Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Catholicism for Dummies


I checked out Catholicism for Dummies from my local library. I cannot remember how I first came across the book, but as it is written by two priests (both with doctorates) from EWTN and offers a simple look at the Catholic faith I thought it was worth a peek.

I realize there is only so much to be expected from a “for Dummies” book, but considering that there are 67 five-star ratings (out of 81 total) on Amazon as well as the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, I expected a good overview of the Catholic faith. I was particularly interested in how the authors would handle the Catholic views on salvation.

Chapter 1 is entitled “What It Means to Be Catholic” and has an interesting opening paragraph:

“Being Catholic means living a totally Christian life and having a Catholic perspective. To Catholics, all people are basically good, but sin is a spiritual disease that wounded humankind initially and can kill humankind spiritually if left unchecked. Divine grace is the only remedy for sin, and the best source of divine grace is from the sacraments, which are various rites that Catholics believe have been created by Jesus and entrusted by him to his Church.” (pg. 9)

All people are basically good? Have the authors not read the third chapter of Romans? A “basically good” humankind simply wounded by sin – sounds like all we need to pull ourselves up out of the muck is a little help. And that actually appears to be a correct assessment:

“Grace is a totally free, unmerited gift from God. Grace is a sharing in the divine; it’s God’s help– the inspiration that’s needed to do his will. …Like a spiritual megavitamin, grace inspires a person to selflessly conform to God’s will, and like the battery in the mechanical bunny rabbit, grace keeps the soul going, going, going, and going. Granted purely out of God’s love, grace is necessary for salvation. Catholicism says that grace is an undeserving and unmerited free gift from God that wasn’t owed to his people. As a gift, however, a person can accept or reject it. If accepted, it then must be cooperated with. Grace is given so that the will of God may be done. Grace must be put into action through those who receive it.” (pg 11, emphasis mine)

Note that the cooperation of man with grace isn't just about acceptance of grace (as I have heard asserted by some RCs), grace must be put into action by the recipient to accomplish its purpose. How is that salvation by grace alone??

From here the book moves into the basics of Catholicism and a “who is who” in the Church (priest, cardinal, etc.). Chapter 3 and 4 actually address “faith” and Christ, but I could not find a basic definition of the Catholic gospel. The closest things I could find were scattered across a couple of chapters:

“As Christ died, so, too, must mere mortals. As he rose, so shall human beings. Death is the only way to cross from this life into the next. At the very moment of death, private judgment occurs; Christ judges the soul. If a person was particularly holy and virtuous on earth, the soul goes directly to heaven. If an individual was evil and wicked and dies in a state of mortal sin, that soul is damned for eternity to hell.” (pg. 60, emphasis mine, discussion of The Apostle's Creed)

“In addition to getting rid of original sin, Baptism also imparts or infuses sanctifying grace, a special free gift from God. Sanctifying grace makes the new Christian a child of God and applies the merits of Jesus Christ, his suffering and death for sins, to the new Christian personally, because the person being baptized is mentioned by name. Catholicism believes that sanctifying grace allows human beings to enter heaven. It justifies them in the eyes of God by uniting then with the Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ…Normally you receive this special grace only through the sacraments, but God does provide some means to make sure all men and women have the potential and possibility of salvation.” (pg. 96-97, emphasis mine)

“The Catholic Church believes that the saints are ordinary and typical human beings…who made it to heaven not by being perfect but by persevering…Catholics believe this means that the saints were sinners who never gave up and never quit on God. They never stopped trying to do and be better.” (pg. 286)

“Heaven is so fantastic, wonderful, and desirable, that human beings should want to go there more than wanting anything else in the universe. Catholics believe that everybody should be willing to do anything to get there, which means that loving and obeying God is a must.” (pg. 287)

“St. Augustine taught that God offers everyone sufficient grace to be saved, but it only becomes efficacious (successful) for those who freely accept and cooperate with that grace. In other words, God gives every human being the chance and possibility of going to heaven. Whether they get beyond the pearly gates, however, depends on the individual person” (pg. 100, emphasis mine)

"Catholicism teaches that it's by grace alone that we are saved and that both faith and works are necessary for salvation" (pg. 371)

To that last quote I respond, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6).

To be fair, I did not read the whole book so perhaps further explanations of Catholic salvation were included in unexpected chapters. But what I did read showed the same inconsistencies in claiming salvation by grace alone but then negating it with an emphasis on the works of the recipient of that grace (a recipient who only needed a bit of help to overcome the "wounding" of sin). In the end I was reminded of what Gerstner said: “The Protestant trusts Christ to save him and the Catholic trusts Christ to help him save himself.”

In discussions with online Catholics I am often accused of not comprehending the depths and finer points of the Catholic soteriology, yet my viewpoints were entirely consistent with this book. Yes, this isn't an official source of church doctrine, but it is a contemporary, simplistic rendering of the Catholic faith by two well-educated Catholic priests (with an imprimatur). Certainly their interpretation of Catholic doctrine carries a bit more weight than the lay Catholic e-pologist.

Front cover of the book, the author’s credentials:

Rev. John Trigilio Jr., PhD, ThD – priest, pastor, EWTN co-host of Council of Faith, and President of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, PhD - priest, pastor, EWTN co-host, and managing editor of Sapienta magazine

One Amazon reviewer said: "As a retired college professor and as a former Director of a Pontifical Center for Catechetical Studies, I fully endorse and highly recommend this book to both non-Catholic and Catholic alike. Long ago in the seminary, we referred to a few indispensable books as VADEMECUMS, from the Latin "vade" (to take) "cum" (with). In other words, a 'vademecum' was any book which you wanted and needed to "take with you" wherever you went since it was so helpful. "Catholicism for Dummies" can and will be a vademecum as many people who read this will hopefully dispel erroneous ideas, prejudices, false conclusions, myths, fears, lies, and misinformation on Catholicism yet prolific in our time." Rev. Robert J. Levis, PhD

80 comments:

James Swan said...

I suggest wearing the extra-thick armor for the next few days.

Machaira said...

In the end I was reminded of what Gerstner said: “The Protestant trusts Christ to save him and the Catholic trusts Christ to help him save himself.”

That about sums it up. Thanks Carrie. Very interesting.

Mateo said...

Well, it might be important to note that their vision of salvation is almost certainly a Molinist one (which is very similar to Arminianism, in fact). This is the idea that grace disposes everyone so that they are able to be saved but that the human will has to take the next step. The Pelagian position that we don't need interior grace for salvation is rejected, but the difficult consequences of Augustinian doctrines of grace are avoided. In the Molinist construal, election is based on the foreknowledge of who will accept and who will reject God's grace. This has the happy consequence that it is only the human person who is responsible for their ultimate damnation. Molinism solves some knotty problems for Christian soteriology (God being the author or sin, God being unjust in damning, etc.), but it is only one option within the Catholic Church. Jaroslav Pelikan argues that Molinism was only made a "guest" within the Augustinian stream of Catholic theologians (Thomas, Scotus, Banez, etc.) after it was nearly condemned in the early 1600s.

Anyway, as a Catholic (and a Thomist), I believe (and it is orthodox to believe) that the free response to God's grace is an _effect_ of God's providential will. If this were not so, salvation would not be wholly a gift from God, completely dependent on God. But this prompts the question (nearly the same if not the case as that which you Calvinists must be asked quite frequently)--why do some receive this grace of final salvation and not others? Why were some chosen and not others? Well, though St. Augustine counsels us not to answer this question, I believe that some are saved while others are damned because of nothing besides the completely unmerited love of God for those whom He has chosen (for no reason but that He willed to do so). This has the unfortunate consequence that God has loved the reprobate (those who were not chosen by God) less than the elect, but there is no other way of squaring that circle unless you move towards the semi-semi-Pelagian position of the Molinists, which is represented in the quotations you gave from Catholicism for Dummies.

Although the average Catholic (and even many Catholic theologians) tend towards Molinism these days, there are a great number of imprimaturs on the works of Garrigou-Lagrance (it always irritates me when too much is made of "it may be printed"), for instance, who was a Thomist that virulently rejected Molinist semi-Pelagianism. Read his book on predestination some day. I bet you will have an impossible time figuring out how his position differs from your Calvinism. His position, by the way, was also endorsed at times by John Paul II.

Therefore, it seems to me that you should make it clear that there is a range of orthodox views on these matters within the Roman Catholic Church. The conclusions you draw from Catholicism for Dummies are much too sweeping. I am a "papist" who profoundly disagrees with these statements. I find them to be at odds with the Augustinian center of the Western Church, though I don't think that these authors are heretical per se.

What are the implications of this fact for your conclusions? Well, to say the least, you should do what your Reformed ancestors did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Show how the Roman Church has strayed from the true Catholic position which runs in a straight line from Paul to Augustine to Anselm to Thomas Aquinas to Scotus to Thomas Bradwardine to the Reformed Doctors and the post-Tridentine Dominicans and so on. You would have an ally in such an attempt in this papist .

Oh, by the way, the Calvinists also used this technique against the Arminians to show them that even the Church of Rome was closer to the Biblical position than they were. The Reformed Doctors of the seventeenth century accused the Arminians of being Jesuitical for their semi-semi-Pelgianism, but these Reformed theologians knew something that most do not know today--that the position of the Jesuits is not at the center of Catholic orthodoxy. I hope you can learn from them; it would put a new light on some of these tired old issues.

Mateo said...

By "their" in the first line of my post, I should say, I meant the vision of salvation in Catholicism for Dummies.

Carrie said...

(it always irritates me when too much is made of "it may be printed"),

Just an FYI, Mateo, I always look for (and emphasize) an imprimatur b/c other Catholics have told me it is important. In fact, the reliability of my Bible was questioned by an online RC b/c it did not contain the imprimatur. At a minimum, anyone can publish a book on Catholicism - having the imprimatur at least is a step up in my mind as far as reliability.

One of the authors was also quick to point out the imprimatur on the book:

"YES. Unlike the other Catholicism books (Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Catholicims and The Everything Catholicism Book), Catholicism For Dummies is the ONLY one to have been given an IMPRIMATUR and NIHIL OBSTAT from the Archbishop of Indianapolis and can be used for high school CCD, RCIA and College and Adult Education classes." source

Pontificator said...

Actually, I agree with Carrie that the presentation of original sin and grace in Catholicism for Dummies, when judged by Holy Tradition and magisterial teaching, is extremely weak. I do not know if this is because the authors decided to dumb down Catholic teaching to make it accessible to "dummies" or because they are simply liberal Protestants in Catholic vestments. I suspect that former, given their connections to EWTN. I would also note that the book is equally weak on the sacrificial death of Christ and his victory over sin and death in the resurrection. Clearly the book was not intended as a theological primer.

