Monday, November 05, 2007

Linking justification with Christology

CrimsonCatholic has raised an interesting point and I'd like to ask a question about it, for discussion.
It began when Lucian made this interesting (and, uncharacteristically, not off-the-wall) comment:
I think it highly unwise to try to understand the Biblical concept of redemption, save through the prism of the Person of the Redeemer Himself: the God-Man Jesus Christ. ...I think there are at least 4 (possible options for a salvation concept) 1) 100% God, 0% man. 2) 100% man, 0% God. 3) X% God, (100-X)% man. 4) 100% God, 100% man.


A little later on, I wrote a post that ended up in 120+ comments where I contended that Ephesians 2:8-10's use of the two "works" provides unequivocal support for the idea of Sola Fide.
CrimsonCatholic stopped by and offered his thoughts, repeated in a recent post at his blog.
Here is what he said:
You once said that you rejected the idea that works could be both 100% God's and 100% man's, one of four options, because that option pertained to Christology and not justification.

In light of v. 2:10 and the rest of the book of Ephesians (espec. vv. 1:9-10, 22-23 and ch. 3), do you truly believe that Paul's doctrine of justification and Christian works is not Christological? And if the dichotomy between divine works and human works is false in Christ, why is it not false for those in whom Christ is working as well? Moreover, in the work of Christ, what cause do we have to boast of ourselves? (Compare Rom. 3:27 with Rom. 15:17-18, Gal. 2:20, Phlp. 2:13.)

So, leaving aside the fact that I also dealt with his question about boasting (which went unanswered), the central statement seems to be that, since Christ Himself is 100% God and 100% man, so must we regard our justification as 100% by the grace of God and 100% by the works of man.
This is interesting on several levels, really. My answers at the time were here and then here as a reiteration.

Eph 2:10 tells us that Christ created us for good works. Eph 2:8-9 tell us that it's apart from works that we are saved by grace thru faith. These works are the same works; the ones in v. 10 that don't save us in v.9 are what we do after we're created in Christ Jesus. Any distinction I make is what is made in the text; indeed, I'm forced into it. Nobody has yet dealt with that here.
What I hear you saying seems to me to be similar to the common RC argument about the Assumption of the BV Mary, that it "would be fitting" for Christ to show the honor shown to Enoch and Elijah to His mother as well. Ergo, she was assumed. Game, set, match.
Here, you seem to be saying that since Christ was 100% God and 100% man, it is fitting that our salvation might be 100% God and 100% man as well. But how can we justify that connection biblically? It's a just-so story, b/c *you* think it would be fitting that it be that way. But God apparently disagrees.
Just a sidenote - we don't find our doctrine in "linkages" that could be seen in between biblical passages when obvious statements are made about the same, such as Eph 2:8-10 and Rom 4:6-8. This is a hallmark of Roman Catholic apologetics, as the way they go about defending the Assumption of Mary demonstrate.

CrimsonCatholic's argument would seem to require that Christ working in us is like God working in Christ and hence the works are the same. To make his argument work it would need to be modified to 100% God + 100% (perfect) man. We do not qualify for the second half and hence we are unable to contribute to our justification. Only Jesus fills that holy place. But the Roman Catholic may object that it is Christ's work in us, so it is still God's work. But how can you meaningfully say that it is not our works when we used our hands and mouths to do the works even if they were from God's work in us? The works Jesus does in us are our works too, just as the works God did in Christ were Christ's works too.
Also, that response fails miserably in taking into account just how bad the human is. He doesn't seek to do good. He doesn't want to. He hates the light. This "100% man" thing would lead to our utter damnation, by logical consequence.

Now, CC's argument seems to me to be similar to:
  • Since Jesus is the High Priest, then we are also co-high priests because we are in him.
  • Since Jesus is the Mediator, then we are co-mediators in him.
  • Since Jesus is at the Right Hand of the Father, we are also at his right hand.
  • Since Jesus is the King of Kings, we too are king of kings.
  • Since Jesus worked for our salvation, we too work for our salvation in him.

It is taking Jesus' uniqueness and distributing it inappropriately to the redeemed. I think it is a tighter argument if you say that it is appropriate to use the God-man as a prism to interpret salvation but CC's approach fails because it generalizes from the unique God-man to humanity, which is a major problem.

But I want to ask a different question as well: Why choose Christology as the link to justification?

Here's an example: Why not link justification to the Trinity? Is not the Trinity a direct consideration in the justification of the sinner?
Instead of justification being 100% by grace (from God) and 100% by works (from men) (as Christ), why not 100% from God the Father, 100% from Jesus Christ, and 100% from the Holy Spirit?
Another example: Why not link justification to the resurrection of Lazarus? It was 100% of Jesus.
Another example: Why not link justification to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It was Trinitarian as well.
So I'd ask CrimsonCatholic and anyone else who is so inclined to defend that linkage in preference to the other examples posted.

Posted for Christ's Glory,

73 comments:

Carrie said...

But the Roman Catholic may object that it is Christ's work in us, so it is still God's work. But how can you meaningfully say that it is not our works when we used our hands and mouths to do the works even if they were from God's work in us?

As you said, linkages are not a good method for forming doctrine. But even if we forget that, I cannot follow the logic of this particular linkage.

If the good works that justify are 100% ours and 100% God’s, then we contribute 100% to our salvation – that is not salvation by grace. Also, I asked last time but no one answered – when an RC falls from justification by committing a mortal sin, is that failure also 100% God’s?

Since Jesus is the High Priest, then we are also co-high priests because we are in him.

Not too far from this statement in the catechism:

“The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":"For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."” CCC 460

Peter Sean Bradley said...

But I want to ask a different question as well: Why choose Christology as the link to justification?

The linkage between soteriology and Christology has a long historical pedigree. Most Christological doctrines were worked out through the soteriological axiom that "What Christ has not assumed He has not healed."

For example, did Christ have a rational human nature, or was He merely a "fingerpuppet" for the Logos? Apollinarianism argued for the latter idea, and was rejected because it was felt that if Christ didn't have a rational human nature, He couldn't have healed the injury done to human rationality in the fall.

Likewise, did Christ have a human body that suffered, or was his suffering a mere appearance? Docetism argued for the latter, and was rejected for the same reason as Appolinarianims was later.

So, the linkage is there, and it seems that it should work the other way as well: after all, what was the point of Christ assuming and healing human nature if that healed human nature was to play no role in salvation?

This isn't to say that other "linkages" aren't possible. It is axiomatic in orthodox Christian theology that each of the persons of the Trinity is at work when any person of the Trinity is at work with respect to Creation.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Also, I asked last time but no one answered – when an RC falls from justification by committing a mortal sin, is that failure also 100% God’s?

Yes - indirectly and accidently, as this section from Aquinas explains.

Of course, the direct and intentional cause of a person's sin is the person himself.

So, there is an example of the 100% and 100% phenomenon, with the difference being that one cause is "accidental" - i.e., not necessary - and the other is not.

On the other hand, Calvinists would seem to have to answer that under their schema, God is the non-accidental cause of sin, which is a problematic position to take.

Carrie said...

On the other hand, Calvinists would seem to have to answer that under their schema, God is the non-accidental cause of sin, which is a problematic position to take.

I wasn’t asking about this so much from a sinning standpoint but as a failure standpoint. If a person falls from justification, then is that failure 100% God’s and 100% the person’s.

How can God fail 100% in the salvation of some?

Ronnie said...

Peter asked:

So, the linkage is there, and it seems that it should work the other way as well: after all, what was the point of Christ assuming and healing human nature if that healed human nature was to play no role in salvation?


Well no one says the human nature doesn't play a role in salvation. Remember salvation consist of more than justification. However, in regards to fulfilling the demands of the Covenant of Word for our justification God requires perfection. It is because this demand has been met in the God-man that we can be gathered in the Covenant of Grace. The condition for this covenant is faith, which is God's gift to us and it is not of works, but yet we work out our salvation performing the good works God has preordain for us to do(i.e. Eph 2.8-10 ).

Rhology said...

PSBradley,

That's cool and all, but why not make similar connections between Trinitarian theology and justification?

Howard Fisher said...

Carrie,

I was listening to James Renihan give a lecture on the New Covenant. He stated someday he will do a sermon which will be titled that man is saved by works. Of course he then discusses it is fully the work of Christ fulfilling the Covenant of Works in our place.

God Bless

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Carrie wrote:

I wasn’t asking about this so much from a sinning standpoint but as a failure standpoint. If a person falls from justification, then is that failure 100% God’s and 100% the person’s.

How can God fail 100% in the salvation of some?


It depends on what you mean by “fail.”

For example, God wills that all should be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4

Yet, not all are saved.

Has God “failed” in his will that all men should be saved?

One answer is that God’s “antecedent will” – His will before any particular circumstances are considered – is that all men should be saved. God’s “consequential will”, however, is that when particular circumstances are considered that some men not be saved. God’s “antecedent will” can be frustrated; his “consequential will” is never frustrated.

