Thursday, April 08, 2010

Response to Calvinist Claims: Part 2

This is part 2 of my response to Dan Peterman, who posted on a friend's Facebook wall in response to some points of Catholic doctrine.

What follows is a clear exposition, by scripture, of the fallacy of the Catholic Church. Bill, you said that you have read them and that the Roman Catholic church does not believe in faith plus works.

I don't know where on earth you came to the notion that I denied that faith plus works were necessary for salvation. I have been saying just the opposite this entire time. What I did say was that grace is necessary to move us to either one. However, again, I fully believe that our response to that grace is a matter of free will. We are not compelled to respond to grace. Our dispute was whether St. Augustine held this view. I have several Protestant sources that see unequivocally that he did. They confirm that he was a limited monergist in terms of initial justification but a clear synergist when it came to sanctification. I would say that the two are intimately joined, which is what the Council of Trent decreed in response to the Protestant Reformers, who believed in (and still profess) a merely extrinsic justification, a one-time event. If my understanding of the reformed position is incorrect, please let me know.

The reason we believe that works are necessary is because sanctification continues the process of justification throughout life. We believe we are cleansed when we respond to grace in faith, but we continue in the process of sanctification, which is the growth of the Divine Life in us. Grace must move us to faith before any of this can happen.

You might want to scrape the scales off your eyes. Maybe, just read much slower. I have read the you sent me and they are speaking horizontally, that is, how man affects man. What we are talking about here is the vertical aspect of faith, how man relates to God

Please demonstrate which verses are speaking horizontally. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and John says that we cannot love God if we do not also love our neighbor (1 John 4:7–13). How we relate to each other speaks volumes about how we relate to God. So please explain what you mean. Speaking in generalities doesn't do us much good if we are trying to understand each other.

These are several of the doctrinal statements made on Justification at the council of Trent. After each Canon are scriptures that contradict that Canon. You will see the word "anathema" used many times by the Council. This means that those who disagree with the doctrines of this Council are cursed. In Gal. 1:8-9, the word "anathema" is used. The curse must come from God.

As I've indicated before, you need to understand what the language of conciliar decrees means. The phrase means "let him be anathema" or "let him be condemned/accursed." The phrase can be found in Galatians 1:8. (If it's good enough for Paul, it's good enough for the council fathers.) The use of the phrase "anathema sit" goes all the way back to the binding and loosing power of the rabbis, which Jesus handed over to the Apostles. The rabbis used the term herem.

Excommunication is a tool to prompt people to repentence. It does not "damn" anyone, as the Church cannot damn anyone. Only God has that power. The Church can only pronounce on a person's status within the Church. This was the formula in use to condemn a false doctrine or to excommunicate people who held or primulgated such doctrines. While excommunication is a regretable step, it's sometimes necessary for correction. However, excommunication is not intended to be permanent but to help people understand the severity of their error.

Therefore, we conclude that according to Roman Catholicism, anyone who disagrees with the following Canons are cursed of God.

No, they are excommunicated--no longer in communion with the Church. This assumes that they were in full communion with the Church to start. These apply to the formal heretics of the time--those explicitly rejecting Catholic doctrine.

In spite of what Catholicism states, the Bible speaks differently. Following each Canon is a list of appropriate scriptures countering the Catholic position.

It's a shame that you didn't read the rest of the council's document for the sixth session, since each of the chapters cite scripture for the teachings of the Church. Looking at the canons without reading the rest of the document is sort of like studying scripture as a bunch of disjointed and disconnected verses rather than letters, narratives, and pieces that tell a story.

CANON 9: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema."
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin," (Rom. 3:20).
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Rom. 3:24... followed by Rom. 3:28; Rom. 4:3; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8; Titus 3:5).

As I noted before, you take these verses out of context without considering the words of James 2:20, 24, 26, the words of Paul in Romans 2:5-11, 11:22, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Cor. 3:8, Col. 3:23-24, and so on. The initial act of justification comes with a response in faith by grace, but we must continue to respond. Justifiction, in Catholic doctrine, does not end with the acceptance of Christ in faith but continues. Hence, our response through works is necessary. In addition, Christ says repeatedly that we must follow the commandments and do works of mercy: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Matt 19:17). "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my bretheren, you did it to me" (Matt 25:31-46). "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). "For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done" (Matt. 16:27). He not only rewards those who do but condemns those who don't.

