Talking to Catholics (The Sequel)

What follows is a brief exchange between a Roman Catholic and myself, which took place on Facebook.  Well actually, it originally took place on the OSU campus and then moved to Facebook.  The reason I have posted it here is because it was sent to me in my inbox, I then replied to it, and it has yet to be responded to.  I do hope eventually it will be responded to.  It’s not my intention to mock or belittle the person/response, but simply to put it out there for anyone who would like to comment on it, or simply read it.  For that purpose, any names or places originally mentioned have, hopefully, been omitted.

Quick note: The original message of the sender will be in white lettering, while my responses back will be in orange.  The original message is left completely as is.  It is actually not written by the person who sent it to me but is a summary of a message his priest gave in response to the issue of Sola Fide (Faith Alone).  My responses are going to be edited, since I responded in an awkward sequence, if anything is added (not originally sent to this person) I will put it in red lettering.  By the way, it’s a response so go easy on the grammar, thanks.  With that said, I thank God for the opportunities to share the Gospel, and hope that if there is any benefit in this it will be to His glory.  Soli Deo Gloria.  From here on is the entirety of the exchange.

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This is a reflection on the gospel reading for the Mass today

*It doesn’t deal with the entirety of what we talked about, but some of it.

*This is written outside of the context of our discussion (obviously) and Fr. *** is smarter than me, so his argument may seem different, but we’re getting at the same point.

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Link for the day’s Scripture readings:
http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/120309.shtml

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” -Matt 7:21

First, I wanted to start with the text. I love this verse, it has had a lot of impact in my life, yet I have never seen it as a defense against sola fide, so this is new.

[The priest will go on to say that] we must put this in context, and I applaud that as I believe that is what must be done. But I don’t believe that he actually did what he intended to do, but instead interpreted the text by Catholic tradition rather than by the text itself (as I have said (that is, in our discussions on campus) the text does not contradict itself, and if the RCC’s Tradition (or interpretation) is infallible it musn’t either…unfortunately it does).

Jesus had just got done warning the people of “false prophets” coming in as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” He tells them “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” The point is that the outward fruit signifies the inward person.  Much as James tells us, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” -James 2

Faith proceeds works, but works always follow faith.  Therefore Jesus reprimands those who have a “profession of faith” but not a true “saving faith” that is proven by obedience to God’s law, but NEVER based upon obedience to God’s law.

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Today Jesus directly challenges those who profess a belief that salvation is by “faith alone”.

I think your priest has misunderstood faith alone. I’d like to point out that the faith we have is not the actual justifying act, nor is it based upon our faith that we are justified…there is another sola that follows faith alone, and that is Grace alone. Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So we see in this verse that it is “through” or “upon” faith, but the actual act which we are justified by is Jesus’ perfect righteousness, imputed to us by the Holy Spirit, solely based on the unmerited Grace of God Alone.

I should point out that if Jesus is challenging those that believe salvation is by faith alone, and instead is preaching works righteousness, then He is challenging Paul in many places (Romans 3:20&28, 4:6, 5:1, Gal 2:16, 3:2).  And if Jesus or James are contradicting Paul then we can be sure of none of the canon of scripture to be trustworthy.

This principle is one of the pillars of classical Protestantism. It was answered by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (meeting from 1545-1563, though not continuously). The Council of Trent could be said to have two aims: (1) to clean up the many abuses within the Catholic Church, and (2) to clarify authentic teaching against Protestant heresies. “Salvation through faith alone” is one such false teaching (with all due respect for our Protestant brothers and sisters).

It was certainly challenged, can’t agree that it was answered. Here I think is a major stumbling block, instead of appealing to Scripture, that council appealed to its “church fathers” many of whom preached heresies themself (i.e. Origen).

I kind of don’t like the little caveat at the end. Honestly, heresy and for that matter “anathema” are very strong words (which we had discussed in our conversations prior to this.  The Council of Trent pronounced many anathemas upon the “heresies” of the Protestants), they should never be used lightly, Paul certainly didn’t. I would rather your priest not say “with all due respect”, and just tell me straight up that I am a heretic, I am accursed, and I am bound for hell apart from their Gospel…because no lie, in all good conscience and with fearful sincerity, I would have to say it back. If the Gospel of Rome is your Gospel, then I do not believe you are a Christian.  I am not saying I think myself better than you…God forbid…being a Calvinist I rest solely upon God’s mercy, grace, and unmerited favor for my salvation.

This belief is still held by many today, so we need to have a charitable response for those who challenge us by professing this belief (1 Peter 3:15-16: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”) Note St. Peter’s mention of “reason” and “good conduct”.

But if we hold that BOTH faith AND works are necessary in BEING a Christian, and COMING to salvation, what does this have to do with the Season of Advent? Why was this Gospel passage chosen by the Church to be proclaimed on a weekday of Advent?

I actually agree with that first part (not how he intends it), that both faith and works are the signs of a true believer. I think if Noah had just had faith and never built the ark he would have died. Yet, he showed his faith by building the ark (a work). On the other hand, I disagree with that “and coming to salvation”. Not a 100% what he means there, but faith is the only proper response to the call of Christ. And even that faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8).

“…only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” “will enter the Kingdom of heaven….”

The obvious question Jesus’ words raise is: “What IS the will of my Father in heaven?” I have to KNOW what His will is, before I can possibly DO it. (Knowledge and good works—reason and good conduct—always need to go hand in hand.)

Now here, your priest will interject the doctrine of Rome, that Jesus can’t possibly require faith alone, because these people here were supposedly showing faith.  As James has warned, the devils believe, and they shudder, it makes us careful to examine whether our faith be genuine and saving. That is NOT based upon our works…such as Prophesying, Casting out demons, or doing MANY MIGHTY WORKS. But resting on the blood sacrifice and mercy of Jesus Christ alone.

