Friday, September 15, 2006

Augustine On The Canon

I’ve encountered the claim that the Church of Rome acted infallibly, determining the contents of the canon of Scripture at the North African Councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD). These councils were presided over by Augustine.

I came across an interesting Augustine quote from a website run by Saint Magdalene Catholic Church. They quote Augustine as follows in their article, “Who decided what books are in the Bible?:

"Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority..(DE Doctrina Christiana II, 8, 120)"

Now, the article points out that “Saint Augustine is the one who first established the criteria for what is in the canon.” They also provide some interesting criteria used in determining authentic canonical books. They conclude though with the following statement: “Tertullian said that other people who don’t use the canonical list of our Church don’t belong to our Church.”

The added quote from Tertullian closes the deal: if you’re not using the canon as declared by the Roman Catholic Church, you don’t belong to the “Church”. What St. Magdalene Catholic Church should’ve done though, is quote what Augustine went on to say in the very next sentence:

If, however, he should find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is be looked upon as equal” [Source: NPNF1, Vol. 2, Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 8].

This unquoted section sheds a whole new light on the modern concept of the Roman Church infallibly determining the canon at these early councils. Augustine doesn’t appear to have any notion of an “infallible list” from this quote, nor an infallible ability of either himself or a church council. It also puts Tertullian at odds with Augustine, and refutes the entire webpage put up by St. Magdalene Catholic Church. Here's a good overview of the Augustine quote:

Here we see an implicit but nonetheless clear denial that the church acted infallibly with respect to the canon of Scripture. Augustine wrote that if various churches differed as to which books were to be included and which were to be rejected, their authority was to be regarded as ‘equal.’ The implication was that though respect was to be given to the greater number of churches, especially those believed to have been the seat of an apostle, if they disagreed over which books were canonical, their authority was to be regarded as equal. His view is incompatible with belief in an infallible determination of the canon” [Source: David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground And Pillar of Our Faith, Volume 1 (WA: Christian Resources Inc., 2001), 133].

37 comments:

FM483 said...

God has alwaysworked with and through fallible human beings. It is amazing to look backwards in time to see how God preserved His Word, despite human attempts to confuse and obscure the Truth. The fact that only repentant sinners inherit eternal life is not common sensible to natural man. Similarly, the fact that the infallible Word of God would be given to fallible men is not always easy to understand with human reason. That is why God provides us with faith, so that we may receive the Truth apart from our fallen human reason.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

James,

I'm afraid that your conclusions are of no consequence because your premise is wrong. The Catholic Church does not (and never has) taught that those early councils infallibly defined the canon. Rather, the RCC teaches that the issue was not finally (i.e., dogmatically) settled until the Council of Trent. What the early councils did was set the standard of including the deuterocanonical books in the canon (contra St. Jerome and others, but pro St. Augustine and others), but it was for Trent to finally settle the issue for Catholics. The 16th century even witnessed Catholics (such as Cardinal Cajetan) argue whether certain books should be included in the canon, but the council (Trent) settled the dispute by affirming those aformentioned early councils. Unfortunately, the Catholic parish you cited (St. Magdalene) has some of their facts wrong, so I would recommend contacting more reputable sources (such as The Catholic Encyclopedia at the New Advent website).

Kevin Davis said...

I should have mentioned (for those unfamiliar with Catholic dogmatics) that the reason the 4th century councils were not infallible is because they were only local councils, not ecumenical (like Trent). It requires a council of the whole Church to dogmatically define matters of faith and morals.

James Swan said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree with you that for a Roman Catholic, the canon was not dogmatically defined until Trent. I have stated this often over the years:

The New Catholic Encyclopedia has honestly pointed out,“According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.”

Unfortunately, I rarely come across a Roman Catholic who will admit this. Most claim that the earlier councils defined the canon, and Trent simply "reaffirmed" the list.

James Swan said...

Frank:

Amen.
Blessings,
James

James Swan said...

Kevin:

should have mentioned (for those unfamiliar with Catholic dogmatics) that the reason the 4th century councils were not infallible is because they were only local councils, not ecumenical (like Trent). It requires a council of the whole Church to dogmatically define matters of faith and morals.

Same thing William Webster points out:

The CanonWhy the Roman Catholic Arguments for the Canon are Spurious

Kevin Davis said...

Both sides, Catholic and Protestant, recognize the flexibility of the canon until the Reformation. Jerome's understanding was certainly tenable, but so was Augustine's, as the Septuagint did indeed become the Bible of the Church with many assuming a full canonicity of all contained therein (of course, there were even differences among the versions of the Septuagint, hence the Easteran Orthodox OT canon differs from the Catholic one -- though they both reject the Jerome/Protestant thesis). Webster does not convince in proposing that the universal understanding of the canon was that the deuterocanonical books were not-quite-canonical (this is not the only time that I've had problems with Webster), but he does show the viability of the Protestant thesis. Of course, the problem that Catholics see is how the Protestant can affirm his/her canon as infallibly set, since the Jerome thesis was an opinion among competing alternatives. Catholics can look to an ecumenical council to settle the dispute (including exactly which deuterocanonical books to include), but Protestants must rely on their own Protestant tradition with admittedly no infallible ecclesial mechanism. As well, we cannot forget that the New Testament canon went through just as lively a struggle in the early church. Protestants affirm the decisions of the 4th/5th centuries in defining the NT canon, but with ecclesial infallibility ruled-out, how can one know that such-and-such books are Holy Writ. Is it for each Christian to read the ancient texts "with the Spirit" and determine which one he/she thinks is God's word -- the same can be said for determining the nature(s)/will(s)/person(s) of Christ and the relational being of the Trinity. The common Christian has a lot of studying to do -- or we can trust the binding authority of the Church to faithfully defend the deposit of faith received by the Apostles. Of course, this opens-up a plethora of other issues, but those are some of my musings for the moment.

EA said...

The common Christian has a lot of studying to do -- or we can trust the binding authority of the Church to faithfully defend the deposit of faith received by the Apostles.

How did the average layman recognize Scripture in the 1st, 3rd, 8th, 12th, or 15th century without any 'infallible definition' to prevent the scandal of 'private judgement'? Further, how did the OT faithful recognize Sacred Scripture without the guidance of an 'infallible magesterium' to define what was and was not Scripture?

This entire argument is designed to defend Trent's definition but does nothing to address the lack of 'guidance' in previous centuries of Church history. A stock Catholic reply is that there was no scandal to 'correct', this can be easily disproven however. The history of Israel is rife with apostasy up to and including the losing of God's Word. Further, Kevin's reply identifies disagreement over the constitution of the NT canon. How was that resolved without recourse to 'magesterial definition'?

FM483 said...

Other than criteria such as apostolic authorship, the real test of Scripture is whether one is continually pointed to Christ as the author and perfecter of his faith. There are two ways of reading anything:

1. as a man living under the Law
2. as a man living under the Gospel


The first man will always interpret whatever is read as rules or principles as to how a person is to be right with God. The second man views everything through the finished work of Christ on the cross. The majority of Scripture can be read either way and it makes a tremendous difference to one’s understanding and application to life. Unfortunately, most people live under the law, which is our natural self-centered and sinful state. There is the tendency to treat our relationship with God as employer-employee, whereby we are rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad, where God must somehow be appeased by our decisions and lifestyles. The more appropriate and biblical understanding is that we believers are the adopted children of God who inherit everything due to the perfect life, death, suffering, and resurrection of Christ. We do not merit anything, despite the fact that a superficial reading of much Scripture could indicate so.

