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November 9, 2018

I. The Dilemma of Competing Ecclesiologies: the Visible vs. the Invisible Church

If Anglicans have any sort of notion of “indefectibility” — whereby the true Christian Church (or a valid portion of the universal catholic church, etc.) cannot and will not fall into rank heresy; being protected by the Holy Spirit, then it would be quite difficult for traditionalist Anglicans to square that concept with what is happening in liberal Anglican and Episcopalian circles today.

If one takes a view of the Christian Church that it is a visible, historical institution, then indefectibility would seem to follow as a matter of course. Or one can take an alternate view of the “invisible church,” which is the route of most non-Anglican Protestants, but then (in my opinion) historical continuity, apostolicity, and legitimate apostolic Tradition lose some of their authoritativeness and binding nature.

The presence of heresy and ethical departure from Christian precedent raises troubling questions as to the apostolicity and legitimacy of visible, institutional churches. But the breakaway Anglican communions have to deal with the schismatic principle: i.e., how can they break away and form a new sect without this doing harm to the notion of “one holy catholic and apostolic church” and the apostolic continuity (or, “indefectibility”) of the “mother church”?

In other words, I think (orthodox, traditional) Anglicans have a real dilemma here, since to accept the more institutional, “visible” view of ecclesiology is to be confronted with clear heresy and departure from Christian Tradition, while breaking away, on the other hand, creates the difficulty of a de facto acceptance of the Protestant “invisible church” framework and hence, the actuality or potentiality of yet another schism. So the orthodox Anglican is “betwixt and between” two incompatible forms of ecclesiology, with no easy resolution to either problem.

Anglicanism seems to me to foster an incoherent mixing of low Protestant invisible church beliefs and apostolic succession, which I understand is the mainstream Anglican position. It’s neither “fish nor fowl.” Better (logically speaking) to be either . . .

The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 state:

XIX. The visible Church of Christ is the congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

So the Church is visible. If one adopts visibility and “institutionality” as ecclesiological criteria, then the dilemma or difficulty arises, because that is in distinction to the invisible church notion of mainstream Protestantism. But Anglicans (i.e., orthodox ones) seem to be in a catch-22 here, granting the above standard of the nature of the Church.

But then again, I suppose the above might be interpreted in the “invisible” fashion. To me, it is potentially as nebulous and malleable as any Baptist or Reformed Creed or Confession or official denominational statement, etc.

This business of “the congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached” is full of interpretational difficulties. It reads great, but it is extremely difficult to consistently apply. If the Church is merely every “faithful” man, then surely this is the invisible church, rather than the visible, since in the institutional Church, the wheat and the tares grow up together, as Christ tells us. There are sinners in the Church. That is abundantly clear in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Corinthians, and the seven churches in Revelation, among other biblical indications.

And what is the “pure Word of God”? Given the squabbles in Anglicanism, it seems that this is not so simple of a matter to determine. There are no Ecumenical Councils to resolve it, and of course no pope. If it were that simple, then many things in Anglicanism would have long since been determined, and the current civil war would be a lot less serious than it is. But if the “Church” consists of all the faithful, who hear the Pure Word, then I dare say that there isn’t a single congregation in the world, of any trinitarian Christian stripe, which qualifies. So — with all due respect — I contend that the above statement is hopelessly incoherent.

I have faith that my Church is divinely protected, just as most committed, devout, practicing Christians of any stripe have faith that God preserved the Bible from error, and inspired it. One is no more implausible than the other, in my opinion. And just as there are thorny exegetical and hermeneutical and textual difficulties in Scripture to be worked through and mulled over, so there are in Church history. But that need not cause anyone to despair that God is able to protect His Sacred Tradition and His Church and orthodoxy inviolate.

That’s why I’ve always said that Protestants seem to have a lack of faith in what God can and will do. I believe this even has a relationship – however remote – to the Incarnation. God became a Man and so raised humanity to previous untold heights (I’ve actually written about deification and theosis — usually Orthodox emphases — in my second book). Likewise, if God created a Church which is at bottom a divine institution: His institution, is it not plausible to believe in faith that He can protect that institution from doctrinal error? Yet Protestants and (many?) Anglicans want to adopt an “invisible” notion of the Church, which I find to be utterly unbiblical and non-apostolic.

Indefectibility follows from the “self-confidence” of each Church’s Creed and how binding they claim to be; also based on certain statements of Jesus and the Apostles whereby we are led to believe that the true Church would not fall into heresy, as there is a true and false tradition. That is certainly how St. Paul views the matter. For him it is quite cut-and-dried. God is able in fact to maintain pure doctrine. He is not able to maintain pure human beings, because He has allowed free will and the freedom to rebel against Him and righteousness. But doctrinal and ethical truth and orthodoxy – not having free will – are possible for an omnipotent, sovereign Being to uphold, even in a human institution.

Abuse and institutionalization of error are vastly different. Catholic theological and moral doctrine has not changed. Anglican doctrine has: on contraception, on divorce, on abortion, on homosexuality, and any number of other issues. So the traditionalists among them have formed breakaway communions. Their motives are certainly pure, but this doesn’t solve their ecclesiological problem. They’re still applying the Protestant principles of schism and private judgment, and this clashes with the nature of the Church as expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Be that as it may, I see internal inconsistency in how Anglicans are applying the term “church” – an arbitrary switching back and forth between invisible and visible definitions, which I think is improper and illogical. There is a sense in which an invisible or mystical church is properly spoken of, but for those who accept apostolic succession, this can never undermine in the least a visible, institutional church.

II. Anglican “Messiness”: Glory or Tragedy?

More than one Anglican has told me that they “glory” in Anglican “messiness” — i.e., the fact that not all dogmas are infallibly declared, but that the individual can choose among options. They seem to view this as an admirable moderation or restraint, free from the excesses of “Rome.” But where do we find the desirability of “messiness” in Holy Scripture? We find messiness in the early Church, surely (all over the place), but what we never find is commendation for such “messiness,” as if it were a good thing.

What we find, on the contrary, are condemnations of this in the strongest possible terms, from both St. Paul (in places too numerous to mention) and Our Lord Jesus (e.g., John 17). So this approach is somewhat baffling, from a strictly scriptural point of view. Are we to glory in human shortcomings rather than divine ideals and goals and biblical prescriptions? This strikes me — with all due respect — as C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” taken to an extreme.

If I may be so brash as to speculate: the tendency of Anglicanism to perpetually divide itself into parties in many ways mutually exclusive (thus allowing a natural inroads to the modernist with few scruples and little historical sense of orthodoxy), is ultimately doctrinal relativism. It isn’t like Dominicans, Jesuits, and Benedictines in the Catholic Church, since those are primarily differences in spiritual approach and liturgy, rather than fundamental theology and ethics.

Messiness has struck the Catholic Church too, because of the gift of modernism that was born and bred in Protestant ranks and bequeathed to us. But we regard this “messiness” as a bad thing, as a distortion and co-opting of the orthodox Vatican II, whereas so many Anglicans “glory” in it. Strange: traditionalist Anglicans fight the liberals on the one hand, yet revel in theological diversity and relativism on the other. Relativism and a body of truth more than one and indivisible is an absolutely unbiblical concept.

The Church is what it is, because the apostolic deposit was what it was and is. Unity exists insofar as Christians accept this deposit and submit themselves to it. But of course Anglicans and Catholics have arguments as to the nature of the initial Tradition handed down to us by the Apostles. The thing to do is to determine what the Apostles believed and to conform ourselves to those beliefs. But one must necessarily take into account the place of development of doctrine, as well. I think development is the key for understanding the non-essential differences in doctrines from the time of the Apostles to our time, and the key for Protestants to understand the ostensible “growth” of doctrine in Catholicism (what is usually termed “[unbiblical] excess” or “corruption.”

It was even stated by one Anglican with whom I dialogued, that this “messiness” had humility“as its root.” I fail to comprehend this thinking. How is it a lack of humility (as it seems to me this person was perhaps subtly implying) to simply acknowledge that certain things are true, as passed down by an authoritative Christian body, be it Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed? And how is it “humble” merely to accept the notion that large areas of ethics and doctrine should be left up to choice and a sort of “majority vote” – which I would call a de facto relativism? If I were to choose, I would say that it is arguably far less humble to feel that one can pick and choose Christian truths, rather than submitting in obedience and faith to whatever brand of Christianity they adhere to. This gets into the rather complicated argument about private judgment.

III. The Via Media: the Attempted and Sought-After “Middle Way” of Anglicanism

The Anglican concept of the Via Media is regarded as a “middle way” between Protestantism and (Roman) Catholicism. Cardinal Newman disputed this understanding with great force (I think, compellingly) in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and Apologia pro vita sua, but the perspective is still very much with us today.

What fascinates me about this Via Media approach is: by what means does one arrive at it? What are its first premises, and where do they come from? Is it in the Bible? If so, where? Is this strain of thought present in the Church Fathers? For my part, I would suspect that it is ultimately (in terms of history of ideas) a product of Renaissance nominalism, sola Scriptura, and the negative influences of post-“Enlightenment” philosophical thought. I could just as easily make a case that certain secular philosophical influences have brought Anglicans to this juncture where they think in these terms in the first place, so that they are just as beholden to philosophy as we are with our Thomistic “baptized” Aristotelianism (as they sometimes criticize us).

Catholics are in no way, shape, or form, reducing mysteries to merely intellectual constructs. We bow before the mysteries; we marvel at them. Are Marian apparitions, e.g., instances of a “dominance of intellect”? Yet some of them (notably, Fatima and Lourdes) are accepted at the very highest levels of the Church, and all of our greatest thinkers (e.g., Aquinas, Augustine, Newman, the present pope) had or have a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

It’s not either/or. We value mind and heart, mysticism and systematic theology, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, experience and the pondering of the intricacies of dogma. Our greatest saints are always combinations of these traits and emphases. I say that our “both/and” approach is the truest kind of Via Media: a refusal to create false dichotomies, and to accept all the different aspects of faith, all the while not relegating dogmas to majority vote and “secondary doctrines.” As Chesterton observed:

The Church is from the first a thing holding its own position and point of view, quite apart from the accidents and anarchies of its age. That is why it deals blows impartially right and left, at the pessimism of the Manichean or the optimism of the Pelagian. It was not a Manichean movement because it was not a movement at all. It was not an official fashion because it was not a fashion at all. It was something that could coincide with movements and fashions, could control them and could survive them. (The Everlasting Man, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1925, 228)

If the Via Media is such an attractive and distinguishing trait, then surely it can be found in the Bible and the Fathers and the early Councils, right? Anglicans also value those sources very highly, so it seems to me that if this notion of Via Media cannot be found there, then Anglicanism has a problem of internal incoherence once again — and a rather serious one at that.

Cardinal Newman, in his criticism of the Via Media in his Apologia, argued that the “middle position” between so-called extremes was also heretical. If one takes a position between 4th-century Catholicism and Arianism, one is not a “Via Media Christian.” That person is a Semi-Arian. By pressing various analogies like this, Newman was led to the realization where he wrote (famously): “I looked in the mirror and I was a Monophysite.”

Again, I ask Anglicans (with perfect sincerity and curiosity): where in the Bible or the Fathers or Councils do you find the scenario of always seeking a “middle way” between two other parties? What was the equivalent in the Ancient Church of the Anglican Via Media? I suppose Anglicans could argue that the ancient Catholic Church was closer to present-day Anglicanism than to present-day Catholicism, but that would take an awful lot of arguing to be persuasive. To offer two quick examples: where are, e.g., the analogies to the Council of Chalcedon and Pope Leo the Great in Anglicanism today? But Catholics have John Paul II and Vatican II.

IV. Anglicanism and the Papacy

One Anglican argued that since the ex cathedra definition of papal infallibility was promulgated in 1870, that no pope prior to that date could fulfill that role. That a particular doctrine was not dogmatically defined before a certain date, however, does not mean that it didn’t exist prior to that date, or was not widely accepted. Papal infallibility and supremacy of jurisdiction certainly did exist, and was – by and large – adhered to, until the Orthodox ditched it, and later the Anglicans and Protestants.

The very fact that all of them made a big deal out of rejecting it (we need look no further than Henry VIII) proves that it was in fact present. It is presupposed in Luther’s contrary statement at the Diet of Worms: “popes and Councils can err.” How can one reject something that is nonexistent? Controversy suggests contrary views. St. Thomas More was martyred in order to uphold papal supremacy, which in turn is closely connected (logically and ecclesiologically) to papal infallibility (of some sort, at any rate).

John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his masterpiece, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845; rev. 1878), elaborates upon the above analysis:

Whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred. It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops. And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated . . . .

Moreover, an international bond and a common authority could not be consolidated . . . while persecutions lasted. If the Imperial Power checked the development of Councils, it availed also for keeping back the power of the Papacy. The Creed, the Canon, in like manner, both remained undefined . . . All began to form, as soon as the Empire relaxed its tyrannous oppression of the Church . . .

Supposing there be otherwise good reason for saying that the Papal Supremacy is part of Christianity, there is nothing in the early history of the Church to contradict it. . .

Doctrine cannot but develop as time proceeds and need arises, and . . . therefore it is lawful, or rather necessary, to interpret the words and deeds of the earlier Church by the determinate teaching of the later.

Details needed to be worked out (e.g., how wide was the latitude for papal infallibility: Vatican I settled on a (relatively speaking) “moderate” position over against the Ultramontanes and the Gallicans, and what was later known as the “Old Catholics” (led by the historian Dollinger), but this is the case with all developments. I could just as well say that no one believed that Christ had Two Natures before Chalcedon in 451, because it wasn’t yet precisely defined dogma, or that no one accepted the Trinity before Nicaea in 325, etc.

Papal infallibility is a straightforward development and logical extension of papal supremacy. The latter can be indisputably shown in hundreds of patristic (and even conciliar) quotes, perhaps most notably from Pope Leo the Great. And the former is not at all inconsistent with it.

Now, lest Anglicans or anyone else dispute the validity of development itself, they would have to demonstrate how Christological or canonical or soteriological development (particularly concerning original sin) differ in essence from development of the office of the papacy. Anglicanism has no pope; Orthodoxy has none; Protestants have none, but the early Church sure seemed to (even if the office is regarded as merely a primacy of honor).

How does one get from a pope to no pope in a straight line of doctrinal development? Therefore, I submit that having no pope is far more a departure from early Christianity than having an infallible pope. The first is a complete reversal of precedent; the latter a deductive development of what came before.

There either was a pope in Church history or there wasn’t. Most (if not all) would grant that there was. Then the dispute becomes the extent of his power and jurisdiction, and infallibility. At that point it becomes (insofar as it is a strictly historical discussion) basically a “war of patristic and conciliar quotes.” Thus far, no matter how (in my opinion) compelling a set of quotes from the Fathers is produced, I have yet to meet an opponent who will deal with them seriously and comprehensively rather than derisively or dismissively. Granted, I may have limited experience, but I have engaged in many dialogues, and I refer only to my own experience, as far as it goes.

Another tack I would take on this is that Anglicans (as far as I can see) acknowledge (early) conciliar and creedal infallibility (or at least a high degree of authoritativeness, notwithstanding disputes of interpretation). Now, I assume that would be based on consensus of the early Church, just as, e.g., the Canon of New Testament Scripture or the Two Natures of Christ was. But many in that early Church (and not a few from the East) acknowledged the papacy in exalted terms not inconsistent with the full development of papal infallibility, brought to fruition in 1870.

So why accept their opinions on one thing and not the other? If we judge the authoritativeness and truthfulness of Church Fathers at every turn based on our own private judgment, then we are in no wise different in our approach than Luther at Worms and thereafter. And that gets me right back to my point about the incoherent mixtures of Protestant and Catholic notions of ecclesiology and authority in Anglicanism. Apostolic succession means something.

Beyond that are the biblical indications of papal supremacy and the logical deduction of infallibility in the same sense that a Council (e.g., the one in Jerusalem: Acts 15) is regarded as infallible in some binding and dogmatic sense.

Development ought not surprise us. It has always been with us, and always will be. It is evident in Scripture itself (e.g., the angelology which had obviously undergone much development amongst the Jews in the inter-Testamental period). The common mistake is to confuse particulars of definition with the essence of a doctrine, and so conclude falsely that the essential or presuppositional elements were never historically present before they were defined in great precision. Such is the case with papal infallibility, as with many other disputed doctrines – e.g., the Catholic Marian ones.

Anglicans like to claim that papal excesses in the exercise of authority fractured the Catholic Church, with the Great Schism (when three men claimed to be pope simultaneously) and the events of the 16th-century so-called “Reformation.” But the papacy was by no means the sole factor in either break. It was much more so in the so-called English “Reformation” since Henry VIII wanted supremacy to reside in himself rather than the trans-national papacy (in the first instance due to sheer lust). St. Thomas More died because of his refusal to accept that travesty of justice and perversion of Christian governance.

Students of Church history may recall that Martin Luther also rejected conciliar infallibility and five previously commonly-accepted sacraments, among many other things. He had to do so in order to establish absolute supremacy of conscience, private judgment, and sola Scriptura, with its corollary perspicuity of Scripture, as the new formal principles of authority. I don’t see that Anglicans are much different, much as they acknowledge and claim to respect primitive Christian Tradition and the Fathers. I believe Anglicans (at least the more traditional and “orthodox” ones) do respect them, but I see many problems of inconsistent application of their teachings, and an incoherent mixture of visible and invisible church notions (and private judgment vs. the obedience entailed in apostolic succession).

Jesus Himself said that His coming would divide households. Was that His fault? Likewise, if the papacy was indeed divinely-instituted, yet people didn’t like it and rejected it, was it God’s fault that division then occurred? We should also expect conflict in larger Church battles and divisions. But we shouldn’t adopt an indifferentist or relativist approach and assume all sides are equally right, or that there is no right side, simply because division exists, or that every man is in effect his own pope, or despair that there is any answer at all.

The grounds for the papacy are in Scripture itself, and in how the Lord and the early Church regarded St. Peter. That’s where the argument succeeds or fails (at least in ecumenical discussion), not in a momentary dispute between Paul and Peter (over behavioral hypocrisy — not doctrine at all), or some alleged arrogant act of Pius IX, or a whoring Renaissance Borgia pope, or historical-political-cultural happenstance, etc.

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(originally 11-12-01)

Photo credit: Cathedral Church of Saint Paul on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. It is a 1908 Gothic revival church. Photo by Andrew Jameson (5-17-08) at English Wikipedia [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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November 2, 2018

The following is from the Coming Home Network forum (where I was staff moderator from 2007-2010). The primary person I’m interacting (blue color) with is Orthodox, and seriously considering Catholicism. He may not always accurately reflect what is Orthodox belief. Those colored in green and brown are other Catholics.

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Since the Orthodox view has been presented at such length it is important (in this context) that the Catholic view is thoroughly clarified in contrast, since this is a Catholic forum and not an Orthodox one, and we don’t want our members (or indeed anyone who reads the thread) to be confused over such differences or unaware of the Catholic “take” on them. We do differ in some respects with each other, after all. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t still be tragically divided. We’re very close, praise God, but not identical.

A lot of this has already been done in the thread, but I’ll add my $00.02 as well, for what it’s worth, as “network apologist,” one who has debated many Orthodox, attended Orthodox services and talks and Bible studies, invited an Orthodox priest into my home to a group discussion, and who has even written a book about them.

Christ indeed assumed our humanity EXACTLY as we are, except without sin. But what we mean by that is PERSONAL sin. He never committed a sin, He lived a sinless life, etc… Obviously that’s the same as the RCC.

