Friday, March 14, 2008

Widening the Road with Monotheism

Online Roman Catholics often quote Newman in their discussions with Protestants: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” After some recent combox discussions here and here, I was reminded of one of my own renderings of the Newman quote, “to be deep in the Book of Romans is to cease to be Roman Catholic”.

The discussion in the last few posts have centered around some quotes by Pope John Paul II and three associated paragraphs from the catechism:


#841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

#847 “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

#1260 “"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

Some Roman Catholics seem to maintain that it is possible for some people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ. It’s a “mystery” that is somehow through Christ, but without knowledge of Christ. Unfortunately for their argument, this idea goes against the basic truths of God's revelation.

In discussing these ideas and related to the RCC’s courting of Muslims, the assertion has been made by some RCs that monotheism is a sign of God’s grace working in a person’s life. As best as I can follow the argument, a monotheist has a better chance at salvation than, say, a polytheist. From the RC point of view, the fact that someone is a monotheist means they are seeking God, and since no one seeks God without his grace, anyone outwardly seeking a single god must be doing so by God's graces.

In my mind, this sounds like a Roman Catholic version of “many roads lead to heaven” with God drawing people by his grace primarily, but not necessarily, to Christ. Religious people, especially monotheists, are such because they are responding to God's universal drawing and "doing the will of God in accordance with their understanding of it". In defense of some of these ideas, some RC commenters have been relying heavily on two prooftexts: Acts 17:27 and Romans 10:2. I would like to address the Romans verse briefly, I hope I can find time eventually to address the Acts citation also.

Opening with the latest framing of Romans 10:2 by an RC commenter:

How is it possible that they had zeal for the true God? By grace,
right?

I am still baffled at what this verse proves in the RC's mind. Looking at it in context:

"Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:1-4

Their zeal is not based on knowledge. They do not know Christ and they are not submitting to Him.

The Judaizers were monotheists and “zealous” also. Was their zealousness, condemned by Paul, by God’s grace?

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good,” Gal 4:17-18

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Gal 6:12

Paul was “zealous” in his persecution of the church prior to his conversion. Was his “zealousness for God” (by persecuting Christ) by grace?

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless… For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Phil 3:2-5, 18-19

“Then Paul said: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,” Acts 22:2-4

Considering what Paul said to Timothy about his life pre-Christ, his "zeal for God" as a Jew hardly sounds consistent with positive movement towards God:

"I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Tim 1:12-14

Likewise, most of the Pharisees would have been considered “zealous for God” (as Paul was as a Pharisee) but it was without knowledge.

Here is what Jesus said to the Pharisees about their rejection of him:

“Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." John 8:42-47

Were the Pharisees children of the devil by grace? They certainly were outwardly “zealous for God”.

Now, I think the RC usage of "grace" here is a bit different than mine, but even using their broad definition, I think their prooftexts fail to show what they think they show. It has not been shown that anyone who is seeking "a god" is doing so by God's grace. If it were grace, then grace is doing some weird things. There also seems to be a misunderstanding on the RC's part around the difference of “knowing of God” and “knowing God”. Romans 1 addresses this:

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1: 20-25


27 comments:

------- Theo ------- said...

Carrie, dear sister in Christ who is our only Lord and Savior, and beloved of God:

I believe you and perhaps others misunderstand. Our doctrine is that salvation is by Jesus alone. That God alone judges the living and the dead according to His will is also not surprising; and that He has the sovereign right to grant His grace and mercy wherever he wishes and upon any whom he calls to his vineyard, even at the moment of his death, is also something I would expect you to acknowledge. As I wrote to you previously, elsewhere:

Unless you know the state of every man's consciousness / heart at the hour of his death, I find it difficult to imagine you are able to determine whether or not God reached him by His divine mercy and grace. As the Apostle tells us, faith is not just part of the fruit of the Spirit. It can also be a supernatural gift. That, you see, is what makes it a gift: it’s free.

If any man is saved, it is through Christ: through the front and only door--the narrow gate. It is not for you to dictate to God who he can and cannot save or what portion shall be his.