The early church understood the Grace of God as shown in Christ. Therefore, whatever attempted to pass itself off as “scripture” had to always point the sinner back to the source and reason for his acceptance to God: Jesus Christ and His perfect life and death for sinners. We of the 21st century like to engage in historical revisionism, thinking that people of all ages had to have an official list of all books considered “scripture” in order to recognize it as such in order to both receive and reinforce saving faith. To the man living under the Gospel, it is fairly straightforward whether a document was actually Scripture or not. The reason the Book of Revelation was originally debated as to it’s canonicity was due to hermeneutical reasons – whether it was interpreted as a revelation of Christ or of something else, as many modernists continue to do. Every book of what Protestants consider Scripture can easily be read as Christocentric. Any book that cannot be interpreted in this fashion was and remains suspect.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

ea,

You bring-up the "plethora of other issues" that I assumed would be brought to the fore.

How did the average layman recognize Scripture in the 1st, 3rd, 8th, 12th, or 15th century without any 'infallible definition' to prevent the scandal of 'private judgement'? Further, how did the OT faithful recognize Sacred Scripture without the guidance of an 'infallible magesterium' to define what was and was not Scripture?

The average layman didn't have a bible in those centuries. It was the church that took the sacred writings of the Hebrew past and Christian present and used them for the service of God in the liturgy. For the OT, they used the Septuagint, but, since the Jews had not settled the canon (though all agreed on the divine inspiration of the Torah, Psalms, and other texts) prior to the revelation of Christ, the Church did not limit herself to the decisions of the rabbis in the post Jerusalem temple destruction years (they rejected the deuterocanonical books) since the Church has the binding authority. As for the NT canon, the various churches circulated the gospels, the writings of St. Paul, St. James, and others for the instruction of the faithful and liturgical use. It was the Church and her ministers, not the laity, who developed (and debated) the canon of sacred writings. The "scandal of private judgement" was not so much an issue with the laity but with those ministers who determined their own beliefs about the faith with support from the apostolic writings. Thus, we see Arius and Nestorius bringing their rationalist critiques (not unlike Bultmann and Tillich in the last century) to the nature of Christ and his relation to the Father and Holy Spirit. Thus, we also see Marcion rejecting the "warrior God" of the OT and certain unsundry matters in the NT (not unlike John Spong in our day). Naturally, these leaders led great numbers of the faithful astray, but it was with the authority of the Church that these issues were settled and the heresy dissipated (though only to be revived among Albigensians in the Middle Ages and Protestants in the more recent modern era).

This entire argument is designed to defend Trent's definition but does nothing to address the lack of 'guidance' in previous centuries of Church history. A stock Catholic reply is that there was no scandal to 'correct', this can be easily disproven however. The history of Israel is rife with apostasy up to and including the losing of God's Word.

I have just shown that there was no "lack of guidance" before Trent. Ever heard of Nicea or Chalcedon? As for the OT times, it is no argument against the authority of the Church if the Israelites lacked a similar authority. As the Church is founded by Christ, the Incarnate Son and True God, and is the body of Christ on earth, she has been given this charism (though not perfectly exhibited by the numerous sinners in her fold). If you want to get into the reasons for why God has done it this way, then I will not venture there with you.

Further, Kevin's reply identifies disagreement over the constitution of the NT canon. How was that resolved without recourse to 'magesterial definition'?

This was dogmatically resolved at Trent.

Kevin Davis said...

One more thought: It should be remembered that the dogmas of the Church, by and large, come about to settle a dispute and end schism for those who recognize the authority of the Church. The nature of Christ and his relation to the Father and Spirit were much disputed in the early church and thus the early councils focused largely on these issues (just as the relation of Judaic law to Christian belief and praxis was the issue for the Apostles in the first century and recorded in the NT). Issues of soteriology would come to the fore at the Reformation, causing schism, and thus had to be resolved at Trent, at which the canonical issue was likewise resolved.

Also, I hope one does not take my comments in this thread as an exhaustive presentation of the Catholic position. Take them as signposts to further reflection and study.

FM483 said...

Kevin,

Your last statement deserves a comment. Whenever a modern day member of the Roman Catholic uses the term "Catholic", he always assumes that the term has always referred to the Roman Catholic denomination. The 16th century Reformers always recognized this term for what it was, as used in the Nicene Creed and Apostles and Athanasian: the universality of the Christian Faith in the Triune God. Hence, the 16th century Reformers always considered themselves "catholic" in the theological sense, not denominational. There is a difference. The Reformers,especially Martin Luther, wished to retain everything that God had produced through His church, such as the liturgy and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Only those teachings which were not in accord with the Scriptures were rejected. The Roman Catholic denomination wishes it has a monopoly on the term "catholic", but it does not.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

The Roman Catholic denomination wishes it has a monopoly on the term "catholic", but it does not.

Yeah, whatever. If you tell 99 in a hundred people (or 999 in a thousand) that you are Catholic, they know you follow the Catholic Church headed by the See of St. Peter in Rome. They do not think, "Hmm, I wonder if he is a Lutheran catholic, a Reformed catholic, an Anglican catholic, a Russian Orthodox catholic...or maybe even a free church catholic." You can protest about how you are the true catholic because you think Nicea is biblical, but the term, "Catholic," for the Church of Rome is here to stay. By the way, the fact that the Catholic Church is 1.1 billion strong in by far the greatest number of countries across the globe surely means that we are, at least, the most "catholic" in the literal sense of "universal."

Only those teachings which were not in accord with the Scriptures were rejected.

Yes, of course, we are back to the same argument of Protestants saying such-and-such is so obviously scriptural and such-and-such Romish accretions are so obviously not, and what-do-ya-know, Nicea, Chalcedon, and Ausburg (or maybe Westminster) got it right and thus this is the "catholic" faith. In other words, you are saying that "catholic" simply means true Christianity.

FM483 said...

Kevin wrote:

“By the way, the fact that the Catholic Church is 1.1 billion strong in by far the greatest number of countries across the globe surely means that we are, at least, the most "catholic" in the literal sense of "universal."”

My Response:

For your information, “catholic” means universal and the same at all times and places. Are you serious in contending that the doctrines of the RCC have remained constant over time? If this is true how do you deal with the ever evolving doctrines concerning the virgin Mary? How do you dealwith the fact that the newest edition of the RCC Catechism states that unbelievers who deny Jesus Christ can be saved by their works? As far as numbers go, I believe there are twice as many Islamic believers. So what. I recall reading a quote from the prophet Isaiah used by St Paul in Romans which says:

Romans 9:27
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

It is obvious that within those who profess themselves to be Christian, many are hypocrites and only a remnant has and will be saved in each generation. This pertains to the 1.1 billion number you quoted as well. I am not alone when I believe that it was the remnant during the 16th century which refused to deny their catholic faith and continue to go along with the unscriptural practices and beliefs which were being foisted upon the people, such as indulgences and other forms of works righteousness. The papacy refused to listen to the remnant and instead condemned Luther to death, as they had Jan Hus a century earlier. I want to stress the fact that I do believe that many RCs are part of the remnant, despite their affiliation with the false church of Rome. Even certain Mormons may be saved.Whoever believes in the atonement of Christ for their sins will be saved. Even the late pope, if he on his death bed confessed the orthodox Christian belief in the atonement of Christ ALONE for his sins and those of the entire world, is saved. This is referred to as a “felicitous inconsistency”. The Scriptures tell us the true church is hidden, to be revealed on the Last Day(Col 3:4).

Even if you were to brag about growth percentages, it is a fact that non-Christian cults, like Mormonism, have greatly higher growth rates than orthodox faiths. It means only that the entire world is in the domain of darkness under the influence of Satan(Col 1:13); the hearts of natural man is evil; that only God is good.