I implore you to read verse 22, which I don’t believe your priest in anyway attempted to deal with. For it rejects the thought that works must be done. V. 21: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty WORKS in your name?'” Jesus will say to them “I never knew you”…that is…you did not love Christ and the work of Christ, instead you trusted in your deeds.

The will of the Father is that you trust in Christ for your righteousness, not your deeds, not your works, not your prophecying, etc. etc. etc.

I really don’t believe you can extrapolate “works righteousness” out of this passage. Instead I think you can deduce that if you are truly born again, you will show proof by your works. I will never say that works are not needed, then I would deny James and more importantly Christ. But your works will never be good enough for God, never, only IN Christ will they ever have any merit.

The problem is that Catholics confuse “justification” with “sanctification.”  Justification to the Protestant is a one time, legal decleration of God, that you are right in His eyes…not because of you, but only because of Christ alone. Sanctification is what flows from justification, it is your growth in holiness, but still never apart from God’s grace. Sanctification can fluctuate…sure. But justification can never…nor can you lose it…you cannot lose what you did not earn in the first place…and it cannot waver because it is not based on your abilities, your works, EVEN your faith…but only on the Perfect Righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The following presented by the priest falls under what I have just said above.

It’s always helpful to look at a Scripture passage in its larger CONTEXT. Where does today’s Gospel passage (Matthew 7:21,24-27) fit within the Gospel account of Matthew? Chapters 5-7 of Matthew are Jesus’ great “Sermon on the Mount” (that ‘charter’ of Jesus’ preaching). The Sermon on the Mount ends with three brief sections, within each of which, Jesus stresses the same point with different images: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (7:12) “So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit” (7:27); and from today’s passage: “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock….” (7:24). Is there a theme that emerges here? Why would Jesus close his great Sermon on the Mount with this three-fold insistence on the necessity of good works?

So to answer the question “What IS the will of my Father in heaven?”, we have two answers: one from the original context of Scripture; and the second from its application to my individual, personal life.

In the original context of Scripture, “the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) refers to what has been commanded by Jesus: that is, “these words of mine” (Matthew 7:24), meaning the entire Sermon on the Mount that He is here drawing to a close.

So, here’s a challenge for you today: read and ponder the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It’s really not that long. Remember that biblical “chapters” are often only a page or two. Read “these words of mine”, as Jesus says. Then ask God the Father to help you in discerning how they apply directly to your own individual, personal life. Ask God the Holy Spirit to guide you in seeing your life at work in the Sermon on the Mount.

And so, ask God the Son to help you prepare for His Coming by allowing your life to be lived in His, in faith and works.

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End.

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~ by TSL on January 22, 2010.

8 Responses to “Talking to Catholics (The Sequel)”

  1. Sorry for the late response, I’d like to comment if you don’t mind.

    You said: Much as James tells us, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.” -James 2

    Nick: I don’t think that’s an accurate reading of James 2. He is using ‘see’ in the figurative sense of proving a case (e.g. “I see your point”), he is not speaking of outwardly acting, for James doesn’t visibly demonstrate works, rather he points to an example: “22You see that his faith and his actions were working together”
    Someone would be a fool to question whether Abraham’s faith in Gen 15:6 was genuine, so that further shows it wasn’t James’ point.

    You said: Faith proceeds works, but works always follow faith.

    Nick: Works always follow faith? That can’t be, for Christians fall into sin all through the NT. See esp 2 Pt 1:9. That’s a pretty unbiblical claim.

    You said: the actual act which we are justified by is Jesus’ perfect righteousness, imputed to us

    Nick: I don’t see this taught in Scripture.

    You said: instead of appealing to Scripture, that council appealed to its “church fathers”

    Nick: That’s hardly a fair characterization of how Catholics operate. While the fathers were fully Catholic, that’s not the issue. Further, Trent didn’t appeal to people like Origen, but rather Augustine. The Council of Trent was full of Scripture citations, see for yourself:
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/TRENT6.htm

    You said: I disagree with that “and coming to salvation”.

    Nick: Care to explain Galatians 6:7-9 and Phil 2:12-13?

    You said: The problem is that Catholics confuse “justification” with “sanctification.” … Sanctification is what flows from justification,

    Nick: Paul says sanctification comes before justification, in 1 Cor 6:11 and Titus 3:4-7. And this fits many other texts where the sinner is ‘cleansed’ of sin upon converting (eg Acts 15:9).

    It seems to me the priest had the more Biblical case then you did.

    • Nick,

      No offense, but I had to chuckle a bit when you said, “I don’t see this taught in Scripture.” It’s just strange when a Roman Catholic (I’m assuming you are one) says something like this to me. 1) Because, are you aloud to interpret Scripture? 2) Even if it were in Scripture, would the interpretation of the church’s Magisterium supersede scripture’s interpretation of itself?

      I only ask because it’s kind of a crucial starting point for any discourse with an RC.

      “It seems to me the priest had the more Biblical case then you did.”

      It may be my own fault to have posted this without adequate context. That said, this was an interchange, not a theological dissertation, so not all that was said is actually said here. I take the blame.

      Now for what you said, I’ll attempt to address what I can without droning.

      First, with regards to James 2. I didn’t really give a reading of James 2 there, I actually just copy/pasted it from the text. Now, if you’re talking about how I used it in context, then let’s look at the context of the passage itself. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (v.14) Now, I gave the example of Noah, which I believe fits just fine with the verse. If Noah were to have faith, with no works (no building of the ark), could that faith have saved him- practically speaking- from the flood? The answer is clearly, no.