So, when someone commits a mortal sin and loses the grace of justification, can we say that God has “failed”? Probably not, because it is God’s will that such person be damned for such sin, but we might say that God’s will that all men be saved has “failed.”

The question back to the Calvinist is whether God willed the sinner to commit the sin. I would say “no” because God is not the author of sin, albeit because He is the cause of everything and everything is in His providence, He is nonetheless the indirect and accidental “cause” of sin.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Here is the link to Aquinas on whether God's will can fail.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Rhology wrote:

PSBradley,

That's cool and all, but why not make similar connections between Trinitarian theology and justification?


I think it may be possible to make that link. In fact, that kind of linkage has been done sub rosa, I think.

For example, the Trinity is the reality of love, which requires a lover, a beloved and love itself. The Incarnation and the Passion is likewise an expression of love in that "nothing so inspires someone to love as to know that he is loved", according to Aquinas, and we know that we are loved by God through the Incarnation and the Passion.

So, one might say that using the Trinity as a model for understanding salvation would have us consider that the response that God wants from us is to love him.

In fact, isn't that precisely what Jesus said?

But wouldn't our loving God involve us in actually loving God, i.e, that we should love God.

Of course, it's also the case that it is the life of Christ that allows us to love God.

And, so, from a Trinitarian perspective, we have justification and sanctification becoming, again, 100% God and 100% man.

Nonetheless, the historical fact is that Christological issues were worked out as a product of Christian soteriology, which is why that linkage has been more fully developed than the Trinitarian approach.

CrimsonCatholic said...

My response is here. I hope it helps. Carrie's quote from CCC 460 is dead on.

Pontificator said...

Why not link justification to the Trinity? Is not the Trinity a direct consideration in the justification of the sinner?

Of course! Absolutely! Justification is the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be justified is to be incorporated through the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ into the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Justification is theosis. Period.

Put aside your fractions. They are meaningless and misleading. One cannot describe the mystery of divine and human interaction in this way. God is not a part of the world. Divine action and human action are incomparable.

Pontificator said...

Regarding linkage between the resurrection of Christ and justification, I refer to the discussion of the great Scottish theologian Thomas F. Torrance:

"The resurrection is the fulfilment of the decisive deed of justification, in rejecting sin and the status of the sinner and in establishing the sinner once more as God’s child. Justification is not only a declaratory act, but an actualization of what is declared. When Christ said to the paralysed man that his sins were forgiven, they were forgiven—as the word of healing made clear. It was not that the subsequent word of healing added something to the first word to make it complete, but rather that the full reality of the healing and recreating word spoken in forgiveness was manifested in the physical event of healing which followed the second word. The resurrection tells us that when God declares a man just, that man is just. Resurrection means that the Word which God sent on his mission does not return to God void but accomplishes that for which he was sent." (Space, Time and Resurrection, pp. 62-63)

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Put aside your fractions. They are meaningless and misleading. One cannot describe the mystery of divine and human interaction in this way. God is not a part of the world. Divine action and human action are incomparable.

D'accord.

An old Hungarian former Jesuit seminarian friend of mine once explained it as follows: "We should pray as if our salvation was entirely dependent on God and act as if our salvation was entirely dependent on ourselves."

Lucian said...

The good works are man's in the same way that faith is man's ... and in the same way that life is man's ...

Is faith a result of one's evolved spirit? The deduction of his human mind? Or the fruit of his manly intelligence? -- Jesus thinks otherwise:

Matthew 16:17
 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

John 15:5
 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing .

As for You making use of the word "mouth":

Romans 10:9
 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

----------
As for 100% Father, 100% Son and 100% Spirit ... they share the *SAME* substance ... and have therefore *ONE* will and *ONE* action (work), rooted in their *ONE* divine essence --> the Orthodox believe will and work to be rooted in essence, *NOT* person ... otherwise we'll be Monotellists and Monoenergists ... the Sixth Ecumenical Council and St. Maxim Martyr ... remember?

NOW, this *ONE* common will and work (i.e., of the entire Godhead) in the flesh of Christ Jesus did NOT (according to the same Council and Father) eliminate, neither did it obliterate, the human will and work of his human essence.

And people are born mortals --just like Jesus was-- and once Christ crushed death underfeet, the sting of death being sin (according to St. Paul: 1 Corinthians 15:56 ), he gave Power to His own human flesh to conquer death, freeing it from any power that death ever had over it ... including sin.

(We don't believe in original sin, because it contadicts the Patristic understanding of "what was not assumed could not be redeemed" -- which is the same understanding that we used against Apollinarianism, Monophysism, Monotellism and Monoenergism).

---------------
BUT WE DO understand redemption Trinitarily ... but not in the way You described it; ... here's how we do that:

There's just ONE single source in the Godhead: the Father --> "God is One, because the Father is One": that's what the Fathers teach with one voice.
NOW, this Father begets His Son and pours out His Spirit.
GRACE is the single source of everything (John 15:5); this grace gives *birth* to the new man inside us through FAITH; and *poures* out of the changed heart of this new creature in Christ the good WORKs: "FAITH which WORKeth through LOVE" ... and "God is Love" (which is a common attribute, rooted in the shared divine substance).

Grace, Faith and Works : this the Trinitarian understanding of our Redemption. --> stating it otherwise would ammount to Judaism or Islamism, betraying a *FALSE* understanding of Monotheism.

(And, *NO*, I did *NOT* make this stuff up just now ... I stumbled accross it my mind a few yrs ago).

Carrie said...

For example, God wills that all should be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4

Yet, not all are saved.

Has God “failed” in his will that all men should be saved?


No, I don't see those as similar comparisons. We agree on the differences in God's wills but I don't see how that applies to the salvation of an individual where the work of salvation was supposedly begun.

Carrie said...

PSB,

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1:6

This is on of the verses I was thinking of in my comment.

You seem to be saying that God can begin a work in certain people, but not bring it to completion which is counter to what this verse says.

Rhology said...

Pontificator,

The "put aside the fractions" thing, to whom do you direct it? Lucian brought up the fractions.

Pontificator said...

Rhology, my fractions comment was not directed to anyone specific. Percentages used a great deal in one of the previous threads and are now invoked again. I believe it is a misleading and unhelpful way to speak of the interaction of divinity and humanity, which is probably unanalyzable by finite beings. How can we confidently speak in percentages when we have no idea what we are talking about. What we do know is that the God who made the universe ex nihilo is a transcendent, infinite being. His interaction with the world--and especially with free personal agents--is therefore intrinsically mysterious. We can speculate upon this--and theologians love to speculate--but we really are talking about something that is beyond our ken. For a recent, and fairly accessible, discussion of the history of theological reflection on this topic, I recommend Richard Bulzacchelli, Judged by the Law of Freedom.

Rhology said...

Surely you'd agree, however, that Scripture reveals a significant amount of that mystery.

Lucian said...

100% God + 100% man = 100% God-Man.

The above is the mathematical equation of *ALL* Ecumenical Councils beginning with the Third.

For all you humnanists out there, that's the equivalent of the phrase: "true God and true Man".

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Carrie wrote:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1:6

This is on of the verses I was thinking of in my comment.

You seem to be saying that God can begin a work in certain people, but not bring it to completion which is counter to what this verse says.


Sadly, one of the most obvious things in this fallen world is that there are many people who start well on their Christian journey but fall away somewhere on the path. You would certainly agree that the internet is chock-a-block full of people who claim that they were devout, believing “Bible Christians” but who are now full-throated atheists.

Or, if you would prefer, fully-credentialed “faith alone” Christians who are now Catholic or Orthodox.

Perhaps you know of such people in your non-internet life.

It is true that God promises the grace of perseverance to Christians and that He wills that all should be saved.

But not all persevere and are saved.

How do we explain that?

Again, the explanation is the same as it was for the “universal salvific will of God.” God wills that all be saved and he provides the power for people to be saved, but His antecedent will is obviously not infrustruable with respect to perseverance any more than it was with respect to his universal will that all should be saved. Human beings apparently have the power to resist and may refuse to cooperate in His salvific will.

That seems clear from an examination of human nature, and it was equally clear to Paul. After all, Paul notes examples of people who had started off well, only to stray from the truth, such as Hymeneus and Philetus (2 Tim. 3:14) and Hymeneus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19) who “finally wrecked their faith.”

Hence, perseverance and God’s salvific will fall into the category of God’s antecedent will. God’s consequent will, however, is never frustrated, which is why Hymeneus and Alexander who “finally wrecked their faith” were “delivered to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” (1 Tim. 1:20.)

I read the passage from Philippians as expressing God’s promise of perseverance for those who do not resist and cooperate. I also question whether everyone in the Church of Philippi persevered to the end given my experience with churches in general. Do you think that everyone in the church at Philippi persevered to the end and that their was no apostates in the face of, say, persecutions?