Your point about the tremendous size of those affiliated with the RCC only means that in matters of theology people are ignorant. There are at least twice as many Islamic advocates. Numbers mean very little when it comes to Truth. As I have stated many times on this blog, Roman Catholicism is similar to Mormonism: both have had to justify their claims with extrabiblical sources – the Scriptures themselves will not affirm their false claims. The RCC has their magesterium, the Mormons have their “prophet” and “70 elders”, the Jehovah Witnesses have their “Watchtower”.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

Well, we've reached a point where it is senseless to continue debating. You've basically challenged me to defend the Catholic faith in toto. If you want to know how Catholics defend Mary, there's numerous apologetics websites out there. The same can be said for our view of salvation, including the issue of salvation outside the church. And I'm sure that if I did continue the debate, we'd have to get into Transubstantiation, so I'll have to encourage you to look elsewhere for that too. Oh, and there's the issue of purgatory, but I guess that would fall under soteriology.

I want to assure that I do actually believe that all these teachings of the Catholic Church are true and can be sustained after a critical historical and systematic study. It is a shame that you lump Catholicism together with Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses. I was once a Protestant, but I never had Protestant lenses that thick. I am at least encouraged that Evangelicals like J.I. Packer and Billy Graham recognize the legitimacy of the Church of Rome as an authentic witness to Christian revelation. Evangelicals are increasingly dispensing with the "remnant mentality" and certainly with the notion that Catholics will only be saved if they "trust in Christ alone for their salvation" as if we do not do this already (by the way, indulgences, penance, purgatory and all that deal with sanctification, i.e. conforming ouselves to Christ, after his blood has saved us and brought us into the grace of God).

Kevin Davis said...

Also, I was simply following the early church fathers in connecting catholicity with both orthodoxy and the phenomenon of greater physical universality. It was the heresies that were limited to certain regions (though, with Arianism, this was a mighty huge region, namely, Byzantium) and often named after a certain person (Arius, Nestorius, Marcion, etc.). In the 16th century, this was seen once again with, for example, Lutheranism being named after Luther and Anglicanism being limited to England (and Scotland and N. Ireland by force). Of course, the Lutheran or Calvinist simply declared Lutheranism or Calvinism to be "biblical Christianity," so we're back to that whole issue. Of course, this was all before the Baptists came along and showed us who the real biblical Christians were.

FM483 said...

Kevin-

I merely respond to your emails and instead of discussing issues you begin to attack me personally! I say this because you accuse me of having “thick lenses” and attempt to marginalize what I have said merely because you like Packer and Graham. It is not surprising you like Graham because he is synergistic in his theology like Rome. Most Evangelicals are very Roman Catholic in their theology.The truth is it is all God’s work from start to finish, where man only contributes his sinfulness. Graham and others can’t properly discern Law and Gospel and do not see this. Instead of dealing with my statement that the RCC is similar to Mormonism and the Jehovah Witnesses since it has had to embrace extrabiblical sources to substantiate it’s claims, you totally skirt the issue and figuratively throw up your arms and mention how “Evangelicals are increasingly dispensing with the ‘remnant mentality’” – as if the Holy Scriptures I quoted were merely a “mentality”! Your closing remarks concerning Baptists was an obvious attempt to marginalize my remarks as claiming each and every denomination claims to be the “real Christians”. This is not what I said and merely re-reading my remarks will show that I emphasized the Scriptural truth that all men are saved by Grace through Faith in Christ alone. That there are members of the Elect or Remnant within all denominations who rely on the atonement of Christ alone for their salvation. I even went so far as to say that I believe many Roman Catholics are part of the remnant, despite the false teachings of their church. I referred to this phenomenon as “felicitous inconsistency”.

This interchange between you and I began with the use of the word “catholic”. I made the case that this word refers to the universality of the Christian faith: the same at all times and places. I mentioned how the RCC has introduced teachings over the years foreign to the Scriptures as evidence that they have abandoned the catholic faith. It is not the faith as recorded in Scripture, but rather an evolving set of mandates originating in the imaginations of fallible men. In addition to Mariolatry and the synergistic emphasis upon works righteousness, one need only consider the attempts by the pope to calm the storm which arose concerning his accurate quote about Islam being a religion of violence. In his attempt to placate the Islamic hordes, the pope has embraced Islam as worshipping the one God. This is blatantly false and if the pope does not know this he may as well close the doors of the RCC and go home. Jesus said “If you knew me, you would know my Father also”(John 8:19). It is a shame the pope could not quote St Peter who said “There is no other name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved”! According to the pope, all monotheistic religions worship God. I guess this not only includes Muslims, but Zoroastrianism and Jehovah Witness cults? It really gets rediculous: how about my next door neighbor who says he is god or the ancient Roman caesars who claimed to be god? When and where do we draw the line? How about not deny the Way, Truth, and Life as embodied in the Son of God? How about Father, Son,and Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture and especially in the Incarnation, perfect life, sufferings and death, and resurrection of Christ?

Consider how far we have come when the pope would rather deny the Truth than disturb the consciences of men! This is an insult to all those who have gone before us in faith in Christ, especially the martyrs. The pope made an accurate statement concerning Islam’s violent nature and now he has backtracked to the point of denying Christ.


Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

Frank,

I did not mean to personally attack you, but when one attacks another's beliefs, it is hard not to be attacking the person. I made the "thick lenses" comment because I seriously believe this to be fundamental to your errors. I could say that you personally attacked me by basically calling me a Mary-worshipper and an ignorant minion of Rome by following all their "extra-biblical" (read: anti-biblical) traditions (oh if only I could read the Bible clearly...after all, what could be more obvious than Eph. 2:8-9). I have read the Bible, especially the NT and most-especially Romans and Galatians, multiple times, beginning from childhood, raised in a good Baptist home, attending a good Baptist school until 12th grade. I went to college, majored in Theology, and did my senior thesis on the "participatory language" (i.e., being in Christ, in the Spirit, or Christ in me) of Paul, focusing on Romans. That same year (my senior year) I entered the Catholic Church. About half of my close friends (going back to middle and high school) argue just as you do; the other half have tempered a bit and recognized that Christianity is bigger than a quasi-Reformed Baptist theology. I once again direct you to Catholic apologetics outlets (like Catholic Answers or Cor ad Cor Loquitur) because it would take much too long for me to argue why I think, for example, your synergism charges are misinformed.

As for the Pope and Islam, I believe Muslims do worship God insofar as they worship God at all. There certainly isn't a false, rival God in heaven that Muslims pray to. Insofar as God hears their prayers, they are praying to the one God. They indeed have some misguided notions of God, but I will not limit God to ignoring them. Now, if a Muslim is presented with the gospel of Christ and rejects it, he rejects God (for, to know the Son is to know the Father, to reject the Son is to reject the Father, and vice versa). And, I certainly wouldn't deny that some Muslims are great servants of Satan.

Kevin Davis said...

One more thing:

Your closing remarks concerning Baptists was an obvious attempt to marginalize my remarks as claiming each and every denomination claims to be the “real Christians”. This is not what I said....

I know that's not what you said. I was saying that each denomination believes themselves to be the most biblical, not "real Christians." I believe you misunderstood what I was saying (of course, I was saying it sarcastically).

FM483 said...