"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went.

"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

" 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.

"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'

"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.

When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'

"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'


God tells us that he considers our lives and actions when giving us this gift, yet at the same time, the one who he calls and who comes at the very last moment is paid the same as the one who worked all day. Truly, some who you would condemn to hell will be seated much closer to the Master at His table than will you or I. "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."



Respectfully submitted,
Your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

BJ Buracker said...

Carrie,

Excellent post! I think you've done an excellent job in showing Rom. 2:10 is irrelevant or even opposed to a "universal" salvation. Plus, you've done so with amicably. Thanks!

The only quibble I would I have is that there seem to be 2 different categories of people: 1. Those, like Paul, who know of Jesus and yet have zeal for "God" without Christ (Paul persecuted Jesus' Church deliberately), and 2. Those who have never heard of Jesus and have zeal for "God." The first group deliberately rejects Christ, the second does not do so "deliberately." My minor issue here is that your post only addresses the first group.

I think you easily could, and no doubt have previously, expand your argument to include the latter, as well. This is important, because I think most Catholics would argue that the Pope's words apply only to the second category. I'd be interested in reading a follow up with that in mind.

In Christ,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Carrie said...

My minor issue here is that your post only addresses the first group.

My intent with this post was simply to negate the use of Romans 10:2.

As far as the RC assertion with your second group of people (those who never heard), the only scripture I think I have heard brought up is Romans 2 and I dealt with some of that in the combox here.

BJ Buracker said...

Carrie,

Thanks. But the link doesn't work. :)

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Carrie said...

Drats!

Try again

Carrie said...

Today is not my day.

I linked to the wrong post.

Try this combox.

David Waltz said...

Before I tread into the deep waters of the Apostle Paul, I shall keep the following in mind:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.


Canfield in his now famous Commentary on Romans has the following to say concerning Rom. 2.6-11:

“There seem to be at least ten possibilities which ought to be considered…(viii) and (viii) understand the reference in vv.7 and 10 to include, in addition to Christians, not only OT believers but also some heathen Gentiles who in some mysterious way believe with a faith known only to God…” (vol. 1, p. 151.)


Maybe Canfield should have consulted our resident NT scholar:

Carrie:>>Some Roman Catholics seem to maintain that it is possible for some people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ. It’s a “mystery” that is somehow through Christ, but without knowledge of Christ. Unfortunately for their argument, this idea goes against the basic truths of God's revelation.>>

Oh yeah…


Grace and peace,

David

------- Theo ------- said...

BJ, my brother in Christ:

Regarding those who have never heard (as some of us say, by no fault of their own) my personal view is that our Catholic doctrine must be understood with this basic principle: that without faith it is impossible to please God--and that faith comes by hearing, and (not just by hearing but) hearing by the Word of God.

With these truths in mind I expect that any doctrine that takes into account the judgment of God upon those who do and do not live (or attempt to live) by the natural law God makes known through his creation (The heavens tell the glory of God and the wonders of his works are displayed in the firmament.) must recognize that they have no excuse and apart from grace they are as culpable as any who have lived under the law. As such, although we might point to their attempts to live according to the limited view their environment of darkness allows, just as with we who are grafted in during our lives, they cannot receive salvation except by grace.

Because we acknowledge that God considers the heart and actions of those who attempt to obey him, we can speculate that such grace God could offer to the “righteous” heathen (using the word “righteous” quite loosely here.) if He so wills and how He so wills.

Thus, if God should invite the worker to the vineyard in the eleventh hour or at the very moment of his death, it is no matter to the master of the vineyard, whose generosity is His own and who is also the master of time itself.

Imagine that the “good thief” at his epiphanal moment had been too weak to vocalize his repentance, yet still offered it to Christ, who being God would have heard him. Had he then expired at that very instant of turning, would he have been saved? I believe so—although no human observer would have witnessed the transaction and would imagine him dying in ignorance and sin.