Consider this quoted sentence: "To Catholics, all people are basically good, but sin is a spiritual disease that wounded humankind initially and can kill humankind spiritually if left unchecked" (p. 10). What do the authors mean when they say that "people are basically good"? I think that what they are trying to say is that humanity is created in the image of God and that this image continues in human being, despite the ravages of sin. But the sentence is easily construed along the lines of a modern optimism about human nature that is alien to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Council of Trent. The authors do, however, insist that regeneration by the Holy Spirit, normatively communicated in Baptism, is absolutely necessary to salvation. Without such regeneration, human beings are both internally incapable of resisting the power of sin and incapable of sharing in the divine life which is heaven (pp. 96-97). Hence the authors cannot be justly accused of Pelagianism; indeed, they are clear in their rejection of Pelagianism:

"Pelagius, a heretic who claimed that humans could earn their way to heaven and that humans were in no need of God's assistance. This heresy was condemned, and the Church solemnly taught that every good work depended on divine grace; alone, humans could do nothing but sin, but with grace, they could do great things. Pelagianism, on the other hand, taught that humans could save themselves. Augustine rightly condemned Pelagius' idea that good works alone, without faith, could make a person holy" (p. 371).

Carrie quotes the following passage:

"Grace is a totally free, unmerited gift from God. Grace is a sharing in the divine; it’s God’s help–-the inspiration that’s needed to do his will. … Like a spiritual megavitamin, grace inspires a person to selflessly conform to God’s will, and like the battery in the mechanical bunny rabbit, grace keeps the soul going, going, going, and going. Granted purely out of God’s love, grace is necessary for salvation. Catholicism says that grace is an undeserving and unmerited free gift from God that wasn’t owed to his people. As a gift, however, a person can accept or reject it. If accepted, it then must be cooperated with. Grace is given so that the will of God may be done. Grace must be put into action through those who receive it” (p. 11).

Not surprisingly Carrie zeroes in on the synergism of the passage, but the authors strong assertion of the sola gratia and the unconditional love of God should first be noted: God loves sinful humanity freely, gratuitously, infinitely, unconditionally. His love intends every human being, without exception.

But what about the statement that the grace of salvation must be either accepted or rejected? Is this not true? Do we not hear this from evangelical pulpits throughout the world? Of course, as it stands the statement needs to be qualified by a strong assertion of God's prevenient grace to make it theologically acceptable, but I daresay that most evangelists and preachers speak equivalent words when exhorting their audiences, especially nominally Christian audiences, to conversion and active faith. The image of salvation as a gift that needs to be opened is common in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Gerstner's statement "The Protestant trusts Christ to save him and the Catholic trusts Christ to help him save himself" may be a memorable polemical soundbyte but it is also rightly and equally directed against most Protestant, evangelical, and revivalist preaching.

I have not read Catholicism for Dummies, though it's been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years now. I honestly do not know if I would ever recommend it to an inquirer, precisely because of its superficial theology; but it does seem to have a bunch of helpful stuff in it about Catholic practices and customs.

Carrie said...

But what about the statement that the grace of salvation must be either accepted or rejected? Is this not true? Do we not hear this from evangelical pulpits throughout the world?

I specifically pointed out that cooperation wasn't only about acceptance, but about "putting into action".

Yes, there are some Evangelicals that would say the gift must be accepted, but none I know would say the grace must be put into action to results in salvation. This a a huge difference and which is why Gerstner's quote is spot on.

Carrie said...

Mateo,

I had to rush off before finishing my response to you.

Therefore, it seems to me that you should make it clear that there is a range of orthodox views on these matters within the Roman Catholic Church. The conclusions you draw from Catholicism for Dummies are much too sweeping.

I don't know that my conclusions could be considered "sweeping" since you have implied that the Molinist slant (if indeed the viewpoints are Molinist) is the majority opinion of modern Catholics.

but these Reformed theologians knew something that most do not know today--that the position of the Jesuits is not at the center of Catholic orthodoxy. I hope you can learn from them; it would put a new light on some of these tired old issues.

Who decides who is "at the center of Catholic orthodoxy"? How do I know who is at the center and what does that matter anyway if all are in the circle? I also don't understand how you can call these "tired old issues" when they are within the circle of orthodoxy.


Okay, I have two questions for you. First, based on the Compendium of the Catechism below, how does one "die in the grace of God"?

209. What is meant by the term “heaven”?
By “heaven” is meant the state of supreme and definitive happiness. Those who die in the grace of God and have no need of further purification are gathered around Jesus and Mary, the angels and the saints.


Second question: what is meant by "the necessary means to attain it" in the quote below from the Catechism of St. Pius?

38 Q: What grounds have we to hope that God will give us Heaven and the means necessary to secure it?
A: We hope that God will give us Heaven and the necessary means to attain it, because the all-merciful God, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, has promised it to those who faithfully serve Him; and, being both faithful and omnipotent, He never fails in His promises.


No set up, I am just interested in your answers. If you don't have the time or don't feel like answering that is fine.

Mateo said...

Well, your conclusions are sweeping because you assume that these semi-Pelagian sounding statements are typical of Catholic theology. My argument was that a profoundly Augustinian soteriological perspective is not only orthodox but that it was the Molinist position which was almost condemned and accepted as simply a "guest" within the "circle".

Now, I should clarify on the "tired old issues"; I thought that I should do so before I posted, but didn't. Anyway, what I meant was not that the issue of predestination is "tired"--God forbid! What I meant was that the polemical positions between Catholics and Protestants on the blogosphere are often rather "tired". Catholics accuse Protestants of denying free will and being heretical for their views of double-predestination, though they would be (and often are in my experience) astounded to find Thomas Aquinas and post-Tridentine Thomists holding views very much like the ones they are condemning. Protestant accuse Catholics of compromising the Sovereignty of God and the utter dependence of human beings on Him for their salvation, without recognizing that almost everything (if not everything) they believe about predestination is "within the circle" of Catholic orthodoxy AND that their Reformed ancestors knew this to be true and drew deeply on the Dominican Thomist tradition of theological reflection on predestination. I hope that clarifies that statement.

On the issue of being more or less orthodox, I think your use of the image of a "circle" helps. There is a center and a periphery in a circle, right? Must we go further?

And who cares if the majority of Catholics are Molinists? That position solves some very knotty problems and, more importantly, is in harmony with certain parts of the New Testament Canon, though I believe it to be incorrect. Also, I believe that the Augustinian soteriological heritage of the Church needs to be reappropriated. That is a vocation for me. But the fact that I can do that and remain an orthodox Catholic implies that much of Protestant polemic is misplaced AND that the issue of predestination is not really a serious reason for schism between Catholics and Protestants...

Let me know if anything here remains unclear.

Mateo said...

Now for your questions:

First of all, I'm not sure what the first question was which you wanted me to answer. This is probably because it is so late and the craziness of the holidays. Sorry! Did you want me to answer the Catechism's question? Well, I'll give it a shot:

"How does one "die in the grace of God"?

209. What is meant by the term “heaven”?
By “heaven” is meant the state of supreme and definitive happiness."

MATEO: This sounds good to me!

"Those who die in the grace of God and have no need of further purification are gathered around Jesus and Mary, the angels and the saints."

MATEO: I really am not sure about the upshot of this question. You may be asking one of two things, as far as I can tell. To the first thing, it is a short answer, to the second a long answer, and I'll try to do both. Even in the long answer, I will still be leaving things out, so please don't assume that silence means denial.

The first possibility is that you meant to ask about the "no need for purification". I believe that no impure thing can enter heaven. Though I believe that at the moment we are saved (and even, in a sense, in our eternal state of being elected), we are IN CHRIST and thus share in His infinite purity, it is still the case that we have the "fuel of sin" in our members. This tendency to sin which always remains with us and the scars of sin which we carry in this life "must" be washed before we enter the presence of God, though this final purification is still an effect of Christ's atonement and God's grace.

For the second possibility, I thought you might be asking about the conditions for "dying in a state of grace." We die in a state of grace if we have been granted the grace of perseverance which is totally unmerited. This gift (the grace of perseverance) is an effect of God's choice to predestine us beyond all time. God's predestination is made possible by His will, expressed in His plan of salvation which culminated in the atoning death of the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

But God's predestination, as I noted, takes place in eternity and so "must" be made manifest in time within the life of the believer. (By the way, I always put "must" in quotation marks because, ultimately, God can do whatever He wants.) The greatest sign of our predestination is that we have an active faith (a faith which has been formed by love in the words of Thomas Aquinas, as he paraphrases St. Paul's "faith working in love"). This faith is rooted in the soul only by the grace of God. But a living faith is one which does not stop with a mere assent to revealed doctrine but moves to a desire for God (love). It is this love-formed faith which expresses itself in repentance and works of love for others. But, in my view, these are effects of a love-formed faith which is an effect of God's grace which is an effect of God's completely unmerited election.

But, in the soul of the believer, the foundation of any good works is his justification before God, that is, his instantaneous translation from being a son of Adam in sin to being a son of God in grace, a co-heir with Christ. This change of status, though, also entails a change in "ability" or "power". Before we were justified, we could do nothing which pleased God. After we are justified, the Holy Spirit works in us in a different way than he did before. Now, we are able to respond to His prompting and "love our neighbor" in such a way that it is pleasing to God because of, to use St. Paul's phrase, "the love which has been poured into our hearts".

God still only recognizes these as pleasing to Him because of His promise to Himself, but this promise makes it so that there is some sort of (very weak) proportionality between these "works" and God's reward of heaven, of Himself! But, in the final analysis, when God crowns our works with Himself, he is only crowning His gifts to us. Nothing any human being can do, even in a state of grace, let alone before justification, could ever strictly merit the "reward of the just", which is the Beatific Vision.

But it is possible, within Augustine's system, that God's grace was made manifest in a human being's life AND YET BE THE CASE that that person not receive the grace of perseverance. This is where the Catholic image of "losing" one's salvation comes into the picture. The love-formed faith cannot "merit" the grace of perseverance. Nothing can! We must always remain dependent on God's loving will for our salvation and never count on our faith, let alone our works, as complete guarantees of our final salvation. It is only the grace of election, which can never be lost. Nevertheless, God is a God of mercy and we may confidently hope that He will save us because of His love. The signs of that loving choice, as I have said, are an initial love-formed faith which manifests itself in initial repentance and baptism. After initial justification, the signs of election are a love for the Sacraments (for a Catholic), good works done out of a love for God, repentance of sin (non-repentance indicates a lack of grace which is expressed by the idea of "killing the grace which is in you"), a continuous increase in the alignment of one's will with the will of God, etc.

All in all, however, I think it is very, very difficult to bring God's unmerited choice to predestine into line with the Christian life as lived out on this earth. Even in the most evangelical circles, people look to their faith experience or something like that for assuring them that God has saved them since we can't look into God's eternal plan, and I think (ultimately) that that is OK from an existential perspective. But it cannot be the whole story. No one has expressed this tension better than St. Paul: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who is at work within you to will and to do His good pleasure."