Carrie said...

Human beings apparently have the power to resist and may refuse to cooperate in His salvific will.

Then whether or not a person is saved is ultimately up to them. So God does not save but he helps someone save themselves. That just isn’t scriptural.

That seems clear from an examination of human nature, and it was equally clear to Paul. After all, Paul notes examples of people who had started off well, only to stray from the truth, such as Hymeneus and Philetus (2 Tim. 3:14) and Hymeneus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19) who “finally wrecked their faith.”

No, I say Paul is explaining things from our point of view. It appears that some fall from “the faith” but in reality, they were never in possession of true saving faith.

I read the passage from Philippians as expressing God’s promise of perseverance for those who do not resist and cooperate.

That doesn’t make sense to me. The focus is on what God is doing, not us. God who “began a good work in you will bring it to completion”.

Your version translates as “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you MAY bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (as long as you cooperate until the end)”.

I also question whether everyone in the Church of Philippi persevered to the end given my experience with churches in general. Do you think that everyone in the church at Philippi persevered to the end and that their was no apostates in the face of, say, persecutions?

I believe that everyone in possession of true saving faith will persevere to the end. Those that fall away were never “saved” in the first place. As 1 John 2:19 says:

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

Rhology said...

Discussion derailment alert...

We have an admission on the table that the link between justification and Trinitarian-ism is OK to do.
Trinity = 100% Father, 100% Son, 100% Spirit, 0% man.
Why can't we make justification 100% Trinitarian and 0% man?

Pontificator said...

Then whether or not a person is saved is ultimately up to them. So God does not save but he helps someone save themselves. That just isn’t scriptural.

It would be more accurate to say that it is unscriptural according to a Reformed reading of Scripture; but it is certainly Scriptural according to Lutheran, Orthodox, Wesleyan, and Catholic readings of Scripture.

St Augustine states the ecumenical view: "He who created thee without thee, will not justify thee without thee."

Even Augustine, with whose views on predestination I violently disagree, acknowledges the mystery of the synergistic cooperation of the human will with the divine will.

May I respectfully suggest that the real issue before us, at least on this blog, is not justification by faith but predestination. Predestination haunts and controls all Reformed reflection on grace, justification, assurance, and sacraments.

Pontificator said...

We have an admission on the table that the link between justification and Trinitarian-ism is OK to do. Trinity = 100% Father, 100% Son, 100% Spirit, 0% man. Why can't we make justification 100% Trinitarian and 0% man?

One reason immediately comes to mind: We can never make it 0% man, because our salvation has been accomplished by the God-Man, who has offered to the Father, in our humanity and on our behalf, a perfect response of love and obedience. To assert 0% man is to deny the saving significance of the human nature of Christ.

I strongly recommend, for both Reformed and Catholic readers, Thomas Torrance's book The Mediation of Christ. Also, Robert Wilberforce, The Doctrine of the Incarnation.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Then whether or not a person is saved is ultimately up to them. So God does not save but he helps someone save themselves. That just isn’t scriptural.

As Pontificator notes, you are free to believe that this solution isn’t “scriptural”, but let me remind you that scripture says:

“God wills that all men should be saved” ( Tim. 2:3 – 4) and

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9)

And, yet, not all men are saved.

There are several ways of answering this “scriptural” conundrum. The Reformed solution to de-emphasize the idea that “God wills that all men should be saved” and read that passages as saying that God really wills that only some men are saved. The traditional reading has been to been to salvage God’s love for all men and allow God’s antecedent will to be frustrated by human non-cooperation.

Also, to be clear, under this approach, ultimately it is God who saves. God does not merely help people save themselves, but He saves them. Of course, it is also true that it is human beings who damn themselves by refusing His free grace.

No, I say Paul is explaining things from our point of view. It appears that some fall from “the faith” but in reality, they were never in possession of true saving faith.

That is one way of answering the conundrum.

The reason it doesn’t work for me is that it seems to run afoul of what I observe in real life. I’ve met all kinds of people who seem very committed to God. Later on, I find that they’ve lapsed into agnosticism or indifferentism. Am I really supposed to believe they were always putting on a good show?

I think that Paul had similar experiences. Note that he talks about Hymeneus and Alexander making “a wreck of their faith.” That suggests that Paul believed that they had faith in the first place.

So, you could be right, but I think we have to start with a sound view of human anthropology in order to understand what Paul meant. That makes sense since the Bible was written for embodied souls and not for angels.

I believe that everyone in possession of true saving faith will persevere to the end. Those that fall away were never “saved” in the first place.

This is clearly true, except I would say that those who fall away have not been saved.

Of course, what does this do to the “assurance of salvation” that justification by faith alone is supposed to allow?

I guess the answer is “faith, hope and love”, which is true of all Christians.

Matt said...

It seems to me that to say that salvation is 100% God and 100% man in every respect, because Christ is fully God and fully man, is to commit both a fallacy of composition and division. Salvation has several components, or aspects, such as election, the atonement, justification, glorification, etc. The unconditional election of the Father forms the basis, at least in scope, for the substitutionary atonement of the Son, and the effectual application of the procured redemption to the believer by the Holy Spirit. This reduces (as do all non-atomic logical constructions) to the concept of the One and the Many (as discussed by Cornelius van Til and others), for the many aspects form one synthetic whole.

Anyway, the atonement is a different aspect of salvation than say, justification, or glorification. While atonement required a Θεάνθρωπος, a God-man, and hence could be considered to ontologically require the agency of 100% God and 100% man, does every aspect of salvation likewise require the agency of 100% God and 100% man? Is one to say that glorification is 100% God and 100% man? Does man play any part in his glorification? Is election 100% God and 100% man? Does man play any part in his election? Thus, to ascribe a property belonging to one aspect of salvation to apply to every aspect is to first commit the fallacy of composition, by attributing the properties of the one aspect to the whole, and then to commit the fallacy of division, by attributing those same properties to all of the aspects that comprise the whole.

Lucian said...

Rhology,

I already explained why. (Did You miss my comment?). And I also gave You the Trinitarian image of salvation.

Carrie said...

PSB,

The Reformed solution to de-emphasize the idea that “God wills that all men should be saved” and read that passages as saying that God really wills that only some men are saved.

Not quite. What God desires and what he does are not the same. All men start off condemned, that is the “default”. I would say God “wishes” (not the best wording but hopefully you get the idea) that men would all come to repentance, but they cannot so God has mercy on some and brings them to repentance. Why he doesn’t have mercy on all and save all is unclear, but that is his prerogative. He is not obligated to save any, if he saved just one it would still show his mercy.

The reason it doesn’t work for me is that it seems to run afoul of what I observe in real life. I’ve met all kinds of people who seem very committed to God. Later on, I find that they’ve lapsed into agnosticism or indifferentism. Am I really supposed to believe they were always putting on a good show?

I also like to make sense out of the world around as it pertains to theology, but that can be deceptive. I don’t expect my personal “experiences” as a sinful creature in a fallen world to be the best way to discover truth over the divine revelation from my Creator. I must take the truths of Scripture and apply it to the world to make sense out of how things work rather than the reverse.

I understand what you are saying, it can seem like some have real faith but I don’t believe they do. Most definitely I think people can put on a good show. I think if you were to talk to some of these people more deeply you would find evidence for a false faith.

That suggests that Paul believed that they had faith in the first place.

No, they had what appeared to be faith from a human perspective, but it was not true saving faith. There is a difference.

So, you could be right, but I think we have to start with a sound view of human anthropology in order to understand what Paul meant.

Again, I think you are applying things in the wrong order. I don’t think we can use anthropology to understand Scripture, we use Scripture to understand anthropology.

This is clearly true, except I would say that those who fall away have not been saved.

No, you are either “saved” (justified) or not. You do not go through life justified, then unjustified, then justified again, then unjustified, then hopefully justified at the moment of death.

At a moment in time you are called by God, you exercise repentance/faith (from our perspective), and you are justified. From that moment on you are “sealed” and will persevere to the end. What God has begun he will bring to completion. The assurance comes from the possession of true saving faith (from God, on his timing) of which you can know about from the fruit that true saving faith renders.

If you read through some of the Scriptures that you think say you can lose your faith, you will find that you cannot exclude the Protestant/Reformed understanding that there is only one true saving faith, from God, which will actually result in final salvation. Those who fall away do not have true saving faith, but instead have a false faith created by their own exertion which will not sustain itself and will not save them.

Rhology said...

Pontificator said:
Augustine, with whose views on predestination I violently disagree

Ah, his views on predestination must not be part of Sacred Tradition then.

Pontificator said...