This is not a perfect example of course—given the time and place and his own observations about Jesus’ innocence the odds are slim that heard at least a small part of the Gospel preached before then. We are talking about those who (apparently) never hear a word of it. What we do know is that in spite of this ignorance they are held accountable for obedience to the law of God written on men's hearts. If they have any human capacity, it follows that they might glean some elements of the Gospel from that law, even as the heathen Magi gleaned a small part of it by watching the heavens.

The amount of the gospel that those in utter ignorance know comes only by grace, having had no one sent with the Word of God for them.

My best understanding is that anyone in possession of reason must accept God’s salvation to receive it, and one must not spurn it once received. To me, this in no way hinders His grace or diminishes its potency or purpose. It in no way precludes or lessens the need to preach the Gospel. It does not allow for “backdoor” entry into heaven, but simply recognizes God’s sovereign reign over heaven and earth, as he can make sons of Abraham from the stones of the land if He so wills.

In short, I believe any that come to heaven come only through the narrow gate, even if they are not aware of that gate until the very instant of their death.

By grace I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

------- Theo ------- said...

Regarding the good thief, I wrote: "...the odds are slim that heard at least a small part of the Gospel preached before then."

That is wrong.

I should have written, "...the odds are GOOD that (he) heard at least a small part of the Gospel preached before then."

Reginald de Piperno said...

Their zeal is not based on knowledge. They do not know Christ and they are not submitting to Him.

Yes. That's exactly one-half of the point.

The Judaizers were monotheists and “zealous” also. Was their zealousness, condemned by Paul, by God’s grace?

Whoops. Now you've completely missed the other half of the point. Because (as your own quotation of the context makes quite clear) in Romans 10:2 St. Paul explicitly approves the zeal of the Jews. So their zeal for God is a good thing.

Which, of course, raises the obvious question: how can an unbeliever have a praiseworthy zeal for God while remaining non-Christian?

The answer is: by grace.

Or are you going to take the manifestly false position that Paul did not commend their zeal?

Now, I think the RC usage of "grace" here is a bit different than mine, but even using their broad definition, I think their prooftexts fail to show what they think they show.

I think that this is because you have missed the point, and I think that in part you have done so because you have obscured the issue by looking up different passages where the words "zeal" or "zealous" appear in the hopes that this alone will contradict what I've been saying about Romans 10:2. But these other passages you've listed simply do not do address what I've been saying about it. I am certainly not saying that mere zeal is the thing; I'm saying that St. Paul approves the zeal of unbelieving Jews (and consequently I am inferring that there is no a priori reason to suppose that other unbelievers have not received grace from God).

So: to make it perfectly plain: mere zeal is not an indicator that one has received the grace of God. However, Paul clearly does say that the zeal of unbelieving (i.e., non-Christian) Jews was commendable. If he approves their zeal, how can you say that they did not receive it by grace?

As to your proof-texts:

Gal. 4:17-18: Paul condemns the Judaizers because of the focus of their zeal. But this is not the case in Romans 10:2, where the Jews' zeal is approved. Two different groups of people are in view.

Gal. 6:12: I'm not sure why you include this, but at any rate it has nothing to do with the people whom Paul explicitly praises in Rom. 10:2.

As for Paul's self-assessment: that, too, has nothing to do with his approval of the Jews' zeal in Romans 10:2.

1Tim. 1:12-14 doesn't seem to address my point, either. It has nothing to do with Paul's approval of the Jews' zeal in Rom. 10:2.

John 8:42-47 doesn't really address my point, either.

Like I said, it appears that you have misunderstood the point, which is that Paul approves the zeal of the Jews in Romans 10:2. But a praiseworthy zeal for God can only have a single source: the grace of God.

It has not been shown that anyone who is seeking "a god" is doing so by God's grace.

In the present discussion, all I'm interested in demonstrating is that unbelievers are recipients of God's grace, and not all of them become Christians despite having received God's grace. I don't think anything you've said here addresses that issue.

