Sunday, May 17, 2015

Christ vs Trent on Sola Fide

I'm going to make two contentions in this post.  First, there's a necessary connection between true faith and salvation.1  This is Paul's point.  Second, there is a necessary connection between true faith and works.  This is James' point.  The council of Trent denies both of these claims by saying people can have true faith through which they are put into a state of grace and lose their state of grace through mortal sin, while remaining true believers.  This is because Trent denied "sola fide" - charity must be added to faith.    

The Necessary Connection between True Faith and Salvation
Christ promised that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  In John 6:35, Christ says “he that believes on me shall never thirst at any time.”
Christ uses what Dan Wallace calls an Empathic negation”, which denies not only the occurrence but the possibility of any uncertainty about the occurrence.2   But Trent says true believers sometime perish. 

Likewise, Paul, in Romans 10 says: if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Note, Paul's argument.  "Everyone who calls on Christ"  will be saved and "no one" who believes in him will be put to shame.  Every case where you have a true believer, you have a saved person and in no cases where you have a true believer, do you have a lost person. But Trent says not everyone who calls on Christ will be saved and some that believe in Him will be put to shame.

The Necessary Connection between True Faith and Works

Paul says faith works by love, not that faith sometimes works by love. Faith is not true because it works by charity, it works by charity because it is true faith. If love is the fruit and effect of faith, then we should disagree with Trent that true faith can be without love.    
 
James says faith without works is dead, not that’s its lonely.  It’s not that faith is missing his trusty sidekick works; no faith is corps rather than a person.3 Faith is stubborn - it refuses to be without works.  It's over faith's dead body that it stop producing works. 
 
To summarize, there’s a necessary connection between true faith and justification and there’s also a necessary connection between true faith and good works.  Trent denies both claims.4   I'm not saying we can live like the devil and go to heaven or that true faith can be without love. I am saying we can trust Christ's promise that believers shall not perish.
 
Now let’s address some common objections:
 
What about the belief of demons in James 2? 
 
James says You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
Demons have basic monotheism, but not true faith.  Their belief falls short both in scope and depth.  In scope, because they don't believe God to be their Lord, or that He is supremely good and desirable above all else, nor do they have what Paul calls "faith in Christ's blood".  At some theoretical level, they might think it's best to serve Christ, but they don't have what philosophers call "the final judgment of reason" that it's ultimately best to serve Christ.  Their faith lacks in depth, because they do not trust Christ.  Hebrews 11 says faith is the substance of things hoped for.  What are demon's hoping for? 
 
Using James 2 to argue that true believers can perish is like attempting to add a bit of salt to your steak to bring out it's flavor, and ending up dumping the whole shaker.  You want to add just the habit of charity to faith but James says we are justified by works.  Catholics have four challenges to using James 2: 1) being faithful to James' wording, 2) avoiding works righteousness, 3) avoiding a conflict between James and Paul and 4) avoid affirming the protestant interpretation.  I haven't seen a successful attempt. 
 
Doesn’t the Joint Declaration (between Catholics and Lutherans) on the Doctrine of Justification teach justification by faith alone? 

Yes it does.  Trent isn’t the last word Catholics have had on justification by faith.   But do you really think the reformation was all a big misunderstanding?  Don’t get me wrong – I would be happy if you agreed with the reformers on faith alone.
 
Here’s the gist of how the Joint Declaration works.  They say when Trent condems faith alone, it’s condemning knowledge without trust or love.  Then they say faith is really a figure of speech for faith, hope and love and that love is a part of faith.  (JD paragraph 25 says Human beings place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hop in God and love for Him.)
 
But one problem is that Trent means more than knowledge by faith: they include trust or confidence or what the reformers call feducia.  They do think faith includes trust, but they want to say it’s more than trust. CANON XII of Trent session 6 states.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema. Another problem is that Trent is very clear that charity is added to faith and not a part of faith.  Trent chapter 7: For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body.  For which reason it is most truly said, that Faith without works is dead. 

This is why many Catholics have criticized the joint declaration.  Dr. Christopher Malloy wrote a book called the Engrafted into Christ: A Critique of the Joint Declaration, where he points out there are fundamental differences that are covered up by ambiguity, but they keep popping to the surface. On such surfacing difference is this post's topic or as Cardinal Avery Dullas put it: “the Joint Declaration adds that according to Lutherans faith does not exist without renewal and justification. Trent and the whole Catholic tradition maintain on the contrary that the gift of faith can exist in the absence of love and repentance. The Council of Trent taught this under anathema.” 5 This is in part why Cardinal Scheffczyk said the Joint Declaration was a "betrayal of the Council of Trent". (link
 
So by holding to the JD, it looks as if you fall under Trent’s anathma’s.
 
Isn't Sola Fide a novelty?   
 
While it's true the reformers were more systematic, consistent and forceful regarding the doctrine of sola fide, it has it's forerunners in many church fathers. 6
 
Doesn't Paul say Faith without Charity Profits Nothing?
 
1 Corinthians 13:2 is talking about the faith that works miracles (i.e. moves mountains).  In 1 Corinthians 12:9, Paul is talking about a special sort of faith, not the faith all Christians must have to be saved.  If this were justifying faith, surely Paul would say it is given to all Christians, not just some of them.  That's why his teaching here doesn't contradict his earlier teaching that we are justified by faith.  Cardinal Avery Dullas points this out in his book "The Assurance of Things Hoped For" on page 13, when he says "the faith that can move mountains in 1 Corinthians 13:2 is a special carism freely bestowed upon some by the Holy Spirit, and is not essential for salvation." 
So again, there is a necessary connection between faith and salvation. There is a necessary connection between faith and good works.  Trent denies both of these biblical teachings but it's best to trust Christ that believers will never ever perish. 





1 By true faith I mean what Paul means in 1 Timothy 1:5 by what he calls "genuine faith" or faith unfeigned".  True faith contains knowledge as in John 17:3 - that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  We can also see that faith contains knowledge because Paul asks how can they believe without hearing (Romans 10:16) and because he calls faith coming to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4) and "full assurance of understanding" Colossians 2:2.  But true faith is more than just knowledge.  In John 1:12 and Colossians 2:6 we are said to receive Christ and in Romans 5:17 we are said to receive the gift of righteousness.  In Romans 10, Paul says we believe from the heart.  Hebrews 10 says "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith".  The opposite of faith isn't ignorance, but doubt (Matthew 14:31, 21:21, Romans 4:20).  So faith is knowledge as well as a reception and trust in Christ.
 