OK..that was much more reflective than clear and scholastic. :-) I apologize for that, but I hope it will provide the possibility for further discussion and clarification. Please try to appreciate the difficulty of bringing these two planes (the eternal plane of election and the temporal plane of the Christian life) into the same discussion...

I'll answer the second question in a separte (hopefully shorter!) post. Thanks for your patience.

FM483 said...

I skimmed the interesting comments from Mateo and others. I notice that there is a gross error by lumping all non-Roman Catholics together as "Protestants". A reading of Martin Luther and the Book Of Concord of 1580 wouldquickly show that the Reformers all considered themselves catholic in the historic and theological sense of that word. In fact, they considered themselves too "Catholic" to continue to tolerate the various unscriptural abuses which had gradually entered the church over recent centuries.

My Roman Catholic sister is always apalled whenever I tell her that I am also of the catholic faith, but just not of the "Roman" persuasion. The Reformers basically considered themselves to have maintained the ancient apostolic faith and that the church of Rome had interjected unscriptural beliefs surrounding the papacy and veneration of saints as well asother things specifically dealt with in the Lutheran Confessions of 1580. The name "Lutheran" was adopted as a badge of honor and was never intended to be a description related to Martin Luther. The name "Lutheran" was merely adopted to differentiate the orthodox ancient apostolic catholic faith as professed by Luther and other Reformers from the contaminated teachings of Rome and all others. Just a note of correction and understanding. The point I am making is that the Luthean position is being overlooked in this entire discussion. Topics such as the "Sovereignty of God" and "Double Predestination" and the real question of "why are some saved and not others" are always being addressed from a Calvinistic perspective and the Lutheran scriptural one overlooked completely.

Frank Marron

Mateo said...

"38 Q: What grounds have we to hope that God will give us Heaven and the means necessary to secure it?
A: We hope that God will give us Heaven and the necessary means to attain it, because the all-merciful God, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, has promised it to those who faithfully serve Him; and, being both faithful and omnipotent, He never fails in His promises."

This answer is rather good, I think, though it may fail to recognize the foundational role of faith as the root of our "faithful service to God." If our faith is not enlivened by a love for God (which will inevitably bear fruit in an avoidance of sin and a love for our neighbor), then it is a dead faith which does not save. But sometimes it is easier to simply refer to the fruit and not the root in order to avoid antinomianism, though I think that this elision often leads to legalism, which is equally bad. Anyway...

But the larger context of this answer must taken into account that those who go to heaven are only those who are elected by God. BUT those who are elected by God before any foreseen faith or "merits" will, as a consequence, be those in whom are found the necessary conditions for receiving the gift of God's holy presence, the Beatific Vision. These "conditions" though are impossible for unregenerate man. Only the Holy Spirit, in applying the merits of Christ to the individual, can make it possible for us to do what is necessary but impossible by nature. Those "necessary" things are nothing more than believing in God, hoping for His promises, and loving God with our whole hearts. Now, these three theological virtues--faith, hope, love (which can really be collapsed into many Protestant definitions of "faith" which are often quite expansive)-- WILL inevitably produce an avoidance of sin, repentance, and love for our neighbor (good works). These things are pleasing to God and make heaven, in part, a reward in addition to being a gift (though the "reward" is ultimately nothing more than a crowning of God's gifts to us). "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." There is a connection between our sowing to the Spirit and our reaping of eternal life.

But we can only sow to the spirit with the continuous support of God's grace and the Holy Spirit. Even our acceptance/cooperation/affirmation of God's work in our lives is ultimately an EFFECT of God's loving will.

Remember, though, that this question above seems to be attempting to address the very difficult question to any Augustinian soteriology:

How do I know that I AM one of the chosen?

Well, the only answer we can give is that the questioner should depend on the mercy of God. Look to the Cross, which is the greatest sign of this mercy. Seek to bring out the signs of God's grace in your life (in Paul's words "Work out your own salvation"). But, ultimately, just continue to believe in, trust in, and love God, resting in His sovereign love.

Mateo said...

fm483:

Well, I should clarify by saying that I meant nothing by contrasting Catholic and Reformed. I think we all know what we mean when we use the term "Catholic" today (i.e. Roman Catholic), but I appreciate your concern. At least when it comes to confessional Protestantism, these doctrinal debates are in part debates over who can rightly claim to be the heirs of the "true" Catholic tradition. So...I understand what you are saying, though I think that what I wrote was appropriate given the context. Don't you agree?

In my studies of post-Reformation orthodoxy ("Protestant scholasticism"), I have becoming increasingly impressed with the catholicity of "confessional Protestantism" if that may be contrasted with what may be (dangerously) referred to as "evangelical Protestantism." And this coming from a papist! Richard Muller's scholarship is particularly inspiring.

Anyway, it should also be noted that the Reformed theologians of the 17th century also believed themselves to be just as Catholic (well...more Catholic!) than the Lutherans, let alone the Papists.

And, indeed, it would be interesting to get the Lutheran answer to these issues on the table, though, before the Formula of Concord, the issue of predestination generated some significant controversy between the Philippists and the Gnesio-Lutherans. So...I'm not sure if it's safe to say there is one Lutheran answer, esp. if one hopes to get Martin Luther himself on board! The Reformed have always claimed Luther as a "double predestinarian" (against Lutheran orthodoxy's Arminianism avant la lettre) and they certainly have a case, don't you think?

Pontificator said...

Mateo, I very much appreciate your thoughtful and instructive comments. It is helpful, I think, for the folks on this blog to encounter Catholics of Augustinian-Thomistic persuasion.

I am, I'm afraid, one of those Catholics who believe that the Augustinian construal of grace and predestination is responsible for a terrible deformation of the gospel in the Western tradition, which reached its zenith in TULIP and Jansenism. I therefore welcome the modern Catholic movement away from the absolute predestination of Augustine. I do not know if this means that the Catholic Church is now actually embracing Molinism. I suspect, rather, that modern Catholic theologians are suspicious of the scholastic terms of the debate--hence the move toward a more personalist construal of the matter. It is this employment of personalist categories that is reflected in the quoted passages cited in Catholicism for Dummies. When translated into preaching, Catholic personalism sounds very much like Arminianism. This is not semi-Pelagianism but it is synergistic, very much along the lines of the Eastern Fathers.

For my latest rumination on predestination, see my "Disbelieving the Predestinarian God." My earlier articles are collected here. I welcome your thoughts on them.

Timothy Athanasius said...

Mateo,

I just wanted to say that that was some good stuff. Enjoyed reading it and hope to see more contributions from you. It is striking to see how close Roman Catholic and Reformed Catholic soteriologies are. The one issue that seems to be peculiarly Roman is the notion of merit (which includes meriting on behalf of those in Purgatory). How do you understand this in the Roman-Reformed context?

FM483 said...

To Mateo and any other interested reader:

Of all the various denominations, including that of Roman Catholicism, the Lutherans have the least to say on most subjects! The primary reason for this is because of the docrinal belief that one can easily be led astray into fale beliefs whenever you stray from Scripture. Hence, the age old question which goes to the heart of most discussions concerning why are some saved and not others is dealt with simply by stating that the bible is not clear as to the answer! The Scripture does however state that God wishes all men to be saved and come tothe knowledge of truth. The Scripture simply does not address to the satisfaction of our human reason and curiosity why not all men receive the gift of faith by the grace of God. All we know is that all men are conceived in iniquity and are slaves to sin and through Word and Sacrament(baptism) God supernaturally breaks through the darkness toinstill saving faith in mankind, even infants. However, man does retain free will, but not to grasp after truth, but to continue to sin. Hence, man can always reject the free gift of God(Ephesians 2:8ff) and often does so.

Saint and Sinner said...

Both fm483 and Pontificator (on his blog post) have misused 1 Timothy 2:4.

Several non-Calvinist exegetes have admitted that the text does not prove a universal salvific will in the non-Calvinist sense.

And yes, Scripture is clear as to why some believe and others don't.

Carrie said...

Mateo,

Thank you for the in-depth answers. I am sorry my questions were a bit unclear, I was looking for descriptions of only certain phrases in the catechism quotes which I quoted in my question.

I have some comments/questions for you but I am just poopping in quickly on my lunch break so I'll have to ask later.

AND that their Reformed ancestors knew this to be true and drew deeply on the Dominican Thomist tradition of theological reflection on predestination.

Actually, I believe in was Gerstner (who I quoted in the post) that tried to claim Aquinas as a Protestant, so this isn't a complete surprise.

I'll be back.

Carrie said...

I am just poopping in quickly on my lunch break

Okay, that was suppose to be "popping".

That was an unfortunate typo.

Mateo said...

"Actually, I believe in was Gerstner (who I quoted in the post) that tried to claim Aquinas as a Protestant, so this isn't a complete surprise."

Interesting.

I've actually seen this said a few times before. I'm not really sure what it means since Aquinas was a theologian at the time of an undivided Christendom. Also, as I have noted, his views on predestination, which I've expressed in my posts, were definitely held (arguably more strongly than Thomas himself) in the decades after Trent and in our own time, and they were not condemned. What would be interesting is to see where the Jansenists diverge from the Thomists in these matters and go "outside the circle"; I have not yet studied this matter though.

So Thomas' views on predestination, etc., were and have always been orthodox from a Roman Catholic point of view. You can maybe argue that much more of Protestant soteriology is in fact more Catholic than we ordinarily think (like unconditional election, infallible grace, etc.), but it doesn't make much sense to call Thomas or his followers "Protestants." Anyway...just a few thoughts on that.

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhology said...

Carrie,

the reliability of my Bible was questioned by an online RC b/c it did not contain the imprimatur

Are you seriously serious?
Where did you find that one?

Captain Kangaroo said...

"the reliability of my Bible was questioned by an online RC b/c it did not contain the imprimatur"

That wouldn't surprise me much, although having been among thousands of Catholics for some 50 years, I've not encountered one who used that argument--but hey, it takes all kinds and perhaps it just didn't come up. Besides, I'd expect that any Christian should know that only the King James Version is authorized. How else can you be sure you have the right “Scriptura” to go with your “Sola?” :-D

Carrie said...

Are you seriously serious?

Yes, an RC commenter on my old blog made the comment. It was the first time I had heard of the imprimatur which is why it stuck in my mind.

Carrie said...

Yes, an RC commenter on my old blog made the comment. It was the first time I had heard of the imprimatur which is why it stuck in my mind.

Okay, I found the old comment.

It was actually an indirect way of questioning my Bible by trying to launch into a canon debate. How can I be sure my Bible is the Word of God unless I trust the authority of the Catholic Church to tell me it is the Word of God, blah, blah.

Saint and Sinner said...

Mateo,

First of all, let me say that I and probably the rest of those who visit this site enjoy having you stop by. Serious theological talk is such a relief. [This goes to Pontificator as well.] Thank you.

Secondly, I'd like to ask you to define what 'faith formed by love' means. Does it have an Aristotelian background? How does it differ from the Protestant concept of 'living faith', fiducia?

