Justification: vs. Francisco Tourinho (Round 3, Pt. 2)

Justification: vs. Francisco Tourinho (Round 3, Pt. 2) August 23, 2023

[see book and purchase information]

Francisco Tourinho is a Brazilian Calvinist apologist. He described his theological credentials on my Facebook page:

I have the respect of the academic community for my articles published in peer review magazines, translation of unpublished classical works into Portuguese and also the production of a book in the year 2019 with more than 2000 copies sold (with no marketing). In addition I have higher education in physical education from Piauí State University and theology from the Assemblies of God Biblical Institute, am currently working towards a Masters from Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, and did post-graduate work at Dom Bosco Catholic University. Also, I am a professor in the Reformed Scholasticism discipline at the Jonathan Edwards Seminary in the postgraduate course in Philosophical Theology. [edited slightly for more flowing English]

My previous replies:

Justification: A Catholic Perspective (vs. Francisco Tourinho) [6-22-22]

Reply to Francisco Tourinho on Justification: Round 2 (Pt. 1) [+ Part 2] [+ Part 3] [7-19-22]

Biblical Justification: vs. Francisco Tourinho (Round 3, Pt. 1) [10-20-22]

This is an ongoing debate, which we plan to make into a book, both in Portugese and English. I use Google Translate to render his Portugese text into English. Francisco’s words will be in blue. Mine from my previous installment will be in green. I will try very hard to cite my own past words less, for two reasons: 1) the sake of relative brevity, and 2) because the back-and-forth will be preserved in a more convenient and accessible way in the book (probably with some sort of handy numerical and index system).

In instances where I agree with Francisco, there is no reason to repeat his words again, either. I’ll be responding to Francisco’s current argument and noting if and when he misunderstood or overlooked something I think is important: in which case I’ll sometimes have to cite my past words. I use RSV for all Bible passages (both mine and Francisco’s) unless otherwise indicated.

His current reply is entitled, Justificação pela fé: perspectiva protestante (contra Armstrong): Rodada 3. Parte 2. [Justification by Faith: Protestant Perspective (Contra Armstrong): Round 3. Part 2] (8-12-23). Note that he is replying only to Part II of my previous Round 2 reply. When he writes his replies to my Round 2, Part III and I counter-reply, the debate will be completed, by mutual agreement, except for brief closing statements. I get the (rather large) advantage of “having the last word” because Francisco chose the topic and wrote the first installment.

First, thanks again to Mr. Armstrong for the opportunity for the debate. Mr Armstrong begins this second round with a few short remarks, directing the reader to other parts of the debate, I suggest the reader take the advice if he so chooses. The first substantive argument is against my interpretation of James 2:1. He says:

James 2:1 is not about proving our faith to other persons by works, but about treating people equally, as classic Protestant commentaries agree:
Bengel’s Gnomen: The equality of Christians, as indicated by the name of brethren, is the basis of this admonition.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote St. Paul to the proud and wealthy men of Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:9), “that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich;” and, with more cogent an appeal, to the Philippians (James 2:4-7), “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves: look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God”i.e., Very God, and not appearance merely—nevertheless “thought not His equality with God a thing to be always grasped at,” as it were some booty or prize, “but emptied Himself” of His glory, “and took upon Him the shape of a slave.” Were these central, nay initial, facts of the faith believed then; or are they now? If they were in truth, how could there be such folly and shame as “acceptance of persons” according to the dictates of fashionable society and the world? “Honour,” indeed, “to whom honour” is due (Romans 13:7).
Meyer’s NT Commentary: In close connection with the thought contained in chap. Jam 1:27, that true worship consists in the exhibition of compassionate love, James proceeds to reprove a practice of his readers, consisting in a partial respect to the rich and a depreciation of the poor, which formed the most glaring contrast to that love. . . . their faith should not be combined with a partial respect of persons.
Calvin’s Commentaries: [H]e does not simply disapprove of honor being paid to the rich, but that this should not be done in a way so as to despise or reproach the poor; and this will appear more clearly, when he proceeds to speak of the rule of love. Let us therefore remember that the respect of persons here condemned is that by which the rich is so extolled, wrong is done to the poor, which also he shews clearly by the context . . .
It is clear that there is no contradiction between the two statements. Why would treating all people equally nullify that a Christian must necessarily have a good report before men?
Good works are directly in play in James 2:1, as opposed to trying to bolster one’s reputation. It’s not contradictory to having a good report, etc., but the latter notion is not to be found directly in the text. It’s not the main thought, and the essence of James 2 is what we are debating.
Furthermore, the text cannot be analyzed in isolation, as a connection was made with verse 7 which says: “Are they not the ones who slander the good name that was invoked upon you?” James 2:7,
I replied to that last time. 
and further on in the same chapter, Saint James says, “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have works”. Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by works.” James 2:18. Note the emphasis on the word “show”, that is, what is the use of showing a faith that does nothing?
It’s the emphasis in that verse (as a sort of sub-topic derived from the main topic), but not of the entire chapter.
What’s the use of SAYING to have faith and not to have works? See how the whole event is directed to “one another”, the apostle places himself as a human being, limited in knowledge about the hearts of other people and provides us with a tool to know if someone who claims to have faith, really has a faith. True, namely, what is manifest by his works, by what is visible, for faith is not the work itself, nor can it be, but the way in which invisible faith can be seen before men. Mr. Armstrong is focusing on the prescribed good work itself, which is to treat everyone equally, but he forgets that in verse 18 St. James teaches us to demand that a person without works show his faith through works, and that we ourselves do so.
Again, I feel that I have already adequately answered: particularly in my section below, starting withJames, just like Paul, . . .”
This extends the same thought expressed in James 2:1-6: preferential treatment of the rich over the poor. Hence, James 1:6 (RSV, as throughout) states: “But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court?” The point is about Christian ethical hypocrisy and double standards, not about proving the validity of one’s faith to men, as if James supposedly isn’t talking about faith like Paul and Jesus do.
I repeat the previous argument, one thing does not cancel the other, in fact, the act of treating everyone equally is already a demonstration of true faith through good works.
If good works are this organically connected to faith (which is what James is plainly teaching), then how is it that Protestants try to separate what the New Testament does not separate? It reminds me of Matthew 19:6, where Jesus says: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
The Bible is always very condemning of two-faced hypocrisy. I don’t see how this proves that James is operating with an entirely different conception of works (“before men only, and not before God”). It doesn’t logically follow. To the contrary, James, just like Paul, ties both faith and works into salvation, not just flattering and God-honoring appearances before men. They are connected to salvation itself (1:12, 21-22; 2:14) as well as to justification (2:21, 24-25); both things directed “Godward” and not merely towards other persons.
In Mr. Armstrong’s conception, justification is the very process of salvation, for man, through good works, gradually becomes righteous. In the Reformed conception man is justified before God by a single work, the work of Christ, and good works are the effects of divine grace and a means of salvation, but not its cause.
We’ve been through this over and over. Catholics believe in an initial monergistic justification, just as Protestants do. But unlike them, we think there is a continuing sense of the word, too, and when the process continues, works are necessarily present and part and parcel of justification, since faith without works is dead (per James). In this way, good works cannot be abstractly separated from faith, according to the Bible. In other words, the grace-filled and grace-enabled works have something directly to do with salvation, too, as I have shown again and again throughout this debate, with tons of biblical indications provided.
But no matter how much clear scriptural support we provide (mine add up to 200 at least), Protestants continue to argue that sanctification and works are optional in terms of supposedly not being inherently tied to eschatological salvation. 
Having said that, it is important to note that these two assumptions are at issue when analyzing these verses, for when I say that I am justified by the work of Christ and not by my work, it does not make sense that a work, even if seen by God as good, can justify myself before Him, for the justifying work was Christ’s. I do not deny that good works must be done for God, not to boast of one’s deeds before men, but I do say that good works justify us in man’s sight, and are a proper means of salvation, but are not the cause of it, nor even justifies man before God, for we have the righteousness of Christ in us who believe.
It’s interesting to me to see the phrase,
a proper means of salvation, but . . . not the cause of it.” This is close to the Catholic position and a place where perhaps significant common ground can be found. If we say that good works are a “means of salvation,” then they are not  separated from salvation altogether. “Means” in English (at Dictionary.com) is defined as “the medium, method, or instrument used to obtain a result or achieve an end.” We can wholeheartedly agree that God’s grace and His death on the cross on our behalf are the ultimate causes (or “means”) of our salvation; yet if works are one of the “means” then they are included in the entire process. And that’s what Catholics are saying. I see at least two instances where the New Testament uses the word “means” in this sense:
John 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”
1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
A lot (if not most) of “all things” that Paul became in order to save others, were good works. Hence, he wrote, “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me” (1 Cor 15:10). He doesn’t separate faith and works or grace and works. To him they are organically intertwined. Paul does the work but at the same time it was “by the grace of God” which was “with” him (ultimate cause). It’s biblical / Hebraic paradox. Paul, in the same context, referred to his own good works not only helping to save others, but also to save himself:
1 Corinthians 9:27 . . . I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
2 Timothy 4:5-7 As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. [6] For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Paul didn’t just abstractly believe in the faith; he kept it, which is good works. He did “the work of an evangelist,” just as he is exhorting Timothy to do in his footsteps. The “good fight” and finishing “the race” are also good works. I wrote:
Just because God knew what would happen (being omniscient and timeless), it doesn’t follow that Abraham didn’t prove himself. To say that the “the test was not in relation to God, but in relation to men” makes little sense, seeing that no one was else was around at the time, and likely would not have even been told by Abraham what happened. Moreover, it’s very likely very few if any knew about it until Moses recorded the incident several hundred years later. Thirdly, does the immediate text indicate what Francisco claims? No. It indicates a relationship of his action to God, not other men:
Genesis 22:15-18 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, [16] and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, [17] I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, [18] and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” [my bolded and red emphases]
This action of Abraham — far from being simply a witness before men — is made the very basis upon which God makes a covenant with Abraham, and makes him the father of three major world religions, and the exemplar ever-after of faith itself.
First, I never said that Abraham was not tried by God, on the contrary, I said that Abraham was indeed tried, but in relation to himself, because for God there is no test, what test can there be for Abraham if God already knows if Abraham will pass or not?
God all through Scripture tests and tries and refines His followers (see many verses about that) and all the while He knows everything, including the future. So yes, there can indeed be a divine test, which remains true alongside the fact that God always knows what will be the result.
To say that a public justification makes little sense because no one was around is not a good argument, for there was Abraham, there was Isaac,
Abraham didn’t need to justify himself before Isaac, who already had full trust in him.
and there is God himself who anthropopathically acts like a man when he says, “Now I know that you fear God.” (Gn 22.12),
Yes, it is anthropopathism, but then this proves my point. Abraham didn’t have to prove anything to God. He simply had to be obedient and do the works that he was called to do, including moving to where God told him to go and being willing to sacrifice Isaac if indeed God commanded him to do that. And so the Bible says,
James 2:20-26 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? [22] You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, [23] and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. [24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. [25] And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? [26] For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.
This directly ties works inexorably into faith, as part and parcel of it, complete with a rather delightful express condemnation of “faith alone” (2:24). Man can and should be justified by works as well as faith. The two cannot be separated. And this is Catholic, biblical teaching. None of this is simply showing men that we have faith, which is rather elementary Christianity. In fact, Jesus condemns acts of piety for the sole purpose of impressing other men:
Matthew 6:1-6 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. [2] “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [5] “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

We simply do our good works in faith, and God, Who sees all, rewards us accordingly (which is merit).

and most importantly, we have this testimony today, without this proof, we would know an unbelieving Abraham, as described in the moment when the angel announces Sarah’s pregnancy.

