with Alzheimer’s, a lifelong Baptist, to present themselves for conversion to Rome? Does our court system ever charge dementia victims with first-degree murder? If they have no ability to make moral decisions, their life is at an end in terms of soteriological change.

    I have made no statements devaluing anyone’s worth in the eyes of the church, in the eyes of God, or in the eyes of the law…no matter their ability or inability to make moral choices. They simply have no current inherent righteousness. To be righteous in oneself, one must be capable of moral choice.

  64. Jim–

    How does one get into a State of Grace or return to a State of Grace if not through the completing gifts of the Holy Spirit? Are you a self-made man who completed himself? Who filled up what was lacking in you (even if that was just at baptism)?

  65. Eric,

    Talking about the ensouled fetus you said,

    ” the ensouled WILL BE making moral choices. Yes, Jim, that’s called potentiality.”

    So, until the person in the womb can make moral choices, he is a “potential person”. Not a person with potential?

    Then you asserted, “To be righteous in oneself, one must be capable of moral choice.”

    Thus spake Eric. ( Who is Eric? )

  66. @Eric:
    This has to be the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had on this subject.

    Inherent righteousness does *not* require personal effort or cooperation of *any* sort. Inherent righteousness requires only the existence of a person (an individual existence of a rational nature with the power of intellect and will) to receive it. A dormant power still exists; I don’t cease to be a rational human being with the power of intellect and will while I am asleep, for example.

    Adam was created upright and inherently righteous. Jesus was created (according to His humanity) upright and inherently righteous. Neither of them had to do anything, such as choosing good and evil or undergoing any process of soteriological change, in order to be righteous. Indeed, given that Jesus was always righteous, your passage proves the opposite of your point. Jesus was righteous before He chose good and evil.

    The easiest way to see that righteousness d. oesn’t require any particular activity is that no amount of activity can make one righteous. One could choose the right and not the evil from now until doomsday, and that would never make the person righteous before God. That’s what the condemnation of Pelagianism says. It is forbidden for any effort that is properly from ourselves to affect our standing before God.

    The reason that you aren’t getting this right at all is that you see “inherent” as meaning “from one’s own.” But that isn’t what inherent means at all; it just means “really in” us. It’s no wonder that you’re confused about Trent.

    The dispute between Catholics and Protestants over inherent and imputed righteousness is over that internal vs. external.distinction. We say that the work God does in us (inherent righteousness) is the basis of our right standing before God, while Protestants say that the work of God outside of us (namely, Jesus’s obedience) is the basis of our right standing before God.

  67. James–

    I have a difficult time twisting my mind around sufficiently to follow you here. No wonder my thought processes seem “bizarre.” Pro-choice politicians always attempt to diminish the pro-life position by terming it fanatical or “out of the mainstream.” That’s all you’re doing.

    1. Both Protestant and Catholic sin is truly forgiven. What’s this “as if” crap?

    2. It doesn’t really matter that much how sin is ignored. It’s God’s ignoring of it that counts most.

    3. I’m not using vague or evasive language. I’m not misrepresenting anybody that I’m aware of. I’m merely stepping over dead bodies and through barbed wire into No Man’s Land, waving my white flag and shouting, “Let’s talk!” You’re still firing off rounds of live ammunition, claiming not to be setting up any unnecessary “wedges.” Well, yes, you are.

    4. I never asked form two formal causes.

    5. I gave you the venial/mortal distinction. I merely modified it a bit to make it less inconsistent.

    6. No, James, I specifically said I DID NOT have a problem with works done in God fully satisfying the divine law. Why do you keep putting words in my mouth?

    7. My knowledge that infants have no ability to make moral choices is not a “belief” that I can disabuse myself of. I’m not using anything close to an arbitrary standard, but self-evident data. You can call common sense “bizarre” if you like, but you’re the one exhibiting spurious thinking here. Infants do not display the slightest scintilla of moral choice because they don’t have any. To call their ethical abilities anything more than potential, beggars both belief AND description. Your position is completely untenable.

    (Please interact with what I am actually saying, by the way, not what you believe I ought to be saying as a good Calvinist.)

  68. Jim–

    Unbeknownst to you (and others supposedly in the conversation), we are discussing moral choice and cooperation…NOT personhood.

    By the way, they’ve done studies on the frequency of the use of the word “fetus” both before and after Roe v. Wade; its prevalence shot way up. The only people I know who use the term are pro-choice. Freudian slip on your part?

  69. @Eric:
    What with it being my post and all, I thought we were discussing righteousness, which doesn’t (in the case of infants) have anything at all to do with moral choice and cooperation and everything to do with personhood.

  70. Jonathan–

    My point exactly. Still trying to get my head around how you all manage to equate righteousness with personhood.

    It’s totally weird, but I’m getting there. You somehow surmise that “righteousness” can be an innate characteristic of baptized infants. Totally, totally, totally, totally bizarre. Baptismal regeneration, I’m finding, is perhaps the oddest concept in human history.

  71. Eric,

    The reason why we are mixing philosophy with theology is to show you that as long as a soul exists , it can be made righteous.
    Righteousness does not equate personhood. There are many unrighteous persons.
    But only a person can be righteous. Animals can’t. ( God, angels and men are persons ).
    Since the time of Adam, every soul created ( Jesus and Mary excepted ) have come into the world infused into a conceptus devoid of sanctifying grace. These souls are not evil but they are “unrighteous” until Baptized and infused with holiness.
    I said above that only persons can be righteous but animals can’t. Why? Because an animal soul does not have the spiritual faculties if intellect and will.
    Grace elevates these faculties and supernaturalizes them. Grace makes the rational soul righteous.
    Now, we must leave theology and turn to philosophy to ask just when this soul begins to exist and when it can start operating it ability to think and will.
    (It was at this point the conversation morphed into a pro-life discussion ).
    To cut to the chase, the soul exists. is created by God at the moment sperm meets egg. Nine month later, out pops a little person at enmity with God. A little water and some words convert him to a saint. He goes from being a child of Adam to a son of God.

  72. Eric,

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40419499?uid=3738880&uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21104697107717

    As there are differing views outside of the Catholic Church on the nature of the rational or spiritual soul, its origin, its immortality, does it sleep between death and the resurrection, at what point in embryonic development does it enter the conceptus, etc. all of which touch on the issue of infant Baptism and Baptismal regeneration, I think this short article by Fr. Ron Tacelli will help you see where we Catholics are coming from.
    One thing I should probably mention is just what grace is and does. Of course, this space doesn’t allow me to say much other than grace makes us partakers of the divine nature. Notice, I did not say the divine essence.
    Nature is the principal of action. Within the Trinity, God’s activity is knowing and loving Himself. Romans 5:5 says we participate in loving God by the power Person who is the Love between Father and Son, the Holy Ghost.
    Finally, don”t be confused by the term ‘infuse”. Grace is not some stuff piped into us. It is actually produced or drawn out of our souls potentiality for unlimited knowledge and unquenchable love. These yearnings can only be satisfied by the Beatific Vision of God.

  73. Eric,

    As you haven’t responded with your usual zeal for over 24 hours I can only assume you are either knee deep in diapers or you are busying yourself reading up on a subject you now realize you had hitherto misunderstood.
    The above article demonstrates the unicity of the life principal or soul all through one’s life, from conception to grace. Whether active or dormant due to physical reasons, the intellect and will exist at every stage. The intellect and will are subjects for sanctification.
    One more thought. 1 Cor 6:11 says, ” you have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit”.
    The sequence says 1. Baptized in the name of Jesus, 2. infused with grace and indwelt by the Spirit 3. imputed/reckoned/declared as righteous.

  74. Jim–

    Yes, busy. I read the J-Stor article. Quite interesting. Not even slightly germane, however. The “unicity of the life principle” (or a lack thereof) is not what I have been talking about.

    Righteousness, in normal parlance, is a developed characteristic, not an innate one. Secularly, no one is “born” righteous; indeed, one must be nurtured in virtue and rectitude. When we speak of spiritual regeneration, we may take up the nomenclature of inherence. But I have trouble with the whole notion of the spiritual regeneration of someone without significant consciousness (no ability to form memories, for example). There can be no dying to sin when it is something which one has never even encountered. I don’t actually see how we can speak of the righteousness of Jesus (according to the flesh) in the period in the womb before his brain waves began. Adam, on the other hand, was never a baby. (And I still assume one cannot baptize someone in a coma or with serious dementia.)

    An attribute which is physically inherent will be displayed someplace along the line in life. There should be some amount of analogical symmetry with spiritual inherence. For many Catholic babies (as for many Baptist babies), toddlerhood is is frought with rebellion and strife. The kid may grow up a total brat and never show any signs of regeneration, and yet you will maintain that he definitely was for a time. I simply don’t buy it. You’re talking about having the DNA for blue eyes even though one has had hazel since birth, got married with hazel, and died with hazel.

    Most of the time when Catholics speak of inherence, they’re speaking of a demonstrable moral transformation: effort, cooperation, participation, one’s involvement with justification, one’s production of good works. They are definitely NOT talking about a characteristic merely imputed or inherited or infused…but one displayed, enacted, or otherwise physically validated.

    For an infant, such validation can only come in the future. But you all vehemently shot down my maintenance of perfect inherent righteousness based on the purity of the development of the new creation and the eschatological/timeless sight of God. You cannot invoke potential now. The infant, in the present, has none of the attributes of righteousness: not right thinking, not right praise, not right action, not right motivation, not genuine charity. It cannot access infused agape for itself. Righteousness is NOT demonstrably inherent in infants in any way whatsoever.

    Of course, the same is true of sin. In sin its mother conceived it. It has inherited a sin nature. But it is not sinful, and it has not sinned (at least not in the earliest stages of its life). Babies are plenty self-centered, but that can hardly be held against them.

    At any rate, my main point is not really any of the above. My main point is that you obviously hold infants blameless without any real participation or cooperation or anything else active on their part. The infant is totally passive in baptismal regeneration and infusion. How then, can you go ballistic against passivity in the Protestant model of imputation–regeneration–mystical union with Christ–justification?

    (I am totally out of it. So if the foregoing is somewhat incoherent, do your level best to piece it together.)

  75. Jim–

    What’s your pont with 1 Corinthians 6?

    All the verbs are passive. These are things which have happened TO us.

    All the verbs are past tense. These are things already accomplished.

    They have all been done in the name of Jesus. They have all been done through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

    “Sanctified” can mean “set aside as holy” or “consecrated,” so there aren’t necessarily any order problems for Protestants.

