Thursday, December 06, 2007

Deficient Atonement

“The second ground of the Romish doctrine of justification flows not only from their confounding of the purificatory aspect of regeneration with pardon, but also their idea that Christ only rendered satisfaction for eternal punishments but not for temporal punishments. Trent says: “If any one saith, that satisfaction for sins, as to their temporal punishment, is nowise made to God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, by the punishments inflicted by him, and patiently borne, or by those enjoined by the priest, nor even by those voluntary undertaken, as by fastings, prayers, alms-deeds, or by other works also of piety; and that, therefore, the best penance is merely a new life: let him be anathema”(71) Furthermore: “If any one saith that God always remits the whole punishment together with the guilt, and that the satisfaction of penitents is no other than the faith whereby they apprehend that Christ has satisfied for them: let him be anathema.”(72) The Romanist theologians at Trent in their concept regarding the temporal punishments due for sin were following in the footsteps of the medieval scholastic theologians who made a distinction between the guilt of sin and the guilt of punishment. Romanists teach that Christ did not render a satisfaction or pay the price for the guilt of punishment. Out of this legal obligation of punishment flows the entire system of penance and purgatory. Protestants maintain that God chastises His children to aid them in their sanctification. Roman Catholicism teaches that God actually metes out penal sufferings on His people, that Christians are required “as a satisfaction to God’s avenging justice” to pay for their sins.

Roman Catholicism teaches that Christ’s death did part of what was needed, but that man through prayer, fasting, attending masses, rosary prayers, vows of chastity and poverty, and other “good” works completes the job… In any debate with a Romanist regarding justification, one must always remember that the confounding of justification with sanctification and the Romanist idea of the necessity of human merit stands upon the foundation of their deficient view of Christ’s sacrifice. A biblical view of Christ’s atoning death would instantly render unnecessary the whole anti-Christian popish system (e.g., the mass, works of penance, purgatory, etc.).”

Exerpt from:
Justification by Faith: An Examination of the Biblical Doctrine of Salvation by Brian Schwertley

79 comments:

Machaira said...

“If any one saith that God always remits the whole punishment together with the guilt, and that the satisfaction of penitents is no other than the faith whereby they apprehend that Christ has satisfied for them: let him be anathema.”

Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

A.T. Robertson in his commentary on the verb rendered "he has perfected" makes the following comment:

He has done what the old sacrifices failed to do (Heb 10:1).

Heb 10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.


So what is it that Christ was able to do that the Old Covenant sacrifices could not? Make a complete/perfect atonement for His people.

Too bad Rome denies this honor to Christ as well as assurance and peace to her followers.

EgoMakarios said...

By temporal punishments, aren't they essentially referring to punishments by man? Like if you murder someone and God forgives you, you can't argue that the state has no right to execute you? You know how it has become common these days for criminals on death row to claim a rebirth so they can get on TV and attempt to stay their execution or get out of jail "I'm a new man in Christ--I ain't the man that raped that little girl" they will say, showing no remorse nor repentance (in good 'Reformed' style) and attempting to distance themselves from their old life of sin as though they had never actually lived it. It seems to me that this sort of foolishness could be what Trent is responded to right there.

Perhaps not enough of the context is presented to be sure. But I'm thinking that since Rome at the time of this writing considered itself the secular power, they saw their priests as having the power of the magistrate, to remit secular punishments vis penance, to stay executions of those who carried out their prescriptions of penance. So if someone committed murder, and God forgave them, they had to go to the priest to get secular forgiveness to keep them from being executed. I'm not Catholic nor am I defending them on this point. I just want some clarification if maybe this could be what is actually meant here.

EgoMakarios said...

Perhaps they do mean 'purgatory' by 'temporal punishments' but when I read 'temporal punishments' I don't think of purgatory (because I'm not Catholic). I think of, for example, someone doing drugs who ends up in the hospital. Say they quit drugs and turn to Christ and are forgiven. Does the ailment brought on by their binge immediately cease? This could be said to be a 'temporal punishment' for their sin. Does Christ's death take that away? Pentecostals would say so, but I wasn't aware that Calvinists agreed.

EgoMakarios said...

BTW, Machaira, Hebrews 10:1-2 deals with the perfection of the conscience, not the body. You can't think that you are able to go out and have illicit sex and get AIDS, then ask God's forgiveness and along with that forgiveness necessarily be returned to perfect health.

Machaira said...

BTW, Machaira, Hebrews 10:1-2 deals with the perfection of the conscience . . .

That's not quite right. Please notice that the verb rendered "make perfect" refers to "those who draw near." I mentioned this kind of thing to you before on your own blog. You just can't pick your own direct object and place it after whichever verb you please. In the case before us, the writer very clearly tells us to whom or what he makes reference.

The point of those two verses is the inability of the OC sacrifices to make complete atonement for sin. Naturally, the remaining consciousness of guilt is a by-product of imperfect sacrifice.

EgoMakarios said...

So, Machaira, let's say a person who is a Calvinist sleeps with his neighbor's wife today, and the husband comes home and catches them, and shoots him in the head. According to you, the cross of Christ has already remitted this temporal punishment, and therefore, the man's head will automatically heal and he will walk away as if he had never been shot at all.

Carrie said...

By temporal punishments, aren't they essentially referring to punishments by man?

No, punishments owed to God for which they must atone. Purgatory is one way (after death), penance while alive is another.

From the Catholic catechism:

1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.84

1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the "old man" and to put on the "new man."85

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c2a4.htm#1472

Pontificator said...

This excerpt reflects such a gross, ignorant, and irresponsible misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine that it is hard to know how to refute it.

It is ironic that this excerpt should be published here so soon after the release of Pope Benedict's encyclical on hope. In this encyclical the Pope restates the Catholic understanding of purgatory (par 41-48). This encyclical deserves careful reading by all who read this blog.

Purgatory is transforming encounter with the God who is absolute love and truth. Or as Pope Benedict wrote in his book on eschatology:

"“Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where man is forced to undergo punishment in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inward necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God, and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and reforms us to be vessels of eternal joy. This insight would contradict the doctrine of grace only if penance were the antithesis of grace and not its form, the gift of a gracious possibility. ... Purgatory follows by an inner necessity from the idea of penance, the idea of the constant readiness for reform which marks the forgiven sinner.”

Needless to say, this understanding of purgatory presupposes an understanding of the atoning work of Christ that is as ample and full as any evangelical could want, as a perusal of the Catholic Catechism would quickly demonstrate.

I do not expect my Reformed brethren to agree with the Catholic Church on all matters, but I do expect them--indeed, I demand--that they at least make an effort to understand and not to misrepresent the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Carrie said...

I do not expect my Reformed brethren to agree with the Catholic Church on all matters, but I do expect them--indeed, I demand--that they at least make an effort to understand and not to misrepresent the teaching of the Catholic Church.

I'm not sure what exactly you are objecting to, but there are two likely explanations other than misrepresentation:

1. This excerpt is based on the historical view of purgatory which isn't as rosey as the current reformulation.

2. In critiquing Catholicism, Protestants usually rephrase the Catholic teachings by taking them to their logical conclusions. It is a way of breaking down the smoke and mirrors and what is left is not too pretty.

Then, of course, quotes from Trent never seem to go over too well with the "cutting-edge" Catholic e-theologians we have here, but there is not much we can do about it.

EgoMakarios said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EgoMakarios said...

The pope says "Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where man is forced to undergo punishment in a more or less arbitrary fashion."

I find this amusing since Tertullian did not actually believe in purgatory at all! Tertullian made a hypothetical concession to reincarnationists, which concession was misinterpreted by later generations (e.g. Jerome and Augustine) and resulted indirectly in the doctrine of purgatory.

There were certain reincarnationists attempting to make the Pythagorean philosophy of transmigration of souls (souls being reincarnated in different human bodies after death) fit with Christianity. To achieve this end, they twisted Matthew 5:25-26 and made the prison out to be the body and the idea was that souls in heaven sin and are put in the body until they pay all their sins, and then they go to heaven again, until they sin again and get put in another body, and so the process would continue on and on forever.

There in that passage, Jesus says "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."

Tertullian explains that the adversary is simply the heathen man who is our neighbor and that the officer and judge are also simply humans, that this teaching is literal and ethical. However, he says "if you must take this as an allegory, then..." Oh boy!! Here it comes! Tertullian's HYPOTHETICAL concession to the heretics is what resulted in modern RCC doctrine!

Tertullian says "If you must take this as an allegory, then understand the adversary as the devil and your agreement with him is that you renounce him and his angels, and that the prison is hades, from which you will by no means exit until you have paid all or until you are resurrected." Augustine later adapted Tertullian's hypothetical (note, Tertullian didn't actually beleive this at all himself, but gives it as a hypothetical option to those who could not accept that Jesus' teaching was literal here) and Augustine changes the adversary from Satan to God, thus alleviating the inconsistency of Tertullian's agreement with Satan being that we renounce him (that's not a very friendly agreement, and the Greek of the passage indicates a friendly agreement).

The result, however, is that Augustine spawned the heretical notion of God as a rabid monster who hates everyone, meaning that in reality Calvinism came from the Augustinian doctrine of purgatory!!!! All praise be to God who has given me this historical insight that I might share it with those who are oppressed with the doctrines of that Manichean!

Carrie said...