This is true of Mary, but technically, not of Jesus, because He was impeccable, meaning that He not only did not sin, but could not sin, being God, Who is pure holiness. Mary was not impeccable, but only sinless, which is a different thing. Impeccability entails sinlessness, but not all who are sinless are impeccable. Mary and the unfallen angels are sinless. Only God is impeccable.

Adam and Eve committed the original sin, we inherit the consequences of their actions. 

That’s true, but according to Catholic teaching only half of the truth. It is also the case that we were “in” Adam and Eve and partook of original sin along with them. It is a corporate sense of all humanity, not just Adam and Eve, and then we receive the deleterious effects of that as if it were a genetic disease passed down through no fault of the recipient at all. This aspect is discussed in CCC #404:

404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”.By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.

There is fairly explicit biblical indication of this:

Psalm 51:5 (RSV) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Romans 5:12-18 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned — sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

The dominion of the devil is a result of original sin; it caused a catastrophic cosmic disorder (Gen 3:15, Jn 12:31, 14:30, 2 Cor 4:4, Heb 2:14, 2 Pet 2:19). That’s why the theological liberals who deny original sin (if not sin itself) invariably deny the existence of the devil and evil. For more along these lines, see my paper on it.

the idea that Mary didn’t have original sin, means she was an immortal being.

That’s correct, because without this original sin, there would be no necessary death as a result, as happened to Adam and Eve as individuals when they rebelled.

(remember original sin is something Adam and Eve did, and we simply inherit the CONSEQUENCES of it.) 

Not at all, as just shown from the CCC and the Bible. There is an element of “transmission” but that doesn’t fully capture the essence of it. That’s not just me saying that, but the Bible and the Catholic Church.

And so if Christ is born of an immortal being, then Christ is immortal, and so just how was he like us in every way then?

I understand this section is a presentation of mistaken Orthodox views of the Catholic view, but this has to be addressed. Jesus is not dependent on Mary in any way other than her being an instrument for the Incarnation and His taking on flesh from her as His true mother. None of the essential characteristics of His divine nature are dependent on her. Jesus was immortal (“eternal” is the better term) because He was God before He ever took on flesh, and remained God at all times. That no more depended on Mary’s status than God the Father’s eternality does.

In fact, a lot of Catholic theologians (if not nearly all) hold that the Immaculate Conception was not intrinsically necessary or required for the Virgin Birth. God did this miracle, rather, because it was “fitting” for the Mother of God to be without sin, just as we all possibly could have been. That’s good Catholic theology, though not a dogma, as far as I know. She is the Second Eve: the one who said “yes” to God rather than “no.”

How could he suffer in all things like we do? Including death? 

God can choose to take on human flesh and undergo death (which means the separation of soul and body) if He wants to, since He has all power. It is not a death due to His sin in any sense, but a voluntary sacrifice as the redeemer of mankind. Likewise, the Church has not declared whether Mary died or not, but she certainly could have, since Jesus did. I personally believe she did, so as to be like her Son.

Since without original sin (ie: mortality, sickness, pain, death) Christ isn’t truly one of us, and so the Logos is not cosubstantial with us, and thus not our Savior. 

But Jesus can experience all that without any need for sin, original or actual. The essence of a human being is not sin but being made in the image of God. Sin is a distortion of humans (just as it is in the case of the demons). Overemphasizing the human aspect of Jesus supposedly being tempted in the sense of concupiscence is the Nestorian heresy, which was erroneously presupposed in, e.g., the movie, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Of course immortal beings cannot die on a cross, so how could this have happened?

They certainly can. Jesus did. It is perfectly orthodox to state that “God [i.e., God the Son] died.” Death is not a cessation of “immortality.” It is merely the separation of body and soul. Souls are eternal by nature and can’t cease to exist (unless, of course, God decreed it so, but we know He does not because there is heaven and hell).

So obviously the western view of Original Sin cannot be correct, because it is full of logical problems….

I see none at all, and I don’t think any have been demonstrated.

Obviously I realize you don’t think Mary was immortal, or Jesus was immortal

Jesus was, being God, and could not be other. So was Mary, if indeed she didn’t undergo death. Neither did Elijah nor (we think) Enoch, so that was nothing entirely new if it happened.

it is a misconception that many Orthodox have about the West.

One of many many such.

So to summarize: for us, original sin is mortality, the ability to suffer, and die and get sick, all that makes us human beings. 

Those are all consequences that came from something else, which is original sin. If they are consequences of something, then obviously there must be “something” that caused the consequences and can be discussed in some sense apart from them.

If Mary didn’t have original sin, then neither did Jesus,

This is a confusion of thought, because as I’ve explained, Jesus is not dependent on Mary in that way and He was impeccable in the nature of things. Mary could have theoretically actually sinned or have been subject to original sin and Jesus wouldn’t have been affected in the slightest, being God, Who cannot sin, let alone have original sin (which is a rebellion against God: how could God rebel against Himself?).

So to say Mary didn’t have original sin, sets her apart from us, 

It doesn’t set her totally apart (though she is unique); it merely makes her like the unfallen Adam and Eve and how we all could and should have been, ideally. As you note, Orthodox are allowed to hold the view if they so choose. Kallistos Ware states on p. 264 of The Orthodox Church (Penguin: 1980 version): “the whole question belongs to the realm of theological opinion; and if an individual Orthodox today felt impelled to believe in the Immaculate Conception, he could not be termed a heretic for doing so.”

let me state, that even though I’m EO, I think Chalcedon got it wrong,

According to Kallistos Ware, you are not at liberty as an Orthodox to dispute the teachings of an Ecumenical Council, whose decrees he describes as “infallible” (ibid., 256).

I don’t think St. Leo was a Nestorian at all, but I’m not sure he fully grasped the fine details of what was really going on in the East.

The East at the time accepted his judgment in confirming the teachings of the Council, excepting the disputed matter of the 28th canon, which tried to elevate Constantinople to the level of the Apostolic See of Rome.

For her to give physical birth to a man who is just like the rest of us, she too needs to be just like the rest of us according to the flesh. Because the flesh is inherited from the flesh. 

She was! Mary was human either way. If she had original sin, she was just like the rest of us. If not, as we believe, then she was still human, just in the unfallen sense of Adam and Eve initially. But Jesus could not have taken on any sense of original sin anyway, in the nature of the case. You are tying His qualities too closely to Mary. God is not dependent on human beings. Jesus would never “have” to die, simply because He was a human being. He chose to do so.

But if her flesh is different than our flesh, then His flesh is different than our flesh and so He is not one of us. 

This is the same error again. Jesus was impeccable. He could not have sinned, either actually, so obviously He couldn’t have original sin, either, whatever Mary’s status was. You are the one who is dangerously close to the Nestorian heresy in thinking this, not Chalcedon, since you make even Jesus’ “spiritual” status (if we may so speak of God) dependent on Mary, a human being whom He created.

And the whole enterprise of Christianity is thrown out the window, because He shares in our sufferings, He became like us, even unto death on a cross. He can only SHARE with us, if He is one of us. 

As I wrote in my article, Orthodox Catholic Christology: A Theological Primer:

1) Holy Trinity: God exists eternally in Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: all eternal and equal in glory, honor, and essence.

2) God (i.e., Jesus, God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) became Man (the incarnation) at a certain identifiable point in space-time history.

3) Jesus is a Divine Person.

4) It is improper to refer to Jesus as a “human person” or to claim that He contains within Himself more than one person (human and divine) or to deny that Mary is Theotokos (Mother of God or, literally, “God-bearer”). That is the heresy of Nestorianism. When we refer to “human” with regard to Jesus, it is with regard to His human nature, that He assumed at the incarnation, not His Person (which is Divine and eternal).

5) Jesus has two natures (the Hypostasis or Hypostatic Union): divine and human (the denial of his human nature is the heresy of Monophysitism; some Monophysites, however, believed in a single divine-human nature in Christ).

6) Jesus has two wills: divine and human (the assertion of a single divine-human will is the heresy of Monotheletism).

For us, to say Mary was not of the same flesh, ie: the same genetic make up, the same DNA as us, is what is heretical to the Orthodox perspective.

Whoever said that her genetics and DNA were affected by being immaculate? That’s a completely separate and irrelevant issue. Sin is a spiritual thing, and if we were to look at a microscopic specimen even of Jesus’ flesh, I don’t think it would look any different, and science couldn’t prove that He was God on this basis.

To us original sin is a genetic defect found somewhere in our DNA (if it could ever be found)….to take away the defect would make the DNA different than ours, and would essentially create a new species of human, ie: not homo sapiens sapiens, but something else. 

I find this very curious. From what Orthodox source do you derive this notion? I’ve never heard this before.

Because the defect is what makes us experience all the passions, the pain and the hardship of being human. 

The greatest pains (e.g., betrayal, despair, loneliness, regret, existential loss of faith) are non-physical and in the soul.

original sin = homo sapiens sapiens
no original sin = super human, immortal, not homo sapiens sapiens

Original sin is not intrinsic to the human race, but only universal, post-Adam and Eve’s fall. If you deny this, then you have to assert the absurd notion that Adam and Eve were not human beings.They certainly were!

As a side note, the more I learn about the Catholic view of original sin, the more I misunderstand the Orthodox view and see it as not making as much sense as I thought it did. 

We agree there . . .

The Orthodox do not, so there is no “dogma” as such because there is no one to proclaim it.

But Kallistos Ware did say that Orthodox hold the Ecumenical Councils to be infallible, so I see little practical difference at least insofar as their teachings are concerned.

Aha! I think here’s where you misunderstand me….for us there is no transmission of sin. Only the consequences of it. Nothing is handed down to us from Adam, except our fallen human nature. Sin itself is not passed on. 

That would appear to directly contradict the three biblical passages I cited above.

We can believe in the IC and that Mary had original sin at the same time because for us the IC is a spiritual preservation from PERSONAL sin. 

That’s completely incoherent, even in the terminology. because “conception” was the very first moment of Mary’s existence, when she obviously was not able to commit personal sin. So if you want to believe this, at least give it another description that isn’t internally contradictory. We simply call that “sinlessness” — referring to actual sin.

Essentially she achieved theosis or divinization at her conception because God preserved her from spiritual fallenness….she was divinized as it were. I guess you could say she was Immaculately conceived spiritually, but not physically. 

This is very similar to Martin Luther’s view (which I have studied in great depth).

We know that Jesus aged and we can assume that he would have continued to do so and eventually died a natural death had it not been that he was put to death. 

Original sin was what caused death and decay in the first place (CCC 400), so arguably Jesus (not being subject to that or any sin) would not have died naturally. You state this yourself: “All life experiences disease and death, whether it be plants, pets, livestock, etc. If it were not for original sin, they also would share an idyllic existence.” Jesus has no original sin; therefore He was not subject to a natural death, and this is why Mary was assumed body and soul without undergoing decay, because she was immaculate and one thing flows from the other.

We certainly do not believe she [Mary] was immortal, 

Without original sin she was restored to the state of the pre-fall Adam and Eve with regard to death, and was not intrinsically subject to death. She still could have died, though, by her choice and God’s, just as Jesus died.

The problem with her being like Eve in every single way from the Eastern POV, is that she would then be immortal! 

Why is this a “problem”? Why cannot God make ONE person the way Adam and Eve were originally? What better, more appropriate person than the All-Holy Theotokos?

Certainly you see the problem with an immortal being, (which makes her not fully human)

This is the fallacy, because you (as Nestorians also habitually do) again equate the essence of being human with fallen humanity, which is the corruption of humanity and human beings. Adam and Eve were human beings. After they rebelled (and the human race “in” them, as Scripture says, we are all fallen, corrupted human beings. But Mary was spared that by a special act of grace.

Remember He took His flesh from HER. 

But that’s basically all He received from Mary. His Divine Nature was completely unaffected by that, just as, by imperfect analogy, our immaterial souls have nothing to do with our parents and come straight from God by special creation.

And yet we know Jesus was not immortal because He died…

You again exhibit the confusion of an intrinsic mortality (which Jesus did not have, being God) and His death, which was voluntary but not necessary simply because He was born of Mary.

You keep getting hung up on this thing of Jesus not being immortal, and supposedly being mortal. But Jesus was God. According to theologian Ludwig Ott, the Church teaches that: “The nature of the Hypostatic Union is such that while on the one hand things pertaining to both the Divine and Human nature can be attributed to the person of Christ, on the other hand things specifically belonging to one nature cannot be predicated of the other nature.” Therefore, it is orthodox Christianity to say that “Jesus is immortal” because Jesus was God and the Bible describes God as immortal:

Romans 1:23 (RSV) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:16 who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

To the extent that you keep denying that Jesus was immortal, you are being technically heretical, though I know what you mean by it and don’t intend to be.

Human beings attain immortality by means of the Resurrection (Rom 2:7; 1 Cor 15:53-54; 2 Tim 1:10). Mary, by being immaculate, was the “firstfruits” of this, and so she was bodily assumed into heaven.

This sort of touches on what I’m struggling to understand.

In the east, Christ not only becomes Incarnate, but must also do it through His Mother. He had to divinize and conquer the corrupt flesh that was passed on to Him. <–This is what I’m struggling with.

You very well ought to struggle with this, because it is not only heretical (Nestorianism or something akin to it) but blasphemous as well.

YOU GOT IT! That’s basically it! And it’s not really just the Eastern view, but the western view as well.

It’s not at all. From everything I understand about Catholic Christology and trinitarianism it (this particular notion immediately above) is heretical. And it’s certainly my job here to point that out, lest anyone be led astray into non-Catholic theology. Jesus didn’t have to “conquer” anything in Himself. He was completely holy and without struggle (in terms of concupiscence, not any suffering whatever) at all times. He didn’t receive any corrupt flesh because 1) He was God and couldn’t possibly do so, and 2) Mary was preserved from original sin even if #1 weren’t the case.

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(originally 9-04-08)

Photo credit: Orthodox icon of Mary and Jesus [Pexels.com / public domain]

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October 1, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. But don’t hold your breath. On 8-24-18 Bob wrote (after virtually begging and pleading to dialogue with me in May 2018) that my alleged “disinterest in the truth reflects poorly” on me. What are we to make, then, of his utter “disinterest” in defending his opinions against serious critique?

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

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In his article, “25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 12)” (7-27-16), Bob wrote, in his characteristically misguided zeal:

Stupid Argument #40: Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.

This argument is an attempt to wriggle away from Bible verses that are unpleasant or that contradict each other. “Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones” is advice from Josh McDowell’s New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (page 48). McDowell makes clear that difficult isn’t the issue at all—it’s contradictions that are the problem. They’re not difficult to understand, only to reconcile. For example, the epistle of James says that salvation is by works but Romans says that it’s by grace. The trick, McDowell tells us, is to find the interpretation that you like in the constellation of competing verses, bring that one forward, and either ignore the others or reinterpret them to be somehow subordinate or supportive of your preferred interpretation. That’s not quite how he puts it, but that’s what he means.

The quest for the “clearer” passage has become a quest for the most pleasing one.

The mere existence of what McDowell euphemistically calls “difficult” passages is an unacknowledged problem. How could verses conflict in a book inspired by a perfect god? If conflicting verses exist, doesn’t that make the Bible look like nothing more than a manmade book? How could God give humanity a book that was at all unclear or ambiguous?

I’m glad he gave a specific example. That means it can be examined and scrutinized. And when it is, guess who comes out looking “stupid”? Yes, you guessed right.

I think Bob is clever and informed enough to know that Catholics and Protestants have wrangled about the relationship of faith to works, and of each to salvation, for 500 years, and so he exploits that to his purposes. It’s a real and important debate, and I have devoted plenty of effort to it as a Catholic apologist, but, the differences are not nearly as great as one might think at first glance, and there is very significant common ground, as I shall show below.

Bob’s claim is that the inspired Bible contradicts itself in this regard, and that’s just not so. He’s not even accurate in how he describes the views of the books of James and Romans. Bob’s bias is so profound that inevitably, he can’t even get simple biblical facts correct (“what does book x teach about y?”). If he wants to wrangle about biblical interpretation, with one experienced in Bible study, he will lose every time, and the present case is definitely no exception to that pattern.

Bob states flat-out: “the epistle of James says that salvation is by works.” But this is simply not so. In the RSV, “works” appears 13 times in the book of James. Here they are, categorized for ease of interpretation:

Faith and Works are Connected and Inseparable

2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?

2:17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

2:18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

2:20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 

2:22-23 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. 

2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 

2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead. 

The following passage also applies, even though the word, “works” isn’t present. The concept is (healing and salvation):

5:15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 

Justification by Works (But Not Works Alone)

2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 

2:25 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? 

Works Simply Mentioned 

3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

What is striking in the above data of “works’ in James , is that it is never stated to be efficacious for salvation by itself (which would be “salvation by works” or the heresy of Pelagianism, which all Christians condemn). In the first category above, we see that works are directly and intimately tied to faith, to such an extent that faith considered by itself without it is indeed “dead” (2:17, 26), “barren” (2:20), and cannot “save” (2:14). The truth of the matter, according to James, is that works are necessary to “show” or exhibit or manifest faith (2:18), and to complete faith (2:22).

James 2:24 (“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone”) seems to be capable of two simultaneous interpretations. It sounds like “justification by works [alone?]” but it can just as plausibly be taken to mean “faith alone is not enough for justification, works are also required”. This interpretation is strongly reinforced by all the other passages in the first category above, that are in the same context and chapter, save for 5:15. Indeed, the “faith + works” connection is asserted two verses before, and two verses after. All non-fiction literature has to be interpreted in context.

Beyond that, justification is not the same as salvation. I delve deeply into the interpretation of James compared to other books, with regard to faith and works, justification, and salvation, in the following papers (suffice it to say here that Bob is way over his head, arguing about this, and in very deep waters with no “life jacket” of reason or hermeneutical ability):

Justification in James: Dialogue [5-8-02]

Justification: Not by Faith Alone, & Ongoing (Romans 4, James 2, and Abraham’s Multiple Justifications) [10-15-11]

“Catholic Justification” in James & Romans [11-18-15]

Reply to James White’s Exegesis of James 2 in Chapter 20 of His Book, The God Who Justifies [10-9-13]

This leaves James 2:21 and 2:25 (second category), which seem at face value to assert at least “justification by works” (but not salvation by works) but they prove nothing. But they do not, because the immediate context in both cases proves that works cannot be isolate by themselves. 2:21 and 2:25 simply mention works only, but that is not contradictory to the other passages. They would be if they used the language of “works alone”: because that would preclude faith. In the cases of both 2:21 and 2:25, the verses immediately before and after both connect works to faith.

It couldn’t be any clearer than it is. But ol’ Bob proceeds like a bull in a china shop, ignorantly claiming that “James says that salvation is by works.” If the above data isn’t enough to disprove this claim, then we can do more word-searching. “Salvation” never appears in the book. “Saved” or “save” does five times:

James 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. [the “word” or the gospel saves]

James 2:14, seen above, states that works and faith save. It logically precludes faith either by works alone or faith alone.

James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor? [God saves; i.e., His grace saves]

James 5:15, seen above, also reiterates that works and faith together save. It’s a prayer, which is a work by another, but it’s a “prayer of faith“: so that faith is also present.

James 5:19-20 My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, [20] let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. [this is salvation by means of the divine grace passed along by evangelistic effort: probably including also prayer, given the immediate preceding context of praying (5:13-18, where prayer is mentioned in every verse).