Kevin,

The common mistake many people make is in not seeing that Lutheranism is significantly different from what is commonly referred to as “protestanism”. Since Lutheranism was the direct result of the Reformation and rejects the claims of the papcy as unscriptural,the tendency is to lumpit with all other non-RC denominations. This is a serious mistake. Many disheartened Evangelicals often overlook Lutheranism, which is unfortunate. I would encourage you to investigate the historical roots and claims of Lutheranism as the continuation of the catholic, apostolic faith. The Lutheran Confessions directly confronted the heresies which had crept into the Medieval church and you can easily read these treatises in PDF format at: http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/LCMS/TrigBOC.pdf

The sections dealing with the papacy and claims of the Roman church shouldbe enlightening for you. Any good scholar should investigate the claims of the opposition. As a person born and raised Roman Catholic, I am already knowledgeable of Roman Catholicism. Most Roman Catholics are not familiar with Lutheranism, however.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod web site is at:
http://www.lcms.org/

You can easily pour over the main beliefs and read many of the Frequently Asked Qestions and their answers. You may even submit a question, which most likely will be answered. I have done so personally. You may also be interested in scoping out an excellent Lutheran website at KFUO.org. The various broadcasts here are both intellectually and spiritually stimulating. I scanned some of the IssuesEtc archives and have listed a few broadcasts dealing with Roman Catholicism. The broadcast by Dr. Martin Noland is particularly interesting. Dr. Noland is an historian and presents things from an historical perspective.


The Allure of Roman Catholicism http://www.kfuo.org/Issues_ETC/ie_10_20_05.htm

Roman Catholicism and Reformation Theology http://www.kfuo.org/Issues_ETC/ie_10_11_05.htm

Is John Paul II in heaven?
http://www.kfuo.org/Issues_ETC/ie_04_05_05.htm

Time Magazine Cover story on Mary http://www.kfuo.org/Issues_ETC/ie_03_16_05.htm

The office of the Papacy, by Dr.Martin Noland http://www.kfuo.org/Issues_ETC/ie_03_06_05.htm


Regarding your statements about Islam, does the same apply to a Jehovah Witness or any other monotheist cult? I recall Jesus telling the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees, that although they claimed to worship the one, true God and that Abraham was their Father, in actuality their true Father was Satan! I guess this would be politically incorrect in this day and age! If Islamics and other monotheists are worshipping the same God, why evangelize? After all, according to the contemporary RC reasoning, once a non-Christian is introduced to Christ there is the possibility that he may reject Him and perish eternally. However, if left to continue his life under the Law(self-justification), the same person, according to RC thinking, may be pleasing to God and accepted into heaven based upon their works. I wrote a letter last December to the Roman Catholic magazine “This Rock” on this topic and their response was no response at all. I believe James posted this on this web site, for your review. This entire topic of “Anonymous Christianity” is really disturbing. It is not only intellectually dishonest, but contrary to Scripture itself.

As I previously stated, Lutheranism is distinct from all non-Roman Catholic denominations. In Lutheranism we have a Scripturally-based theology focused upon Christ and the cross, the Gospel. In Lutheranism you find the ancient church, the liturgy, the sacraments as instituted by Christ, and all those treasures from the ancient church, unlike modern Evangelicalism and others. You really ought to check it out. In the Lutheran Confessions, combined in the Book of Concord in 1580,you find clear statements of the Christian faith as derived from Holy Writ itself. You find the ancient Creeds which the early church produced in defending against heresy. Most other denominations either fail to have clear statements of belief or have augmented their Reformational tenements with the logic and teachings of men in addition to the Word of God. It should be noted that the Roman statements of belief came after the Lutheran Confessions, and technically the Roman Catholic Church came after the Lutheran Church, originally called the “Evangelical Church”. The name “Lutheran” was originally used as an insult against the Reformation by Rome The name was retained in order to distinguish these biblical beliefs versus that of Rome and others which came later.


Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

Frank,

I have looked rather closely at Lutheranism, and I agree with you that it is too often over-looked in American Protestantism. It is actually my position that Lutheranism is the most coherent, biblical, and sane of the Protestant traditions (though, I would say the same for High Church Anglicanism, which shares much with Lutheranism). In fact, a major problem with American Protestantism (including its anti-intellectualist tendencies) is its failure to look to Continental Protestantism, which would include most-especially Lutheranism, but also a more sane Reformed tradition (of which Herman Bavinck and Karl Barth would be great examples). At almost every point in which the traditional Calvinist (of which, by the way, Barth was not) differs with confessional Lutherans, I think the Lutherans have it right. And the neglect of Chemnitz by American Calvinists is surely a mark of sectarian ignorance.

As for the anonymous Christian issue, I agree that Karl Rahner's construal of it has many problems, and these are the problems that Hans Urs von Balthasar had with the so-called "anonymous Christian" in Rahner's theology. One problem, at least when presented in a crude format, with Rahner's view is that it does not give enough of a place for grace as fundamental to any striving after God which is exhibited in certain actions of the individual. I encourage you to look into the Balthasar (and Ratzinger) critiques of the issue.

One more thing: I listened to one of the audio links you provided and the host mentioned that the doctrine of purgatory is saying that Christ did not quite do it all, so we have to finish it up. This is one of many examples of a gross misunderstanding of Catholic teaching. The doctrine of Purgatory is declaring the truth that Christ works through us to perfect sanctification. The individual is already saved by Christ and accounted a son of God and heir of God's Kingdom. But God does not leave us as we are; he wants to make us into a new creation -- fully putting off the "old man." All attachment to sin (which is a punishment of sin) must be purged, which is to say that our wills must be wholly conformed to God's.

FM483 said...

Kevin,

I read your comments and wish to respond. You are correct regarding Martin Chemnitz. Historically he wasa giant of faith in the Reformation. In fact, it is often said that he was the second Martin and if he had not appeared the first would have disappeared into historical obscurity. Chemnitz’ treatise “Examination of the Council of Trent” is a tremendously informative treatise whereby the Roman attacks on the Lutheran Confessions are dealt with in a thorough manner. In fact, in this treatise Chemnitz deals with the concept of “Grace”, explaining how the Roman church uses such a term in an unscriptural sense. For example, the Roman church uses this word as referring to a certain “power source” whereby God enables a person to live a more God-pleasing life of obedience to the will of God. The Holy Scriptures use the word as a description of the attitude of God towards men on account of the finished work of His Son on the cross.. It makes a huge difference! Both Roman Catholics and Lutherans use the same word and both have different understandings of the word. I have found similar problems when I have dealt with Mormons: Mormons use the same terminology with drastically different meanings. I have previously posted a paper on this website dealing with Chemnitz’ treatise, in case you are interested. The Roman church labeled Chemnitz “the most villanous Lutheran” on account of the fact that they were surprised such mental giants survived Luther, who confronted and refuted every counter argument of Rome. The Chemnitz treatise “Two Natures In Christ” is perhaps the most thorough and exhaustive book dealing with the divine and human natures within Christ. I also have other works by this Father in the Faith, such as “The Lord’s Supper” and “Ministry and Sacraments”.

Pertaining to the Lord’s Supper, Lutherans do not either add to nor take away from the Word of God on this subject. Hence, Lutherans do not see transubstantiation as in the Roman church,which incorporated Aristotelian philosophy in an attempt to explain this Sacrament, nor do they see it as merely a memorial meal as viewed by most of protestanism. Instead, Lutherans accept what the Word of God says:it is the Lord’s Supper, not ours. There are the physical elements of bread and wine and at the same time, in,with, and under these elements believers receive the Body and Blood of Christ -for the forgiveness of sins. Lutherans do not attempt to logically explain the Lord’s Supper, but rather confess it based upon God’s revelation in His Word. This leads me into a big difference between Lutherans and others. Lutherans do not attempt to explain everything revealed by God. In His Word God has chosen to reveal what is necessary for saving faith. This is the Revealed God. However, since God is infinite - most of Truth lies in the Hidden God. Whenever men have wandered into the hidden realm gross error and biblically inconsistent and contradictive teachings have resulted. Such error has reared it’s head within much of protestanism. However, one example in Roman Catholicism is the concept of purgatory. Take your last sentence for example : “All attachment to sin(which is a punishment of sin) must be purged, which is to say that our wills must be wholly conformed to God’s.” Lutherans read the Word of God and quickly see that the entire Christian faith is the opposite of common sense. I am not saying Christianity is illogical, but rather not commonsensical. Lutherans read the Scriptures and see that men are saved by Grace through Faith. Now, if Grace is a “power source” as in Roman Catholicism, then this reads as follows: based upon the atonement of Christ for sins, men are saved due to the grace of God which is given to them in order to lead continually improved God-pleasing lives so that eventually they will be perfectly acceptable to God. The Scriptures say otherwise: men are saved solely based upon the Grace of God as shown in the incarnation, perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ FOR them on their behalf as the Representative Man. Just as David represented the nation of Israel in confronting Goliath and the Philistines, so too Christ represents every believer: whatever happens to Christ happens to every believer. Jesus lived a perfect sinless life on our behalf. Jesus payed the penalty for our transgressions. Jesus is our Redeemer, not ourselves in any purgatory. This fact is transferred to men by the gift of FAITH. Faith is the vehicle by which we receive the benefits of what Christ did FOR us. That is why it is called the GOOD NEWS, or Gospel.