All praise be to God who has given me this historical insight that I might share it with those who are oppressed with the doctrines of that Manichean!

Okay, Ego.

Perhaps you could give us all a break now and go work on world peace or something big since you have single-handedly solve this whole mystery.

Saint and Sinner said...

"1. This excerpt is based on the historical view of purgatory which isn't as rosey as the current reformulation."

Amen to that! What about all the Medieval writers who actually had "visions" of purgatory (and all with the same descriptions no less!). A mountain, a river with a bridge, a plain, and a valley all recur as descriptions of Purgatory in Medieval literature.

Secondly, the term used by Medieval writers to describe the reason for being in Purgatory is "poena," punishment.

This is just another attempt to re-write history, and no, Tertullian never believed in Purgatory but in "interim refregerium," the need for refreshment for the saints already in a paradaisical state.

Timothy Athanasius said...

Pontificator,

I think you missed the point, and yourself are misleading. The point was that in Catholic soteriology Christ takes care of Hell (eternal punishment), the believer takes care of Purgatory (temporal punishment). It is obvious that contemporary Catholicism seeks to take the edge off of this teaching by speaking of it in a more christological way and with biblical language and/or concepts; nevertheless, you are not a little misleading in your attempt to present the contemporary Catholic case for Purgatory.

The first sentence of paragraph 44 of Spe Salvi states that "Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour." This comment by the Pope is striking, especially in light of the glaring absence of, say, something like, "Some infallibly canonized saints are of the opinion that . . ."! One would think, an in fact many Catholics do, that the teachings of saints far outweigh the teaching of "some recent theologians."

My point, then, is twofold: 1.) please admit upfront that you are are presenting a contemporary attempt to redefine a teaching you can't get rid of, namely, Purgatory; 2.) don't label as "gross, ignorant and irresponsible" the traditional Catholic understanding of Purgatory, which you likewise can't get rid of.

Secondly, you fail to mention that the Pope also restates the Catholic teaching that Christians can merit and releave the sufferings of those in Purgatory. At one point the Pope also states that, "The souls of the departed can, however, receive 'solace and refreshment' through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving" (para 48). This reveals that despite contemporary attempts at redefining Purgatory, the traditional soteriological understanding that Christians take of Purgatory is something inherent in the Catholic understanding of the Atonement. Thus, the original point made by Carrie still stands!

GeneMBridges said...


The result, however, is that Augustine spawned the heretical notion of God as a rabid monster who hates everyone, meaning that in reality Calvinism came from the Augustinian doctrine of purgatory!!!! All praise be to God who has given me this historical insight that I might share it with those who are oppressed with the doctrines of that Manichean!


1. It's a pity EM can't follow his own arguments. One of his standard arguments against Calvinism has been that God loves some (the elect) and not others (the reprobate), but here he suggest that the teaching is that God hates everybody. Now, he's changed his tune.

2. The charge of Manicheanism is just a way of trying to get out of exegeting Scripture and interacting exegetically with Calvinism. EM wouldn't know Manicheanism if it walked up and smacked him in the face.

3. Calvinism and "Augustine" are not synonymous. Augustine is not our rule of faith.

4. May I ask who you think said, "He did not give His life for every man, but for many, that is, for those who would believe."

And while we're at it, who do you think wrote: "God has completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained to eternal life...Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever."

How about this one: (In response to the assertion that Christ gave Himself for "all,")..."To what "us" does he refer, unless to them what believe in Him? For to them that do not believe in Him, He is he author of their fire and burning. The cause of Christ's coming is the redemption of those that that were to be saved by Him."

How about this one: "To believe is not ours, or in our power, but the Spirit's who is in us and abides in us."

Or this one: The victory lies in the will of God, not thine own. To overcome is not in our power."

And somebody was affirming what we think of as a standard interpretation of John 6:44,45 in the Reformed churhches rather early. Who is this: When He says, "No man can come to Me," He breaks the proud liberty of free will; for man can desire nothing, and in vain he endeavors...Where is the proud boasting of free will?...We pray in vain if it is in our own will. Why should men pray for that from the Lord which they have in the power of their own free will?

5. Notice that there is no connection made here between Purgatory (which flatly denies the intrinsic and extrinsic sufficiency of the atonement) and Calvinism. Where are the quotes tracing it directly? Purgatory and the doctrines of grace are directly opposed to each other.

So, Machaira, let's say a person who is a Calvinist sleeps with his neighbor's wife today,

EM's hatred just drips, doesn't it? Why say "Calvinist" why not "Arminian" or "Lutheran" or any other term? A person's theological position is irrelevant to the question.

, and the husband comes home and catches them, and shoots him in the head. According to you, the cross of Christ has already remitted this temporal punishment, and therefore, the man's head will automatically heal and he will walk away as if he had never been shot at all.

Straw Man. Calvinism does not deny temporal consequences for one's actions. Indeed, Calvinism would say either:

a. The adulterer has failed to give a credible profession of faith and may, in fact, be a nominal not a genuine Christian.

b. Assuming he is a genuine Christian who has backslidden, which I gather is what you have in mind, the consequences become not an expression of God's eternal wrath, which has been removed in historical time by the application of the atonement by the work of the Spirit in regeneration, justification by faith, but, as a means of progressive sanctification, it becomes a means of loving discipline and correction.

In the context of Hebrews,this is a statement of the sufficiency of the atonement with respect to the appeasement of God's eternal wrath.

It would really help you if you would at least try to familiarize yourself with the argument by reading, for example, a standard Reformed theology text. It isn't as if the Baptist part of the Reformed community has not published any.

Machaira said...

. . . the consequences become not an expression of God's eternal wrath, which has been removed . . .

. . . it becomes a means of loving discipline and correction.


Gene,

Thanks for reminding me of something I wanted to post yesterday. You bring up many important items, but imho, this is probably the most important in the context of this particular thread.

Heb 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.
Heb 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."
Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Heb 12:8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Heb 12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
Heb 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
Heb 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


The following quote is for our resident strawman builder:

Westminster Confession - Of Justification

V. God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the sate of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

Machaira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Machaira said...

Maybe one of our Roman Catholic friends could explain how Hebrews 10:14 can be reconciled with the idea of purgatory?

Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

kmerian said...

So, Protestants believe God disciplines his children. Catholics believe this as well.

Purgatory is God's discipline on his children. This article condemned Catholics only to admit that Protestants believe the same thing.

Jesus sacrifice took the punishment for our sins, not the discipline.

Pontificator said...

Timothy, of course Catholics believe in post-mortem purification. This, for us, is dogma and finds ample support in the patristic witness and liturgical practice. The Council of Trent was concerned to defend both the teaching of post-mortem purification and the practice of offering prayers and the eucharistic sacrifice for the faithful departed.

If you want to know what the Catholic Church teaches about the atonement, though, you cannot turn to the Council of Trent, because the Council of Trent was not concerned to present a full-blown presentation of the atonement. For this, we must turn to the great theologians, Eastern and Western, of the past 2,000 years. And one might also turn to the authoritative catechisms, in which one finds strong affirmations of the sufficiency of Christ's atoning sacrifice, e.g., the old Roman Catechism:

The pastor should teach that all these inestimable and divine blessings flow to us from the Passion of Christ. First, indeed, because the satisfaction which Jesus Christ has in an admirable manner made to God the Father for our sins is full and complete. The price which He paid for our ransom was not only adequate and equal to our debts, but far exceeded them.

Again, it (the Passion of Christ) was a sacrifice most acceptable to God, for when offered by His Son on the altar of the cross, it entirely appeased the wrath and indignation of the Father. This word (sacrifice) the Apostle uses when he says: Christ hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.

Furthermore, it was a redemption, of which the Prince of the Apostles says: You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled. While the Apostle teaches: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.


The point is that the dogmas and anathemas of the Council of Trent presuppose the Catholic understanding of the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work.

Only when the Catholic doctrine of the atonement is understood can we begin to address the meaning of purgatorial purification as "punishment" for which "satisfaction" must be made. One thing is very clear: these two words ("punishment" and "satisfaction") are being used analogically in this context. The words came into the tradition through the ancient penitential system and its assignment of penances. They are an attempt to explain the ancient intuition of the Church that post-mortem purification is necessary for most of the redeemed--hence the moral and spiritual imperative to pray for the faithful departed.

The "punishments" of purgatory have nothing to do with God's wrath, which was fully and exhaustively propitiated by the sacrifice of Calvary, as you and others have noted. So what are these "punishments"? They are the existential consequences of our sins, the ways in our sins which have twisted, perverted, and damaged us. As the Catechism makes clear, these "punishments" must not be understood as "a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin" (1472). Purgatory, in other words, is simply the continuation of the work of sanctification and healing which must occur within each of us so that we may fully and perfectly enjoy the eternal love of God.

In the words of Pope John Paul II:

Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on purgatory. The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection. ...

One last important aspect which the Church's tradition has always pointed out should be reproposed today: the dimension of 'communio'. Those, in fact, who find themselves in the state of purification are united both with the blessed who already enjoy the fullness of eternal life, and with us on this earth on our way towards the Father's house (cf. CCC, n. 1032).

Just as in their earthly life believers are united in the one Mystical Body, so after death those who live in a state of purification experience the same ecclesial solidarity which works through prayer, prayers for suffrage and love for their other brothers and sisters in the faith. Purification is lived in the essential bond created between those who live in this world and those who enjoy eternal beatitude.