It should be noted that the distinction between authentic faith and counterfeit faith, between a faith that is truly saving and a faith that looks and feels in every way to be saving but in the end proves not to be, is an innovation of Reformed theology. St Augustine did not hold this; on the contrary, he believed that one could be authentically justified and yet fall from the faith:

"But if someone already regenerate and justified should, of his own will, relapse into his evil life, certainly that man cannot say: 'I have not received’; because he lost the grace he received from God and by his own free choice went to evil." (Admonition and Grace 6,9)

The interesting question is why Calvin found it necessary to "invent" this belief. Because unlike Augustine, Calvin wants to make it possible for the believer to believe that he is a member of the elect who will persevere to the end. At this point Calvin departs from both Augustine and Luther, as well as from the wider catholic tradition. See Philip Cary. Ironically, Calvin's construal of predestination and assurance in fact makes the problem of assurance even more acute.

anon said...

"Trinity = 100% Father, 100% Son, 100% Spirit, 0% man.
Why can't we make justification 100% Trinitarian and 0% man?"

Because it isn't. God says so. Argue with Him--at your own risk--literally.

Carrie said...

It should be noted that the distinction between authentic faith and counterfeit faith, between a faith that is truly saving and a faith that looks and feels in every way to be saving but in the end proves not to be,

That’s not quite how I described a non-saving faith. A non-saving faith in fact does not look and feel the same in EVERY way as saving faith.

And the idea is not an “invention” of Calvin but was mined from Scripture. Instead you would have us believe Augustine who by your own admission is right on some stuff and wrong on other stuff (based on your own personal opinion).

How do I know when to believe Augustine and when not to?

P0ntif1f1cat0r said...

Whenever what he said agrees with the Magisterium of the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church, of course.

Pontificator said...

And the idea is not an “invention” of Calvin but was mined from Scripture.

The fact that Calvin and other Reformed theologians appeal to Scripture to support the distinction between saving faith and counterfeit faith does not make it any less an innovation and invention. Who before the year 1000 advanced this distinction in precisely this form? As I mentioned, not even Augustine held this distinction. He believed that one could indeed have saving faith and yet fail to persevere in the faith. He also denied that anyone, in the absence of a special revelation, could ever know that they were one of the persevering elect.

All of us appeal to Scripture to support our beliefs; yet the simple fact is the Reformed advance a minority reading of Scripture on the questions now being discussed. It's not only Catholics and Orthodox who disagree with the Reformed but also Lutherans, Arminians (including mainstream Anglicans), and Wesleyans.

Fortunately, some Reformed theologians, particularly of the Barthian school, have noted the errors of Augustine and Calvin on predestination and have sought to bring Reformed theology back into the ecumenical mainstream.

Carrie said...

The fact that Calvin and other Reformed theologians appeal to Scripture to support the distinction between saving faith and counterfeit faith does not make it any less an innovation and invention. Who before the year 1000 advanced this distinction in precisely this form?

The apostle Paul.

As I mentioned, not even Augustine held this distinction. He believed that one could indeed have saving faith and yet fail to persevere in the faith.

So? What makes Augustine correct over Calvin? How do you know that Augustine was correct on perseverance but wrong on predestination?

It's not only Catholics and Orthodox who disagree with the Reformed but also Lutherans, Arminians (including mainstream Anglicans), and Wesleyans.

This isn’t quite accurate. The hallmark of Protestantism is salvation by faith alone. Some evangelicals may not completely agree with the Reformed perspective on when regeneration takes place (many probably haven’t put much thought into it), but they certainly believe that salvation is through faith and not faith plus works nor do they believe in a sacramental economy as in RC/EO. The majority of my Protestant friends in real life are not Reformed yet they all understand the basic difference b/w salvation in the Prot vs Cat system.

Besides, history and majority don’t determine the truth.

Pontificator said...

Carrie, the only folks who find the distinction between persevering saving faith and counterfeit faith in Paul are Calvinists, and they found it 1600 years after the death of the Apostle. Moreover, if we were to do a survey of contemporary Pauline scholars, from all denominational commitments, I am confident that they would say that Calvinists are misreading Paul on this point, just as St Augustine misread him on predestination.

So? What makes Augustine correct over Calvin? How do you know that Augustine was correct on perseverance but wrong on predestination?

If Augustine was wrong on absolute predestination, then Calvin is necessarily wrong on perseverance, since Calvin's position presupposes Augustine's. What makes Augustine wrong? It contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ, as witnessed in the Scriptures and supported by the exegetical and theological tradition of the Church.

No need to rehash the debates. We all know the classic proof-texts. Ultimately, the matter is not decided by texts but by an apprehension of God through the texts. I am absolutely convinced that the God revealed in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not the unjust predestinating deity of Augustine, Jansens, or the Synod of Dort. I am happy to speak of divine predestination, but I will do so in the manner of the Apostle Paul (as interpreted by N. T. Wright) or Karl Barth. But that is just my opinion.

I concede that the theological tradition is conflicted on the question of absolute predestination. The Eastern tradition is unanimous in its rejection of absolute predestination, but the Western tradition has debated this matter vigorously. The Western Church is clear in its repudiation of double predestination and also clear in its affirmation of God's universal salvific will, but in between are found many differing voices. Hence my rejection of Augustine's version of predestination is simply one legitimate opinion in the Catholic Church, though I believe it also represents the mainstream Catholic position today. And my confidence in my view is strengthened by the fact that most Protestants agree with me. Truth is not settled by majority vote; but in the absence of a dogmatic definition by an ecumenical council, I think it is safer to go with the consensus. Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus (that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all). Sects always claim to have superior insight, and I have no desire to be a member of a sect.

Rhology said...

I have no desire to be a member of a sect.

Too late. As the Pontif1f1cat0r pointed out, St Augustine is not really Sacred Tradition based on your sect's fiat alone.

Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus (that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all) is an illusion.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Carrie,

I found a number of your comments quite interesting. I take it that they do reflect an enduring Protestant tradition. Right now, I’m listening to a lecture series on Medieval Philosophy and another series on Reformation theology and your comments seem to fit in with what I’m hearing.

You wrote:

What God desires and what he does are not the same. All men start off condemned, that is the “default”. I would say God “wishes” (not the best wording but hopefully you get the idea) that men would all come to repentance, but they cannot so God has mercy on some and brings them to repentance.

Is it your view that God’s desires can be frustrated?

If so, wouldn’t this mean that his sovereignty is being questioned?

Also, what is the difference between “desire” and “will” in your mind? I note that the scripture doesn’t speak of God’s “desire” but rather addresses His “will” that “all men should be saved” in Timothy. Admittedly, Peter speaks about “wishing” that all should come to him, but one would think that in God “wishing” is something more than a hopeful expectation; sort of a “your wish is my command” kind of thing.

Also, is it your view that God’s desires and God’s will are two different things?

If so, does this mean that God is a composite being with a desire that is different from His will which is different from His goodness which is different from His being? If that is the case, you might be interested in the can of worms that opens up with respect to orthodox Christianity.

For example, if God’s being is different than His goodness, is His goodness merely an “accidental” quality than can be changed without affecting His being, i.e., can God be unjust?

The answer in my tradition is “no.” God’s goodness is His being; God’s desire is His will.

I suspect that when you think about it, you may find that your answer does not really preserve God’s sovereignty, but it does seem to undermine His goodness.






I must take the truths of Scripture and apply it to the world to make sense out of how things work rather than the reverse.

That’s interesting and consistent with what the lectures point out about the abandonment of the project of uniting faith and reason that had been the consistent goal of Christian thinkers up to the Reformation.

Let me ask you this, does you insight apply to the natural world? Do you make an exception for Heliocentrism and the six days of Creation?

I understand what you are saying, it can seem like some have real faith but I don’t believe they do. Most definitely I think people can put on a good show. I think if you were to talk to some of these people more deeply you would find evidence for a false faith.

Can I take that approach with people who claim to be believers when they still claim to be believers?

I’ve known a lot of people who talk a good game about faith and a personal relationship in Jesus, but their actions indicate that they may have faith but may be resisting God’s grace, preferring some cherished sin in favor of obedience, for example.

Are such people “justified”?

What about someone who is now perfectly obedient, but later apostatizes? Assuming that he was in good faith while he was apparently faithful, what was there about his faith that was different from anyone else with a similar “good faith” faith?

If that’s the case, how does anyone know if they are really justified? Moreover, if that’s the case, shouldn’t be people be constantly be attempting to assure themselves that they have the right kind of faith to be saved?

I would think that such a mindset would be very nerve-wracking.

Rhology said...

PSB,

I'll leave you to your discussion except for a coupla things. Please, you're a smart guy, don't derail an interesting convo.

does you insight apply to the natural world? Do you make an exception for Heliocentrism and the six days of Creation?

Yes, it applies.
There is no need to make an exception for heliocentrism since the Bible doesn't teach it, Robert Sungenis, Roman Catholic apologist extraordinaire, notwithstanding.
6 days of creation - why except it (yes, EXcept it)? Evolution (most people's alternative) doesn't hold water on its own merits. And we believe the Bible over the pitiful and pitifully limited methodologies and instrumentation of rebellious men trying to figger out how life came to be (and not even able to do "science" in the process, at that), when they should just be asking the guy who was there when it happened.