Conclusion: salvation by works alone, without faith, is never ever taught in the book of James. Bob needs to get his basic facts right, in order to make claims that he thinks will establish biblical contradiction. Even despite his gross ignorance of the Bible, hermeneutics, and Christian theology, he could have done the simple word searches that I just did. It wouldn’t have put him out.

Bob also stated:Romans says that it’s [salvation] by grace.” All of Scripture asserts salvation by God’s grace. All Christians believe that. I’ve written many times about it:

St. Paul on Grace, Faith, & Works (50 Passages) [8-6-08]

Grace Alone: Perfectly Acceptable Catholic Teaching [2-3-09]

Grace, Faith, Works, & Judgment: A Scriptural Exposition [12-16-09; reformulated & abridged on 3-15-17]

Bible on Participation in Our Own Salvation (Always Enabled by God’s Grace) [1-3-10]

Monergism in Initial Justification is Catholic Doctrine [1-7-10]

Grace Alone: Biblical & Catholic Teaching [12-1-15]

Catholics and Protestants Agree on Grace Alone and the Necessity of the Presence of Good Works in Regenerate and Ultimately Saved Persons; Disagree on Faith Alone [5-4-17]

But this doesn’t preclude works (nor, of course, faith in grace). Thus, Romans, like all the other books, mentions salvation or justification by grace, but it also mentions works as non-optional and intimately connected to faith (precisely as James does). In my paper, “Catholic Justification” in James & Romans, I noted:

St. Paul opposes grace and/or faith to works in Scripture, only in a particular sense: the “works” of Jewish ritualism by which the Jews gained their unique identity (e.g., circumcision).

The Apostle Paul doesn’t oppose grace, faith, and works, and in fact, constantly puts them together, in harmony. Here are two typical examples:

1 Corinthians 15:10 (RSV, as throughout) 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.

Grace and works are for Paul, quite hand-in-hand, just as faith and works are. . . . 

St. Paul states:

Romans 3:28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. (cf. 3:20; 3:24: “justified by his grace as a gift”)

But “justified by faith” is different from “justified by faith alone”. The “works of the law” he refers to here are not all works, but things like circumcision. In other words, we are saved apart from Jewish rituals required under Mosaic Law. Paul makes clear that this is what he has in mind, in referencing circumcision in 3:1, asking rhetorically, “Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all” (3:9), multiple references to “the law” (3:19-21, 28, 31), and the following statement:

Romans 3:29-30 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, [30] since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.

Paul is not against all “works” per se; he tied them directly to salvation, after all, in the previous chapter:

Romans 2:6-8 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.(cf. 2:13: “the doers of the law who will be justified”)

Paul uses the example of Abraham in Romans 4, in emphasizing faith, over against the Jewish works of circumcision as a supposed means of faith and justification (hence, he mentions circumcision in 4:9-12, and salvation to the Gentiles as well as Jews in 4:13-18).

Here are other passages in Romans, where Paul connects faith and works and sees no dichotomy between them (“works” portions highlighted in blue):

Romans 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction;

Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 8:13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. 

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Romans 14:23 But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 15:17-18 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 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,

Romans 16:26 but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith —

Thus, we can readily observe that Bob’s description of the teaching in the epistle to the Romans is dead-wrong, too. What a shock!

Earlier, I alluded to Protestant-Catholic differences about justification. Yes, they are real. But they don’t mean that the Bible contradicts itself. I have shown above in great detail that there is no contradiction in this regard. The two sides wholeheartedly agree about the following:

1. Salvation is by ultimately caused by God’s grace alone.

2. Man cooperates with or at least accepts this free grace in order to be saved.

3. Justification is by faith.

4. Good works are absolutely necessary in the Christian life. It’s questionable that someone is or will be saved, or in the state of grace if these works are not evident in their life

Protestants go on to say that justification is by faith alone, which Catholics deny (and it’s a very involved, confusing discussion). Protestants formally separate works from justification, and place them in a separate category of sanctification (while Catholics essentially conflate justification and sanctification). But it’s also good Protestant teaching to assert the absolute necessity of good works in the saved or elect person, as proof of an authentic faith (which basically brings us back to the emphasis of James again):

Catholic-Protestant Common Ground (Esp. Re Good Works) [4-8-08]

Martin Luther: Good Works Prove Authentic Faith [4-16-08]

John Calvin: Good Works Manifest True Saving Faith [9-4-08]

Martin Luther: Strong Elements in His Thinking of Theosis & Sanctification Linked to Justification [11-23-09]

Martin Luther: Faith Alone is Not Lawless Antinomianism [2-28-10]

Moral of the story: don’t trust atheist and anti-theist polemicist and sophist Bob Seidensticker to be any sort of accurate or reliable guide to Bible teaching. Go to someone who has actually studied the Bible and who understands it, and how to interpret it. In case anyone is wondering, I’ve been intensely studying the Bible for 41 years: 37 of them as an apologist, and the last 17 as a full-time Catholic apologist, with strong credentials and 50 published books and hundreds of “officially” published articles.

I know what I’m talking about in this area. Bob doesn’t; and I highly suspect that his profound ignorance (when someone who actually knows the subject matter confronts him) is a prime reason why he hasn’t uttered one peep in reply to my first 21 installments in this series. It’s virtually certain that he will ignore this reply, too. Just watch and see! If he replies, and I’m made aware of it, I’ll note that here, and will counter-reply, since I (very unlike Bob) am quite confident of my views.

If I am proven to be wrong, I change my mind. After all, I was once a Protestant for my first 32 years (I’m now 60), so I have changed my mind in massive ways, in terms of theology (as well as in many other major moral and political issues).

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Photo credit: The Good Samaritan, by Jacopo Bassano (1510-1592) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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June 19, 2018

Good discussion on how “merit” is defined and understood by the Catholic Church. Many misconceptions are cleared up.
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This exchange was originally from the Pontifications blog. Chris Jones’ words will be in green; Nathan’s in blue.
* * * * *

To distinguish is not to separate, and Sola Fide does not separate justification and sanctification. It does distinguish them, precisely in order to clarify that it is the work of Christ that is the sole ground of our salvation – not any of our works, either before or after regeneration. This in turn allows us to afford the works of faith their proper role in sanctification, without allowing those works to be regarded as contributing any merit towards our salvation. This (regarding our works as meritorious towards salvation) is the key error of the Tridentine soteriology.

I have a post (Forensic justification, imputed righteousness, and theosis) on my weblog from a few months ago which expands on this. I invite your comments on it. 

Chris, I did read your post referenced above. You wrote in it:

In the end, it is all one: justification is sanctification is salvation. Salvation is accomplished by His all-sufficient sacrifice, and worked out in our lives with our cooperation with grace, by grace.

But this is the Catholic position (a very eloquent statement of it, I might add), so if you somehow think it is not, then you are laboring under a misconception. The good news is that Catholic soteriology is closer to what you say is the Lutheran position than you supposed. That is, it would be “good news” if you desire more doctrinal unity and better mutual understanding among Christians, as I do. Catholic “merit” would pretty much be the equivalent of “cooperation” above.

You cannot earn your salvation … (because you are justified by faith) … but you must most assuredly work for it (because, being justified, you are to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, doing by grace the works that God has prepared for you to walk in).

This would also be identical with the Catholic position, with one revision: change “faith” into “grace.” “Work out” above would be the equivalent of our “merit.” We are given grace to work: that work is in turn meritorious because of (and ultimately only because of) the grace given to us by God to enable us to do them in the first place. Our view is exactly that of Augustine’s in this regard.

So what is it that you claim we disagree on here besides the usual endlessly-discussed abstract differences (“are works organically connected to salvation or are they merely done in gratefulness to God for an already-received salvation,” etc.) which I personally find boring. I think Lutheran and Catholic soteriology is actually quite close. It is the “faith alone” part that is different and un-patristic.

I think what Chris Burgwald wrote recently in another forum likely applies to a considerable degree to this present discussion:

My doctoral dissertation . . . [was] on justification in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, and found — with plenty of others who have gone before me — that many apparently theological disagreements between traditions boiled down to differing theological languages & thought-forms. In other words, there are instances in which things could have been cleared up simply if each side recognized that the other was using a term or concept in a manner different from their own usage.

Sounds much like the filioque controversy, doesn’t it?

I am arguing that there is a true and fairly significant difference regarding “faith alone” in its abstract sense but there is great commonality between Catholics and Lutherans in terms of sola gratia, non-Pelagianism, the necessity of works in the Christian life (however it is construed), the organic relationship of faith and works, per James, rejection of antinomianism and double predestination, etc. One of the sticking-points seems to be merit, but I believe that the Catholic doctrine is possibly being misunderstood by some, and I would like to see clarification on that, myself.

But this is the Catholic position (a very eloquent statement of it, I might add)

Thank you for your kind words. My intent in the post I linked to was to acquit the Eastern Orthodox of teaching salvation by works; if it acquits the Roman Catholics of it into the bargain, so much the better.

But I must confess that I doubt it. Nothing about Orthodox synergism implies that any of our cooperation with grace makes us deserving of salvation; but the plain sense of canon 32 of Trent, which I cited above, says precisely that. Your simple equation of “merit” and “cooperation” does not do justice to the substance of the points at issue. The Lutheran Confessions (FC SD II.65ff) speak of cooperation in terms similar to the canons of 2d Orange and the (Eastern Orthodox) Confession of Dositheos; but none of these teaches, as Trent does, that this cooperation merits our salvation.

Alright; let’s try this again. What is the difference between (any of) the following statements?:

Chris: “In the end, it is all one: justification is sanctification is salvation. Salvation is accomplished by His all-sufficient sacrifice, and worked out in our lives with our cooperation with grace, by grace.”

Trent: Decree on Justification, Chapter Five: “. . . 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. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.”

Trent: Canon I on Justification: “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.”

2nd Orange, Canon 20: “Man does no good except that which God brings about that man performs.”

2nd Orange, Canon 9: “As often as we do good, God operates in us and with us, so that we may operate.”

St. Augustine: “What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts?” (En. in Ps. 102,7; cited in full agreement by the Catholic Catechism at the beginning of its section on “Merit”: #2005-2006: “in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts”)

Catholic Catechism (#2007): “With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man.”

Catholic Catechism (#2008): “The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.”

Catholic Catechism (#2009): “Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us ‘co-heirs’ with Christ and worthy of obtaining ‘the promised inheritance of eternal life.’ The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. ‘Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.’ [Augustine] ”

Catholic Catechism (#2011): “The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.”

Martin Luther: “We must therefore certainly maintain that where there is no faith there also can be no good works; and conversely, that there is no faith where there are no good works. Therefore faith and good works should be so closely joined together that the essence of the entire Christian life consists in both.” (in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, 246)

Matthew 5:12: “your reward is great in heaven” [when you are persecuted and lied about]

Matthew 19:21: “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven . . .”

Philippians 2:12-13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Now, what is the difference between any of these statements (i.e., the biblical and Lutheran ones over against the supposedly different Catholic ones)? I don’t see any. Perhaps you’ll be so kind as to point out where it is. If you are determined to find Pelagianism under every “Catholic rock,” when in fact is isn’t there, then you’ll “find” it by forcing it into the texts, I suppose, but nevertheless, it still isn’t there. Yet the Lutheran confessions falsely accuse us of it.

It is true, that despite seemingly miniscule differences, if any, here, Lutherans and Catholics find it difficult to totally agree on this. Hence, the Lutheran-Catholic Joint Statement on Justification by Faith (my statement is from a 1985 book, which may be an earlier draft) acknowledges:

Thus the essential intentions behind both the Catholic doctrine of merit ex gratia and the Lutheran doctrine of promise may be compatible, but the two sides have difficulty in finding a common language . . . Lutherans are primarily intent on stressing the saving character of the unconditional promises God addresses to human beings and on preventing Christians from being left to their own resources, whereas the Catholic preoccupation is to make sure that the full range of God’s gifts, even the crowning gift of a merited destiny, is acknowledged. Both concerns reflect aspects of the gospel, but the tension nevertheless remains. (section 112 of “Merit”)

I don’t think it is worth fighting over (yet here I am clarifying how I think there is little difference because I do think it is important to show that there is scarcely any difference here). Catholics are not Pelagians and Lutherans aren’t antinomians. We meet in the sensible middle ground, with some difference in abstract nuance, terminology, and emphasis.

I have been very clear on where I part company with the Roman Catholic Church on this issue: canon 32 of the Tridentine decree on justification. The Catholic position, as I understand it, is that, apart from grace, we are unable to earn our salvation; but grace is given in order that we may be enabled to earn our salvation. When canon 32 says that “the justified, by the good works which he performs … truly merit[s] increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life”, that tells me that grace is given so that we may come to deserve eternal life, on account of the good works that grace enables us to do.

That’s the difference: one view is that we receive eternal life by grace, because we can never deserve it or earn it; the other view is that we receive grace so that we can and do earn, and deserve, eternal life. Canon 32 of Trent teaches the latter view. Orthodoxy does not teach that; 2d Orange does not teach that; and the Lutheran Confessions do not teach that. You may regard that as a “miniscule difference”; I do not. 

If the merit itself is entirely a gift of God and only possible because of God’s grace, and all merit is, is God crowning His own gifts (Augustine, and echoed by the Catechism), then where is the beef? I continue to not see any essential difference.

Your problem is that you are unnecessarily and unbiblically dichotomizing. You insist on isolating man’s merit so that it will appear to be a man’s salvation: the dreaded salvation by works that the Lutheran confessions think they see in Trent and Catholicism, and not a free gift of God. But our theology takes the greatest pains to emphasize that this is not what the teaching means. If you say that Augustine was correct on this, and we specifically agree with him in our explication of merit, then we agree with you! It’s simple logic:

 

1. Chris (A) agrees with St. Augustine’s teaching (B) on merit.

2. The Catholic Church (C) agrees with St. Augustine’s teaching (B) on merit.

3. Therefore, Chris (A) agrees with the Catholic Church (C) with regard to merit.

A = B
B = C
A = C

You want to quibble over the terminology of “deserve” and “earn” and “merit” and “reward” – as if those things are utterly foreign to a biblical worldview as concerns salvation? That won’t fly, because Scripture is clear:

2 Timothy 4:8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that Day . . .

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.

Luke 6:38: give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.

1 Corinthians 3:6-9: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (cf. 2 Cor. 9:6)

1 Corinthians 3:14: If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. (cf. Mk 9:41)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Ephesians 6:8: knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (cf. Matt 16:27)

Colossians 3:23-24: Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.

Hebrews 6:10: For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. (cf. Matt. 20:4)

Hebrews 10:35: Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

James 1:12: Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

2 John 8: Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Revelation 2:10: Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 3:11-12: I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

The notion of merit is also taught by the Church fathers:

 

St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165)

We have learned from the prophets and we hold it as true that punishments and chastisements and good rewards are distributed according to the merit of each man’s actions. Were this not the case, and were all things to happen according to the decree of fate, there would be nothing at all in our power. If fate decrees that this man is to be good and that one wicked, then neither is the former to be praised nor the latter to be blamed. (First Apology 43 [A.D. 154])

St. Theophilus of Antioch (late 2nd cent.)

He who gave the mouth for speech and formed the ears for hearing and made eyes for seeing will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works [Rom. 2:7], he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things, which neither eye has seen nor ear has heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man [1 Cor. 2:9]. For the unbelievers and the contemptuous and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity . . . there will be wrath and indignation [Rom. 2:8]. (To Autolycus 1:14 [181])

St. Irenaeus (d.c. 202)

[Paul], an able wrestler, urges us on in the struggle for immortality, so that we may receive a crown and so that we may regard as a precious crown that which we acquire by our own struggle and which does not grow upon us spontaneously. . . . Those things which come to us spontaneously are not loved as much as those which are obtained by anxious care. (Against Heresies 4:37:7 [196])

St. Cyprian

[Y]ou who are a matron rich and wealthy, anoint not your eyes with the antimony of the devil, but with the collyrium of Christ, so that you may at last come to see God, when you have merited before God both by your works and by your manner of living. (Works and Almsgivings 14 [253])

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The root of every good work is the hope of the resurrection, for the expectation of a reward nerves the soul to good work. Every laborer is prepared to endure the toils if he looks forward to the reward of these toils. (Catechetical Lectures 18:1 [350])

St. Jerome

It is our task, according to our different virtues, to prepare for ourselves different rewards. . . . If we were all going to be equal in heaven it would be useless for us to humble ourselves here in order to have a greater place there. . . . Why should virgins persevere? Why should widows toil? Why should married women be content? Let us all sin, and after we repent we shall be the same as the apostles are! (Against Jovinian 2:32 [393])

St. Augustine

He bestowed forgiveness; the crown he will pay out. Of forgiveness he is the donor; of the crown, he is the debtor. Why debtor? Did he receive something? . . . The Lord made himself a debtor not by receiving something but by promising something. One does not say to him, “Pay for what you received,” but “Pay what you promised”. (Explanations of the Psalms 83:16 [405])

We are commanded to live righteously, and the reward is set before us of our meriting to live happily in eternity. But who is able to live righteously and do good works unless he has been justified by faith? (Various Questions to Simplician 1:2:21 [396])

What merits of his own has the saved to boast of when, if he were dealt with according to his merits, he would be nothing if not damned? Have the just then no merits at all? Of course they do, for they are the just. But they had no merits by which they were made just. (Letters 194:3:6 [418])

What merit, then, does a man have before grace, by which he might receive grace, when our every good merit is produced in us only by grace and when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but his own gifts to us? (Ibid., 194:5:19)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine

Indeed, a man who has been justified, that is, who from impious has been made pious, since he had no antecedent good merit, receives a gift, by which gift he may also acquire merit. Thus, what was begun in him by Christ’s grace can also be augmented by the industry of his free choice, but never in the absence of God’s help, without which no one is able either to progress or to continue in doing good. (Responses on Behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by his Calumniators in Gaul 6 [431-432])

Second Council of Orange

[G]race is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed, but grace, which is not due, precedes, that they may be done. (Canons on Grace 19 [529])

Your problem, then, is not only with the Catholic Church, but also with the Bible and with the Church fathers. You disagree? Then I would be very curious to see how you would interpret the above Scripture and patristic citations.

Hello. I am just getting caught up in this discussion. I like how much everyone around here thinks so much.

No doubt, too much for our own good. LOL

I think I understand these issues and perspectives pretty well and am looking to, as you say, really get a handle on the practical differences. Let me put forward what I think is the ultimate biggee, and which is the actual root of the whole faith vs “faith and good works” debate: present assurance that one is in a state of grace.

Now that is a good way to put it: saying “assurance that one is in a state of grace” rather than “assurance that one has achieved eschatological salvation.” On this we can all agree.

I realize that this is introducing what may seem to be a new topic here, but I doubt this is the case – I think everything in the Christian life really comes down to this.

. . . I submit the primary difference is that, for Luther, truly good works before God can only come about when a person is certain that in Christ he already has full salvation and is merely working it out.

How can one “have” something yet still be working it out? If they have it, it makes no sense to keep working on obtaining it. And if they are working to obtain it, obviously they don’t have it yet. If you’re courting a woman in the hopes of winning her over, you don’t have her yet, do you?! But if you “have” her (ring, wedding date, etc.), then you’re not still courting; you are now planning. You’re no longer “dating to figure out”; rather, you are “figuring out a date.” :-) So the statement above is incoherent. Insofar as it truly represents Lutheran or Reformed thought, they are incoherent, too.

In other words, this person has absolute confidence that because of the completed work of Christ on the cross, if they were to drop dead at that very moment, they would die in a state of grace – ie, they would at the very least make it to purgatory, which of course means that they would eventually make it to heaven. Only when a person has a trust or confidence in Christ in this way does He perform any work that is pleasing to God.