Am I presenting a contemporary restatement of Catholic teaching? Of course. The Catholic Church is not stuck in the past, though she certainly lives from the past and claims all the riches of the theological and liturgical tradition as her own. But I am not offering an idiosyncratic view. This is mainstream Catholicism, as well evidenced in the teaching of the Catechism, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. For an accessible presentation of the doctrine of purgatory, I refer you to Peter Kreeft's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Heaven. (The chapter on purgatory can be found here.) Needless to say, Kreeft is not a liberal or revisionist Catholic.

It is very easy to set up strawmen to knock down and that is precisely what Brian Schwertley has done in his piece of polemical trash.

David Waltz said...

Hi Pontificator,

You said:

>> It is very easy to set up strawmen to knock down and that is precisely what Brian Schwertley has done in his piece of polemical trash.>>

Amen. Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s quite famous quote is certainly applicable:

“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

It takes a bit more than some internet browsing to truly understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches. The interconnectedness of our doctrines requires some deep and objective research to “get-it-right”, including a good understanding of the nature and role of development.


Grace and peace,

David

Machaira said...

Thanks for your responses. However, none of you really answered my question. Let me frame it another way.

The doctrine of Purgatory maintains that those in a state of grace are found to be in a state of imperfect or incomplete purification at death - hence the need for "purging." How does this notion square with Hebrews 10:14?

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Carrie said...

Purgatory is God's discipline on his children. This article condemned Catholics only to admit that Protestants believe the same thing.

No, not the same. God disciplines us to help us get back on path with our sanctification. Each sin is not a notch on the belt of temporal punishment to be satisfied.

Jesus sacrifice took the punishment for our sins, not the discipline.

But others can take the discipline for you through indulgences and what not? That makes no sense to your analogy, sorry.

Now, I hope someone will answer Machaira (since I bumped him):

The doctrine of Purgatory maintains that those in a state of grace are found to be in a state of imperfect or incomplete purification at death - hence the need for "purging." How does this notion square with Hebrews 10:14?

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Pontificator said...

Machaira, as a Catholic I fully affirm, with the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, the sufficiency and finality of our Lord's atoning sacrifice. Consider the following statement from the Catholic Catechism:

The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.

Or this long passage:

Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".

This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.

Jesus substitutes his obedience for our disobedience

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who "makes himself an offering for sin", when "he bore the sin of many", and who "shall make many to be accounted righteous", for "he shall bear their iniquities". Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.

It is love "to the end" that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. Now "the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died." No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.

The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as "the source of eternal salvation" and teaches that "his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us." And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope."


Or this:

Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men." The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; "holy, blameless, unstained," "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified," that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all.


Does this emphatic assertion of the sufficiency and finality of our Lord's atoning sacrifice preclude continued sanctification beyond death? No. Christians have always prayed for the faithful departed. Certainly the Church Fathers, particularly in the West, never interpreted the text you cite, or any text of the New Testament, as precluding a post-mortem intermediate state of purification, yet they all strongly affirmed the uniqueness of Christ Jesus' sacrificial death.

Whatever purgatory means, it does not mean that Jesus' atoning sacrifice needs to be supplemented or perfected by other atoning sacrifices.

According to Catholic teaching, those who undergo final sanctification are already justified and thus enjoy total and complete assurance of their salvation.

Not only does the Catholic doctrine of purgatory not contradict Scripture, it simply makes sense. See this article by Methodist philosopher Jerry Walls: "Purgatory for Everyone."

Machaira said...

Pontificator,

Yes . . . I do understand the RCC's teaching on the atonement. The problem is, the doctrine of Purgatory sets up a contradiction by teaching, in effect, that a believer is "perfected" and "not perfected" at the same time. If Hebrews 10:14 is allowed to mean exactly what it says, then believers are perfected and ready to stand before God at death. Perfected, by definition, means nothing more is required.

Remember, the writer to the Hebrews is comparing the incomplete nature of OC sacrifices with the complete nature of Christ's atonement. Purgatory necessarily contradicts the writers entire line of reasoning by introducing a flaw into perfection. Again, an irreconcilable contradiction.

Pontificator said...

Machaira, you write:

"If Hebrews 10:14 is allowed to mean exactly what it says, then believers are perfected and ready to stand before God at death."

But in fact Hebrews 10:13 says nothing of the kind. You are reading into the verse a Reformed exegesis.

Machaira said...

Pontificator,

Hebrews 10:14 explicitly says that believers are "perfected." Remember, this assertion is made in the context of a comparison between the inability of Old Covenant sacrifices to remove sin and the complete removal of sins by Christ.

Heb 10:11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

Heb 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

Heb 10:13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.


Again, "perfected" by definition means nothing more is required. You can't be perfected and not perfected at the same time - which is what Purgatory teaches.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Pontificator said...

But in fact Hebrews 10:13 says nothing of the kind. You are reading into the verse a Reformed exegesis.

There's no question that Hebrews 10 is speaking of the once for all sufficiency of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It's not even up for debate:

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Notice that Jesus Christ is referred to as a single sacrifice for sins, a single offering, and that he has perfected (past tense) for all time (forever, into eternity!) those who are being sanctified (the ongoing work of the Spirit of Christ conforming the believer to His image in this present life--cf. Romans 8:29).

There's nothing eisegetical whatsoever in Machaira's understanding of this passage. One would have to go through absolutely tortuous contortions to make these verses say anything other than what they clearly teach. The idea that further sacrifices need to be made by some other kind of priest for the expiation of the sins of God's people is completely anathema to the gospel and to the rest of Biblical teaching. It is a complete slap in the face to Hebrews 10:8-10:

8 When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The ceremonial shadows are done away with in order to establish the reality which has always been, namely, that Jesus Christ offered his body once for all. This is something already accomplished by Christ and for all time.

Mateo said...

Pontificator is great! I hope we can be friends someday!

But, seriously, what do Reformed theologians think about the formulation "already, not yet" for thinking through, well, a lot of Pauline statements, but specifically the (non-Paul) statements in Hebrews 10. Yes, we have been made perfect in Christ, but we are still continually being made more holy through sanctification, right? So our "perfection" is "already/not yet".

A reading of Hebrews 10 that ignores this eschatological dimension seems to cut both ways; it is problematic for Calvinists just as it is for Catholics (though, arguably, less so).

Thoughts?

Machaira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Machaira said...

Yes, we have been made perfect in Christ, but we are still continually being made more holy through sanctification, right? So our "perfection" is "already/not yet".

You began well, but ended badly. Your conclusion fails to distinguish between the atonement and sanctification. The two are not the same. Hebrews 10:14 makes this distiction. So should you.

Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Mateo said...

OK...I'm just working this through, trying to figure out what you are getting at.

So in the atonement, in the Passion of Christ, the elect are made perfect in Christ. Those who are elect, through sanctification, slowly begin to manifest that perfection (which, until that point, remains in the mind of God and, if you will, the wounds of Christ). Is that right, machaira?

I'm just trying to figure out a word which will satisfy you when moving from the all-important reality of God's Sovereign will in election and Christ's perfect, atoning sacrifice to actually addressing, well, my existential condition as a Christian, increasing in holiness.

I'm sure you would agree that a Christian's growth in holiness, in aligning his will to the will of God, is only possible and only takes place because of God's prior action, as he gives His grace which is possible BECAUSE OF the Cross, right? Even the "free response" is an effect of God's will, His grace. Anyway, so, my question is how we relate the Atonement to sanctification, how we relate our state of perfection as chosen ones of God from all eternity and unto all eternity TO our condition of "working out our own salvation with fear and trembling."

You were unhappy with the already/not yet language, and that's fine. All these words fall far short of the spiritual realities we are debating, so I am certainly willing at least to consider how you would formulate this problem, in light of your reading of Hebrews 10, which is rather persuasive.

I hope the problem has been stated relatively clearly.

Pontificator said...

Pilgrimsarbour, we have no disagreement. I also affirm, as I think I have made clear, that Hebrews 10 asserts the perfection and sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice.

Machaira, you are pushing a grammatical point of a single verse much too hard. As Mateo points out, the author appears to be stating here the mystery of our eschatological existence in Christ, an existence that involves an already/not yet dimension: by his full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice (to use the language of the Book of Common Prayer) Jesus our high priest has "perfected" (what precisely does this mean? Where does the author tell us what this means?) those who are being made holy (clearly they are not yet perfectly holy but in the process of becoming holy).

Whatever this verse means, it says absolutely nothing, one way or another, about post-mortem purification. It does not say that we are perfectly sanctified either at baptism or at the moment of death. It does not address the question of life beyond the grave. This question was not in the mind of the inspired author--at least I see no evidence in the letter that it was--and his words should not be twisted to say something they do not say.

If I was going to preach on this text today, I would interpret the perfection of which the author speaks as the intimate communion with God that we now enjoy through the sanctified humanity of Christ Jesus in the Holy Spirit. This communion is the fruit and consequence of the perfect sacrifice of our high priest. If I had an opportunity to study the text further (alas, my commentaries are all in boxes in my garage), perhaps I might alter my interpretation; but that is how the text reads to me at the moment.

In any case, the principal concern of this letter, and particularly of chaps 8-10, is to establish the fulfillment of the old covenant sacrificial system in the new covenant and the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus. On this point Catholics and Protestants completely agree.