"Empatic negation is indicated by on me plus the aorist subjunctive or, less frequently, on me plus the future indicative (e.g. Matt 26:35Mark 13:31John 4:146:35).  This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek.  One might think the negative with eh subjunctive could not be as strong as the negative with the indicative.  However, while on + the indicative denies a certainty, on me + the subjunctive denies a potentiality.  The negative is not weaker; rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive.  On me rules out even the idea as being a possibility: "on me is the most decisive way of negativing something in the future. (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament By Daniel B. Wallace, page 468)
 
Observations on James 2:
a) What good is it, my brothers, if someone *says* he has faith but does not have works? Can *that* faith save him? - James condemns either pretending to have faith or boasting about a faith you don’t actually have. *Such* faith isn’t true faith, just as in chapter 3 when James says *Such* wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. [ii]
b) 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you *says* to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is *dead*.  – the problem with saying be warmed and filled and in saying you have faith and not backing it up with actions, is a lack of sincerity.   
 
c) 18 But someone will *say*, “You have faith and I have works.” *Show me your faith apart from your works*, and I will show you my faith by my works. Lack of works is proof of lack of faith.  You have faith is just saying you have faith.  
 
d) 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
Demons have basic monotheism, but not true faith.  Their belief falls short both in scope and depth.  In scope, because they don't believe God to be their Lord and Master, or that He is good, nor do they have what Paul calls "faith in Christ's blood".  In depth, because they do not trust Christ.  Hebrews 11 says faith is the substance of things hoped for.  What are demon's hoping for?  Hebrews 11 says you must believe that God is (demons do that) and that He is a rewarded of them that diligently seek Him (they don't have what philosophers call “the final judgment of reason” that it's ultimately best to have Christ as Lord).  Hebrews 11 says -  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.  The demons have the wrong homeland - which is why they tremble and don't meet Hebrews definition of faith. 
e) 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.   - Faith was active alongside his works - meaning his faith was true.  Works didn't make his faith true faith - though it showed it to be true.  Even if the justification here is infused righteousness, the passage is not saying true faith can be without works or that true believers can perish.  Abraham had trusted God and was justified long before the test of sacrificing Isaac.  Yet, in Genesis 22 we read "After these things God tested Abraham" and after the test, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  Tests of faith are occasions to believe - is our faith true or false.  Passing tests of faith shows to God, man and ourselves, that our faith is true faith. 

f) 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  -Trent itself denies we are justified by works.  Using James 2 to argue that true believers can perish is like attempting to add a bit of salt to your steak to bring out it's flavor, and ending up dumping the whole shaker.  James says we are justified by works.  It's hard to avoid both the protestant interpretation of James 2 and works righteousness.  James must mean something different than Paul does by justification - and frankly a simple word study reveals justification can either mean declared righteous or shown to be righteous.

g) 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?   26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. This is the clincher - faith without works is dead.  He doesn't say the person is dead, but that faith is dead without works.  This can only mean there is a necessary connection between true faith and works - in all cases you have true faith, you have works.
 
Let's walk through the Council of Trent, session 6, chapter 15 and the related cannons 27-29 step by step.     
  
CHAPTER XV.  That, by every mortal sin, grace is lost, but not faith.
In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ.

Paul says if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (
Romans 10:9-12) Trent says, one can have this sort of faith and through this faith be justified.  So Trent is talking about true believers, not false faith or a mere outward profession.   Yet this person can retain this true faith and still be separated from the grace of Christ through mortal sin.   This assumes that true faith can coexist with mortal sin and as a consequence, denies the certainty that believers will be saved.    

CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema.

Paul describes apostasy as making shipwreck of faith (
1 Timothy 1:19, see also Colossians 1:21-23 and Romans 11:20 and Hebrews 3:12-14). Minimally, cannon 27 is saying loss of faith is not the only type of apostasy or the only cause of loss of salvation.  This one sets the stage for the big one, cannon 28:

CANON XXVIII.-If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Christian; let him be anathema.

Canon 28 plainly teaches people can have true faith (a faith through which they were previously justified) and still perish. It implies we cannot trust Christ's promise to save believers.  It's the most dangerous doctrine I've seen from Rome as it counters the heart of the gospel.

This canon locks Catholics into some miss-understandings of James 2 and 
1 Corinthians 13:2 and Galatians 5:6.  Catholics must understand James to be talking about true faith, but James says: 1) can "that" faith save him? as distinct from real faith and 2)  "But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds" using the lack of deeds as evidence that the person did not have true faith, and 3) "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder", thus defining the faith he is discussing as naked monotheism (i.e. that of Judaism) without trust in Christ.  Demons do not believe Christ died for their sins.  If Trent had limited it's mistake on James 2 to "infused justification" I would be far more sympathetic, but to say James is talking about true faith is to put James hopelessly against Paul and Christ Himself.
1 Corinthians 13:2 is talking about the faith that works miracles. In 1 Corinthians 12:9, Paul is talking about a special sort of faith, not the faith all Christians must have to be saved. That’s why his teaching here doesn’t contradict his earlier teaching that we are justified by faith.
In 
Galatians 5:6, Paul isn't saying faith justifies through love, as if without love faith would not justify.  Rather Paul is saying faith works or performs good deeds through love.

Trent imposes misunderstandings of God's word on Catholics without resolving the conflicts they create.  

CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taugh; let him be anathema. (link to Trent Session 6)

Canon 29 follows from 28: if true believers can be lost, then faith alone cannot be the means of restoration.  In the process it anathematize the view of many Arminians (based on 
Hebrews 6:4-6) that apostasy is without remedy. 

 
5 "The Joint Declaration holds that when Lutherans speak of justification through faith they mean living faith -- faith that is active through love.(25) Faith, it goes on to say, brings believers into communion with their Creator and Lord.(26) Catholics hold the same with regard to living faith, but the Joint Declaration adds that according to Lutherans faith does not exist without renewal and justification.(27) Trent and the whole Catholic tradition maintain on the contrary that the gift of faith can exist in the absence of love and repentance. The Council of Trent taught this under anathema. The Joint Declaration fails to explain why canon 28 of Trent's Decree on Justification does not apply to Lutherans today." (link)


6 Church History on Faith Alone

Clement of Rome: Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ANF: Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 32.

"The apostle is saying that it is only on the basis that one believes in him who justifies the ungodly that righteousness is reckoned to a man, even if he has not yet produced works of righteousness. For
faith which believes in the one who justifies is the beginning of being justified by God. And this faith, when it has been justified, inheres in the soil of the soul like a root that has received rain so that when it begins to be cultivated through God's law, branches arise from it which bring forth the fruit of works. The root of righteousness, therefore, does not grow out of the works, but the fruit of works grows out of the root of righteousness, namely out of the root of righteousness which God accepts even without works." Origen, Commentary on Romans 2:6

Whoever dies in his sins, even if he professes to believe in Christ, does not truely believe in Him, and even if that which exists without works be called faith, such faith is dead in itself, as we read in the Epistle bearing James' name. Commentary on John 19:6.