Are such people “justified”?

Only God knows that for sure. Have you seriously not heard that before?

What about someone who is now perfectly obedient, but later apostatizes?

If he never 'comes back' to the faith, he never had faith to begin with. He had a said faith, not a real one.
I've never understood why this seems to be so hard to grasp for a lot of people.

what was there about his faith that was different from anyone else with a similar “good faith” faith?

The fact that it wasn't real faith at all.

how does anyone know if they are really justified?

This is a radical change of subject, from church discipline and evidence of faith OF OTHERS to assurance of salvation of self. Maybe Carrie is interested, but it's too off topic for me.

shouldn’t be people be constantly be attempting to assure themselves that they have the right kind of faith to be saved?

There are many NT psgs that speak to this.

I would think that such a mindset would be very nerve-wracking.

Well, I can relate - a mindset that believes that I, once adopted as a child of God, can, based on my own actions, and being painfully aware of my human shortcomings and sinful desires, be unadopted and then have to get readopted but still be at risk of being unadopted and then have to get readopted only to be in grave risk of being unadopted again forcing me to do a bunch of stuff that my flesh doesn't want to do to get readopted... THAT, sir, is nerve-wracking. You can have that theology all to yourself.

Peace,
Rhology

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Rhology

You wrote:

I'll leave you to your discussion except for a coupla things. Please, you're a smart guy, don't derail an interesting convo.

I appreciate the compliment, but I’m confused by your criticism.

I thought that I was responding to comments made by Carrie that flow naturally into the discussion.

Hence, you asked about “linkages” and my original point was that such linkages exist because “justification” is not a hermetically sealed concept; rather justification is a piece of a unified theology, which might include Trinitarian theology.

The burden of my last several points has been to suggest how a theology of justification also has to coherently fit into other bits of Theology, such as God’s sovereignty and views about His nature.

So, my apologies if I “derail[ed] an interesting convo.” It is your house and your rules.

You also write:

does you insight apply to the natural world? Do you make an exception for Heliocentrism and the six days of Creation?

Yes, it applies.


Thanks for that answer on your part. I am still interested in Carrie’s answer, if she cares to give one.

Based on the tenor of your original post, my sense is that you find the “linking” of a theology of justification to a Christology – i.e., using that ideas to get a grip to some extent on justification - somewhat objectionable. Obviously, if I’m wrong, please correct me.

It would seem perfectly consistent, with that mindset, to likewise to be hostile to the idea of using empirical observations about the natural world to understand Scripture.

You might be interested to know that the historic tradition of Christianity – from Augustine to Aquinas – is entirely to the contrary. Augustine actually counseled that Christians should not insist on interpretations of Scripture that conflicted with known facts of the world because such an insistence would allow critics to hold the Scriptures up to ridicule.

Augustine also did not believe that the world was created in six days and he gave an account of creation that permitted the development of subsequent life forms after the Creation.

I offer this not to become embroiled in the issue of whether Augustine’s thought in this regard are magisterial, but to point out that a sublime reader of the Bible seems to have come up with an answer diametrically opposed to your understanding.

Likewise, I think that if you study history, you might be surprised to find that for several millennia people thought that the Bible did teach geocentrism. They were wrong, but that they believed it did is a fact, and the example of Sungenis correctly points out how insisting that Scripture be understood without reference to the truth revealed in nature can be used to ridicule the gospel.

Are such people “justified”?

Only God knows that for sure. Have you seriously not heard that before?


Thank you for that answer. I take it then that we agree that the idea of “assurance of salvation” is a fiction.

What about someone who is now perfectly obedient, but later apostatizes?

If he never 'comes back' to the faith, he never had faith to begin with. He had a said faith, not a real one.
I've never understood why this seems to be so hard to grasp for a lot of people.


What if that person plans to come back, but dies on the way to the Church?

What if that person plans to leave the Church but dies on the way out the door?

As Pontificator observed – in what I imagine was not “derailing the convo” - the idea of actual versus fictional faith raises more questions than it answers.

Well, thanks for the conversation. I hope that my thoughts have advanced the “convo.”

Pontificator said...

Too late. As the Pontif1f1cat0r pointed out, St Augustine is not really Sacred Tradition based on your sect's fiat alone.

This is neither accurate nor fair. Augustine is acknowledged by the Catholic Church as both saint and doctor of the Church. Yet this does not mean that Catholics must agree with everything that he wrote and taught; indeed, on some matters we must vigorously disagree with him. Augustine was not infallible, just as St Gregory of Nyssa, who taught universal salvation, was not infallible. But we acknowledge both of them as saints and teachers of the catholic faith.

IMHO, Augustine was wrong, terribly wrong, on the question of predestination, and his teachings on presdestination have distorted Western formulations of the gospel ever since. Yet he also grasped something profoundly important--namely, the utter gratuity of grace. It's not a question of repudiating Augustine but of distinguishing that which is true in his teaching from that which is false.

St Augustine, with all of his errors, was one of the greats. We stand on his shoulders. But we do not stand on his shoulders alone. There is also Athanasius, Gregory Nazienzen, Cyril of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, and so many others.

Carrie said...

PSB,

Sorry, I haven't been online. Life has been busy.

Rhology's answer are exactly what my answers would be so unless he missed something, there is no reason to repeat his answers.

Let me see if there is anything I would like to add without drifting too far off-topic.

Carrie said...

THAT, sir, is nerve-wracking. You can have that theology all to yourself.

EXACTLY what I was gonna say.

:)

Carrie said...

Pont,

You said: "I am absolutely convinced that the God revealed in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not the unjust predestinating deity of Augustine, Jansens, or the Synod of Dort."

I found this interesting. Are you saying that if God does predestine some for salvation as understood by Calvinists that you believe God is unjust?

Carrie said...

PSB,

Thanks for that answer on your part. I am still interested in Carrie’s answer, if she cares to give one.

I agree 100% with Rhology. The Bible is 100% accurate, science makes mistakes. And FYI, I am a Biologist that believed in evolution prior to being saved so I am not exactly ignorant or hostile to science.

Augustine actually counseled that Christians should not insist on interpretations of Scripture that conflicted with known facts of the world because such an insistence would allow critics to hold the Scriptures up to ridicule.

Who cares?

1 Corinthians 1:25
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 2:14
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

I take it then that we agree that the idea of “assurance of salvation” is a fiction.

Not quite. Try reading 1 John.

What if that person plans to come back, but dies on the way to the Church?
What if that person plans to leave the Church but dies on the way out the door?


Really?

This is fascinating. I have yet to meet a RC who can grasp this concept.

When you have saving faith, there is no “losing it” or “coming back” in reality. It just may appear that way from our perspective. Destinations to and fro from the physical Church have nothing to do with it.

the idea of actual versus fictional faith raises more questions than it answers.

You have yet to show that. All you have shown is that you cannot grasp the concept.

Carrie said...

PSB,

One more thing,

You said: I suspect that when you think about it, you may find that your answer does not really preserve God’s sovereignty, but it does seem to undermine His goodness.

No it doesn’t. You have already admitted that God has different wills so your attempt to corner me on this point makes no sense.

Scripture says God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4) but we know that will not happen so obviously what God “desires” does not always occur. God’s goodness does not outweigh his justice - I would assert that you have fallen into the common trap of not balancing the two.

Pontificator said...

I found this interesting. Are you saying that if God does predestine some for salvation as understood by Calvinists that you believe God is unjust?

If God does not provide sufficient grace for every human being to be saved, then yes, the gospel is not gospel and God is unjust.

God does not pick out a select group of the massa damnata, damning the rest directly (reprobation) or indirectly (preterition). This unbiblical notion violates the saving work of Jesus Christ and creates insuperable problems for preaching. Eastern Orthodox theologians are rightly horrified when they hear of Augustine's views of predestination and his claim that Christ died only for the elect. They wonder how anyone could read the New Testament and reach such a conclusion. So do I. Fortunately, Augustine's contributions to the theology and life of the Church far outweigh his wrong turn on predestination, though it took centuries for the Western Church, in the main, to wrest itself from the Augustinian logic. Tragically, Calvinists are still trapped in it.

This is not a Catholic-Protestant controversy. Rigorous Augustinians are to be found on both sides of the divide. Personally, I believe that everyone who struggles with the question of predestination needs to read vol II/2 of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. Election must be interpreted christologically or it is inevitably misunderstood. My own nonweighty reflections on predestination can be found here.

Rhology said...

Hi PSB,

It seemed to me that the comments I responded to were out of the flow of the convo. Maybe you see it differently. Well, neither of us are infallible. ;-P

you find the “linking” of a theology of justification to a Christology – i.e., using that ideas to get a grip to some extent on justification - somewhat objectionable.