Machaira said...

Machaira, you are pushing a grammatical point of a single verse much too hard.

In that case, language can mean anything you want and therefore, means nothing at all. It's amazing that when the full weight of a particular verse or passage is against someone's point of view, language suddenly becomes very elastic.

. . . Jesus our high priest has "perfected" (what precisely does this mean?

This answer to this has already been made clear. In Hebrews 10 "perfected" has to do with the complete removal of sins by Christ's sacrifice, which was something animal sacrifices could not do. It has to do with complete/perfect expiation and propitiation, not moral perfection, which is the province of regeneration and sanctification. It has to do with our perfect "cleansing" in Christ which speaks directly against the doctrine of Purgatory. All of this is plainly seen in the text of Hebrews 10:

Heb 10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Heb 10:2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?
Heb 10:3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year.
Heb 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Heb 10:11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
Heb 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Heb 10:13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.


Purgatory completely contradicts the entire flow of the writer's argument regarding complete "cleansing" and the complete "removal of sins." This is what is meant by "perfected." It's forensic in nature, not moral, which again, is the province of regeneration and sanctification. The reason why Catholics have a problem with this is simply because Rome teaches you to confound justification and sanctification. The Scriptures clearly make this distinction.

Machaira said...

Mateo,

I hope my response to Pontificator has answered you question, because to be honest, I'm not sure if I understand what you're asking.

Pontificator said...

Macheira, let's assume that your interpretation of Heb 10:14 is correct and that being "perfected" refers to forgiveness of sins. This is, I think, a plausible, reasonable reading--perhaps there are other exegetical possibilities. I don't know. But let's tentatively adopt your reading: the sacrifice of Christ has effected the forgiveness of believing Christians. And let's also assume that this reading reflects the teaching of the whole of Scripture. We both know that the Church does not build its doctrines based on single verses alone.

Still, your reading does not negatively touch the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. All who enter the purgatorial state are indeed already forgiven; they have died in a state of grace and justification; they have died in a state of friendship with God. Hence my contention that when we read terms like "punishment" and "expiation" being applied to the final purification, we must understand them in an analogical, nonliteral way.

Final purification refers to sanctification, not justification.

From what are those who undergo purification being purified? Answer: our attachment to evil and creaturely goods (see the citation above from JPII). Only the pure in heart can see God, Jesus tells us (Matt 5:6). The final sanctification effects this perfect purity for those in need of it. It cleanses us from anything within ourselves that would inhibit our love of God and our enjoyment of his infinite love and grace.

I hope that this clears away any remaining misunderstanding and the readers of this blog can now see why the Catholic doctrine of purgatory does not violate the Church's teaching on the sufficiency and perfection of our Lord's work of atonement on behalf of mankind.

Mateo said...

Sorry about the lack of clarity, I guess. But, yes, your response to Pontificator "helped", though, to my mind (as a Catholic), you still haven't succeeded in accurately presenting the Catholic position. First of all, it has always been irritating to me when Protestants say that Catholics can't grasp the distinction between justification and sanctification; informed Catholics have little problem doing so--once we adopt Reformed language (which is, after all, only conventional), it is relatively easy to map our somewhat different soteriological terminology onto yours. The question is where the real difference is in what we MEAN, not what we SAY, though of course words matter.

But what do you think about this, machaira? Purgatory has nothing to do with justification, to use Protestant terminology. It only has to do with "sanctification" (it is moral, not "forensic"), but this "process" (as the writer of Hebrews tells us, we are "being sanctified") remains incomplete at death, right? And that process must be finished before we walk into God's presence. God is holy. Nevertheless, even before we are completely healed by God's grace after death, we are already the "elect of God", the "co-heirs with Christ" from the foundations of the world because of the Lamb who was slain.

Does that help?

Mateo said...

I just realized that I repeated a lot of what Pontificator already wrote. Sorry about that! But great post!

Machaira said...

Pontificator & Mateo,

Let me put is this way. Maybe this will cover the concerns of you both. Well . . . probably not. I think we'll all survive anyway.

The Scriptures never speak of an intermediate state, after death, where purging of any kind takes place. As a matter of fact, many texts actually contradict such an idea.

1Th 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment . . .


The preceding quotes are two places where the writers could have mentioned Purgatory. They don't. To do so would have been contradictory to there respective points anyway. None of this should be surprising. Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, Vol. XI, p. 1034) acknowledges: “In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture.”

Mateo said...

This actually does help. The weakness of the argument from Scripture (your most recent point, machaira) is a much different and much less offensive way of refuting the doctrine of Purgatory than saying that it compromises the sufficiency of Christ's atonement which Catholic faith affirms.

As a Catholic, I would not want to believe anything that in any way compromises the infinite efficaciousness of Christ's sacrifice (and I don't). So, though I think there is still a discussion here, I am happy that it has moved where it has.

Carrie said...

Mateo and/or Pontificator,

Are you denying that Purgatory is a punishment in the classical sense? Are you denying that the person in purgatory is making a satisfaction (paying a debt) to God's justice for his own sins?


Machaira,

I have more quotes on this particular subject which may contradict some of what is being said here, so stay tuned :)

Machaira said...

Carrie,

Thanks. I look forward to your input.

Mateo said...

I should say "sufficiency" instead of "efficiency" or "efficaciousness". Just a small, maybe pedantic point, but...in the interest of accuracy and clarity!

Well, Carrie, I look forward to seeing the evidence you adduce, but please don't characterize me as a "cutting edge" E-Theologian (to use your expression in a previous post). Be sure to recognize that the Magisterium has recently expressed itself in Spe Salvi and during JPII's pontificate, emphasizing the medicinal or healing aspects of purgatory instead of the penal aspects. So I am certainly not on the edge of orthodoxy here.

To your specific question, though I will not answer it exhaustively now (I don't like "traps"): I do think that moral perfection or perfect purity is a demand of God's holiness; we cannot enter heaven with the moral imperfection that persists even after we are justified. In that sense, it is related to God's justice. But I think the Pontificator is right to say that this "debt" is really the disorder left from sin itself. As the Catechism says of "temporal punishments" which we receive before death:

"But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.62 Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins."

I don't want to anticipate your argument, but please recognize the harmony of what I've been saying with the recent Magisterium, though I think that there's serious compatibility between the "classical" and "contemporary" views here, but that will have to wait until we see what you have to say.

Pontificator said...

I do not doubt, Carrie, that you can provide citations to support a penal interpretation of the temporal punishments of sin; but these citations will not change the fact that the Catholic Church identifies these "punishments" as medicinal and therapeutic, as the citations Mateo and I have provided prove. If there was unclarity about this in the past, there no longer is now--and that is what is crucial. If you want to argue with Catholic teaching, you must argue with Catholic teaching as it is presently taught. The Catholic Church is constantly clarifying, refining, and developing its authoritative teaching, as she has done for 2,000 years. I know this must be a great disappointment for you, but that is the way of things. I would also suggest that you and others on this site have a moral obligation to understand and state clearly and accurately the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church before you criticize or ridicule it.

Carrie said...

To your specific question, though I will not answer it exhaustively now (I don't like "traps"):

I wasn't trying to set a trap, just trying to understand if I was reading you both correctly.

but that will have to wait until we see what you have to say.

Oh dear, I didn't mean to imply I had some big counter-argument cued up. Just some quotes from other sources that don't show the same emphasis as has been put forward here.

The Catholic Church is constantly clarifying, refining, and developing its authoritative teaching, as she has done for 2,000 years. I know this must be a great disappointment for you, but that is the way of things.

Pont, I have alot more important things in my life than thinking about Catholic doctrine. But even if this stuff was high on my list and what you said is true, I would not feel disappointed but confused. Most Catholic e-pologists have hammered home the message that Rome is the one true Church, consistent throughout history, perpetuating the truth as handed down from the Apostles. And then there is the old certainty argument...

Yet you and some others here push a changing/developing model of the Church - I can't blame you, a moving target is a good defense. Either way, there are plenty of unbiblical doctrines to investigate.

I would also suggest that you and others on this site have a moral obligation to understand and state clearly and accurately the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church before you criticize or ridicule it.

Who can keep up, you guys can't even agree on stuff. And that is sorta the point.

Iohannes said...

Pontificator,

What in your opinion are the best works for an overview of orthodox Roman Catholic teaching? I have read the recent catechism compendium and portions of the CCC and Tridentine catechisms, as well as a few other works, but do not know as much as I should. Also, what do you think of J. A. Moehler and Louis Bouyer?

J.

Pontificator said...

iohannes, you are off to a great start! The CCC is a remarkable achievement and deserves careful reading and reflection.

I commend both Louis Bouyer's The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism and Mohler's Symbolism. These two books together will help you to see both the commonalities and differences between Catholicism and Reformation Protestantism.

I also recommend Karl Adam's The Spirit of Catholicism and Henri de Lubac's Catholicism.

I recommend the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II and anything and everything written by Pope Benedict/Ratzinger. The gospel rings forth truly and powerfully in the writings of both men.

I should also mention Thomas Howard's very helpful book On Being Catholic.

If you have specific topics that are of interest to you, do let me know and I'd be happy to make specific recommendations.

Iohannes said...

Thank you for the speedy and helpful response.