One implication of this point for your post is that God's grace gets wider distribution than simply to Christians or those who certainly become Christians. Another implication is that theological error (for example, denying that Christ was the Messiah, or denying the Trinity) doesn't prevent one from receiving that grace; nor is it a sign that one has not received that grace. A third implication is that grace does not "force" anyone to believe, so that the fact that God's grace extends more widely than you erroneously suppose doesn't mean that the Pope (or Catholics) are universalist.

-- RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

An erratum concerning the post for the sake of readers who might be confused, and a tip:

In the post you mention Romans 2:10 as something upon which I've been relying, but I'm pretty sure this is a typo (transposition of 10:2) since I haven't mentioned 2:10 until now.

Tip: At the bottom of each comment there is a date/time stamp that is a hyperlink. That hyperlink is the permanent link to the comment.

For example, here is a link to my previous comment.

beowulf2k8 said...

you ever read the writings of john frith? You can read them at google books, the title being something like, the works of the english reformers john frith and william tyndale. anyway, frith wrote a book against three catholic guys who were trying to defend purgatory, one by natural philosophy, one by scripture, and on by the 'church fathers'. sir thomas more was number 2, and the guy that tried using natural philosophy was a relative of more's. anyway, frith talks about how in his book this guy has a fake dialogue between a christian and a turk (i.e. muslim) and how he makes the turk teach the christian about purgatory. and frith imediately shows that since this natural philosophy comes from a turk who knows nothing of jesus christ, therefore purgatory is disproven because the christian has jesus and therefore doesn't need this turk's purgatory! but the point is that even way back then in 1500s the catholics were flying to mohammed to prove their doctrines!!! what wonder that they are so buddy buddy with the 'turks' today!

Carrie said...

However, Paul clearly does say that the zeal of unbelieving (i.e., non-Christian) Jews was commendable.

I do not see Paul commending their zeal.

In fact, Paul also described his own zeal for God (as a Jew) and yet in his reflection back on that portion of his life he says "though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent". I hardly think he was commending his former "zeal".

In the post you mention Romans 2:10 as something upon which I've been relying,

Thanks, I fixed it. And you were not the only one citing Roman 10:2 so this post is broadly directed.

Reginald de Piperno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheDen said...

Carrie,

I'm surprised that you're still confused about this.

First of all, the reason that the Pharisees were Children of the Devil (as I explained previously...and is explained in 1 John) is that they are sinners.

In other words...they rejected God's grace. Jesus Christ looked them in the eye and they rejected Him.

Now, regarding grace. Grace is freely given by God and unmerited. God gives grace to all men. Without grace, we would be dead as He gives us the grace to breathe. He gives us the grace to live...and He gives us the grace to come to Him.

In John 8:32, Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free.

That truth is found in the Church. Part of that truth is that there is one God.

If a Muslim believes that there is one God, he believes a portion of the truth because the Muslim is correct that there is one God. That portion of truth was learned only through the grace of God and if investigated further with an open heart and mind, that truth of one God will lead the Muslim to the Trinity and Jesus Christ and ultimately to salvation. (And there are examples of Muslims who converted to Catholicism).

This is the point of what the Catholic Church is teaching. And I really don't know why you have a problem with this.

The fact that Muslims believe that there is only one God is a step up from the Hindu who believes that there are many gods...which is a step up from an atheist who believes that there is no God.

Now there are elements of Hinduism that can point a Hindu to the Church. The fact that they believe in some supreme being is better than a rejection of any supreme being and that small element of truth can lead them to Jesus Christ and Salvation.

The Jews in Romans 10:2 had a zeal for God. That was from God's grace. The rejection of God's grace comes when they reject God. The zeal was great and comes from God. The rejection of God due to them mired in sin was not from grace.

btw...I find it interesting how you use John 8:42

The road is narrow and it's ONLY through Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church (in which can be found the Body of Christ) is VERY clear about that.

I find it interesting that you used John 8:42-47.


Carrie, can you please do me a favor and read John 8:39-47. Note how he doesn't talk about the "faith of Abraham" in v. 39.