Yes, you're right, and I described why partly in the post. Also Matt, a friend of mine, has weighed in with sthg we thought was useful.

using empirical observations about the natural world to understand Scripture.

Well, I don't know if I'd put it that way, but obviously God's revelation (ie, observations by God that He has communicated to us) trump any observation we as humans could make.

Augustine actually counseled that Christians should not insist on interpretations of Scripture that conflicted with known facts of the world because such an insistence would allow critics to hold the Scriptures up to ridicule.

He must not have had 1 Cor 1-3 in mind when he said that.

but to point out that a sublime reader of the Bible seems to have come up with an answer diametrically opposed to your understanding.

It would seem that the Pontificator, who is, I've been told, an RC priest, has no problem attributing error to Augustine, so it would appear I'm in good company.
And as I said, 1 Cor 1-3 militate against such a short-sighted thought. Oh no, the unregenerate blind masses might think the Bible is silly! WhatEVER shall we do??!?!!
(That's not a poke at you, I'm just trying to be a little funny.) (But I don't always succeed.)

the example of Sungenis correctly points out how insisting that Scripture be understood without reference to the truth revealed in nature can be used to ridicule the gospel.

I said above "heliocentrism since the Bible doesn't teach it"... sheesh, what a dork. You knew what I was saying. Props to you for not taking a cheap shot based on a simple mistake.
Yeah, I meant geocentrism. Sungenis is, to me, an example of a guy who's taken a poor hermeneutical methodology closer to a logical conclusion than, say, you have. Your method of interping Scr is poor, and it will inevitably bleed over into various other errors.

I take it then that we agree that the idea of “assurance of salvation” is a fiction.

Come on, I specifically said that this is a question of knowing that ANOTHER person is saved, not MYSELF. Don't miss that - it's a fundamental distinction.
And no, assurance of salvation is not a fiction. But it's not the same as the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, and it's not the same as knowing whether the guy in the pew next to me is justified.

What if that person plans to come back, but dies on the way to the Church?

1 Samuel 16:7 - For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
It's a heart issue. You'll misunderstand if you impose an RC works-oriented grid on this.
And that's a question I'd like to ask YOU. If this guy is in a state of mortal sin, dead spiritually, but is on his way back to the priest to confess and do proper penance but is hit by a bus, what happens to him?

Peace,
Rhology

Carrie said...

If God does not provide sufficient grace for every human being to be saved, then yes, the gospel is not gospel and God is unjust.

Ouch. I can understand people’s opposition to predestination (it’s a tough concept for free will-loving humans), but you should be careful what you say about God.

“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” Romans 9:14-20

Pontificator said...

Ouch. I can understand people’s opposition to predestination (it’s a tough concept for free will-loving humans), but you should be careful what you say about God.

Actually, I try to be very careful about what I say about God, which is precisely why I am adamantly opposed to all construals of predestination that restrict the universality of God's love, enacted and sealed in the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given his very self unto death and resurrection for every human being. His absolute love and grace knows no limits. I am opposed to the rigorous predestinarianism of Augustine and Calvin precisely for the sake of the gospel.

Romans 9-11 is badly misused when invoked to support heretical theses such as "God damns without regard to merit or demerit" or "Christ died only for the elect" or "God does not provide sufficient grace for all to be saved." Needless to say, I trust that no one on this board supports these theses, and that we are only misunderstanding each other.

Rhology said...

Yes, I'd say a misunderstanding has taken place here.

"God damns without regard to merit or demerit"

That is the very basis of biblical doctrine of soteriology.
God damns b/c EVERYONE is damnable. EVERYONE has sinned. NO ONE seeks after God. NO ONE has any merit.
So maybe you're using "merit or demerit" in a diff way than I am taking you to mean, but I think it would be better to rephrase this.

"Christ died only for the elect" or "God does not provide sufficient grace for all to be saved."

I'll let a 5-pt Calvinist answer this, but ISTM that this is 5-pt Calvinist doctrine, so there would be some on this board who would indeed support this.

Carrie said...

Romans 9-11 is badly misused when invoked to support heretical theses

You keep bringing back the conversation to predestination and that really isn’t what my focus has been. My use of Romans 9 seemed legitimate since you were deciding what is unjust for God to do, but maybe I am misreading you.

Do we agree that all people without any intervention from God are condemned?

If yes, then if God chose to just save one (whether by monerism or synergism), would he be showing mercy or do you think he would be unjust for not saving all (or most)?

Because I have a feeling it is not just “limited atonement” you have an issue with…

(and btw, I am not a 5-point Calvinist either)

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Carrie wrote:

You have already admitted that God has different wills so your attempt to corner me on this point makes no sense.

It would be interesting to hear you and Rhology respond to some of the points that I have raised.

I don’t raise those points out of malice, sophistry or capriciousness. They are, in fact, the issues that are raised by many people seeking to believe and those people deserve an answer so that are not prevented from coming to a faith in Christ by unnecessary millstones.

Nonetheless, you have raised a fair objection because it may have seemed like I was saying that God had two wills – an antecedent will and a consequential will. If that was my position, then I would be in error because divine simplicity runs through the Bible, just as Trinitarianism runs through the New Testament. Hence, God is one, God is love, God is the way, the truth and the life. God is good. God is perfect. God is eternal. All of this means that God cannot be split into parts that may oppose each other.

So, God’s being and God’s will can only be the same thing, and, moreover, God’s will must be immutable. (Malachi 3:6.)

The answer must therefore be that God’s will is unitary – He has only one will. That will is that all men should be saved insofar as they do not resist His saving grace. So, God offers His grace to all men, and insofar as they do not resist that grace, God saves them. Insofar as they resist His grace, they damn themselves.

An analogy would be that of a judge who wants all men to enjoy freedom insofar as they do not break the law. If someone doesn’t break the law, the judge doesn’t limit that person’s freedom. If someone does break the law, the judge limits that persons’ freedom.

The point is that the judge has only will in the matter, but the effects of that will are consequent on the particular facts of the situation; hence, the idea of a “consequential will.”

Admittedly, this allows some role for human free will, but that is hardly “unscriptural.”

For example, you would not deny the efficacy of prayer, would you? Prayer is effective, according to Jesus, which is some indication that human action – prayer – plays a role in the application of God’s “consequential will.”

Likewise, scripture recognizes that people can and do say “… to God, "Depart from us, for we have no wish to learn your ways!” (Job 21:13.)

Scripture says God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4) but we know that will not happen so obviously what God “desires” does not always occur. God’s goodness does not outweigh his justice - I would assert that you have fallen into the common trap of not balancing the two.

The point is that it cannot be a question of “balance.”

“Balancing” can only occur in mutable, imperfect, finite beings, such as human beings. God, who is perfect, one, love, good, eternal and unchanging, can’t have parts – such as His will and His desire – that would be in conflict with each other or that would need to be “balanced” against each other.

The problem with your explanation is that it (a) limits God and (b) makes him merely a more powerful human being.

The take-away on this discussion from my perspective is that the scriptural data that (a) God will that all men be saved and (b) all men are not saved means that God has the power to will in a way that doesn’t impose necessity on the things that He wills. In other words, God’s power is such that he can allow a role for human response to His freely offered grace.

Now that I’ve offered a defense of this classic perspective on divine simplicity, I would be interested in your defense of the proposition that God can have a “wish” and a “will” that are opposed to each other relative to salvation.

Pontificator said...

You keep bringing back the conversation to predestination and that really isn’t what my focus has been.

This is true. A blog thread does tend to take on a life of its own, and I have, I confess, directed discussion to predestination, but not without good reason. Whenever Reformeds distinguish between saving and counterfeit faith, they are actually speaking about predestination. This distinction is necessary in any system that attempts to combine absolute predestination and assurance of perseverance.

Carrie said...

Now that I’ve offered a defense of this classic perspective on divine simplicity,

You have tried to make a logical, man-made argument for your viewpoint. Not a biblical one.

Specifically, can you defend this idea biblically:

So, God offers His grace to all men, and insofar as they do not resist that grace, God saves them. Insofar as they resist His grace, they damn themselves.

Carrie said...

Specifically, can you defend this idea biblically:

BTW PSB,

The reason I ask this is in a way we are both stuck in the same boat with the 1 Tim verse. We see in that verse that God desires all to be saved, but we both agree that all will not be saved.

Can God not accomplish what he wills? I hope we would both answer negatively.

So how do we figure out why God's expressed desire in 1 Tim doesn't equal the final outcome? We must look to the rest of scripture for an answer.

I have yet to see a good biblical defense of the "reason" you have supplied.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Rhology,

Thank you for acknowledging that you are hostile to the “linkage” of justification to other theological concepts.

I wonder if my point about the theology of justification having to fit into the rest of Christian theology has had any impact on your thinking.