This is a relatively better way to put it, because you are talking about “right now” rather than in the remote future. We simply don’t know the future, but we can have a significant assurance in the present, and this is where Lutheranism and Catholicism converge — again in a practical sense. There will always be differences in abstraction surrounding these issues. People want to argue endlessly over those, whereas I am much more concerned about practical implications for living the Christian life and faithfully serving Jesus.

Secondly, though Luther is wrong to say that no work can be good at all unless a person is “saved,” etc., it is a true that any good that can come from a work must be because the performer is in a state of grace. This is Catholic teaching, too. Hence, Matthias Premm, in his Dogmatic Theology for the Laity (New York: Society of St. Paul / Alba House, 1967; reprinted by TAN Books and Publishers, 1977, 263-264):

 

By sanctifying grace we are children of God. Only by sanctifying grace do we have a right to heaven as our heritage. By purely natural good acts, such as even the sinner can perform, heaven cannot be merited as a reward; we must be in the state of grace, a child of God. Only after human nature has been united to God by grace and raised above its own nature can good acts, which proceed from this supernaturally elevated nature, be directed towards the possession of God in the hereafter. Only in this way can we merit the vision of God in heaven, since it completely surpasses the powers of our pure human nature.

By sanctifying grace we become living members of the mystical body of Christ, one with Christ our Head. Thus our acts become acts of Christ, who, in an incomprehensible way, is living and working in his members. Through this intimate union with Christ, our Mediator before the father, we merit the happiness of heaven.

[this also ties into theosis, which I have written about: Theosis and the Exalted Virgin Mary]

Finally, sanctifying grace makes us temples of the Holy Spirit, who compels us to good works (Rom 8:14). St. Francis de Sales writes that the Holy Spirit performs good works in us with such consummate skill that the works belong more to him than to us. He works with us and we work with him . . .

For our works to be meritorious, it is not enough that they proceed from the state of grace; they must also be done with a good intention . . . good works must proceed from faith and love, and must be directed to the honor and glory of God . . . (1 Cor 10:31).

To clarify further: our works, which God has given to us to do in Christ in His grace, only merit imperishable heavenly rewards, not heaven (ie, the relationship with God – knowing God – see John 17:3) itself.

In the sense that we are saved by grace through the cross, absolutely. As I have argued, merit is only comprehensible if it is understood to be itself a gift of God’s grace: God crowning His own grace.

So Chris in #74 is right on with his comments: “that tells me that grace is given so that we may come to deserve eternal life, on account of the good works that grace enables us to do.” (note its “eternal life” that he’s talking about). I also note that all of the Biblical and Patristic citations you note, only talk of rewards, but not eternal life (ie, the relationship with God itself, certain now and after death of course). Interesting…

I still await Chris’s reply to my many biblical citations and patristic evidences. But in any event: first of all, your generalization is simply not true. It’s not possible to make a complete dichotomy between works and the rewards of heaven itself and of differential rewards in heaven. This must always be understood in the above sense, as elaborated upon by Premm (and as St. Augustine taught): works as the fruit of grace and good intentions: simultaneously God’s and our own works.

In the passages I cited, one notes that there is scarcely a word about faith alone, assurance, and other Lutheran/Protestant distinctives. That’s all you want to talk about as regards salvation, yet the Bible approaches the subject very differently. It is almost always tying works in somehow with salvation.

To drive the point home, I see it is time to again make a Revised Protestant Version of the Bible (RPV), to illustrate how St. Paul and other biblical writers got it wrong, and should have taken a crash course at a RPC or LCMS or Southern Baptist seminary, so that he would know how to present salvation in the appropriate terms. So how should the above passages read if Protestants are right on this matter?:

2 Timothy 4:8 (RPV): I have striven to achieve faith alone, I have finished the race of gratefulness for faith alone, I have kept to the dogma of faith alone. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that Day . . .

Matthew 19:29 (RPV): And every one who has believed in faith alone and absolute assurance of salvation, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.

Luke 6:38 (RPV): believe, and salvation will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the faith you believe will be the salvation you get back.

1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (RPV): I believed, Apollos had faith, but God gave the salvation. So neither he who believes nor he who preaches the gospel is anything, but only God who gives salvation. He who believes and he who has faith are equal, and each shall receive salvation according to his acceptance of faith alone. For we are not God’s fellow workers; you are a snow-covered dunghill. (cf. 2 Cor. 9:6)

1 Corinthians 3:14 (RPV): If the faith which any man has believed on the foundation survives, he will receive salvation. (cf. Mk 9:41)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (RPV): Do you not know that in life all men compete, but only the one who exercises faith alone receives salvation? So believe that you may obtain it. Every good Protestant exercises faith in faith and faith in absolute assurance of salvation. They do it to receive salvation. Well, I do not believe aimlessly, I do not believe as one beating the air; but I work only out of gratefulness to God for salvation already obtained, lest after failing to exercise faith alone I myself should be damned.

Ephesians 6:8 (RPV): knowing that however much faith alone one musters up, he will receive salvation from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (cf. Matt 16:27)

Colossians 3:23-24 (RPV): Whatever your denomination, believe heartily, as believing in the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.

Hebrews 6:10 (RPV): For God is not so unjust as to overlook your faith and the love which you showed for his sake in believing in him, as you still do. (cf. Matt. 20:4)

Hebrews 10:35 (RPV): Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which proves you are saved.

Hebrews 11:6 (RPV): And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and have absoloute assurance that he is saved.

James 1:12 (RPV): Blessed is the man who strongly believes with faith alone, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

2 John 8 (RPV): Look to God, because you cannot lose what you have believed in, and must win salvation.

Revelation 2:10 (RSV): Believe with faith alone unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 3:11-12 (RPV): I am coming soon; hold fast to your faith, so that no one may seize your assurance. He who believes in faith strongly enough, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

Moreover, it is also true that in every passage I could find which discussed judgment at the end of time, works were discussed and regarded as the criteria for entrance into eternal life, not faith at all. Surely this must be significant. This is how God (not the Council of Trent) chose to present the matter. See: Final Judgment & Works (Not Faith): 50 Passages.

Not to get off topic at all here though – I want to talk about and rivet on assurance. From what I’ve read and from my email conversations with Catholics, this is the huge elephant in the room. Dave, can you tell me what your view of assurance of salvation looks like?

. . . my question is – and I think its somewhat connected to your thoughts in this quote above and probably essentially at issue in the justification-works debate – how do you, as someone who is serious about Catholic teaching, understand the issue of assurance of salvation?

As I noted above, practically speaking, Lutherans and Catholics have substantial agreement (the greater difference is between either of us and Calvinists, with their double predestination). I feel no less “confident” of my ultimate salvation than I did as a Protestant, when I believed (much like the Baptist eternal security position) that nothing could take my salvation away except a literal rejection and trampling upon Christ.

The Catholic believes that he has a “moral assurance” by examining his conscience and life to determine whether he is in mortal sin or not. If he is not, he has every bit as much of an assurance at that moment of heaven as any Protestant, no matter what the Protestant claims.

If we are in good graces with God right now, then we can be confident that if we die right now, we will be saved (though we probably will have to endure purgatory before we get to heaven). We can’t know the future. We can’t know for sure whether we will fall away from this faith in Jesus and belief in Him. We are constantly warned in Scripture to be vigilant against falling away, which doesn’t jive with “absolute assurance”:

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I would argue that this Catholic approach is precisely that of the Apostle Paul. I cited my friend Al Kresta in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (p. 41):

 

Unlike the modern evangelical Protestant revivalistic preaching tradition, the Apostle Paul was not preoccupied with his acceptance as a sinner before a holy and righteous God. That was Luther’s crisis. Protestants have tended to read Paul through the lens of Luther’s experience.

1. . . . Luther said he feared God but clung to the Apostle Paul. All the constitutive elements of the classic Luther-type experience, however, are missing in both the experience and the thought of the Apostle.

Unlike Luther, Paul was not preoccupied with his guilt, seeking reassurance of a gracious God. He was rather robust of conscience, even given to boasting, untroubled about whether God was gracious or not (Philippians 3:4 ff.; 2 Corinthians 10, 11). He knew God was gracious. He never pleads either with Jews or Gentiles to feel an anguished conscience and then receive release from that anguish in a message of forgiveness . . . Paul’s burden is not to “bring people under conviction of sin” as in revival services. Forgiveness is simply a matter of fact.

When Paul speaks of himself as a serious sinner, it is . . . very specifically because . . . he had persecuted the church and missed God’s new move – opening the covenant community to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 15:9-10; Ephesians 3:8; Galatians 1:13-16; 1 Timothy 1:13-15).

What is now set right in his life is not that he is no longer trying to work his way to heaven, abandons self-exertion and now trusts Christ; it is rather that he now sees that God has inexplicably chosen him to reveal this new and more inclusive covenant community made up of Jew and Gentile . . . (Ephesians 2:11-3:6).

2. Paul’s arguments against works of the law are not fundamentally arguments against human participation in or human cooperation with the saving purposes of God but arguments against Judaistic pride that sought to define membership in the covenant community by reference to Jewish marks of identity, such as circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, etc. and not fundamentally faith in Jesus as Messiah . . .

Again, this, I think – is really all about assurance. Dave — I have listened to you (Catholic Answers) and read some of your stuff — it would be an honor to speak with you and get your expertise here. I’ve done a little research on the topic and had many conversations on it — but I really would love to get your take on it.

Well, you’re too kind. Hope my thoughts have been helpful to you, in order to work through the issues and rightly understand where we agree and disagree.

 

I still await Chris’s reply to my many biblical citations and patristic evidences.

And I still await your explanation why, if the Lutheran view of justification is now acknowledged to be identical to the Roman Catholic view, Dr Luther was excommunicated.

[I gave 50 reasons why Luther was excommunicated. As of five days after that was posted, not a peep has been heard in reply from Chris]

I haven’t the time to reply in detail to your biblical and patristic catena. You seem to have more time than I to produce voluminous and detailed comments. I’ll just make a few general remarks.

First of all, there is no “Protestant view”, nor is there a “Lutheran/Protestant” view. To the extent that such a thing as “generic Protestantism” could be identified and meaningfully spoken of, its essence is Reformed, not Lutheran. Your discussion of these matters does not seem to be based on an understanding of the differences between Lutheranism on the one hand, and the Reformed and their intellectual and theological heirs on the other.

I am a synergist; I recognize an appropriate role for human cooperation with grace in the economy of salvation. (There are some of my fellow Lutherans who take me to task for this; they are not as familiar with the Formula of Concord as they ought to be.) I believe that grace is absolutely necessary (against Pelagianism), and that it is both logically and temporally primary (against semi-Pelagianism). I recognize that the Catholic Church agrees with me about these things. This is the position that your Biblical and patristic catena establishes, and I agree with it.

But St Paul makes a distinction in 1 Co 3 between the foundation and what we build on it. That corresponds to the distinction (not separation) which we Lutherans make between justification and sanctification. When I deny that a man may, even by grace, come to “deserve” eternal life, I am saying that our works form no part of the “foundation” which St Paul talks about in 1 Co 3.10-11 (For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ). I do not see canon 32 of Trent as consistent with this.

I acknowledge that both Scripture and Fathers are rife with the language of “reward”. But what is that reward, which is said to follow from our works? Is it the forgiveness of sins? Is it eternal life? If those are now to be dependent on our works, what has become of grace? The ground of our forgiveness and of our eternal life is the work of Christ alone; and none of the Scripture, and none of the Fathers, that you have quoted says otherwise. But canon 32 of Trent does. 

Eric Phillips (like Chris Jones, a Lutheran) added:

If every merit a just man has is implanted in him by the grace of God, for Christ’s sake, then it is alien merit. He does not “truly merit” eternal life; Christ does, on his behalf. What is more, if the weakest brother and the greatest saint both get to heaven, though separated greatly in terms of their good works, it is clear that so far as the question of heaven is concerned (leaving to the side the fact attested to in most of your quotations, that reward in heaven will be greater for some than for others), the question of merit is purely binary: either one has been joined to Christ, or one has not. And this is why we confess sola fide, and see it as bound up inextricably with sola gratia.

We’ll have to agree to disagree. I continue to believe that we are closer on this than you make out, and I think that is a good thing (if true, as I believe it is). I don’t see the point in continuing to try to find differences where there really are none, or where they are insignificant except for “how many angels on a pin?” abstractions which make little difference in the Christian life. We can all unite on the following propositions:

1. We are saved by grace through faith.
2. Semi-Pelagianism is false.
3. We are not saved by works; we cannot save ourselves.
4. Good works are a necessary component in the Christian life, as we serve God and love our fellow man.
5. Sanctification is a necessary part of the Christian life.
6. Antinomianism and “cheap grace” are false.
7. We are “co-laborers” with God and must “work out our own salvation.”
8. Faith without works is dead.

Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants agree on all these things. We can quibble about merit and penance and faith alone and predestination and the nature of justification and apostasy and theosis and Methodist and pentecostal perfectionism, the spiritual gifts, and all the rest of the endless disputes all we like, but if we unite on these tenets, then there isn’t a bit of difference in our day-to-day Christian walk with Jesus, in the Spirit, united to God the Father in baptism, with God indwelling us, that all the other fine-tuned discussions make.

Go be a good Lutheran and I’ll try to be a good Catholic, and we can fully agree (I think) on the eight propositions above and rejoice in this agreement. I will continue to work for as much unity among Christians as I can find (even if not identical beliefs in some areas), and also point out differences (defending Catholicism, of course) where we disagree in good faith and all sincerity. I do both things: always have; always will.

***

(originally 4-2-06)

Photo credit: image of blue ribbon by Clker-Free-Vector-Images  (7-21-14) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons license]

***

February 1, 2018

Constructive, amiable Protestant-Catholic discussion on many key aspects of salvation.

[see the original, somewhat longer Facebook exchanges, with a few more helpful participants, too]

*****

This dialogue was kicked off when I cited Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman on the difference between Protestant and Catholic doctrines of original sin:

Catholics hold that Original sin is mainly an external evil, Protestants an internal. According to us, it is not propagated in the way of cause and effect, but by an act of the will of God, exerted and carried out on each child, as it is conceived. I repeat, this is not de fide, but it is what I conceive theologians teach. (Letters & Diaries, v. 19; To Arthur Osborne Alleyne, 15 June 1860)

Our doctrine of original sin is not that of Protestants. We do not hold infection of nature – but we place original sin in the absence of supernatural grace. (Ibid., v. 19; To William Wilberforce, 9 Dec. 1860)

Bethany Kerr is a very friendly and knowledgeable Protestant with whom I have enjoyed several constructive dialogues. Her words will be in blue.

*****

Can you explain what exactly what original sin is if not internal?

Big topic, so I’ll refer you to this good source: “Original Sin” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Obviously I haven’t had time to give the article a thorough read, but from the skimming I have done, I don’t see any clear explanation of what original sin actually is. There are lots of philosophical ideas surrounding the concept of original sin, and a lot of arguments against what it is not, but I don’t see clear explanation as to what original sin is, according to Catholic doctrine. Can you help me understand, in a simplified way perhaps, what you personally believe original sin is?

Here is a more concise definition:

Either the sin committed by Adam as the head of the human race, or the sin he passed onto his posterity with which every human being, with the certain exception of Christ and his Mother, is conceived and born. The sin of Adam is called originating original sin (originale originans); that of his descendants is originated original sin (originale originatum). Adam’s sin was personal and grave, and it affected human nature. It was personal because he freely committed it; it was grave because God imposed a serious obligation; and it affected the whole human race by depriving his progeny of the supernatural life and preternatural gifts they would have possessed on entering the world had Adam not sinned. Original sin in his descendants is personal only in the sense that the children of Adam are each personally affected, but not personal as though they had voluntarily chosen to commit the sin; it is grave in the sense that it debars a person from the beatific vision, but not grave in condemning one to hell; and it is natural only in that all human nature, except for divine intervention, has it and can have it removed only by supernatural means. (Catholic Dictionary, from Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J.; hosted at Catholic Culture)

The simplest way to put it is that many Protestants believe that original sin results in a fallen nature, whereas Catholics think it is more of a deprivation than a positive and profound evil.

So would I be correct in understanding that you believe it is a deprivation of the original good nature of Adam at creation?

No, Bethany. You are still talking about natures. It is the deprivation “of the supernatural life and preternatural gifts they would have possessed on entering the world had Adam not sinned,” as Fr. Hardon stated in the linked short definition above.

To not possess something (supernatural life and preternatural gifts) is different from possessing a bad thing (an “evil nature”). That’s why the Calvinists developed total depravity from the latter notion, whereas even most Protestants (like myself, formerly), and Orthodox and Catholics reject that.

Okay thanks, I did say nature again, didn’t I? 

Why do you believe Paul speaks of the old and new natures throughout his epistles? He speaks about the old and new man, which struggle against each other in the body. From your understanding, what does that mean. Or “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. All old things are passed away , all things have become new”. Or the passage which speaks of God taking our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh?  (All those questions are really one question.)

And my three replies are really one reply.  I think he is talking about regeneration and/or infused justification and/or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Catholics, too, believe that men still need all those things to be saved and made whole.

Do you believe we are given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of salvation?

No; He is given to us to help us procure the salvation that we must persevere in obtaining, always and necessarily by means of His grace and power, but with our free will cooperation.

Can you bear with me and please explain how you reconcile that belief with Ephesians 1:13 -14 which says: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guaranteed of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

I predicted in my head that you would cite that verse. :-)

I have more! :-) But I figure you’re aware of their existence. Obviously you’ve read the Scripture. But what you’re saying doesn’t work with the Scripture I’m reading.

I have more, too: entire books of it. The same Paul warns several times that we may fall from His grace; nothing is guaranteed. We must interpret Ephesians 1 in harmony with many other of his related statements:

1 Corinthians 9:27 (RSV) but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Galatians 4:8-9 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Galatians 5:1, 4 . . . stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Philippians 3:11-14 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own . . . I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:21-23 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, . . .

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.

1 Timothy 5:15 For some have already strayed after Satan.

2 Timothy 2:12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;

And there are many more similar non-Pauline passages . . .

Remember, Jesus said He could remove folks’ names from the Book of Life:

Revelation 3:5 He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

Where does Revelation 3:5 say that anyone’s name will be blotted from the book of life?

If Jesus talks about “not” doing something, it’s strongly implied that the thing is possible.

Revelation 17:8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.

“If you do X, I will not . . . ” Therefore, it seems to follow that “If you do not do x, I will . . . ”

No, it doesn’t always follow.  Look at Rev 17:8. “whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world.” When Jesus tells those who are not His to depart from him, he says “I never knew you”. He does not say, “I am saddened to say that you departed from me”.

Yes; well, God knows everything, so it’s true that such passages are anthropomorphic. From our perspective, we don’t know who is finally in the elect (even John Calvin agrees with that) or who will fall away from faith.

But that is part of my argument. We cannot know for sure what the future will bring; therefore, we can’t be absolutely*sure of final salvation. We can only examine ourselves and make sure that we are not involved in serious sin that separates us from God, and attain a “moral certainty or assurance.”

What we know for sure is that whomever God deems to be elect is elect. We just can’t know for sure who is in that category, because we’re not omniscient like God and don’t know the future. Our concern is to follow His will and do what He says.

We cannot be sure of other people’s election, but the scripture tells us to make our calling and election sure. We can know that we are elect because the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are heirs of eternal life.  What is the will of God? To believe on Him who he has sent.