  76. Eric,
    Going out of sequence, let me start by saying that bratness, even life long bratness, falls under the heading of concupiscence. There have been plenty of saints such as Jerome, known for their irritability.
    Salvation is a free gift. No works or faith necessary for a baby. They are often necessary prior to justification for an adult not to merit (as grace or the principal of merit is not yet present ) but only to remove the obstacles of free grace such as an attachment to sin or heretical beliefs. Sometimes, as in the case of Paul, grace is given without faith or any preparatory works. ( Although Stephan had prayed for him. )
    Brain waves are not necessary for the infusion of grace. At the moment of conception, according to modern embryology, everything of the person is already there in the self activating blue print. As the article said, the human in utero grows from the inside out. The life principal is present from the moment sperm meets egg. That life principal in the case of humans is spiritual/rational. If it isn’t there in the beginning, when does it become present? Or when is rationality added to it from the outside?
    It would be fun to discuss the various and sometimes bizarre theories on ensoulment held by folks throughout the ages. Even Aquinas was wrong due to his reliance on Aristotle. Suffice it to say, we now know the complete human being/person is present from the beginning. Over the course of his life, that person will go though many stages but it is always the same individual.
    Everything living has a soul. Plants and animals. The soul is the unifying principal of the cells and various systems of the body. Animal and plant souls are dependent on matter to exist.
    In the case of humans, our soul not only acts to unify our cells but also has something immaterial/spiritual about it. This is intellect and will. Our souls have a spiritual aspect that makes us like the angels. We straddle the world of apes and angels.
    Now, as we aren’t pure spirits as the angels are,, but animals too, our angel like intellect needs the brain you speak of. However, the brain is a chunk of meat. It doesn’t actually think. Our spiritual souls need all the sensory impressions of the brain to operate at full capacity and that takes about 18 years to accumulate according to the egg heads who study this stuff. In later years, the brain starts wearing out but the same rational/spiritual soul is present forming and unifying the body until it eventually loses the capacity to contain the soul and it dies. The soul then goes before God to give an accounting of what it had done in the body.
    The Bible says Adam was created in God’s 1. Image and 2. Likeness.
    God is a person. He knows, wills and is self aware. Humans ( and angels ) are too.
    The Likeness of God in Adam;s soul was God’s own likeness impressed on Adam’s soul by the Holy Ghost breathed into Adam. God’s likeness is sanctifying grace.
    Since the Fall, God has created all souls in His image. But they ( the souls of Jesus and Mary excepted ) have been created without His likeness and some other special gifts Adam had.
    Baptism restores sanctifying grace ( but not those other gifts ) to the soul. Sanctifying grace, a.k.a. the likeness of God justifies us even before brain waves or consciousness is present.
    Had Adam not sinned, grace would have been passed down generation to generation from parents to children. For Catholics, grace is not just God’s external favor. It is interior. It isn’t just a declaration of innocence. Grace actually makes us holy on the inside and makes us god-like.

  77. Eric,
    Let me distill the above down by saying all men, no matter how good or bad, from womb to tomb, have inherent value because they are in God’s Image.
    Inherent value and inherent righteousness are not synonymous. Inherent righteousness comes from having God’s Likeness stamped on that Image. The Image was not lost in the Fall. The Likeness was lost but can be restored.
    The Image makes us persons. The Likeness makes us saints.

  78. Jim–

    I’m sure you meant that to make sense.

    Like I said before…perhaps the oddest concept in human history.

  79. Eric,

    Maybe you don’t have a problem with the sequence of “washed, sanctified and justified” but some Protestants sure do when they say a sinner is declared justified while still at enmity with God, and then later goes on to strive for a sanctified life to control bad habits ( sometimes merely optional ) and then, at some point in their faith walk, if they get around to it, they will be Baptized only to make a profession before men of what God has already done for them.

    As for “sanctified” meaning to set aside for a holy rather than profane use, yes. But that can apply to utensils used in the temple or animals marked out for sacrifice. To be sanctified or made holy for the Catholic means an elevation of those spiritual faculties of the rational soul I mentioned above and given the ability to know and love God supernaturally. A vessel or a goat cannot be indwelt by the Holy Spirit nor know and love God as men can.

    Perhaps I should add something before signing off. We Catholics usually speak of sanctification and justification as synonymous terms. However, justification, as a Protestant as yourself would know,also carries the idea of a legal pronouncement or correction. We really don’t speak of the good angels, the souls of Jesus and Mary or even Adam and Eve in their original holy state as “just”. Not for the most part anyway. I admit I have seen Adam and Eve mentioned as just by I have also read that this is technically not correct. So, in 1 Cor 6, sanctifying grace corrects or restores the soul to how it should have been. It justifies and declares it so.
    Finally, just to anticipate someone jumping in to correct me about bratness and Jerome, yeah, irritability probably flows from the irascible and not concupiscible appetite. Either way, it is one of the 4 wounds of Original sin but not actually sin in itself.

  80. Eric,

    I sure hope it makes a little sense. I would ask the other Catholic bloggers to help me better explain things for you.
    You know, it is easy to talk past one another. Before arguing about the justification of a person, of his soul, we need to define our terms.
    The Council of Trent, before session 6 on justification and our restoration to grace, felt the need to talk about the fall and the loss of grace.
    Until we come to some understanding of each other’s positions. we are tilting at windmills.

  81. Eric,
    Any Catholic university library will carry older books that explain things like the existence of God and its usual corollary, the existence of the soul, it’s immateriality, its spirituality, its immortality,etc. in the philosophy section.
    Then, over in the theology section you can find stuff on grace, the virtues, the gifts, etc.
    A good used book store might carry Frank Sheed’s ” Theology for Beginners” or “Theology and Sanity”. Terms like spirit, person, soul. etc. are covered in the first chapters before moving on to grace, the Trinity, Redemption. etc. from a Catholic perspective. Sheed is very easy to read before moving on to heavier stuff.
    You are going to have to rely on Catholic material because Protestants don’t even write on this stuff. At least, I know of none that do.
    Don’t be embarrassed if you have hitherto never heard of this stuff. I won’t mention names but I was dumbfounded to hear a well known Catholic apologist on a well known EWTN show not know the answer when a caller phoned in and asked if animals have souls. Neither the guest nor the moderator could answer the caller correctly. They said they were unsure but didn’t think so. ( Of course animals have souls! Just not spiritual/rational ones. )
    It is not necessary to know everything but for the discussion we are having on this blog about the nature of justification, grace, the vision of God, etc. it really helps.

  82. @Eric:
    Let me try this again. “Righteousness” is used in two distinct senses. There is righteousness in terms of standing before God, and there is righteousness in the sense of developed excellence. The former is purely of grace; the latter results from cooperation with grace.

    The only qualification for the former is being human, period. It’s like being born with citizenship; it’s a status that you have based on what someone else gives you. But your parents’ citizenship isn’t imputed to you. Your citizenship is inherent in you once you have it. That’s like what infants have in baptism.

    With your gifts of citizenship, you can eventually choose to be a good citizen, a poor citizen, or even a criminal. The spiritual gifts of regeneration are much the same; the fact that you don’t use them doesn’t mean you never had them. And like the privileges of citizenship, they can be taken away for misuse, although you still have your citizenship.

    If you can make that distinction between the standing itself (are you a citizen?) and the quality of your participation (are you a good citizen?), this will be a lot easier.

  83. Jonathan–

    Yes, got that all along. My point was that if infants only have standing (and not developed excellence), then this is the same basis for justification to which Protestants hold.

    The fact that you believe this standing to be based on the infusion of agape (which you maintain is real/inherent) rather than on imputation (which is simultaneous with regeneration/union with Christ/infusion of grace) makes no difference as far as I can see.

  84. Jim–

    Basically, Protestants don’t delineate between justification and sanctification either. They are both part of one soteriological process, just as they are in Catholicism. That’s why I tend to use the Catholic nomenclature: initial justification (which even for Catholics includes imputation, the legal declaration of our innocence before the law), progressive justification (which even for Protestants gives great significance to good works), and final justification (which results in glorification, the seeing of the Beatific Vision).

    For us, “initial justification” gives us permanent right status before God. Of course, if I understand correctly, it does for (elect) Thomists, as well…though not in exactly the same way. I’m guessing they also define the non-elect who are baptized as temporarily “justified.” For Protestants, such a distinction makes little sense. Kind of like being temporarily “exonerated” for a crime though never actually making it out of prison before being reindicted.

  85. Eric,

    The initially justified are placed directly (no “making” involved) out of prison – and the exoneration is not dependent on them validating or actualizing their potential which is informing your stance on infants and mentally disabled and comatose. That does not mean when they are on the outside they cannot end up getting thrown back in due to choosing heinous rebellion – the original exoneration was not revoked – they just now need a new one for their new crimes.

    I am still confused on how you view infants. You seem to say they are not (and cannot be) inherently sinful or righteous. Are they just neutral slates? When exactly do they start or are able to validate and actualize potentialities? 1 year? 3 years? It almost seems like you are making exercise of will (rather than mere possession) a prerequisite for being a true human or something and so until that can happen infants/disabled are “something else”. Does an adult who suffers brain trauma accident suddenly become this neutral slate entity thing again until he regains his faculties?

  86. James–

    Well, in my analogy, “out of prison” would equal salvation/heaven, so no, they cannot be thrown back in the clink. There is no such thing as heinous rebellion in heaven. In your scenario, they keep on being exonerated and reindicted and exonerated and reindicted without ever making it out of prison, that to me is not temporary anything (except perhaps, temporary false hope).

    I’m sure the ability to make ethical choices comes at different ages to different children. I’m not a paedobaptist, so it really doesn’t matter what age. Whenever they do, they do. They are under God’s protection, and I trust him implicitly.

    The ability to make ethical choices is essential for Jonathan’s definition of righteousness as “the development of (moral) excellence.” I made it quite clear over and over again that I was NOT speaking of the devaluation of human life (under any conditions whatever, from conception onward).