Abraham proved that he feared God and believed. But it was not “before men.” It was a thing that was in and of itself, whether anyone saw it or not, and before God (for His sake, not God’s). But referring to works as a “means of salvation” offers hope that we can fundamentally agree on a key point in this vexed debate.
Francisco continues his answer to my biblical argument above:
We know that theologically it is impossible for God to have any cause outside of himself, as that would make him imperfect. The text has an anthropopathic character, as when God says that he repents or suggests an ignorance of information (Gen 3.9). Abraham’s action cannot be the basis for a divine action, but it certainly serves as a means to the fulfillment of a promise. The point is that in this particular verse, the author is not referring to justification, but to the moment when a covenant is made. Abraham justified only himself, as the covenant is for the blessing of all his offspring. Furthermore, the covenant or a covenant is also a public testimony of what has already been wrought spiritually, so that there being a covenant does not alter the fact that there was justification before men and that this attitude serves as a witness for us, since God cannot be caused, nor be surprised. After that I stated that: “Men who were ignorant of Abraham’s faith were given evidence that he was a righteous man.”
Francisco says that Genesis 22:15-18 does not refer to justification and tries to make it merely a thing having to do with God’s covenant with Abraham. The big problem with this is that it is explicitly contradicted by James 2:21-24, which states in no uncertain terms that Abraham was “justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar” (2:21) and that this extraordinary work was precisely what proved that Abraham “believed” and that the working out of his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness” (2:22-23). Then, if the reader has still not grasped what is being taught, James reiterates: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24).
Francisco claims that Genesis 22 isn’t about justification, but Scripture elsewhere states plainly that it is. In those cases, I go by the principle of “clear related passages interpret the less clear” rather than an unbiblical notion (justification merely before men).
Then why is it that the text that James refers to, doesn’t express that thought. Rather, it states that “because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, . . . And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:16-18) [my bolded emphases].
As so often, the Catholic interpretation is far more grounded in the Bible.
Mr. Armstrong forgets that if the testimony were not public, it would not have reached us, in fact, once again Mr. Armstrong’s interpretation places divine attitudes based on human attitudes, which is theologically and philosophically impossible.
This confuses two things: supposed justification before men only, and public revelation. The first is an unbiblical falsehood and the second a great gift and necessary blessing.
The text takes on an anthropopathic character, just like the test that Abraham passed. Certainly, before a predicamental order (of creatures) it is correct to say that God blessed Abraham for his test of faith, but this is not the same transcendental angle, because in the angle of creatures, our attitudes precede grace, in the angle of God, grace precedes our attitudes.
In Catholic theology, all good things must be precede and caused by God’s grace, too.

Francisco then takes on my citations of James 2:14, 17, 20, 24, 26:

I have already touched on this and it proves my point, as Mr. Armstrong arbitrarily refused to comment on the highlighted parts where the heart of the matter it is not only an admonition to be holy, but also a public profession of faith.

I have addressed this repeatedly, including in my present reply.

Let’s see the verses that Mr. Armstrong quotes and pay attention to the highlighted parts:


[2:14, 17, 20] Note that St. James admonishes us to demand visible proof from those who believe. Believing is subjective, it cannot be proved, but the work is objective, although it is not an absolute proof, it is a proof superior to speech alone.
I say that this is not James’ point (which is that faith without works is dead). The only one that needs to be “shown” anything is the one described by James as a “shallow man” (2:20). Humorously (given the historic debate), James, throughout the passage, defines the shallow person as the one who believes in “faith alone” (the standard Protestant position). I can certainly understand how it would be embarrassing to have one’s position described in the Bible as “shallow”. Christians must always — we are duty-bound to — follow the Bible wherever it leads, whether it follows our predispositions and preferences or not. The latter must be guided by the Bible.
Francisco says, “St. James commands us to observe this detail.” He sure does. He’s referring to James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” That’s Catholic theology, folks.
This verse [James 2:26] has already been commented on by me, and I repeat my comment, I repeat:
“Does anyone see the spirits? We do not see the spirits (God does; men do not), but we know that someone is alive by his body through his movements, and the same is true of faith: we only know that it is there by works of piety.”
Mr Armstrong avoided commenting on my argument.
There was no need to, since it’s self-evident and we agree, as far as it goes.
[I also sadly note again at this point that Francisco decided in his prior reply to ignore many parts of my reply, which went against our initial agreement: which I lamented and protested]
James states: “I by my works will show you my faith” (2:18). It’s not our dispute, which is, rather, whether works are to be considered as necessary for salvation alongside faith: both caused by grace.
My opponent again quotes several verses, however, all of them dealing with sanctifying regeneration, and for this to speak in his favor, he must first prove that sanctification and justification are the same things, which he has already admitted to have his distinction.
Having just noted again that my opponent chooses to ignore portions of my argument (all of which I believe are important, or else I wouldn’t have written them!), he goes on to do this very thing, by choosing to ignore and not respond to no less than 18 passages (!!!). The whole point of them was to show that works were directly tied to salvation, and sanctification to justification and/or salvation (precisely what we are presently debating). Here are the portions that most clearly show that:
Acts 26:18 . . . those who are sanctified by faith in me. [Phillips: “made holy by their faith in me”]
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.

1 Corinthians 1:30 . . . our righteousness and sanctification and redemption;

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 . . . God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [perhaps the clearest verse in the New Testament that directly connects sanctification to salvation itself: contrary to Protestant teaching]

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [cf. 10:14]

Since Francisco chose to ignore 18 passages last time, I suppose he will again ignore the selected six best ones above in his next reply. I don’t see how that shows that he has a superior case to mine. But his practice of ignoring whatever he wants to ignore (making out that it is off-topic or whatever . . .) violates the third of four principles we agreed to abide by in our first round (I wrote them; he agreed):

3) Both of us should try to actually interact point-by-point rather than picking and choosing; a serious debate where all the opponent’s arguments are grappled with.

He just did it again, folks.

I began this debate by affirming this connection between faith and works, citing the example of light and heat, an analogy praised by Mr. Armstrong himself. Of course, I assert again, faith is absolutely not to be separated from good works, for both faith and good works are an effect of regenerating grace. Whoever has faith must have good works, but good works and faith are different things, so we can indicate different effects without entering into contradiction.

I understand that Protestants think good works must follow from faith, lest it be a counterfeit faith. I posted articles — years ago — documenting how both Luther and Calvin taught that. That’s all water under the bridge. What I am discussing and seeking to prove from Scripture is that works cannot be totally separated from salvation.

We may put Mr Armstrong’s proposition as follows: Faith is never alone, therefore it does not justify alone. To which we reply, that it does not follow, for it would be like saying that the eye is never alone in the head, and therefore does not see alone, which is absurd. While as far as substance is concerned the eye is never alone, as far as vision is concerned it is alone. And so, although faith does not subsist without God’s love, hope, and other graces, yet, so far as the act of justification is concerned, it is unique.

This is an articulate description of the Reformed position, but it doesn’t disprove all the Bible passages I have set forth in favor of Catholic soteriology.

There is indeed a sense in which we prove the genuineness of our faith in the world and the Church, and provide a good witness. But this sense doesn’t exclude the organic connection between faith and works / justification and sanctification: directly tied to salvation:

That was my introduction to the 18 Bible passages that he chose to ignore, against our initial agreement. Instead of grappling with those, he made the following reply:
I repeat that I agree that there is a relationship between faith, good works, justification, sanctification and salvation, but this relationship is not always causal. We Reformed understand that there are multiple causes of salvation, but works are not included, as John Calvin states:

“If, however, we pay attention to the four types of causes that philosophers prescribe that must be considered in the effectuation of things, none of them will be found to fit works so that our salvation is consummated. For the Scripture everywhere proclaims that the heavenly Father’s mercy and gracious love to us are the Efficient Cause for purchasing us eternal life; the Material Cause is through Christ with his obedience, whereby he purchased righteousness for us; and what shall we say is the Formal Cause, or also instrumental, if not faith? And John understands these three at once in one sentence, when he says, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3 :16).

The problem is that the Bible also states (at least fifty times) that works are directly tied to ultimate salvation, eternal life, and entrance into heaven (as a “formal” or “instrumental” cause). St. Paul ties grace, faith, and works together in a harmonious whole: fifty times. All of that simply can’t be ignored. Scripture speaks too loudly.
“But the Apostle testifies that the Final Cause is not only the manifestation of divine justice, but also the praise of his goodness, where he also brings to remembrance, in eloquent terms, the other three. For thus he speaks to the Romans: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; but they are justified freely by his grace’ (Rom 3:23,34)” (John Calvin, Institutes 3.15.17)
As we can see, the same thing can be seen from several angles. No Reformed teaches that only faith, without works, can save, because if you have faith, you will have works, but we deny that good works are causes of salvation, but a consequence of it. Faith alone justifies, but faith in action is sanctification. I ask Mr. Armstrong, what are the efficient, material, formal, and final causes of man’s salvation? Where can good works be properly placed? Anxious for the answer.
They are placed alongside faith because faith without works is dead. It’s as simple as that. Scripture (fifty times) shows that they play a crucial role in man’s salvation.
Mr Armstrong, after citing several verses on sanctification, makes an interesting observation:
The word for “cleanse” in 1 John 1:7, 9 is katharizo, which is used to describe the cleansing of lepers throughout the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 8:3, 11:5; Mark 1:42; Luke 7:22). This is indisputably an “infused” cleansing, rather than an “imputed” one. Why should God settle for anything less when it comes to our sin and justification? 
The text mentioned is this:
1 John 1:6-8 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; [7] but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
This is an interpretative error, because St. John is dealing with people already converted who need to sanctify themselves. Justification takes place at the moment of conversion through faith. The greatest proof that this text does not deal with a justification along the Roman Catholic lines, is that in the theology of Rome, a person who is actually justified is someone who is completely free of sins, however, the text itself states that it is impossible to be in this world completely sinless, for if it were possible, why would it be forbidden to say that he has no sin (verse 8), if that were true?
It’s a process. We fail, repent, confess, and try to do better, then fail and sin again, etc. But we can seek by God’s grace to do better and better. The sin that remains when we die gets cleansed in purgatory. The very next verse (1:9) says that we can at least potentially and/or temporarily be totally righteous: “he . . . will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In my favor I invoke the XV Council of Carthage, begun on May 1, 418, convened to refute the heresies of the Pelagian Celestius, when interpreting the text quoted by Mr. Armstrong, it says:
“Can. 6. It was also decided, with regard to the passage of Saint John the Apostle: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” [1 Jn 1,8]: Whoever judges can interpret this in the sense that out of humility it is necessary to say that we have sinned, not because it is true, it is anathema. The Apostle, in fact, goes on to argue: “If we have confessed our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity” [1 Jn 1:9]. Here it appears quite clearly that this is not said merely out of humility, but in the true sense. The Apostle, indeed, might have said, “If we said that we had no sin, we would exalt ourselves, and there is no humility in us.” But as he says, “We deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” it is clear enough that he who says he has no sin, speaks not what is true, but what is false.
Then he continues, now defending my interpretation of the text of James, where he presents himself as imperfect, even though he is a saint:
“Can. 7. It was also decided: Whoever claims that the saints, when in the Lord’s prayer they say: “Forgive us our debts” [Mt 6,12], say no in favor of themselves, since for them this prayer already it is not needed, but for the rest of your people, who are sinners; and that every saint does not say: “Forgive me my sins”, but “Forgive us our sins”, so that it may be understood that the just person asks this for others rather than for himself, it is anathema. Holy and righteous indeed was the Apostle James when he said: “We all err in many things” [James 3:2]. For why was “all” added, if not because this statement also agrees with the Psalm where it reads: “Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for not one living person will be justified in your sight” [Ps 143,2] ? And in the prayer of the most wise Solomon: “There is no human being who has not sinned” [1 Kings 8:46]. And in the book of holy Job: “In every man’s hand he puts a mark, that every man may know his weakness” [Job 37:7]. Therefore, also the holy and just Daniel says, in the prayer in plural form: “We have sinned, we have committed iniquity” [Dn 9,5.15] and the other things that he confesses with truth and humility; <and> Lest it be thought, as some understand, that he had spoken of his sins and not of those of the people, he says further on: “While I… was praying and confessing my sins and the sins of my people” [Dan 9 ,20] to the Lord my God; he did not mean “our sins,” but spoke of the sins of his people and his own, for as a prophet he foresaw that there would be those who misunderstood him so.”
Canon 8. It was also decided: Whoever claims that the words of the Lord’s prayer, when we say “Forgive us our debts” [Mt 6,12], are uttered by the saints in the sense of humility, not of truth, let him be anathema. For who could bear a person praying who lies, not to men, but to God himself, when with his lips he says that he wants to be forgiven, but with his heart that he has no debts to be forgiven him?” (XV Synod of CARTHAGE (others: XVI), started 1 May 418. Denzinger 0043-0090)

These things are true in a general sense, but can have exceptions. See my related article:

Sinless Creatures in the Bible: Actual & Potential (Including a Listing of Many Biblical Passages About Sin, Holiness, Blamelessness, Righteousness, Godliness, Perfection, and Sanctity) [10-20-22; greatly expanded on 7-27-23]

If Mr. Armstrong invokes some biblical commentators, I invoke the interpretation of a Synod of several Bishops of Carthage of the ancient Church. The Synod anathematizes the idea of Christian perfection as taught by Roman Catholics today, and therefore by Mr. Armstrong. The Council ratifies Augustine’s ideas against Celestius, a famous Pelagian of the time, and reveals to us where the origin of this idea of justification is a process of improvement. I can also invoke the greatest theologian of the Christian Church – Saint Augustine, who teaches that it is impossible for anyone to reach a state of Christian perfection:
“Dearest son Marcellin, I have recently prepared, at your request, works on infant baptism and the perfection of holiness in man. It seems that no one reached this perfection or will reach it in this life, with the exception of the only Mediator, who, immune from all sin, experienced human frailty in the likeness of the flesh of sin. After having read the aforementioned treatises, you wrote to me again confessing that what I said in the second of them caused you concern about the possibility of a human being living without sin, if he does not lack the will and divine help. However, this perfection did not and will not have any human being here in the world, except the one in which all will receive life (1 Cor 15,22).” (The Spirit and the Letter. Chapter 1.1.)
When Catholics talk about justification, we don’t talk about being perfect or free from absolutely any sin. This is quite obvious, in, for example, the section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on justification (#1987-1995). Likewise, Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., defined justification similarly in his Pocket Catholic Dictionary (New York: Doubleday Image, 1980, 214-215):

Justification is a true removal of sin, and not merely having one’s sins ignored or no longer held against the sinner by God . . .