      So then James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (v.17) So he’s making a comparison between dead faith and living faith. Thus far he has made no mention of justification in the eyes of God, only to himself, as in “Show me you faith apart from your works” (v. 18). In other words, “prove it.” You cannot “show me your faith apart from your works,” but I will “show you my faith by my works.” So James must be trying to tell us something. Maybe its that just making a profession of faith is not proof of true saving faith (this is where it connects with Matt 7:21 that we were speaking about), but works done in love, to the glory of God, are proof of saving faith. Nowhere in the passage do you have anything along the lines of “God justified him based on his works.” Instead it says, “Abraham believed (i.e. had faith) God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (v.23). If you say otherwise, you’re going to have to reconcile the contradiction with Paul in Romans 4. Moving on:

      “Works always follow faith? That can’t be, for Christians fall into sin all through the NT. See esp 2 Pt 1:9. That’s a pretty unbiblical claim.”

      I’m not sure how to answer this, as I don’t really see your point. If you’d like to make it more clear that’d be fine. If your hang up is that I used the word “always,” I did not mean it as if “nothing but” good works will “always” follow faith, only that good works- pleasing to God- “can only” follow from a living faith.

      “I don’t see this taught in Scripture.”

      Back to this. I’m only going to give a few Scripture passages, if you don’t want to take Scripture on itself, then there is a deeper problem.

      2 Cor 5:21 “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

      Romans 4:6-8 or Psalm 32:1-2: “…Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

      And I actually love that you used Titus 3:4-7 against me, but I would say reread that one as well. Also Romans 3:22-28, Jeremiah 23:6, 1 Cor 1:30-31, Romans 5:17-19, &c. And so on, so far from being absent from Scripture, it is a continuing theme throughout..I could give more if this reply weren’t already so long.

      “That’s hardly a fair characterization of how Catholics operate.”

      Is it now? Thanks for the link, but I have read the council, and I have seen the selective way in which the RCC uses the church fathers for their cause. The Catholic Catechism is almost entirely void of Scripture on the doctrines which divides Protestants and Catholics. Of course, I could find in Augustine so much which refutes the Catholics, but they would simply shrug it off as not applicable to them…he was right on some points, he was wrong on some points, again, the Magisterium dictates.

      “Care to explain Galatians 6:7-9 and Phil 2:12-13?”

      Nope, I sure don’t. I believe they, and the way in which they are used in my note, can sufficiently explain themselves to the unbiased reader, who allows Scripture to fend for itself, apart from Rome’s contradictions. If need be, I’ll explain them some other time.

      “Paul says sanctification comes before justification, in 1 Cor 6:11 and Titus 3:4-7. And this fits many other texts where the sinner is ‘cleansed’ of sin upon converting (eg Acts 15:9).”

      You’re right the sinner is cleansed upon converting…
      Again, I hardly see your point.

      You may see my deflection of answering some of your objections as cowardly. But to be honest, we would be talking right past each other, as you have made it very very clear from your comment.

      Don’t “carpet bomb” with objections please. Your main problem with Protestants, and my main problem with Catholics is the difference in authority, viz.: of the Church, of the Pope, of the Scriptures, etc.

      So let’s keep it simple please. Thanks for your time.

  2. J: No offense, but I had to chuckle a bit when you said, “I don’t see this taught in Scripture.” It’s just strange when a Roman Catholic (I’m assuming you are one) says something like this to me. 1) Because, are you aloud to interpret Scripture? 2) Even if it were in Scripture, would the interpretation of the church’s Magisterium supersede scripture’s interpretation of itself?

    N: Yes, Catholics are allowed to interpret Scripture. As for “even if it were in Scripture,” the Church can never give an erroneous interpretation, thus there is no ‘superseding’.

    J: I only ask because it’s kind of a crucial starting point for any discourse with an RC.

    N: Catholics are quite comfortable (and allowed to) using Scripture to support our doctrines.

    J: If Noah were to have faith, with no works (no building of the ark), could that faith have saved him- practically speaking- from the flood? The answer is clearly, no.

    Nick: Agreed. The issue is salvation, and if Abraham didn’t obey, his faith would have become dead and he wouldn’t have been saved.

    J: So James must be trying to tell us something. Maybe its that just making a profession of faith is not proof of true saving faith (this is where it connects with Matt 7:21 that we were speaking about), but works done in love, to the glory of God, are proof of saving faith.

    N: That doesn’t fit the example though: James mentions Gen 15:6, which wasn’t a mere profession. James didn’t ask, “now does that mean Abraham’s faith in Gen 15:6 was genuine?” No. Further, he points to a point 25 years later in Abraham’s life from Gen 15:6, which is illogical if he’s trying to promote a ‘here and now’ demonstration of works.

    J: Nowhere in the passage do you have anything along the lines of “God justified him based on his works.”

    N: Actually, that’s precisely what James 2:21 says.

    J: Instead it says, “Abraham believed (i.e. had faith) God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (v.23). If you say otherwise, you’re going to have to reconcile the contradiction with Paul in Romans 4.

    N: What contradiction? Paul was speaking of works of the Law (Gal 3:15-18), and sacrificing Isaac wasn’t part of the Law.

    J: I’m not sure how to answer this, as I don’t really see your point. If you’d like to make it more clear that’d be fine. If your hang up is that I used the word “always,” I did not mean it as if “nothing but” good works will “always” follow faith, only that good works- pleasing to God- “can only” follow from a living faith.

    N: I guess I misunderstood. I don’t see how good works are ‘guaranteed’ (if that’s what you’re saying) if Christians (even in Scripture) still sin. Turning to sin is the opposite of good works guaranteed.

    J: Back to this. I’m only going to give a few Scripture passages, if you don’t want to take Scripture on itself, then there is a deeper problem.

    N: I don’t see “Jesus’ perfect righteousness imputed to us” in those passages. I see ‘not impute sin’ and ‘credit righteousness’, but that’s not enough to jump to “Christ’s righteousness.”