Also, candidly, having listened recently to theological lectures by a Calvinist theologian, who argued that justification is the most important issue in Christian theology, I’m a little surprised. I would have thought that Christ was the most important issue. It seems to me that Protestant theology might be distorted by its fixation on this issue, which is, after all, according to Protestant theology, outside of our control anyhow.

Well, I don't know if I'd put it that way, but obviously God's revelation (ie, observations by God that He has communicated to us) trump any observation we as humans could make.

For what it’s worth, I think that Creation is a revelation from God. God created Creation. He communicates His goodness to us in and through Creation. Creation is therefore as much of a way of learning about God as is Scripture.

Further, since all truth is from God, then the truth we find in Scripture and the truth we find in Creation both come from God and cannot conflict.

You can argue with that, but at that point you have begged off from any ability to have a rational discussion, which leads to the unfortunate consequences pointed out by Benedict XVI in his Regensurg address vis a vis Islam.

He must not have had 1 Cor 1-3 in mind when he said that.

Are you really suggesting that Augustine wasn’t thoroughly familiar with First Corinthians?

The point is that even with that familiarity, Augustine – who, while not infallible, certainly is due some respect for his intelligence, learning and insight, knew that separating the truth of divine revelation from the truth of natural revelation would discredit the gospel. Something you readily acknowledge with your reference to Sungenis.

Of course, Sungenis is a Catholic, so you have no investment in defending his silly atavistic position. For some reason, you seem to think that defending a literal six days of creation is completely different.

Beams and motes, I think.

It would seem that the Pontificator, who is, I've been told, an RC priest, has no problem attributing error to Augustine, so it would appear I'm in good company.

That’s perfectly permissible, but why is Augustine in error on this point?

Your method of interping Scr is poor, and it will inevitably bleed over into various other errors.

It is not my method of interpreting scripture; it is the method of Augustine and Aquinas.

Alas, I lack your confidence in my poor ability to arrive at the proper conclusion without the aid of my wise older brothers in the faith.

Come on, I specifically said that this is a question of knowing that ANOTHER person is saved, not MYSELF. Don't miss that - it's a fundamental distinction.
And no, assurance of salvation is not a fiction. But it's not the same as the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, and it's not the same as knowing whether the guy in the pew next to me is justified.


I take it that you believe that you have an assurance of faith. But suppose we have this discussion in ten years and you have apostatized? I take it that you would agree that your present assurance was false.

Or if you don’t believe that theoretically possibility, why wouldn’t you think that other people haven’t had that experience?

Pontificator has raised the issue. I would appreciate an answer. What tells a person that their own faith is real and not spurious?

I think Pontificator has hit the nail on the head. The issue isn't "assurance of salvation" or "perseverance"; it's predestination.

What if that person plans to come back, but dies on the way to the Church?

1 Samuel 16:7 - For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
It's a heart issue.


The harder question is the person who would have apostatized if he had had enough time.

And that's a question I'd like to ask YOU. If this guy is in a state of mortal sin, dead spiritually, but is on his way back to the priest to confess and do proper penance but is hit by a bus, what happens to him?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at section 1452 states:

Contrition


1451 Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible


Assuming such contrition and a firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental contrition, it would appear that the person was forgiven of mortal sins.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Carrie wrote:

Specifically, can you defend this idea biblically:

So, God offers His grace to all men, and insofar as they do not resist that grace, God saves them. Insofar as they resist His grace, they damn themselves.


I did.

Go back and re-read what I wrote and tell me which of my descriptions of God's attributes are not sanctioned by the Bible.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Carrie wrote:

The reason I ask this is in a way we are both stuck in the same boat with the 1 Tim verse. We see in that verse that God desires all to be saved, but we both agree that all will not be saved.

We really aren't in the same boat.

The boat I'm in is that God really does will that all men be saved and that God allows for some human beings who He wills to be saved to reject him.

I'm open to the possibility that God would will in a way that can be frustrated by human action.

On the other hand, you think that God's will cannot be frustrated by human action and, therefore, you redefine God's will into an unbiblical view that His will is a "wish" or else that God has conflicting desires.

That is simply an unbiblical view. I note that although I have asked you to explain your view, you have not done so.

Can God not accomplish what he wills? I hope we would both answer negatively.

Can God will such that his will does not impose necessity on something?

Can God will contingently such that his will is that those who choose to respond to his love will be saved?

The answer in my view to both questions is that God is powerful enough to will in such ways.

So how do we figure out why God's expressed desire in 1 Tim doesn't equal the final outcome? We must look to the rest of scripture for an answer.

Yes, and like the Pontificator, I look to the statement that “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16).

I don't find the idea that God is love in the description of a God who reprobates people based on sins that predestines them to commit.

I do find the idea that God is love in his willingness to grant the "dignity of causation" and the imago dei, i.e. reason, to his children.

I note, again, that you haven't been willing to engage with the biblical texts I've offered.

I have yet to see a good biblical defense of the "reason" you have supplied.

That's odd. All I've been doing is providing a version of arguments made by Augustine and Aquinas, both of whom were considered to be rather well acquainted with the Bible.

Pontificator said...

That is the very basis of biblical doctrine of soteriology. God damns b/c EVERYONE is damnable. EVERYONE has sinned. NO ONE seeks after God. NO ONE has any merit.

I'm curious in what precise sense you believe that an infant is worthy of damnation.

Pontificator said...

You have tried to make a logical, man-made argument for your viewpoint. Not a biblical one.

Actually, all arguments being advanced in this thread, and in every thread everywhere, are man-made arguments. No matter else here but us humans. Even when we cite Scripture to buttress our positions, we are necessarily involved in a very human act of interpretation.

And it should be said that the the quotation of Scripture does not make an argument biblical, just as the absence of Scriptural quotation does not make an argument unbiblical. Peter's arguments in this thread have been profoundly biblical, though he has wisely avoided peppering his arguments with proof-texts ripped from their contexts. What makes an argument biblical is whether it is grounded in and consonant with God's self-revelation as witnessed in Holy Scripture. And Peter's arguments qualify on both counts.

Carrie said...

I'm curious in what precise sense you believe that an infant is worthy of damnation.

Ask Augustine.

And it should be said that the the quotation of Scripture does not make an argument biblical, just as the absence of Scriptural quotation does not make an argument unbiblical.

Yes, I understand but Peter’s arguments in my opinion were not biblical so I am asking him for verses to back it up.

Rhology said...

PSB,

Thank you for acknowledging that you are hostile to the “linkage” of justification to other theological concepts.

I don't think I said that. What I am trying to say is that I am hostile to "linkages" that
1) seem to be almost gratuitous
2) contradict the descriptions that Scripture makes.
In this case, I've explained why the linkage doesn't work. And this discussion was BEGUN in the post about Eph 2:8-10, where I got only like 2 commenters even to try to interact with my point, neither of them very successfully.

I would have thought that Christ was the most important issue.

No one's denying He is.

since all truth is from God, then the truth we find in Scripture and the truth we find in Creation both come from God and cannot conflict.

1) But truth from God's Word versus truth that we see with our own eyes interpreted by our sin-clouded judgment are not of the same epistemic value. This is the constant refrain of Scripture. "Live by faith not by sight." "Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." "Trust in the **LORD** with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding"...
2) And you're right - they won't contradict, PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD. Notice that you're making this argument to support your holding to evolution (or at least that's certainly how it comes across). Evolution has tons of holes in its own right, and there is no consistent way to interpret Scripture to fit with an evolutionary history. So, what do we do? In your case, we demote Scripture. You can have that approach, knock yourself out.

Are you really suggesting that Augustine wasn’t thoroughly familiar with First Corinthians

What did I say?
He must not have had 1 Cor 1-3 in mind when he said that.
IN MIND does not equal "He has no idea what 1 Cor says."
You know, if this is the way you comprehend what you read, the biggest problem here is not the "unfortunate consequences pointed out by Benedict XVI in his Regensurg address vis a vis Islam."
But what you cited from Augustine goes totally against the entire point of 1 Cor 1-3.

separating the truth of divine revelation from the truth of natural revelation would discredit the gospel.

1) Note how much you are staking on evolution. It's not worth its weight in papier-mâché, man, but you're acting like it's your lifeboat.
2) Evolution is not "truth of natural revelation".
3) God was there in the beginning. We weren't.
Think of it this way: You have a witness to an accident who has an excellent track record of telling the truth and is of impeccable moral character. He sees an accident in the full light of day, was not impaired, stuck around 2 hours before and 2 hours after making sure he examined everything that happened.
Now, you bring out a CSI team 1000 years later to examine the scene and try to determine what happened. Or you could just ask the witness.
4) the Scr has no concept of "If Scr looks foolish, it'll discredit the Gospel." Now, it DOES have some mean things to say about contradicting God's Word for the sake of transitory human judgments and such; maybe you should look into that.

you seem to think that defending a literal six days of creation is completely different.