J.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

My friends,

I confess to being more than a bit confused by the mix of Catholic teaching I find online. Like Carrie, I am constantly being told that the Catholic Church is exactly the same Church that was given to the apostles, that its doctrines have not changed, nor will they in the future. There is this real push to show an outward and inward unity and even unanimity of doctrine and practice which is designed to give evidence that the Catholic Church is the "one true Church." It's a real "selling point" that Catholics don't have thousands of confused denominations. "Put forty Protestants in a room and you'll get forty interpretations. They can't agree on anything." This is the mantra I hear every day, and it's mighty tiresome for any Protestant who longs to have a fruitful and productive discussion with Catholics.

However, I often find what appear to be contradictory doctrinal statements from online Catholics. For example, I have never received a good explanation for the contradictions I see in Trent's condemnation of the Reformers and the more recent "separated brethren" language. Perhaps Catholics think that Protestants should be happy about being called "separated brethren" now as opposed to "cursed," but the truth is, we just scratch our heads and wonder what in the world is going on. The same is true for teachings I've read on purgatory. It's confusing, at least to me, and I don't know where to turn to get "the real skinny." Everybody has an angle, it seems.

I am encouraged by reading the comments of Pontificator and Mateo. I thank God that, from what I can tell, at least these two appear to have the integrity to not repeat bogus mantras such as the "30,000 Protestant denominations" argument. It makes me think, "now here are a couple of folks who are interested in having a reasonable discussion without all the rancour." And I truly appreciate the significant and thoughtful comments I have found here from these Catholic friends.

Some Catholics are not afraid to say that they may view things somewhat differently at certain points than official teachings would dictate. Nor do they see this, I suppose, as disqualifying themselves from their faith, nor compromising the "one Church, semper eadem" mandate. However, my impression is that Catholics think we Protestants should somehow know intuitively just who the best Catholic writers are and who we should stay away from both online and in books. Now I am not an academic (obviously). But I am a reader. How am I, as a Protestant, to know who is "good" to read and who is not? Frankly, it shouldn't be up to me to decide. I cannot know intuitively who is "good" and who is not, nor do I have the time to research it fully and decide for myself. So I rely on others to make their cases for the best source materials. Obviously, I get differing opinions from different groups. The traditionalists want me to read Gerry Matatics because he represents "true Catholicism." The e-pologists want me to read Steve Ray and Scott Hahn because Matatics is a heretic. I am not in a position to know whose advice to take, who is right. Each group claims the other is "not part of the true Catholic faith."

I submit that there is enough confusion out there amongst the Catholic rank and file that Catholics should cut Protestants a little slack regarding the official teachings of the Catholic Church, and not just assume that Protestants only want to mischaracterise Catholic teaching. I think I can speak confidently for myself and for most of the other Protestants here that the last thing we want is to misrepresent Catholic doctrine in our dialogue. If I can get just one Catholic to understand that many Protestants have a legitimate complaint regarding our confusion about Catholic doctrine, then I think we have grounds to move forward in truly productive discussion.

Having said all this, as I prepared this comment on Wordpad before coming here to post it, I see that Pontificator has made some specific reading recommendations. Thank you, Pontificator, for those recommendations. Now how do I know you're steering me in the right direction?! ;)

Humbly desring God's best for all,

Pilgrimsarbour

Mateo said...

First of all, Carrie, I'm genuinely sorry for having misunderstood your intention. Still, I don't really appreciate the statement "Who can keep up, you guys can't even agree on stuff. And that is sorta the point." But I'll come back to that in my, albeit insufficient, response to pilgrimsharbour.

I definitely understand the confusion that must come when encountering real Catholic theological debate after hearing the apologetic techniques of many online Catholics. I do believe that the Catholic Church is ultimately the one Church founded by Christ, but to think that that means that there is no change, no disagreement, no conflict within the Church is just absurd. Also, to forget the unity among the Reformed churches, the Lutheran churches, the churches of the Anglican communion, and to rail against the supposed 40,000 denoinations must become annoying for Protestants, especially those Protestants in the "magisterial" traditions of Protestantism (not Free Church or Anabaptists, etc.) All of these techniques ignore history AND ARE NOT TYPICAL OF REAL CATHOLIC SCHOLARSHIP. Pace Carrie, this is not merely an apologetics technique to make the Catholic Church "a moving target". It is an acknowledgment that, even with the Church being guided by the Holy Spirit (as I believe), the Revelation of Christ is an infinite mystery and treasure that we finite human beings continually fail (or are unable) to grasp perfectly and fully exhaust. Certain formulations as formulations, even of "infallible" popes and councils, are in need of constant reflection and even deepening. This has its dangers, as we have seen after Vatican II, but abusus non tollit usum.

Despite all the mockery of the medieval theologians, the "scholastics", that is exactly what many of them did. They argued their heads off about the Trinity and the Incarnation, let alone about the more clearly "debatable" points. There was severe disagreement between Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus in the 13th and 14th centuries, between the Dominicans and Jesuits in the 16th century, between New-Scholastics and the Nouvelle Theologie in the 20th. Look, this is how the Church has always been; it has never been this a-historical set of propositions that both Catholic and Protestant apologists want to reduce it to. Nevertheless, the groups I mentioned above, for the most part, have remained faithful and within the boundaries of orthodoxy, which leads to my next point.

Disagreements among Catholics only undermine the flat, a-historical view of some Catholic apologists, not the view of itself found in the Catechism or the writings of the popes (which, by the way, are the first places to go to figure out what Catholics believe, though their in-depth defense must often be found elsewhere. New Catholic Encyclopedia is a great resource to start with. And of course Thomas Aquinas himself could never hurt either, as long as you remember that orthodox Catholics can disagree with him on many points.) As I have suggested, orthodoxy is not a set of propositions. I have thought about it as a circle which provides the playing field for "orthodox" thinking, with boundaries that exclude what the Church has found to be heresy. Serious disagreement can take place within that circle (think, most interestingly of all, of the radical disagreement between our "Arminians" the Molinists, and our "Calvinists", the Dominicans, which were both TOLERATED by the RCC.) The Church has the right and obligation to provide boundaries for these theological discussions, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Mateo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mateo said...

I should qualify my recommendations of starting points by saying that you should take this advice only if I have said anything which makes me worthy of trust.

Pontificator said...

I want to second Mateo's latest comment.

The Catholic Church is a living 2,000 year old community of faith. Diversity and conflict have always been part of her life, which is precisely why the Church quickly found it necessary to establish doctrinal boundaries. The interpretation of these dogmas remain an ongoing challenge, for as culture and conceptuality changes, so it becomes necessary for the Church to penetrate to the truth that the dogma expressed in the dogma and to restate it. Mere reiteration of formula is insufficient. The apostolic faith is deeper, wider, and older than the historically-conditioned propositions in which it is expressed. Continued debates often reveals the inadequacy of a doctrinal formulation, thus compelling further refinement and clarification.

The Catholic Church is not a confessional Church in the way of either the Reformed or the Lutherans. This does not mean that she does not have an authoritative body of teaching. Of course she does. But this teaching is embodied in the totality of her mystical life--in catechesis, liturgy, art, magisterial teaching, infallible dogma, and the lives of the saints.

I understand that in polemical debates, the Catholic Church is sometimes presented as a uniform, monolithic community, free from doctrinal controversy and misunderstanding. This is of course nonsense. The Church lives in history in faith and hope, striving to speak the truth she has received. She changes in the way that a living person changes.

The Catholic Church is the same Church that she was in the 16th century and yet different.

All I am asking you folks here on Beggars All is to stop the ignorant polemics and become informed of what the Catholic Church teaches today. This may not always be easy, I grant; but an effort can and should be made. You will still continue to disagree with the Catholic Church, but at least your disagreements will be honest and accurate.

The two Schwertley pieces that have been published so far are a disgrace. This man is clueless about the Catholic Church. He has not understood what he has read and so he can only misrepresent. Read the sources yourselves (the CCC should always be the first book you pick up) and then check your interpretations with informed Catholics to see if you are understanding the sources properly. This second step is crucial. Please stop assuming that you know Catholicism better than Catholics do. Think of yourself as attempting to learn a foreign language. Though Reformed and Catholics may share, to a certain extent, a common vocabulary, the fact remains that the communal grammars in which these words are embedded are different. Hence the possibility of misunderstanding is high.

As Inigo Montoya explained to Vizzini: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Carrie said...

The two Schwertley pieces that have been published so far are a disgrace. This man is clueless about the Catholic Church. He has not understood what he has read and so he can only misrepresent.

Can you tell me specifically what in the Schwertly pieces are a "disgrace"?

B/c as I said before, I don't believe that what you and others call a misrepresentation necessarily is. You have admitted that there is a diversity of interpretation in Catholicism and also a "development" of ideas so if I or someone else present another Catholic's interpretation or a historical reference, who are you to say it is incorrect?

The second point I mentioned before is that often in these type of discussions what you are objecting to is how the Protestant rephrases a logical end to a Catholic assertion. Hence, since you must pay a debt for your sins through penance and/or purgatory, that implies that Christ has not already paid part of the debt of sin. You may not like things stated that way, but that is a legitimate assessment in my mind.

Anyway, I plan to address some of these ideas in a post but I just wanted to answer briefly here. I am tired of the accusation that I am purposely misrepresenting Catholicism and/or I don't read authoritative sources. Go back through my posts (even on my own site) and you will see that I quote often from official sources.