    J: And I actually love that you used Titus 3:4-7 against me, but I would say reread that one as well. Also Romans 3:22-28, Jeremiah 23:6, 1 Cor 1:30-31, Romans 5:17-19, &c. And so on, so far from being absent from Scripture, it is a continuing theme throughout..I could give more if this reply weren’t already so long.

    N: If you’re going to use Titus 3:4-7, then you’re going to have to explain, because I see it teaching sanctifying/transforming in the justification.

    J: Is it now? Thanks for the link, but I have read the council, and I have seen the selective way in which the RCC uses the church fathers for their cause.

    N: Please cite a few specific examples, else I cannot in good conscience accept this charge.

    J: The Catholic Catechism is almost entirely void of Scripture on the doctrines which divides Protestants and Catholics.

    N: What do you mean? Which catechism? The various Catholic Catechisms I’ve consulted do discuss the doctrines that divide us, and the modern Catechism certainly cites Scripture and Fathers.

    J: Of course, I could find in Augustine so much which refutes the Catholics, but they would simply shrug it off as not applicable to them…he was right on some points, he was wrong on some points, again, the Magisterium dictates.

    N: You’d have to demonstrate some specific examples where he “refutes Catholics,” because I’ve read enough of Augustine to question that.

    J: Nope, I sure don’t. I believe they, and the way in which they are used in my note, can sufficiently explain themselves to the unbiased reader, who allows Scripture to fend for itself, apart from Rome’s contradictions. If need be, I’ll explain them some other time.

    N: Without explanation I cannot in good conscience simply abandon my position on your word alone.

    J: You’re right the sinner is cleansed upon converting…
    Again, I hardly see your point.

    N: Maybe we misunderstood eachother. You said sanctification follows justification, correct? I don’t see how that squares with texts like 1 Cor 6:11 nor how you establish your claim in the first place.

    J: You may see my deflection of answering some of your objections as cowardly. But to be honest, we would be talking right past each other, as you have made it very very clear from your comment.

    N: Not cowardly, because I get busy myself some times. However, I’d consider them certainly insufficient in terms of providing proof for your claims and/or refuting mine.

    J: Don’t “carpet bomb” with objections please. Your main problem with Protestants, and my main problem with Catholics is the difference in authority, viz.: of the Church, of the Pope, of the Scriptures, etc.

    N: I don’t try to, I’m just responding to your main points where I see something to object to. I’d agree that authority plays a key role in this, and I’d be happy to discuss stuff like Sola Scriptura with you, but all that aside, I believe that even if I wasn’t Catholic I wouldn’t accept much of the exegesis and claims you’ve put forward.

    • “Yes, Catholics are allowed to interpret Scripture”

      Depends on how you define interpret. If your interpretation were to conflict, on any subject (even nonessentials to salvation) with the Church then it would be heretical/anathema. So in a sense, you don’t have the right to interpret it, only the right to read it and conform to church doctrine.

      “Actually, that’s precisely what James 2:21 says.”

      Precisely? So it precisely says, “GOD justified him based on his works.” ?

      “Paul was speaking of works of the Law (Gal 3:15-18), and sacrificing Isaac wasn’t part of the Law.”

      That’s incorrect. We’re dealing specifically with Romans 4 here, not Galatians. In context, this has nothing to do with works of the law, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God…Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.” (v. 2&4). I have a hard time believing Paul is talking about works of the law here. Instead, he’s talking about works (any works) in a general sense, works that demand a wage. I don’t see anything about the law here. What I am saying is compare how James uses the same verse in James 2 as Paul does in Romans 4…how will you reconcile them if one is talking about justifying works and the other is not. They are contradicting, if you’re right.

      “I don’t see “Jesus’ perfect righteousness imputed to us” in those passages. I see ‘not impute sin’ and ‘credit righteousness’, but that’s not enough to jump to “Christ’s righteousness.”

      So you see: “credit righteousness?” ….who’s? Ours? Is it our goodness that He is crediting to us? If you admit to seeing those things, then please explain, who’s sin is he not imputing? And who’s righteousness is he “crediting” (i.e. “counting” “imputing” &c.).

      “Maybe we misunderstood each other. You said sanctification follows justification, correct?”

      Okay let me correct, or modify my original. Sanctification is separate from justification. Sanctification does not come before justification. When I say sanctification, I’m not speaking of that one time cleansing of our sin (justification), but of that daily refinement and growth in holiness which God enables us to do. The reformed doctrine of justification and sanctification are not always synonymous with the words in Scripture, they’re words used to explain a concept. That might not be the best way to describe it, but, oh well.

      If you want to discuss authority, that’s fine, it’s been discussed here http://bit.ly/9FtUIl .

  3. J: Depends on how you define interpret. If your interpretation were to conflict, on any subject (even nonessentials to salvation) with the Church then it would be heretical/anathema. So in a sense, you don’t have the right to interpret it, only the right to read it and conform to church doctrine.

    N: But the kicker is that I believe the Church never interprets scripture incorrectly, so IF I come away with the ‘wrong’ interpretation, the problem is with me.

    J: Precisely? So it precisely says, “GOD justified him based on his works.” ?

    N: Not the exact wording, but very close and same meaning.

    J: That’s incorrect. We’re dealing specifically with Romans 4 here, not Galatians.

    N: Do you not believe Paul is teaching the SAME thing in Galatians and Romans? I believe he is.

    J: In context, this has nothing to do with works of the law, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God…Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.” (v. 2&4). I have a hard time believing Paul is talking about works of the law here.

    N: I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say it’s works of the Law, especially given Galatians 3:5-6 has a matching ‘lead in’ as this and its context is on circumcision and the Law (4:9ff).

    J: What I am saying is compare how James uses the same verse in James 2 as Paul does in Romans 4…how will you reconcile them if one is talking about justifying works and the other is not. They are contradicting, if you’re right.