Since Scr teaches the 6 days of creation and doesn't teach geocentrism, I don't see any reason to make an apology on that.

why is Augustine in error on this point?

You should ask the Pontificator; there's a better chance you'll accept correction from an RC priest anyway (though it's not guaranteed, which is one reason I find your claims to epistemic and authoritative advantage based on the RC hierarchy laughable).

I take it that you believe that you have an assurance of faith

This is another topic, but yes.

But suppose we have this discussion in ten years and you have apostatized? I take it that you would agree that your present assurance was false.

that's correct. Or it could be that I have entered in 10 years' time a limited period of backsliding, at the end of which God will bring me back to Him at some point before I die, revealing the faith was real.

why wouldn’t you think that other people haven’t had that experience?

I have no doubt they have, but I can only distinguish by action. Hopefully you don't think I believe I can read minds.

What tells a person that their own faith is real and not spurious?

A brief discussion can be found here.
More fleshed-out here. They said it better than maybe I could, they've already said it, and it's a bit off-topic anyway.



Pontificator said:
I'm curious in what precise sense you believe that an infant is worthy of damnation.

Original sin.
I don't want to talk about what Carrie is talking about right now, but I just wanted to remind you of that one thing. Are you a priest or a 12-year old that you don't know that?

Peace,
Rhology

Carrie said...

I note that although I have asked you to explain your view, you have not done so.

Sorry, but my online time has been very limited this week.

And I have basically already explained to you that what God desires and what he ordains/allows can be different. Do you think it was God’s “desire” to crucify his son and pour out his wrath on him? If not, then why did he do it since scripture tells us it was foreordained?

On the other hand, you think that God's will cannot be frustrated by human action

Then I guess “sovereignty” is not on your list of characteristics of God.

I don't find the idea that God is love in the description of a God who reprobates people based on sins that predestines them to commit.

And here is one of your many problems. First, you don’t understand the fact that people are by default damned because of their sin nature. Two, you are imposing your ideas of human fairness onto God. Again, if all stand condemned before God, then saving just one person is an act of mercy. We all DESERVE hell.

Let’s go back to your old comment:

God, who is perfect, one, love, good, eternal and unchanging, can’t have parts

You have forgotten a few traits of God, particularly Holy & Just. YOU want God’s lovingness to override his holiness and justness so that he fits into your comfortable model. You have forgotten God’s hatred for sin.

Here is my basic answer for why God’s desire to save all doesn’t come to fruition: because God’s desire to save all does not negate his wrath towards sin. Man stands condemned because God is just and he cannot turn a blind eye to man’s sin.

And btw, you appear to be arguing against predestination and that is not even the argument I am trying to uphold although I do believe you cannot discount that completely scripturally. I don’t buy your original argument for the Catholic grace catalysis for keeping yourself justified from one day to the next.

And from this standpoint I don’t have time for this conversation. One minute you are arguing like a Catholic, the next like an Arminian. I can’t keep track.

All I've been doing is providing a version of arguments made by Augustine and Aquinas, both of whom were considered to be rather well acquainted with the Bible.

So then your arguments aren’t necessarily biblical, they are Augustian and Aquinine (?). Thanks.

Carrie said...

PSB,

Also,

Our conversation has gotten WAY off-topic here. If there are some legitimate issues you would like discussion around (and please, not just for the sake of being combative), post them here and maybe I will start a new post where others can also join in.

As I said, I am short on time this week and this convo is drifting.

Pontificator said...

Are you a priest or a 12-year old that you don't know that?

I am not a twelve-year old. But in fact there are many ways to formulate original sin, even in Reformed circles. I thought it would be helpful for you to clarify your position before proceeding further in the discussion. But clearly there is no need to proceed any further.

CrimsonCatholic said...

I don't want to talk about what Carrie is talking about right now, but I just wanted to remind you of that one thing. Are you a priest or a 12-year old that you don't know that?

I've never seen any justification that humanity was damnable on the basis of solely original sin. Augustine assumed it, but it seems relatively clear to me that he never thought that through all that carefully. He seems to have posited a false dichotomy between salvation and damnation, which required him to make the face-saving maneuver of saying that the punishment of infants was lightest of all. But there was no argument for that dichotomy, just a causal allegorical interpretation of the term "lump" in Romans that appears to be inconsistent with his own philosophical analysis of evil as privation. Moreover, the premise is no essential part of his argument against Julian at the end of his life to demonstrate that baptism was effective as against original sin.

I believe that Fr. Kimel was asking for some justification that original sin was damnable, since it is certainly begging the question to say that it is. Augustine presented no argument, and your Biblical interpretation is disputed, so it would appear that you would have the burden to make the argument, because the sheer appeal to the authority of Augustine for assertions he never justified is obviously weak. And your account of salvation depends on this notion that humanity is damnable based on original sin, a proposition for which no argument has been presented and the Catholic Church has dogmatically rejected.

So please, how about explaining so that a 12-year-old can understand how there is some magical substance called "original sin" that tars all of human nature and renders it damnable? What is the nature of this substance? How is it magically passed from human to human? That's what I've always found so bizarre about the Reformed view; you think evil is a substance that can inhere in nature but not grace. If anything, it appears the case should be completely reversed, and that is precisely what Trent says.

At any rate, I've answered your questions, and your response has been nothing but to restate your opinion, so I see no good in continuing this discussion either. If you want to take on the burden of actually explaining yourself, rather than blindly appealing to the authority of Augustine, you can answer BC's questions at my blog regarding original sin.

Rhology said...

As regards OS, let's take a look at Rom 5.
CrimsonCatholic earlier disparaged the idea that OS is a "sin nature," but I don't really see why that's not a workable term, especially given what will follow here and Paul's words throughout Rom 6 and 7.

Rom 5:16 - The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

What kind of judgment is this, to follow one sin (that of Adam) and yet extend to all men? To bring death to all men?

Rom 5:13 - just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned

How did all men sin? In Adam; was he not our representative, our "federal head"?
Rom 5:14 - death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

Rom 5:17 - For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

How does death reign in ALL men thru the trespass of the one?

Rom 5:18 - just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men

Why? B/c of what the individual member of the set of "all men" DID? No, thru the sin of Adam himself, as the prefigure of Christ.

CrimsonCatholic seems fond of saying things like:
you think evil is a substance that can inhere in nature but not grace. If anything, it appears the case should be completely reversed

The main reason to say that evil is inherited thru nature is b/c Rom 5 expresses that, AND compares it to Christ. His propitiation is able to save all men from all their sin if they will repent. But somehow the prefiguring, Adam's death, which makes Christ's propitiation necessary, is NOT all-encompassing?

Rom 5:19 - For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners

Is this not an expression of OS? We are made into sinNERS thru Adam's sin. All of us - we love to sin, yes. Not only that, we are made sinNERS *AND* receive the condemnation thru His death.
Why?
Rom 5:19 - so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The bad news has to be bad so that the Good News can be so good.

CrimsonCatholic, I hope I have made some headway in satisfying you. I didn't realise I was putting forth the impression that I was blindly appealing to Augustine... I'm a Reformed Babdist, why would I do that?

And for the record, BC could stand to be a little clearer in what he wants me to answer. It's honestly hard for me to figure out, which is why I quoted the LBCF.
He has apparently asked me to define RC dogma on OS. My money is that there is no ONE dogma, but I could be proven wrong. But I figured an RC could define it far better than a Reformed Babdist.

Anonymous said...

"PSB,

Thank you for acknowledging that you are hostile to the “linkage” of justification to other theological concepts."

I don't think I said that.


------


Of course what you're being too polite to point out is that Rhology is using third-rate debate tactics in place of actual conversation. He seeks out whatever ambiguity can be forced from your statements, uses them to have you "say" what you and he both know you are not saying, then re-presents the distortions back to you as if they make up your stance.

Tell his sort that faith without works is dead and they will "thank you" for "acknowledging" that you believe you can work yourself into heaven by your own merits alone.
Likewise, tell those of his ilk that there are temporal consequences of sin that God clearly requires us to deal with: that the corrupt shall not inherit the incorruptible and they will "thank you" for "acknowledging" that you believe Christ does not have the power to save us alone. It is sophomoric nonsense that everyone easily sees through.

As a silly side note, my spell checker keeps trying to correct "Rhology" to "Urology." It doesn't mean anything--or should I thank my computer for "acknowledging" something here?

Anonymous said...

"My money is that there is no ONE dogma, but I could be proven wrong."

You do know the very important difference between dogma and doctrine, right? you wouldn';t dare pretend that you think these are the same, then try to claim that Catholic dogma contradicts itself regarding sin, now would you?

Rhology said...

I know this is two years later, but this issue is being discussed again thanks to Dr Frank Beckwith and various responses thereto.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/11/justification-by-numbers.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-justification-synergistic.html

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3606