Marius Victorinus (born c. 280, converted around 356): Every mystery which is enacted by our Lord Jesus Christ asks only for faith. The mystery was enacted at that time for our sake and aimed at our resurrection and liberation, should we have faith in the mystery of Christ and in Christ. For the patriarchs prefigured and foretold that man would be justified from faith. Therefore, just as it was reckoned as righteousness to Abraham that he had faith, so we too, if we have faith in Christ and every mystery of his, will be sons of Abraham. Our whole life will be accounted as righteous. Epistle to the Galatians, 1.3.7. Mark J. Edwards, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 39.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) on Matthew 9: “This was forgiven by Christ through faith, because the Law could not yield, for faith alone justifies.”

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:6, ‘righteousness apart from works’: Paul backs this up by the example of the prophet David, who says that those are blessed of whom God has decreed that, without work or any keeping of the law, they are justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 113.

Chrysostom (349-407): Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified: yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, On the Second Epistle of St. Paul The Apostle to the Corinthians, Homily 2, §8.

Basil of Caesarea (329-379): [As the Apostle says,] Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, [I say that] Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, [and] redemption, that, as it is written, “he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.” [For] this is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been, δεδικαιωμένον, perfect passive participle, accusative, masculine of δικαιόω) justified solely by faith in Christ.

Oecumenius (6th century), commenting on James 2:23: Abraham is the image of someone who is justified by faith alone, since what he believed was credited to him as righteousness. But he is also approved because of his works, since he offered up his son Isaac on the altar. Of course he did not do this work by itself; in doing it, he remained firmly anchored in his faith, believing that through Isaac his seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 33. See PG 119:481.

Bede (673-735), on Paul and James: “Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith.” Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 31.

Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3: God justifies by faith alone.

In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.

Jerome (347-420): He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever. Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1984),

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) on Matthew 9: “This was forgiven by Christ through faith, because the Law could not yield, for faith alone justifies.”
Hilarii In Evangelium Matthaei Commentarius, Caput VIII, §6, PL 9:961

“Therefore the person who through sorrow for sin hungers and thirsts for righteousness, let him trust in the One who changes the sinner into a just person (Rom 4:5), and judged righteous in terms of faith alone (et solam iustificatus per fidem), that person will have peace with God.” Bernard De Clairvaux sermon SC22

Augustine (A.D. 354-430): “Having now to the best of my ability, and as I think sufficiently, replied to the reasonings of this author, if I be asked what is my own opinion in this matter, I answer, after carefully pondering the question, that in the Gospels and Epistles, and the entire collection of books for our instruction called the New Testament, I see that fasting is enjoined. But I do not discover any rule definitely laid down by the Lord or by the apostles as to days on which we ought or ought not to fast. And by this I am persuaded that exemption from fasting on the seventh day is more suitable, not indeed to obtain, but to foreshadow, that eternal rest in which the true Sabbath is realized, and which is obtained only by faith, and by that righteousness whereby the daughter of the King is all glorious within.” NPNF1: Vol. 1, Letter 36, 25. [3]

Monday, February 16, 2015

Trent's Most Dangerous Doctrine

Christ promised that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  In John 10:28, He puts it in such strong terms, it's as if Christ is jumping up and down and shouting "THEY WILL NEVER EVER EVER PERISH".1 The biggest problem I have with Catholicism is their doctrine that true believers sometimes perish and do not have eternal life.

I don't know why this problem doesn't receive that much attention from Protestants.  Perhaps it's because many Protestants teach salvation cannot be lost.  Calvin 's response to the Catholic teaching on unformed faith was to insist that faith cannot be separated from love.2   True enough, but Luther's reaction was stronger: "In this manner they completely transfer justification from faith and attribute it solely to love". 3  Could the difference in these responses be due to Calvin's saying temporary faith is false faith whereas Luther said temporary faith is true faith?

Catholics teach baptismal justification and that Christians can fall from grace and they merge justification with sanctification. While these are real problems they are not as serious as the problem I am referring to. To get at the real issue, lets grant them all for the sake of argument.  Let's say salvation can be lost. What causes the loss of salvation.  Most Lutherans and Arminians would say a loss of faith.4  Some would even say that sins can lead to a loss of faith and thereby cause a loss of salvation.  But Catholics say you can sin mortally while remaining a true believer and thereby lose your salvation.  By sinning mortally they don't mean that the sin kills your faith but rather kills your spiritual life.  Thus Catholics deny the necessary connection between faith and eternal life and thus they deny Christ's promise to believers.
 
Let's walk through the Council of Trent, session 6, chapter 15 and the related cannons 27-29 step by step.     
  
CHAPTER XV.  That, by every mortal sin, grace is lost, but not faith.
In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ.

Paul says if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (Romans 10:9-12) Trent says, one can have this sort of faith and through this faith be justified.  So Trent is talking about true believers, not false faith or a mere outward profession.   Yet this person can retain this true faith and still be separated from the grace of Christ through mortal sin.   This assumes that true faith can coexist with mortal sin and as a consequence, denies the certainty that believers will be saved.    

CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema.

Paul describes apostasy as making shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19, see also Colossians 1:21-23 and Romans 11:20 and Hebrews 3:12-14). Minimally, cannon 27 is saying loss of faith is not the only type of apostasy or the only cause of loss of salvation.  This one sets the stage for the big one, cannon 28:


CANON XXVIII.-If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Christian; let him be anathema.

Canon 28 plainly teaches people can have true faith (a faith through which they were previously justified) and still perish. It implies we cannot trust Christ's promise to save believers.  It's the most dangerous doctrine I've seen from Rome as it counters the heart of the gospel.

This canon locks Catholics into some miss-understandings of James 2 and 1 Corinthians 13:2 and Galatians 5:6.  Catholics must understand James to be talking about true faith, but James says: 1) can "that" faith save him? as distinct from real faith and 2)  "But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds" using the lack of deeds as evidence that the person did not have true faith, and 3) "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder", thus defining the faith he is discussing as naked monotheism (i.e. that of Judaism) without trust in Christ.  Demons do not believe Christ died for their sins.  If Trent had limited it's mistake on James 2 to "infused justification" I would be far more sympathetic, but to say James is talking about true faith is to put James hopelessly against Paul and Christ Himself.

1 Corinthians 13:2 is talking about the faith that works miracles. In 1 Corinthians 12:9, Paul is talking about a special sort of faith, not the faith all Christians must have to be saved. That’s why his teaching here doesn’t contradict his earlier teaching that we are justified by faith.
In Galatians 5:6, Paul isn't saying faith justifies through love, as if without love faith would not justify.  Rather Paul is saying faith works or performs good deeds through love.

Trent imposes misunderstandings of God's word on Catholics without resolving the conflicts they create.  

CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taugh; let him be anathema. (link to Trent Session 6)

Canon 29 follows from 28: if true believers can be lost, then faith alone cannot be the means of restoration.  In the process it anathematize the view of many Arminians (based on Hebrews 6:4-6) that apostasy is without remedy.

I'm not saying we can live like the devil and go to heaven or that true faith can be without love. I am saying we can trust Christ's promise that believers shall not perish.  I'm going with Christ over Trent.

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1 Dan Wallace calls the construction Emphatic Negation Subjunctive.  "Empatic negation is indicated by on me plus the aorist subjunctive or, less frequently, on me plus the future indicative (e.g. Matt 26:35; Mark 13:31; John 4:14; 6:35).  This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek.  One might hink the neagative witht eh subjunctive cound not be as strong as the negative with the indicitive.  However, while on + the indicative denies a certainty, on me + the subjunctive denies a potentiality.  The negative is not weaker; rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive.  On me rules out even the idea as being a possibility: "on me is the most decisive way of negativing something in the future. (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament By Daniel B. Wallace, page 468)



2 8. But before I proceed farther, it will be necessary to make some preliminary observations for the purpose of removing difficulties which might otherwise obstruct the reader. And first, I must refute the nugatory distinction of the Schoolmen as to formed and unformed faith. For they imagine that persons who have no fear of God, and no sense of piety, may believe all that is necessary to be known for salvation; as if the Holy Spirit were not the witness of our adoption by enlightening our hearts unto faith. Still, however, though the whole Scripture is against them, they dogmatically give the name of faith to a persuasion devoid of the fear of God. It is unnecessary to go farther in refuting their definition, than simply to state the nature of faith as declared in the word of God. From this it will clearly appear how unskillfully and absurdly they babble, rather than discourse, on this subject. I have already done this in part, and will afterwards add the remainder in its proper place. At present, I say that nothing can be imagined more absurd than their fiction. They insist that faith is an assent with which any despiser of God may receive what is delivered by Scripture. But we must first see whether any one can by his own strength acquire faith, or whether the Holy Spirit, by means of it, becomes the witness of adoption. Hence it is childish trifling in them to inquire whether the faith formed by the supervening quality of love be the same, or a different and new faith. By talking in this style, they show plainly that they have never thought of the special gift of the Spirit; since one of the first elements of faith is reconciliation implied in man’s drawing near to God. Did they duly ponder the saying of Paul, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” (Rom. 10:10), they would cease to dream of that frigid quality. There is one consideration which ought at once to put an end to the debate—viz. that assent itself (as I have already observed, and will afterwards more fully illustrate) is more a matter of the heart than the head, of the affection than the intellect. For this reason, it is termed “the obedience of faith,” (Rom. 1:5), which the Lord prefers to all other service, and justly, since nothing is more precious to him than his truth, which, as John Baptist declares, is in a manner signed and sealed by believers (John 3:33). As there can be no doubt on the matter, we in one word conclude, that they talk absurdly when they maintain that faith is formed by the addition of pious affection as an accessory to assent, since assent itself, such at least as the Scriptures describe, consists in pious affection. But we are furnished with a still clearer argument. Since faith embraces Christ as he is offered by the Father, and he is offered not only for justification, for forgiveness of sins and peace, but also for sanctification, as the fountain of living waters, it is certain that no man will ever know him aright without at the same time receiving the sanctification of the Spirit; or, to express the matter more plainly, faith consists in the knowledge of Christ; Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of his Spirit: therefore faith cannot possibly be disjoined from pious affection. (Calvin's Institutes.  Book 3.  Chapter 2 Section 8  See also Sections 9-11) 

3 The sophists apply this passages (Galatians 5:6) in support of their doctrine that we are justified by love or by works.  For they say that even when faith has been divinely infused - and I am not even speaking of faith that is merely acquired - it does not justify unless it has been formed by love.  They call love "the grace that makes one acceptable", namely, that justifies, to use our term, or rather Paul's; and they say that love is acquired by our merit of congruity, etc. In fact, they even declare that an infused faith can coexist with mortal sin.  In this manner they completely transfer justification from faith and attribute it solely to love as thus defined.  And they claim that this is proved by St. Paul in the passage - "faith working through love" - as though Paul wanted to say: "You see, faith does not justify; in fact, it is nothing unless love the worker is added, which forms faith.  (Works of Martin Luther.  Lectures on Galatians 5:6, volume 27, page 28)

4 However, since salvation and justification are by faith and not works, and faith yields obedience (Rom 1:5; 14:23; 16:26; Gal 5:6; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 The 1:11; Heb 11; James 2:14-26), these types of passages should not be taken to indicate that sinning in itself results in the forfeiture of salvation (though some Arminians believe this), whether by any sin whatsoever or certain egregious sins. Rather, ongoing refusal to repent of sin by one who has been a believer and continues to profess to be a believer reflects that the person is no longer truly trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior, and it is the forsaking of genuine faith that actually leads to practical rejection of Christ’s lordship and the loss of salvation, even if the person still professes faith in Christ.  (From the Society of Evangelical Arminians FACTS writeup).

Friday, September 19, 2014

A New Flower in the Calvinism/Arminianism Debate

Francisco Marín-Sola advances an innovative alternative in the free will/determinism debate in the book, Do Not Resist the Spirit's Call: Francisco Marín-Sola on Sufficient Grace.  He claims his view is Thomism, and I certainly don’t deny that it could be a type of Thomism, though other Thomists like Lagrange are far more determinist than Marín-Sola.  In the spectrum, I would place it here:




Since many theological systems have a flower acronym (TULIP, ROSES, DAISY, POINSETTIA…) I figured I would give Marín-Sola’s system the LOTUS.

Lotus




Laps of Man Foreknown but not Caused by God.  God foreknows the fall, but He does not cause it.  Man is the first cause of all sins. -  While all but Open Theists would agree the fall was foreknown, likely Calvinists and Thomists would object to the idea that man is the first cause of sin or anything else for that matter.

Only by Grace.  God provides sufficient grace for all, which is a physical pre-motion always directed to good and that produces good if not resisted.  This sufficient grace not only enables good acts, but starts them, though it does not actually complete them or produce final perseverance.  So this fallible decree is God's will antecedent to man's resistance or non-resistance, and it's the first cause of all good.  – Open Theists, Arminians and Molinists would likely object to the idea that sufficient grace stops short of final perseverance or that it doesn’t see people all the way through to heaven.  Thomists and Calvinist on the other hand, would object to the idea that given the same grace, one man would resist and another not resist.  Likewise they would object to fallible decrees.  Also Calvinists would object to the idea of the non-elect being brought to true repentance and saving faith. 