Lastly, it sounds like you've either went to seminary or read theological works for a hobby. Can you suggest a Systematic/Dogmatic Theology that would accurately represent a conservative Catholic viewpoint? [I'll take suggestions from Pontificator as well. No, I don't want Aquinas' Summa. Preferably, something fairly modern. It also needs to carefully define terms so that non-Catholics can understand it. Try to suggest something around or below $50. Thanks.]

Pontificator said...

S&S, I recommend Michael Schmaus's six volume Dogma. It's out of print but easily available through used booksellers. See especially vol 5 ("The Church as Sacrament") and vol 6 ("Justification and the Last Things").

Pontificator said...

I'd like to ask you to define what 'faith formed by love' means.

I look forward to reading Mateo's response to your question, but I'd like to offer my own nonscholastic response.

Why the Catholic insistence upon love? Because God as Holy Trinity as an eternal communion of love. Salvation is nothing more and nothing less than incorporation into this eternal communion. To be saved is to be made a creature who is capable of sharing in the love of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.

From a Catholic perspective, faith which is devoid of the theological virtue of love is incapable of participating in the divine life of the Holy Trinity. Hence the insistence that saving faith is informed by love. This love is not a work of the natural man: it is a gift of the Holy Spirit; indeed, it is the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and supernaturalizes our human nature. Or to put it another way, justification is theosis.

Mateo said...

S&S,

Well, thank you so much for your encouragement. I really enjoy discussing and clarifying these matters across confessional divides, and I hope to present a different face for the "papists" than what one often finds among the online Catholic apologists online. I don't mean that in a condescending way or anything like that; it's just important for non-Catholics to know that there are different approaches to these issues within the fold (even when you exclude the "liberals"). James Swan, for one, has made great use of the Catholic historians of this century (Lortz, Jedin, Wicks, etc.) There seem to be huge implications of this fact for how websites like this should handle Catholic apologists...

As for a book to recommend, I have never really done much work with books on dogmatics. There are certain authors that I trust, but, given my historical concerns, I often try to study Thomas directly (and Thomas is my guide in all matters theological.)

A couple of books I'd recommend (among others) are Jared Wicks' Cajetan Responds and Arvin Vos' book on Aquinas and Reformed Thought. The second one is very smart.
http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Calvin-contemporary-Protestant-thought/dp/0802800602/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199322170&sr=1-1

Anyway, if there are any specific issues of Catholic thought that you would be interested in, I'd love to give recommendations, but I don't really have that one book (besides the Catechism) since specialists in specific areas tend to handle issues more effectively, at least in my view. I hope that makes sense.

Now to faith formed by love. Well, of course, the terminology of "formed" has some Aristotelian connotations, but, as with much medieval Aristotelianism, the use of the term "form" here is simply addressing a "common sense" reality. In the case of faith, it is love (i.e., a desire for God) which completes faith. Faith (in the scholastic definition of the term) is fundamentally a matter of the intellect, not the will. So faith alone is not an act of the "whole man". The will is not engaged. Without the will being involved, faith is incomplete. For Thomas, faith without love is not even a virtue. So it is love which moves "mere" faith into the will and makes it a living faith, a faith which actually moves the person beyond simply believing stuff. (I must say, though, that Thomas' view of faith also presupposes the will to trust God's word, so this is a bit more complicated than my presentation has suggested.)

This intellectual understanding of t he term "faith", Catholic theologians knew in the Middle Ages and in the 16th century, does not exhaust the Biblical account of faith. This is how some theologians understood Romans 3. They argue that the Paul's more robust understanding of faith (which includes the will) actually could be the sole condition for justification. One Tridentine theologian actually says that one is justified by this kind of living faith ALONE. He uses the Scriptural language of believing with your "whole heart" to say that the "whole heart" includes the intellect and the will. And if the whole person is engaged (which is of course only possible by the grace of God), then God's regenerating act "can" take place.

I think this is really exactly the same as "living faith", though it might be different from "fiducia". As I understand it (or at least as Trent understood it), fiducia was confidence that the promises of God apply to ME. It seems to me that, if this is an appropriate understanding of the term, it is both too narrow and too wide. It is too narrow because I believe that a belief in the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Atonement, etc. are also conditions for salvation, not merely the promises of God and their application. It is too wide because, though I am confident in my hope that God has had mercy on me through Christ, I do not have the same sort of certainty in MY PERSONAL salvation as I do that Christ is God. Think of it as a syllogism:

If one believes, hopes in, and loves God, that person will be saved for eternity.

I have believed, hoped in, and loved God.

Therefore, I will be saved for eternity.

I believe the major premise with the certitude of faith because it is revealed in Scripture.

I have a very strong confidence in the minor premise, though I only have a moral certainty since God has not directly revealed to me that he has worked in my the kind of faith, hope, and love, which is an effect of the grace of perseverance.

Therefore, I only have the same kind of certainty in the conclusion. Does that make sense?

So...it seems to me that fiducia, while a part of salvation in a Catholic understanding, should not be the whole story. In Thomas' view, fiducia is a perfection of hope. It is a strong confidence that God will give you the promises because of the evidences of grace in one's life. But a condition for that hope is a belief in the Revelation of Christ and a desire for God which, since it is an effect of grace, is a reason for this hope.

OK...another long answer. I hope this is somewhat helpful. Please let me know how I can clarify!

Saint and Sinner said...

First, thank you for your response.

"Or to put it another way, justification is theosis."

So, your response is that justification is being conformed to the image of the glorified Christ? OK.

"Why the Catholic insistence upon love?"

Thank you, but I didn't really ask for why Catholics insist upon love since both the Reformed and Catholics insist on being conformed to the image of Christ as a necessary process in a believer's life. Nor do the Reformed deny mystical union with Christ.


I guess my real question would be: how does 'faith formed by love' *save*?

Is this Aristotelian terminology in which faith is not something in itself but takes the 'form' of love in the actual world? In that case, wouldn't this be more aptly termed 'faithfulness' or obedience to God's commandments?

Thank you again for your answer.

S&S

Saint and Sinner said...

mateo,

I just read your answer after replying to pontificator.

Thank you.

Mateo said...

On merit, in response to Timothy Athanasius:

Well, I'm going to sort of put this one back to you.

Basically, to start this conversation, I really would like a better sense for why Calvinists reject "merit", especially with all the constraints that the Augustinian tradition has put upon the term:

1) There is NEVER any strict merit with God. He is infinite; we are finite.

2) Merit denotes that there is some sort of appropriateness of the reward to the act. Basically, if God rewarded Hitler's sinfulness with His presence, there would be something seriously problematic, even unjust.

3) This appropriateness--this relationship of the act and the reward--is completely impossible for the unregenerate. There is NO merit before justification.

4) Among other things, the reason for this fact is that the righteous deeds of the regenerate are creditable to the Holy Spirit, God Himself. Since it is God's work, God's reward is fitting.

5) But obviously the Holy Spirit is not being rewarded, we are. So how are these works attributed to us? They are attributed to us because we affirm the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are open to the Spirit. This is what is meant by cooperation.

6) But even this cooperation, this openness, is still an effect of God's providential will and direction. We cannot even "cooperate" with the Holy Spirit's work on our own, without God's help.

7) This is why merit is nothing more than God crowning His own gifts.

8) But "on the ground" this means, in Paul's words, "working out our own salvation." A better Pauline text (dominical texts are superabundant) is Galatians 6:8, where sowing to the spirit leads to the reaping of eternal life. As far as I can tell, this is really all Thomas Aquinas means by "merit". That eternal life, while primarily a gift, can also be a reward of the Spirit-led life. This is why Romans 2 actually makes sense to me, where Paul takes about God rendering unto each man according to his works. While this would mean utter damnation without Christ's work and His grace working through our living faith, there is still a sense where the Spirit-led life is rewarded with the presence of God Himself, perfect happiness!

9) But I will admit that the term merit gives the impression of a much less restrained proportionalism than I have suggested. While the Augustinian tradition (including Augustine himself) certainly used the term "merit" and while I believe that their understanding of the term is compatibile with the Pauline corpus, I do think that the term has been so circumscribed by these Augustinian exceptions, that it barely means what it means in ordinary language. This is why I think that Benedict XVI, for instance, refers to the term as an artifact of "classical theology", clearly distancing himself from it. I think this is totally sensible, though the concept (in its Augustinian construal) is a useful and even beautiful one--that the work of God's Spirit in us can be fittingly rewarded by the perfect happiness of God's presence.

10) What say you? (Oh by the way, check out Gerald Hiestand's blog "iustificare" where he is attempting to salvage the Augustinian concept of merit within a Reformed evangelical soteriology. He's a really neat guy.

Pontificator said...

how does 'faith formed by love' *save*?

I would like to affirm Mateo's response and add this:

Faith formed by love saves because it is nothing less than our participation, through the sacred humanity of the God-Man, in the life of the Holy Trinity, who is love. God deifies us and thus makes us capable of sharing in himself. (Please peruse my review of the book Grace Oecumenical.)

I am a simple man. I have a difficult time following the scholastic arguments. But however one parses the theological virtues and their mutual relationships, what is crucial is to recognize that salvation is nothing less than deification, as the Greek Fathers have taught us. This deification begins with our regeneration in the Holy Spirit and our adoption as sons in the Son. When one is indwelt by the Spirit, when one lives in the Triune God, one need not worry about one's acceptance by God, because that acceptance is necessarily presupposed. God can no more reject his sons and daughters than he can reject his Son, in whom they dwell.

Here also, I suggest, is an important contact with John Calvin and his assertion of the salvific priority of union with Christ.

johnMark said...

Garrigou-Lagrance's book Providence is online if anyone wants to read it.

Mark

Mateo said...

There is no question about the importance of theosis to the patristic tradition. Even Augustine says that "God became man so that man may become God." And it is a beautiful teaching.

But since I've been answering everything along Thomist lines, I just thought I'd note that Thomas talks about this issue in terms of "participation" in the divine life. We have been taken up into a kind of union with the divine nature (he likes the image of adoption here), but we always preserve our own identity and of course we are never in any way a God "by nature"; we are perfected humans in the image of Christ's resurrected nature.

Thomas' image is that of friendship with God. This is how he understands the beatific vision and the end of human beings--the culmination of human happiness. Of course, this friendship IS the love of God for us and the love for God which He creates in us. Just my two cents.

FM483 said...

Saint & Sinner said:
"Both fm483 and Pontificator (on his blog post) have misused 1 Timothy 2:4.

Several non-Calvinist exegetes have admitted that the text does not prove a universal salvific will in the non-Calvinist sense."

And yes, Scripture is clear as to why some believe and others don't."

MY RESPONSE:

1Tim 2:4 reads as follows:
1 Tim. 2:4
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.