If we “know” it why do we have to strive to make it “sure”? We can know we are in God’s graces and that if we continue in those, we will be saved in the end and go to heaven. To believe in God also means to obey Him.

Well, of course. You’re obeying him by believing. What did the people who were bitten by snakes in Exodus doing in order to be saved from death? They simply looked in faith at the snake on the cross. That symbolized Jesus, who took our sin (the snake represented this) upon himself. And those who “look” on him receive life instead of death.

And faith produces works. Faith is a verb. If it is the gift of God, and God causes the faith in us, he also causes the result of faith, which is our works. We are told to examine ourselves, whether we are really in the faith. We should study and see whether our actions and thoughts line up with what the scripture teaches will be the fruit of salvation.

There is a large sense in which all these arguments are futile. All Christians agree that we must do God’s will and obey Him; we must walk with Him day-by-day and seek righteousness. Good works must be present in the Christian life. We all agree that those who are saved, are saved by God’s grace and mercy and free gift of salvation, through the atoning work of our Lord Jesus on the cross. So we do those things, and all will be well. Why argue about whether we are certain or not, and who is in and out, etc.?

Your last comment shows the essential agreement. So why argue about the elect and predestination and all that?

Because Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Hebrew Roots, Islam, etc all make the same mistake- they base at least part of their salvation on what they do. The Christian believes that you do because you believe.

What you described there is what Catholics call the “examination of conscience.”

God has given us faith, which causes our works. What are they examining when they examine their conscience? Are they examining whether they are worthy, or whether God has changed them?
*
We don’t believe in works-salvation. That is the heresy of Pelagianism, which we condemned 1500 years ago. This is your mistake. We believe in salvation by grace, and that faith without works is dead; that works cannot be separated from faith and grace.
*
Are you saved through faith? Does God give you the faith?
*
We are examining whether we are doing God’s will or engaged in serious sin that will separate us from God.
*
If God gives you faith, which produces works, how can you be stronger than God and not have works with that faith? How can you resist what he puts within you? True saving faith always produces works in the believer. But a Catholic believes that you can receive faith but not act in accordance with that faith.
*
We can resist because God gave us free will. Irresistible grace is a falsehood, as I show at length in one of my books. We’re saved by God’s grace, through faith. God enables all grace and faith. There is no difference here. But many Protestants wrongly think there is.
*
Dave, does faith necessarily produce works?
*
Real faith does. But we can rebel and lose faith and grace. My concern now is to show you that Catholics reject works-salvation. Here is the Council of Trent on Justification:
CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-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.

The Calvinist agrees with Canons I-III. The disagreement comes with Canon IV, because of their “either/or” thinking and denial of free will:
CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.
This is what we believe: that we cooperate with God’s free grace and can also reject it.
*
Catholics believe in a synergistic cooperative justification…Christians like me believe that justification is an act of God only,- monergism.
*
Exactly. This is the heart of our disagreement. If you deny that we believe we are “saved by works” then you have not misrepresented us (as Calvin and Luther both habitually do).
*
The Catholic church indeed teaches that by your own merits, which are not just the merits of Jesus Christ, but your own, can merit an increase of grace, and eternal life (as long as you don’t lose your state of grace).
*
Correct. But all that goes back to God’s grace, as to cause. Hence, Augustine said that merit was merely God “crowning His own gifts.” Understood in this way, it remains salvation by grace alone. We merely cooperate with God. We’re not programmed robots.
*
The bottom line is that Catholics believe in “both/and” thinking. I believe this is demonstrably biblical, as pertains to salvation and justification.
You believe in “either/or” thinking: God must do all; we can do nothing. We are not able to resist His will. Calvinism is a self-consistent system, but based on false premises. I show how these premises are biblically false in my book, Biblical Catholic Salvation. It has 115 pages (seven chapters) devoted specifically to a critique of Calvinism and all five of the beliefs of “TULIP”.

***

What does the Ephesians 1 verse mean, in your opinion?

That we are sealed with and in the Holy Spirit for salvation, as long as we “continue in the faith” (Col 1:23) and “stand fast” (Gal 5:1); and don’t become “disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27), “fall” (1 Cor 10:12), “turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits” (Gal 4:9), become “severed from Christ” (Gal 5:4), “depart from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1), “stray after Satan” (1 Tim 5:15), or “deny him” (2 Tim 2:12).

Dave, in biblical times, whenever the word seal is used, can it be revoked? Once a king sealed something, could it ever be unsealed?

Why do you believe that Paul is referring to salvation when he refers to being disqualified from the prize of the upward call in Christ? First of all, that would be saying that heaven is our reward for good works- as a “prize” is a reward. That would show that as a catholic you do in fact believe in works salvation. 

Secondly, how do you reconcile this with Paul’s claim that to die is to be with the Lord? Or his claims of his inheritance waiting for him in heaven? How could he both have assurance of these things, but also lack assurance of these things?

We have a moral assurance, insofar as we examine ourselves and are not involved in mortal sin: sins that the Bible states will bar us from salvation and heaven. I gave a link to a long paper of mine about that, above.

We lack assurance insofar as we don’t absolutely know the future. The classic observation of the error of Calvinism or eternal security is when a Calvinist falls into serious sin, Calvinists say, “he never was saved.” They don’t know that. It’s circular reasoning. Since the Bible speaks repeatedly of apostasy, it’s much more reasonable to assert that the person was in God’s grace and fell away after rejecting it.

John 6, which I know as a Catholic, you are very familiar with, gives assurance that I do not believe Catholics take literally-

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

1. His father gave Him certain who would come to him. 
2. Of those that would come to Him, He would lose none of them.
3. He will raise those the father has given him on the last day. 
4. Whoever believes in Him will never be cast out. 

5. These people will be raised on the last day. 
6. Whoever looks on the Son and believes in Him possesses eternal life and will be raised on the last day. No conditions mentioned outside of looking and believing (eating flesh and drinking blood). 

Do you believe that since you have eaten His flesh and drank his blood, that you have eternal life, that he will raise you on the last day, and that he will never cast you out or lose you?

From: Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Perseverance of the Saints Part 12: Examining Passages Commonly Appealed to by the Advocates of Unconditional Eternal Security”

Eph.1:13, 14; 4:30

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory….Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Much has been made of the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit by defenders of unconditional eternal security. The “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is clearly conditional since we can “grieve”, and eventually “insult” the Sprit of Grace, which constitutes total apostasy without remedy (Eph. 4:30, and Heb. 10:29). The Holy Spirit is received by faith (Gal. 3:2, 14) and can only seal us as we remain in Christ through faith. We are, in fact, sealed in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, as a direct result of faith (Eph. 1:13). The sealing of the Holy Spirit presupposes the possession of the Holy Spirit, and only believers can possess the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). He is therefore the guarantee of an inheritance for believers and not unbelievers.

There may be a parallel with circumcision which was also a “seal” for those under the old covenant (Rom. 4:11). We know that that seal was broken and guaranteed nothing when those who were circumcised broke the covenant and were cut off from the people of God (Rom. 2:25). The seal was conditioned on continued faith and obedience (2:26-29). The Holy Spirit marks us as children of the new covenant through faith in Christ, but if we abandon the faith then the Spirit of God no longer remains in us and we are no longer sealed in Christ (partakers of the covenant blessings that are found in Him alone- Eph. 1:3, 7, 10,11). Only those that continue in obedient faith remain sealed (Acts 5:32, Jn. 14:15-17; Rom. 8:5, 6, 9).

Notice that the sealing of the Holy Spirit is coupled with a warning not to “grieve” Him in Ephesians 4:30. This would seem to indicate that there is danger in grieving the Spirit who seals us and the reference to sealing may be for the primary purpose of reminding the Ephesians that to grieve the Spirit is to grieve the one who unites us to Christ. This makes the warning far more emphatic and cautions the believer to watch how he lives lest the sins which grieve Him lead to unbelief through which the seal is broken and the Spirit is finally “insulted.” The sealing of the Holy Spirit, therefore, applies only as long as we do not “grieve” (Eph. 4:30), and finally “insult” (Heb. 10:29) the “Spirit of Grace” through continued disobedience, culminating in outright apostasy.

There is no Biblical reason to see the sealing of the Holy Spirit as unconditional or irrevocable, while there are plenty of reasons to see it as conditioned on continued faith. Indeed, warnings against apostasy alone imply the conditionality of the seal.

***

Philippians 3:11-14 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own . . . I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Navarre Bible Commentary:

10–12. The calling to holiness which every Christian receives is not a reward for personal merit: it comes from God’s initiative; God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Tim 2:4), that is, to know God himself. The Apostle bears witness to this when he says that “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” However, he also says that, in order to grow in knowledge of Christ and enjoy God in heaven, one needs to strive to share in Christ’s sufferings. “The Christian is certainly bound both by need and by duty to struggle with evil through many afflictions and to suffer death; but, as one who has been made a partner in the paschal mystery and has been configured to the death of Christ, he will go forward, strengthened by hope, to the resurrection” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 22). This struggle, which sometimes calls for heroism, is usually pitched in the incidents of one’s ordinary day. Heroism in the everyday battle proves the sincerity of our love and is a sure way to holiness.

“Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and man’s response. As one of the early Christian writers says, referring to union with God, ‘Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big’ (St. Mark the Hermit, De lege spirituali, 172). So I say to you, if you want to become a thorough-going Christian — and I know you do, even though you often find it difficult to conquer yourself or to keep climbing upwards with this poor body — then you will have to be very attentive to the minutest of details, for the holiness that our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of ordinary little things” (J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 7).

“That if possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead”: St. Paul is referring here to the glorious resurrection of the just, whom the power of the risen Christ will rescue from the domain of death. At the second coming of the Lord, both the souls of the blessed in heaven and the souls of those who are still in purgatory undergoing the temporal punishment due to sins they committed will be re-united with their now glorified bodies. The reprobate will also rise, but their destiny is to suffer for ever the pains of hell in body and soul (cf. Second Council of Lyons, Profession of faith of Michael Paleologue).

Man’s supernatural last end consists in knowing God as he is and enjoying him in heaven. When he attains this, man finds complete fulfilment. His life on earth has been a route leading to this perfection, a perfection which can only be fully attained by resurrection in glory. The Apostle recognizes that he needs the help of grace to be “perfect” (that is, faithful unto death) and thereby attain the prize promised by God: perseverance right to the end is not entirely a function of the merit a person has built up; it is a gift from God (cf. De iustificatione, chap. 13). However, God does not dispense man from generously responding to grace in order to attain holiness. As St. Teresa of Avila says. “It matters a great deal, it is essential […], that one have very great, very determined, resolution not to halt until one attains it, come what may, whatever happens, however much one suffers, however much people may gossip, whether I get there or not, even if I die on the way or am not able to face all the effort involved, even if the world collapses around me” (Way of Perfection, 35, 2).

12–14. Growth in holiness always demands an effort. St. Paul here uses a vivid comparison — races in the stadium. He describes ascetical struggle in terms of enjoyable supernatural sport. Realizing that he has not reached perfection, he strains to win: Christ already made him his own (cf. v. 12) by entering his life on the Damascus road; from that moment onwards he has striven single-mindedly to serve God.

Our Lord helps everyone to discover his or her particular supernatural vocation. In response to that calling a person should seek to serve God in such a way that “everything good he does, interiorly or externally, he does for the glory and pleasure of God, like a loyal slave who gives everything he gets to his master. Moreover,” St. John of Avila goes on, “even though he has worked as a servant for many years past, he is not easy-going or careless […]. He always has that ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’ (Mt 5:6): he puts little weight on everything he has done, thinking of how much he has received and how much is due to the Lord he serves” (Audi, filia, 92).

In making one’s way towards perfection it is important to be always trying to advance spiritually. “What does walking mean?,” St. Augustine asked himself; “I shall answer very briefly: it means going forward […]. Examine yourself. You should always be unhappy with what you are, if you want to attain what you are not yet. For when you were content with yourself, you stayed where you were, because if you say ‘Enough’, you are finished that very minute. Always grow, always walk on, always advance; do not stop on the way, do not tum back, do not go off course. One who does not advance is standing still; one who returns to the things he already abandoned is going backwards; one who goes off course commits apostasy. It is better to hobble along the road than run on any other route” (Sermon 169, 15, 18).

 

As for the relationship of the Eucharist to salvation, this is from my book on the Eucharist (section: “Presbyterian Theologians Charles Hodge’s Objection: Is the Catholic Eucharist Absolutely Necessary for Salvation?”):

Charles Hodge writes,

Romanists teach that spiritual life is as necessary to the experience of the benefits of the sacrament, as natural life is to the body’s being nourished by food [Catechismus Romanus, II. iv. 40]. They further teach that baptism, which precedes the eucharist, conveys all the saving benefits of Christ’s redemption; they therefore cannot make the eucharist essential, and consequently they cannot, without contradicting Christ or themselves, interpret John 6:48-65 as referring to the Lord’s Supper. (Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 682 ff.)

Hodge is correct about Catholic sacramental beliefs, but wrong as to the alleged contradiction vis-a-vis John 6 and “Romanist” theology. Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Hodge and other Protestants argue that if this is interpreted as a reference to the Lord’s Supper, then the Lord’s Supper is necessary for eternal life, but that this idea is inconsistent with the other Catholic beliefs.

Also, Jesus said, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). It is argued that if this is taken as a reference to the Lord’s Supper, then absurd conclusions immediately follow: anyone who partakes of Holy Communion or the Eucharist has eternal life and Jesus will raise that person up at the last day.

But Hodge and those who argue as he does are interpreting Jesus’ words in an improperly universal sense which allows of absolutely no exceptions, in any way, shape, or form. Biblical language rarely works in such a woodenly literalistic way. Jesus (especially) and other biblical writers often speak proverbially or hyperbolically. This was a Hebrew use of language utilized in order to express emphasis. Thus:

Matthew 5:22 . . . “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away . . .

Matthew 21:21-22 “. . . even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done.  [22] And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Luke 14:26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

1 John 3:9 No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.

Even John 3:16 and 3:36 or Romans 10:9, if taken hyper-literally, would exclude Old Testament saints and all those who have never heard of Jesus or the gospel, through no fault of their own, from salvation. Thus, Hodge’s “difficulty” vanishes. On the other hand, Protestants are left with these forceful verses, and would be well advised to take them very seriously, as the biblical text warrants.

The Eucharist does indeed cleanse us from sin (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1391-1395, especially #1393). However, it is more a “preventive measure,” so to speak. We receive grace for the avoidance of future sin. If one takes communion in mortal sin, it does not wipe out that serious sin, and in fact it is a further grave sin to partake in that state.

A Catholic must confess a mortal sin to a priest and receive absolution before approaching the Lord’s Table. It contributes to our salvation insofar as it helps (by the supernatural grace imparted) to remove the sin that bars us from salvation and heaven and a right relationship with God.

Okay; I understand your line of reasoning even though I disagree with the conclusions. I have one more question since you brought up mortal sin. 

Catholics appear to believe that baptism brings you to a state, like before the fall, except with the effects of sin remaining. You believe there is a distinction between mortal and venial sins. That the lesser sins do not condemn you, but the mortal ones would send you straight to hell were you to die immediately after committing them. 

What I’m not understanding about this is that if this were true, wouldn’t that mean God has lowered his standard of holiness? 

Adam, when in his original state, committed what to us humans seems very small- he simply ate a piece of fruit when he was told not to. I have no reason to believe his intentions were malicious. Eve gave to him, and he ate. Her intentions were that she saw it and it appeared good so she ate. But this seemingly tiny sin carried immense consequences. It brought the consequence of eternal death. And it also brought sin into the world.

The Bible says that if we keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, we are guilty of all. Yet, Catholic teaching would have us believe that certain sins do not have this effect anymore. That God sees some as not as bad as the mortal sins, and they do not carry the same consequences as mortal sins. 

Please tell me this. If someone were to sin a sin comparable to Adam’s first sin, in both intent and action, and was to carry this sin to his priest in confession, would the priest tell him he was guilty of mortal sin? 

I believe the answer would be no- it is venial. 

If not, this means the Catholic Church teaches that Gods standard of holiness has been lowered, since Gods standard is perfection in the Bible. (This is why only Jesus could pay his debt for us).

Here you are assuming that Adam’s sin was “small”; in fact it was not just eating the fruit, but choosing himself over God and His express commands. So your premise is wrong. You have an incomplete understanding of the horrendous nature of the original sin committed by Adam and Eve, and all of us “in” them, as the Bible states.

Dave, is it not true that in any sin we commit, we are choosing ourselves over God?  I am not misunderstanding the horrendous nature of Adams sin. I am saying that all our sins are equally horrendous in God’s sight.

What is your denomination?

I don’t really have a denomination but I am Reformed if that helps.

John Calvin has a far more “severe” view of original sin than Catholics, because he thinks it affected man’s very nature.But you think it was a minor thing; what we would call a “venial sin”. So you are in conflict with your own Reformed theology there. With no denomination to guide you, this is the sort of thing that can happen.

I am saying that from a human perspective it seems small. I am saying that if you were to go to a priest, he would call a comparable sin venial. I am saying that is fallacious.

If I told a priest that I rejected God’s direct command, as Adam and Eve did, and intended to go my own way instead of God’s he would certainly say that was mortal, not venial sin.

My question was not based on what my beliefs are. My question was directed to what appears to be an inconsistent understanding of the seriousness of sin by the Catholic Church. So if you told a priest that you lusted in your heart after a woman, but then felt sorry, he would say you were guilty of mortal sin? 

If it was sustained lust with full consent of the will, yes.

What if you told your priest that you lost your temper and used profanity?

I don’t want to go through a whole laundry list. Your premises are wrong. You deny that sins are lesser or greater.

No, I deny that all sins do not make us guilty before a righteous God. There are varying degrees of sin, but there is no sin that does not separate us from God, and make us worthy of eternal condemnation.

This is untrue, according to the Bible. We know that because the Bible specifically states that very serious sins (not all sins) will lead to hell and condemnation (noted above: 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 1:8; 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-6; Heb 12:16; Rev 21:8; 22:15). It names them, so we know what they are; and these line up with Catholic notions of mortal sin.

If what you say is true, it seems to me that the above passages wouldn’t make sense. Rather than name specific sins, it would simply say that “every sin — even a white lie about stealing a cookie — leads to hell and everlasting fire.”

Also, from my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths [KJV used]:

1 John 5:16-17 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. [17] All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. (RSV: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is a sin which is not mortal”)

Some non-Catholic Christians think that all sins are exactly alike in the eyes of God: everything from a white lie or a child stealing a cookie to mass murder. This mistaken notion is decisively refuted by the above passage. Scripture provides several indications of this difference in seriousness of sin, and in subjective guiltiness for it:

Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (RSV: “. . . whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire”)

Luke 12:47-48 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. [48] But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. . . .

John 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (RSV: “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains”)

John 19:11 . . . he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (RSV: “The times of ignorance God overlooked,”)

Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (RSV: “to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;”)

1 Timothy 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, (RSV: “if we sin deliberately . . .”)

James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (RSV: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness”)

The Bible also refers to (mortal) sins which — if not repented of — will exclude one from heaven (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 1:8; 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-6; Heb 12:16; Rev 21:8; 22:15). Objectors to these notions bring up James 2:10 (RSV): “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” This doesn’t prove that all sins are the same, equally destructive and worthy of judgment, because the passage is dealing with man’s inability to keep the entire Law of God: a common theme in Scripture. James accepts differences in degrees of sin and righteousness elsewhere in the same letter, such as 3:1 (above). In James 1:12, the man who endures trial will receive a “crown of life.” James also teaches that the “prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (5:16, RSV), which implies that there are relatively more righteous people, whom God honors more, by making their prayers more effective (he used the prophet Elijah as an example). If there is a lesser and greater righteousness, then there are lesser and greater sins also, because to be less righteous is to be more sinful, and vice versa.