An infant is justified by baptism and the faith of the one who requests or confers the sacrament. Adults are justified for the first time either by personal faith, sorrow for sin and baptism, or by the perfect love of God . . . Adults who have sinned gravely after being justified can receive justification by sacramental absolution or perfect contrition for their sins.

“Perhaps you will answer me that these facts mentioned, which did not happen, but which could happen, would be divine works. But the fact that the human being lives without sin belongs to the human sphere and is the most excellent action, since through it full and perfect holiness is realized in its maximum expression. Therefore, it is unbelievable that there has been or could be someone who has performed this action, assuming that a human being can perform it.” (Augustine, The Spirit and the Letter. Chapter 2.2.)

The same St. Augustine also wrote about infused justification as follows:
Certainly this renewal does not take place in the single moment of conversion itself, as that renewal in baptism takes place in a single moment by the remission of all sins; for not one, be it ever so small, remains unremitted. But as it is one thing to be free from fever, and another to grow strong again from the infirmity which the fever produced; and one thing again to pluck out of the body a weapon thrust into it, and another to heal the wound thereby made by a prosperous cure; so the first cure is to remove the cause of infirmity, and this is wrought by the forgiving of all sins; but the second cure is to heal the infirmity itself, and this takes place gradually by making progress in the renewal of that image: which two things are plainly shown in the Psalm, where we read, Who forgives all your iniquities, which takes place in baptism; and then follows, and heals all your infirmities; and this takes place by daily additions, while this image is being renewed. (On the Trinity, xiv, 17, 23)
These are the diseases of a man’s old nature which, however, if we only advance with persevering purpose, are healed by the growth of the new nature day by day, by the faith which operates through love. (The Spirit and the Letter, 59)
[I]t is that we may cleave to Him, that we are cleansed from all stain of sins and evil passions, and are consecrated in His name. (City of God, x, 3)
[I]t is our duty at once to be thankful for what is already healed within us, and to pray for such further healing as shall enable us to enjoy full liberty, in that most absolute state of health which is incapable of addition, the perfect pleasure of God. For we do not deny that human nature can be without sin; nor ought we by any means to refuse to it the ability to become perfect, since we admit its capacity for progress—by God’s grace, however, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By His assistance we aver that it becomes holy and happy, by whom it was created in order to be so. (On Nature and Grace, 68 [LVIII] )
If God wished not that man should be without sin, He would not have sent His Son without sin, to heal men of their sins. This takes place in believers who are being renewed day by day, [2 Corinthians 4:16] until their righteousness becomes perfect, like fully restored health. (On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness, 3, 7)
[H]e has kept God’s ways who does not so turn aside as to forsake them, but makes progress by running his course therein; although, weak as he is, he sometimes stumbles or falls, onward, however, he still goes, sinning less and less until he reaches the perfect state in which he will sin no more. For in no other way could he make progress, except by keeping His ways. (On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness, 11, 27)
“And every man that has this hope towards Him purifies himself, even as He is pure,” [1 John 3:3] — purifies himself, not indeed by himself alone, but by believing in Him, and calling on Him who sanctifies His saints; which sanctification, when perfected at last (for it is at present only advancing and growing day by day), shall take away from us for ever all the remains of our infirmity. (On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness, 18, 39)
If Francisco wants to “cherry-pick” Augustine, to find what sounds at first glance most “Protestant” I’ll be more than happy (as an editor of a book of his quotations) to fill out the fuller picture of his teaching on infused justification and actual righteousness (not merely declared). Francisco cited two Augustine statements from one book. I cite him once from the same book and six more times from four other of his books.
If justification is a process of gradual improvement to perfection, the only solution for the Roman Catholic is despair, for there would be no salvation for him, since such perfection is impossible, if such perfection is impossible, we are left with that perfection is not ontological, but imputed on us. The text invoked by Mr Armstrong, 1 John 1:6-8, actually teaches the exact opposite of Roman Catholic doctrine.
Purgatory takes care of that. There is no despair here. The Lord chastens and refines those whom He loves. The real despair lies in those whom supralapsarian Calvinists claim are predestined to hell from all eternity, by God’s decree, or whom infralapsarian Calvinists declare predestined to damnation in light of the fall of man. Don’t just take my word for that. Read what John Calvin himself wrote:
The human mind, when it hears this doctrine, cannot restrain its petulance, but boils and rages as if aroused by the sound of a trumpet. . . . there could be no election without its opposite reprobation. . . . Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children. (Institutes, III, 23:1)
[T]he Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. (Institutes, III, 23:5)
Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. (Institutes, 23:6)
Nor, indeed, is there any probability in the thing itself—viz. that man brought death upon himself merely by the permission, and not by the ordination of God; as if God had not determined what he wished the condition of the chief of his creatures to be. (Institutes, III, 23:8)
If my efforts and decisions are causes of justifying grace, that is, if good works produce justification before God and not just for men, it follows that something in God is caused by these works, therefore ignorant of what would happen, for a cause always grants to the caused something that the caused does not have, therefore every cause perfects the caused. If it is true, not only from the creaturely point of view, but also from the divine point of view, that it was Abraham’s attitudes that caused the divine attitude to bless him; if it is true that there has been a true test concerning God, as Mr Armstrong claims, then, however much my opponent may deny it, he cannot escape the logical consequence that his argument presupposes divine ignorance, hence passive potency in God. It will take much more than a mere assertion to prove that Mr. Armstrong’s argument does not make God passive.
This doesn’t follow. God ordains from all eternity the fact that a person will respond to His grace and perform works in order to merit salvation, in conjunction with grace and his faith. Augustine famously stated that merit was “God crowning His own gifts.” None of that entails any change, limitation, or ignorance in God. It was all in His providence from all eternity (see Gen 50:20; Ezra 6:22). Francisco is confused in his theology proper and thinks that human free will would actually limit God.
St. Paul concludes that Abraham cannot boast precisely because he was not justified by any work. Mr Armstrong cannot agree with St. Paul’s conclusion without agreeing with its premise, which he does. If no one can boast before God, then there is no merit in good works. The answer that logically follows from God’s mercy being our all is that nothing comes from us that causes salvation. In the process of salvation, man enters with sin and God with mercy.
Paul didn’t think there was nothing he could boast about. He teaches that we can boast about our works and that they are simultaneously caused by the grace of God. He doesn’t play the “either/or” and false dichotomy game:
Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have behaved in the world, and still more toward you, with holiness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. (cf. 1:14; 5:12)
2 Corinthians 7:14 For if I have expressed to him some pride in you, I was not put to shame; but just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting before Titus has proved true. (cf. 10:8, 13; 11:10; 12:9)
Galatians 6:4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
Our good works enabled by God’s grace are equated with God’s own works. It’s for this reason that they are meritorious and put us in good stead with God:
I want to explain the reasons why it is impossible for there to be merit before God in any good human work. The great Francis Turretin lists five conditions for one to have merit, they are:
1 – that the “work is undue” – for no one deserves, upon payment, what he owes (Luke 17.10), he only satisfies;
2 – let it be ours – because it cannot be said that someone deserves what belongs to another;
3 – that it be absolutely perfect and free from all stain – for where sin is, there can be no merit;
4 – that it is equal and proportionate to the reward and payment; otherwise it would be a gift, not merit;
5 – that reward is due to that work on the basis of justice – hence an “undue work” is commonly defined as one that “makes a reward due in the order of justice”
After listing these five conditions, he explains why good human works do not fit the aforementioned conditions:
1 – They are not undue, but due; for all that we are and can do, all this we owe to God, to whom we are, for that reason, called debtors (Luke 17:10; Romans 8:12).
Of course we owe it all to God, but we still get credit for such works (biblical “both/and” paradox):
Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (cf. 6:1, 4, 18)
Matthew 10:41-42 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. [42] And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. (cf. Mk 9:41)
Matthew 25:20-21 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, `Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ [21] His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
Mark 10:29-30 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, [30] who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
Luke 14:13-14 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
Romans 2:10 . . . glory and honor and peace for every one who does good . . .
1 Corinthians 3:14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward
1 Corinthians 15:10 . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

The Bible repeatedly states that God even shares His glory with His creatures.

2 – None is ours, but they are all gifts of grace and fruits of the Spirit (James 1:17; Phil 2:13; 2Co 3:5).

A gift, by definition, becomes ours, once we receive it. If I get a gift of a new suit for my birthday, it’s mine after my birthday party is over. This is simply more Protestant unbiblical “either/or” reasoning. Accordingly, Paul writes, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith” (Rom 12:6). We make these gratuitous divine gifts our own and appropriate them, and do something with them:
Philippians 2:12-13 . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; [13] for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
1 Timothy 4:14-16 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. [15] Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. [16] Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Peter 4:1 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
3 – They are not perfect, but are admitted despite their various impurities (Rm 7.18; Gl 5.17,18; Is 64.6).
Of course; no one ever said otherwise.
4 – They are not equal to future glory, because there is no proportion between the finite and temporal and the infinite and eternal (Rm 8.18; 2 Co 4.17).
People receive differential rewards in heaven (just as we receive differing levels of grace):
Daniel 12:3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man . . .  will repay every man for what he has done.

Romans 2:5-6 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] For he will render to every man according to his works: (cf. Prov 24:12)
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

5 – The reward promised by them is merely free and undue and is to be expected not on the basis of the internal merit of the work and its intrinsic dignity, but solely on the very free esteem of it by him who crowns it (Rom 6.23; 4.4; 11.6 ). Hence also it appears, that there is no merit, properly so called, of man before God, no matter what state he may be in. Thus Adam himself, if he had persevered, would not have merited life in strict justice, though (by a certain condescension [synchatabasin]) God covenantally promised him life on condition of perfect obedience (which is called meritorious on that ground). covenant in a wider sense, because it was to be, as it were, the foundation and meritorious cause in view of which God had bestowed upon him life).

Once again, Francisco ignored commenting upon the six passages I provided, that back up my last-cited statement above. My general answer to this argument that merit is unbiblical are the following articles:

Given the above reasons, human works cannot match divine work.
No one ever said they could!
In short, if there is no merit, it also does not justify.
In short, there is such a thing as merit, as I have shown with tons of Scripture, and it plays a role in justification and salvation.
Mr. Dave Armstrong has spared himself from commenting on the several parallel verses I have used in which I abundantly prove that the term can be properly used of a justification before men, as, when I said that St. Luke narrates that, after hearing Christ, the people justified to God (Luke 7:29).

I have covered that topic in great depth; surely a sufficient answer.

St. Luke never meant that the people impute or infuse justice to God, which would be absurd, since God is justice itself, but they have given God and his doctrine the praise they deserve.


Mr. Armstrong does not attack the relationship I make with the use of the term, he diverts the focus and uses a quotation that does not contradict what I say, but that makes a more pastoral analysis of 2.24. He writes:
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (one-volume edition, pp. 172-173) disagrees as to the meaning of James 2:24:

How we can be righteous before God is dealt with in 2:23-24. The concern here is to combat a dead orthodoxy that divides faith and works. The works that justify are not legalistic observances but the works of loving obedience that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit. Abraham was justified by a faith which found fulfillment in works. . . . the practical concern, namely, that the only valid faith is one that produces works, is very much in line with the total proclamation of the NT, including that of Paul himself.

After that, I quote Luke 16.15, with proof that there is a justification before men: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination before God.”

Francisco wants to argue that there is a positively encouraged justification before men, but here Jesus is condemning (not commending) the Pharisees for wanting to do this, as I elaborated upon last time (I won’t repeat it).

Mr Dave Armstrong did not understand the crux of the matter. When I say that the text proves that there is justification before men (something that even Mr. Armstrong assumes exists), I do not cite as an example of someone who succeeded in trying to do so, but I say that the text presents someone who tries to do so. doing it precisely because it is true, but doing it the wrong way. And the reason is what I mentioned in the previous article: the Pharisees tried to show works without faith, that is, they tried to justify themselves before men for their own ego, not to glorify God.I claim that the text proves that Scripture teaches both justifications, as Dave Armstrong himself has already confirmed.