Timeless knowledge of who would and wouldn't resist.  God, the eternal now, foreknows if man would freely resist or not resist this sufficient grace.  – All but Molinists would object to this idea, though Thomists and Calvinists might grant it, but not if man is the first cause of resistance and not if the knowledge is prior to God’s decree. 

Unconditional Election.  God unconditionally elects some sinners to glory.  -  All Open Theists and Arminians would reject this, while all Calvinists and Thomists would accept it.  Molinists would be split, with Congruists accepting it and others rejecting it. 

Securing of the Elect.  Via a consequent will, God infallibly decrees to provide efficient grace for the elect to remove resistance, which secures final perseverance.  – While many others could agree with the ethos behind this statement, this view is unique to Marín-Sola, given the way he has configured the other elements.  Calvinists and Thomists would object to the idea that God could find in us a resistance for which we are the first cause.  Molinists would object that were God to remove such resistance, He would destroy the freedom He gave us.


While I enjoyed reading Marin-Sola’s views, and I really like his point on non-resistance, I’m not sure I’m ready to sign up.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Response to Nathanael Taylor on Molinism


Nathanael P. Taylor is posting a series on Molinism (link) Here’s his description of Molinism.

In Molinism, it’s been true through all eternity past that if I were in a circumstance C, then I would have faith in Christ. Logically, this means that it was true prior to God choosing to create this actual world. However, this just happens to be true—it is a contingent truth. In other words, something different could have been true from all eternity past. The counterfactual that if I were in a circumstance then I would have faith in Christ could have either been truth or false.

Suppose this counterfactual statement turned out true—you might ask, “What makes this counterfactual true or false?” And the answer is that nothing makes it true. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are just true from all eternity past and, oddly, nothing makes them true. God can’t make them true because that would mean God has control over the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, resembling Calvinism. Creatures can’t make them true because they were true before creatures existed. So nothing makes them true; they are just brute facts.

Molinists are not committed to saying “counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are just true and nothing makes them true”. We need not be committed to any specific view of grounding or if any grounding is required. We are however committed to denying any form of grounding that implies causal determinism. Take the classical text on Ezekiel’s mission (Ezekiel 3:6-7). God’s statement that foreigners would repent is true because, if they were in that circumstance, that’s what they would do. So we are committed to saying that, supposing God created a parallel universe in which He sends Ezekiel to say India, they would freely repent.

There’s a difference between grounding questions and grounding objections. It’s fine to say “I don’t know” if someone asks how counterfactuals are grounded. But if someone advances from the question to the objection that 1) nothing grounds counterfactuals of freedom and 2) counterfactuals of freedom need to be grounded in some existing thing, we need to examine their presuppositions that led them to this position. In Natanael’s case, he seems to be presupposing that only causal determinism could ground counterfactuals of freedom, which is to presuppose that there can be no counterfactuals of freedom. Indeed, he seems to hold this as a brute fact. It just is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Molinism and God's Infallible Plan

Turretinfan recently posted on Dr. Anderson’s argument that on Molinism God’s decrees are fallible, because we can choose otherwise than God decrees. (link to Turretinfan’s post; link to Dr. Anderson’s post).  But Dr. Craig pointed out that if the person would have chosen otherwise, God’s decrees would have been different.  Dr. Anderson then called this solution a “special pleading” and argued Molinists should not be allowed to exclude God’s decree.  His supporting reasons were 1) God’s decree implies we will not do otherwise (he called this a relative logical necessity) and 2) God’s decree has causal consequences.  Turretinfan accepts Dr. Anderson’s arguments and adds that sometimes prophesies are self-fulfilling (i.e. a prophesied victory motivates troops to fight).    

This is a complex business but fortunately the answer is simple.  Here’s a chart explaining Molinism:


Dr. Anderson asks us to explain middle knowledge in light of God’s decree.  In doing so, he redraws the chart moving the Divine Creative Decree above moment 2. No, middle knowledge explains God’s decree not the other way around.  Nor was Molinism invented to evade Dr. Anderson’s arguments against Molinism.

The remaining arguments say how important God’s decree is: 1) it implies the event will happen, 2) it has causal influences, 3) it leads to self-fulfilling prophesies.  But we do not exclude God’s power to do all these things from God’s middle knowledge, or our analysis of man’s free will.[note 1]  Nor do we deny that such factors logically imply that the event will happen.  What we deny is that God’s decree, causal influence or the causal influence of self-fulfilling prophesies causally determine the event.  That is to say, given the causal influence of such factors, and indeed, given all proceeding causal influences, the person retains a twofold causal ability, such that he can choose A or ~A.  Dr. Anderson seems to recognize this when he says:

“It isn’t a causal determinism, but it’s still determinism in the sense that God’s decree that S will do A (which is fixed prior to any of S’s choices) guarantees that S will do A. Given that God has decreed that S will do A, S cannot do otherwise than A.”


While I would have worded the conclusion as “it cannot be, that S will do otherwise than A” rather than “S cannot do otherwise than A”, I agree with the substance of Dr. Anderson’s comments – on Molinism, God’s decree does not lead to causal determinism but it does imply the decreed events will happen.  So, Molinists explain God’s infallibility through infallible knowledge and inescapable logical implications rather than causal determinism.  

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Note 1 - While the decree itself follows middle knowledge, the possibility of the decree and the causal influence of the decree (and self fulfilling prophecies) are a part of God's natural knowledge.  Again, Dr. Anderson and Turretinfan redraw the chart to push moment 1 under moment 2.  No, God’s power to decree, and the causal influences His decree can have and the influence self-fulfilling prophesies can have are all part of God’s natural knowledge and therefore helps explain middle knowledge and man's free will.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Friday, October 18, 2013

James Anderson on Calvinism and the First Sin

James Anderson was kind enough to share a chapter of an upcoming book he’s working on.  (link)  The chapter is titled Calvinism and the First Sin and the book will be titled Calvinism and the Problem of Evil.  Dr. Anderson will remove the online version once the book is published, so read it while you can.

Dr. Anderson addresses the challenges unique to Calvinism regarding the problem of evil including: 1) God’s determining the first sin makes Him the author of sin, 2) Calvinists must be compatiblists and there are some fairly strong arguments against compatibilism, and 3) and given Adam’s good nature, there’s no causal explanation for the first sin. 