  87. Eric,

    I am sorry to tell you what you believe but Protestants do indeed delineate between justification and sanctification.
    As Protestantism is all over the map on this issue, I can’t say exactly what percentage does or does not say sanctification is important or will always accompany or follow upon regeneration. But I can say most of the ones engaged in anti-Catholic polemics on these blogs say that one’s works of sanctification or inherent righteousness have absolutely zero to do with justification. And there’s the rub.
    When a person, baby or adult, is indwelt by the Holy Spirit Who pours grace and charity into the soul, that person has the seeds of glory already waiting to blossom into full Beatific Vision upon the soul’s separation from the body. Protestantism flatly outright denies this.
    Because regeneration( via Baptism or its implicit or explicit desire ) does not remove concupiscence, Protestantism refuses to accept that the person is actually holy.
    Plus, venial sins for the Protestant are mortally sinful. They just may be covered over by the imputed righteousness of Christ but they are in themselves deserving of hell. Not so for Catholics. ( I think we hashed this over in Nick’s previous article about the law needing to be kept perfectly ).
    As for the tiff you are having with Jonathan, let me just say that before one do morally righteous acts, one must have a morally righteous basis to act from. A baby’s rational soul, just as an adult soul, has all the components necessary ( rationality ) to be this basis. He just needs sanctifying grace infused in order to elevate this base so he can be/ act supernaturally.
    If you don’t believe a baby has a complete soul from conception on, the onus is on you to explain at what point his soul reaches completeness without falling into materialism, or the 3 soul theory of Aristotle, or some other equally indefensible position.
    Again, a baby has a 100% complete soul. This 100% completeness as a human soul does not mean he is regenerated. It just means his humanity is all there. His fallen humanity still needs the Holy Spirit to stamp Jesus’ likeness on that soul. 100% complete humanity isn’t good enough to live in heaven just as 100% complete humanity isn’t good enough to live under water without a breathing apparatus added on. That apparatus is sanctifying grace.

  88. Eric,
    Since my efforts to explain how a baby’s soul can be righteous have so far been of no avail, I thought I would come at this from another angle.
    Do you believe in the immortality of the soul? I assume you do but I have to ask as many non-Catholics deny the disembodied soul to be naturally immortal.
    Supposing that you do agree with us on this, I must ask how can the soul, with brain and its waves a mouldering in the grave, be aware of anything?
    So, the baby’s soul does not need the brain to be fully operational either.

    Next, think of what the Bible tells us of the glorified or Resurrected body. Even the resurrected bodies of the damned will share in immortality when their disembodied souls are reunited with matter at the Resurrection. But they won’t be glorified or radiant as the bodies of the just. Why?
    The Bible tells us the Jesus was transfigured on Mt. Tabor. Even Moses’ face shown brightly when he came down from the mountain. Of course you have seen pictures of Jesus, Mary and the saints aglow with halos even before the Resurrection.
    Glory or radiance comes from the grace within the soul. It is not an imputation from the outside but actually shines from the inside out. A soul filled with grace is like a rod of iron placed in a furnace. While remaining iron, it takes on the quality of fire.

  89. Eric,

    “Well, in my analogy, “out of prison” would equal salvation/heaven, so no, they cannot be thrown back in the clink. There is no such thing as heinous rebellion in heaven.”

    Yes there is no rebellion in heaven. We are not in heaven when on earth.

    “In your scenario, they keep on being exonerated and reindicted and exonerated and reindicted without ever making it out of prison, that to me is not temporary anything (except perhaps, temporary false hope).”

    No, they did get out – they were placed outside of prison (again the “making it out” seems to imply effort on their part which again is part of the issue we’re discussing with infused righteousness of infants in initial justification). The ability to be reindicted does not necessitate that will happen. There are many faithful who resist mortal sin. So no false hope is required any more than false confidence is required in your system (if one is deluding themselves as being outside of the prison while they remain in their cell – actually it’s worse than that, the warden is mentally torturing some of his prisoners by giving them drugs to hallucinate their freedom and just waiting to pull the rug out)

    “The ability to make ethical choices is essential for Jonathan’s definition of righteousness as “the development of (moral) excellence.” I made it quite clear over and over again that I was NOT speaking of the devaluation of human life (under any conditions whatever, from conception onward).”

    Jonathan said, “There is righteousness in terms of standing before God, and there is righteousness in the sense of developed excellence. The former is purely of grace; the latter results from cooperation with grace.” so we can’t equivocate on righteousness. Where has Jonathan said the ability to make ethical choices is not essential to *grow* in righteousness- everyone’s point here is that there is a distinction to be made between initial justification that transfers one into being righteous and increase of that same justification/righteousness afterwards.

    Good so humans are humans. So if an infant has a shared nature with an adult and each have souls why exactly again can initial justification not operate exactly the same for both? You skirted the issue above when you just said “I don’t actually see how we can speak of the righteousness of Jesus (according to the flesh) in the period in the womb before his brain waves began. Adam, on the other hand, was never a baby.” where you just kind of shrug off how your anthropology doesn’t really work with the infant Christ instead of engaging it. And infants have brain waves so I’m not sure why you were bringing up christ in womb pre brain-wave activity as germane to the conversation. Was the infant Christ inherently righteous or not?

  90. James,
    Luke 1:18 says John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb. He was even able to perform a righteous deed and praise Jesus and Mary while in there. He remained righteous his whole life ( no mortal sins ).

  91. Jim–

    The delineation between justification and sanctification is a mere abstraction designed to protect “sola gratia.” Imputation and regeneration are temporally simultaneous. Imputation is, however, logically prior. Therefore, when we say God does everything in justification, we don’t need a paradox to maintain it. On the other hand, just as I said, justification and sanctification are a seemless reality, one single process of salvation.

    I haven’t been dealing with theories of the soul, just with the onset of righteousness.

    My tiff with Jonathan is over whether there is any significant difference between Protestant imputation/infusion and Catholic sanctifying grace (in infants). I say no.

    Yes, we Protestants see the whole notion of “venial” sin’s being compatible with sanctifying grace as blatant sophistry intended to explain away sin committed after baptism.

    Reformed Protestantism boldly rejoices that eternal life commences with regeneration. So we don’t flatly deny anything there. We also do not refuse to accept that the new person is holy.

    None of this has anything to do with the immortality of souls. Why don’t you want to stay on topic?

  92. James–

    No, they DID NOT make it out. “Out” is Glory, and the temporarily justified, who then apostatize and never reconvert, will never see Glory…not for even one blessed second.

    As I have said before, it would be like counting as saved those individuals who made it onto a lifeboat from the Titanic but who were soon pushed overboard into the icy sea and drowned. They never saw the shore. They we’re not saved. They count as casualties, and only as casualties.

    Calvinists could indeed be deluding themselves. That’s why we decry presumption. Assurance is never absolute. But it is sufficient to provide comfort to those struggling to persevere.

    The infant Jesus was hypostatically joined to the Creator of the Universe. Something tells me that this is not the normal case with most children. I would, of course, say that the divine infant Christ was indeed inherently righteous. But with his having begun before the beginning of the cosmos, this only stands to reason, and is, moreover, totally irrelevant to our current topic.

  93. Eric,
    The nature of the soul has everything to do with justification. Especially since you deny that a baby can be justified. If grace is infused, the logical question is to ask just what is the receptacle it is infused into.
    Your only response to my painstaking and sincere attempts to explain the Catholic understanding of the soul to you is to opine how strange it all is. I have no idea if you even believe in what we typically call a “soul”.
    You tell me to stay on topic. Eric, I am on topic.
    As you admit that you don’t understand the nature of justification according to Catholicism, I would ask you to please withhold your objections. You keep saying there is no real difference between infusion and imputation as far as a baby is concerned. You prove are so mistaken and it seems doomed to stay that way.

  94. Eric,
    “The infant Jesus was hypostatically joined to the Creator of the Universe. Something tells me that this is not the normal case with most children. I would, of course, say that the divine infant Christ was indeed inherently righteous…”

    Did that infant Jesus have a human soul? If you deny it you suffer from a bad case of Appolinarism. Was that soul filled with sanctifying grace? Think before you smart off because I am lying in wait for you to put your foot in your mouth.

  95. Jim–

    Apollinarianism posited a human body AND soul for Jesus but denied him a human mind/spirit.

    When will you even attempt to address the topic at hand?

    How is sanctifying grace in an infant different from imputation/union with Christ in terms of initial justification?

  96. Eric,
    The heretic said the lower faculties of the soul were present but not the higher/spiritual ones ( intellect and will ). He said they were replaced by the divinity. That is where grace and the virtues reside upon infusion.
    You deny a baby has these faculties from conception, do you not? That is why you can’t see how a baby can have infused righteousness.

  97. Eric,

    “How is sanctifying grace in an infant different from imputation/union with Christ in terms of initial justification?”

    Don’t move the goal post Eric. Don’t suddenly start with the “union with Christ” business. Imputation does not unite anyone with Christ.
    Infused righteousness, sanctifying grace, due to being born again, has Christ’s own life, a participation in the divine nature, residing within . That is union with Christ in reality. Not a mere imputing or pretending. Remember, the branches don’t merely pretend to have the life of the Vine within. If they did merely pretend, they would wither up and die.

  98. Jim–

    For the last time, all I care about in terms of infants is that they cannot cooperate.

    I didn’t move the goal posts. I just want you to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. Catholicism also has bare imputation as part of its repertoire. Protestant union with Christ is ontologically real. There is no pretension. When will you quit defining Protestantism for me? You’re simply wrong.

    Talk about a lack of reality. You guys are the ones with a ritualistic conversion, by which I mean baptismal regeneration. We, in the other hand, believe in true moral transformation, in an actual new creation. You all are the ones who pretend.

  99. Jim–

    All I can say is that you sure have a hard time answering a simple question.

  100. Eric,

    “We, in the other hand, believe in true moral transformation, in an actual new creation. You all are the ones who pretend.”

    And when does this happen to an individual? Not upon imputation apparently – since you say babies/mentally disabled/comatose are saved via imputation and yet don’t experience this since they cannot make ethical choices or actualize their potential.

    And yes infant Jesus had two natures. One of those natures was human – *completely* human. That’s the point. So we can’t just hand-wave that as irrelevant – Christology and its implications was what informed orthodox doctrine over heresy in many controversies, including soteriological ones.

  101. James–

    I have stated quite clearly that infants are not a part of my own soteriological system. In whatever way they may or may not be saved, I do not know. I leave them in God’s gracious hands. I trust him.

    Righteousness is imputed to an individual in response to faith (conversion/repentance). This doesn’t happen to infants.

    Name a single soteriological doctrine clarified by christological implications. Maybe I don’t have my thinking cap on, but I cannot think of one.

  102. Eric,
    Any imputation/reckoning in our system is not pretense, a calling something what it is not. No snow over dung, no whited sepulchres.

  103. Eric,
    Babies cannot cooperate? Cooperate? And you accuse me of works righteousness?
    Why does a baby have to cooperate for a free gift?
    Adults must, but I have already explained to you why.

  104. Eric,

    “Righteousness is imputed to an individual in response to faith (conversion/repentance). This doesn’t happen to infants.”