Fair enough, but this isn’t the same dynamic as in James 2, which is the case Francisco was trying to make: to try to differentiate that from what Protestants regard as “standard” Pauline soteriology. They have to do so because James includes works in the equation. But of course, Paul also teaches the same thing, many times.

After that, I quote Hebrews 11 to prove that there is a need for a public testimony of faith, a justification before men, but that the works quoted there do not justify before God.

To the contrary, the writer states that “by it [faith] the men of old received divine approval” (11:2) and that “Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness . . .” (11:4) and that “Enoch . . . was attested as having pleased God” (11:5). We “please” God by means of faith (11:6) and works of faith, just as these heroes of the faith did.

The ancient Hebrews and biblical writers thought in both/and terms and, often, paradoxical terms. God saves us, but we save ourselves and others (many passages). We work together with God and His work is ours in a sense. He blesses us with His grace to do good works, and then gives us credit for it. God even shares His glory with us, and the Bible makes the extraordinary statement that we “suffer with” Christ (Rom 8:17) and “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).

I agree that divine action does not destroy the nature of the second cause, but when the same work is attributed to God and men, it is never in the same sense, it is never taken univocally. If God does good and man does good, the two works have different meanings, since God acts as the First Cause and man acts as the Secondary Cause.

We totally agree. But by the same token, Francisco is in effect granting the presence of merit on man’s part; just in a far lesser sense than what God does for us, in enabling us to be able to achieve merit and reward in the first place.

It is true that according to the angle of creatures, we have merits, we can be good and receive credit for it, because in this vector, good works precede grace, so we have merits, but it is not the same from the angle of God, except when Scripture presents Him in an anthropopathic way, because in this vector, grace precedes good works, so we have no merits.

Francisco makes this statement, but I have contradicted it over and over with explicit Scriptural counter-arguments. Readers must choose what they prefer: Francisco’s assertions, or my contentions that I massively back up with Holy Scripture at every turn.

Francisco replied to my extended commentary on Hebrews 11 in my previous reply, as follows:

Certainly, when we work faith through good works, because it is a commandment, God is pleased with those who fulfill it, but it does not follow that God justifies that person through these works.

Alert for the following point: we are talking about justification before God. We are talking about the work of God towards man and from the divine perspective. In all texts, in addition to presenting a perspective of creatures, it does not report God justifying a man because of his work.

James disagrees:

James 2:21-25 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? [22] You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, [23] and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. [24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. [25] And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works . . . 

This doesn’t fit with Protestant soteriology, so they try to reinterpret the passage, but it doesn’t fly, as I have been showing. The language is too clear. I have often noticed (to my delight) that God makes passages very clear and straightforward when it comes to refuting Protestant errors. God knew these errors would arise fifteen centuries after Christ, so He provided the refutations and remedies in crystal clear Bible passages. Nothing is more clear than “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” or “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas 2:17).

In Hebrews 11.4, quoted by Mr. Armstrong, the text says that by faith Abel’s sacrifice was greater than that of Cain, and therefore he obtained testimony that he was righteous, faith was the great driving force of justification.

He made a “sacrifice” by “faith” and the combination (not faith alone) was what brought about his “approval as righteous” by God. Once again, it’s faith and works: precisely as in the Catholic understanding. See how the work was directly involved and not secondary and optional? Otherwise, the sacrifice wouldn’t be mentioned. Abel would simply be described as having faith in God, by which he was made righteous.

Throughout the 11th chapter the testimony is unanimous that however good the works of the saints were, it was by faith that they gained their value, their dignity, and all their excellencies; hence it follows, that the fathers pleased God by faith alone, for the work of Cain and Abel were the same, but the difference was faith. In addition, the text says that Abel is dead, but speaks, that is, because of his faith, although he is dead “he is still spoken”, his testimony remained for generations as a public example of faith.

Faith is clearly the focus of the chapter, but it’s not separated from works. This is always the Catholic point in this debate, and what we relentlessly, ubiquitously see in Scripture. I already proved this from Hebrews 11 last time, as far as I am concerned, and to a lesser extent again this time.

Francisco discusses Galatians 2:21: “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.”

There is a disagreement on the meaning of “law” used in the verse, which changes a lot. For Mr. Armstrong, the law mentioned by St. Paul is the Mosaic sacramentalist laws, it is not a matter of every good work, as repeated several times by him. So what I mean is that no good work, none at all, can justify it. What Mr. Armstrong means is that no works of the Mosaic ceremonial law can justify, but that such good works as love, hope, and righteousness can justify. For this he used the text of Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails, but faith working through love.” with faith.

This is true. I agree with the “new perspective on Paul,” which is a Protestant trend in theology, that corresponds nicely with traditional Catholic teaching. See N. T. Wright’s in-depth exposition on that topic.

To refute the first part, I will once again invoke the greatest of all theologians, Saint Augustine of Hippo, as he says about the separation between Mosaic law and the law of love:

“But say the Pelagians, “We praise God, the author of our justification, acknowledging that he has given us the law, under the view of which we know how to live.” They do not pay attention to what they read: For in his sight no man will be justified by the deeds of the Law (Rm 2,20). This justification can be given before men, but not before God, who searches hearts and the most hidden will, in which he sees what he would like, if it were lawful, he who fears the Law, although he practices something else. . And, to avoid a distorted interpretation, stating that the Apostle was referring in that sentence to that law which in the ancient sacraments included in figure many precepts, among which the circumcision of the flesh that children should receive on the eighth day after birth (Lev. 12,3), adds in the continuation to which law he was referring and said: For by the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rm 20,22). Therefore, it is a question of that Law of which he later said: For I did not know concupiscence except through the Law. I would not have known concupiscence, if the Law had not said: You shall not covet (Rm 7,7). What else does it mean, Through the law comes only the knowledge of sin?” (The Spirit and the Letter. Chapter 8.14)

I thoroughly documented St. Augustine’s Catholic view of infused justification above; no need to repeat that. I have many passages from Augustine (who Francisco calls “the greatest of all theologians”) about the falsity of faith alone and faith without works, and how works ties into salvation, in my book, The Quotable Augustine. For the sake of brevity and readers’ patience, I’ll cite only some of the most clear ones:

Who is he that believes not that Jesus is the Christ? He that does not so live as Christ commanded. For many say, “I believe”: but faith without works saves not. Now the work of faith is Love, . . . (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 10, 1)

What the Lord Himself, to pass over other things, when that rich man sought of Him, what good thing he should do, that he might attain life eternal, let them call to mind what He answered; If thou wilt come, said He, unto life, keep the Commandments. [Matthew 19:17] But he said, What? Then the Lord made mention of the Commandments of the Law, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not commit adultery, and the rest. Whereupon when he had made answer that he had performed these from his youth, He added also a Commandment of perfection, that he should sell all that he had, and give in alms unto the poor, and have treasure in heaven, and follow the same Lord. Let them then see that it was not said unto him that he should believe and be baptized, by the aid of which alone those men think that a man comes unto life; but commandments of morals were given unto the man, which certainly without faith cannot be guarded and observed. Neither, however, because in this place the Lord appears to have been silent as to the suggestion of faith, do we lay down and contend, that we are to state commandments of morals alone to men who desire to attain unto life. For both are connected the one with the other, as I said before; because neither can the love of God exist in a man who loveth not his neighbour, nor the love of his neighbour in him who loveth not God. And so at times we find that Scripture makes mention of the one without the other, either this or that, in place of the full doctrine, so that even in this way we may understand that the one cannot exist without the other: because both he who believes in God ought to do what God commands; and he who therefore does it because God commands it, must of necessity believe in God. (On Faith and Works, 20)

And the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;” [Ephesians 2:8-9] saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men’s boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10] . . . Now, hear and understand. “Not of works” is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. For of these he says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (On Grace and Free Will, 20)

Let us therefore not flatter the Catholic who is hemmed in with all these vices, nor venture, merely because he is a Catholic Christian, to promise him the impunity which holy Scripture does not promise him; nor, if he has any one of the faults above mentioned, ought we to promise him a partnership in that heavenly land. (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, iv, 19, 27)

He wills not to distinguish faith from work, but declared faith itself to be work. For it is that same faith that works by love. [Galatians 5:6] (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 25, 12)

[B]y means of the free-will naturally implanted within him, he enters on the way which is pointed out to him, and by persevering in a just and pious course of life, deserves to attain to the blessedness of eternal life. (On the Spirit and the Letter, 4)

I have written a book on this subject, entitled Of Faith and Works, in which, to the best of my ability, God assisting me, I 98 have shown from Scripture, that the faith which saves us is that which the Apostle Paul clearly enough describes when he says: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which works by love.” [Galatians 5:6] But if it works evil, and not good, then without doubt, as the Apostle James says, “it is dead, being alone.” [James 2:17] The same apostle says again, “What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” [James 2:14] And further, if a wicked man shall be saved by fire on account of his faith alone, and if this is what the blessed Apostle Paul means when he says, “But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire;” [1 Corinthians 3:15] then faith without works can save a man, and what his fellow-apostle James says must be false. And that must be false which Paul himself says in another place: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners; shall inherit the kingdom of God.” [1 Corinthians 6:9-10] For if those who persevere in these wicked courses shall nevertheless be saved on account of their faith in Christ, how can it be true that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God? (Enchiridion: Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, 67)

St. Augustine also firmly held to the notion of merit (which Calvin, Calvinists, Protestants, and Francisco vehemently deny). I have compiled no less than 25 of his statements about that, but I’ll restrict my citation here to the crystal-clear, undeniably “Catholic” portions:

We disapprove the error of those, who think that there are no merits of souls before You. (The Soliloquies, i, 3)

And according to the cleanness of My deeds He will recompense Me, who has given Me to do well by bringing Me forth into the broad place of faith. (Explanations of the Psalms, 18:20 [18:21] )

[N]ot only for the breadth of faith, which works by love; but also for the length of perseverance, will the Lord reward Me according to My righteousness. (Explanations of the Psalms, 18:24 [18:25] )

. . . cures more frequent by the merits of Martyrs. (Explanations of the Psalms, 119:157 [119, 155] )

The personal merit . . . was different in the two cases. (Against the Letters of Petilian the Donatist, ii, 47, 110)

For I would ask whether you use the Lord’s prayer in your devotions? For if you do not use that prayer, which our Lord taught His disciples for their use, where have you learned another, proportioned to your merits, as exceeding the merits of the apostles? (Against the Letters of Petilian the Donatist, ii, 104, 237)

For if the sanctity of baptism be according to the diversity of merits in them that administer it, then as merits are diverse there will be diverse baptisms; . . . (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 6, 8)

Merit is accumulating now to the believer, and then the reward is paid into the hand of the beholder. . . . As far as each one has been a partaker of You, some less, some more, such will be the diversity of rewards in proportion to the diversity of merits . . . (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 68, 3)

. . . persons whose merits are so good, . . . (On the Care of the Dead, 2)

Therefore, it is in this life that all the merit or demerit is acquired, which can either relieve or aggravate a man’s sufferings after this life. (Enchiridion: Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, 110)

The good, indeed, shall receive their reward according to the merits of their own good-will, but then they received this very good-will through the grace of God . . . (Epistle 215 [1]: to Valentinus [426] )

“I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.” [2 Timothy 4:6-7] He enumerates these as, of course, now his good merits; so that, as after his evil merits he obtained grace, so now, after his good merits, he might receive the crown. . . . (On Grace and Free Will, 14)

If, then, your good merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His own gifts. (On Grace and Free Will, 15)

[S]ince even that life eternal itself, which, it is certain, is given as due to good works, is called by so great an apostle the grace of God, although grace is not rendered to works, but is given freely, it must be confessed without any doubt, that eternal life is called grace for the reason that it is rendered to those merits which grace has conferred upon man. (On Rebuke and Grace, 41)

So — sorry to inform Francisco — Augustine is not some sort of proto-Calvin. He’s a thoroughgoing Catholic.

Augustine attributes to the Pelagians the interpretation that deduces from Paul’s texts a separation between sacramental/preceptual Mosaic law and the good work, whatever it may be, since adultery, covetousness and all sin comes through the knowledge of the law, and not doing good works is sin, therefore it is also part of the law. St. Augustine’s thinking refutes Mr. Armstrong on several fronts, supporting my thinking about justification before men and not before God through good works, it also supports my interpretation that good works belong to what St. Paul calls “works of the law” ”which do not justify, which can be applied to the texts of Romans, James and Galatians. Now Mr. Armstrong’s whole argument rests on this distinction between the Mosaic law and the good work, where he sets good works apart from the Mosaic law in every text where St. Paul says that the works of the law do not justify. By proving this distinction to be exegetically impossible, every one of Mr Armstrong’s arguments fall down like a house of cards. Unless Mr. Armstrong proves that he has a better interpretation of these texts than St. Augustine, I would not need to write another line in this debate.