To his credit, Dr. Anderson openly embraces the idea that Calvinism is indeed divine determinism.  Now in true Van Tillian fashion, he spends a great deal of time explaining what this does not mean without elaborating on what it does mean.  Dr. Anderson argues that Calvinists need not be causal determinists.  Curiously, his reason is that God can cause events directly (i.e. miracles).    Dr. Anderson then argues that God’s causal activity in the world is absolutely unique – and this becomes the foundation for his primary response to the three arguments against theological determinism.  Put another way, the differences between God and man on causation are essential (not just accidental) to causation itself, such that we run the risk of equivocating when we speak of God and man’s causation.  Thus we should not expect responsibility to work the same in divine verses human causation.  Dr. Anderson explains God’s causation via the analogy of an author of a book and while he acknowledges this supports the idea that God is the author of sin, he argues that since we don’t blame authors who write in crimes for their characters, we shouldn’t blame God for writing sin into His plan.  However, I don’t think this response works, because when an author writes a crime into a book, nothing bad has happened – so of course we don’t blame the author.  A closer analogy would be someone writing a screen play for a pornography.  In cases like that we should blame the author.


One minor pet peeve.  Dr. Anderson separates Molinism, Arminianism and Open Theism as the three primary alternative accounts. I would have preferred the categories Molinism, Simple Foreknowledge and Open Theism, to leave room for the fact that many Arminians are Molinists.  Overall it was a pleasant read and very clear, and I would recommend folks read it and consider the issues.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope says "Who am I to judge Gays?"

Thought this was coming, but it was quicker than I would have guessed.  This will of course lead to corruption in society, but also to the purification of Christ's Church, as many will now see their choice is between their Pope and God's word.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/pope-francis-gays_n_3669635.html

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review - Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace by Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall

The book begins with a brief but helpful account of the life and times of Jacob Arminius, but points readers to Bangs work for a more detailed biography (Bangs, Carl.  Arminius – A Study in the Dutch Reformation.  Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998).  Then it dives into the foundation of Arminius’ theology - his explanations of God’s attributes.  On the simplicity of God, Aquinas taught God’s attributes are distinct only in the way we think about them, but are really united in God, but Arminius disagreed and rather followed John Dun Scottus who taught God’s attributes really are distinct in God even though they are absolutely inseparable.   On omniscience, Arminius followed Luis De Molina in affirming middle knowledge – and this book is the first I have seen to acknowledge that Arminius’ view of predestination is based on God’s middle knowledge of faith rather than so called simple foreknowledge.  Then in a rare low point in the book - Arminius is accused of denying Christ aseity (i.e. denying passages like John 8:58), but the accusation is based on what the authors see as the implications of Arminius beliefs even though Arminius denies the implication.   The chapter closes with Arminius’ view of creation; which Arminius sees as God’s freely communicating His goodness to whatever He creates.  Thus the idea that God creates people for hellfire troubles Arminius.

Arminius sees God’s providence as meticulous.  God provides for what He created through preservation, concurrence and governance of all that happens.  God permits rather than causes sin – Arminius is concerned with making God the author of evil.  Arminius holds to what we call libertarian free will and offers a free will defense similar to Plantinga’s account (Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom and Evil.  Eerdmans Publishing, 1974); using middle knowledge to reconcile God’s plan with man’s freedom.

On predestination, Arminius’ main opponents (Gomorus & Perkins) said that election logically precedes the fall (i.e. supra-lapsarian Calvinism).  Arminius is concerned that this doctrine wasn’t taught by the Church Fathers or in the early councils.  Arminius sees supralapsarianism as contrary to God’s justice, wisdom and love, since God subjects the innocent to hell.  This also removes man’s free will and makes God’s offer in the gospel insincere.  Rebellion against God isn’t really rebellion if God wants it to happen and acts to make it necessary.  Grace is resistible and it restores man’s nature in a way suitable to accomplish God’s purpose in creation: for us to know and love God.  Supralapsarianism subordinates Christ’s election to ours – making Him just the means rather than the foundation of election.  It implies Christ didn’t die for all, which is unbiblical.  Arminius sees Jacob and Esau in Romans 9 as types for justification by faith and pursuing righteousness through works.  Arminius sees predestination as Christocentric and conditional on foreknowledge. This harmonizes with God’s love us His own justice and His love of us and it wards off overconfidence and despair.

Arminius held that God permitted the fall and Adam was able to avoid sinning.  He understood Adam to be the recipient of grace, which God removes after the fall.  All of mankind received all the penalties Adam received, leaving us unable to think will or do anything truly good, including believe.  Without grace we are free from external and internal necessity, but not from our slavery to sin. God must take the initiative through prevenient grace, and if we don’t resist, through subsequent grace.  God’s grace is sufficient meaning He gives us everything we need to be able to respond.  Romans 7 describes a pre-regenerate state.  Both justification and sanctification are by grace through faith.  Final apostasy is possible but Arminius denied teaching that it ever actually happens.  Arminius disagreed with Calvin that assurance is part of the definition of faith.  Arminius had pastoral concerns that Calvinism leads to overconfidence and despair.  


Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  The authors made good decisions on what to include and provide a wealth of footnotes and references for further study.   It joins Bang’s bibliography, Stanglin’s first book on Arminius and Assurance and Muller’s God, Creation and Providence in the thought of Jacob Arminius as one of the premier accounts of Arminius and his theology.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

James Arminius on the Aseity of the Son

I recently was reading a book that accused James Arminius of a Trinitarian heresy:  denying Christ’s aseity (self existence).  This relates to the “auto-theos” controversy in which Arminius denied a specific sense in which Christ is God “from Himself”.  (Works of James Arminius.  Apology Article 21)  That is to say, Arminius defended the doctrine in the Nicene creed: ”And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds , Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father”. In short, Arminius defended the Father’s eternal generation of the Son.  In this post, I will briefly provide the biblical basis for eternal generation and then defend it from a specific charge: that affirming the eternal generation of the Son implicitly denies the aseity of the Son.

1 John 5:18 says “ We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

The “he who was born of God” is Christ.  The Son truly is a Son in relation to the Father, in that in some sense the Son is born of the Father.  This is not to say the Father/Son relationship is in every respect like a human Father/Son relationship since they are Divine and perfect and we are not.   So the Son was eternally generated – there was never a time when He was not. 

Likewise, John 6:57 says “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Since the Father eternally generated the Son, the Son lives because of the Father. 

We also have passages saying the Father is the Son’s God: John 20:17, Revelation 3:12, Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:17, Colossians 1:3.  This is a non-reciprocal relationship.  The bible never says the Father was born of or lives because of the Son or the Son is the Father’s God.

Arminius strongly establish this is how the Early Church Father explained the scriptures by quoting Basil The Great, Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, Augustine, and  Hilary in his letter to Hippolytus (Works of James Arminius.  Volume 2.  Letter to Hyppolytus).

Now none of this detracts from the ideas that Christ is God and one with the Father (Matthew 1:23, John 1:1, John 5:17-18, John 10:30-33, John 14:9-11, John 20:28, Philippians 2:5-7, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:8-9).  And this is because the Son eternally receives the Father’s divine essence.  This is what the Nicene creed means by “being of one substance with the Father”.

