Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: Grace for All



John D. Wagner assembled inputs from a wide ranges of authors to put together Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation.  The book starts off with Roger Olson defending Arminianism from the charge of being “man-centered”.  Olson notes that Richard Watson affirmed God could have prevented the fall and that James Arminius only affirmed free will to defend God's righteousness. Olson says that the doctrine of divine concurrence with secondary causes is the primary way of defending God's sovereignty in Arminianism.

The book moves on to Vernon Grounds, whose mystical style is not my cup of tea.  He focuses on the personal nature of grace. 

Next comes Glen Shellrude.  He makes Calvinists pay full price for determinism by surveying a variety of biblical texts through the lens of determinism. Shellrude doesn't take on compatibilism directly; he just focuses on the awkward results of determinism.  He ends by saying atheism makes more sense than Calvinism.
Robert Picirilli discusses the atonement and argues for both penal substitution and that Christ died for everyone. He points out that if ‘world’ means ‘the elect everywhere’ in 1 John 2:2, it's the only such usage out of 22 cases in 1 John. He explains passages about the efficiency of the atonement as either talking about the application of Christ’s blood to the individual, which is certainly effectual, or the passages are talking about possibility of salvation as the act itself (i.e. the doctor’s diagnosis saved my life).
Jack Cottrell talks about conditional election.  Cottrell summarizes the different biblical uses of election and then discusses election to salvation.  He argues against a purely corporate view of election and instead defends individual election based on foreknowledge. He then covers God's sovereignty, man's responsibility, foreknowledge and total depravity. He integrates these topics with conditional election based on foreknowledge.

William MacDonald and John Wagner wrote a chapter called the Spirit of Grace.  They emphasized the personal nature of the Holy Spirit. I would have skipped calling man sovereign and a creator.  They had a good treatment of five passages on the question of whether scripture teaches faith is a gift.

David Clines writes about predestination in the Old Testament. Cline equates predestination with God's plan or design, so he finds predestination in the OT even when the word is not used.  He gives a brief survey of God's plan in the OT and digs into some interesting details in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. He finds God's plan in responding to sin in primeval history, promising in patriarchal history, rewarding/punishing in wisdom literature, and choosing/planning in the Prophets.  

I. Howard Marshall covers predestination in the New Testament. Marshall starts with a helpful survey of the biblical terms and usage of the Greek words for predestination, planning and will of God in the New Testament. He then covers the range of meanings for the human wills and choices. He then assesses Cavinism's view of God as an author or playwright and discusses some problems.  

Matthew Pinson gives a brief account of James Arminus' life. He makes Bangs’ point that there were proto-Arminians in the reformed church.  He makes the point that James Arminius held to total depravity and original sin (in the sense that we are condemned in Adam).  Pinson glosses the disagreement between Arminius and his opponents on the merciful imputation of Christ's righteousness and he strawmans Molinism to put distance between James Arminius and Louis De Molina. 

Vic Reasoner gives a helpful summary of John Wesley's doctrine. He show Wesley is neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian and he attributes much to God's grace because he viewed the effects of the fall as utterly debilitating.  Wesley taught perfection as a type of progressive maturity of character and cleansing of our lives from willful sins by God's grace and through faith alone. He denied unconditional election because Christ died for all and because it implies reprobation. 

Grant Osborne's chapter is 100% exegetical and quite good.  He covers lots of NT Calvinist proof texts NT author by NT author. He admits difficulties where he sees them and tries to look at the overall message of each author.

James D. Strauss and John Wagner provide an excellent exegesis of Romans 9, showing the passage to be about God's plan to save by grace through faith rather than unconditional individual election.  They address many arguments Calvinists bring up from the text and they go through the OT texts Paul quotes from. 

Steve Witzki obliterates the view that people can stop believing and still go to heaven. He argues for the continual sense of believing in John, especially from the symmetry from John 3:36.  He addresses Charles Stanley's argument that a continual verb sometimes do not signify continual action.

Grant R. Osborne finishes the book beautifully by commenting on Hebrews and apostasy.  While he only touches on alternative views, he provides an excellent study of the theme of apostasy in the book and shows the interplay between John, Hebrews and the rest of the NT.

My favorites in the book were Shellrude, Piricilli, Osborne and Strauss/Wagner.    

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).