Jason A. Myers, author of the article, “Law, Lies and Letter Writing: An Analysis of Jerome and Augustine on the Antioch Incident (Galatians 2:11–14)”, Scottish Journal of Theology, published by Cambridge University Press, 10 April 2013, disagrees with Francisco’s interpretation of Augustine:

[C]ritics of the NPP [“New Perspective on Paul”] often turn to the reformers such as Calvin and Luther to defend the traditional reading of Paul and trace this traditional reading back to Augustine. For the critics, church tradition stands on the side of the traditional reading.

This article seeks to highlight an often neglected early church view on one aspect of the NPP, that of Paul and the Law. This article highlights one of the fiercest exchanges between two church fathers. Through a series of letters, Jerome and Augustine corresponded on Jerome’s interpretation of Galatians 2 and the Antioch incident. For Augustine the pastor, nothing less than the veracity of scripture was at stake and Augustine mounts a defence of Paul’s actions in Galatians 2 in response to Jerome’s insistence of an agreed-upon lie between Peter and Paul. In the process of Augustine’s rebuttal of Jerome, he notes that Paul followed the law without ‘pretence’ and that there was a period in early Christianity where Jewish Christians practised law observance. Augustine highlights the divine origin of the Mosaic law, which renders a positive role for the law in early Christianity, and notes that the negative critique of the law comes within the context of a Gentile audience, but did not have implications for Jewish Christians. Augustine rightly notices and raises the important context of Paul’s negative statements on the law and offers a nuanced discussion of Paul’s treatment of the law.

Augustine notes some of the important conclusions drawn by the NPP, namely a positive view of the law and its practice by Paul and other Jewish Christians. He also notes the various ways the law functions in Jewish and Gentile contexts. Such a positive view of Paul and the law may appear striking to many, but must be considered by those who are otherwise critical of the NPP. This article shows that there was at least one voice, among others, within the early church which advocated for a positive reading of Paul and the law. The history of interpretation of Galatians 2 offers many insights for contemporary Pauline scholars which ought to be heeded in future discussions. This article, by highlighting the exchange between Jerome and Augustine, seeks to give the NPP a historical ‘rootedness’ and placement within the history of interpretation.

My argument, still unanswered, is that knowing that justification, according to the Church of Rome, is an infusion of righteousness and the merits of Christ, and, if there is a distinction between good work and the works of the law, and if the works of the law cannot justify, that is, it cannot merit Christ’s merits, but other good works are justifying, therefore they can merit Christ’s merits, then Christ’s work would become imperfect. I explain: justification is not only an improvement, but also a process of removal of blame.

I answered this last time by stating: “They can merit reward” (as opposed to “meriting Christ”). Here is a further reply, from the article “Merit” in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911):

Christian faith teaches us that the Incarnate Son of God by His death on the cross has in our stead fully satisfied God’s anger at our sins, and thereby effected a reconciliation between the world and its Creator. Not, however, as though nothing were now left to be done by man, or as though he were now restored to the state of original innocence, whether he wills it or not; on the contrary, God and Christ demand of him that he make the fruits of the Sacrifice of the Cross his own by personal exertion and co-operation with grace, by justifying faith and the reception of baptism. It is a defined article of the Catholic Faith that man before, in, and after justification derives his whole capability of meriting and satisfying, as well as his actual merits and satisfactions, solely from the infinite treasure of merits which Christ gained for us on the Cross (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi; Sess. XIV, cap. viii).

Trent specifically denied that we could “merit Christ’s merits.” So this whole line of argument is a straw man and non sequitur.

If even after we have Christ in our heart, the guilt remains in us, having to be expiated through our good works, this makes the work of Christ imperfect, for it was not able to expiate all the guilt and make me righteous before God in the moment I receive it. Either we have Christ, or we don’t have Christ. That is the argument, and it remains unanswered.

Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (died 2000), who received me into the Church, wrote the Foreword of my first book, and baptized my first two sons, wrote about what Catholics believe baptism does:

The first and most practical effect of Baptism is to remove the guilt of original sin and restore the corresponding title to heavenly glory. What does this mean? It means that all the guilt of all the sin a person may have on his soul is taken away. A baptized child who has not reached the age of reason, if it dies, has an immediate title to the beatific vision. After the age of reason, a baptized person is freed not only from original sin but all the sins committed, and all the punishment due to even a lifetime of personal sins. (“The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation,” 1998)

That sounds quite identical to Francisco’s description of howthe work of Christ” is “able to expiate all the guilt and make [us] righteous before God in the moment [we] receive it.” We simply place this event at baptism. Any guilt after that is the result of actual sin, and St. John addresses that, and its remedy:

1 John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; [2] and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Francisco then cites verses I set forth, as follows:

It [righteousness] ultimately and always comes from Christ alone and then we also make it our own as well (both/and):

Mark 16:20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them . . .

Romans 15:17-19  In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. [18] For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed,

1 Corinthians 1:21 . . . it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apol’los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

1 Corinthians 3:9 . . . we are God’s fellow workers . . . (KJV: “labourers together with God”)

1 Corinthians 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.

2 Corinthians 13:3 . . . Christ is speaking in me . . .

Philippians 2:13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

James 5:20 . . .  whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death . . .

Now let’s see how many of these passages he will address and deal with.

I disagree and reject the charge that we are doing an unnecessary either/or. Dichotomies exist in Scripture, but this is not the case. While I do not interpret it in the same way as Mr Armstrong does, this does not mean that I am excluding any part of any verse from my explanations.

Good and fair enough; duly noted. Then I will look closely to see exactly how you interpret these passages.

When Mr. Armstrong says that righteousness “ultimately and always comes from Christ alone and then we also make it our own as well (both/and)”, I see no reason to disagree with this sentence, for indeed, through faith we appropriate the works of Christ , but this requires further explanation, it is obvious that there are differences between what I am saying and what Mr Armstrong has in mind.

Glad to hear it. We do differ somehow, though, and whatever the difference is will be examined now.

First, that there is cooperation between God and man, that is a fact, but creatures are like subordinate agents, men subordinate to God, not like equal agents with God.

We completely agree.

I have already explained and I repeat, there is human merit when we look only to men, but none of the apostles dare, at any time, to boast before God.

To the contrary, Paul wrote:

Galatians 6:4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

This is simply a man examining himself. It has nothing to do with other men observing. He is testing his own work, which value God will judge, as Paul notes three verses later:

Galatians 6:7-9  Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. [8] For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.

So it’s all before God, and Paul stated that it was a legitimate reason for him to “boast.”

If anyone is proud, it is in front of other men,

That’s not always true, either:

Philippians 2:16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Hebrews 3:6 . . . And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

but always emphasizing that his works would not be possible without God.

As Paul does in the next verse, in the following example:

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed,

If the apostles cannot and do not boast of such works,

But they do, so the premise is wrong.

neither can they say that these works are causes of justification.

I’ve gone over this subject matter many times by now. The Bible teaches (as I have shown more than hundred times now) that works contribute as the cause of our justification, alongside grace and faith.

Francisco cites 1 Corinthians 15:10 and comments:

It is clear that Paul ascribes nothing to himself in regard to this work, though he may do it before men, but in relation to God he claims to have done nothing. At the same time, in which he works, this work is as if it were not him.

He does say that he did something, in asserting, “I worked harder than any of them.” If in fact he thought that he did absolutely nothing, the verse would be half as long as it is, and would read, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” There would be no reason whatsoever to include the clause I just noted. It would confuse readers. But it’s “both/and” biblical paradox. Paul reiterates that he did something; that he was not passive or without free will, in the next verse, too: “so we preach and so you believed.” That is not ascribing nothing to himself”; sorry!

Francisco then decided (thank you kind sir!) to address another of my passages, Philippians 2:13 (for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”):

this verse shows us, contrary to what Mr. Armstrong tries to insinuate, not a synergism in which there is cooperation between two equal parts, but a subordinate synergism, in which human cooperation generates an effect in reality, but only because God operated the will and the doing, that is, everything comes from God to man, nothing goes from man to God, the cause is God

We largely agree, but we disagree with Calvinists (as do most Protestants and the Orthodox) that man has no free will. I didn’t do it in this specific context, but I have, many times, noted that man is a totally inferior, subordinate cooperator with God. It’s self-evident, I would say, but we must often point this out, so we don’t get falsely accused of making man equal to God.

human works are an effect of the divine operation, how can they be causes of justification, which is a divine act, “from above downwards”, from God to man?

They can because the inspired revelation of the Bible says that they do. We must adjust our theologies accordingly.

it can be argued a partial operation on the part of God, due to the previous verse that says: “Work out your salvation with trembling” (verse 12), which, I think, is a thought which may properly be attributed to Mr. Armstrong.

Indeed, here’s a classic case where context helps explain the meaning of the verse.

However, St. Paul does not speak here of a collaboration of partial causes, synergistic, where God plays a part and the creature another, as complementary, which would be appropriate for the work of man to be meritorious and could be the cause of justification.

“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” sure sounds to me like the man is doing something and that it will be meritorious if he does end up saved and in heaven.

The reason is that while in Phil 2:13 the word used for operate is “energeo”, while the word used for “cooperate” is the Greek word synergeo (Strong’s 4903), and in the same letter, in the same chapter, in Philippians 2:25, Paul uses the word synergeo for cooperating: “Nevertheless, I think it will be necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker (synergeo) and fellow soldier, the messenger whom you sent to minister to my needs” (Philippians 2:25). If, in Philippians 2.13, St. Paul wanted to convey an idea of cooperating, as partial causes, he would know very well what word to use, it would not be energeo, but synergeo. We then affirm that both the primary cause and the secondary cause are total during the event that happened, and that they collaborate, but not as partial and simultaneous causes, but as total causes, the primary being prior to the secondary. The second cause is always subordinate, therefore, it cannot cause a divine attitude, however much it collaborates subordinately.

Here, Francisco gets an “E” for effort, but he proves too much. If synergeo is the word that would signify cooperating, and God can supposedly never do that with man, then we need merely find it in other similar verses where God and man are working together (superior and subordinate, but still together). If we can do that, Francisco’s attempted linguistic argument would be seen to be self-refuting. There are in fact such verses, found under a web page on the word. One was the first example I provided:

Mark 16:20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked [synergeo] with them . . .

A second verse from my list is also included:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together [synergeo] with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.

The same page cites Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, commenting on the above passage: “to work together, help in work, be a partner in labor.” And regarding Mark 16:20, it states that the word means “to put forth power together with and thereby to assist.” Case closed, and I heartily thank Francisco for providing Catholics with one of the many hundreds of scriptural and linguistic arguments that we can bring to bear.

As St. Paul states: “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God who works (energeo) all in all” (1 Cor 12:6).

Absolutely; He certainly does, but this is not the same thought as my passages, which are about man cooperating with God as an infinitely lesser partner, but still a partner.

Mr. Armstrong’s proposal runs into not only exegetical errors, but metaphysical ones.

Well, it doesn’t, because I just produced two verses that did what Francisco just argued could and would never happen. We must follow inspired, inerrant biblical teachings as our “master”. Catholics never have a problem doing that because our teachings are always in harmony with Scripture. I know, and am in a position to make such a summary statement, because “biblical evidence for Catholicism” has been my biggest emphasis in my Catholic apologetics, these past 33 years.

The other verses follow the same line of what has already been explained.

Note again that this is — sadly – Francisco’s technique to ignore my other biblical evidences with a line (one of the oldest evasive tactics in the book). He chose to deal with two of the eleven verses (18%) that I presented. I counter-answered the two that he cherry-picked to discuss (because he thought he had a good argument for them). If he is so confident in his case, then surely he could have refuted my contentions about the other nine. As it is, he again broke our agreed-to rules at the outset of this debate: “3) Both of us should try to actually interact point-by-point rather than picking and choosing; a serious debate where all the opponent’s arguments are grappled with.”

If Mr. Armstrong says that the answer to my argument is the explanation of his model of justification, then I will give more reason for the reader to be convinced that the Roman Catholic model of justification is biblically false.

But that’s not all that Armstrong does, of course. Armstrong also provides exponentially more biblical passages in support of Catholic theology than Francisco does for his theology, that Francisco then decides to ignore, as we just saw in the latest example: just one of many. It’s disappointing and bad for the debate, but hey, if he wishes to in effect concede the argument in this way (by not addressing large chunks of my presentation), that only helps our side and doesn’t provide much support for his. You readers out there who may be on the fence, or willing to look at both sides (especially former Catholics who have become Protestant), pay close attention in your determination of which view is more biblical and sensible!

For Mr Armstrong, as I understand it from his explanations, before justification there is an operation of the Holy Spirit which is a preparation for justification, wrought in part by divine power, and in part by the power of human free will, by which a man disposes itself for its own future justification.