    N: If IM right, they are not contradicting precisely because they are speaking of two different types of works. Abraham in Gen 22 was not acting in a ‘wage-debt’ manner/relationship, and that’s key to realize.

    J: So you see: “credit righteousness?” ….who’s? Ours? Is it our goodness that He is crediting to us? If you admit to seeing those things, then please explain, who’s sin is he not imputing? And who’s righteousness is he “crediting” (i.e. “counting” “imputing” &c.).

    N: It must be ours, based on how the greek term logizomai (credit) operates, but that doesn’t mean we made ourselves righteous, rather God did. As for ‘not imputing’ sin, God is not imputing sin to the forgiven man. If I sin against you, you are right to ‘reckon me a sinner’, BUT if you forgive me, then you no longer ‘impute sin’ to me because it’s forgiven.

    J: Okay let me correct, or modify my original. Sanctification is separate from justification. Sanctification does not come before justification. When I say sanctification, I’m not speaking of that one time cleansing of our sin (justification), but of that daily refinement and growth in holiness which God enables us to do. The reformed doctrine of justification and sanctification are not always synonymous with the words in Scripture, they’re words used to explain a concept. That might not be the best way to describe it, but, oh well.

    N: Perhaps you could show me where Scripture clearly teaches sanctification comes after justification. The only place I know of where the two terms are given is 1 Cor 6:11, which says the opposite of what you claim.

    J: If you want to discuss authority, that’s fine, it’s been discussed here http://bit.ly/9FtUIl .

    N: I havn’t read it all, but I see some interesting/problematic things in the first part. For example, you said:

    “The Word of God has the authority to interpret itself. This is not circular… The Spirit…opens the eyes of the faithful…to interpret the Word correctly.”

    You said two contradictory things: (a) the Bible interprets itself and (b) the Spirit leads the Christian to interpret.
    Aside from the fact the Bible nowhere says it interprets itself, how do you harmonize these conflicting claims?
    Second of all, what makes your Spirit guided ‘correct interpretation’ any different from the notion of infallibility? They are identical as far as I can tell, except you believe it happens on the individual level.

    • This’ll be my last on this specific comment string, unless you wish to cut down your disagreements to one specific subject. There is too much going on; Everything from works based salvation, to substitutionary penal atonement, to authority of the Church and the sufficiency of Scripture. So here will be my longest treatment of what you’ve said thus far, since I finally have time. Note that not everything will be proof-texted because I simply don’t have time to write a treatise, more of what I might call a polemic:

      “But the kicker is that I believe the Church never interprets scripture incorrectly…”

      Exactly, so again, you don’t have any authority to interpret Scripture, only the right to regurgitate what others have told you, if it doesn’t bother you then I’ll pretend it doesn’t bother me. So far from trying to ascertain as to the correct meaning of Scripture you simply throw it on the church and give them right of infallibility (no, I’m sorry, they give themselves that right, then you “regurgitate.” They are infallible- “why?- Because they are infallible and they said so infallibly). Which to use your wording, “I don’t find this in Scripture.” In fact I find it more in Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons than I do in the Scriptures (isn’t that nice? They have an infallible church too!). What’s interesting about the infallibility of the RCC and their own claim to unanimity is that factions exist within itself (disagreements over the sufficiency of Scripture within itself: partim-partim and material sufficiency), differences exist between councils (i.e. the salvation of those outside the Church, Unam Sanctum, Vatican II, and every RC who has told me that I am still saved outside the Church), and differences exist within the early church of the Bible and the present-day RCC (Can’t seem to find any of the other Apostles treating Peter like God on earth). This goes for what my other blog post deals with and the divisions he points to in Protestantism, which is nothing more than dodging the real issue. Oh, I’m sure you’ll give me your numerous excuses. To be honest, no offense, I don’t fault you with this, but the RCC has no good reputation historically, of truth-telling, mercy, or a listening ear to opposing thought. The reason I wrote favorably in my very first blog post of RCs is because I had finally found one not so full of himself, his bishop, and his dogma…he actually showed some humility and admitted some fallibility, as I pray I would show in return. For my interpretation of Scripture is not infallible as you might think, nor is that what I said when you say:

      “You said two contradictory things: (a) the Bible interprets itself and (b) the Spirit leads the Christian to interpret. Aside from the fact the Bible nowhere says it interprets itself, how do you harmonize these conflicting claims?”

      I never once said that my interpretation was infallible. Only that if I ‘ever’ have a right interpretation it is because the Spirit guides me in that. Of course, to you the Spirit guides the Church, and indeed He may. But to say that the Spirit guides a church which contradicts His own inspired Bible, is something entirely different. If you wish to exegete my every word as you did in my previous response, then I suppose I should be more careful, my bad.

      “They are identical as far as I can tell, except you believe it happens on the individual level.”

      Exactly, I cut out that middle man, especially a middle man who contradicts Scripture (on everything from papacy, to pontiff, to Mary, to purgatory, to saints, to penance, and on and on). You want the comfort, I get it. You’re not too concerned with what the Scripture actually says, merely what the church tells you, and how you can make the Scripture fit that presupposed interpretation. This gives comfort.

      Now back to the rest of what you said:

      “Not the exact wording, but very close and same meaning.”

      Okay fine, take that precise wording I had, and show me a phrasing that has a similar meaning. One that relates directly to how God responds to the works of men, and justifies them based on that. You cannot. And if you do then you will find a contradiction with Paul. But in order to defend your position and to try and redeem the RCC’s condemnation of itself in light of Paul’s words (Gal 1:9), you claim that Paul is speaking of works of the Law, not good works which merit righteousness. That is why I specifically brought up Romans 4, and which you skated around in a fine display of sophistry.

      “I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say it’s works of the Law, especially given Galatians 3:5-6 has a matching ‘lead in’ as this and its context is on circumcision and the Law (4:9ff).”