    It’s a bit ironic we are the ones trying to get you to espouse justification by faith and not works. I don’t see how you are not making faith/conversion/repentance a work here – by excluding infants and disabled adults and making them sui generis, you certainly seem to be doing that and in the process torpedoing your own professed theology.

    “Name a single soteriological doctrine clarified by christological implications. Maybe I don’t have my thinking cap on, but I cannot think of one.”

    The condemnations of Pelagianism. As well as the condemnation of monergism (sorry) and affirmation of synergism.

  105. Eric and James,

    Here’s another soteriological clarified by sound Christology; Jesus is both true God and true man. That’s the Christological part.

    Now for the soterioly; It was as man that Jesus saved us. Not as a Penal substitute but as a sacrificial victim that merited the restoration of what Adam had lost. ( In order to merit, His human soul needed sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. )

    How about this one; Jesus assumed a human nature, not a human person with a human nature. This means He assumed the same nature shared by every man. woman and child that ever has or ever will live.
    How could He not have died for everyone with a human nature? Limited Atonement is absurd.

    Here’s a Trinitarian doctrine that is soteriological, Calvinist Penal Substitution is impossible as it rip the Trinity asunder. The Persons of the Trinity all have the same divine nature. They have the same intellect and will. At no time could the Son have been separated from the Father.

    Here’s another; from the first moment of His conception He enjoyed the Beatific Vision. How could He have gone to hell and suffered as the damned? Calvin blasphemed in saying He did.

    Eric will love this one; He was born of a Virgin. Why? Simply because it was fitting? How about so he wouldn’t have any siblings so He could say from the cross, “Woman behold the son…behold thy Mother”. I would think anything He said from the cross just might have soteriolocal implications, yes?

  106. Boys,

    How about this bit of Christology/soteriology; He Resurrected in His human nature and ascended to the Father. He retains the wounds in His sacred hands, feet and side. He is an everlasting Victim.

    This eternal Victim’s sacrifice is applied in the sacrifice of the Mass. He still lives to make intercession for us, is still the Lamb standing as slain.

  107. Jim/James–

    Protestant and Catholic christology are, by and large, identical. Not so their soteriologies. I can’t make sense of any of your examples.

    Everyone except for universalists hold to one type of limited atonement or another. Everyone is absurd?

  108. Jim–

    Yes, the point is that babies cannot cooperate. If you’re just now comprehending that, then you haven’t been comprehending anything else I have been saying this whole time.

  109. Jim–

    Any placing of sin away…behind God’s back…or as far as the East is from the West…is contrary to strict justice. Inspector Javert would never approve. You and he would get along just fine….

  110. Eric,

    Our soteriologies are different, yes. Your system is built on works and ours on grace. One must keep the Law slavishly or have Another’s Law keeping applied to your account.

    Our system is built upon a person, whether baby or adult, being freely infused with God’s own inner life ( Rm 5:5) in the waters of regeneration ( Titus 3:5 ) and being made a partaker of the divine nature ( 2 Peter 1;4 ) and an adopted son ( Gal 4:7 ) because we take Jesus’ words in John 3 seriously.
    Our way is biblical and your way was concocted and, like the proverbial square peg and the round hole, was pounded into the pages of the Bible by 16th century lawyers like Calvin and Melancthon. But other than that, our ways are quite similar.

  111. Eric,

    “Protestant and Catholic christology are, by and large, identical. Not so their soteriologies. I can’t make sense of any of your examples.”

    If christology informs soteriology, then why are our soteriologies different? Perhaps the “by and large” is the problematic (and unproven) assumption – the devil’s in the details.

    “Any placing of sin away…behind God’s back…or as far as the East is from the West…is contrary to strict justice.”

    Aquinas:
    “God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than justice; thus a man who pays another two hundred pieces of money, though owing him only one hundred, does nothing against justice, but acts liberally or mercifully. The case is the same with one who pardons an offence committed against him, for in remitting it he may be said to bestow a gift. Hence the Apostle calls remission a forgiving: “Forgive one another, as Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Hence it is clear that mercy does not destroy justice, but in a sense is the fulness thereof. And thus it is said: “Mercy exalteth itself above judgment” (James 2:13). ”

    and
    “In the justification of the ungodly, justice is seen, when God remits sins on account of love, though He Himself has mercifully infused that love. So we read of Magdalen: “Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much” (Luke 7:47). ”

    If forgiveness and mercy was contrary to strict justice, the unrepentant would be forgiven. Aquinas again:

    “Hence it is possible for a man to pardon an offense, for which he is offended with someone, without any change in the latter’s will; but it is impossible that God pardon a man for an offense, without his will being changed. Now the offense of mortal sin is due to man’s will being turned away from God, through being turned to some mutable good. Consequently, for the pardon of this offense against God, it is necessary for man’s will to be so changed as to turn to God and to renounce having turned to something else in the aforesaid manner, together with a purpose of amendment; all of which belongs to the nature of penance [repentance] as a virtue. Therefore it is impossible for a sin to be pardoned anyone without penance as a virtue.”

  112. James–

    And who says christology informs soteriology in any significant sense on peripheral issues? Our soteriologues are not that different. I’m guessing our differences are based on other things, in particular the nature of sin and the nature of grace.

    When I said that mercy is against strict justice, I meant the type of justice exhibited by Javert in “Les Miserables”…and NOT God’s justice. Catholics err in speaking of a “legal fiction” in the imputation of an alien righteousness because they are positing God as a Javert-like judge.

  113. Jim–

    You’re starting to go all “Brave New World” on me here. Love is Hate! War is Peace! Grace is Works!

    We’ll never get anywhere that way.

  114. James,

    Yeah. It is impossible for God to forgive someone who isn’t contrite with at least imperfect contrition.
    Where our Calvinist homeboys get it wrong is in thinking a sovereign God could impute or pronounce a serial killer innocent although the killer can hardly wait to murder again.
    No. God imputes innocence to the innocent. He imputes guilt to the guilty. He doesn’t impute guilt to a criminal who is contrite.
    In Romans 8:18 Paul says he reckons/considers/imputes the sufferings of this life to be nothing in comparison to the glory to come. Do the sufferings of this life pale in comparison to heaven or not?
    Abraham was reckoned to be righteous because he was righteous.
    Calvinists are quick to say we don’t understand their profound teachings, that the legal imputation of righteousness is always accompanied with or followed by works of sanctification. They don’t understand our simple teaching that sanctification is a state and not a work and that it demands the declaration of justification.
    They totally reverse the biblical sequence of “washed, sanctified and justified” ( yes, Eric, I do remember your sad response to this a couple of days ago with you definition of “sanctified” ).
    The Bible condemns a judge who pronounces the wicked innocent and the innocent guilty. They should think about that.

  115. Eric,

    Our differences are also based on what it meant to keep the Law.
    The Law said a disobedient son could be stoned. This did not mean a kid who moped and whined about having to do his chores was to be stoned. Common sense says the son who beats his siblings, abuses his mother, sleeps with his father’s concubines, steals his father’s money and dishonors him could be stoned if he persisted in such behavior. If any father hauled his son before the tribunal for stoning simply because he was sloppy in tending the sheep and one wandered off. the High Priest, judges and other villagers would not have allowed it.
    You guys make no distinction between mortal and venial sin. You totally disregard the Bible on this.

  116. Eric,

    “And who says christology informs soteriology in any significant sense on peripheral issues? ”

    Well given how much you have written against synergism and how much you have written in favor of extra nos forensic imputed righteousness, I would think you don’t consider those issues peripheral. I don’t think the Reformers considered them peripheral either. Perhaps you dispute Christology is relevant to either of those issues – in which case I would ask you how you think Christology informs soteriology at all if two pretty critical planks of your soteriology (monergism and imputation) are not relevant to it.

    “When I said that mercy is against strict justice, I meant the type of justice exhibited by Javert in “Les Miserables”…and NOT God’s justice. Catholics err in speaking of a “legal fiction” in the imputation of an alien righteousness because they are positing God as a Javert-like judge.”

    We are positing God as a Javert-like judge?? This is becoming alice in wonderland. *You guys* are the ones always going crazy about God’s perfect strict standard and holiness in judgment (hello – the whole point of imputed righteousness) and that RCism “relaxes” it or whatever to make it fit into its eeeevil works-righteousness boasting not-of-grace “how much is enough” treadmill blah blah.

    Is God’s justice somehow less or different than perfect and strict now? Is it a different justice for the elect than it is with the reprobate?

  117. James–

    Yes, James, best I can tell, you all have a Javert-like judge as God. You obsess over the “perfect standard” charge against us, all the while maintaining a perfectly righteous God yourself, one who demands us to be perfectly righteous in Glory by scrubbing us with an industrial-strength scrub brush in purgatory for thousands of years. You have no idea how much I envy your God of pure and abounding mercy!

    Your God would never put up with believers who were anything less than perfect in terms of mortal sin. It is scandalous for you to even consider such a thing. If they manage that particular perfection, then they can start concentrating on concupiscence and venial sin. And if they can somehow manage to become perfect saints in every way in this lifetime, then and only then they may escape “the cleansing.”

    You guys say that you are lovingly covered by the infusion of agape in baptism, but when it comes right down to it, you must jump through all the right hoops over and over again (with the assistance of grace, of course). You run through the gauntlet, sweating and straining and exerting and hurting and bleeding…and then sweating some more…but all with the assistance of grace. No moralism there. No, siree.

    Both of us maintain a perfectly righteous judge. Only ours has the grace to pay the fine for us. It’s called mercy, mercy, mercy, mercy. Not a “legal fiction.” We don’t receive strict justice. We don’t want strict justice. Believe me. You’d be better off without the strict justice of purgatory.

    For you, why did Christ die? Just to help us become who we should be?

    He didn’t die to revive us to spiritual life? He didn’t die to remove our sin? He didn’t die in our stead to pay our penalty? He didn’t die to secure a place for us in heaven?

    In the final analysis, that’s all OUR responsibility?

  118. James–

    Yes, it is a different justice for us than for the reprobate. They get justice. We get mercy.

    I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.

    What do you have against mercy?

  119. Eric,

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that we have a God gracious enough to pay the entire fine for us because Rome would agree that Jesus pays the eternal fine, just not the temporal fine? Of course your point still stands. It’s still finally up to us to cooperate with grace. Grace is necessary but insufficient for Rome. That’s why they’re synergists.

  120. Eric,

    You chide Catholics with,

    “Your God would never put up with believers who were anything less than perfect in terms of mortal sin. It is scandalous for you to even consider such a thing”.