I said the bible is not commonsensical. On the other hand, the Roman church concept of purgatory appeals to common sense. In explaining the Law in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus highlights the fact that we must be absolutely perfect in thought, word, and deed throughout our entire lives(Matthew 5:48). Even if a man has not committed adultery, even a lustful thought violates the entire Law. A hateful thought towards another violates the entire Law, resulting in eternal damnation. Even failure to do a good deed is sin and violates the Law(James 4:17). Sin so permeates the life of even believers that there appears no hope. Even if a man could totally stop sinning today, what about all those sins prior to that day? The RC viewpoint would be that every man must go through a “purgation” prior to eternal life in heaven. However, the Good News, the Gospel, says that even though we live imperfect lives in our flesh in this life, by Grace through Faith in Christ we are legally declared Not Guilty! and clothed with His Robe of Righteousness. But the RC would say that doesn’t make common sense because we are still sinners. That is the Gospel: just as Jesus told Peter that what God has declared clean is clean, so too, if God reckoned Abraham Righteous due to his faith alone, so are believers Righteous(Romans 4:22-25). Paul struggled with this fact in Romans chapter 7, complaining how he does the very evil he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do the good he wants to(Rom 7:15ff). Paul concludes that Jesus Christ rescues him from the problem of salvation, not based upon improved lifestyle and works, but by Grace through Faith in the life, death and resurrection of Christ – not our lives! The only life that matters is the life of Christ. All religions of the world are religions of the Law. They concentrate on the improvements in the lives of people outwardly. Christianity teaches that God is concerned about the hearts of men – their motives. God does not demand that men must improve their lives as in all false religions. God demands perfection and a complete heart transplant.Lutheranism understood this perplexing situation of believers and explained it as “simul justus et peccator”, or “simultaneously saint and sinner”. This is how the entire bible speaks to us. At one place we are chastised for the Old Man or Old Adam who dwells within us, and at other places we are lifted up by the Gospel and referred to as New Creations where our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, redeemed by the blood of Christ, adopted children of God, inheritors of the promises. This is the situation for believers. Only upon temporal death are believers released from the dead leaf and influence of the Old Adam. On the Last Day believers will have perfect bodies commensurate with perfect spirits where even the thought of sin and death will be foreign to us: we will automatically and spontaneously love, trust, and obey God. Jesus didn’t die so that we would have the gift of stopping from sinning, but rather for the forgiveness of sins. In this lifetime the Old Adam can only sin. Even our good deeds are a mixture of pure and imperfect motives. Only the fruits of the Holy Spirit, produced by God working through our New Creation, are sinless. These fruits are done spontaneously and automatically so that even believers are unaware of them, as shown in Matthew 25:44-45 when Jesus compliments the sheep on the Last Day. So, believers in the atonement of Christ for their sins are both perfect In Christ and sinners in Adam. This is how God’s Word describes this un-commonsensical situation. The manmade concept of “purgatory”is a product of the reasoning of sinful man to attempt to explain the unfathomable Grace of God in Christ. What God desires is a repentant man who receives His gift of the forgiveness of sins based upon the atonement of Christ for sins,not based upon any outward improvements in lifestyle but a new heart created by God(Psalm 51:10). This New Creation within each believer delights in the Word and Sacraments automatically, but the Old Adam still clings to him until death.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

For example, the Roman church uses this word as referring to a certain “power source” whereby God enables a person to live a more God-pleasing life of obedience to the will of God. The Holy Scriptures use the word as a description of the attitude of God towards men on account of the finished work of His Son on the cross.

Well, I couldn't disagree with you more. In fact, Catholics would say that grace is both a "power source" and God's attitude toward men on account of Christ's sacrifice. I guess this is yet another example of the Catholic both-and, contra the Protestant either-or. However, Catholics would say, in regard to grace being a "power source," that grace is fundamental to our whole relation to God. God calls us by grace and works through us to do good. No Christian can look at his good works and not see grace. Our whole life in Christ is a gift of God.

Now, if Grace is a “power source” as in Roman Catholicism, then this reads as follows: based upon the atonement of Christ for sins, men are saved due to the grace of God which is given to them in order to lead continually improved God-pleasing lives so that eventually they will be perfectly acceptable to God. The Scriptures say otherwise: men are saved solely based upon the Grace of God as shown in the incarnation, perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ FOR them on their behalf as the Representative Man.

So, let me get this straight: Catholics say that we are saved (i.e., made acceptable to God) by being made perfect through living a holy life (albeit given by grace). Lutherans (and other right-thinking Protestants) say that we are saved by the sacrifice of Christ for our sins -- a gift received by faith. Once again, the Catholic actually says that both are correct. We are first and foremost saved by the sacrifice of Christ. Without the death and resurrection of Christ, sin and death would still reign (for sin and death were conquered by Christ's resurrection according to St. Paul). Christ then allows us to likewise conquer sin and death, this results in our coming into the graces of God in a shared sonship with Christ (we are joint heirs according to St. Paul). This union with Christ is fundamental to Catholic understanding (and St. Paul's: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me."). Paul is insistent throughout his letters on the fact that we are born again, made into new creatures, wherein the works of the flesh are overcome (through Christ, because Christ conquered sin-death), to be replaced by works of the Spirit (also, see the warnings in Romans 2 and Galatians 5). Catholics, however, recognize a tension, just as do Lutherans, in the fact that we are not perfect, sinless creatures, but the Catholic says that we are being made into perfect, sinless creatures through sanctification (thus, we take holiness quite seriously). All attachment to sin must be purged. Catholics are not simply reasoning-out the salvation process and thus injecting a "common-sensical" notion of Purgatory, devoid of the need for Christ. As I've briefly shown, Christ's sacrifice is fundamental. It is the faulty hermeneutics of Lutherans (and other Protestants) that keep them from seeing the Catholic position as truly biblical and patristic.

FM483 said...