The Council of Trent, on the other hand, taught (more precisely):

If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema. (Canon III on Justification)

This is also taught in the Decree on Justification: chapter 5:

The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.

The rest of his description of our view is adequate.

An important point is that Mr. Armstrong concedes that the first, or initial, justification is the fruit of God’s mercy alone through the merit of Christ, without human work.

It’s not a “concession.” The Catholic Church has always taught this. Protestants, as a result, received it from us.

And this is where the question I asked comes in: “What exactly is it that makes a man stand right with God and be accepted into eternal life?” I replied that nothing but the righteousness of Christ, which consists partly in His sufferings and partly in His active obedience in carrying out the strictness of the law, hence we call it Solus christus (Christ alone).

Christ ultimately is the cause. No one disagrees with that. But in terms of the immediate instrumental cause, I devoted a paper to just that question. According to Holy Scripture, the following things are what causes God to declare that human beings are saved and worthy of heaven. Our answer to Francisco’s question and to God when we stand before Him, could incorporate any one or all of the following fifty responses: all perfectly biblical, and straight from the words of God Himself:

1) I am characterized by righteousness.

2) I have integrity.

3) I’m not wicked.

4) I’m upright in heart.

5) I’ve done good deeds.

6) I have good ways.

7) I’m not committing abominations.

8) I have good conduct.

9) I’m not angry with my brother.

10) I’m not insulting my brother.

11) I’m not calling someone a fool.

12) I have good fruits.

13) I do the will of God.

14) I hear Jesus’ words and do them.

15) I endured to the end.

16) I fed the hungry.

17) I provided drink to the thirsty.

18) I clothed the naked.

19) I welcomed strangers.

20) I visited the sick.

21) I visited prisoners.

22) I invited the poor and the maimed to my feast.

23) I’m not weighed down with dissipation.

24) I’m not weighed down with drunkenness.

25) I’m not weighed down with the cares of this life.

26) I’m not ungodly.

27) I don’t suppress the truth.

28) I’ve done good works.

29) I obeyed the truth.

30) I’m not doing evil.

31) I have been a “doer of the law.”

32) I’ve been a good laborer and fellow worker with God.

33) I’m unblamable in holiness.

34) I’ve been wholly sanctified.

35) My spirit and soul and body are sound and blameless.

36) I know God.

37) I’ve obeyed the gospel.

38) I’ve shared Christ’s sufferings.

39) I’m without spot or blemish.

40) I’ve repented.

41) I’m not a coward.

42) I’m not faithless.

43) I’m not polluted.

44) I’m not a murderer.

45) I’m not a fornicator.

46) I’m not a sorcerer.

47) I’m not an idolater.

48) I’m not a liar.

49) I invited the lame to my feast.

50) I invited the blind to my feast.

Where all this comes from is Bible passages: documented in my article, Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated with Works and Never with Faith Alone (50 Passages). So once again, I answer the probing question of my opponent with fifty passages directly cited from the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong answers that the thing which makes us right with God, and leads us to be accepted into eternal life, is the remission of sins, and the habit of inward righteousness, or charity with the fruits thereof.

Exactly! And why do I believe that? It’s because the Bible (oftentimes, God Himself speaking) explicitly states it, at least fifty times that I have found. The Bible asserting a proposition fifty times is pretty compelling evidence for any Christian looking for an answer to some theological question. What more could we expect or demand, pray tell?

I grant that there is a habit of righteousness, but I call it sanctification

Whatever someone wants to call it, it’s necessary for salvation and eternal life and entrance into heaven, per the Bible.

I also grant that it is an excellent gift of God, with its reward on his part, but I maintain that this justification is before man alone, because it serves to declare that we are reconciled to God.

The fifty passages I produced are not just “before man alone.” So, for example, we have the passages in Matthew 25:

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

See the bolded, italicized word “for” there? It indicates cause and means “because.” These people are allowed to enter heaven because (or, “for”) they did all these good works (six different ones mentioned). That’s what the Bible teaches, recording the words of our Lord and Savior and Redeemer Jesus, at the Last Judgment. It couldn’t be any more clear than it is. The word “faith” never even appears. But I’m not saying that faith isn’t part of it. I’ve never ever argued that. I’m saying that the fact of works also playing a key role cannot possibly be denied without rejecting plain biblical teaching.

However, I do not concede that the habit of righteousness and good works changes us from sinners to good men.

He doesn’t have to because we don’t believe that. We believe that both initial justification and baptism are monergistic.

The main reason I have given, to which, I insist, I have not received a proper answer, though Mr. Armstrong says otherwise, is this, based on the following verse: “He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made righteousness. of God which is in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). From this it is easily deduced that as Christ was made sin for us, so we also are made the righteousness of God in Him. But Christ was made sin, or, a sinner by the imputation of our sins, He being in Himself most holy; therefore, a sinner is justified before God because the righteousness of Christ is imputed and applied to him.

Exactly. That’s what happens in initial justification and baptism. If we fall into sin, then we have to repent and confess, be granted absolution, and get back in right relationship with God. The Bible teaches that we have to be vigilant and make sure that we don’t fall from grace and salvation.

For although Mr. Armstrong agrees that both righteousness and forgiveness of sins come from Christ alone, this applies only to the initial justification, but does not apply to the permanence of that state of righteousness, namely, the second justification.

This is incorrect. It applies to any instance of justification, whether initial or subsequently after losing it through sin and rebellion. But the difference is that we are — after initial justification — commanded to do good works, which play into the determination of our ultimate salvation.

If justification has to do with having peace with God, as St. Paul says, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;” Rm 5.1, when will we have peace with God if Christian perfection is something unattainable?

I’ve already addressed the question of perfection, holiness, righteousness, etc.

And even if we understand the Roman Catholic view of the possibility of Christian perfection,

Not just our view, but the biblical view, which we merely follow.

it doesn’t solve the problem, for we know that Christian perfection is extremely difficult, so that only a very few people would be endowed with the true justification that bestows peace. The logical consequence is that the work of Christ is imperfect, as it does not forgive all human sins, which depend on good works, penances and a series of additional ones to obtain the benefits of the work that Christ conquered on the cross.

I’ve dealt with this, too, It’s merely repeating, which doesn’t advance the discussion.

Francisco then addresses Philippians 3:11-14, which is one of nine passages I present in favor of the view that justification is a process.

In this case, Mr. Armstrong mutilates the text to appear to agree with his arguments, omitting verse 9, where St. Paul says: “And be found in him, not having my righteousness which is of the law, but that which is by faith.” in Christ, that is, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”

I didn’t “mutilate” anything (nice try). I simply didn’t cite that portion (every biblical citation has to “cut off” somewhere). And I didn’t, because Catholics and Protestants agree about that, and it has nothing directly to do with the question of whether justification is instant or ongoing. It’s a non sequitur: outside of the topic immediately under consideration. Verses 11-14, on the other hand, make it undeniably clear that justification (prior to its initial phase) is a process.

St. Paul certainly excludes any and all work when he says that righteousness comes from faith, not from the law. There is no distinction here between Mosaic law and good work, for as Augustine says, this is a distortion of the apostle’s words, for if it were true, sin would no longer exist, since it is through the law that we know sin, therefore, all sin it involves the transgression of the law, so if not to love is a sin, then all good works are included in the law to which St. Paul refers.

I’ve dealt with this over and over, but again, it’s not the immediate topic at this point, which is whether justification is a process and whether it can be lost.

But St. Paul seems to anticipate Mr. Armstrong’s argument when he says, “Not that I have already attained it, or that I am perfect; but I press on to obtain what I was also arrested for by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12, adding that he himself, an apostle of Christ at the end of his life, had not reached perfection, yet St. Paul considers himself justified, for it is simply possible to be perfect in the merits of Christ and not to be ontologically perfect.

He is talking about initial justification, which he probably had never lost up to that point. But then he talks about how he might lose it if he isn’t vigilant. That possibility means that it’s a process, without yet a known outcome. Even the holy Paul thinks so. He ends the passage by asserting, “let us hold true to what we have attained” (3:16). In other words, it could possibly be lost; otherwise it makes no sense to referring to holding “true” to it.

It’s like saying to one’s spouse: “I’ll be true to you forever.” That’s the stated goal, but no one knows whether it will be carried out until the time passes (up until death) and the spouse is still there, being true. If justification couldn’t possibly be lost, it makes no sense whatsoever for Paul to exhort his followers to “hold true” to it. This wasn’t even in my original argument, but since Francisco wants to disagree, now my argument has become stronger.

Francisco then decided to tackle a second of my nine proofs for the process of justification: Colossians 1:21-23, which states in part:  “. . . provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel . . .”

Here Mr Armstrong errs again in confusing the transcendental order with the predicamental order. Now, one thing is the way in which creatures are spoken of, another is the way in which God sees these same creatures. An admonition about the loss of salvation rests on ignorance either of the hearer, or of the speaker and hearer, for it is obvious that it is extreme absurdity to apply to God a particle of indeterminacy, as if God were ignorant. How can the phrase be applied univocally to God and man: “IF you persevere to the end, you will be saved”, if in God there is no particle of indeterminacy, therefore there is no “IF”?

It’s not applied to God at all. It’s a conditional warning, expressing the thought: “if you [a human being] don’t continue in the faith and shift away from the gospel you have received, you won’t be saved.”

Now, here it is not up to Mr. Armstrong to simply state that he does not deny divine omniscience, but he must, for the sake of the debate and the coherence of his argument, under penalty of not sustaining it, explain how this text can be explained without using anthropopathy, therefore, of a metaphorical language for God, although real for man, cannot be used as a base text for justification, since justification is not a human work, but a divine one.

The passage has to do with man’s responsibility to persevere. Of course, one of the false Calvinist dogmas holds that God will always make a Christian persevere. I’ve refuted that in several ways elsewhere. This passage is talking precisely about man’s part in justification (which I’ve already massively proven from the Bible), and his responsibility to hold firm.

The next passage of mine that he addresses is this one:

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.

This text does not even speak of the faith that saves, but of faith as a doctrine.

Christian faith entails belief in a system of doctrines or theology, which can be rejected and “fallen away from” just as one can reject and fall away from God Himself. If someone ceases to believe in the Holy Trinity or the redemptive death of Jesus on the cross he or she is not a Christian and can’t be saved; and if not saved; not justified, either. Therefore, this passage is perfectly relevant to our discussion. 

He then addresses 2 Timothy 2:12: “if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;”:

Note that St. Paul poses as ignorant of the facts of the future.

He didn’t know the future any more than anyone else did (unless God revealed it to him, as with the prophets). He is saying that salvation is conditional upon our endurance.

This only proves that Mr. Armstrong regards God as ignorant, as a consequence, although he denies this fact, he still needs to explain how God does not become ignorant if we apply this text in a transcendental view.

The passage and my use of it has nothing whatsoever to do with some supposed blasphemous notion that God is “ignorant” of anything. God warns us out of love, through the inspired writing of Paul, that we must be vigilant and persevering if we are to be saved in the end. We can lose our salvation and heaven through sin and rebellion and disobedience. It’s as obvious as the nose on one’s face.

I commend Francisco for at least making some attempt to refute my use of each of these Bible passages. Bravo! He did make some response for all of them.

Next, he addresses Hebrews 3:14: “For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.”

Same as above. Conditionals do not exist for God, for God does not ignore future acts in order for a condition to exist outside Him, to be actualized, this destroys divine simplicity.

The conditional in the passage is not about God at all. Francisco simply assumes the Calvinist view. That’s not the same as defending it and showing that it follows from biblical texts. Then he tackles Hebrews 6:15: “. . . Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.” He does so by reiterating the previous “argument” which is simply an irrelevant non sequitur.

Here’s his reply to Hebrews 10:39: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls”:

Paul is asserting that he and others do not lose their salvation, for they are not backsliding people. The text states the opposite of what Mr. Armstrong intends.

Of course, my argument flows from the fact that Paul casually asserts that there are those who “shrink back”; that is, leave the faith and the God they once believed in. This means that they exist; the thing exists (those who fall away). The fact that Paul and his followers are not (at least at the time he wrote) part of that crowd is irrelevant to my argument.

Francisco then addresses my prooftext Revelation 3:11: “I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” with his by now common obscurantist philosophical analysis, which again goes down the rabbit trail of discussing God’s attributes (already wholeheartedly agreed-upon) rather than exegeting the text in question:

An admonition is a will of sign, not of consent. The will of a sign is proper to the human being, not to God. It is an admonition based on human ignorance, the hidden mysteries of God for us are not being taken into account, his plans and desires that only he himself knows and that he will make happen regardless of our works, because God does not depend on men to carry out his plans . The logical consequence of Mr. Armstrong’s arguments is to make God a great human being, a kind of superman, while God is Pure Act, the most perfect, therefore lacking nothing, not even the attitudes of creatures.