      And there it is, instead of dealing with what I actually said, you run to another passage such as Gal 3, and try to show me similarities. In turn actually invoking (perhaps incorrectly) a type of hermeneutic which you had already said, “…the Bible nowhere says it interprets itself…” So let’s go with your view, that the Bible doesn’t interpret itself, or that it say that its right to do so, I’m going to ignore Gal 3, and deal specifically with Romans 4 which clearly refutes your claim that the “works” described here are ones of the Law.

      Besides your writing being extremely hard to follow, I’ll try my best to say what it is I mean.

      The very fact that Abraham was not acting in a “wage-debt manner,” is exactly Paul’s point. It is not specifically talking about works of the Law, because firstly there was no actual law at that point, and secondly the law encompasses all good works which are pleasing to God, so in the end it matters very little. It cannot be James’ point that God justified Abraham based on his works, because Paul (using the exact same passage) just got through saying that he wasn’t justified by them. The only other outcome, and most people can realize this, is that James would be contradicting Paul or vice versa. But your theory must be that James is talking about different works than Paul. The works James talk about are good ones which justify and the ones Paul speaks of are bad ones. How about I posit this: they are the same works, only they are expressed at a different time and for a different purpose. Paul is speaking of the God-Abraham relationship with works, James is speaking of the Abraham-Other people relationship. Since in the context of James he is speaking to those who display no outward sign of conversion within. Again James 2:18, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Who is “you?” Is it God. Is James saying he is going to prove to God his saving faith by showing Him his good works? No! Absolutely not, that is simply ridiculous. As if the human will tell God he is saved, then prove that to God by his works.

      Continuing:

      “It must be [our righteousness], based on how the greek term logizomai (credit) operates, but that doesn’t mean we made ourselves righteous, rather God did.”

      I’m going to just assume, by just googling the Greek term, that credit in the Greek operates a lot like credit in English. I’m not a scholar of Greek, if you want to have that satisfaction find someone more versed in it. But again, your wording and writing makes little sense to me at some points. Here is what you said when I try to interpret it: 1) God makes us righteous. 2) It’s our righteousness. 3) So ipso facto, we make ourselves righteous. I like that you try to save God’s operation in salvation though. In other words this is what I see: God credits to us our righteousness; Christ’s crucifixion and death were for nothing, He lived a perfect life under the law, not to be our scapegoat in which we place all our sins upon, but to basically show us a good example of how to live and die a righteous death so we might follow. Oh goody! Finally I get to prove myself before my God, just like the Muslims, Hindus, and Jews.

      But to give you the benefit of the doubt let me look at 2 Cor 5:21 through that Romanist interpretation:

      “For our sake (ignore that!) He made him to be sin (just for the fun of it, this doesn’t really mean anything) who knew no sin, so that in Him (well kind of, actually, in Him and in through our own righteousness) we might become the righteousness of God.”

      You then go on to say:

      “As for ‘not imputing’ sin, God is not imputing sin to the forgiven man. If I sin against you, you are right to ‘reckon me a sinner’, BUT if you forgive me, then you no longer ‘impute sin’ to me because it’s forgiven.”

      One question, Where Does That Sin Go???? We apparently have no substitute on the cross, we cannot pay it, and God states in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So what blood? Who’s blood? What do you actually do with your sins? RC: “Oh, please God just forgive them, just find it in your heart to forgive me, because I’m different now…I’ve become a good person…see all my good works?” Sounds oddly like Matt 7:21

      How about instead you say this, “God forgive me, you sent your only Son to actually save sinners, to pay the debt of sin, I cast myself upon the work and mercy of Christ Jesus ALONE for my salvation.”

      I leave it to the reader to decide which might actually be Scriptural.

      “Perhaps you could show me where Scripture clearly teaches sanctification comes after justification. The only place I know of where the two terms are given is 1 Cor 6:11, which says the opposite of what you claim.

      My, oh my. Did I not just correct this in front of you? Let me copy/paste and see if you catch it this time. “Sanctification is s-e-p-a-r-a-t-e from justification. Sanctification does NOT come before justification.” (Emphasis on my slow and intentional typing) Therefore, it follows, that sanctification does not have to be shown to be “after” justification, merely that it is different and can only follow from justification. Before justification there is no work of the Spirit, there is no inward cleansing from the power of sin (Rom 6), there is no “good work” apart from the grace of God…in Christ. Justification = One time declaration from God (Rom 5:1). Sanctification = Ongoing purification from sin (even you would admit that there are sins which are committed after conversion and must be confessed…of course who it is confessed to is a different matter).

      I’ll say this again. One subject. On your blog your welcome to rail against everything I’ve said, can’t stop that, but I do not care to answer every objection you claim to have against Protestants. I see little value in a tennis game with someone so dead set in their ways they can never be proven to be wrong, not even by Scripture itself, I should hope that if you were to show me something proven in Scripture which falsified my claims I wouldn’t run to my infallible church excuse, but admit that the Word is sufficient and infallible within itself, but I am fallible.

      “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” -Roman 10:1-4

  4. J: This’ll be my last on this specific comment string, unless you wish to cut down your disagreements to one specific subject. There is too much going on;

    N: That’s fair. I’ll address the points I consider key to being able to address much of what else was said.

    J: And there it is, instead of dealing with what I actually said, you run to another passage such as Gal 3, and try to show me similarities.

    N: There is nothing wrong with pointing out similar or especially parallel accounts. If you believe Paul is teaching something different in Galatians than he is in Romans (esp Gal 3 compared to Rom 4), then we should dispute that point. If Paul is preaching the same thing, using the same sorts of examples and terms, then it’s perfectly reasonable to read the two accounts together to form a better picture. It’s all about context. If you want to isolate a few verses in Paul and dismiss any appeals to a larger context, you’re likely to misread him.