[see also the following related section]:

GRACE: QUANTIFIABLE DIFFERENCES

Acts 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

2 Corinthians 8:7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (cf. 1 Pet 5:5)

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (RSV: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you”)

1 Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (RSV: “good stewards of God’s varied grace”)

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. . . .

Regarding the proof text of 1 John 5:16, you must make the assumption and read into the text that he was speaking of eternal condemnation. It is simply not there. Most of the other scripture is taken out of its intended context to support what your belief, based on this one passage, teaches.

***

Sorry, I just noticed something. Not trying to be annoying. I have a million questions I could ask but trying to narrow it down because I know you are probably busy. 

You posted 1 John 3:9. Do you believe that God’s nature abides in one who is born of a God?

The believer progressively becomes more and more like God (sanctification); what is known in theology as theosis:

The chief New Testament reference to theosis or deification is 2 Peter 1:4: . . . (AV : “partakers of the divine nature”; NEB: “come to share in the very being of God). Certainly John 17:23 is to the point: “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given to them, that they may be one, as We are one; I in them and Thou in Me, may they be perfectly one” (NEB, upper case added). This at once suggests the divine nuptial mystery (Ephesians 5:25-32; one may compare 2:19-22 and Colossians 1:26-27), with its implied “wondrous exchange.” That the final “transfiguration” of believers into “conformity” . . . with Christ’s glorious body (Philippians 3:21; one may compare 1 Corinthians 15:49) has begun already in the spiritual-sacramental life of faith, is clear from “icon” texts like Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10, and especially 2 Corinthians 3:18: “thus we are transfigured into His likeness, from splendor to splendor” . . . One may also wish to compare 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Ephesians 3:14-19.

So you believe in sanctification as a lifelong process through which God conforms us to His Son’s image? If so, I would agree with this. I believe that faith produces an inner change in us in which we have new desires and God’s Spirit dwells in us and guides us into holiness.

Agreed 100%! But salvation can be lost, as the Bible repeatedly states. Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants through history (and almost all the Church Fathers, with the notable exception of Augustine) have believed that. Only Calvinists and those who believe in eternal security (Baptists, fundamentalists, etc.) teach otherwise.

I wish I had more time to discuss this but I’m going to walk out the door. Thank you for your patience and maybe we can talk more soon. :-)

Bethany, we could go round and round forever on this issue. I’ve been arguing it for over 30 years.  The Bible and apostolic tradition teach us that it is possible to fall away from salvation. It’s called “apostasy.” I’ve given tons of biblical proofs. The eternal security believer always has some reply, but I find them thoroughly unconvincing and arbitrarily [biblically] selective. I’m happy to let readers who are on the fence look over the biblical arguments I have made and compare them to yours, and decide which is more plausible and coherent and biblical.

***

I think the much more relevant and important topic is, “how can we better live day-by-day as disciples of Jesus Christ and do those things which all Christians agree are good and righteous, and avoid sin?” That is the Christian life. The other discussion is ultimately philosophical abstraction, that may be fun, but in the end doesn’t accomplish much. I’ll do it for a time, but I quickly tire of it, for those reasons.

As always, it is a rare pleasure to dialogue with you in a friendly manner. You’re a wonderful Christian, and I’m proud to be your friend. We disagree on this, but one happy day all of us will know all truth with absolute certainty, when God reveals it on judgment day.

I appreciate so much your taking the time to discuss this with me.

***

(originally 4-13-15)

Photo credit: Image by “geralt” (Sep. 2017) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons license]

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January 27, 2018

TrinityLight

The Bible teaches that God is absolutely transcendent. He is eternal; He is the Creator.

Words of “Tom” will be in blue.

***

My general opinion is that the Bible teaches that Jesus is divine. There is clearly a degree of subordinationism within the Bible (and the pre-Nicene Fathers). I do not think the Bible suggests that Christ’s –ousia is inferior to the Father’s –ousia, but I do not think that God’s divinity or Christ’s divinity in the Bible is ever said to be a product of their (one or shared or possessed or different or …) ousia. Of course the Bible never uses “ousia” to mean the substance of the Father or the shared divine substance. Thus, what the Bible does do is subordinate Christ to His Father and not comment on the relative equivalence or lack of equivalence of their –ousia.

Jesus’ Own Words:

MATTHEW 10:40 (KJV). . . he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

JOHN 5:17-21 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. (18) Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. (19) Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. (20) For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (21) For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth {them}; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

JOHN 10:30-33 I and {my} Father are one. (31) Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. (32) Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? (33) The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 

JOHN 10:38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father {is} in me, and I in him.

JOHN 12:44-45 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. (45) And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. 

JOHN 14:7-10 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (8) Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (9) Jesus saith unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou {then}, Shew us the Father? (10) Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

JOHN 15:23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

JOHN 17:10-11 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. (11) And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we {are}.

NT Apostolic Witness:

JOHN 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) The same was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Monogenes (“Only Begotten”) The phrase “only begotten (Son)” (also used in Jn 3:16,18 and 1 Jn 4:9) is the Greek monogenes, which means, according to any Greek lexicon, “unique, only member of a kind.” It does not mean “created,” as some (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses) falsely interpret it. Christ is the eternal Son of God, and as such, possesses every attribute of pure Godhood, just as a human son partakes fully of humanness.

ACTS 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

COLOSSIANS 1:16-17 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether {they be} thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (17) And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 

COLOSSIANS 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

TITUS 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; {RSV,NIV: “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”}

2 PETER 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: [RSV, NIV: “our God and Saviour Jesus Christ”]

I personally believe that God is three and God is one and we are to become gods.

The Bible teaches that God is absolutely transcendent. He is eternal; He is the Creator; He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, and perfectly holy in and of Himself. None of these characteristics can ever apply to man. We are creatures, not eternal; we did not create the world, and lack all of the other characteristics above. We are fallen. We need a Savior. God doesn’t need a savior because He is perfectly holy.

God was not once one of us, as Mormons teach. We will not be “one of Him” either, because of the essential differences outlined above. Scores of biblical passages spell all these things out.

The exact manner of aligning those three Biblical truths is not specified in the Bible such that there is little room for differing opinions.

I profoundly disagree, and I have the biblical passages all laid out in my two papers detailing biblical proofs for the Holy Trinity and the Deity of Christ.

I build upon “God is love” into a Social Trinity model (like many Protestants and some Catholics). This seems to me to be the most straight forward way of interpreting the Bible. The only place that I am aware of that offers information on HOW God the Father and God the Son are ONE is when Christ prays for the Apostles to be one like He and His Father are one. Surely this will not be a oneness like Athanasius and Augustine meant when they said “homoousian.” It is also surely true that the Apostles were homoousian as Eusebius (the historian not the Nicene dissenter) and the majority of the Bishops at Nicea conceived of the term, even before Christ offered His prayer. 

To me the Trinity when used as a stick to beat upon LDS is associated with a meaning of homoousian that Athanasius and Augustine shared. This meaning was generally rejected during the Sabellian heresy. It was not preserved in the Council of Chalcedon. And it was not held by the majority of Bishops as Nicea. But, such technical designations IMO are extra Biblical and clearly so. In fact the moderate party at Nicea said they wished to only use Biblical language, but this was rejected because it would not adequately protect against the Arian heresy.

So, my point is that I think you are quite incorrect when you suggest that there is some straightforward way of developing Nicene orthodoxy to the exclusion of many other Trinity constructions from the Bible alone. 

I’ve provided plenty of Scripture already (both above and in the links I provided), and that is only the tip of the iceberg. You are welcome to provide Scripture for your beliefs, if you are convinced that multiple “trinitarian” viewpoints can be found in the Bible.

***

No doubt most Mormons are sincere, good, well-meaning people, with good morals and traditional values. But according to the definition of historic Christianity, they cannot possibly qualify as a species of it.

I think one of the clearest ways for a Catholic to decide who to apply the title “Christian” to is via the acceptance or rejection of the baptism of purported Christians. I am far more comfortable when a Catholic says that because of the way the magisterium has ruled on LDS baptism, I am not a Christian.

I have indeed used that argument, but also the one from Vatican II that presupposes belief in a Triune God, as part and parcel of being a Christian. And this precludes the radically unbiblical Mormon belief that God was once man, and man (men) will be God(s).

Correct baptism also presupposes a trinitarian formula, so the Trinity is key to the equation any way you look at it.

On the surface there are scriptural assertions that appear to contradict one another.

And “appear” is the key word.

When trying to take scripture as a whole, there are decisions that must be made concerning how to address these apparent contradictions. God’s oneness, the divinity of Christ, and the distinction between the Father and the Son create an apparent contradiction that must be resolved for a reasoned theology.

I don’t see any, in the way that orthodox trinitarianism ties everything together.

Nicene orthodoxy is one method that has some points in its favor.

No other schema is coherent, by a long shot. It explains the Bible in a coherent, self-consistent manner and takes into account all of the biblical data, not just tiny portions of it: and those, misinterpreted.

***

The early Church fathers regularly spoke of men becoming gods.

What I did not see you respond to was my statement about –ousia. The Bible NEVER uses –ousia as it was used at Nicea. When the Bible claims that the Son and the Father are one, it never uses –ousia (or hints at –ousia) as the HOW of this oneness.

So what? How is that relevant to anything? Obviously, councils develop the original kernel of biblical revelation, and so different words are employed. Famously, the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible either. This is neither here nor there.

But you say they are apostate anyway, which is another huge issue.

What I demonstrated was that oneness of God the Father and Jesus is apparent in Scripture. All essential characteristics possessed by God the Father are also possessed by Jesus. The only difference are things like Jesus having a body / the Incarnation, which do not represent essential differences, but only difference of role or action.

Deification / theosis (which I am well familiar with; see a Catholic explanation of it) is not at all like the Mormon concept. it retains God’s transcendence (and for that matter, monotheism) in a way that Mormon theology does not. It means “unity” with God; not equation with God or gods.

***

(originally 2-4-10)

Photo credit: Image by “spirit111” (October 2017) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons license]

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October 22, 2017

Luther-26

This is one of my many critiques of the book entitled, Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation, by evangelical Protestant theologian Kenneth J. Collins and Anglican philosopher Jerry L. Walls (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017).

*****

Kenneth Collins, in his chapter 17: “Justification Roman Style” writes:

What’s so remarkable about the treatments in both Vatican II documents and the Catechism is that the exact phrase “free grace” . . . is not mentioned at all.

To the contrary, the concept is certainly there. The Catechism states:

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

1308 . . . the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election . . .

1722 Such beatitude surpasses the understanding and powers of man. It comes from an entirely free gift of God: whence it is called supernatural, as is the grace that disposes man to enter into the divine joy.

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight. [Trent]

406 . . . Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life . . .

I don’t see any difference there. Looks like a “distinction without a difference” to me. Collins continues:

[T]he Roman Catholic tradition has balked at employing the language of sola fide (by faith alone).

Yes, of course, we have, because it’s not biblical (whereas grace alone is)! Since we’re searching for and tallying up words, we ought to also take note that “faith alone” never occurs in Holy Scripture (I am searching in RSV). Well, I take that back. It does occur once:

James 2:24  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Protestants pride themselves on being so “biblical” (and they usually think they are infinitely more so than us Catholics). But what’s so biblical about “faith alone”? The only time it appears in the Bible it is expressly denied! Collins asserts:

[B]oth justification and the new birth are sheer gifts of the Almighty and therefore must be received by grace through faith alone.

We agree that they are free gifts and through grace alone. We disagree with “faith alone.” And again, that concept is not a biblical phrase; neither is “justified by faith alone.” “Justified by faith,” however, is biblical (Rom 3:28; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:24). And Catholics agree with that. We simply don’t isolate it, since Scripture doesn’t. Hence, the Catechism states:

2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.”

Protestants repeat the mantra of “justification / salvation faith alone” (an unbiblical phrase). Catholics talk about observing the Commandments also, since this is what Jesus told the rich young ruler with regard to what is required for salvation: keeping Commandments, and in his case, selling all he had and giving it to the poor (a good work, not merely faith). I already dealt with this passage in my critique #8. It hasn’t yet been removed from the Bible (last time I checked).

And Catholics talk about being saved / regenerated by baptism, since Scripture talks about that, too. We’re simply taking all of biblical teaching into account, not just selected prooftexts. But if we’re talking about initial justification, there is hardly any difference at all between us. Catholics believe in justification by grace through faith, as well:

1992 . . . they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. [Rom 3:21-26 cited in the footnote]

2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. . . .

We’re not excluding grace or faith at all. It’s the Protestants who are being most unbiblical by excluding works, which the Bible again and again (above all, our Lord Jesus Himself) teaches are necessary in the Christian life overall and as part of faith (otherwise faith is dead and not really faith).

In footnote 42 at the end of the chapter, Collins eschews the “Finnish school of interpretation of Luther studies,” whereby Luther’s “understanding of justification was quite broad and in fact embraced the Eastern Orthodox notion of theosis.” He finds this “problematic, especially since it is overly dependent on his early writings. That is, it cannot embrace Luther’s mature understanding of this crucial matter.”

This is incorrect. I have dealt with this question, heavily citing the fascinating article, “Luther and Theosis,” by Kurt E. Marquart, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) This was published in Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 64:3, July 200, pp. 182-205. The evidence he presents is not all “early Luther”; it encompasses sermons from 1525 and 1526, and Lectures on Galatians from 1535 (Luther died in 1546). Here are those selections:

And that we are so filled with “all the fulness of God,” that is said in the Hebrew manner, meaning that we are filled in every way in which He fills, and become full of God, showered with all gifts and grace and filled with His Spirit, Who is to make us bold, and enlighten us with His light, and live His life in us, that His bliss make us blest, His love awaken love in us. In short, that everything that He is and can do, be fully in us and mightily work, that we be completely deified [vergottet], not that we have a particle or only some pieces of God, but all fulness. Much has been written about how man should be deified; there they made ladders, on which one should climb into heaven, and much of that sort of thing. Yet it is sheer piecemeal effort; but here [in faith] the right and closest way to get there is indicated, that you become full of God, that you lack in no thing, but have everything in one heap, that everything that you speak, think, walk, in sum, your whole life be completely divine [Gottisch]. [Sermon of 1525, WA 17 1:438; “In ipsa,” 54.]

God pours out Christ His dear Son over us and pours Himself into us and draws us into Himself, so that He becomes completely humanified (vermzenschet) and we become completely deified (gantz und gar vergottet, “Godded-through”) and everything is altogether one thing, God, Christ, and you. [Sermon of 1526; D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 58 volumes (Weimar, 1883- ), 20:229,30 and following, cited in Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, volume 1 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1962),175-176. Marquart altered the translation given there in order to make it more literal]

[Y]ou are so cemented [conglutineris] to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached [perpetuo adhaerescat] to Him forever and declares: “I am as Christ.” And Christ, in turn, says: “I am as that sinner who is attached to Me, and I to him. For by faith we are joined together into one flesh and one bone.” Thus Ephesians 5:30 says: “We are members of the body of Christ, of His flesh and of His bones,” in such a way that this faith couples Christ and me more intimately than a husband is coupled to his wife. [Lectures on Galatians, 1535, WA 40 1:285-286; LW 26:168; “In ipsa,” 51.]

The one who has faith is a completely divine man [plane est divinus homo], a son of God, the inheritor of the universe. . . . Therefore the Abraham who has faith fills heaven and earth; thus every Christian fills heaven and earth by his faith. . . [Lectures on Galatians, 1535, WA 40 I:182,390; LW 26:1001 247-248.]

The fanatical spirits today speak about faith in Christ in the manner of the sophists. They imagine that faith is a quality that clings to the heart apart from Christ [excluso Christo]. This is a dangerous error. Christ should be set forth in such a way that apart from Him you see nothing at all and that you believe that nothing is nearer and closer to you than He. For He is not sitting idle in heaven but is completely present [praesentissimus] with us, active and living in us as chapter two says (2:20): “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” and here: “You have put on Christ. . . .”

Hence the speculation of the sectarians is vain when they imagine that Christ is present in us “spiritually,” that is, speculatively, but is present really in heaven. Christ and faith must be completely joined. We must simply take our place in heaven; and Christ must be, live, and work in us. But He lives and works in us, not speculatively but really, with presence and with power [realiter, praesentissime et eficacissim]. [Lectures on Galatians, 1535, WA 40 1:545-546; LW 26:356-357; “In ipsa,” 39-40.]

There are many additional false and ultimately unbiblical assertions in the chapter about justification and sanctification (as always in Protestant treatments). I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony: not knowing where to go first (to refute them), with so many abundant opportunities! But I will let the above be sufficient for now. Readers desiring to learn more of the Catholic view of these matters (with a high emphasis always on biblical arguments) may wish to consult many scores of papers on my Salvation and Justification web page, or my book, Biblical Catholic Salvation (2010), in which (among many other things), I take on all five portions of the Calvinist “TULIP” from Holy Scripture. It’s available for as low as $2.99 in e-book format (mobi / Kindle or ePub).

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Photo credit: Portrait of [older] Martin Luther (c. 1570-1580), by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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October 14, 2017

LutherWorms3

(8-14-14)

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Earlier today I noted that the Orthodox were having a field day misrepresenting a meme I posted about the Crusades, and engaging in ludicrous attempts at reading my mind and thoughts. Now on the Catholic Answers board a paper of mine about Martin Luther is being unfairly pilloried. Oh, how I long for actual rational argument when folks disagree with me! It’s like asking for elephants to fly, I reckon.

The paper in question is this one: 50 Ways In Which Luther Had Departed From Catholic Orthodoxy by 1520 (and Why He Was Excommunicated).

This is not just a bare list that I pulled out of a hat. It was a summary of Luther’s own opinions, that I meticulously cite (30 quotations straight from him) from two of his three great treatises from 1520: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

A guy who goes by “Topper17” cited my paper as to reasons why Luther was excommunicated. Then “EvangelCatholic”: a Lutheran, started saying stupid stuff about the paper (as usual, not dealing with it and the actual arguments and documentation in it. Anything but the subject at hand . . .). So he writes:

Topper’s remarks and the source of his information is complete and intentional distortion. The List of 50 doctrines ascribed to Luther is blatant dishonesty. (Comment #292, 8-11-14)

Then in comment #295 (8-11-14):

First off, much attributed to Luther is taken out of context in a clumsy manner that suggests character assassination [yellow journalism]. And this is why Topper’s method is dishonest.

To the contrary, the information was gathered in a very matter-of-fact way, from Luther’s two treatises (again, 30 quotes from them). All I did was later summarize in 50 points what he stated, as I just showed from his own words. This Lutheran gentleman is more than welcome — indeed, highly encouraged — (here or on my blog) to try to challenge anything I have asserted, and whether Luther in fact did not believe any given thing on the list and whether he did not think any of them were contrary to the Catholic Church. Luther certainly intended to oppose all these things that he believed were false Catholic teachings and practices. But all this guy can do is moan and groan about alleged dishonesty and quotes out of context (the oldest “no answer” diversionary tactic in the book of sophistry and empty rhetoric).

Luther believes this stuff. The burden of proof for the critics is to demonstrate that he did not in fact believe any of the 50 things. Moreover, the point wasn’t to run down Luther; it was a direct reply to those who say that Luther was run out of the Church for no reason, and not allowed to have his say.