    Do you know why? Over on C2C Bryan Cross goes into great detail on this. I know you don’t like that blog, so google New Adent’s Summa to see what Aquinas says on the mortal venial sin distinction. Then you won’t utter such impertinent nonsense.

    Then you go on to say,
    “.., why did Christ die?”

    My snappy comeback is ask you, “For whom did Christ die?”

    You guys are boxed into a corner. All your hi-fallutin’ talk about grace comes a tumbling down when you are called to square it with God’s will to save all men and Christ’s death for all men. In order to save face you have to deny some of the most clear texts in the Bible and fall back on a system concocted by a 16th century lawyer.

    Christ died for all men. Truly sufficient grace is sincerely given to all men. All men are sinners, yes, but God does not command the impossible when He says to repent. Grace is given to all men to overcome sin and repent.

    Your smug and, at first glance, iron clad TULIP falls apart when seen through the lens of what the Bible so clearly says.

    Calvinists are so pretentious when they use the term “Doctrines of Grace” and try to usurp term all for themselves as if we Catholics don’t believe in grace. In fact, we believe in grace and you folks don’t. You have merely redefined it and arrogantly claim it as your own.

  121. Eric,

    “You guys say that you are lovingly covered by the infusion of agape in baptism,”

    I think you meant lovingly infused – covered denotes remaining extrinsic. I know you like to keep smuggling forensic imputation whenever you can but don’t distort other systems’ theologies in doing so.

    “but when it comes right down to it, you must jump through all the right hoops over and over again (with the assistance of grace, of course). You run through the gauntlet, sweating and straining and exerting and hurting and bleeding…and then sweating some more…but all with the assistance of grace. No moralism there. No, siree.”

    Please – as if you don’t jump through all the hoops and “stuff you gotta do” in your progressive sanctification (without which you are not saved). I guess I should charge you with moralism as well and dismiss it as being of grace in name only because you actively cooperate and make effort in it. Get over the manic phobia about God allowing us to cooperate and participate in salvation.

    “Both of us maintain a perfectly righteous judge.”

    Wait I thought we had the strict Javert-like judge and you guys don’t. A perfectly righteous judge seems like he would follow strict justice right? If not, what would an imperfectly non-righteous judge do instead?

    “Only ours has the grace to pay the fine for us. It’s called mercy, mercy, mercy, mercy. Not a “legal fiction.” We don’t receive strict justice. ”

    No one is saying the mercy you receive is a legal fiction, or that your sins aren’t truly forgiven. That’s not the point of the legal fiction charge. Please describe how “strict justice” is different than “justice”. My citation of Aquinas was to show how mercy does not violate justice (which was part of your big deal earlier trying to establish that mercy/forgiveness necessitates imputation). You seem to imply then that mercy violates “strict justice” but not “justice”. So let’s get to definitions.

    “He didn’t die to revive us to spiritual life? He didn’t die to remove our sin? He didn’t die in our stead to pay our penalty? He didn’t die to secure a place for us in heaven?”

    None of this necessitates extra nos forensic alien righteousness imputed to and covering us as the basis for our judgment.

    “In the final analysis, that’s all OUR responsibility?”

    RCs aren’t Pelagians or deny the atonement.

    “Yes, it is a different justice for us than for the reprobate. They get justice. We get mercy.”

    This is interesting. So God has a different standard of justice for the elect than the reprobate? Then why on earth do you need the imputed righteousness at judgment? The whole point of that is because both you and the reprobate are evaluated on the same standard of justice. You get mercy because God was merciful in bestowing the imputed alien righteousness to your account. But he still views you in the lens of his perfect (strict) justice – you are extrinsically covered by His own perfect righteousness whereas the reprobate is not – the justice applied is not different in either case.

    “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”

    Yup – does God have mercy on you without imputation of his righteousness to your account?

    “What do you have against mercy?”

    Nothing at all. I have a problem with the view that mercy necessitates Protestant imputation.

  122. Jim–

    I have to end this. I know I have been guilty of polemics in the past and might not be perfect in the future, but I will not answer you until you resubmit your comment without words like “impertinent nonsense,” “hi-fallutin’,” “smug,” “concocted,” “pretentious,” “usurp,” and “arrogantly.”

    I have given you second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chances without result. My honest opinion is that you deserve to be on this site less than Kevin. You purposefully push people’s buttons. You seem to relish antagonizing folks. With me, at any rate, such behavior must end. You either resolve to play nice, or you can take your ball and go home. If you attempt to defend yourself, I will be thoroughly unimpressed. I will ignore it entirely.

    If you wish to be part of this conversation, reign it in. I will be more than happy to allow you to hold me accountable, as well. I’m not particularly angry. I am willing to move on and let bygones be bygones…but you must cease the disrespectful rhetoric.

  123. Robert–

    I’m guessing you’re basically right. For them, Jesus CONDITIONALLY pays the eternal fine and may, through the treasury of merits, pay part or all of the temporal fine, as well. In Protestantism, sin produces negative consequences in this lifetime, which we have no choice but to endure. We made our bed, and we have to lie on it. But there simply is no temporal fine to pay. The wages of sin is death. Just death.

  124. James–

    No, I meant what I said. An infant, incapable of anything approaching positive righteousness, is “covered” by his or her having been infused with the righteousness of Christ. I have maintained that there is no real difference between imputation and infusion at this point in time in a Catholic child’s life…and no one has even bothered to attempt to refute me.

    God’s declarative word EFFECTS what it declares…inherently. Imputation is never mere words, never mere “snow over dung” (a phrase coined by Catholics, since Luther never said any such thing).

    We, as Protestants, don’t “have to do” anything. We are already in. We are new creatures who find it our greatest privilege and desire to do all we can. If we jump through hoops, it’s because we enjoy doing so.

    Our attitude is much like the attitude of Cyrano de Bergerac, finding that his secret love, Roxanne, knows that he exists:

    CYRANO
    She knows that I exist – no matter why!
    LE BRET
    So now, you are going to be happy.
    CYRANO
    Now!…
    (Beside himself)
    I – I am going to be a storm – a flame –
    I need to fight whole armies all alone;
    I have ten hearts; I have a hundred arms; I feel
    Too strong to war with mortals –
    (He shouts at the top of his voice.)
    BRING ME GIANTS!

  125. James–

    It is not a different STANDARD of justice which is applied, but a different justice. The reprobate receive justice and we do not. We receive mercy.

    Mercy and imputation are basically the exact same thing. Whenever mercy is applied, someone does not get paid. The hangman gets shafted by receiving less work. The one to whom money is owed is out that money if the debtor cannot pay and is afforded mercy. Christ’s sacrifice wipes the slate clean. The imputation of his righteousness ensures that the same STANDARD of justice is applied…but not the same Javertian justice. In the end, Javert’s justice is not just. It is not just because it cannot be merciful.

  126. Eric,

    “I have maintained that there is no real difference between imputation and infusion at this point in time in a Catholic child’s life…and no one has even bothered to attempt to refute me. ”

    This is simply false as evidenced above where Jonathan, Jim, and myself all engaged you. You resorted to “shrug infant Christ doesn’t matter” and “shrug infants and disabled are somehow magically saved in some weird way” and “shrug my position basically leads to salvation by works”. Not a compelling defense.

    “God’s declarative word EFFECTS what it declares”

    Not beating this dead horse again. If it effected, you don’t need the cartoon at judgment and legal fiction charge goes away. Simple.

    “never mere “snow over dung” (a phrase coined by Catholics, since Luther never said any such thing).”

    What about the words “defiled” “corrupted” “tainted with sin” “worthy of damnation” that your confessions describe believers’ works without imputed righteousness covering them as?

    “We, as Protestants, don’t “have to do” anything… If we jump through hoops, it’s because we enjoy doing so.”

    So do you have to jump through hoops or not? And I don’t know why you imply synergist systems do not hold that we participate out of love and desire.

    “It is not a different STANDARD of justice which is applied, but a different justice. The reprobate receive justice and we do not. We receive mercy.”

    You don’t receive justice? Then why do you need the imputed righteousness covering you at judgment? Isn’t that the only thing that can satisfy God’s (strict) justice, hence the need for it (which also informs your complaints against non-imputation systems)?

    “Mercy and imputation are basically the exact same thing.”

    The non-imputation of sin and the forgiveness of sin by the lawgiver is not the same as looking at sin “as if” it was forgiven. The sins are truly forgiven by mercy. That does not mean they are only “reckoned” as forgiven when actually not. In forensic imputation, your righteousness is “reckoned” as perfect based on Christ’s righteousness imputed to you but your righteousness itself is not actually perfect since it remains ever-inchoate in this life.

    “In the end, Javert’s justice is not just. It is not just because it cannot be merciful.”

    So if God never saved anyone or showed mercy, he wouldn’t be just? If God didn’t even create the world, would he still be just? If God saved everyone regardless of whether they believed and repented or not, would that be just?

  127. James–

    You and Jim and Jonathan have an odd, unwritten, silent way of making arguments. I don’t have a clue how to combat such.

    As I have said before, I DON’T need the cartoon at judgment, just at imoutation/justification. I will need aspects of it at judgment, just as you will. (There’s a Cross in the cartoon, as I recall. Are you suggesting we rid ourselves of that?)

    Defiled, corrupted, tainted, etc., all refer to the flesh…not to the spirit.

    If you all participate in works ONLY out of love and desire…and no longer out of obligation, then we can talk.

    Where do get this whole “looking at sin ‘as if’ it were forgiven”? No such nothing exists in Protestantism. We are FORGIVEN once and for all for all time IN ALL CAPS!!!

    Your “perfection” in life is also soiled: by concupiscence and venial sin (and unacknowledged mortal sin).

    God is the quintessence of what we know as justice. He has chosen not to save all and not to save none. So, yes, saving some is the highest justice.

  128. Eric,

    “Christ’s sacrifice wipes the slate clean”

    For whom? For all men? He died for all men, didn’t he? If the cross applies itself as you imply, why aren’t all men saved. ( I am going to keep bringing it back to this, Eric. )

    As for your demand that I not be as snarky as you, Let me justsay this; On Green Baggins there are dome dudes who take umbrage with Catholics talking Catholicism on a Calvinist blog. You go them one better. You resent Catholics on a Catholic blog. You come here with your superior attitude, angry that your position isn’t given the default position. And you continually mention a person whose name you have been asked not to invoke. You can suckle him on his blog. Go there. On behalf of all the Catholics who don’t doff their hats to you on this blog, quit mentioning him. Don’t conjure up his memory even.