    J: In turn actually invoking (perhaps incorrectly) a type of hermeneutic which you had already said, “…the Bible nowhere says it interprets itself…” So let’s go with your view, that the Bible doesn’t interpret itself, or that it say that its right to do so, I’m going to ignore Gal 3, and deal specifically with Romans 4 which clearly refutes your claim that the “works” described here are ones of the Law.

    N: You’re missing what I said, I said the Bible itself doesn’t say it interprets itself. That doesn’t mean there are not parallels or similar teachings that can be compared when interpreting. Rather, it simply means taking “the Bible interprets itself” as a dogmatic proposition or part of the definition of SS doesn’t work because the Bible doesn’t say that. For example, the Westminster Confession states: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture , it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”

    In otherwords, “the Bible interprets itself” in the sense of that being an ‘infallible rule’ or that all questions about any given ‘difficult’ passage will be for sure cleared up somewhere else.

    J: The very fact that Abraham was not acting in a “wage-debt manner,” is exactly Paul’s point. It is not specifically talking about works of the Law, because firstly there was no actual law at that point,

    N: Now we’re getting somewhere. It is talking about ‘works of the Law’ because that was what Judaizers were getting confused upon. Note what Paul says in 4:15 “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”
    This is a reiteration of 4:4, God was not operating in a wage-debt manner via the Law with Abraham when He made the promise to Abraham.

    J: and secondly the law encompasses all good works which are pleasing to God, so in the end it matters very little.

    N: That’s not true. See the example in Mk 10:2-12 where Moses allows divorce but Jesus says it’s forbidden.

    J: It cannot be James’ point that God justified Abraham based on his works, because Paul (using the exact same passage) just got through saying that he wasn’t justified by them.

    N: This actually hurts your case, for James is mentioning “credited as righteousness” right in the context of him using the term “save” and “justify”. You’re fallaciously assuming justification only happens once, which isn’t either of their points. Further, chronologically, Paul was speaking of Abraham justified pre-circumcision, where as James was speaking of Abraham post-circumcision. Your interpretation contradicts Genesis 26:4-5.

    J: The only other outcome, and most people can realize this, is that James would be contradicting Paul or vice versa.

    N: That’s only assuming they are speaking of (a) the same type of works, and (b) that justification only happens once.

    J: But your theory must be that James is talking about different works than Paul.

    N: Which isn’t a stretch at all. Sacrificing one’s son isn’t a ‘work of the Law’.

    J: The works James talk about are good ones which justify and the ones Paul speaks of are bad ones.

    N: Not “bad ones”, something doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ to not justify. Does swimming justify? No? Well, does that mean swimming a ‘bad work’? No. The Law was never intended to justify, so seeking justification by it is as wrong as seeking to be justified by swimming.

    J: How about I posit this: they are the same works, only they are expressed at a different time and for a different purpose. Paul is speaking of the God-Abraham relationship with works, James is speaking of the Abraham-Other people relationship. Since in the context of James he is speaking to those who display no outward sign of conversion within.

    N: What’s an “Abraham-other people” relationship? Abraham wasn’t doing things for “people” in Genesis 22. Gen 22:1 and 22:9-12 show it was Abraham and God, no ‘audience’ around to see. James isn’t speaking to people who are not really Christians, but rather Christians who turned to sin: James 2:1,6a.

    J: Again James 2:18, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Who is “you?” Is it God. Is James saying he is going to prove to God his saving faith by showing Him his good works? No! Absolutely not, that is simply ridiculous. As if the human will tell God he is saved, then prove that to God by his works.

    N: You’re confusing things here. James is disputing with another how God justifies, that doesn’t mean James has to be talking with God. What James is saying is “you prove faith alone justifies before God, and I’ll prove faith justify and works justify before God.” THAT is why James goes to Abraham as his example.

    J: Here is what you said when I try to interpret it: 1) God makes us righteous. 2) It’s our righteousness. 3) So ipso facto, we make ourselves righteous. I like that you try to save God’s operation in salvation though. In other words this is what I see: God credits to us our righteousness; Christ’s crucifixion and death were for nothing

    N: Your logic doesn’t follow at all, nor do I agree with your “this is what I see” strawman. If a child falls into the mud, and mom makes them clean, they are truly clean and can be reckoned clean by their mom. Did the child make himself clean? No. Mom did it. Or take the example of forgiveness, when God sees genuine repentance from a sinner, He forgives them, the sinner is now forgiven and reckoned as forgiven. Did the sinner forgive himself? No.

    J: But to give you the benefit of the doubt let me look at 2 Cor 5:21 through that Romanist interpretation:

    N: What good does a strawman argument do for anyone?

    J: One question, Where Does That Sin Go????

    N: Sin doesn’t ‘go’ because sin isn’t a thing. It is a status or state of being.

    J: We apparently have no substitute on the cross, we cannot pay it, and God states in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So what blood? Who’s blood? What do you actually do with your sins?

    N: I’m not sure you understand what you just quoted. Hebrews 9 is plainly saying blood cleanses, relating to just what I said regarding God making us righteous. It’s Christ’s blood that cleanses our sins away. Nothing to do with ‘imputed righteousness’.

    J: My, oh my. Did I not just correct this in front of you? Let me copy/paste and see if you catch it this time. “Sanctification is s-e-p-a-r-a-t-e from justification. Sanctification does NOT come before justification.” (Emphasis on my slow and intentional typing) Therefore, it follows, that sanctification does not have to be shown to be “after” justification, merely that it is different and can only follow from justification.

    N: Different doesn’t mean it follows from. And, more importantly, this is about examining the Scriptural evidence (in which the most relevant texts would be stuff like 1 Cor 6:11).