More to our purpose, the Son’s divine nature has aseity, as He claims explicitly:

John 8:58 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

This is so because the Son’s divine nature is not derived from anything outside itself.  This was Arminius assertion of the Son’s aseity as well, when he said: "Because the essence of the Father and of the Son is one, and because it has its origin from no one, therefore, in this respect, the Son is correctly denominated Autoqeon that is, God from himself."  (Works of James Arminius.  Volume 2.  Letter to Hyppolytus).  Mysterious as it may be; God is one in nature and three in persons.  Indeed, were we to deny this and affirm three divine natures each with their own aseity, we have arrived at tri-theism. 


In the end, I fear Arminius was collateral damage in the battle for feminism.  Some deny eternal generation, because they believe submission in roles implies inferiority in nature.  The Son had to be able to choose not to submit to the Father, so wives can choose not to submit to their husbands.  But the argument is completely unsound - eternal generation is the very basis of the Son’s aseity rather than being contrary to it.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Obama on Faith and Reason

Obama argues we should keep Christ out of politics in the ironically titled The Audacity of Hope.  The following is a block quote from chapter 6 on faith, interspersed with my responses.

What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy demands is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason.

This is ambiguous.  Is Obama saying democracy demands Christians drop our values in politics or just drop them to be more persuasive?  On the one hand, the government does not demand that we drop our values - it grants freedom of religion.   (Notwithstanding the fire religious freedoms comes under from time to time, like the US government's seeking to deport a German family on the grounds that homeschooling is not a religious freedom (link) - generally the government grants religious freedom).  So I doubt Obama means the government is demanding Christians to drop our values.

On the other hand, if quoting scripture is simply unpersuasive, why doesn't Obama just let us continue with our unpersuasive tactic?  It's hard to believe Obama is just offering some friendly advice on how Christians can better defeat his policies on abortion and homosexuality.  That would make his statement a sort of  cry for help – “please stop me”. 

More likely he just wants us to put down our weapon that's been giving him so much trouble.  Christianity is not just amenable to reason – God Himself is the foundation of reason. It's painful all-around to be reminded that your opposing God.

If I am opposed to abortion for religious reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God's will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

This assumes Christianity is unreasonable – that God’s commands are not a valid and persuasive point about what’s right and wrong.  But God's word is powerful.  Abortion is immoral because it violates God’s law of “thou shalt not kill” and unless someone completely hardens their heart, they know or can know abortion is wrong. Romans 9:11 calls Jacob and Esau children while in Rebecca’s womb - so unless you like the killing of kids, vote against abortion. If you don't like that answer, take it up with Him.

The problem isn't access to God's laws, but rather accepting them and submitting to them.  Wisdom calls out loud and clear, but if we refuse to listen, she will abandon us even when we seek her.  (Proverbs 1:20-30) Now I am not saying we can think up the Trinity through natural theology alone, but I think we can figure out we are not suppose to kill kids.    

For those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do, such rules of engagement may seem just one more example of the tyranny of the secular and material worlds over the sacred and eternal. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Almost by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involve different paths to discerning truth.

Different domains?  Both faith and reason tell us murder is wrong, so they are on in different domains.  My faith and my reason are under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How can Obama say the world is sovereign and tyrannical over Christ?  He made the world and He came to save the world.  If you believe the world popped into existence out of nothing, you might as well live for nothing and have the audacity to hope you return to it when you die.

Scripture calls those without faith both wicked and unreasonable. (2 Thessalonians 3:2).  It’s unreasonable not to believe God exists and that He created and upholds the world and has given us His commands and has revealed Himself to us in Scripture.  There’s no other way to account for the origin of the world, the basis of morality, or scriptures unified message about who God is.  

Reason—and science—involves the accumulation of knowledge based on realities that we can all apprehend. Religion, by contrast, is based on truths that are not provable through ordinary human understanding—the “belief in things not seen.”  When science teachers insist on keeping creationism or intelligent design out of their classrooms, they are not asserting that scientific knowledge is superior to religious insight. They are simply insisting that each path to knowledge involves different rules and that those rules are not interchangeable.

Evolution is not science; it’s bad theology.  No one observers one species evolving to another or the world popping into being.  Those are examples of science trying to pry into theology.  But theology alone explains origins.  That’s why it’s the prince of the sciences.   Scripture says atheists are fools and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Descartes, after reasoning "I think therefore I am", says His knowledge of God is more certain than his observations, because God must have created him and put the idea of God in him.  (Descartes.  Meditation 3) Indeed, scientific observation alone (watching apples fall) cannot ascend to a general principle (gravity) without first believing in a God who holds things together.  Without knowing God is the origin of gravity, you are left post hoc fallacy of deriving causation from correlation. 

In a pluralistic democracy, the same distinctions apply. Politics, like science, depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. Moreover, politics (unlike science) involves compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

Obama equivocates between moral and logical impossibility.  There's nothing absurd or self-contradictory about God's standards, even if we can't be morally perfect in this life.  Obama says God's laws are dangerous; he knows better than God what is good for people. But of course, the real danger is ignoring rather than obeying God's laws.

Science doesn't depend on our ability to persuade each other. It's an organization of what we learn through repeatable observations.  Science describes objective reality; whether others are persuaded to believe it's claims or not.  Evolution is spread through persuasion rather than observation, showing yet again that it's not science.  

The story of Abraham and Isaac offers a simple but powerful example. According to the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his "only son, Isaac, whom you love," as a burnt offering. Without argument, Abraham takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded. Of course, we know the happy ending—God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute. Abraham has passed God's test of devotion. He becomes a model of fidelity to God, and his great faith is rewarded through future generations. And yet it is fair to say that if any of us saw a 21st century Abraham raising the knife on the roof of his apartment building, we would call the police; we would wrestle him down; even if we saw him lower the knife at the last minute, we would expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away and charge Abraham with child abuse. We would do so because God doesn't reveal Himself or His angels to all of us in a single moment. We do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that are possible for all of us to know, understanding that a part of what we know to be true—as individuals or communities of faith—will be true for us alone.

Islam says Ishmael, not Isaac, was placed on the alter.

God tested Abraham.   We do hear what Abraham heard, because it's recorded in scripture.  There's no reason to believe that anyone within earshot of Abraham wouldn't also have heard God's voice or have seen the angel.  God ensured that everyone who need to hear the message did hear it. It's true and billions know it's true; it's not true for Abraham alone.  It's surprising to hear Abraham as grounds for denying absolute truth and for moral relativism - where's the connection? 

It's true some receive more revelation from God than others. But this is generally true of Christian doctrine rather than morality.  We all have a God given conscience; everyone knows it's wrong to kill, steal or lie.  