There is nothing to say in reply here because it has nothing to do with the verse I brought up as proof of the ongoing nature of justification and the possibility of losing it. Francisco is in an impenetrable Calvinist bubble: apparently unable to conceive of anything different from it.

Nor does the text of Galatians 5:6 prove justification by works and faith. Faith in Christ in its very beginning is justifying. The growth or formation of faith through love is about sanctification, not justification.

The clause “faith working through love” is a clear description of the organic relationship of faith and works. Francisco simply plays the abstract game of separating the “working” part into a separate non-salvific category of sanctification. This won’t do, because the Bible itself doesn’t make this arbitrary distinction.

I have already proved with various analogies that if one thing is with another, it does not mean that the two produce the same effect. I have already cited the example of light and heat, also of the eye and the head.

That’s not biblical evidence, like my argumentation always involves.

The curious thing here (for the Protestant), is the seemingly instantaneous change of sanctification, which would accompany justification. If “all things are new” (as in the King James Version), how does this square with mere declaratory, forensic, extrinsic justification? The whole drift of the passage seems to be actual transformation in the person now in Christ, whereas in Protestant justification only the individual’s “legal” standing with God is changed. In fact, justification and sanctification are intimately related aspects of our ultimate salvation.

In the same way that when we look at sunlight, we cannot see it without heat, however, can I really say that they are the same things or that light and heat generate the same effects? Now light illuminates and heat warms, it is not appropriate to say that light warms and heat illuminates, just because the two are always together. Mr Armstrong’s syllogism does not work, in fact his syllogism is fallacious, as it does not necessarily follow from the premises.

Again, Tourinho doesn’t directly grapple with the text (i.e., do exegesis), but merely descends to philosophy. This is a theological and exegetical debate.

Galatians 5.6 does not deal with justification before God.

It sure does, because it refers to what happens “in Christ Jesus” and (in the previous verse) “through the Spirit, by faith.” That is a “Godward” perspective, not man-to-man comparisons. The larger context refers to “walk by the Spirit” (5:16, 25) and “those who belong to Christ Jesus” (5:24).

When the text says “in Christ Jesus”, it is talking about someone holy, who is in Christ, and who works love through faith, this is not about justification, but about sanctification.

Again, this involves the sub-discussion of whether justification is ongoing, and the relationship of faith and works. I’ve addressed this over and over, but Tourinho usually ignores my biblical evidences and resorts to Protestant slogans and mere philosophy. The debate is winding down and we are mostly just “spinning our wheels” at this point.

Here, we must consider that we have different concepts of justification, and that we are using these optics to interpret the texts.

Exactly right. That’s what everyone does, so entire systems have to be compared.

In my favor, I say that the text does not cite justification, it does not cite the good work as the source or cause of a justification, it points to the perfecting of a man’s faith through love, but through love in the right object, which is Christ.

Now he is actually directly addressing the text. Good! Protestants say that faith is what brings about justification. Initially it does. But later, works are also involved, and that’s what this verse shows. It’s not necessary for the word “justification” to appear because we are dealing in biblical concepts. In using the phrase, “faith working through love” Paul connects the two things, so that no one can attempt to separate them and argue that they produce different effects. It’s like a scrambled egg, which has eggs and milk, which cannot be separated again, after the scrambling. As for works being a cause of justification, I have already directed readers several times to fifty biblical passages that teach that, and fifty more from St. Paul that teach the organic relationship of grace, faith, and works. Those are the proofs of our position.

St. Paul himself, at the end of his life, says that he did not obtain perfection, but continued to achieve it, however, the same man says in Romans 5:1 that he is justified and has peace with God.

The first thing is ongoing justification and striving after holiness; the second is initial justification.

“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Romans 5:1), even without having reached perfection, it follows that justification coexists with imperfections

We have never claimed otherwise.

and that the process of personal improvement does not justify, but sanctifies.

If a person has fallen into mortal sin (which is an explicit biblical concept), separating them from God, then they have to be justified again. Obviously, since the Calvinist denies that a believer can ever fall away from God and from grace, to them this notion is meaningless, and they can’t allow it into their thinking and belief-system as a result. But they have a false, unbiblical premise, which is the root of their problem in this respect.

If you want to use the word justify in the sense of sanctifying, I am not against it, as long as you specify the meaning and do not remove its forensic meaning.

It has two aspects, as I have shown.

I have to not reply to some of the material that Francisco brings up at this point, not because I am ignoring it, but because I have already dealt with it, and we risk alienating readers with extreme repetition and tedium.  We still have part 3 of this round to go. I am trying to bring in fresh biblical passages, so the debate continues to move forward, and so readers can see how deep and rich and eminently biblical the Catholic position is. 

Tourinho notes that justification can’t be “increased.” Catholics are saying, rather, that it can be lost and regained, which is different from saying that it is (potentially or actually) constantly increased. The question comes down to whether justification can be lost. If it can, then it can and should rightly be seen as ongoing or lifelong, in the sense that we don’t know if we will never fall away, and therefore must be vigilant, as Paul constantly warns (and which makes no sense if we can never lose our justification and right relationship with God).

Catholics believe in a category of sanctification as well, which is not all that different from the Protestant conception of it, in its main outlines. We agree on much. But unlike them, we connect it directly with justification. Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon S.J. defined it as follows:

Being made holy. The first sanctification takes place at baptism, by which the love of God is infused by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Newly baptized persons are holy because the Holy Trinity begins to dwell in their souls and they are pleasing to God. The second sanctification is a lifelong process in which a person already in the state of grace grows in the possession of grace and in likeness to God by faithfully corresponding with divine inspirations. The third sanctification takes place when a person enters heaven and becomes totally and irrevocably united with God in the beatific vision. (Pocket Catholic Dictionary, New York: Doubleday Image, 1980, 393)

I have, elsewhere, noted (back in the early 90s) Protestant definitions of sanctification and of justification, by the Reformed Baptist Augustus Strong and Reformed Presbyterian Charles Hodge. We must correctly understand them, just as Protestants must accurately understand our definitions. Then we can each defend them from Scripture.

Assuming it to be true that Christ never said that faith alone saves, and that absence proves that faith alone does not save.

He said that belief in Him would save (and that the Eucharist also saved), but it must be interpreted in conjunction with scores of passages where He said that works also play a role in salvation. He never cited belief or faith in the sense of being utterly alone, as pertaining to salvation.

I can argue that Jesus never called Mary mother, how strange, isn’t it? Does it follow that the Lord Jesus did not have her for a mother? Let’s see how far Mr. Dave Armstrong will be consistent with his own argument.

This is just silly and a very bad and ineffective attempted analogy. The Bible happens to not have a passage where He called her “mother” (because it doesn’t include much discourse with her at all), but He certainly did so in His 33 years or so: the first thirty living with her. No one would foolishly argue that He never called her “mother” or “mom” or whatever the Aramaic address was, in all that time.

On the other hand, with the issue of salvation and faith we are dealing with one of the “pillars” of the so-called “Reformation”: “faith alone.” If it is supposedly so central to soteriology and theology, and so important, certainly we should reasonably expect Jesus to explicitly teach it. But He never does; nor does Paul or anyone else. And they explicitly deny it.

Now, I do not agree that Mr Armstrong’s statement is true. The Lord Jesus does not mention any work for those who have actually been saved, but only faith. . . . The right question is, When were works cited as meritorious or as the cause of salvation during Christ’s ministry? Answer: never.

That’s simply false, and rather spectacularly so. Jesus spoke the following words to His disciples, who were presumably saved (minus Judas):

John 14:12 . . . he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:21 He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. [here, the questions of who loves Jesus, and even the indwelling (cf. 16:7, 13) are dependent upon not just faith, but on whether one keeps the commandments]

John 15:4-6, 8 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [6] If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. . . . [8] By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. [“fruit” is, of course, good works]

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love . . . [note the conditional, implying a state of affairs where they could cease abiding in His love, and being justified and eschatologically saved. Judas was, in fact, an example of this happening (see 17:12). Jesus alluded to such a possibility also when He said, “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away”: 16:1]

John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (cf. 15:17)

John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

To be sure, in the same discourse at the Last Supper (John 14-17), Jesus also said “believe also in me” (14:1; cf. 16:27, 30-31; 17:8), but eleven verses later, He coupled this belief with inexorable good works: “he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father” (14:12). So again, Francisco’s “universal negative” (and his overall soteriology) is shown to be incorrect. I think he could have figured this out without my help, but he went ahead and made the statement. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be able to refute it from Jesus’ own words. 

Moreover, Jesus, in praying to the Father at the Last Supper, says, “they have kept thy word” (17:6).

Mr. Armstrong did not understand that Christ knew the rich young man’s heart, and knew that he was possessed of the Pharisaic spirit of good works. Jesus challenges him, showing him his inability to be saved through good works.

This is the very opposite of what the passage teaches. Asked by the rich young ruler how he could attain eternal life, Jesus’ answer was two kinds of works: keeping the commandments and giving all his money to the poor. He said not a word about faith, let alone, faith alone. This was how he would be saved; clear as day! Then Francisco comes along and says (in direct opposition to what Jesus stated) that the passage supposedly teaches theinability to be saved through good works.” Wow! Such brazen opposition to Jesus’ plain teaching is downright frightening and even close to blasphemous.

It’s fascinating, also, in light of what I have just shown from the Last Supper Discourse, that Jesus says the same thing to His disciples, in His last major teaching to them (i.e., that we know of)  before He was crucified. They had already given up “everything” to follow Him (Mt 19:27), so He didn’t need to mention that. But He told them no less than six times (14:15, 21; 15:10, 12, 14, 17) to keep His commandments. Talk about “repetition” being a good teacher! Therefore, He taught the same thing to both non-believers and believers / followers. He also said to the masses in His Sermon on the Mount: 

Matthew 5:16-20 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [17] Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. [18] For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. [19] Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On the other hand, He never mentions belief in Him during the Sermon, or faith, excepting His statement, “O men of little faith” (6:30). But there are all kinds of works mentioned and urged. Jesus showed Himself to be quite the “legalistic, Pharisaical ‘Catholic'” didn’t He?!

He pulled the same stunt at the Final Judgment in Matthew 25: talking only about works and never about faith in Him, when the biblical text is specifically teaching how one enters into heaven. As I’ve said many times, Jesus would have flunked out of any Protestant seminary, with His worst grades achieved in classes on soteriology (D at best, but more likely an E).

But faith is cited, always omitting the work: “Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go! Your faith has saved you.” The Coming of the Kingdom of God” Luke 17:19 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5.24 It is important to note that the Reformed do not defend that a person can enter heaven being a wanton, but that the saved person will remain in good works, sanctify himself through them, but will not be saved by them.

Faith in Jesus is mentioned many times, and is crucial. But Jesus (like Paul and James and Peter) also teaches that works are involved in salvation. Catholics fully accept the “faith” passages” but we don’t ignore the works passages that tie works into salvation, too (scores and scores of which I have repeatedly  presented in this debate). That’s the thing. All of the relevant biblical teachings need to be taken into account, not just a few selected “pet” verses. A half-truth is no better than a lie.

Francisco alluded to and cited our previous discussion on the rich young ruler and then added more analysis:

The young man thought he was good before God because he did a lot of good work, and in that sense, no one is good.

He was right about that (as Jesus affirmed, by saying, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments”: Mt 19:17), except that he rebelled against the notion of doing the most important work in his own case,: giving up all that he had (precisely necessary because his idol was riches).

The young man comes to Christ full of self-righteousness, and Christ, knowing his heart, converses with the intention of showing that this righteousness will not take him to heaven,

Again, this is the opposite of what Jesus said. I just showed how Jesus tied keeping the commandments with [eternal] “life.” The man had asked, remember, about how to attain “eternal life” (19:16). Then He said that if he gave away all of his possessions, he would “have treasure in heaven” (19:21). So yes, righteousness plays a key, indispensable role in attaining heaven and salvation, according to Jesus.

putting him in a situation of inability to keep the law.

Jesus never said that He was unable to keep the law. He merely noted that he was unwilling to fully follow one aspect of it: not having an idol (riches) in place of God. Jesus assumes in the Sermon on the Mount (my citation not far above) that the law could not only be kept, but that it was necessary to “enter the kingdom of heaven.” He employs the same exact reasoning with the rich young ruler, as He does with His disciples at the Last Supper and with those who stand at the Last Judgment.

Christ shows that the young man’s heart is evil, even though he boasts of doing so many good works.

He didn’t “boast” as far as we can determine from the text); he simply stated that he had “observed” the Ten Commandments. As the old 1930s baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean said, “it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.” Nor does Jesus imply that he is evil through and through. But he had an idol. Many of us have an idol, whether it be riches, or sex, or pride, or fame, or any number of other things. It was the primary sin of Israel all through the Old Testament.