So, this indicates that God wishes ALL men to be saved. Where does the Scripture clearly say way why some are saved and others not? In your human reason and intellect you might assume you know the answer, but there is no clear verses of Scripture why some are saved andnot others. Sure, I know all men are born depraved and hostile to God. And that God loved all mankind so as to sendHis Only Son as an atonement for the sins of the entire world(John 3:16). But why do I personally receipt the free gift of salvation(Ephesians 2:8ff) and not the man next to me who hears the very same message? All are predestined IN CHRIST to salvation. But why does one man receive the gift and the other not?There is no clear answer from Scripture. To dwell on predestination is to thwart the heart of the Gospel and the evangelical nature of the Church as commanded in Matthew 28.If all are predestined,why engage in evangelicalism? Luther insisted that we must concentrate on the REVEALED Will of God in Christ and not dwell on the hidden God Who for some reason has not chosen to make certain things clear to our fallen human intellects.

Carrie said...

But "on the ground" this means, in Paul's words, "working out our own salvation." A better Pauline text (dominical texts are superabundant) is Galatians 6:8, where sowing to the spirit leads to the reaping of eternal life.

Mateo,

How does your answer incorporate meriting for others?

2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.

Carrie said...

When one is indwelt by the Spirit, when one lives in the Triune God, one need not worry about one's acceptance by God, because that acceptance is necessarily presupposed. God can no more reject his sons and daughters than he can reject his Son, in whom they dwell.

Until you commit a mortal sin. Then you are rejected, correct?

Carrie said...

Mateo,

If I may go back to your earlier comments (sorry, I've been busy).

Well, your conclusions are sweeping because you assume that these semi-Pelagian sounding statements are typical of Catholic theology. My argument was that a profoundly Augustinian soteriological perspective is not only orthodox but that it was the Molinist position which was almost condemned and accepted as simply a "guest" within the "circle".

Says you. But obviously you don't have the authority to determine who is or who isn't more orthodox. Pontificator is a priest and clearly disagrees with your Thomist position and almost every Catholic I know would disagree. I think you are actually the first Thomist I have met. Would you deny that your position within Catholic orthodoxy is a minority (currently)?

On the issue of being more or less orthodox, I think your use of the image of a "circle" helps. There is a center and a periphery in a circle, right? Must we go further?

Again, who decides who is in the center? And on what basis? Those are rhetorical questions to point out that the arguments against the orthodox, mainstream (majority?) Molinist position are necessary.

Now, your assertion of the wide viewpoints allowed within Catholic orthodoxy bring up alot of other issues in my mind, but I don't have time to address those now.

What grounds have we to hope that God will give us Heaven and the means necessary to secure it?

Let me ask about this again since my original question was unclear. I am looking for a description of "the means necessary to secure it"? What are those "means" and why are they necessary to "secure it". If getting to heaven needs to "be secured", then why is it insecure in the first place? Or, why is heaven given in an insecure way which we must secure by said means?

Pontificator said...

Until you commit a mortal sin. Then you are rejected, correct?

I would not phrase the matter like this. Mortal sin is our rejection of love and thus our rejection of God. The sin is mortal because by this turning away from God we cut ourselves off from the source of Life and alienate ourselves from the communion of love which is the Holy Trinity. We step outside the circle of the Holy Trinity and wander in a land that is waste.

God does not cease to love us after our rejection of him. Like the good father of the parable, he ceaselessly calls us to return to him in repentance and faith.

The notion of mortal sin was well known and accepted by the Lutheran reformers and Lutheran Orthodoxy. As Luther put the matter:

"It is therefore necessary to know and to teach that when holy people, aside from the fact that they still possess and feel original sin and daily repent and strive against it, fall into open sin (as David fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy), faith and the Holy Spirit have departed from them. ... If sin does what it wishes, faith and the Holy Spirit are not present" (Smalcald Articles).

Like Catholicism, the Lutheran reformers believed that one could lose one's justification through serious sin. One can debate the particulars, but the principle itself was not a matter of disagreement.

Pontificator said...

Pontificator is a priest and clearly disagrees with your Thomist position and almost every Catholic I know would disagree.

Errr ... Mateo and I may disagree on various theological questions--we may even disagree emphatically--but there is no question whatsoever that the theological opinions of St Thomas Aquinas enjoy great authority within the Catholic Church. Scholasticism may have eclipsed in recent decades, yet Aquinas continues to exercise tremendous influence upon serious Catholic reflection. In many ways, he remains the touchstone of Catholic orthodoxy. Hence his title, the "Angelic Doctor."

The Catholic Church is a big, diverse community. She includes within herself schools of thought and spirituality (Eastern and Western) that often debate tooth and nail various theological matters (predestination and efficacious grace being two such topics), yet all are united, miraculously, in the Holy Eucharist. This diversity may be confusing to non-Catholics, but it is the reality nonetheless.

Saint and Sinner said...

fm483,

"So, this indicates that God wishes ALL men to be saved."

You have committed the exegetical error of verse isolation. From the context, the 'all' does not refer to a universal of all mankind but a universal of groups of people.

This goes the same for passages like 1 John 2:2 and John 3:16 where they speak of a universal of nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues but not necessarily everyone *in* those groups.

The rest of your arguments against Calvinism are stock-objections which I don't have the time to go into.

Lastly, the *doctrine* of predestination needs to be preached for certain pastoral purposes, but I'd agree that dwelling on the issue goes too far.

Thanks for your comment, brother.

Saint and Sinner said...

"When one is indwelt by the Spirit, when one lives in the Triune God, one need not worry about one's acceptance by God, because that acceptance is necessarily presupposed. God can no more reject his sons and daughters than he can reject his Son, in whom they dwell."

OK. Then how does the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice fit in with all of this? Or do we have different definitions of 'propitiation'?

Thanks,
S&S

Timothy Athanasius said...

Mateo,

Thanks for the answer! I cannot say that I have answer for you. All of my studies are in the area of eccesiology. I do however, as a Catholic, get a heavy dose of soteriology through these studies (e.g., sacraments, indulgences, purgatory, etc.).

Pontificator said...

OK. Then how does the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice fit in with all of this? Or do we have different definitions of 'propitiation'?

The sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory because it is sacramentally identical to the propitiatory sacrifice offered by Christ to the Father on Calvary. The eucharistic sacrifice is not a sacrifice that is added on to Calvary; it is the re-presentation of Calvary. In the words of the Catechism:

"The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit. ... The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice."

One of the best books on this subject has recently been re-printed: A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Abbot Vonier.

Timothy Athanasius said...

Fr. Kimel,

If the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the same sacrifice on the cross, then why doesn't the Eucharist take away mortal sin when the sacrifice on Calvary does?

Mateo said...

"Says you. But obviously you don't have the authority to determine who is or who isn't more orthodox. Pontificator is a priest and clearly disagrees with your Thomist position and almost every Catholic I know would disagree. I think you are actually the first Thomist I have met. Would you deny that your position within Catholic orthodoxy is a minority (currently)?"

Well, I think Pontificator has handled this subject quite beautifully in his response. We don't all have to agree on everything. The fact that you think so and say things about my lack of "authority" to make any such judgment suggests a problematic view of Catholicism as having complete doctrinal uniformity. Of course, you know about the theological liberals (sort of) in the fold, but even among devout orthodox Catholics, there is room for disagreement within the circle of orthodoxy. The important thing is that we are part of one Spirit-led people of God (the sign of whose unity across time is apostolic succession, etc.) who are (ultimately) preserved from irrevocable error by the power of God Himself (the basis for the complicated notion of infallibility). The mystery of predestination and free will is one issue where a few different solutions are considered orthodox--though certain perspectives (Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, denial of freedom, Manicheanism, etc.) are ruled out of bounds...

But this view that you have is perfectly sensible given the techniques of the E-Catholic apologists. But I've already made it quite clear in other threads that I don't share their view of the Church and its history.

"Again, who decides who is in the center? And on what basis? Those are rhetorical questions to point out that the arguments against the orthodox, mainstream (majority?) Molinist position are necessary."

I don't really understand what you mean about "the arguments against the orthodox, mainstream Molinist position are necessary." But I will totally agree that Thomism is in the minority now, though it is definitely orthodoxy (AND that it has a better historical pedigree). I will also agree that many (most) lay people tend towards a true semi-Pelagianism, though the many priests I have sat under have always emphasized the need for complete dependence on God's grace--that we will always fail if we depend on ourselves. The people are just not listening, I guess. But I will admit that predestination doesn't really come up very often, and I think (besides the pastoral issues discussed above) this has a lot to do with the fact that it is associated with Protestantism. This is dumb, but it is a fact. It's similar to the reasons (or lack of reasons) why Protestants don't cross themselves (though this is certainly less serious.) So I've laid my cards on the table. I'm in the minority; I will continue to make arguments for a more Augustinian soteriology to convince other Catholics. But I will respect the orthodoxy of the Molinists (who are still much more Augustinian than many Catholics). Nevertheless, the debate in itself (even if never resolved) can highlight the need for a renewal in the way we think about our dependence on the grace of God, etc.

"I am looking for a description of "the means necessary to secure it"? What are those "means" and why are they necessary to "secure it". If getting to heaven needs to "be secured", then why is it insecure in the first place? Or, why is heaven given in an insecure way which we must secure by said means?"

Secure simply means obtain. I don't really think it has the connotations of insecure or anthing like that. So what does it take to get into heaven? That is what this is asking about. My answer is that (ultimately) it takes being elected by God. But in our own practical, temporal lives, it takes a living faith (or faith formed by the love of God) which will inevitably manifest itself in avoidance of sin, repentance when we do sin, and love for our neighbors. Does that answer it?

Mateo said...

"How does your answer incorporate meriting for others?"

Here is Thomas:

I answer that, As shown above (1,3,4), our works are meritorious from two causes: first, by virtue of the Divine motion; and thus we merit condignly; secondly, according as they proceed from free-will in so far as we do them willingly, and thus they have congruous merit, since it is congruous that when a man makes good use of his power God should by His super-excellent power work still higher things. And therefore it is clear that no one can merit condignly for another his first grace, save Christ alone; since each one of us is moved by God to reach life everlasting through the gift of grace; hence condign merit does not reach beyond this motion. But Christ's soul is moved by God through grace, not only so as to reach the glory of life everlasting, but so as to lead others to it, inasmuch as He is the Head of the Church, and the Author of human salvation, according to Hebrews 2:10: "Who hath brought many children into glory [to perfect] the Author of their salvation."

But one may merit the first grace for another congruously; because a man in grace fulfils God's will, and it is congruous and in harmony with friendship that God should fulfil man's desire for the salvation of another, although sometimes there may be an impediment on the part of him whose salvation the just man desires. And it is in this sense that the passage from Jeremias speaks.

Reply to Objection 2. The impetration of prayer rests on mercy, whereas condign merit rests on justice; hence a man may impetrate many things from the Divine mercy in prayer, which he does not merit in justice, according to Daniel 9:18: "For it is not for our justifications that we present our prayers before Thy face, but for the multitude of Thy tender mercies."