  129. Eric,

    “I DON’T need the cartoon at judgment, just at imoutation/justification”

    So the effects of imputation – namely your inherent righteousness based on union – suffice to meet God’s standard of justice at judgment. You just need imputation to kickstart the process, but after that your inherent righteousness meets his standard of justice at judgment right? Okay, then explain why your inherent righteousness which is ever-inchoate in this life can meet his standard at judgment without God violating his holiness and justice.

    When you do so, please keep the following in mind from WLC:
    “Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
    A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

    Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

    Q. 78. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?
    A. The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

    WCF: “Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone…”

    “Defiled, corrupted, tainted, etc., all refer to the flesh…not to the spirit.”

    Yep so your works have to be looked on “as if” they are perfect via the lens of imputation in order to be accepted since the dung of your sin taints them:
    WCF “VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

    “Where do get this whole “looking at sin ‘as if’ it were forgiven”? No such nothing exists in Protestantism. We are FORGIVEN once and for all for all time IN ALL CAPS!!!”

    No I am not saying you view sin “as if” it was forgiven. I understand you hold sin is truly forgiven. When I say it is “as if” it was forgiven, it is in reply to your assertion that mercy and imputation are the exact same thing – I am making the comparison to show that to be off the mark.

    “Your “perfection” in life is also soiled: by concupiscence and venial sin (and unacknowledged mortal sin).”

    Which is why we don’t hold to the list paradigm that your side’s view of “perfection” holds. That’s also why Nick wrote his whole series of posts about Christ and the law. I am holding you to your own standards, RCism is not beholden to your standard. And here’s where you’ll go “well you’re relaxing God’s standards!” which is exactly what I said above – hello Javert and the legal fiction.

    “God is the quintessence of what we know as justice. He has chosen not to save all and not to save none. So, yes, saving some is the highest justice.”

    So God is bound to create and save in order to be just. I wonder how that flies in your Reformed circles.

    Anyways, just to show how God’s same justice is still applied to the elect (which is why imputation is needed in the first place) – WCF:
    “Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.”

    “We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, …[and] as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

  130. James–

    Imputation is not a kickstarter; it’s permanent. But our condition, in terms of inherent righteousness, is much different at biological death than at regeneration, so the cartoon would be much different. We would still need the grace of the Atonement to fill up that which we are lacking…for we are honest enough to acknowledge that we are not ontologically perfect (except eschatologically speaking and/or in the eyes of a timeless God).

    There are many ways of looking at it. In one sense, it is plenty that we are heirs of grace, children of the king. We CAN look at it in much the same way that Catholics do. All that is necessary for our perfection is to fulfill the law of Christ, the law of love.

    I cannot make a lick of sense out of your “as if” comparison somehow showing the contrast between mercy and imputation. You completely lost me.

    Bryan Cross and his compatriots view themselves as having been perfected (in terms of quality, not quantity) by the infusion of agape at baptism. You do not? They speak of progressing from perfection to perfection. They do not acknowledge any mortal sin. That would make them imperfect. We say that such talk misunderstands the realities of human limitations big time.

    In some sense, working backwards from what we know of God, but also from philosophical study of the classical attributes of God, he might be said to be bound to creation and salvation. It’s been explained to me, but heck if I remember why…but God has always been creating. He didn’t just one day decide to pick it up. It’s in his DNA, so to speak.

    You can continue to do it if you wish. But I tend to think quoting the WCF is counterproductive. It’s written for insiders, and outsiders cannot seem to make heads or tails of it. I haven’t bound myself to it anyway. I’m Reformed, but would like to sincerely delve into our commonalities. I cannot do that and remain dogmatic. Neither can you. Those who are truly ecumenical must be willing to risk themselves and their beliefs in the pursuit of truth.

    I’d have to go back and look at context, but that last WCF statement appears to be demonstrably false, based on 1 Corinthians 3.

  131. Eric,

    “Imputation is not a kickstarter; it’s permanent.”
    Just a couple of days ago you belittled me for confusing you with the OSAS folks didn’t you?

    You go on, to say,
    “But I tend to think quoting the WCF is counterproductive. It’s written for insiders, and outsiders cannot seem to make heads or tails of it. I haven’t bound myself to it anyway.”

    You say the WCF is so lofty that unregenerate troglodytes like we Catholics cannot hope to fathom its profundity.
    And yet you prove that you have not understood the difference in venial and mortal sin yet when you accuse Bryan Cross and C2C friends of self delusion or hypocrisy by saying,

    ” They do not acknowledge any mortal sin.” !!!!!!!!!!!!??? Should they Eric? How do you know?????

    Eric, you say you are Reformed. Yet you don’t subscribe 100% to the WCF. That is why it is so un fun talking to you. How many times have you been able to call me a dummy for misunderstanding your position after I, silly me, assumed you did subscribe to Calvinism as most people define Calvinism?
    This place is for Catholic/Reformed dialogue, right?

  132. Jim–

    1. You assured me you knew the difference between OSAS and the Perseverance of the Saints. Well, apparently, you dont.

    2. I have tried like heck to understand some of the subtleties of Marian dogmas without success. I’m sure they make complete sensemti you. With some doctrines, it can be difficult to get your head around themmfrom outside the paradigm. I wasn’t calling anyone stupid. Just pointing out a fact of ecumenical life.

    3. From our point of view, no one avoids mortal sin (using your definition) for more than a few moments at a time. So yes, speaking out of my own paradigm, Bryan et al. are guilty of continual mortal sin. It’s part of what makes your system unworkable for us. You have watered down sin and hoodwinked yourselves into thinking that you don’t commit it.

    4. Strict subscriptionists to the WCF are in the distinct minority within the Reformed community. It is the rule rather than the exception for people to take exceptions to peripheral aspects of the confession. If you have come to believe that this is indeed a place for Reformed-Catholic dialogue, then it would behoove you to learn a little bit about us.

  133. Eric,

    For the life of me, I have no idea where, when or why I ever said no one can avoid mortal sin for any period of time.

    As for OSAS, I do know the distinction Calvinists make about it. I just don’t think it is an honest distinction.

    By the way, you say Calvinism is not determinism? What about ,” …and by His almighty power determining their wills…and effectually calling them…yet so as they come most freely…”.WCF X,1
    DETERMINING their wills? Determining that the come most freely, yes, but determining them just the same. ( Kinda like how you aren’t a OSAS kinda’ guy too ).

  134. Jonathan,

    Back to the original topic.
    Would you say the OT ceremonies were occasions of grace while NT Sacraments contain grace? The OT imputed and NT imparted righteousness?
    The OT ceremonies worked ex opere operantis only and the NT ex opere operato also?

  135. Jim–

    So, now you don’t understand what a paradox is?

    But you’re on to what I’ve been talking about. When one side does not accept the appropriateness of an application of paradox that the other side is using, their accusation can be that it is not an honest distinction. That’s why you can accuse us of determinism even though we vehemently deny the charge.

    For us, your application of paradox concerning grace and works in justification is not an honest distinction. Therefore, we tend to charge you with legalism/ritualism/works righteousness.

    YOU, Jim, never said that no one can avoid constant mortal sin. I said that. We believe that (if you were to incorporate your definition of mortal sin into our view of sanctification). In other words, we believe you all to be self-deceived in the worst sort of way. You full well KNOW you are sinning. You are well aware that much of it is grievous. You willingly, even enthusiastically, engage in it anyway. We know this to be a fact because you are human.

  136. Eric,

    The distinction between mortal and venial sin is biblical. Although you have rashly presumed that I don’t esteem the Bible, I do, Do you?

  137. Eric,

    First, if you’re going to call yourself Reformed, you can’t just dance around when someone cites from Reformed confessions or disregard such as being “strict subscriptionism” – you are the one always yelling “but we’re confessional Protestants!” so you need to own up to your convictions. What I cited from WCF is no different from what we see in all the Reformed confessions – it is base, core, fundamental Reformed theology – I’m not citing stuff on the civil magistrate/papacy that has been revised. If someone cites from the catechism or Trent or councils, we deal with it – and that includes clarifying misconceptions rather than just glibly saying “outsiders don’t understand” which is a dialog killer and not worthy of the ecumenical talk you cherish. We don’t just say “well I’m RC but none of that matters to my beliefs” – otherwise it becomes like trying to nail jello to the wall and becomes exasperating. That is why I am keen on citing from Reformed confessions and admired well-known Reformed theologians when interacting with you to keep you on target.

    “Imputation is not a kickstarter; it’s permanent. But our condition, in terms of inherent righteousness, is much different at biological death than at regeneration, so the cartoon would be much different. We would still need the grace of the Atonement to fill up that which we are lacking”

    Yes so you still need the *fundamental aspect* of the cartoon’s point – which is that Christ’s imputed righteousness is what is necessary to vindicate you at judgment and meet God’s standard/justice since your inherent righteousness is ever-inchoate and lacking.

    “All that is necessary for our perfection is to fulfill the law of Christ, the law of love.”

    But you haven’t done so – that’s why you just said above you need the cartoon to fill up what you’re lacking. If you actually fulfilled the law (via your inherent righteousness) and have “perfection” as you say, then what are you lacking to be filled?

    “I cannot make a lick of sense out of your “as if” comparison somehow showing the contrast between mercy and imputation. You completely lost me.”

    So forensic imputed righteousness – you are reckoned “as if” you are as perfectly righteous as Christ is. You are not actually/truly perfectly righteous – that’s the point of the cartoon and why the legal fiction charge (accurate or not) is brought up. You were saying mercy/forgiveness is exactly the same as imputation. I was saying no, that’s not the case, because if they were exactly the same, your sins would not be actually/truly forgiven but merely reckoned and looked on “as if” they were forgiven.

    ” They do not acknowledge any mortal sin. That would make them imperfect. We say that such talk misunderstands the realities of human limitations big time.”

    The reason you think they misunderstand is because you consider righteousness/law-keeping in the list paradigm – again that’s why Nick wrote his posts here about Christ and the law and meticulous keeping – that’s why you consider venial sin and concupiscence as damning and the equivalent of mortal sin in your view. When you say “such talk misunderstands human limitations” you prove my point – your position ascribes Javert justice to God and thus the “legal fiction” charge resurfaces.

    And to followup on a previous point:
    “If you all participate in works ONLY out of love and desire…and no longer out of obligation, then we can talk.”

    Well perhaps this is pointless since you basically want to interact like you are a fundamentalist biblicist but WCF again:
    “Man ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins, particularly.”

    “yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”

    “And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.”

    Seems like lots of duty/obligation talk about sanctification there. Just like Hodge’s quote I referenced in the other thread saying sanctification was both a duty and a grace.