Machaira said...

The Catholic Church is the same Church that she was in the 16th century and yet different.

Pontificator,

I'm going to tell you an Mateo the same thing. All of the "pontificating" you guys are doing doesn't change the fact of the matter. My quote of you seen above, along with your attempts to present a softer, more gentle Purgatory, demonstrates your willingness to embrace total contradictions. The RCC believes it operates under infallible councils and infallible popes. How in the world can infallible pronouncements made by infallible councils and popes be altered? By definition they cannot. How is it that Christ can effect the "perfect" removal of sins, (the very teaching of Hebrews 10), and yet there remain the need for expiation and propitiation of residual sins? This too is a contradiction. And in case you are about to object to my use of the words expiation and propitiation in regard to Purgatory, know that these are the words used by one of your popes about what happens in Purgatory.

Indulgentiarum Doctrina

Solemnly Promulgated By His Holiness, Pope Paul VI On January 1 1967

For this reason there certainly exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth a perennial link of charity and an abundant exchange of all the goods by which, with the expiation of all the sins of the entire Mystical Body, divine justice is placated. God's mercy is thus led to forgiveness, so that sincerely repentant sinners may participate as soon as possible in the full enjoyment of the benefits of the family of God.


This same pope says the sins must be expiated, "in the life beyond through fire and torments or "purifying" punishments." (Chapter 1)

You can't have your cake and eat it too guys. Let's not hear any more of this garbage that protestants just don't understand or are misrepresenting you.

Richard Froggatt said...

For this reason there certainly exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth a perennial link of charity and an abundant exchange of all the goods by which, with the expiation of all the sins of the entire Mystical Body, divine justice is placated. God's mercy is thus led to forgiveness, so that sincerely repentant sinners may participate as soon as possible in the full enjoyment of the benefits of the family of God.

You can't have your cake and eat it too guys. Let's not hear any more of this garbage that protestants just don't understand or are misrepresenting you.

Change the emphasis and distort the meaning. Let's not have any more of this garbage that (some) Protestants are not misrepresenting us.

L P Cruz said...

Mateo,

I commend you for your honesty in saying

I remember one of my professors in college saying (too many times!) that all Catholics are ultimately Protestants because they have to evaluate the claims of the Catholic Church, ultimately, as individuals. Now, as a Catholic, I am comforted by the belief, grounded in Scripture (I believe), that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and that God has not abandoned us after the last apostle died and so on. Also, when reflecting on a theological issue, I draw upon the richness of the Catholic faith and her Catholic doctors to make an informed judgment, but (ultimately) I am still making a judgment, even if I simply assent to the catechism's formulation, and this does not make me some sort of crypto-Protestant.


As an ex-RC, I have always believed RCs are doing what you describe there, except some are in denial.

I absolutely agree with this, one can not escape making private judgments the only difference, is which authority will one trust and as to why such authority is sound. It now boils down to one's accepted presuppositions and here is where we can dialog ie on first principles.

LPC

Pontificator said...

Machaira, with all respect, it is not at all clear to me that you do understand what the Catholic Church means by "the temporal punishments of sin." But I will grant that the phraseology of Paul VI, which you cite, is certainly open to to the kind of interpretation which you fear--and indeed which I would fear, too.

Every text, of course, needs to be interpreted. As I have attempted to argue in my comments above, the key to understanding the Catholic teaching on "temporal punishments" is to realize that these punishments are not external acts of divine vengeance but are the existential consequences of our sins to ourselves and to others. Since God has willed that we suffer these consequences, they are and must be an expression of divine justice.

Catholics and Protestants alike must acknowledge that a clarification of doctrine is now taking place in the Catholic Church with regards to the notion of "the temporal punishments of sin." This clarification has been authoritatively expressed in the CCC:

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. (1472)

The language of punishment is retained, yet note the insistence that this "must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin." It is sin that brings with it, by divine ordination, its own punishment.

Note also that the temporal punishment of sin is explicitly connected with that "unhealthy attachment to creatures" that sin causes within us and from which we must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory."

Note also the possibility that perfect contrition, i.e., conversion that flows from charity, can "attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain." When the individual has been healed, when he has been delivered from his personal attachment to sin through love of God, the temporal punishment is ended. There is no further penalty to be imposed, precisely because the temporal penalty of sin is identical to our bondage to sin. Once we have been liberated from sin, there can be no more "punishment."

I believe it is accurate to say that according to the CCC, sinful attachment to evil and creaturely goods is the temporal penalty and punishment of sin. To speak of pardoning or remitting this temporal punishment is simply a juridical way of speaking of that existential liberation from the power of sin which God achieves in our lives, either before death or afterwards. John Paul II also appears to have identified temporal punishment with that attachment to sin from which we must be purified:

Temporal punishment expresses the condition of suffering of those who, although reconciled with God, are still marked by those "remains" of sin which do not leave them totally open to grace. Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love. In this process God's mercy comes to his aid in special ways. The temporal punishment itself serves as "medicine" to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the "satisfaction" required in the sacrament of Penance.

The problem is the distorting dominance of forensic language in the Western tradition. We are all struggling to move beyond this dominance, not only in our articulation of the sacrament of penance and purgatory but also in our articulation of the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. Rather than jettisoning the language, which would be an un-Catholic way of doing things, the Catholic Church has chosen to supplement and correct this language with terminology and images that better express the absolute love and mercy of God and his transforming power, thus achieving a reinterpretation of the forensic. I cite Pope Benedict's latest encyclical, esp. the remarkable section on the last judgment (par 41-48), in support of my position. I believe that the present teaching of the Catholic Church on purification and penance is now more firmly grounded in Scripture and the wider catholic tradition. It is certainly less vulnerable to Reformation objections.

Is this "clarification" of "temporal punishment" contrary to the Council of Trent? That is a decision only the Magisterium can make, and since it is the Magisterium itself that is stating this clarification, the Catholic, at least, must assume continuity of teaching, not discontinuity. The Protestant critic is of course free to assert that the Catholic Church has simply changed her teaching, but I hope that he will at least acknowledge this "change" by altering his polemic.

Let's not get lost in secondary matters. The Catholic Church teaches that the infinite Creator is a triune community of absolute love. The Catholic Church teaches that in his love for humanity, God himself has assumed our human nature to reconcile sinners to himself. The Catholic Church teaches that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God himself has offered to himself a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the world. The Catholic Church teaches that when God speaks to the sinner, through his ordained minister, the words "I absolve you for your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," the sins of the penitent are utterly and completely forgiven and the penitent is reborn in the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church teaches that God justifies sinners by Christ alone, by grace alone, and that by his act of justification he incorporates the individual into the divine life of the Holy Trinity. All of this is very, very good news!

Mateo said...

Great post, Pontificator, though I don't think you need to defer to the Magisterium to establish "continuity." There has always been the "medicinal" tradition in reflections on Purgatory and an emphasis on the intrinsic punishment of sin. If anyone want evidence to back these assertions up, let me know. But it couldn't hurt to start with Dante's Purgatorio!

Pontificator said...

Mateo, I agree with you completely on the Purgatorio. I just read it for the first time about six months ago. I would love to see your evidence of the medicinal dimension of purgatory. If you'd prefer not to post it here, please send me what you have at tigana99 [at} hotmail.com.

J said...

Pontificator,

"that by his act of justification he incorporates the individual into the divine life of the Holy Trinity. All of this is very, very good news!"

I apologize for this being a bit off topic. But to be frank, Justification in the Catholic sense is not good news at all. A person in the Roman scheme can never know they are saved. They can never be sure they are going to heaven. They can never be certain they stand in a right relationship to God eternally. They're in and out, in and out, in and out of justification. Pontificator, you may fall from grace before you die and be lost, according to your system. Your ultimate destiny hinges on you maintaining your justification.

I'm sorry, the Roman Catholic scheme of salvation is nothing compared to the promise that is found in Scripture.

You can KNOW you have eternal life (1 John 5). There is therefore now no condemnation (Romans 8:1). He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossian 1:13). Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn (Romans 8:33,34)? Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). A study of 1 Peter 1:3-9 thrills the soul. And much more.

That is good news. Not the system where you're reconciled, unreconciled, reconciled, unreconciled.

I submit that in the Roman Catholic scheme you are in mortal sin right now, unless you have fulfilled and are fulfilling the greatest commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart. Or maybe you hold the untenable position that to not fulfill that command is not mortal sin.

The doctrine of justification found in the Roman Church is not the teaching of the bible. It is another gospel. Current ecumenical trends do nothing more than confuse those who do not root themselves in the Scriptures.

I ask you in all seriousness Pontificator, how do you KNOW you be in heaven (following the Roman Catholic scheme)?

Have you considered reading Owen (specifically volume 5 of his works), Turretin, Hodge, Buchanan, Edwards and the like on justification by faith alone?

CPKS said...

One important thing about penance that does not seem to have been sufficiently acknowledged: it is a participation in the one perfect sacrifice by which mankind has been redeemed for all time.

Just as by baptism we participate in Christ's death (cf. Col 2:11-12), so in suffering, joyfully accepted for this sake, we participate in "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col. 1:24).

What can possibly be lacking in Christ's afflictions? For as the Church has always taught, Christ's sacrifice is far more than sufficient to cancel "the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this [God] set aside, nailing it to the cross." (col. 2:14).