    J: Before justification there is no work of the Spirit, there is no inward cleansing from the power of sin (Rom 6), there is no “good work” apart from the grace of God…in Christ.

    N: You’re presupposing justification comes before inner cleansing, the evidence says just the opposite (Titus 3:4-7).

    J: Justification = One time declaration from God (Rom 5:1). Sanctification = Ongoing purification from sin.

    N: That doesn’t mean it’s a one time declaration, nor does that entail justification precedes. In fact, 1 Cor 6:11 and Titus 3:4-7 put the sanctification in the past tense. I’m amazed that for something so important as the order of justification to sanctification, you cannot find any clear texts of Scripture showing your case.

    Since you seem so adamant that I’m blindly following the Church instead of the ‘true’ Christian method of Sola Scriptura, I’d be happy to have a Sola Scriptura debate against you. That way the correct side will be vindicated.

    • I debated whether to post this, as I had made it clear that it needed to be narrowed, and hopefully more concise. I just don’t have time for book length comments and replies…maybe someday I will. Though, it would be dishonest of me to not allow you to defend your position, so I decided to post it.

      I’ll make a few brief comments- with no questions- since I won’t approve anymore of your comments- nor will I read it- on this post (and I’ll say why):

      ***This time I’ll give a few more proof-texts (which I hardly doubt will do any good, since you seem to disagree with Protestants apparently for the sake of it), since you don’t think I can backup anything I say, so here goes***

      1) We’re talking right past each other. From your responses it’s been made clear that you don’t clearly understand my position- and you would say the same to me, I assume. Even when I attempt to make it clear, you’ve continued to see it differently than how I seem to be saying it in my mind. Specific examples would include (a) my point on the ordo salutis and the distinction between sanctification and justification. Grant it, I haven’t exactly outlined it in specific terms, because I can’t bring myself to take the time, unless I truly believed someone else were going to benefit from this exchange I fail to see the use. (b) Another example being the “Abraham-Other people” relationship vs. “Abraham-God.” It’s clear again that you don’t understand what I am getting at, since I never said anyone was specifically there to witness, only that it has been revealed to us through the Scriptures (certain events in Scripture are not given for an immediate audience, but for those that would read the acts later…such as modern-day believers reading about Abraham). Paul says (Rom. 4:2,3,16)- and James confirms (Jam 2:23)- that Abraham’s faith was justifying in the eyes of God, James say’s Abraham’s works were justifying to men in that it proved his faith (James 2:18, 22). (c) One last example is that of the works of Law and just general works. Because I do not care what type of works they are, since this clearly isn’t Paul’s point in the beginning of Chapter 4. All Paul is addressing is that NOTHING makes God obligated to give you Grace/Salvation/Justification (Rom 4:2, 5:15-16, 6:23, 11:5-6 *again Paul is making the exact same point as Rom 4 here*, and Eph 2:8-10). I say again, I DO NOT CARE what type of works it was, only that NO work is justifying in God’s eyes, only faith has been made an acceptable response (John 1:12, Rom 3:28, 5:1), and even that faith is a gift of God (John 6:44, 10:26, Eph 1:17-19, 2:8, &c.). But again, you wish to have a say in your salvation, it’s a human response, it’s the root of Arminianism, Open-theism, Isalm, JWs, Mormons. I won’t continue to embellish on my meaning, since you’ve sought to interpret it the way in which best helps you to refute my position, no matter what I may have ACTUALLY said.

      2) We definitely do have a different view of justification, we both know that much. But again your view rests on having a say in it. Perhaps you think you should, I don’t. I believe God has mercy on whom He will (Rom 9:14), that He choses whom He will (John 6:44, Eph 1:4, Rom 8:28-30, Ch. 9, Rom 11:5-6, Eph 2:8-10), and Justifies freely by His grace through our faith, once and for all (Rom 5:1, Eph 1:13-14)…He freely elects based on His will and none of our “good” works. But I won’t dispute this issue with you, since there is a plethora of books, resources, and even the Scriptures to convince better than I can. Needless to say, all my words are for naught unless the Spirit guides.

      3) Your position is a hopeless one. This goes for any Roman Catholic who might be reading this. It’s hopeless, it’s tedious, it’s bondage…
      You’ve said it yourself, “You’re presupposing justification comes before inner cleansing, the evidence says just the opposite…” I’m not too sure you understand the implications of that statement. What you have just said is that you must make yourself holy enough for God to accept you and justify you. (a) How will you know when you’ve reached that certain “level” of holiness? That’s rhetorical. (b) Your salvation rests upon your performance. Really the same as ‘a’.

      A truly freeing thing about Protestantism is the fact that justification is in the “past”, that God has declared you righteous “in Christ” (All of Eph 1). “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…” -v. 7-8. That’s past tense my friend. I have BEEN redeemed, I have BEEN forgiven…forever. I no longer do “good works” to attain justificaiton, but as outward proof of justification and because of my love for God and His glory. I am imploring that you abandon your efforts to please God in order to be justified, to fall upon the mercy of Christ, and find yourself justified in Him, then go out and live in a Christ-like manner. I pray that much.

      4) I’m going to deny your offer to debate Sola Scriptura. You are clearly a person who seeks to find blogs for the purposes of debate…and you seem to me very contentious. I have seen that you’ve been on PyroManiacs, Turretinfan, etc.; and honestly they would be more qualified than I to debate you. I’d suggest finding people who would firstly, be interested in tedious debate, and secondly, who have a better knowledge of the RCC. I am but a lowly college-student churchgoer with a random blog (in fact, I’m not too sure how you found my blog…kinda concerns me). In any case, it would be nothing more than what I have seen take place so far on here, and I simply don’t have the time or stomach for it.

      Nothing more is going to be approved. If you want to make it specific, for a specific post, please limit your comment length so I don’t have to type a term paper to you each time…thanks much.

      -Jon

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