Kevin,

Step back a minute and think about what you just wrote. In essence you are saying that Christians become progressively better and better, or more “sanctified” as their live their lives with Christ as the source of their strength. This is absolutely false and unscriptural, although it does appeal to human common sense. You are giving me the traditional Roman Catholic line of reasoning that “All attachment to sin must be purged”. I have shown you how even the apostle Paul realized the hopelessness of his Old Adam becoming sanctified and in harmony with the will of God. I have shown where our Old Adam is worth only eternal death and damnation and never improves spiritually. I have pointed out how all have sinned and are only worthy of eternal damnation and punishment. On the other hand I have pointed you to Christ asyour Savior, not your authority or power source for living an increasingly sanctified life. Christ took the punishment we all deserved. Christ lived the perfect life on our behalf that we could never have done. Christ took the sins of the entire world upon Himself and in turn gives each and every believer His Righteousness. The gift of Faith is the vehicle by which this Righteousness is received. This is the GOSPEL which you are skipping over in your zeal to use Christ as an authority and power source for living an increasingly improved life, which is not possible. Sure, believers may be more aware of their sins than unbelievers and hopefully continually repent of their trespasses,which is”living in the Spirit”. But all men continue to have their Old Adam which doesn’t want to please God but rather himself. Hence, believers may no longer commit adultery, but it is impossible not to have lustful thoughts or desires in one fashion or the other.Your thoughts and words are as important to God as your actions. In the temporal realm we make a distinction between actions and thoughts: it is wrong to commit murder. In the kingdom of God even a hateful thought violates the will of God, however. To be perfect as commanded by Jesus(Matthew 5:48) is an impossibility. Most Christians fail to properly divide Law and Gospel, and do not realize that the Law of God continually accuses all men for failing to meet God’s standard, which is absolute perfection throughout one’s entire life in thought, word, and deed. The only hope is exactly what St Paul comes to the realization of in Romans7 and 8: Jesus Christ. Believers are forensically DECLARED Righteous by faith alone, similar to Abraham, as illustrated by Paul. This is inconceivable to Roman Catholics, who continue to ”live under the Law”,which is an illusion that with the help of God we can become perfect. This line of human reasoning and common sense flies in the face of the Gospel which emphasizes the Great Exchange:we give God all our sins;He receives the punishment we deserved;in turn through Faith He grants us His Righteousness. As I have said before, Christianily may be logical but it is not commonsensical. The Law of God continually accuses us saying “Do This!” and it is never done. On the other hand, the Grace of God in Christ Jesus says “Believe This!” and it is already done. What a deal! All religions of the world stress our lifestyles and deeds as the method by which “god” judges us. Only orthodox Christianity says that a man is seen as Righteous by the One True God based upon what he believes, not does. The actions of believers are a result of their faith and salvation, not the cause of it. Once I understood this Gospel my days in Roman Catholicism were numbered. I would encourage you to read a recent post on this website authored by me on this subject of Law and Gospel. The Lord is our Righteousness, not our outwardly improved and tamed Old Adam.

Your comment that Roman Catholics believe a man is saved by faith in the atonement of Christ and also through being made perfect through living a holy life is a CONTRADICTION. You cannot have it both ways. Either a man is saved by the Graciousness of God through the atonement of His Son,or a man is saved by becoming perfect. Sanctification is merely a continuation of Justification. It is God who does both, not man. Jesus is both the author and perfecter of our faith according to Hebrews. It is God works in us to know and to do His good pleasure. It was God’s doing before the foundation of the earth as he planned the salvation of all men through His Son on the cross. It is God who continues to work in men. Our salvation and sanctification are all God’s doing. Prior to Justification our natural man was in total bondage without any free will to do any spiritually good deed, like receiving Christ. But God miraculously came to us in His Word and baptism: we were born again not by our will but God alone(John 1). As believers we continue our spiritual journey, being more aware of our sinfulness and repenting continually. This is the cycle of the Christian walk. Roman Catholics are caught up in common sense reasoning which applies to the temporal kingdom, but not the kingdom of God. Read the parables to see how the kingdom of God operates in contrast to the temporal realm For example, an evil man on his death bed who receives Christ, inherits heaven exactly as a man who lived his total life in good works, such as Mother Theresa(Matthew 20:1ff).


Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

Philosophical interjection here..

"Either a man is saved by the Graciousness of God through the atonement of His Son,or a man is saved by becoming perfect."

Response:
I'm pretty sure even James Swan and others will not concede this point since this is no contradiction, either logical or metaphysical. There may be a possible world where a man is saved by the gratuity of God through the atonement of His Son which makes it possible for man to become perfect. In other words, becoming perfect is none other than the application of the atonement of the Son. One might believe this is false, but it is possible nonetheless.

I won't comment on other statements because of time and we already went over this before, but I find this statement interesting:

"Roman Catholics are caught up in common sense reasoning which applies to the temporal kingdom, but not the kingdom of God."

Hmm..common sense does not apply to the kingdom of God. Makes me think Pope Benedict was right on target in his analysis on faith and reason in the great Regensburg address. We Catholics believe in faith and reason, God who is Logos, "reason," who gave us common sense. Grace through faith perfects reason and common sense, but it is not contrary to it nor is it simply for the temporal world. Actually, one might find my latest post as one of interest for you since it touches a bit on this.

FM483 said...

Apolonia-

If you read my posts carefully you would see that I said many times Christianity is logical, but not commonsensical. There is a difference. I'll explain it further if you wish. As far as James Swan agreeing 100 percent with me, that is impossible since he is not Lutheran in his theology.The Scriptures say that by Grace through Faith in the atonement of Christ our sins are forgiven and we are forensically declared Not Guilty! by God. We are declared perfect,not made perfect. As my previous posts testify, only when the Old Adam is gone upon temporal death are we no longer simul justus et peccator. Until such a time believers remain both perfect saints In Christ and sinners in Adam. That is a paradox that runs throughout Scripture. This is the opposite of common sense, but Scriptural.

Frank Marron

Frank Marron

James Swan said...

As far as James Swan agreeing 100 percent with me, that is impossible since he is not Lutheran in his theology.The Scriptures say that by Grace through Faith in the atonement of Christ our sins are forgiven and we are forensically declared Not Guilty! by God. We are declared perfect,not made perfect.

There is nothing in this statement I would disagree with. The real disagreements between the Lutherans and the Reformed are more often over the understanding of the sacraments, and perhaps the extent of the atonement.

Even in our private discussion a week ago on law and gospel, I really don't see how or where we disagreed.

Blessings,
James

FM483 said...

James,

That was a good point of yours. I was generally responding to Apolonia's suggestion that "even James Swan" and others might not agree with me. Obviously Apolonia is mistaken on the point he was attempting to explore. What Roman Catholics fail to understand is that the Lutheran and Reformed beliefs share much in common, and that both are different from Evangelical Christianity and other protestant denominations. The Roman Catholic tendency to lunp all non-Roman Catholic denominations under the general heading of "protestant" reflects a gross misunderstanding and failure to understand the claims of the 16th century Reformation and theology in general.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

Okay, Frank, I urge you to drop the "it's not commensensical" statements. It does nothing for your argument. Afterall, we both agree that God becoming man and dying on a cross for our sins is quite beyond the bounds of commonsense. But back to the main point of our discussion, I can grant your disagreeing with me, but I (and Apolonio) do not see how you can claim it a contradiction to say that Christ died for our sins and allows us to be fully sanctified. You can say it is unbiblical, but to say it is a contradiction (or even undesirable on the part of God) can in no wise be granted. Now, as for the scriptural warrants of your position, I believe you were alluding to Romans 7 that you cited earlier. Let's take a look at the passage:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

As many commentators have noted, this passage is, at best, dubious about whether Paul is talking about his pre or post-gospel state. I think it is clear that Paul is talking about life under the law, where he is still "of the flesh, sold under sin." Paul is describing how, before his new life in Christ, he was bound to sin. Futhermore, the law came along and only condemned him since the law could not save. However, Christ, who conqured sin and death with his resurrection, has freed him from the law of sin and death. As Paul says in verse 6 of the same chapter, "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." Our saving relationship with Christ has replaced the law, which only condemned and had no power to free us from sin (and death). This is repeated over and over again by Paul in his letters, especially Romans and Galatians, yet you disparage it and, in true myopic fashion, focus only on the forgiveness of sins aspect. For Paul, union with Christ, transformation in Christ is key to the gospel message (indeed, it is good news that sin and death no longer reign). As well, Paul does not shy from stating that those who do "works of the flesh" are not saved, are not sons of God, are not brothers in Christ, joint heirs with Christ, and inheriters of the Kingdom of God. Romans 2 warns:

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Also, in Galatians 5:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature [or, "works of the flesh"] are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.