Even though Christ fulfilled all the law, he still claims not to be good, this shows that fulfilling the law or good works does not make us good

Of course Christ is totally good. His statement, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mk 10:18) was obvious rhetorical. He can’t be literally saying He isn’t good because He is God the Son.

In fact it is impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, just as how impossible it is for a man to be saved by his good works.

Jesus was specifically talking about how riches are so commonly regarded as an idol by rich people; hence, their difficulty in being saved. He wasn’t making a general statement against good works as a means to salvation, too (which is what Francisco wrongly injects — or eisegetes – into the text because of his prior dispositions).

Jesus non-hostility to works and “Catholic” soteriology is in fact stated five verses later, when He said that good works will lead to eternal life (precisely as He had told the rich young ruler):

Matthew 19:29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 

The disciples had given up everything, thus proving that their attachment to material goods — and even family (see Mt 10:37) — were not  idols and more important than following Christ, which they were called to. As a result, they received eternal life, as we know from Christ’s express statement that this gave them eternal life (or at the very least played a role among other things in that salvation). But the rich young ruler refused to do the same thing, so it’s strongly implied in Jesus’ comment on it, that he wouldn’t attain eternal life as a result. Thus, we rightly conclude that a good work that the disciples performed, in leaving their families and jobs, led them to eternal life, while the refusal to do the same good work led to the loss of eternal life for the rich young ruler (unless, of course, he later changed his mind).

The text does show human inability to enter heaven through his works,

Quite the contrary, as just proven.

The conclusion drawn from this text by Mr. Armstrong would lead us to believe that a person can be saved by works alone.

Nonsense. I have reiterated over and over (in this debate and in my Catholic apologetics for 33 years) that grace and faith are also necessarily involved in salvation. But at the same time, the scores and scores of striking, clear passages about works also playing a role simply cannot be dismissed. I’m not minimizing faith and grace at all; not one iota. But I am not ignoring works, as Francisco vainly and foolishly attempts to do, in the face of the overwhelming biblical data. I have the biblical “both/and” view; he takes “either/or” unbiblical, Protestant view in these matters. False dichotomies rule the day for him.

If he becomes a Catholic he can get out from under that burden and strain of unbiblical and illogical false teaching. I hope and pray that he — and many readers of this debate — will do just that, by God’s grace. We Catholics want to share the fullness of the faith and the “pearl of great price” that we have found with others. so that they can share in the joy, peace, and truth of the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

What I said was that if faith and works are necessary to inherit eternal life, and if Jesus really intended to teach the rich young man how to inherit eternal life, then he should have cited faith. But if he does not cite faith,

For whatever the reason, Jesus tends to speak of each factor alone, rather than together. But there were a few times when He spoke of both things in the same context or sentence. In John 14:15, 21 and 15:14 He connected love for Him with works, as proof of that love. And (also seen above), He connected belief in Him and works in John 14:12. And He said:

Matthew 7:17-21, 24 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. [18] A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus you will know them by their fruits. [21] “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.. . . [24] “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;”

Note here that He rebuked faith alone, or faith without the requisite, required works, as He also did when he stated: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6:46). In the same context, He went on to also rebuke works alone for salvation, which is the heresy of Pelagianism:

Matthew 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

They didn’t “know” Him because that is done by grace through faith, So Jesus — when His whole teaching is understood — taught faith alongside the inevitable works or “works of faith” that make faith alive, for salvation. He had a Catholic soteriology, not a Protestant one. Works cannot be separated from faith, as Protestants try to do by making all works strictly optional with regard to salvation itself. And both flow from God’s amazing and enabling grace.

The real kicker for Francisco and Calvinists to explain is how it is that it’s “the doers of the law who will be justified” (Rom 2:13)? If no work whatever has anything to do with any kind of justification, how in the world can Paul write this? It’s devastating to the Protestant soteriological position. According to Francisco and Calvinist theology, Paul should have written “saved” in Romans 2:13 instead of “justified.” 

Here, Mr Armstrong has isolated the text from its context. The previous verses say the following:

Romans 2:4-13 Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? [5] But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. [9] There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, [10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. [11] For God shows no partiality. [12] All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

I see nothing there that is in conflict with Catholic soteriology at all. Works again play a crucial role in achieving eternal life (2:6-10 and again in 2:13). It’s expressed very eloquently and forcefully, so that no one can possibly deny it.

The text deals with the day of judgment. The text does not deal with justification by faith that happens in time, but with the judgment of the last day in which God will give his sentence and his reward. From verse 5, the apostle Paul talks about current virtues and sins and how people who do good and evil will be judged on the last day.

Whether it has to do with the Day of Judgment or not is secondary to the concepts that are taught, and how works are regarded. The Last Day does have to do with eschatological salvation, so it is very relevant to our present discussion. And we see again here that it is all works which are mentioned.: “works” (2:6), “well-doing” leading to “eternal life” (2:7), “not obey” (2:8), “does evil” (2:9), “does good” (2:10), “sinned” 2:12), and “doers of the law” who are “justified” (2:13). “Faith” and “belief” are never mentioned. How this in any way, shape, or form supports Francisco’s position, is, I confess, a great mystery.

It’s not mainly about the law, but about good works, generally speaking. This is shown in two ways: the reference to “every man” (2:6)
I agree.
“Faith” is never mentioned in Romans 2, but several times in chapter 3, so we know he is not excluding it in chapter 2.

That’s the same point I made about Jesus. Paul is here basically doing the same thing: centering on works in one long passage and faith in another; the conclusion being that neither is optional in salvation.

Here [Eph 2:8-10] Paul asserts the necessity of faith in salvation (we agree), and the inadequacy of works salvation (again we agree). He then proceeds to present the Catholic both/and view. God preordains works, and we walk in them. Works are necessary (and in many other Pauline passages, central in the equation of salvation). Thus, faith and works, just as we have maintained all along . . .

Notice how Mr. Armstrong simply did not address the argument. It is true that Paul speaks of the necessity of faith in salvation, but what he says right after is devastating for the theology of Rome, he states: “Not of works, lest anyone should boast”. St. Paul is clear, salvation it does not come from good works, but from faith alone, and Mr. Armstrong simply ignored my argument in this regard. The text says that it is by faith and not by works,

We agree that salvation is ultimately by grace through faith; we deny that works alone save (Eph 2:9), but that post-initial justification, post-regenerative good works are essential in the whole process (Eph 2:10): always joined to grace and faith. There is no falsely perceived “problem” here at all, let alone some supposed scenario of this being devastating for the theology of Rome.” Francisco still has to explain why Romans 2 is so different, with Paul talking all about works (and why Jesus makes a very strong emphasis on works as well). Obviously, works are in play along with grace and faith. Our theology takes into account both motifs; his does not, and it does so by attempting to ignore works in the salvific process, which won’t do. The Bible is too clear to allow that ploy.

We have no difference as to prayer and how God treats us when we pray, so no need to further address that, and it’s not the topic, anyway (justification is).

I pass over a lot of Francisco’s text — again — not because I am trying to avoid it (against our agreed-to rules), but because it is either off-topic (e.g., God’s nature, which Francisco for some unknown reason keeps repeating even though we are in total agreement) or has already been dealt with and answered (usually many times over). If we do publish a successful book of this debate, the now extreme repetition will have to be helpfully dealt with by an editor. I’m trying to do my part to make that editor’s job easier, by refusing to endlessly repeat myself.

And it is God who saves, we do not save ourselves,

No; we participate as lesser causes alongside God, the primary cause:

Matthew 10:22 . . . he who endures to the end will be saved. (cf. 24:13; Mk 13:13)

Acts 2:40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 

1 Corinthians 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

Philippians 2:12 . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

1 Timothy 2:15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,

Francisco responded to my use of 2 Peter 2:15, 20-21 as proof of the possible loss of salvation:

2 Peter 2:22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

After describing all their attitudes, he now shows us what the events reveal, that they were not sheep, but he says that the DOG RETURNED to his vomit, . . . The text is clear, these men went astray, but none of them left a dog or a pig, which, according to Jewish tradition, were filthy animals, that is, they never ceased to be filthy, a washed pig only disguises its bad smell, but doesn’t become pure. The text is a description of earthly events and an admonition for the same to not happen to others, but it does not prove loss of salvation from the divine perspective, as it is revealed to us that these false prophets were washed pigs, that is, they were never pure, therefore, they were never justified or sanctified before God, though they appeared so before men. God always knew they were pigs and dogs, men didn’t, so St. Peter, who was a man, describes the events as a detour and a loss.

This is desperate special pleading, and illogical. First of all, the man described by St. Peter clearly was a Christian, since he is described as having “escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 2:20). One can’t be described as having escaped a thing if in fact they never left it. That makes no sense at all. But it’s what Francisco wants to argue. 2 Peter 2:20 then states that “they are again entangled in them,” which means that they once were, then they were not (the preceding clause) and then were again, as opposed to never leaving their first state. The text then reiterates this by referring to a “last state” and a “first”: as opposed to one continual state.

In 2 Peter 2:21 Peter states that “it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness.” Quite obviously, then, they must have known it because Peter is saying that it would have been “better” (i.e., a different scenario from what actually happened: a compare and contrast) if they never had. Ergo: they did indeed experience being a Christian and being in Christ. He expresses this in another way by writing that “after knowing it” they decided “to turn back” (to their unsaved, unjustified prior state). In 2:22 he wraps it up by noting that they turned “back” to their “own vomit”: not that they never left it. Yet Francisco pretends that the opposite scenario from what is presented is what actually happened. It’s a sad case study of textbook eisegesis.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Of course He is able to do so. But this doesn’t wipe out human free will and rebellion against God’s will, that will always be carried out, provided we accept it and conform our will to His.

If Mr. Armstrong is right, St. Paul is lying in assuming that he who begins a good work in us, what Armstrong would call initial justification, will complete it until the last day, and who would dare not believe in the power of God? Who can doubt if God himself says that the work he started he will finish? Now, God is able to deliver us from all temptations and stumbling blocks, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you blameless before his glory with joy,” (Jude 1:24). Speaking of loss of salvation from the divine perspective is the same as saying that God is not powerful to deliver man from stumbling blocks, to keep us, and that he is flawed in his work. Therefore, Reformed theologians see the loss of salvation only from a human perspective, but we declare and believe in the sovereignty of God and his omnipotence, something that all other traditions declare only with their mouths, but deny with their hearts.
As always, we must take into consideration all of the relevant biblical texts on a given topic (which is systematic theology). And these include several where God’s will is opposed by man: which God allows because He willed that men — and angels — had free will, which included the possibility of rebellion, which in turn goes back to the rebellion of Satan and his demons, and Adam and Eve’s rebellion, and in them, the whole human race (1 Cor 15:22). Here are two of those passages:
Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
John 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.

Man can either serve God or reject Him:

Deuteronomy 30:15, 19 . . .I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. . . . [19] . . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, 

Joshua 24:15 “And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

God doesn’t predestine anyone to hell, since the Bible states: 

1 Timothy 2:3-6 . . . God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, . . .

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is . . . not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Yet they don’t all repent. Therefore, the cause is their own rebellion, which God allowed, and it follows that God didn’t predestine them to hell because inspired revelation informs us that this is not His desire or wish, which is that all be saved.

Psalm 51:12 [RSV] Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

How could King David ask to have the joy of a salvation he did not yet have?

I previously replied: It can just as easily be interpreted as “give me back the salvation that included joy.”

No. It couldn’t be interpreted that way, because that’s not what the text says. That simple. Language is not like mathematics, because in mathematics the order of the factors does not change the product, but in language the order of the factors can change the product.

First of all, for the OT Jew, joy and salvation went hand-in-hand (see seven examples in the Protestant OT). Secondly, we must take into consideration the dramatic context of Psalm 51. David had had a man killed so he could commit adultery with his wife, and the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin, leading David to repent: which he expressed in Psalm 51. So if ever a man had lost salvation and fallen from grace, it was David at that time. 

But David repented and wanted to be back in the fold with God. This is the Catholic view of loss of initial justification and regaining it by repentance and confession (51:3-4) and forgiveness (throughout the Psalm). We could, therefore, plausibly interpret David as saying “please restore to me your salvation, which brings about joy.” David fell away, repented, and was brought back into justification and right relationship with God. The prophet Samuel had described David as “a man after” God’s “own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). God Himself referred to “my servant David, who kept my commandments, and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes,” (1 Kgs 14:8). And the author of the book referred to “the heart of David” as being “wholly true to the LORD his God” (1 Kgs 15:3). Yet he sinned and fell and had to be restored.


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Summary: This is my reply (3rd round, part 2) in an in-depth debate on justification and comparative soteriology, with Brazilian Reformed Presbyterian apologist Francisco Tourinho.

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