Now imagine when Jesus talks that it's His Church speaking and when the Pharisee speaks it's you.

Carrie, you really remind me of the Pharisee in this blog.

(And don't worry...there have been times where the Pharisee reminds me of myself as well!!)

May the Lord Jesus Christ give us the grace to understand His will.

Peace.

Reginald de Piperno said...

I do not see Paul commending their zeal.

Fascinating. So...you think he's criticizing their zeal? That seems like a ridiculous reading of the passage, frankly.

Maybe you ought re-read it. Because he's clearly contrasting their commendable zeal to their ignorance:

"They have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."

The ignorance is criticized - obviously. And the zeal is not. Obviously.

Carrie said...

The ignorance is criticized - obviously. And the zeal is not. Obviously.

I take it as a whole. Ignorant, misguided zeal is not commendable.

But even if Paul was commending their zeal, it does not necessarily follow that their zeal was by grace. You are asserting that b/c the Jews had a zeal for God, that must have been by grace, but since they rejected Christ, then grace can be rejected. There are alot of leaps and erroneous assumptions in that conclusion.

Reginald de Piperno said...

"but" rather rules out taking it as a whole.

"They are zealous and ignorant" would allow it to be taken as a whole.

"They are zealous but ignorant" does not. It's a rather unambiguous contrast.

Please tell me how someone can have commendable zeal that isn't by grace. Please demonstrate this from Scripture.

-- RdP

BJ Buracker said...

RdP,

Looking at this passage a bit closer, I think you are right. The zeal is commended. However, Paul's purpose is to show that it is not enough.

In Rom 10:1 he shows that he has a burning desire for the Israelites to be saved. The clear implication is that their current status is not sufficient to save them. They have zeal, yes, but they are ignorant (10:2). Instead of seeking a righteousness from God, they establish their own (10:3). Surely, you would agree that anytime someone sets up their own righteousness, they de facto oppose God's. Their own righteousness will get them nowhere; only God's will.

Thus, I agree with Carrie, and I don't see the point of referencing this passage. Even if their zeal is commendable, so what? It doesn't bring about their righteousness, and in fact, it opposes true righteousness. How does this help your case? I don't get it.

Carrie,

From a Reformed perspective, couldn't we say that zeal for a monotheistic god is a sign of Common Grace? I think it could easily be argued that any kind of theism is part of Common Grace.

In Christ,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Reginald de Piperno said...

BJ,

I entirely agree that Paul makes it clear that their zeal is insufficient by itself...because it is crippled by ignorance of Christ. This is why he prays for their salvation.

That, in fact, was a crucial part of my point in the thread where I brought this verse up: namely, to demonstrate that zeal for God does not imply that one is a Christian, but since such zeal must be a gift of grace, grace has wider distribution than Protestants typically suggest.

Peace,

RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

I hit "publish" without giving further consideration to the rest of your post, BJ. Apologies.

How does this help your case?

I have referred to Rom. 10:2 in two other threads. In one, my intent was to demonstrate that - just as the Jews deny the Trinity and yet no one denies that they believe in the true God, so too there is no reason to deny the Muslim claim to worship the God of Abraham just because they deny the Trinity and have other theological errors: these issues - though serious, of course - do not negate what they claim, and so to say that Catholics "blur lines" with Muslims is invalid.

In the other thread, we are supposed to believe that Pope JPII's statements about other religions are contrary to Romans 3, despite the fact that he repeatedly attributes any genuine goodness to be found in them or their adherents to the goodness of God - that is, to God's grace. I appealed to Romans 10:2 in that thread to demonstrate that God does give grace to people who do not ever become Christians, so as to show that there was nothing inconsistent with the Bible in what JPII said.

Peace,

RdP

Carrie said...

From a Reformed perspective, couldn't we say that zeal for a monotheistic god is a sign of Common Grace? I think it could easily be argued that any kind of theism is part of Common Grace.

I'm not sure what the Reformed perspective would be on this, so I'll just answer for myself.