Only that it should receive the full participation of the faithful. From the earliest times, Christians recognized that the atonement was not merely a juridical declaration, external to themselves. This is something that was understood by the church since the earliest times, when the death of martyrs was celebrated with joy, a joy shared with the angels, whose joy is simultaneously praise to the Son of God (cf. the ancient hymn Gaudeamus Omnes). This is what S. Paul meant when he said "I have been crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). Still more it is what Our Lord commanded when he said: "Take up your cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24, cf. 10:38). What was for once and all time, is also an eternal event into which the faithful enter mystically, through the most holy sacrifice of the altar, through joyful acceptance of penance, and especially through the glory of holy martyrdom.

Therefore, Pope Paul VI was exactly right to speak of the holy souls in purgatory expiating their sins; but the expiation is not simply theirs: they have been privileged to participate in the one perfect expiation. There is no contradiction between the perfection of Christ's atonement and its sacramental making-present in the holy sacrament of the altar, in the deaths of the holy martyrs, and even in the humble offering-up of everyday annoyances. This is the living sacrifice as lived eternally by the mystical body of Christ.

In connexion with the word "perfect" - particularly as it is used in Heb. 10:14 - it is important to look beyond, and not to be be misled by, the connotations of the modern English word. Originally the Latin "perfectum" meant "completely done" or perhaps "carried through". Really it is the Greek word we should concentrate on: "teteleioken". The ordinary meaning might be "finished" or "accomplished". It derives from "telos" - "goal" - "it has reached its goal". But for Christians, this was a word with a much deeper meaning; for as God has revealed to us through the writings of S. John the Evangelist, this was the last word spoken from the Cross by our Saviour: "tetelestai" (Jn 19:30).

Carrie said...

You can KNOW you have eternal life (1 John 5). There is therefore now no condemnation (Romans 8:1). He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossian 1:13). Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn (Romans 8:33,34)? Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). A study of 1 Peter 1:3-9 thrills the soul. And much more.

Amen!

Current ecumenical trends do nothing more than confuse those who do not root themselves in the Scriptures.

Double Amen! :)

Pontificator said...

Dear J,

Thank you for your concern that I know the assurance of salvation. I too wish to know and experience the love of Christ.

Perhaps you do not know, but I am not a life-long Catholic. My acquaintance with Lutheran and Reformed theology goes back many years, and with all respect, if assurance of salvation was my burning issue (as in fact it was for many years), I would turn toward Lutheran theologians and most especially Luther. I would most decidedly not turn to confessional Reformed theologians. Reformed double predestinarianism uncuts assurance at its deepest level, which is why Reformed Christians have always wrestled with the problem of assurance and the fear of reprobation, as the history of Puritanism well demonstrates.

St Augustine knew that certainty of final salvation was unattainable for the Christian, because in the absence of special revelation no believer could know that he was one of the elect and therefore would persevere in faith to the very end. But Calvin disagreed: he insisted that certainty of perseverance was possible and even necessary for the believer. This was, as Phillip Cary has noted, Calvin's most radical theological innovation. I've been told that Bucer preceded Calvin in this innovation, but in any case, the fact remains that it is a 16th century Reformed innovation. As far as I know, no Augustinian before Calvin and Bucer ever asserted that one could be certain of one's perseverance in the faith. Certainly Eastern Orthodox have never believed that such certainty was possible.

The Lutheran solution to the problem of assurance is both simpler and healthier: assurance is grounded upon the unconditional promise of Christ given to us in Word and Sacrament. This promise does not, however, include a guarantee of perseverance: it is a promise of forgiveness and acceptance at the present moment, and that is sufficient for faith. This is why Lutheranism retains a catholic understanding of sacramental efficacy (see Eric Gritsch and Robert W. Jenson, Lutheranism, and David Yeago, "The Catholic Luther"). Sacraments must be efficacious, as the catholic tradition has always taught, if they are to be that objective external word to which faith may cling (see especially Phillip Cary, “Why Luther is Not Quite Protestant: The Logic of Faith in a Sacramental Promise,” Pro Ecclesia [Fall 2005], 447-486). Luther's solution is easily absorbed into Catholic theology, as evidenced in the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration:

34.We confess together that the faithful can rely on the mercy and promises of God. In spite of their own weakness and the manifold threats to their faith, on the strength of Christ's death and resurrection they can build on the effective promise of God's grace in Word and Sacrament and so be sure of this grace.

35.This was emphasized in a particular way by the Reformers: in the midst of temptation, believers should not look to themselves but look solely to Christ and trust only him. In trust in God's promise they are assured of their salvation, but are never secure looking at themselves.

36.Catholics can share the concern of the Reformers to ground faith in the objective reality of Christ's promise, to look away from one's own experience, and to trust in Christ's forgiving word alone (cf. Mt 16:19; 18:18). With the Second Vatican Council, Catholics state: to have faith is to entrust oneself totally to God, who liberates us from the darkness of sin and death and awakens us to eternal life. In this sense, one cannot believe in God and at the same time consider the divine promise untrustworthy. No one may doubt God's mercy and Christ's merit. Every person, however, may be concerned about his salvation when he looks upon his own weaknesses and shortcomings. Recognizing his own failures, however, the believer may yet be certain that God intends his salvation.


J, I enjoy the legitimate assurance of God's love and forgiveness that is given to me in the gospel, no more, no less. The assurance that I enjoy as a Catholic is grounded upon the absolute and infinitely gracious love of God revealed to me in Jesus Christ and communicated to me each Sunday when I partake of his body and blood.

Unlike the Reformed, but in agreement with my Lutheran and Arminian brethren, I do not believe that one can know with absolute certainty that one will persevere in faith to death. I believe that Reformed conviction on this point is both wrong, presumptuous, and tragically misleading.

I pray each day that God will preserve me in the faith. I do not live in dread. My hope in my final salvation is real, solid, confident; for I believe that God's grace is stronger than my weakness and sin. Faith in God's love and forgiveness at this present moment is sufficient. My heavenly Father provides me my daily bread.

Machaira said...

St Augustine knew that certainty of final salvation was unattainable for the Christian, because in the absence of special revelation no believer could know that he was one of the elect and therefore would persevere in faith to the very end.

Here's your special revelation.

1Jn 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

There are many more just like the preceding Pontificator, but if you fail to admit that this verse means exactly what it says and twist it into a pretzel, then there is no point in giving you more.

. . . but in any case, the fact remains that it is a 16th century Reformed innovation.

As I have domonstrated, this patently false. When it comes to the doctrine of "assurance" Rome is the innovator.

Pontificator said...

Machaira, I'm afraid that you have not demonstrated your point. There is a critical difference between knowing one possesses eternal life now, in the present, and knowing that one will never renounce or turn away from that life through sin and apostasy. The Calvinist view that one can know and should know that one will persevere in faith (i.e., know that one is predestined to glory and not to hell) is a 16th century Calvinist innovation. And on this point, all of Christianity (Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Arminians) agree against the Calvinists and their misinterpretation of Holy Writ.

Carrie said...

And on this point, all of Christianity (Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Arminians) agree against the Calvinists and their misinterpretation of Holy Writ.


This is not accurate.

The majority of my friends are not Calvinists but they are at least 1-pointers (PoS). The assurance of salvation for those who have saving faith in Christ is clear from scripture, even for the non-Calvinists.

Pontificator said...

Carrie, the sentence you quote is indeed accurate, because my comment is addressing knowledge of predestination and thus perseverance. Please read and understand what I write before reacting.

It may be embarrassing for Calvinists to acknowledge that on precisely this point theirs is both a minority position within the history of Christian doctrine, adamantly rejected by the large majority of Christian Churches, and also a late development to boot.

Machaira said...

There is a critical difference between knowing one possesses eternal life now, in the present, and knowing that one will never renounce or turn away from that life through sin and apostasy.

Eternal life that is possessed presently and then lost is not eternal life at all. It's a contradiction in terms.

Assurance of election is explicitly taught in Scripture.

2Pe 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall . . .

Carrie said...

Carrie, the sentence you quote is indeed accurate, because my comment is addressing knowledge of predestination and thus perseverance. Please read and understand what I write before reacting.

Then I think your comment that Calvinist believe they can know (100%) that the are part of the elect is inaccurate. What every Christian I know believes is that IF they are in possession of true saving faith then they WILL persevere. I think the Calvinist would say the same but since I am not a 5 point Calvinist, I cannot answer that with assurance (ha).

It may be embarrassing for Calvinists to acknowledge that on precisely this point theirs is both a minority position within the history of Christian doctrine, adamantly rejected by the large majority of Christian Churches, and also a late development to boot.

Remnant theory? Majority opinion is meaningless when it comes to God.

As for late development, I'm not sure what exactly you mean since Augustine believed in predestination as you have admitted previously. But again, majority or historical documentation (some think remnant writings have been lost/burned)don't prove anything, God's Word does.

Pontificator said...

Eternal life that is possessed presently and then lost is not eternal life at all. It's a contradiction in terms.

That, of course, is the Calvinist (mis-)interpretation of Scripture. But in matter historical fact, for 1600 years all Christians (Eastern and Western) interpreted the Scriptures as teaching that the justified/regenerate can fall from the life of grace. This position continues to be taught today by most Protestants (Lutherans and Arminians).