In order to show the falsity and irrationality of that claim, I “turned the table” and simply documented the sorts of things that Luther was talking about in 1520, before the Diet of Worms: stuff that he was asked to retract and was unwilling to do so. I was showing how no institution would ever countenance a lone guy coming in and saying, “here are 50 things that you guys have all wrong, and I know better. Now, change these things, to be in accord with my opinions and that of the Bible . . . “

Nor is it “calumny and detraction” to attempt to understand what Luther was opposing, and to document it so people know the sorts of things that were “on the table” at the famous Diet of Worms” (you know, “here I stand” and all that . . .). Unless it is “blatant dishonesty” to cite Luther’s own words . . . Gee whiz; I’m citing the words of “EvangelCatholic” here; so now I am guilty of “blatant dishonesty” against him too?

My list was derived directly from Martin Luther. I make other lists of Martin Luther, too, of a much more favorable sort, such as: Luther on Theosis and Sanctification and on how Luther believes that Good Works Prove Authentic Faith.

Topper then made the following delightful (and very kind) remark (comment #313, 8-12-14):

If you or anyone else would like to say that Armstrong’s list of 50 things is ‘spurious’ or ‘blatantly dishonest’, or any such other false and generalized [sic] I would suggest that you go on to his blog and make the accusation directly. But if you do, please let us all know first because I want to watch. As the author of more than 40 books, and as one who is not afraid to tell the truth, he has had to deal with those who challenge his honesty often. It always turns out the same way, so like I said, please give us notice.

As of yet, I’ve seen no sign of anyone coming over to challenge me directly, with actual arguments, as opposed to empty, flatulent rhetoric and insulting catch-phrases. But that was only two days ago, so . . .

“JonNC” (Lutheran: Missouri Synod) offered some badly needed moderation and balance (comment #321, 8-13-14):

While I have not read the book, Dave Armstrong has always appeared on his blog to be a fair, though quite strident, Catholic apologist. He has many good things to say about Martin Luther, as well. The problem with the list offered has more to do with lack of context, catch phases that do not explain Luther’s views thoroughly.

The paper has been available online these past eight years. The name was given on the site by Topper. Anyone can find it online and read it. The link is above. But “EvangelCatholic” doesn’t do that, or else he would see that I gave 30 Luther quotes and then summarized what his beliefs in the quotes were. If they want more context with the quotes, those works of Luther are available online. Knock your socks off, guys! I would love to actually debate any of this. The water’s warm . . .

I think there are many thoughtful, bright, spiritually committed Lutherans who could have a good constructive discussion about this and hold their own. I know them. But they’re not all active online.

I actually joined the Catholic Answers forum to directly challenge the slanderer who wanted to accuse me of dishonesty. After essentially posting the above, I also added the following:

Here are online editions of the two treatises of Martin Luther from 1520 that I drew my list of 50 things from:

To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation

The Babylonian Captivity of the Church

Now, you . . . who claim I have engaged in “complete and intentional distortion” and “blatant dishonesty” and “character assassination” and “yellow journalism” : prove it, by demonstrating that I nefariously misrepresented anything or took anything out of context. Put up or shut up. I suggest in all charity, for your sake, that you retract and take the latter course.

Or you can do nothing, and I think that will speak loudly enough, too, if you choose that path. Or you can insult me (and Topper) more (sans rational argumentation or documentation, as you have been doing). Your choice. God knows the truth of the matter.

Note: the Luther texts I used in both instances were from the paperback Three Treatises: itself drawn from the 55-volume Luther’s Works. I have that entire set in hardcover in my own library, and even one of the recent additions to it (Vol. 59). The two versions I linked to above are from earlier editions (1910 and 1930, respectively), so there will be some difference in wording.

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Almost needless to say, my accuser never responded. All in a day’s work of Catholic apologetics . . .

Anglican Church historian Dr. Edwin Woodruff Tait certainly has a very different take on my argument here. I just ran across this comment of his underneath my original blog post:

Great post, Dave. I might argue with you as to whether all of the points you list are contrary to binding Catholic teaching . . . But you’re certainly right that they were all contrary to received Catholic understanding. And your main point is indisputably right. This is one of the emptiest and most frustrating Protestant arguments. A lot of folks in Lutheran/Reformed circles have a lot invested in denying Luther’s radicalism. What particularly frustrates me is that they often use the work of my doktorvater, David Steinmetz, to support their position, when in fact Steinmetz’ work does no such thing (his essay on Luther and the Councils demonstrates how radical and unorthodox Luther was on the question of Church authority).

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Photo credit: Luther at the Diet of Worms [1521] (bet. 1887-1891), by Ernst Wilhelm Hildebrand (1833-1924) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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October 12, 2017

Luther-24

(2-28-10)

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[The blue highlighting is my own]

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So what is my own “take” on all this business of Luther’s teachings and current events in Germany and among the early Lutherans, during the earliest period of Protestantism? I think causes of historical events are always extraordinarily complex, just as causes of human behavior in general are. That has always been my position, as long as I can remember. I despise simplistic attempts of positing single causes for things as obviously complex as our topic of the social / theological situation of Germany in the 16th century.Cynical, misinformed critics, however, ridiculously caricature “my position” as the following:

1) Luther (a man who was an evil scoundrel, madman, foul loudmouth, and fanatic) wrote a bunch of dumb, heretical stuff that had no redeeming value whatever.

2) Folks therefore responded in kind and doctrinal and moral chaos resulted entirely because of Luther’s teaching.

In actuality, my position is far more nuanced than knee-jerk anti-Catholic opponents or quick-to-judge Lutherans unfamiliar with my overall collection of writings on Luther (including many where I agree with him), imagine:

1) Luther was a man with good intentions, who sought to follow God. He was prone to extremely fiery, unhelpful anti-Catholic rhetoric, but he was not mad, and far less fanatical and heretical than the Protestant sects that broke away from his own; including John Calvin’s.

2) His teachings were a mixture of previous Catholic tradition (particularly regarding Mary, baptism, and the Eucharist), and novel error.

3) Luther taught the absolute necessity of good works in the Christian life, as an inevitable manifestation of an authentic faith. He didn’t separate justification and sanctification to the degree that Calvin (or even his successor Philip Melanchthon) did.

4) But Luther also did a very poor job of communicating the subtleties of his “faith alone” (sola fide) soteriology to the masses: most of whom were incapable of analyzing the fine distinctions entailed (a state of affairs which is largely true even to our present time). In his extreme rhetoric of separation of faith and works, the necessary continuing connections that Luther in fact maintained in his theology, rightly understood, were lost in the public mind. In this sense, he showed himself to be rather excessively naive, as to the likely misunderstandings that would result and how many people would act in ways that he neither condoned nor envisioned.

5) As a result, there was a strong tendency at first towards antinomianism and anarchism (neither sanctioned by Luther) among the populace, as evidenced by an increase of immorality (noted often by Luther himself) and the Peasants’ Revolt.

6) Luther always had the last resort of recourse to the devil as the end-all explanation of any problems in his own ranks. This sort of hypothesis or theory was impervious to any possible falsification: being entirely subjective and speculative. All heretical breakaway groups through history have rationalized persecution or vehement disagreement from others by holding that it was inevitable, just as Jesus and the prophets and the early Christians were also persecuted. This allowed Luther to isolate himself from any possible criticism of his faulty teaching or faulty teaching methods of both false and true aspects of his teaching, as at least a partial cause of the difficulties. He was God’s man of the hour, delivering the “Gospel” (as if Catholics didn’t already have it); therefore, he couldn’t possibly be wrong in any major way. It was unthinkable to him.

[Luther’s own words follow]

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Thus we have the teaching of nature and of reason regarding the sin of men’s ingratitude toward one another. How much greater the evil, how much more shameful and accursed, when manifested toward God who, in his infinite and ineffable goodness, conferred upon us while yet enemies to him and deserving of the fires of hell—conferred upon us, I say, not ten dollars, not a hundred thousand dollars even, but redemption from divine wrath and eternal death, and abundantly comforted us, granting us safety, a good conscience, peace and salvation! These are inexpressible blessings, incomprehensible in this life. And they will continue to occupy our minds in yonder eternal life. How much more awful the sin of ingratitude for these blessings, as exemplified in the servant mentioned in the Gospel passage for today, to whom was forgiven the debt of ten thousand talents and who yet would not forgive the debt of his fellow-servant who owed him a hundred pence! (p. 333)

Is it not incredible that there are to be found on earth individuals wicked enough to manifest for the highest and eternal blessings such unspeakable ingratitude? But alas, we have the evidence of our own eyes. We know them in their very dwelling-places. We see how the world abounds with them. Not only are the ingrates to be found among deliberate rejecters of the acknowledged truth of the Gospel, concerning God’s grace, an assured conscience and the promise of eternal life, terrible as such malice of the devil is, but they are present also in our midst, accepting the Gospel and boasting of it. Such shameful ingratitude prevails among the masses it would not be strange were God to send upon them the thunders and lightnings of his wrath, yes, all the Turks and the devils of hell. There is a generally prevalent ingratitude like that of the wicked servant who readily forgot the straits he experienced when, being called to account for what he could not pay, the wrathful sentence was pronounced against him that he and all he possessed must be sold, and he be indefinitely imprisoned. Nor have we less readily forgotten how we were tortured under the Papacy; how we were overwhelmed, drowned as in a flood, with numberless strange doctrines, when our anxious consciences longed for salvation. Now that we are, through the grace of God, liberated from these distresses, our gratitude is of a character to increasingly heap to ourselves the wrath of God. So have others before us done, and consequently have endured terrible chastisement. Only calculate the enormity of our wickedness when, God having infinitely blessed us in forgiving all our sins and making us lords over heaven and earth, we so little respect him as to be unmindful of his blessings; to be unwilling for the sake of them sincerely to forgive our neighbor a single slighting word, not to mention rendering him service. We conduct ourselves as if God might be expected to connive at our ingratitude and permit us to continue in it, at the same time conferring upon us as godly and obedient children, success and happiness. More than this, we think we have the privilege and power to live and do as we please. Indeed, the more learning and power we have and the more exalted our rank, the greater knaves we are; perpetrating every wicked deed, stirring up strife, discord, war and murder for the sake of executing our own arbitrary designs, where the question is the surrender of a penny in recognition of the hundreds of thousands of dollars daily received from God notwithstanding our ingratitude. (pp. 333-334).

The world remains the devil’s own. We must remember we shall not by any means find with the world that Christian heart pictured by the apostle; on the contrary we shall find what might be represented by a picture of the very opposite type —the most shameless ingratitude. But let the still existing God-fearing Christians be careful to imitate in their gratitude the spirit of the apostle’s beautiful picture. Let them give evidence of their willingness to hear the Word of God, of pleasure and delight in it and grief where it is rejected. Let them show by their lives a consciousness of the great blessing conferred by those from whom they received the Gospel. As recipients of such goodness, let their hearts and lips ever be ready with the happy declaration: “God be praised !” For thereunto are we called. As before said, praise should be the constant service and daily sacrifice of Christians; and according to Paul’s teaching here, the Christian’s works, his fruits of righteousness, should shine before men. Such manifestation of gratitude assuredly must result when we comprehend what God has given us. (p. 338) (from The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol.4.2, edited by John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000, pp. 330-342; available online also in the Sermon on the Twenty-Second Sunday After Trinity [Philippians 1:3-11]: revised translation from the 1827 Erlangen edition of Luther’s writings by Socrates Henkel, in Dr. Martin Luther’s Church Postil: Sermons on The Epistles, New Market, Virginia: New Market Evangelical Lutheran Publishing Company, 1869)

. . . they who do as the gospel teaches, are true Christians. However, very few of these are found; we see many hearers, but all are not doers of the Gospel. (p. 104)

But who are they that love God, and cleave not to gold and worldly possessions? Take a good look at the whole world, also the Christians, and see if they despise gold and riches. It requires an effort to hear the Gospel and to live according to it. God be praised, we have the Gospel; that no one can deny, but what do we do with it? We are concerned only about learning and knowing it, and nothing more; we think it is enough to know it, and do not care whether we ever live according to it. However, on the other hand, one is very anxious when he leaves lying in window or in the room a dollar or two, yea, even a dime, then he worries and fears lest the money be stolen; but the same person can do without the Gospel through a whole year. And such characters still wish to be considered Evangelical. Here we see what and who we are. If we were Christians, we would despise riches and be concerned about Gospel that we some day might live in it and prove it by our deeds. We see few such Christians; therefore we must hear the judgment that we are despisers of God and hate God: the sake of riches and worldly possessions. Alas! That fine praise! We should be ashamed of ourselves in our inmost souls; there is no hope for us! What a fine condition we are in now! That means, I think, our names are blotted out. What spoiled children we are! (pp. 105-106)

Now the world cannot conceal its unbelief in its course outward sins, for I see it loves a dollar more than Christ; more than all the Apostles, even if they themselves were present and preached to it. I can hear the Gospel daily, but it does not profit me every day; it may indeed happen if I have heard it a whole year, the Holy Spirit may have been given to me only one hour. Now when I enjoyed this hour I obtained not only five hundred dollars, but also I riches of the whole world; for what have I not, when I have the Gospel? I received God, who made the silver and I gold, and all that is upon the earth; for I acquired the Spirit by which I know that I will be kept by him forever; that much more than if I had the church full of money. Examine now and see, if our heart is not a rogue, full of wickedness and unbelief. If I were a true Christian, I would say: In the hour the Gospel is received, there comes to me a hundred thousand dollars, and much more. For if I possess this treasure, I have all that is in heaven and upon earth. But one must serve this treasure only, for no man can serve God and mammon. Either you must love God and hate money; or you must hate God and love money; this and nothing more. (pp. 106-107) (from The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 3.1; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000, pp. 102-117. It is readable online as Second Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity [Matthew 6:24-34] from the book, The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, Vol. 14, edited by John Nicholas Lenker, Minneapolis, Lutherans in All Lands Co., 1905, 118-126. From Walch edition, Vol. XII, 1234 and Vol. XI, 2171)

To my kind and dear mistress of the house, Luther’s Catherine von Bora, a preacher, a brewer, a gardener, and whatever else she is capable of doing- Grace and peace! Dear Katie!

John surely will tell you everything pertaining to our journey; I am not yet certain whether he should stay with me, but Doctor Caspar Cruciger and Ferdinand, of course, will tell you. Ernst von Schönfeld has treated us graciously at Löbnitz, and Heintz Scherle at Leipzig even more so.

I would like to arrange matters in such a way that I do not have to return to Wittenberg. My heart has become cold, so that I do not like to be there any longer. I wish you would sell the garden and field, house and all. Also I would like to return the big house to my Most Gracious Lord. It would be best for you to move to Zölsdorf as long as I am still living and able to help you to improve the little property with my salary. For I hope that my Most Gracious Lord would let my salary be continued at least for one [year], that is, the last year of my life. After my death the four elements at Wittenberg certainly will not tolerate you [there]. Therefore it would be better to do while I am alive what certainly would have to be done then. As things are run in Wittenberg, perhaps the people there will acquire not only the dance of St. Vitus or St. John, but the dance of the beggars or the dance of Beelzebub, since they have started to bare women and maidens in front and back, and there is no one who punishes or objects. In addition the Word of God is being mocked [there]. Away from this Sodom! If Leeks Bachscheisse, our other Rosina, and [her] seducer are not yet imprisoned, then help as much as you can to see that this scoundrel loses what he has gained. While in the country I have heard more than I find out while in Wittenberg. Consequently I am tired of this city and do not wish to return, May God help me with this.

The day after tomorrow I shall drive to Merseburg, for Sovereign George has very urgently asked that I do so. Thus I shall be on the move, and will rather eat the bread of a beggar than torture and upset my poor old [age] and final days with the filth at Wittenberg which destroys my hard and faithful work. You might inform Doctor Pomer and Master Philip of this (if you wish), and [you might ask] if Doctor Pomer would wish to say farewell to Wittenberg in my behalf. For I am unable any longer to endure my anger [about] and dislike [of this city].

With this I commend you to God. Amen. (Luther’s Letter to His Wife Katie Regarding the State of Wittenberg: 28 July 1545, in  Luther’s Works, Vol. 50, 273-278)

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Photo credit: Portrait of Martin Luther (1546), by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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May 11, 2017

French Cover (555 x 838)

[La traduction en français par Benoit Meyrieux s’est terminée le 13 avril 2017 et a été publiée à Lulu le même jour. 268 pages]

[French translation by Benoit Meyrieux completed on 13 April 2017 and published at Lulu on the same day. 268 pages]

[see information for the original 2013 English version]

[conception de couverture par Dave Armstrong]

[Pour plus d’informations sur l’achat, allez au bas de la page]