As for child abuse, according to Josephus, Isaac was 25 years old.  (Antiquity of the Jews Book 1, Chapter 13)  So we need not think of Isaac as an impressionable 4 year old - scarred for life dispute being rescued in the end. While it's true we shouldn't legislate God's tests, that's because tests are not normative, not because moral relativism is true (or false or true-false or whatever nonsensical truth status moral relativists assign to moral relativism).  


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The New Living Translation and Calvinism

The New Living Translation (the most popular English version of the bible) has numerous translation errors that favor Calvinism and oppose standard Arminian or Traditional Baptist interpretation of the texts.  For example, Ephesians 4:30 in the ESV states “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  However the New Living Translation has “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”  There's no basis in the Greek for the NLT's additions and it appears to be more of a commentary than a translation.  The attached study documents these errors.

The New Living Translation and Calvinism

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not of My Sheep

In John 10:26 Christ says “you do not believe because you are not of my sheep”.  A good friend of mine said this was the clincher for him; the reason he became a Calvinist.  Calvinist argue that Christ’s sheep are the unconditionally elect and the reason some don’t believe is because they are not unconditionally elect.  But there’s good reason to think this is not what the passage means.  In this post I will argue that Christ's statement should be understood as providing reasons to know the Jews have rejected Him rather than stating reprobation causes unbelief.  

John 10:24 says: Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

About two months had passed since Christ’s Good Shepard discourse in John 10:1-19.  Now the Jews try to trap Jesus by asking if He was the Christ. The NKJV translates “τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν αἴρεις” as “keep us in doubt”.  The ESV renders it: “keep us in suspense”.  Literally the phrase is hold up our souls.  As John Gill puts it:

and said unto him, how long dost thou make us doubt? or as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions literally render it, "how long dost thou take away our soul?" that is, deprive us of the knowledge of thee; Nonnus renders it, "wherefore dost thou steal away our minds with words?" so Jacob when he went away privately, without the knowledge of Laban, is said to steal away the heart of Laban, as it is in the Hebrew text, in Genesis 31:20. In like manner the Jews charge Christ with taking away their soul, or stealing away their heart, or hiding himself from them; not telling them plainly (see Gill on John 10:24)

Now perhaps this is overstated a bit, and the phrase is just a manor of speaking, but non-the-less, I think the point stands that the Jews statement was a bit sharp and accusatory. They are saying Christ is doing something wrong; hiding who He really is.  The NKJV captures this sense well by “keep us in doubt”; in that the Jews were blaming their unbelief on Christ.  παῤῥησίᾳ has been translated “plainly”, or “boldly” or “openly”.  The idea is that Christ has been hiding who He is and He should clearly and confidently tell the truth about Himself. 

Now let’s look at how Christ answers this charge: John 10:25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 

Twice Christ says He already explained this and twice He says they don't believe.  The repetition seems to be for emphasis.  The Jews are saying "speak boldly" and Christ is saying "I already did".  He also cites the evidence backing up His assertion: the miracles He does in the Father's name.  Not only has He already spoken boldly, but He has provided evidence.  So He is not to blame for hiding the truth; they are to blame for not believing it.

But how does Christ back up His claim that they do not believe?  They say Christ is holding them in suspense - but Christ says no, you have already rejected me by not believing.  He says you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.  For some reason the NIV drops the ek (of or among).  Contrast the ESV's "you are not among my sheep" withe the NIV's "you are not my sheep".  The ESV is clearly correct given the Greek is ek ton probaton. This point is bolstered by verse 16 "other sheep I have which are not of [ek] this fold".  The ek makes it clear that the idea is not simply one of individual identity, but also identification with the group.  So the idea in verse 26 is they were not among or with Christ's sheep.  Anyone could see they were not following Christ.

The Jews are not in some neutral territory between accepting or rejecting Christ; no they have rejected Him in the face of bold claims and strong evidence.  Their accusation that Christ is keeping them in suspense or making them doubt is false; they have rejected Christ's words and the Father's witness.  Christ's sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  The fact that the Jews don't follow Christ is evidence that they don't believe and they are not on neutral ground.

The gar translated "because" or sometimes "for" often is used to settle questions, provide evidence or explanatory material like when people say I know there's a fire because I see the smoke. For example, in Mark 14:70, when Peter is called out “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it”, the "for you are a Galilean" is evidence the statement is correct, not an assertion of causality.  See also (Matthew 2:20, 3:9, 4:18, 6:31-32, Romans 13:11, 14:10, 16:17-18, John 4:45, Luke 6:32, 1 Corinthians 9:10, Mark 2:15 and in many other places).  And the contexts presses for this usage of gar, since Christ is denying and refuting the Jews accusation that He is making them doubt or holding them in suspense.  No, they are lying about being in suspense; they have already rejected Christ, otherwise they would be among His sheep and following Him.

And we can see this understanding is better than thinking of Christ's sheep as the elect and all others as reprobate.  First, if the passage is about reprobation, then Christ isn't answering the Jews.  He's wouldn't be giving a reason why He is right in disagreeing the the Jews claim that Christ is making them doubt.  Second, if sheep are the unconditionally elect, then it's not true the sheep are following Christ. They will eventually, but they are not currently.  Before the elect convert they don't hear Christ's voice and follow Him and they are not among Christ's flock.  Third, Christ's statements shame the Jews, but there is no shame in not being unconditionally chosen.  Finally, Christ is inviting the Jews to believe, especially in verse 38 "but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him." But nothing could slam the door in the Jews face greater than being told by God they are reprobate.  

Now let's head off a possible objection to this interpretation.  Suppose someone grants Christ is giving reasons to think the Jews are unbelievers, but continues pressing the causal relationship.  After all, fire causes smoke so the reason we know there is fire is because we see smoke.  So while it's true Christ provides reasons to reject the Jews claim He keeps them in doubt, He does so by providing a causal connection between reprobation and unbelief.  However, what such an objection would miss is that following Christ is a "condition of" not a "condition for" salvation.  We do not earn or cause our salvation by following Christ - that would be works salvation.  Christ makes this distinction in verse 9 between entering the door and going in and out for pasture in verse 9:

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Likewise, when Christ speaks of hearing Christ's voice and leading and not following strangers in John 10:3-5,  He's talking about Christian walk.  Christians do these things, but they don't become Christians by doing them.

So the idea is not that being sheep causes faith, but rather we can know they are unbelievers because they are not following Christ, since believers follow Christ.

One final argument that Calvinist bring up is based on John 10:16 "other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd."  Calvinists argue that the other sheep are elect Gentiles who God will convert at a later time.  Frankly there's little to go on here.  Mormons claim they are the other sheep.  People tend to find their pet theology in ambiguous statements.  To me, it's far more likely that Christ is talking about others who were saved under the Old Testament system but hadn't yet heard about Christ because they were geographically remote.  But I won't be dogmatic about that, because Christ doesn't get into the details.