So there it is. My interpretation of his words are that, first of all, there is no way we can merit anything for someone else "condignly", that is, in a proportional sense which God has obliged Himself by His promise to fulfill. For example, if a man dies in grace, that is, he dies having a formed faith...that person WILL go to heaven. God has promised to do so. There is really no doubt about it.

But when I pray for someone else to be saved, there is no obligation that God will fulfill that prayer. Or when I pray for someone else to be sustained in their faith, to be deliver from evil--ther eis no "obligation" (based on His promise, of course) upon God to fulfill that promise.

Nevertheless, sometimes he will look upon His friends, his children on this earth, and choose to reward their prayers with the salvation or preservation of their loved ones. For example, Monica's prayers (I suspect) were rewarded by God in the salvation of her son, Augustine. Now, she did not merit that result in the same way as she "merits" the rewards of heaven by her receptivity to grace (which, as I believe, is also an effect of grace). God will NEVER deny one of His children the reward of eternal life. But there is still a sense in which Augustine's salvation was a reward for Monica's prayers and in that sense it was "merited" (only congruously) by her. Remember that merit is simply the ground of a reward. So, unless God is completely arbitrary, if he gives a reward, there must have been some merit, even if that merit (as is always the case) is in fact a gift of God to us, that is, Monica's fervent prayers were enabled by the Spirit of God and His grace. Nevertheless, it was still Monica (in some sense) who was praying and so God can fittingly (though "less" fittingly than with condign merit) reward those prayers with something as grand as Augustine's salvation.

That is my view of "meriting" for others. I hope it was somewhat clear. I'd love to clarify in any way I can.

FM483 said...

To Saint & Sinner:

There are many verses of clear Scripture which translate that God died for the sins of the WORLD(John 3:16) and wishes all men to be saved. You seem to be refusing to let Scripture dictate your theological beliefs and insist upon another belief system superimposing itself over Scripture. Thus, when you read clear Scripture with words as "all" and "world" you seem to insist on eisegetically retranslating these words to fit your particular theological whims. I remember Bill Clinton making the absurd statement: "It depends upon what the word "is" means". Is that the type of argument you are making?

Timothy Athanasius said...

Why can't the Thomists' and Molinists' views co-exist in the same Church? Reformastion Christianity would be well-served if Calvinist, Lutheran, Weslyian and Arminian soteriologies could co-exist. A friend of mine was actually telling me that is something that is attractive about the Anglican Church, namely, that all these Christians can commune at the same Table every Sunday. I guess you see this as a betrayal of the Gospel? If so, let me say, I can definitely see how this would be the case with the cults of Mary and the Saints, Indulgences, etc., but just in the area of the above-mentioned soteriolgies, why would that be a betrayal of the Gospel?

Mateo said...

Timothy Athanasius,

I'm not sure if you were addressing me with your comments. If so, I totally agree with you. I think it is an asset of the Catholic Church that an Arminian-type and Calvinist-type approach coexist in the same Church. This is a very complex matter and each perspective has some unfortunate consequences.

My only point was to say that I believe the Thomist perspective needs to get a bit more air-time both for (obvious) ecumenical reasons and because the doctrine of predestination can be a humbling and liberating doctrine for Christians, as St. Paul himself says in Ephesians 1.

GeneMBridges said...

In the Molinist construal, election is based on the foreknowledge of who will accept and who will reject God's grace. This has the happy consequence that it is only the human person who is responsible for their ultimate damnation.
I know you're not a Molinist, for the Molinists I'll point out that this is false for, on the Molinist conception,

a. God instantiates only one world, the world in which the person he creates will certainly be damned. This hardly makes only the human person responsible for their ultimate damnation. By the way, you're also conflating responsibility and blame. This is a pretty basic error, Mateo.

b. God also interferes in that world such that the external counterfactuals are ordered to ensure particular outcomes.

c. Ergo the question of a person's damnation is only pushed back one step.

Molinism is seeking to uphold LFW but then says that externals are ordered in such a way to ensure a particular result. It's surd because LFW is surd, not to mention subbibical, and because it must abandon libertarianism in the end. Further, it cannot account for what grounds God's knowledge of couterfactuals.

That is a vocation for me. But the fact that I can do that and remain an orthodox Catholic implies that much of Protestant polemic is misplaced AND that the issue of predestination is not really a serious reason for schism between Catholics and Protestants...

One of the problems here is that it speaks of "Catholics" and "Protestants." Which Protestants do you have in mind? Lutherans? Arminians? Calvinists?

If the Arminians? You're right. Arminians come in several flavors. If Lutherans, depending on the Lutheran you may be correct? If the Calvinist, it's doubtful, for in our theology, grace is not only necessary but sufficient. Sola Fide is a species of Sola Gratia. In Catholicism grace is necessary but insufficient. So, you'll need to define what you mean by that the free response to God's grace is an _effect_ of God's providential will, preferably by delineation of an exegetical position and demonstration that it agrees with our standard confessions.

What are the implications of this fact for your conclusions? Well, to say the least, you should do what your Reformed ancestors did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Show how the Roman Church has strayed from the true Catholic position which runs in a straight line from Paul to Augustine to Anselm to Thomas Aquinas to Scotus to Thomas Bradwardine to the Reformed Doctors and the post-Tridentine Dominicans and so on. You would have an ally in such an attempt in this papist .

Our forefathers only introduced that line of thinking because they were concerned to show continuity with the Ancient Church against Rome and demonstrate that the Arminians (who I would add had more problems than their soteriology) were wanting to hold onto positions that were out of step with the confessional tradition that they wanted to maintain, but our rule of faith is not the Church Fathers or the Scholastics. Why should we be the ones to produce such a line of thinking if it's already been done by our forefathers? Our rule of faith, like theirs was, is Sola Scriptura. Why should we be the ones to do all this work, shouldn't you be the one to produce an exegetical argument for your position? Shouldn't you be the one to show that your position is in accord with our confessional tradition? Historical theology is not our rule of faith, so why should we abandon it to gain "allies" from Rome?


Basically, to start this conversation, I really would like a better sense for why Calvinists reject "merit", especially with all the constraints that the Augustinian tradition has put upon the term


Because no matter how you cut it, in Roman Catholic theology, the faith of the individual is divided into faith in Christ, his own merit, and the congruent merit of others. It's a divided faith. We have no qualm with faith in the sole and sufficient merit of Christ. Rather, our problem is with the other two. So, the real problem here between your particular strain of Catholicism would not so much be over predestination (assuming you deny LFW too) but over the nature of justification. For example, in our theology, we see the covenant as not being meritoriously conditional (and therefore unconditional with respect to merit) but conditional with respect to instrumentality (faith in the sole and sufficient merit of Christ). But if you divide faith, then the condition respects more than the sole and sufficient merit of Christ.

To Fm483:


There are many verses of clear Scripture which translate that God died for the sins of the WORLD(John 3:16) and wishes all men to be saved.


Actually, the text of John 3:16 only says God loved "the world" and gave His Son so that all the believing ones might be saved. It, along with the story of the Brass Serpent is a testament to particular, not general redemption, for no one for whom the serpent was made died. I'll be dealing with both of these texts on Tblog within the next few weeks, so I'll leave it there.

You seem to be refusing to let Scripture dictate your theological beliefs and insist upon another belief system superimposing itself over Scripture. Thus, when you read clear Scripture with words as "all" and "world" you seem to insist on eisegetically retranslating these words to fit your particular theological whims. I remember Bill Clinton making the absurd statement: "It depends upon what the word "is" means". Is that the type of argument you are making?

You're mirror-reading since by presuming that "all" means "every" you're the one doing the very thing of which you accuse S&S. S&S is simply avoiding a particular exegetical fallacy, namely the fallacy of intension-extension. There is no presumption that "all" means "every x without exception." A universal quantifier like "all" has a standard intension, but a variable extension. That follows from the nature of a quantifier, which is necessarily general and abstract rather than specific and concrete marker in the text. That’s what makes it possible to plug in concrete content. A universal quantifier is a class quantifier. As such, it can have no fixed range of reference. In each case, that must be supplied by the concrete context and specific referent. In other words, a universal quantifier has a definite intension but indefinite extension. So its extension is relative to the level of generality of the reference-class in view. Thus, there is no presumption in favor of taking “all” or “every” as meaning everyone without exception. “All” or “every” is always relative to all of something.

So, when he exegetes 1 Tim. 2:4, S&S is conscious of the fact that if you drop down further into the letter and "all" means what you say it means in 2:4, then money is at the root of, literally, each and every evil act ever committed. Now, one could say that "greed" of some sort is at that root, but that's not what the text actually says. It says "money" is at the root of all evil. So, money is at the root of all sorts of evil.

With respect to 2:4, what you're missing here is that 2:6 is a paraphrase of Mark 10:45 which recapitulates Isaiah 53:11-12, where the Suffering Servant atones for the sins of the covenant community, not all people without exception.

In addition, the text of 1 Timothy refers to Jewish myths and endless genealogies. We must therefore, understand the content of those myths in order to understand what Paul is saying. These myths were probably from the Midrash and anti-Gentile in tenor and were specifically designed to exclude some from salvation. They would form the basis of Jewish Gnosticism, which was designed to create a special class of persons who possessed the “gnosis.” Thus, to counter this, Paul’s usage focuses on the universal offer of the gospel, not to Jews only, not to a specific class of Jews, but to all classes of men, and all ethnicities.

Pontificator said...

If the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the same sacrifice on the cross, then why doesn't the Eucharist take away mortal sin when the sacrifice on Calvary does?

Interesting question, Timothy. I've never thought about it and never read any discussion of the matter. Off the top of my head, I would suggest the analogy between baptism and penance: just as we do not invite the unbaptized to partake of the Eucharist, so we do not invite those who have separated themselves from God through mortal sin to the Eucharist. Those who are spiritually dead must first be reborn in the Spirit in order to partake beneficially of our Lord's Body and Blood. There is a sacramental order here that must be followed.

Turretinfan said...

Matt,

"I think it is an asset of the Catholic Church that an Arminian-type and Calvinist-type approach coexist in the same Church. This is a very complex matter and each perspective has some unfortunate consequences."

I'm not sure how the co-existence of truth and error in a church is a good thing. I accept it is a reality, but I don't praise it.

Or perhaps you don't think that Thomism is fully correct? In other words, perhaps you view it as two competing errors?

-Turretinfan

Mateo said...

Thanks, Gene Bridges, for forcing some further clarification. I wasn't using all the technical vocabulary since this is, after all, a blog comment.

"Molinism is seeking to uphold LFW but then says that externals are ordered in such a way to ensure a particular result. It's surd because LFW is surd, not to mention subbibical, and because it must abandon libertarianism in the end. Further, it cannot account for what grounds God's knowledge of couterfactuals."

First of all, this might be my ignorance, but I'm not sure what you are referring to when you say "LFW".