CANON 12: "If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified ... let him be accursed"
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name," (John 1:12).
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," (Rom. 3:28).

Catholics hold that mere "belief" is not enough. As James says in 2:19, even demons believe—and shudder. The question is whether we surrender ourselves fully and put our trust in Christ. It is an intellectual assent and a movement of the will. We believe Christ (that is, what He says), believe in Him (that He is God), and believe upon Him (trust in His mercy and grace). We also must have faith working through love, as Paul states in 1 Cor. 13:3.

Canon 14: "If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema."
"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness," (Rom. 4:3).
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1).

We can certainly trust Christ's mercy, but again, this is not to say that we only have to believe. Faith is more than mere belief. Neither of these verses support the notion that faith by itself is all that is necessary. Abraham also circumcised his sons and followed the will of God. Faith was his first step.

Canon 23: "lf any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,- except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema."
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," (John 3:36).
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day," (John 6:40)... John 10:28; Rom. 5:21; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 5:13.

So are you claiming to be without sin? That you do not sin ever even venially? You never call anyone a fool (or raca as Jesus says in Matt 5:22)? Doesn't 1 John 1:10 warn against such claims?

Canon 24: "If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."
"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:1-3).
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law," (Gal. 5:1-3).

You're equating all works (meaning works of Christian charity or love) with works of the Law, which is the exact phrasing above. He is speaking to Gentile converts who were being told by Judaizers that they need to abide by Jewish Law. This is the problem with prooftexts taken out of context. You need to juxtapose such statements with the exceedingly clear words of James 2, with Paul's own words in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them"; or in Galatians 5:6, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love." See, again, Paul specifically mentions works of the Law here and contrasts them with "faith working through love."

Sanctification is the process of Christ's grace working in us and changing us. If you don't see a growth in faith and in Christian behavior in someone who is a believer, their conversion doesn't run very deep.

Canon 30: "If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema."
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1).
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross," (Col. 2:13-14).

Yes, this is just common sense. You are absolved from sin, but there are temporal effects of sin. If you have sinful habits, you develop a taste for sin, and it warps you. The Church goes further to say that these temporal effects can still be present after death. 1 Cor. 3:14-15 talks about being saved "only as through fire." Christ talks of settling your accounts before going to the judge, lest you be thrown in jail: "you will never get out till you have paid the last penny" (Matt 5:26). The book of 2 Maccabees 12 shows the Maccabeans praying for the dead. The Jews still say the mourners kiddush for the dead. We do this because we believe that "nothing unclean shall enter it [heaven]" (Rev. 21:27). We pray for those who have died as a work of mercy towards others to assist them in the process of purgation.

The point of sanctification is that we grow closer to God and increase in sanctity. We believe justification begins a process of change in us. Sometimes we complete that change. Sometimes we have a bit further to go. Since nothing unclean can enter into God's presence, we must be made clean, and God makes that possible. All of it is due to his mercy and gratuitous grace. God provides for what we lack. We do not believe in extrinsic justification (a covering up of our sin) but in an eradication of our sin and eventually the sinful nature within us—through God's grace alone.

Canon 33: "If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.

This council declares that if anyone disagrees with it, they are damned

Not cursed by God. It means "excommunicated" or not in communion with the Church. Again, only God can pass judgement on someone's soul. No priest or council can do so.

Here's another way to think of the faith/works connection. We can sin in two general ways: by doing something wrong (sin of commission) or by failing to do something right (sin of ommission). If we do those things that are right, we are persevering in our faith. Our habit of persevering in faith (through God's grace) engenders habitual virtues. We become more Christ-like because we live in imitation of Him. Someone who lives like this grows in faith, hope, and love. That is what sanctification is all about. It is not a single event but a lifetime of continual conversion.
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