This is true even for St Augustine and his followers: Augustine made a clear distinction between those who are justified and those who are predestined to final perseverance. All who are justified possess eternal life; but only a portion of the justified are predestined to glory, i.e., will persevere in faith. The latter is a subset of the former. And since no one can know, apart from a special revelation, that they are predestined to glory, the two groups are in exactly the same existential condition: they cannot and do not know they will persevere in faith; they can only pray for the grace of perseverance and work out their salvation in fear and hope.

Calvin (and Bucer?) changed all of this by asserting that if one knows one has saving faith, then one knows one will persevere in faith. But then the question becomes, How do I know I have saving faith? And since Calvin could not deny that apparent believers do indeed turn to sin and fall away from Christ, he had to introduce the notion of counterfeit faith, i.e., a faith that looks like authentic faith but in fact is not, to account for this fact. It is at this point that double predestination rears its ugly head and undermines assurance. Not only must I analyze myself to determine whether I truly believe in Christ but I must also look for signs that my faith is genuine.

This is all quite novel in the history of Christian doctrine. One can of course continue to assert that this is the one and true interpretation of Scripture; but please at least acknowledge that this interpretation eluded post-apostolic Christians for 1600 years and that it remains an understanding restricted to Reformed Christianity.

If assurance is our burning concern, I suggest we must turn to Luther and his unification of gospel-promise and sacrament. For Luther, one does not need to reflectively know one has faith. One simply believes the gospel and clings to the promise. The promise is one's assurance. Luther knows that any attempt to introspectively examine one's life to confirm faith leads back to despair. The reflexive turn back to self is damnation. The critical point here is that the gospel-promise, according to Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, does not include a guarantee of perseverance. Arminians agree.

Dr Cary, in his Pro Ecclesia article cited previously, explains:

"Calvin’s theology is foundational for the Protestant tradition in that it is the first theology in the wake of Augustine to inculcate and systematically support the belief that Christians on earth are already saved for eternity. This requires a crucial departure from Augustine, in that Calvin must teach that individual believers can and should know they are predestined for salvation (since all who are saved are predestined to be saved, I cannot know I am saved without knowing I am predestined to be saved). We can call this, Calvin’s epistemic thesis about predestination. This epistemic thesis, not double predestination, is Calvin’s radical innovation in the doctrine of predestination. To support it, both logically and pastorally, the rest of his thinking must take a shape that is quite different from any previous Christian theology. Above all, Calvin’s epistemic thesis implies that true faith in Christ be permanent, persevering to the end. This implies (contrary to Augustine’s view) that all who truly believe in Christ receive the gift of perseverance, which implies in turn that if you know you truly believe, you can know you will persevere and be saved. ...

"Calvin’s epistemic thesis therefore makes Christian faith essentially reflective. Since the gospel does not tell me directly whether I am predestined for salvation, I must work by inference, and the crucial premise of my inference must be that I believe in Christ. From the fact that I presently believe I can infer that I will persevere in faith to the end--from which it follows that I am predestined for salvation."

Cary's lengthy essay is illuminating and I cannot commend it strongly enough.

But again, majority or historical documentation (some think remnant writings have been lost/burned)don't prove anything, God's Word does.

Of course, every sect believes it has the true interpretation of Scripture. On the point we are now discussing, Calvinists are not just arguing against the hated Catholics; they are also arguing against the Lutherans and Arminians, who certainly know their Bible as well as the Reformed do.

As a personal aside, in my opinion the Christian folk who seem to live best and most impressively the joy and assurance of salvation are neither the Reformeds nor the Lutherans nor the Catholics but the Pentecostals. But wrestling with assurance is not unknown among Pentecostals either.

CPK Smithies said...

Regarding the assurance of one's own salvation: if we are to appeal to logic, and say that there is a contradiction in the idea of "losing eternal life", then we must attend to an ambiguity in the term "eternal life".

The ambiguity is between a first sense - "a kind of life that is eternal" - and a second sense - "a life that is possessed eternally". These do not mean the same and we are not entitled to confuse them. In the second sense, it clearly is contradictory to say "John can lose a property possessed eternally by John". In this second sense, the eternity applies to the possession and not to the quality of the life possessed. In the first sense, the eternity applies to the quality of life; but it is not in the least illogical to suppose that someone might lose a quality of life that in itself is everlasting, any more than it is illogical to suppose that someone might after five minutes lose an object that will last for hundreds of years.

This raises an important point: the word "eternal", like the word "infinite", does not affect the logic of gain or loss. Consider two imaginary railway trains. One is going on a thousand-mile journey. The other is going infinitely far. If I get on the first train and stay on it, then I am going to travel a thousand miles. If I get on the second train, I am going to go on and on for ever. But in either case, I can equally get off the train. The fact that I jump off the second train doesn't mean that the train isn't going on for ever. The fact that the train is going on for ever doesn't prevent me jumping off it.

Relating the train analogy to the two senses of "eternal life", we may say that the second train is like the first sense of "eternal life" - a life which of its nature goes on for ever. But the second sense of the term "eternal life" corresponds to a different kind of train entirely - one that I cannot ever leave.

Which sense was intended by the biblical authors? Certainly they intended the first sense. Did they also intend the second - that eternal life is like a train you can't jump off? This is the Protestant innovation. To support it from scripture, it is not good enough to produce passages that do not resolve the ambiguity. Rom 8:38-39 assures us that we cannot be pushed: but can we nevertheless jump?

The Apostle John (1 Jn 4:13) assures us that from what he has written we may "know" that we have eternal life; and what he wrote (1 Jn 4:12) was that he who "has" the Son has life; and he who "has not" the Son of God has not life. We also "know" (v. 18) that any one born of God does not sin. And we "know" we are of God (v. 19). He writes that some sin is "mortal" (v. 16).

Traditionally, the church has always understood "eternal life" as a gift from God which we do not possess as of right, but as something that God has made available to us through the atonement accomplished by his Son, so that by dying with him (cf. Col 2:11-12) we may share in his new life. The Protestant innovation consists in transferring our confidence in the promises of God into confidence in our possession of their fruits. Are we entitled to make that transference?

Carrie said...

The Protestant innovation consists in transferring our confidence in the promises of God into confidence in our possession of their fruits. Are we entitled to make that transference?


Actually it is you who are trusting in your own efforts to attain salvation. I trust Christ's promise that he will never lose me:

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."" John 6:37-40

Your faith says that Christ can lose you which would make him a liar.

Carrie said...

as teaching that the justified/regenerate can fall from the life of grace. This position continues to be taught today by most Protestants (Lutherans and Arminians).

Do you actually have some data to back up that assertion or is that your personal opinion? B/c this has not been my experience and as I said, I hang out with mostly non-Calvinists.

Another note, you won't find too many classical Arminians. As I said, every non-Calvinists I know believes in the assurance of salvation.

Pontificator said...

Carrie, I do not have any statistics to support my claim that the majority of Protestants do not accept the Calvinist position on eternal security. I'm happy to retract my claim if confronted with hard evidence.

But we might play with some statistics,as given at adherents.com.

In the Arminian camp:

Lutherans (64 million)

Methodists (70 million)

We can also include the overwhelming majority of Anglicans (73 million) in the Arminian camp. Though evangelicals make up an increasing number of Anglicans, only a small percentage fall into the Calvinist camp. But to be generous, let's guesstamate that 10% of Anglicans are Calvinists, which leaves us with:

Anglicans (66 million)

So that brings the number of Arminians to approximately 201 million.

Over against this we have the Churches of the Reformed tradition. We will assume, though this is unlikely, that all take a Calvinist position on eternal security:

Reformed (75 milion)

The two big question marks are Baptists (70,000), Pentecostals (105 million), and the African indigenous sects (110 million). I know absolutely zip about the AICs.

Baptists and Pentecostals fall all over the place. Some Baptists take the Calvinist line, some do not. Pentecostalism, on the other hand, has Wesleyan roots; but I know that some Pentecostals take the "once saved always saved" view. But even if we place 90% of the Baptists (63 million) and 25% of the Pentecostals (26 million) in the "once saved always saved" camp, and add in also the 7 million Calvinist Anglicans, we end up with 170 million in the Calvinist camp, which means that Arminians make up the majority of worldwide Protestants.

Of course, the figures can be fiddled to work the other way. This is all guesswork and of little value. I think my initial claim is correct, but I'm more than happy to withdraw it if anyone has some good counter-evidence.

Carrie said...

Pont,

Two questions just strictly out of curiousity.

Out of Protestant blogs, do you mainly read Reformed blogs? If so, why?

EgoMakarios said...

Luke 12

40Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

41Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?

42And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

43Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

44Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

45But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

47And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.


What's all this business about stripes?

Captain Kangaroo said...

"What's all this business about stripes?"

No need to be concerned. Nothing to see here. Move along. These are not the droids you're looking for.... Uhhhh I mean, once we are saved there are no temporal consequences of sin relative to our lives. Nope. It does not apply here. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain... uhhh I mean, pay no attention to uncomfortable scriptures that warn the saved against sinning. Move along.

Machaira said...

Uhhhh I mean, once we are saved there are no temporal consequences of sin relative to our lives. Nope. It does not apply here.

No one here said any such thing. Consequences for sin through the Fatherly discipline of God - yes. Hebrews 12 demonstrates as much. Expiation of sins after death already expiated by Christ - absolutlely not. Again, Hebrews says as much.