But actually I am in perfect agreement that Molinism simply sets the problem one step backwards (though check out Thomas Flint, who wrestles persuasively with this objection). This is quite good actually. Your argument is similar to a classic Thomist argument against Molinism. The Thomists argued centuries ago that Molinism doesn't really end up accomplishing what it set out to accomplish since God still is determining which universe he will create in which the elect will be placed in the situation where God's grace will be made efficacious by their free acceptance. (Of course, I am eliding a few steps here, but I hope you will understand that, well, this is a blog comment, not a philosophy journal.) On what basis does He put certain people in the "right situation" and not others? Well, it seems like we are in the same place as Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas all were....God's good pleasure!

But I will still defend my initial interpretation, though I will acknowledge that I was sloppy in discussing the relationship between foreknowledge and election. Whatever the Molinists say about predestination and the different creative positions and God's knowledge of counter-factuals, they do have a distinctive view of grace vis-a-vis their Thomist opponents. The Thomists believe that God gives to the elect grace which is intrinsically efficacious. Though that person could theoretically reject it (or else it would be an act of violence against the will), they will NEVER actually do so. Sufficient grace is given to all men, but that grace is not intrinsically effiacious and so is rejected (though, theoretically, it could be accepted.) This seems to me to be a troubling aspect of the Thomist position, but it should resonate with the Calvinists in the room since it places the difference in who accepts and rejects grace completely on the choice of God, not on the relative goodness, openness, what have you, of the individual human person.

On the Molinist account of grace, it is the free acceptance of the individual human person which transforms sufficient grace into efficient grace. So it depends on the person, though Molina (as a good Western Christian) was careful to cover his back with his theory of middle knowledge and the different creative positions, etc., so that everything still depended on God's providence.

So your objections have not (as far as I can tell) really repudiated the basic point I was making in my interpretation of Molinism. If you need evidence of these different views of grace, see the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on "Grace", though this is not where I found them...

As to the conflation of reponsibility and blame, I'm not sure that I really did that. God is not explicitly blamed for human damnation in any legitimate Christian system (as far as I know). But for the Thomists and the Calvinists, God could have saved all human beings but instead willed to leave many human beings in the massa damnata. Why did he do this? Well, Thomas and Calvin say that God did this to manifest his justice towards sin. Thomas emphasizes the fact that God loved some people more than others based on nothing else, again, but his good pleasure. While God is not the cause of evil and is still just in condemning these people (because they chose to sin by their own free will), he is still ultimately responsible that that particular individual went to hell and not heaven (though they are still to blame for their sins, etc.) Nothing was stopping Him from choosing that individual besides His good pleasure. Does that answer your charge? Did I ever use the word blame? Or were you suggesting that I should have used blame instead of responsibility? Where did I go wrong here? Oh (quickly), in Arminianism and Molinism (despite the complications you mentioned earlier), the goal at least is to make it so that what makes the difference between those who accept and reject God's grace IS the human free will, not the intrinsic efficacy of the grace (as it is in Thomism and, I think, in Calvinism.) Right?

"If the Calvinist, it's doubtful, for in our theology, grace is not only necessary but sufficient. Sola Fide is a species of Sola Gratia. In Catholicism grace is necessary but insufficient. So, you'll need to define what you mean by that the free response to God's grace is an _effect_ of God's providential will, preferably by delineation of an exegetical position and demonstration that it agrees with our standard confessions."

Sorry for the sloppiness there. I was referring to Calvinism. Look at my description of the Thomist distinction between efficient and sufficent grace and let me know if that addresses your concern. It is the intrinsic efficaciousness of the grace which separates the accepters from the rejecters, not the different sorts of responses (which are merely consequences of the different qualities of grace for the Thomist). With the Molinists and the Arminians, it comes down to free will. Anyway, it seems that, for the Thomist, grace is necessary and sufficient. No?

"Historical theology is not our rule of faith, so why should we abandon it to gain "allies" from Rome?"

What did I ask you to abandon? I'm confused here. But, anyway, it seems to me that your forefathers were more concerned about their catholicity (of course, governed by Sola Scriptura) than many modern Protestants are. That is the first interesting fact. See Anthony Milton's Catholic and Reformed for evidence. The second important fact is that Calvinists are unable to use unconditional election, infallible grace, etc., as markers of their differences with Rome, at least if they want to be accurate. I never asked that you let historical theology govern you or anything of the sort. I think that my conclusions about the "implications" of Thomism to Catholic-Protestant polemic are rather modest. Maybe I was unclear and you took me to be saying something much stronger than I was actually saying.

And you keep on saying that I need to take an exegetical position. Which passage? I'm not sure I know what you are asking from me.

"Rather, our problem is with the other two. So, the real problem here between your particular strain of Catholicism would not so much be over predestination (assuming you deny LFW too) but over the nature of justification."

I think this is probably true. This is part of what I've been saying, though I think there are some important convergences between a Thomist view of justification as well. But I think that the Thomist and Calvinist views of predestination are much more similar than any convergences on justification...

"For example, in our theology, we see the covenant as not being meritoriously conditional (and therefore unconditional with respect to merit) but conditional with respect to instrumentality (faith in the sole and sufficient merit of Christ). But if you divide faith, then the condition respects more than the sole and sufficient merit of Christ."

You're going to have to open this up for me a little bit. I'm not really confident in discussing later-Reformed covenant theology. But I will not agree to your assertion that I have a "divided faith". I have faith only in God's Word because He has given me the grace to recognize His faithfulness. I don't have any faith whatsoever in my own merits. I will say that (at times) I find the signs of God's work in me to be a comfort; they strengthen my hope that I am a particular recipient of God's promises. But they merely increase my hope. At bottom, my hope is only in the mercy of God revealed in Christ Jesus.

Talk to me.

Mateo said...

"I'm not sure how the co-existence of truth and error in a church is a good thing. I accept it is a reality, but I don't praise it.

Or perhaps you don't think that Thomism is fully correct? In other words, perhaps you view it as two competing errors?"

I'm not sure if this comment was a consequence of my terrible lack of clarity or something else...

Anyway, I was stepping off from Timothy Athasius' comment about how it would be good to see unity between Wesleyans, Calvinists, Lutherans, etc. What I was trying to say is that I appreciate that the Catholic Church did not think it was possible to condemn Molinism (or Thomism, though that wasn't really in the cards) since this seems to me to be one of the most challenging issues in Christian theology. I believe that Thomism is more correct, though I don't think it exhausts this mystery. Debate (usually within limits sensibly imposed by by the Church) pervaded the medieval Church and I think this was (on the whole) a good thing.

In an ideal world (heaven?), we will all agree to what is the Truth (though never fully comprehend it in our finitude). What I am trying to say it that, on incredibly difficult issues like this one (esp. where the data of revelation is underdetermined), while we need limits (there are Pelagians and Manicheans who need to be anathematized, for instance), we can continue to explore the infinitude of Christ's love, mercy, and justice and, as humans, come to certain competing, even contradictory, conclusions. This is not an intrinsically good thing (I will concede), but it is better than condemning Luis Molina or his followers, who, I think, had a plausible account of this matter, wrestling persuasively with the Bible first of all, the Fathers, the medieval theologians, human reason, etc. Consider Molinism's popularity in contemporary philosophical circles, even among Reformed thinkers like Alvin Plantinga.

So I agree with you that the coexistence of truth and error in a Church is not an intrinsically good thing. The question is whether the truth or falsehood of this matter in particularare sufficiently evident to exclude the Molinists, say, from sitting next to me on a pew on Sunday morning. I don't think that is the case. Does that help clarify my intent?

Saint and Sinner said...

"You seem to be refusing to let Scripture dictate your theological beliefs and insist upon another belief system superimposing itself over Scripture."

No. I let the 1st century Palestinian grammatico-historical context define what the words mean.

I am sorry. I am not going to follow your example and read the Bible as if it were a 21st century American work instead of a 1st century Jewish work.

The term 'world' in that time and culture referred to all *races* of people. The dichotomy wasn't between a few people vs. every single person on earth. It was between Jew and Jew+Gentile.

Saint and Sinner said...

pontificator,

I know what the doctrine of the Mass is. I want to know how it fits into what you said previously:

"When one is indwelt by the Spirit, when one lives in the Triune God, one need not worry about one's acceptance by God, because that acceptance is necessarily presupposed. God can no more reject his sons and daughters than he can reject his Son, in whom they dwell."

But according to RC theology, the Mass confers the forgiveness of sin. [And yes, I realize that the Mass forgives venial, not mortal, sins.]

If we need to go to Mass in order to receive this forgiveness, then isn't this acceptance somewhat depedent upon our actions?

Saint and Sinner said...

Mateo,

"Consider Molinism's popularity in contemporary philosophical circles, even among Reformed thinkers like Alvin Plantinga."

I don't think that A.P. is Reformed. He believes in LFW (libertarian free-will). He calls his epistemology "Reformed" because he borrowed the term and idea of 'sensus divinitas' from Calvin.

Mateo said...

He still goes to a Reformed Church, but I will certainly agree that Molinism and Reformed theology are fundamentally at odds. After all, Arminius drew important aspects of his theology from Molina and Suarez.

Pontificator said...

If we need to go to Mass in order to receive this forgiveness, then isn't this acceptance somewhat depedent upon our actions?

Would you advance the same criticism against Baptism?

L P Cruz said...

The Reformed have always claimed Luther as a "double predestinarian" (against Lutheran orthodoxy's Arminianism avant la lettre) and they certainly have a case, don't you think?


Not in the overall scheme of Luther's spirituality and when one reads the Smalcald articles. Luther believed that a saved person can lose his salvation as in line with the early fathers. You can not affirm this if you are thoroughly going double predestinarian.

Arminianism is not a Lutheran offspring, it was a Calvinistic controversy within their ranks. Lutherans have one thing different, they are not decreetal in their theology. That is what makes one a Calvinist, the decree.

But I think this is a red herring and you guys are straying of course on Carrie's post.

LPC

Mateo said...

"Not in the overall scheme of Luther's spirituality and when one reads the Smalcald articles. Luther believed that a saved person can lose his salvation as in line with the early fathers. You can not affirm this if you are thoroughly going double predestinarian."

That's fine. I know that historians disagree on the matter, and I haven't investigated it on my own. My primary concern was to state the historical fact that Calvinists claimed Luther himself in their disputes with Lutherans (which certainly took place, I'm sure you'll agree).

Also, I don't think there's any necessary incompatibility between "double predestination" and losing your salvation, depending on how one is defining "salvation" here. Augustine basically believed in double predestination (though we can surely quibble about his view of reprobation). Anyway, he went pretty far in that direction, but he believed that one could lose his salvation. What do you think?

"Arminianism is not a Lutheran offspring, it was a Calvinistic controversy within their ranks. Lutherans have one thing different, they are not decreetal in their theology. That is what makes one a Calvinist, the decree."

I never said anything different.

"But I think this is a red herring and you guys are straying of course on Carrie's post."