And, back to Romans, with chapter 8:

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

FM483 said...

Kevin-

There are two ways of reading Scripture:

1. as a man living under the Law
2. as a man living under the Gospel

It makes a tremendous difference whether the cross of Christ is central in your thinking as you read Scripture. Most people, as illustrated by your recent post, live under the Law. I would refer you to an article I wrote on this subject which appeared on this blog:

Law & Gospel

You remarked about how many commentators are uncertain whether Paul wrote the words of Romans 7 prior to or subsequent to his conversion. I would encourage you to read the text, which is in the present tense, not past tense. The reason many are bothered by this chapter is because it does not fit in well with their commonsensical reasoning pertaining to the Christian life. Those who live under the Law believe that the lives of believers should continually improve as God works in them to sanctify them. On the other hand, those who live under the Gospel understand that by grace through faith in the atonement of Christ for their sins, they are credited with the Righteousness and perfection of Christ Himself: by Grace through Faith they are already Righteous In Christ. All this, despite the continued imperfections and sin which clings to them via their Old Adam, which is only removed upon temporal death:they are simul justus et peccator. Those living under the Gospel realize that Christ lived the perfect life they never could; Christ took the punishment for their sins in their place; and through the vehicle of faith they are credited with His perfection just as Abraham was, just as Adam and Eve were when they believed the promise of God of the Messiah(Gen 3:15). For those who live under the Law, there is no certainty that they have achieved the righteousness demanded by God for eternal life. This person is uncertain whether he or she has done enough good deeds or whether his faith is improving sufficiently to merit eternal life with Christ in heaven. This person continually looks inward at himself to determine whether he is improving and becoming increasingly acceptable to God. On the other hand, the man living under the Gospel understands that the essential factor is the Gospel: this man looks outside himself to the cross of Christ and his baptism as evidence of his union with Christ and acceptance(e.g. Romans 6:4ff). This means that the perfection and Righteousness of Christ Himself clothes him – that when God looks at him, He sees His Son. The Righteousness of Christ covers our sinful, naked bodies similar to how the father in the prodigal son parable who ran and threw his cloak over the filthy body of his returning ungrateful son(Luke 15). This man understands that from God’s perspective, through faith in Jesus, the believer is clothed with Christ’s Robe of Righteousness, the same robe described in Revelation chapter 7, where John saw the great multitude in heaven clothed in white robes which had been washed in the blood of the Lamb. The man living under the Gospel understands that what God desires is that all men work the works of God, which Jesus defined as follows:

John 6:29
Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

Thus, the man living under the Gospel understands that God is interested in repentance over sin and belief in the atonement of His Son on the cross.

The natural mindset of every man is to think under the Law. As Paul said, the Law is imprinted upon the conscience of every man. The primary purpose of the Law of God is to reveal our sin and the need for Christ, not to keep it(Romans 3:20; 5:20-21). The only acceptable perfect righteousness from God’s viewpoint is that which is credited to a man through faith in Christ, not the keeping of the Law and total sanctification via Law keeping(Romans 3:21-22). Contrary to the Law, the Gospel is totally foreign and outside of mankind – it must be revealed to humanity. Every religion of the world is Law oriented, where the outward behavior of people is the primary goal of the belief system,maintaining that improvements in behavior are the essential factors which determine acceptance to the Deity. Only Christianity teaches that it was impossible for men to merit anything with the One True God through improvements in lifestyle; that what is needed is a heart transplant - an entirely New Creation. The man living under the Gospel understands that God demands absolute perfection throughout the entire life of an individual in thought, word, and deed(Matthew 5).As St Paul realized, such a perfection is only possible through Jesus Christ:the perfection and Righteousness acceptable to God is only that of Jesus Christ, which is not achievable through works, but credited solely through faith.

The way the man living under the Law reads Scripture is to interpret everything as demands from God as to what he is to do or not do in order to be pleasing to Him. Sure he acknowledges Christ, but only as a power source to enable him to live an increasingly sanctified life. You read Scripture like Romans 8 and Galatians 5 which admonish us to “walk according to the Spirit” and “do not walk according to the flesh” as demands to stop sinning in order to be acceptable to God. You give little thought to what Jesus emphasized when He said that all must REPENT of their sins and be baptized. The Pharisees were tremendous Law keepers and yet they were unrepentant and hence doomed. Have you ever considered that “walking according to the Spirit” doesn’t refer to stopping from sinning but rather the urge to live a life of continual repentance, where by grace through faith one continually receives forgiveness on account of the finished work of Christ? Jesus said that we must abide in Him; He is the vine and we are the branches; we didn’t choose Him but He chose us; apart from Him we can do nothing(John 15). To the man living under the Law, “abiding in Christ”means to stop sinning. To the man living under the Gospel the same verse refers to repentance over sins and reception of the forgiveness of sins won at the cross. To the man living under the Law the relationship with God is similar to an employee-employer one, whereby good performance is rewarded and poor behavior punished. On the other hand, the man living under the Gospel understands the words of Scripture, which continually stress that God is our Father, we are His adopted children and inherit everything. You even quote such verses but merely skip over the words “inherit” and ”adoption” and thereby miss the intimate relationship between the believer and Christ. Think about it for a minute: if believers “inherit” the kingdom, then obviously they do not “merit” it. You even quoted Paul when he said that the “adopted” sons of God cry out “Abba!Father!”. The proper translation would read “Daddy!”. What has any child ever done to be adopted? The answer is absolutely nothing. The parents chose the child. Even when a child misbehaves and requires discipline,the parent never stops loving the child. And yet those who live under the Law mistakenly assume that only through obedience to God are men accepted by Him.

You seem confused that the bible continually refers to believers as simul justus et peccator. You have a difficult time grasping the fact that a believer is both saint In Christ and sinner In Adam at the same time. And yet that is how our lives are described:

Romans 8:10
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

This is the paradox. If converted sinners did not continue to be plaqued by the Old Adam within them, then there would be no need for all the Scriptural admonishments the man living under the Law is so fond of. Have you ever considered the fact that although our hearts believe the Gospel, our minds must be continually renewed and updated to this fact while we are in these bodies? However, admonishing believers about the will of God has absolutely nothing to do with salvation and Justification: Jesus Christ has taken care of the reconciliation of God with man at the cross(2Cor 5:17-21). Should a Christian live differently than prior to his conversion? Yes, but this has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. The man living under the Gospel understands that the absolute perfection demanded by God is impossible for men. As stated in previous posts, Jesus explains that a man must be absolutely perfect throughout his entire life in thought, word, and deed(Matthew 5). James also points out that we must never fail to do good and be guilty of sins of omission as well(James 4:17). Unlike the man living under the Law today, St Paul realized the hopelessness of attaining any perfection acceptable to God through Law keeping(Romans 7:24-25).

The man living under the Law reads every verse of Scripture as Lawful demands of how he must conduct himself throughout his life in order to be pleasing to God. This man often fails to appreciate why man needed a Savior in the first place. After all, there are many non-Christian religions which stress the holy lives of their members and in fact are heavily populated by modern-day Pharisees. In fact, I am personally acquainted with atheists who live outward lawful lives. Christians understand that without faith in the Son of God nothing is pleasing to God(Hebrews 11:6).The believer knows that there are currently two kingdoms: the temporal realm and the kingdom of heaven. While God can be pleased with the good deeds of unbelievers towards their fellow man in the temporal realm, and they may be even rewarded in this domain,such deeds have no benefit in the eternal realm. The only good deed recognized by God meriting anything eternally is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This is often overlooked in Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity which emphasize the sanctification of believers,often to the neglect of the cross of Christ. Just listen to most sermons:they are usually very moralistic in nature and seldom mention the absolute necessity of the cross of Christ for salvation. Such sermons are usually psychological applications of Scripture to the lives of believers and fail to connect the cross to the lives of believers. To the man living under the Gospel, he understands that by Grace through Faith he already is perfect and acceptable to God on account of Christ. He understands that he no longer has to perform good deeds to be pleasing to God because the only good deeds valued by God are those of Christ – and through Faith he has already been credited with this perfection. He is now free to do good deeds in loving his neighbor out of love of God and thankfulness for His graciousness. As the Holy Spirit automatically works through him,fruits of this union are spontaneously produced by God Himself.

Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

Frank and James,

My point was that I thought James was not going to concede that the statement:

"...a man is saved by the Graciousness of God through the atonement of His Son,or a man is saved by becoming perfect."

is a contradiction. There is no dichotomy here. It is certainly possible that both be true.

As I already said, to think that Paul was simply speaking of "Gospel vs. Law" as if everytime "law" is used it is condemned is anachronistic. Paul distinguishes between the works of the law and the law of the Spirit. The law of the Spirit is the Gospel. Robert K. Rappa has a nice book on works of the Torah. I'm working on writing a post on it. I'm currently studying the dead sea scrolls and one can see some connections to the words used.

Kevin Davis said...

Frank,

I would write a response, but I would just be re-wording what I've already written. As for Romans 7, I just read in The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 1097) the section on the relevant passage. It agrees with me in insisting that Paul is not talking about believers, for such is contrary to the context of both Romans and the entire Pauline corpus. I'd type the section out, but that would take too long. However, you can go to Amazon.com and do the "Search Inside" feature, put "1097" in the search field, click on "page 1097," and read the commentary. By the way, I highly recommend The Oxford Bible Commentary and not just because it often agrees with me but because it utilizes a lot of the best "post-critical" scholarship, hence avoiding a lot of the ridiculous speculative theories, hermeneutics of suspicion, and general disdain for the Judeo-Christian tradition.

FM483 said...

Regarding whether Romans 7 is Paul speaking prior to his conversion or subsequent to it, this is absolutely critical to understand. When you read the entire letter of Romans the way it was intended and originally read to the Church, in it’s entirety, there is no question that Paul is speaking about himself as he currently is. This is the apostle who encountered the living Christ on the road to Damascus. It is true that certain verses, such as Romans 7:9 speak in the past tense, but only to recount how Paul came to the realization of just how sinful he really was. In Galatians 1:13-14 and Philippians 3:5-6, Paul also speaks in the past tense, recounting how zealous he used to be for keeping the Law of God as a Pharisee. However, beginning in Romans 7 verse 14 he definitely begins to speak in the current tense, admitting that “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin”. The critical point to understand is that as a Christian Paul became aware of just how sinful he really was, where prior to his conversion he was ignorant of this fact, believing himself to be righteous by the outward works of the Law. This is what the Law does for Christians: it makes them more aware of their sin and the need for the Savior!

The big problem is that many Christians do not understand that sin is not what you do when you violate God’s Law,but rather sinful is what we are. We a born dead in trespasses, hateful towards God, with a wicked and evil heart, desiring evil. Upon conversion the Law convicts us of our sin and we as believers are remorseful and repentant over the situation. Unbelievers would never be grievous over sin. Paul in Romans 7 is definitely painfully aware of his sin and desperate for the remedy, which he concludes is the Righteousness and perfection of Christ, which is reckoned to him by grace through faith alone. Merely reading the New Testament illustrates how even Christians are caught up in the spiritual conflict between their flesh In Adam and their NewCreation In Christ. Just read passages like Galatians 5:19ff where Paul is admonishing believers to renew their minds and to no longer live as pagans.This is the Christian paradox: they are simultaneously saints and sinners. As believers become increasingly more aware of their sins, both those of commission and omission, in thought,word, and deed, they repent and cast themselves upon the cross of Christ.Christ comes through each and every time with His forgivenss(1John 1:8-10). The only Righteousness and perfection for sinners this side of eternity is through faith in the imputation of the Righteousness of Christ. Let me ask you a question: do you need less of the Righteousness of Jesus today than 2 years ago? If you believe that you are less a sinner today, perhaps you should consider Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus explained the Law:you must be perfect as God is in thought, word,and deed throughout your entire life.

Those who would like to believe that they become increasingly more sanctified and less of a sinner fall into the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian heresy camp. The various Holiness denominations originating with Wesley, Jacob Arminius, and modern television evangelists are another continuation of this foolish and unscriptural line of reasoning. Such foolishness is a barrier to the comfort and assurance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for those who live in terror of their sins – the bruised reed and smoldering wick mentioned by Jesus. Many believers who belong to denominations which preach such nonsense as progressive sanctification never have the comfort and assurance of the Gospel, live increasingly in despair, instead of basking in the Righteousness of their Savior. Jesus Christ died for their sins. Jesus Christ, the man/God lived the perfect life of obedience they never could. Jesus Christ receives their sins and in turn grants them His Righteousness through faith alone. This is the Gospel that much of Christianity seems to be unaware of. As Redeemed sinners and adopted children of God In Christ, believers are now free to delight in the will of God. They freely love their neighbor and automatically produce fruits of faith as they abide In Christ, not the Law and their own works.

Frank Marron

Kevin Davis said...

Well, I guess this is where I will just part with you on this discussion. You have not said anything substantially new, so I will, once again, defer to my previous remarks. However, I can't resist just one reply: Paul is speaking of the old Adam in the present tense, and the aforementioned commentary gives good, compelling reasons for why this is so. I do find it interesting in how we have come to a classic example of how scripture ain't so easy to interpret, and how, without the Church (i.e., Catholic Church, i.e., Roman Catholic Church), denominationalism is inevitable. I choose to go with Rome and (co-incidentally in this case) with The Oxford Bible Commentary.

By the way, you do horrible injustice to Wesley and Arminius by lumping them together with modern televangelists. They both stood in the greater tradition of both the Reformation and the early Fathers. Televangelists are just uneducated bafoons, who stand in a crude, Baptistic dispensational premillenialism that Wesley/Arminius would find quite strange. Also, most televangelists are not so much concerned with holiness as they are with God granting them "favors." On another side note, it can be said that Arminius and Wesley stood in the greater Reformed tradition that was not necessarily delineated by the Canons of Dort (see Christ's Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism by Philip Benedict, Yale University Press, 2004).

FM483 said...

Kevin, I am confused by your statement "However, I can't resist just one reply: Paul is speaking of the old Adam in the present tense, and the aforementioned commentary gives good, compelling reasons for why this is so." I agree that it is present tense. Paul uses language such as "I am..." in Romans 7:14 and allthe admonitions to act like Christians instead of pagans throughout his letters.What is your point?

Frank

Kevin Davis said...

Paul is speaking of himself and all those who were (and those who still are) in the old Adam, i.e., before the new Adam (Christ) is born in the person. As for why this is so, see the commentary (once again, which can be assessed via Amazon's search inside feature).

FM483 said...

Kevin,

Jesus came to save us from the curse of the Law, "In the day that you sin you shall surely die"(Gen 2). Believers will not face eternal death, but since we all inherit the sin of Adam we will all die temporally. Until that time believers are simul justus et peccator, even you Kevin - or are you not closer to death today than yesterday? If you no longer had an Old Adam and there remained only your sinless New Creation in Christ,you would not experience even temporal death.

In order to maintain your position on Progressive Sanctification, you must believe that you need Jesus less today than a year ago - after all, your sins are less and less - isn't that what you are saying? Perhaps you have an inadequate understanding of sin? Read how Jesus shows the religious people of His day just what the Law really meant, which was an impossibility to keepperfectly in thought, word, and deed.

Frank Marron