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BRÈVE DESCRIPTION
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Mon objectif est de permettre une recherche rapide de réponses bibliques à des questions théologiques de perpétuelle importance. Je présuppose l’inspiration et l’infaillibilité de la Bible, et ce livre est destiné aux chrétiens qui acceptent ces notions. Ce volume fournit des passages de la Bible (généralement un verset, parfois plusieurs) qui sont (à mon avis) les meilleures “réponses” à un grand nombre de questions simples. Le format rappelle celui du fameux jeu télévisé “Jéopardy”, dans lequel les participants reçoivent un élément de réponse et information et doivent trouver la question correspondante. En rédigeant ce livre, j’ai considéré des passages bibliques et ai élaboré des questions auxquels les passages «répondaient». Le livre est constitué de 18 grandes catégories et de 200 sous-catégories numérotées. Les merveilleux trésors de la Bible nous attendent: la révélation inspirée par l’Esprit de Dieu.
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INTRODUCTION
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La Bible est une longue et complexe collection de 73 livres. Mon objectif – simple en théorie mais compliqué à mettre à exécution – est de faciliter la recherche de réponses bibliques à des questions théologiques de perpétuelle importance. Je présuppose l’inspiration et l’infaillibilité de la Bible et ce livre est adressé aux chrétiens qui acceptent ces notions.
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Cet effort est plus catéchétique (ce que nous croyons comme catholiques) qu’apologétique (pourquoi nous croyons cela), bien que, dans une certaine mesure, cette dimension est aussi présente puisque les « preuves bibliques » fournissent des éléments en faveur d’une position plutôt qu’une autre. La dimension apologétique apparaît aussi dans la façon dont les différents thèmes ont été choisis et organisés. Le plus souvent, les questions considérées sont spécifiquement catholiques, et sujettes à controverse de la part des chrétiens non-catholiques. Je n’ai pas ici dans ce livre la prétention de « prouver » la doctrine catholique. Je ne fais que de fournir une source de référence et des éléments de réflexion.
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Une de mes spécialités en tant qu’apologiste catholique est de présenter «la preuve biblique du catholicisme» (c’est le nom de mon blog). L’idée de cet ouvrage m’est venue soudainement alors que j’essayais de trouver une nouvelle façon de présenter les fondements bibliques, non seulement du catholicisme mais aussi de la théologie chrétienne en général. Ce livre est donc une forme de compendium des meilleurs exemples des preuves bibliques parmi les centaines fournis dans la quarantaine d’ouvrages que j’ai écrits jusqu’à aujourd’hui.
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Ce qui m’est venu à l’esprit était simplement de fournir des passages bibliques (typiquement un verset, parfois plusieurs) qui seraient (à mon humble avis en tout cas) les meilleures «réponses » à un grand nombre de questions.
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Ce format ressemble au jeu télévisé Jéopardy, dans lequel les participants reçoivent une réponse et doivent trouver la question correspondante. En rédigeant ce livre, j’ai pris des versets bibliques et ai élaboré des questions auxquels ces passages « répondaient ».
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Je confesse volontiers que les questions elles-mêmes impliquent un élément de subjectivité, à savoir ma conception des questions et mon choix des « meilleurs passages » y répondant. C’est l’aspect ludique de ce projet et ce qui fait que ce livre est différent et unique en son genre.
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Je pense qu’inconsciemment j’ai eu pour référence l’ouvrage écrit par mon mentor, aujourd’hui décédé, le père John A. Hardon, s.j., The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism (éditions Doubleday Image, 1981). Il a organisé son livre en grandes catégories, puis en sous-catégories et finalement en 1701 questions. Ses réponses sont composées d’éléments de catéchèse relativement simples présentant l’enseignement de base de la foi catholique.
De façon analogue, mon livre est constitué de 18 larges catégories (nombre romains) et de 200 sous-catégories numérotées dans lesquelles se trouvent les 1001 questions et leurs réponses par un passage biblique.
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Le format numérique est simple. C’est le nombre de la section (parmi les 200), suivi d’un tiret et du nombre de la question dans cette section (par exemple 32-13). Je suppose que l’on pourrait ajouter un nombre pour les larges catégories et obtenir une référence similaire à celle employée par saint Thomas d’Aquin dans sa Somme Théologique : III, 32-13.
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Toutes les questions présupposent que la réponse vient de la Bible; il est inutile par conséquent de répéter maintes fois « où trouve-t-on dans la Bible… ? » ou bien « qu’est-ce que l’Écriture enseigne à propos de … ?», etc. Je me suis efforcé de formuler les questions de telle façon qu’elles soient le plus simples et le plus directes possible, et qu’elles se limitent à un sujet précis.
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Une objection pourrait être soulevée contre cet ouvrage, à savoir qu’il emploie des « preuves bibliques », une pratique qui a souvent une connotation négative et associée à une tendance de citer les Écritures hors contexte pour renforcer des opinions déjà établies sur d’autres fondements. Voici comment je répondrais à cette objection :
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1) La théologie systématique (ainsi que les encycliques papales et les documents conciliaires) inclut des citations de versets bibliques (comme dans ce livre). Quelqu’un peut toujours objecter telle ou telle citation puisqu’en citant un passage on présuppose qu’il s’applique au sujet que l’on traite. Il peut parfois y avoir de vrai désaccord sur ce point.
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2) Les ouvrages visant à simplifier la théologie pour le plus grand nombre (cela inclut les catéchismes et les livres de type catéchétique) tendent à résumer. La question est de savoir si simplifier est une bonne ou une mauvaise chose. Je pense qu’il est indéniable que cela est une bonne chose. Il y a toujours la possibilité d’approfondir telle ou telle question lorsque celui qui étudie et recherche fait des progrès dans la compréhension de la théologie. Dans ma collection de 40 ouvrages, je consacre des livres entiers à des sujets uniques (par exemple l’Eucharistie, la doctrine du salut, Marie ou la communion des saints). J’ai écrit deux livres et ai consacré de longs passages dans d’autres ouvrages à la fausse doctrine de sola Scriptura (« l’Écriture est la seule autorité infaillible »). Le lecteur peut toujours consulter ces ouvrages ou d’autres similaires.
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3) Une preuve textuelle peut être citée adéquatement ou non et cela est un important sujet de discussion en soi. Une citation est inappropriée lorsque le verset biblique est sorti de son contexte ou interprété de façon erronée lorsqu’on considère les autres passages abordant le même sujet ainsi que l’enseignement de l’Église. Une telle interprétation serait hétérodoxe. Je considère que j’ai interprété les passages cités dans ce livre de façon adéquate et en accord avec l’enseignement de notre sainte mère l’Église.
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4) Voici un exemple de « preuve textuelle » incorrecte. Les protestants, en particulier les évangéliques, citent constamment le passage suivant comme « preuve » selon eux de la doctrine de sola Scriptura :
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2 Tim 3,16 « Toute l’Écriture divinement inspirée est utile pour enseigner, pour reprendre, pour corriger, pour instruire dans la justice, »
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Ce serait une longue discussion mais pour résumer (ayant plus écrit sur ce sujet que sur d’autres questions), à aucun endroit dans ce verset trouve-t-on la notion que seule l’Écriture est infaillible ou qu’elle représente la seule norme pour la théologie ou pour la doctrine. L’Écriture elle-même affirme clairement l’autorité apostolique et de l’Église (comme je le montre dans ce livre et dans d’autres).
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Ainsi, un catholique affirme qu’utiliser ce passage comme « preuve » de la doctrine de sola Scriptura est la pire expression d’une « preuve textuelle ». Le verset est arraché du contexte de la Bible dans son ensemble et de l’enseignement biblique de la règle de foi. Cette interprétation viole l’orthodoxie historique, à savoir ce qui a toujours été enseigné et ceci jusqu’au 16ème siècle lorsque le protestantisme a introduit de nouvelles doctrines. Insérer de cette façon dans un texte une signification qui ne s’y trouve pas s’appelle eisegèse. Cette interprétation subjective du texte biblique se situe à l’opposé de l’exégèse qui part du texte pour en trouver l’explication.
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Dans cet ouvrage, je suggère que j’ai cité 2 Tim 3,16 de façon adéquate puisque mon interprétation est en accord avec l’enseignement apostolique et historique chrétien et ne contredit pas ce que la Bible enseigne dans d’autres passages. Je n’ajoute rien au texte. Cet ouvrage est organisé ainsi :
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I. Bible et Tradition (Autorité)
4. Autorité infaillible de L’Écriture Sainte
4-6 L’Écriture est-elle inspirée par Dieu ?
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Le passage enseigne clairement l’inspiration de l’Écriture, ce que tout chrétien sérieux accepte volontiers. Mais il n’enseigne pas la doctrine de sola Scriptura, un concept qui est inséré par certains dans le texte en raison d’un parti pris et d’une prédisposition formée par des postulats protestants.
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J’espère que le lecteur trouvera ce livre agréable, éducatif et édifiant, trois qualités que je m’efforce de conjuguer dans mes écrits théologiques. Les merveilleux trésors de la Bible, la révélation de la Pensée de Dieu laexprimée au travers des auteurs bibliques nous attendent.
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TABLE DES MATIERES
Dédicace ………………………….. ………………………….. ……… 3
Introduction ………………………….. ………………………….. …. 4
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I. Bible et Tradition (Autorité)
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1. Tradition apostolique ………………………….. …………….. 22
2. Tradition orale ………………………….. ………………………. 24
3. Anciennes traditions orales citées dans le Nouveau Testament… 25
4. Autorité infaillible de la Sainte Écriture ……………….. 26

5. Jugement privé ………………………….. ……………………… 28
6. Clarté de l’Écriture ………………………….. ………………… 28
7. Herméneutique / Interprétation de l’Écriture …………. 29
8. Traditions humaines ………………………….. ………………. 30
9. Racines juives du Christianisme ………………………….. 31
10. Livres deutérocanoniques ………………………….. …….. 34

11. Développement de doctrine ………………………….. ….. 37
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II. Doctrine de l’Église (Ecclésiologie)
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12. Unité ………………………….. ………………………….. ……… 39
13. Sainteté ………………………….. ………………………….. ….. 40
14. Catholique (Universelle) ………………………….. ………. 42
15. Succession apostolique ………………………….. ………… 44
16. Autorité ………………………….. ………………………….. …. 46

17. Visibilité ………………………….. ………………………….. … 47
18. Indéfectibilité ………………………….. ……………………… 48
19. Sans défaut ………………………….. …………………………. 49
20. Conciles faisant autorité ………………………….. ……….. 50
21. Prêtres / Sacrement de l’Ordre ………………………….. . 52
22. Évêques ………………………….. ………………………….. …. 54
23. Pardon (Sacrement de Réconciliation)………………… 56
24. Autorité de donner une pénitence ………………………. 57
25. Indulgences (Rémission de la peine temporelle) ….. 58
26. Célibat : un appel héroïque avec moins de distraction… 59
27. Excommunication et anathèmes ………………………… 60
28. Papauté ………………………….. ………………………….. ….. 61
29. Dénominationalisme et sectarisme, Division ……….. 66
30. Pécheurs dans l’Église ………………………….. …………. 69
31. Belles et/ou coûteuses églises ………………………….. .. 75

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III. Théologie du salut (Sotériologie)
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32. Le salut est fondamentalement par la grâce seule …. 77
33. Le salut n’est pas par la foi seule ……………………….. 77 [Lire sur Facebook]
34. Le salut n’est pas par les oeuvres seules (Pélagianisme)… 79
35. Grâce + Foi+ OEuvres + Obéissance = Salut ………… 80
36. Centralité des oeuvres dans le salut final ……………… 80
37. Péché véniel et péché mortel………………………….. …. 82
38. Différence quantitative de la grâce …………………….. 83
39. Action méritoire rendue possible par la grâce de Dieu… 84
40. Collaboration avec Dieu / Synergie ……………………. 85 [Lire sur Facebook]
41. Participation dans la distribution de la grâce et du salut… 86

42. Dieu rend possible une véritable justice humaine …. 88
43. Des hommes sont décrits comme étant « justes » …. 88
44. Justification initiale par la foi seule ……………………. 89
45. Justification infuse / Sanctification …………………….. 90
46. La foi et les oeuvres : deux dimensions indissociables… 93
47. Le salut est un processus ………………………….. ………. 94
48. Assurance morale du salut ………………………….. ……. 97
49. Élection divine de ceux qui sont sauvés ……………… 97
50. Fausseté de la doctrine calviniste de la corruption totale… 98
51. Fausseté de la doctrine calviniste de la rédemption limitée… 102
52. Fausseté de la doctrine calviniste de la grâce irrésistible… 104 [Lire sur Facebook]
53. Fausseté de la doctrine d’assurance absolue du salut… 106
54. Apostasie (s’écarter de la grâce et du salut) …………. 107
55. Salut rendu possible par la mort de Jésus sur la Croix… 109
56. Théosis – Divinisation ………………………….. …………. 111

57. Inhabitation du Saint Esprit ………………………….. ….. 112
58. Relation personnelle avec Jésus …………………………. 113
59. Nature de l’Évangile ………………………….. ……………. 115
60. Fausseté de la prédestination à l’enfer ………………… 116
61. Péché originel………………………….. ……………………… 118

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IV. Purgatoire
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62. Indices d’un processus de purification après la mort… 120
63. Processus de purification sur la terre ………………….. 121
64. Prière pour les morts ………………………….. ……………. 124
65. Nécessité de la sainteté pour entrer au ciel ………….. 125
66. Analogie du Sheol/Hades (troisième état après la mort)… 127
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V. Pénitence
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67. Peine temporelle/ Expiation pour le péché ………….. 130

68. Expiation pour les autres ………………………….. ………. 131
69. Jeûne et abstinence / Cendres ………………………….. .. 131
70. Mortification corporelle ………………………….. ……….. 133
71. Partager les souffrances du Christ ………………………. 134
72. Souffrance rédemptrice pour d’autres …………………. 136

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VI. Sacrement de la Sainte Eucharistie
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73. Dernière Cène ………………………….. …………………….. 139
74. Transsubstantiation ………………………….. ……………… 141 [Lire sur Facebook]
75. Réalisme eucharistique de l’évangile de Jean chapitre 6… 142
76. Adoration eucharistique ………………………….. ……….. 143
77. Communion sous une espèce ………………………….. … 144
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VII. Sacrifice de la Messe
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78. Nature intemporelle de la Messe (Jésus est mort une fois pour toutes)… 145
79. Analogie du système sacrificiel et sacerdotal de l’Ancien Testament… 147
80. Utilisation des catégories sacerdotales par saint Paul… 149
81. Jésus l’Agneau Pascal immolé (sacrifié) …………….. 149
82. La lettre aux Hébreux………………………….. …………… 150
83. L’autel céleste ………………………….. …………………….. 151
84. Participation chrétienne à la mort de Jésus ………….. 152
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VIII. Sacrement du Baptême
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85. Régénération baptismale/ Baptême et salut …………. 153
86. Baptême des enfants ………………………….. ……………. 155
87. Baptême et « être né de nouveau » …………………….. 156
88. Les enfants font partie du Royaume et de l’Alliance… 157
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IX. Sacrement de Confirmation
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89. Descente du Saint-Esprit sur des personnes…………. 158
90. Jésus baptise dans le Saint-Esprit ………………………. 159
91. Être « rempli » du Saint-Esprit ………………………….. 159
92. Le Saint-Esprit et l’imposition des mains ……………. 160
93. Marqués du « sceau » du Saint-Esprit…………………. 160
94. Onction d’huile pour recevoir le Saint-Esprit ………. 161
95. Le Saint-Esprit reçu à travers des personnes ayant autorité… 161
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X. Sacrement de l’onction des malades
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96. Les prêtres utilisent l’onction d’huile pour guérir … 161
97. Imposition des mains pour la guérison ……………….. 162
98. Bienfaits spirituels de la guérison ………………………. 162
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XI. Sacramentaux, dévotions et prières
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99. Prière liturgique et adoration………………………….. …. 163

100. Chapelet ………………………….. ………………………….. . 165
101. Eau bénite………………………….. …………………………. 165
102. Bougies et encens ………………………….. ………………. 166
103. Lieux saints / Terre sainte ………………………….. …… 167
104. Objets saints et sacrés ………………………….. ………… 168
105. Musique dans la liturgie ………………………….. ……… 169
106. Bénédictions sacerdotales ………………………….. …… 171
107. Examen de conscience ………………………….. ……….. 172
108. Aumône ………………………….. ………………………….. .. 172
109. Génuflexion………………………….. ………………………. 173
110. Objets physiques facilitant l’adoration de Dieu ….. 174
111. Présence spéciale de Dieu dans des objets physiques… 174
112. Jours saints ………………………….. ……………………….. 175
113. Obligation de participer à la messe dominicale ….. 176
114. Culte dominical / Principe du Shabbat ………………. 176

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XII. Les anges et la communion des saints
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115. Les saints défunts retournent sur terre ………………. 177
116. Communication divines dans des songes …………… 179
117. Invocation des saints (pour leur intercession) …….. 179
118. Invocation des anges (pour leur intercession) …….. 180
119. Vénération et imitation des saints …………………….. 181
120. Vénération des anges et des hommes en tant que représentants de Dieu… 182
121. Intercession des saints ………………………….. ………… 183
122. Intercession des anges ………………………….. ………… 184
123. Anges gardiens ………………………….. ………………….. 185
124. Vénération des images ………………………….. ……….. 186
125. Adorer Dieu en s’agenouillant devant des statues faites de main d’homme… 187
126. Adoration de Dieu au travers une image ……………. 187
127. Crucifix ………………………….. ………………………….. .. 188
128. Reliques………………………….. ………………………….. .. 189

129. Enfer ………………………….. ………………………….. ……. 190
130. Erreur de l’universalisme ………………………….. ……. 191

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XIII. La Sainte Vierge (Mariologie)
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131. Sans péché ………………………….. ………………………… 193
132. Immaculée Conception ………………………….. ………. 194
133. Virginité perpétuelle ………………………….. …………… 195
134. « Mère de Dieu » (Theotokos) …………………………. 195
135. « Épouse du Saint-Esprit » ………………………….. ….. 196
136. Analogies de l’Assomption corporelle au ciel ……. 197
137. Reine du ciel ………………………….. …………………….. 197
138. Mère spirituelle des hommes ………………………….. . 198
139. Médiatrice ………………………….. ………………………… 198
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XIV. Jésus Christ (Christologie)
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140. Égal avec le Père ………………………….. ……………….. 199
141. Créateur ………………………….. ………………………….. .. 200
142. Eternel et incréé ………………………….. ………………… 201
143. Adoré ………………………….. ………………………….. …… 202
144. Tout puissant ………………………….. …………………….. 204
145. Omniscient ………………………….. ……………………….. 204
146. Omniprésent ………………………….. ……………………… 204
147. Pardonne les péchés en son nom ………………………. 204
148. Est prié ………………………….. ………………………….. … 205
149. Sans péché / Impeccable ………………………….. …….. 206
150. Appelé Seigneur (Kurios) ………………………….. …… 206
151. Appelé Dieu (Theos) ………………………….. ………….. 207
152. Reçoit des titres divins au même titre que le Père . 208
153. Image (Icône) du Père invisible ……………………….. 211
154. Primauté du nom de Jésus ………………………….. …… 211

155. Affirme être le Messie ………………………….. ………… 212
156. Affirme être Dieu ………………………….. ………………. 212
157. Affirme être le Sauveur du Monde ……………………. 213
158. Juge du monde ………………………….. ………………….. 214
159. Obéit volontairement en tant que Messie…………… 214

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XV. Dieu le Père
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160. Dieu est Un (Monothéisme) ………………………….. … 214
161. Créateur ………………………….. ………………………….. .. 215
162. Éternel ………………………….. ………………………….. …. 215
163. Immatériel (Esprit invisible) ………………………….. .. 215
164. Adoré exclusivement ………………………….. ………….. 216
165. Tout puissant ………………………….. …………………….. 216
166. Omniscient ………………………….. ……………………….. 216
167. Omniprésent ………………………….. ……………………… 216
168. Hors du temps ………………………….. …………………… 217

169. Souverain ………………………….. …………………………. 217
170. Ses pensées sont au-delà de la compréhension humaine… 218
171. Anthropomorphisme et anthropopathisme …………. 218
172. Immuable ………………………….. …………………………. 219
173. Impassible (sans « passion » ni émotion) ………….. 219
174. Existe par lui-même / Simple (non composé) …….. 219
175. Monarchia / Principatus (Inengendré) ……………… 220

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XVI. Le Saint-Esprit (Pneumatologie) / Trinitarisme
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176. Passages incluant les trois Personnes divines …….. 220
177. Attributs personnels du Saint-Esprit …………………. 221
178. Divinité / Attributs divins du Saint-Esprit …………. 223
179. Procession du Saint Esprit du Père et du Fils …….. 223
180. Circumincession: les Personnes divines se compénètrent mutuellement… 225
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XVII. Sacrement de Mariage
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181. Analogie du mariage entre Jésus Christ et son Église… 225

182. Indissolubilité d’un mariage valide/ Interdiction du divorce… 227
183. Déclaration de nullité de mariage …………………….. 228
184. Interdiction des relations sexuelles en dehors du mariage… 230
185. La contraception est un péché ………………………….. 232
186. Avoir de nombreux enfants est une bénédiction …. 234
187. Les enfants dans le sein de leur mère sont des personnes… 235
188. L’avortement est un meurtre et est interdit ………… 236
189. Le sacrifice d’enfants est une abomination ………… 237

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XVIII. Sujets divers
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190. Apologétique (Défense rationnelle du christianisme)… 238
191. OEcuménisme ………………………….. …………………….. 241
192. Ignorance invincible………………………….. …………… 245
193. Végétarisme ………………………….. ……………………… 246
194. Athéisme ………………………….. ………………………….. 248
195. Alcool ………………………….. ………………………….. ….. 249

196. Légitimité de la guerre juste ………………………….. .. 252
197. Légitimité de la peine capitale …………………………. 255
198. Jugement des nations ………………………….. …………. 260
199. « Science moyenne » de Dieu ………………………….. 265
200. « Baptiser » les pratiques païennes …………………… 267

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Dernière révision le 11 mai 2017
Last revised on 11 May 2017
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