  138. James–

    I have been going back and forth with Jim concerning the nature of paradoxes. You also seem to have no insight into them. Should I start calling you a “legalist” because you permit the inclusion of good works in the process of justification? Do you not believe in a paradox, affirming both that 1.) your cooperation with cooperative grace is itself entirely gracious and that 2.) your cooperation with grace, at least in part, merits justification? For us Protestants, those two statements are not even slightly compatible, but indeed self-contradictory. But for you, they are not.

    Similarly, I am well aware that the confessions say my very best works are, at least in part, defiled and corrupted. But these same confessions call my works good and acceptable unto God. According to the spirit, according to my transformed mind, according to the new creature mystically united to Christ, my works are produced by the indwelling Holy Ghost…and it would be a sin to call them defiled. But according to the flesh, which I have not yet put off (and cannot till I am raised incorruptible in Glory), my most unspotted works are far from spotless.

    As Paul maintains in Romans 7:

    As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

    So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

    So, which Paul is the real Paul. For, at one and the same time, Paul no longer sins, and yet Paul is a slave to sin. He is no longer a slave to sin, and yet he sins.

    Here is another related paradox, from the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

    “In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.”

    In sanctification, God does all, and we do all. But the verb “to do” means two different things (or does what it does in two different ways, I guess you could say). In all aspects pertaining to justification, however, we are completely passive. We have already been saved. We have been sealed for the day of redemption.

    Getting back to good works…and our right to call them good. Here is the Augsburg Confession,ms peaking of good works:

    “…through faith the Holy Ghost is received, hearts are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to be able to bring forth good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is the mother of a good will and right doing.”

    And here is the Belgic Confession, speaking of the same:

    “Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned. So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,” which moves people to do by themselves the works that God has commanded in the Word. These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by God’s grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification—for by faith in Christ we are justified,
    even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.”

    And here are the Canons of Dordt:

    “Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in the elect, or works true conversion in them, God not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, God also penetrates into the inmost being, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. God infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant. God activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.”

    Though in other portions of these creeds they may speak of the defilement of our works, it is NOT because they see them as even slightly corrupt insofar as they proceed from the Holy Spirit. In the spirit, we produce spotless works, but these spotless works are enacted by means of bodies of mere flesh, and thus, bodies still corrupt in sin.

    So then, I myself in my mind am slave to the law of God, and as such, even my worst works are not counted against me: I am inherently perfectly righteous.

    But in my sinful nature, I am a slave to the law of sin, and as such, even my best works are stained with corruption.

    What cannot be sidestepped in all of this, however, is that my true self–that which God has intended me to be, that which I will be in Glory, that which I am already in my spirit–is spotlessly pure, washed in the blood of the Lamb.

  139. James–

    You write:

    So, in forensic imputed righteousness – you are reckoned “as if” you are as perfectly righteous as Christ is. You are not actually/truly perfectly righteous – that’s the point of the cartoon and why the legal fiction charge (accurate or not) is brought up. You were saying mercy/forgiveness is exactly the same as imputation. I was saying no, that’s not the case, because if they were exactly the same, your sins would not be actually/truly forgiven but merely reckoned and looked on “as if” they were forgiven.

    Let’s look at this mathematically:

    1. The received innocence of imputed righteousness = reckoned “as if” we were as righteous as Christ.

    2. The received innocence of mercy, forgiveness = reckoned “as if” we had never sinned.

    Looks pretty much the same to me, James! You just weren’t comparing the right things.

    Forgiveness is not the judicial system saying, “It’s been thirty years, now. You’ve paid your debt to society. Here’s a new suit and cab fare into town. You are free to go.”

    Forgiveness is Monseigneur Bienvenu’s not only absolving Jean Valjean of the theft of his table silver, but insisting that he take the silver candlesticks, as well! (Forgiveness, as in this case, often doesn’t even include repentance. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”)

  140. James–

    There are two things you seem not to understand.

    1. Holiness.

    2. Mercy.

    God’s holiness is perfect. God’s love is perfect. There is no shadow of imperfection in him. He desires for us this same holiness, this same perfection. The “agape” paradigm and the “list” paradigm are necessarily the same in terms of requiring perfection: perfect love, perfect obedience. Catholics even require this perfection to see the Beatific Vision. Venial “sin” may be compatible with “agape” in this life, but it is NOT compatible with it in the next. Why is that? Does God’s love change? Does God’s justice change?

    The perfection of the so-called “list” paradigm in no way resembles Javertian justice because Javert would not admit to the possibility of mercy. Only the justice of a strict interpretation of the law.

    There is a gap between us and godly perfection. Christ has made up that gap both in Catholic and Protestant soteriology. That is the function of mercy. Imputation is nothing more than a form of mercy.

  141. Eric,

    “Do you not believe in a paradox, affirming both that 1.) your cooperation with cooperative grace is itself entirely gracious and that 2.) your cooperation with grace, at least in part, merits justification?”

    Initial justification is unmerited.

    “For us Protestants, those two statements are not even slightly compatible, but indeed self-contradictory. But for you, they are not.”

    So holding that your cooperation with cooperative grace in progressive sanctification is itself entirely gracious and that your cooperation with grace, at least in part, merits heavenly reward and growth in holiness/grace is not even slightly compatible and indeed self-contradictory? Or will you just appeal to paradox here in an ad hoc fashion?

    “Similarly, I am well aware that the confessions say my very best works are, at least in part, defiled and corrupted. But these same confessions call my works good and acceptable unto God. ”

    Sure and I never said otherwise so I’m not sure why you felt compelled to cite from the confessions in support. The point is what God’s standard of justice requires at judgment (for both the reprobate and elect). That’s what spurred this entire thread in the first place concerning imputation and legal fiction. Your works being corrupted and such corruption being overlooked by God because such cannot withstand the severity of judgment or satisfy his exact justice speaks to that.

    ” Paul no longer sins, and yet Paul is a slave to sin. He is no longer a slave to sin, and yet he sins.”

    Yes and the Romans 7 man has had various interpretations in history – the two most dominant ones were that he is taking on a persona of natural man in general (or talking of himself specifically before coming to faith), or that he is describing himself as a believer under concupiscence – none of the interpretations was that Paul was mortally/damnably sinning every second of his life with his imperfection thus requiring imputed righteousness to make up what was lacking. We are no longer a slave to sin because we don’t mortally sin, and yet we sin because we have concupiscence and venial sin we struggle with.

    “So then, I myself in my mind am slave to the law of God, and as such, even my worst works are not counted against me: I am inherently perfectly righteous.
    But in my sinful nature, I am a slave to the law of sin, and as such, even my best works are stained with corruption.”

    Yes and because of the latter you need the cartoon. So you are not “inherently perfectly righteous” – you are inherently righteous but it is ever-inchoate and unable to withstand God’s exact justice and severity of judgment.

    “2. The received innocence of mercy, forgiveness = reckoned “as if” we had never sinned.”

    Here’s the deal again with the legal fiction – it calls something that is not perfectly righteous as though it is perfectly righteous. When we are forgiven sin, God isn’t calling something that is sin as if it is not sin. God isn’t just changing his mind about us when forgiving – sin can be forgiven only if it is removed, and the soul made righteous. He is not covering or overlooking sin with something – he is forgiving it – making something righteous includes taking away sin and guilt.

    “Venial “sin” may be compatible with “agape” in this life, but it is NOT compatible with it in the next. Why is that? Does God’s love change? Does God’s justice change?”

    First, I could easily ask why must you be perfectly sanctified after death? If extra nos imputed righteousness suffices to (indeed is the only thing that can) meet God’s standard – then what point is there to perfectly sanctifying you – why can’t he leave you at your state at death and just view you under the lens of imputation for eternity?

    Nope God’s love and justice does not change – but for us to enjoy Him fully as our ultimate purpose, our disordered attachments to created things and defects (not violations – incomplete conformity is not the same as violating) in expressing agape – ie venial sin – and our inclination to sin in our lower appetites – ie concupiscence – must be healed and our debt of temporal punishment (if any) must be satisfied. Those all affect our expression of agape but not agape itself which is seated in the will and is our righteousness. Only in God healing/restoring those other aspects of us will we then never fail to express the measure of agape within us perfectly (and thus also never have the ability/possibility to sin) for eternity.

    “The perfection of the so-called “list” paradigm in no way resembles Javertian justice because Javert would not admit to the possibility of mercy. Only the justice of a strict interpretation of the law. ”

    You again keep having God grade the elect on a scale He doesn’t grade the reprobate on. The Reformed tradition does not support such a position, as I showed with WCF – the justice and standard is the same in both cases. The cartoon (and imputed righteousness itself) is needed because of that Javert justice – if there’s no Javert justice you have no need for the cartoon to make up what is “lacking” as you put it or to correct what you view RCs as holding as “human limitations”.

  142. James–

    You wrote::

    “…sin can be forgiven only if the sin is removed, and the soul made righteous.”

    It must be nice to make up your own definitions!

    TO FORGIVE

    : to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)

    : to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)

    : to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)

    There is nothing in the definition of reconciliation or repentance. Neither is there in the Greek, where the verbs refer to the cancellation or remission or pardon of sin.

    It appears that you don’t even know what the word means. Neither did Javert. Perhaps you two are bosom buddies.

  143. James–

    1. Progressive and final justification are at least partially merited. You knew exactly what I meant.

    2. I’m sorry, but it makes complete sense to me for sanctification to be graciously paradoxical and for justification not to be. Just because we are powerless to procure our own freedom in no way logically entails that we cannot do anything once our freedom is won.

    3. The works of my spirit, produced by the Holy Ghost himself, are not corrupt in the slightest bit. How dare you even imply that that they are! I stand perfectly righteous in my Savior’s sight. I satisfy his exact justice and can withstand the severity of judgment. There is no “legal fiction” whatever. You all have made that up out of whole cloth.

    4. All you have cited are Catholic interpretations of Romans 7…without either early church interpretations or Protestant interpretations. Augustine, in his “Retractions” describes the Romans 7 man as “a spiritual man living under grace, even though the body of the flesh is not yet spiritual, yet it will be at the resurrection of the dead.”

    5. So, by your own admission, your expression of agape in this life is imperfect and in need of being healed. In either word, you sure are good. Not quite as good as you could be, but mighty darn good, nonetheless! Oh, my, my. What is that again that “goeth before a fall”?