I'm not sure what "this" you are referring to. If you are referring to the whole conversation, I hope you would agree that it's followed a pretty sensible trajectory, though it has developed quite a bit from the original post, though I thought that's what conversations are supposed to do. But more importantly, if there's some aspect of Carrie's post that you think has not been addressed that you believe would be of interest, please make a note of it. It is a bit frustrating to hear that the past couple of days are completely worthless (as you suggested) without any real suggestions on what we SHOULD have been talking about.

It seems that the basic point of both Pontificator and me is VERY relevant to the post, that is, that, as reasonably well-informed orthodox Catholics, we find the Catholicism for Dummies discussion to be inadequate for a number of reasons which we have attempted to spell out. This has led into requests for clarifications which led into very interesting new directions, at least to my mind

L P Cruz said...

Mateo,

Many wish to claim Luther as their own. Lutherans do not follow Luther in all things as I am sure you know, they are bound by their confession. Double predestination does not picture much in Luther and Lutheran thinking. They believe in universal atonement. Besides the Bondage of the Will which Luther wrote should be balanced by the other things he wrote after that, he was also maturing in his understanding of the Word.

I am always amused when Luther is claimed by non-Lutherans as their own because they get to pick and choose their Luther. Luther believed in the physical bodily presence of Christ at the Supper. They should pick this one too, he also believed in baptismal regeneration.

EWTN also picks and choose Luther, they like his respect for Mary but they kick his sola scriptura.

As to Augustine, there is always a happy inconsistency in all of us.

LPC

Saint and Sinner said...

"Would you advance the same criticism against Baptism?"

Yes, it is a work just like old covenant circumcision was a work.

The desire to be baptized is a sign that someone is already regenerate and fully accepted by God.

Saint and Sinner said...

"Luther believed that a saved person can lose his salvation as in line with the early fathers. You can not affirm this if you are thoroughly going double predestinarian."

Weren't both Wycliffe and Hus double predestinarians? Gottescalc (aka Gottschalk)? I believe that they held to baptismal regeneration and conditional security. No?

Pontificator said...

"Would you advance the same criticism against Baptism?"

Yes, it is a work just like old covenant circumcision was a work.

The desire to be baptized is a sign that someone is already regenerate and fully accepted by God.


That's what I thought you were aiming at.

I see that L. P. Cruz has jumped into the discussion. I would like to invite him to offer a Lutheran perspective on the necessity of sacraments. Sacraments are indeed works, but as Luther says in his Large Catechism, they are works of God and necessary for salvation. Luther was willing to split the Reformation precisely on this point.

L P Cruz said...

S & S,

I think there is phenomenological issues in being a double predestinarian and at the same time being able to say that a justified person may be lost.

It all depends on what we mean by double predestination and by that, it is meant that God purposely reprobated others. Now I doubt if Luther would say "yes, God purposely created some to be sent to hell, to God's glory". To say that some will be in heaven and that some will be in hell is not the same as belief in double predestination. All believe (RCs, EOs, Prots be it Arminian, Calvinist, Lutheran) that some will be in heaven, and some will be in hell. It is the reason why they are there that makes one a double predestinarian, and by that the cause is God in both counts.
But this is the point I am making, the introduction of this discussion leads us all off Carrie's post. If you like to see how Lutherans are different from Arminians and Calvinist there are Lutheran bloggers doing that (yours truly included ;-) ).

LPC

Lvka said...

The hungry blogger ate my comment.

Q: Why does anyone here automatically think of the Baron of MunchHausen when it comes down to redemption?

Q: Why does almost anyone here have an appetite for false dilemmas and false dichotomies?

(like, for instance, when childishly trying to quantify redemption into three categories [100% God and 0% man; 50% God and 50% man; 0% God and 100% man], when the fourth & rejected one was not only obvious, but also mandatory (for sanity's sake, at least, if for no other reason) ? : 100% God and 100% man).

Case in point: this article also. You basically envision two ways out of the mess for someone sticking in the mud, but fail to see the obvious third solution:

1) someone grabs him with a crane by his neck and draws him out.

2) he pulls on his own hair and gets himself out of the mess all by himself.

May I hereby propose a 3rd option? Here it goes:

3) someone draws him a piece of rope to grab to and pulls him out.

Remember Peter drowning, and Jesus reaching forth to him with His own hand?

L P Cruz said...

Pontificator,

Thanks for the invite, I do not wish to hi-jack but let me start with baptism...a brief one if I may to get some thinking going.

To us baptism is the work of God - the Baptist here will find that puzzling. Yes, God is the one baptizing though the disciples are doing the wetting and the pronouncing. Lutherans are catholic (small c) in that they affirm the Nicene Creed. There is that one line in that creed that a Baptist can not and must not affirm to be consistent:

"We acknowledge, one baptism for the remission of sins".

The fact that they re-baptize (sorry no dis-respect) means they are sectarian since they would not recognize the baptism of Anglicans, RCs, EOs, Presbys, Lutherite etc paedo-baptist.

Also it is a means of grace. By that we mean this is how God comes down to us, not us coming up to him - see Romans 6:1-6. Circumcision points to Baptism, they are not equal to which I believe covenantal reasoning leaves much to be desired because they look at them as synonymous.

However Baptism subsumes circumcission, it is a subset of Baptism. All the circumcising that happend pre-Jesus' time points to baptism Jesus instituted. To say that baptism and circumcission are equal is wrong. To say that baptism is the reality of circumcision is right. In Romans 3-4, Paul rebukes Jews for using circumcision as a satisfaction of the Law to gain standing in God yet the NT never rebukes anyone for reminding themselves of their baptism in fact the NT enjoins you to do so, to find your identity as a Christian because you have been baptized. Our view is that at baptism, you are not making a commitment to God, but rather, it is God making a promise to you that your sins are forgiven at the Cross, in fact before you were born. This is Gospel, not Law ie the application of the universal promise of reconciliation or atonement at the Cross. So for the Lutheran, the way to become a Christian is not by praying for Jesus to come to their heart or decide to follow Christ or pray the sinners prayer. Does not repentance come in? Sure, precisely, why be baptized if you want forgiveness, it is for the forgiveness of their sins Acts 2:38-39. To us a person who is baptized has been given a gift by God, a promise of forgiveness because of Jesus's work at the Cross, not that the baptized is giving something to God, God does not need our good works, Jesus has done all of that, our neighbor needs all our good works.

Rather, God wants to give to us. This is the work of God that we believe in whom He(Jesus) has sent.

Hence, a baptized person did not simply get wet, there was something profound that happened to him when he was baptized, God watermarked him and adopted him.

But as a caveat, we also believe that those who dispise their baptism walk away from the gift of forgiveness that God is making to them.

LPC

Carrie said...

May I hereby propose a 3rd option? Here it goes:

3) someone draws him a piece of rope to grab to and pulls him out.


Your third option is basically what I said: "sounds like all we need to pull ourselves up out of the muck is a little help."

Lvka said...

No, Carrie, it isn't. (That's the problem).

Saint and Sinner said...

"To us baptism is the work of God"

So was circumcision to the Judaizers.

Anyway, I didn't want this to degenerate into a debate on the merits of baptismal regeneration.

I want to thank Mateo and Pontificator for their comments, and I'll let you guys have the last word.

FM483 said...

Saint and Sinner responded to me writing:
"So, this indicates that God wishes ALL men to be saved."

You have committed the exegetical error of verse isolation. From the context, the 'all' does not refer to a universal of all mankind but a universal of groups of people.

This goes the same for passages like 1 John 2:2 and John 3:16 where they speak of a universal of nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues but not necessarily everyone *in* those groups.

MY RESPONSE:

By interpreting the clear words of Scripture in ways like this, you diminish the Gospel itself. You rob men of the assurance of salvation, always creating doubt whether a man is part of the subgroup you mention. The answer is from clear Scripture: God wishes 100 person of humanity to be saved and died for the atonement the entire world. This includes myself. I receive this Gospel and therefore am assured I am part of the elect. I am part of the world and Christ atoned for the sins of the world. To look at it otherwise is to create doubt and lack of assurance and possibly forces a man to be works righteousness oriented and concentrate upon himself rather than the promises of Christ in the Gospel OUTSIDE of himself. To look at oneself, the sinner is never assured since he remains sinner this side of eternity. To look to Jesus the perfect substitute pdoduces comfort and assurance and the peace God wishes to bestow.

L P Cruz said...

HEre is a link to a blog devoted to proving that in the Reformed world, the L in TULIP as popularly articulated today is not the same as what the early Calvinists believed in. The thesis is that today what we see articulated is John Owen's view of Limited atonement. However, this was not believed by Hodge, Shedd etc. and by Calvin himself.

http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?cat=3


LPC
PS The blogger works for a reformed seminary and a Calvinist himself.

Saint and Sinner said...

fm483,

You're just repeating yourself. You never interacted with what I said.

lp cruz,

This has been alleged many times particularly by Amyrauldians who want to remain part of Reformed seminaries or churches. They have to justify their beliefs through historical revisionism. Paul Helm debunked this years ago:

http://www.amazon.com/Calvin-Calvinists-Paul-Helm/dp/0851517501/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199486753&sr=1-16

Also, this blog's James Swan debunks it here:

http://www.ntrmin.org/Was%20Calvin%20a%20Calvinist%206%20Part%20One.htm

L P Cruz said...

S & S.

Giesler is far from being in the Calvinistic camp but here is a quote from calvinandcalvinism.com on John 3:16

by Crocius, a representative to the Synod of Dort...
http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=156

–LUD. CROCIUS 962: “The object of the grace of compassion is the whole human race as wretched and fouled with sin. This is what our Saviour teaches by the word “world” Jn. 3. 16 (God so loved the world. . .). It is certain that here by the word “world” is. to be understood not the entire system of heaven and earth with all their denizens divinely produced out of nothing, but only the human race.–963: Nor yet does Christ here understand by the world the elect only, according as they have already been separated from the world, but the entire human race taken all together (universe), according as by nature it lies in sin and according as it is commonly called through the gospel to repentance and faith in Christ”.

Source: Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1978), 372. Full name: Ludovigus Crocius (Bremen) c1636.


I understand that today in the Reformed world there is debate as to who is really really really worthy to be called the coveted label - "truly reformed". I am quite impressed though of the scholarship shown in that site and that quote is from it.

For what it is worth...


LPC

johnMark said...

Here are a couple of helpful articles by Paul Helm.

John Calvin's Position on the Atonement.

The Classical Calvinist Concept of God.

Mark

Turretinfan said...

L P Cruz,

And, of course, the man behind the "Calvin and Calvinism" site is not a Calvinist, but an Amyraldian (which, of course, claim to be Calvinists, but are not).

-Turretinfan

Turretinfan said...

"The question is whether the truth or falsehood of this matter in particular[ is] sufficiently evident to exclude the Molinists, say, from sitting next to me on a pew on Sunday morning."

That does clarify your intent. Thanks for the clarification.

-Turretinfan