    6. God could indeed leave us under the lens of imputation for eternity. Why would he wish to do that in your humble opinion? Do you somehow suppose that he has set himself against inherent righteousness? We have always stated that perfection is God’s end goal for us. You have tried to make this perfection into a dirty word. But then, in the end, you reach a perfect perfection, as well…in terms of quantity and quality. I guess your standard was total perfection all along. Why did you dissemble?

  144. James–

    Toward the end of my last comment, “In either word,” should read, “In other words….”

    I simply cannot keep up with that autocorrect robotic moron.

  145. Eric,

    “…sin can be forgiven only if the sin is removed, and the soul made righteous.”
    “It must be nice to make up your own definitions!”

    Let’s see:
    “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
    No invention involved. You even heartily endorsed that exact statement earlier. Removed not overlooked/changed perspective. God sees truth.

    “In those days, at that time,” declares the Lord, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.”
    The sin is removed/gone, not lurking around hidden from God.

    “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
    Tying forgiveness to cleansing and making righteous.

    “though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be a white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool”
    You could do the dunghill stuff here if you like, but the more natural reading given above is that they are removed and cleansed. God again sees truth.

    “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
    Connecting forgiveness with cleansing and making righteous again.

    “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
    He doesn’t remember because they are removed/cleansed.

    “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.” Removed again.

    “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Removed again.

    So no invention going on. Dictionaries don’t interpret Scriptural definitions – Scripture interprets Scripture right?

    “1. Progressive and final justification are at least partially merited. You knew exactly what I meant.”

    Let’s see below…

    “2. I’m sorry, but it makes complete sense to me for sanctification to be graciously paradoxical and for justification not to be. Just because we are powerless to procure our own freedom in no way logically entails that we cannot do anything once our freedom is won.”

    And here’s the problem again – “Just because we are powerless to procure our own freedom in no way logically entails that we cannot do anything once our freedom is won.” How about that. That’s exactly what RCs mean by saying initial justification is unmerited while we merit in progressive justiciation. So we see my reply to your point 1 was actually right on target.

    “3. The works of my spirit, produced by the Holy Ghost himself, are not corrupt in the slightest bit. How dare you even imply that that they are! I stand perfectly righteous in my Savior’s sight. I satisfy his exact justice and can withstand the severity of judgment. There is no “legal fiction” whatever. You all have made that up out of whole cloth.”

    It’s not me who implies it – it’s your confessions and theologians – but that seems to have shifted into Nick’s new thread so I won’t belabor if further. Similarly, I’ll let readers decide if the legal fiction charge holds water or not after going through everything you, Jonathan, Jim, and I said – I think we’ve all made our points clear.

    “4. All you have cited are Catholic interpretations of Romans 7…without either early church interpretations or Protestant interpretations. Augustine, in his “Retractions” describes the Romans 7 man as “a spiritual man living under grace, even though the body of the flesh is not yet spiritual, yet it will be at the resurrection of the dead.””

    You are correct that I should’ve obviously qualified history to be pre-Reformation history, but I certainly was including early church interpretation which was my point. Yes Augustine actually held both views, earlier he held it was natural pre-faith man, then late in life he held it was Paul as believer – Aquinas points this out when he comments on Augustine’s changing views and says both interpretations have merit but he is inclined to also hold it referred to Paul as believer. What is important is that, as I said, both he and Augustine held that it was referring to Paul suffering under concupiscence and venial sin – not every-second mortal sin thus requiring imputed righteousness. That interpretation is absent in all the patristic and medieval exegesis of Rom 7 afaik.

    As to point 5/6 – we are fully righteous at initial justification. Incomplete conformity in our lower appetites and expressions of that righteousness does not negate that fact, nor does the view that to enjoy God fully in heaven such perfect conformity is required negate that fact. To assume that imperfect/incomplete conformity does negate that fact is to…wait for it…assume the list meticulous lawkeeping paradigm as I said way back above, which then necessitates your rejection of mortal/venial/concupiscence distinction and necessitates your need for imputed righteousness at the bar of justice to make up what is lacking in your infused righteousness and good works.

  146. James,

    Your noble efforts are proving futile. Eric doesn’t seem ( I say “seem” ) to see that while the Objective Redemption takes place on Calvary and is for all men. Nobody passed over or left out. The lie of Limited Atonement may be what is tripping him up. It fits in perfectly with the Protestant view of imputation.

    However, the application of Calvary, the subjective Redemption, is the work of the Holy Spirit.
    On one hand, Protestants believe in the Trinity but when it comes to understanding that the same bond of love between Father and Son is given to us ( Romans 5;5 ) as a bond between us and God, they seem to gloss over it.

    I have said it before and will say it again, Protestants read the Bible but they don’t meditate on it. Perfect example; their shallow view of the Church. Even more extreme example; every Marian passage in the Bible.

    What does it mean for Protestants for us to become “partakers of the divine nature”????????

  147. Jim–

    We have a mystical/ontological Union with Christ. How is that not participation in the divine nature to you?

  148. Eric,

    Is that mystical/ontological Union with Christ so incomplete it needs something added to it?

  149. James–

    In ANY of the contexts you cite, is there even the slightest inference of moral transformation involved in “removing” sin? Doesnt every context speak to the removal of guilt? If you owe me a thousand dollars and I decide in gracious magniminity to “remove” the debt, does that somehow mean that you will never forget to pay me ever again? Or does it mean I wiped out the consequences of your previous transgression?

    2. No, you clearly DO NOT mean the same thing as we. Your freedom is only conditionally procured. You still have to go out and maintain it.

    3. You misread our confessions because you will not heed the paradox involved.

    4. I don’t believe the Augustine quote includes anything at all about concupiscence and venial sin, but I’ll go back and look.

    5. Yes, your stance requires you to believe that we are all basically good people who just need a little help in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps…well, until Purgatory sets in, that is.

  150. Eric,

    “you to believe that we are all basically good people who just need a little help in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps…well, until Purgatory sets in, that is.”

    Actually, we believe we are dead, zero, in trespass and sin. You don’t. You believe we are very much alive on the negative side of the zero.
    Without grace, we can do no supernaturally good acts. But we can do naturally good acts.
    You guys say our naturally good acts are sin and deserving hell.
    Grace elevates us. For you, grace basically means you won’t get your deserved comeuppance.

  151. Empty comment to get on subscription list.

  152. Eric,

    “In ANY of the contexts you cite, is there even the slightest inference of moral transformation involved in “removing” sin? Doesnt every context speak to the removal of guilt?”

    Sin is removed, as is guilt. That’s part of the moral transformation. That’s why many of the quotes speak of actual change – cleansing, heart, blotting out, etc. Not just forgive and forget. Rather, forgive through change. God sees truth.

    “No, you clearly DO NOT mean the same thing as we. Your freedom is only conditionally procured. You still have to go out and maintain it.”

    Our freedom is an unmerited gift. Should we choose to neglect such a great gift, we can shamefully end up abandoning and rejecting it. We should want to grow in it. And that’s what progressive justification is. If you don’t “go out and maintain” fruit of your election, what happens – oh, you just weren’t elect after all – oops. That is supposed to give me such great peace?

    “3. You misread our confessions because you will not heed the paradox involved.”

    Yes paradox which you are quick to deny other position. These aren’t the same confessions you said you “think they are worded badly, even misleadingly. To be honest, I don’t think the Reformed in general have a good handle on the situation. They haven’t thought everything through.” So I might have to take your dismissive remark of misreading with a grain of salt.

    “4. I don’t believe the Augustine quote includes anything at all about concupiscence and venial sin, but I’ll go back and look.”

    Yes well read more than a single sentence extracts. Are you really going to try to argue Augustine didn’t hold to the concupiscence/venial/mortal sin distinction? Or even better that he held Rom 7 man as believer to be in constant mortal sin thus requiring imputed righteousness? Good luck. Btw, you don’t have to limit yourself to Augustine – if you can find any patristic/medieval exegesis of the Rom 7 man matching the Reformed view of it, I’m all ears.

    “5. Yes, your stance requires you to believe that we are all basically good people who just need a little help in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps…well, until Purgatory sets in, that is.”

    Given how long you’ve been here – how many long and detailed discussions you’ve been involved with covering things like Trent’s and the catechism’s view of justification and salvation, not to mention the Thomist view of grace, this type of remark deserves a response you should be familiar with:

    Total straw man. This is NOT what RCs believe. Will you guys never even ATTEMPT to learn our paradigm?
    You have misrepresented RCism. Go back and take the time to fix it. This is unacceptable.
    “Bad” Eric. 🙁

  153. James–

    Yes, many of the passages speak of forgiveness AND change. None of them speak of forgiveness AS change (because, lo and behold, that’s simply NOT what it is).

    I’m glad to see you now agree that we did not mean the same thing. But no, James, we are not required to maintain anything. We want to obey the Spirit. It’s who we are. And yes, it has brought me incredible peace. Arminianism, which is similar to Catholicism in so many ways soteriologically, brought nothing but doubt and frustration.

    3. Let me clarify. I think the confessions are worded just fine insofar as they go. But they overemphasize grace (probably due to anti-Catholic polemics at the time they were written) to the detriment of the other side of the paradox. Still, they all speak not only of the possibility, but also the need for holy living.

    4. Just because some of the ECF’s use the same terminology as modern Catholics in nowise establishes that they are speaking of the exact same concepts. Quit assuming things not in evidence. I’ll look back at the context and see if what you say holds any water. I don’t try to explain things away. No skin off my nose.

    5. Frankly, I don’t know how we are supposed to converse without some amount of willful misreading. Sometimes I present your beliefs according to your view of things, and sometimes I present them according to my view. I understand why you represent us as Antinomian. Within your paradigm, we are Antinomian. But since I don’t live in that utterly skewed world, I am bound to take exception to that which in my rational world is nothing but a scurrilously false accusation.

    Similarly, I don’t actually believe that you believe in grace alone, however much you swear up and down that you do. According to my paradigm, you are indeed a slave to works righteousness.

    So, I’m a licentious wretch in your world, and you’re a smug Pharisee in mine. We might as well get used to the fact that these are our honest impressions of each other.

    I keep wanting to find some way to expand my boundaries to pull you in, to give you the benefit of the doubt. We seem so close in some ways soteriologically. And then you’ll make some offhand comment about not believing in total depravity, and I’ll be brought back down to earth. There’s simply no way you guys are regenerate. In fact, I question your common sense, even your sanity. I wonder out loud what strange biblical translation you’re using that allows you to turn its straightforward meaning totally on its head. You don’t twist Scripture…you bend it, break it, and reassemble it in unnatural ways. You must not revere it. You must not even want to know what it means.

    And of course, you probably think many of the exact same things about us.

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