No, I wouldn't say monotheistic zeal is a sign of common grace. When I think of common grace I think of "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:45) and God's general restraint of sin. When I think of God drawing people to himself, I think of saving grace which is effectual in bringing people to Christ.

I think Romans 1 deals a bit with theism. Humans should recognize from the creation that there is a Creator, yet they do not seek the one true God because of their blind ignorance. I see no reason scripturally to think that monotheism is a sign of grace, there really is no difference b/w one idol or many.

If we look at Muslims, we see a group of people following the teachings of the Koran. Is not the Koran a false revelation from a false prophet? I'm baffled that anyone can think the followers of a false religion have some kind of advantage just because their false god is singular or that God's grace would lead people to a false religion that spits in his face.

We are told that there are false prophets among the sheep (wolves in sheep's clothing), that there are tares among the wheat, that the goats will be surprised when they are not known by Christ - clearly there are unregenerate people that have an outward "faith" even better than your garden variety monotheist but they will still be condemned.

It doesn't matter how many gods you have or how much truth you seem to have, if you are not acknowledging the one true God your "faith" is worthless. In fact, I think the best false religions are Satan's work. The best lies always have the most truth and Satan is the "father of lies".

Alexander Greco said...

BJ, are you the fellow that use to come by the bookstore on Monroe Rd?
Alex

BJ Buracker said...

RdP,

Thanks for the clarification. That helps me see things in the proper context. I need to think about your conclusions more before I respond.

Carrie,

Common grace extends beyond just weather and sin. Louis Berkhof wrote a great article on it, and it can be found here. In it he says:

It is due to common grace that man still retains some sense of the true, the good, and the beautiful, often appreciates these to a rather surprising degree, and reveals a desire for truth, for external morality, and even for certain forms of religion.

This article even quotes Acts 17 as proof of the doctrine. Natural revelation is part of Common Grace for some things about God are able to be discovered my anyone. However, as Rom. 1 points out, that doesn't mean they have salvation. In fact, Rom. 1 says the opposite. Unlike Special Grace which effectually results in salvation, common grace just shows the goodness of God.

I think Romans 1 deals a bit with theism. Humans should recognize from the creation that there is a Creator, yet they do not seek the one true God because of their blind ignorance. I see no reason scripturally to think that monotheism is a sign of grace, there really is no difference b/w one idol or many.

Many great Reformers would disagree with you here. Theism is not the same as idolatry. Recognizing that God exists and worshiping a false one are two different things. One is from Common Grace, the other is from sin. Read the article.

It doesn't matter how many gods you have or how much truth you seem to have, if you are not acknowledging the one true God your "faith" is worthless.

True, but that's not the issue. Common grace and Natural Revelation simply show some aspects of God that are able to be found by anyone, true believer or not. Recognizing these aspects obviously does not equal salvation. Common grace is not about salvation.

Therefore, it is right to say that when people realize something about God (i.e. monotheism, a Creator, etc.), we can say that they have benefited from Common Grace and Natural Revelation. However, we certainly can not attribute them with salvation. Two different issues.

I hope that helps. I think there are 2 or 3 different definitions of grace flying around here, and until we speak the same language, we are going to talk past each other.

In Christ,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

BJ Buracker said...

Alex,

Good memory. Feel free to send me an email sometime, or stop by my site. I miss our conversations. Good times!

In Christ,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Reginald de Piperno said...

I have appreciated the conversation on this thread. I hope that perhaps I've shed some light on how Catholics view this subject.

I'm offline for Holy Week. Blessings to you all for a wonderful Easter.

Peace in Christ,

Reginald de Piperno

Carrie said...

I hope that helps. I think there are 2 or 3 different definitions of grace flying around here, and until we speak the same language, we are going to talk past each other.

I agree. I am fairly new to Reformed theology so I don't necessarily speak the same language. But I still think the RCs use of grace would encompass more what Protestants consider saving grace since the RCs are referring to a grace that would draw people to God. Unless common grace is a preamble to saving grace, it is a bit irrelevant in my mind.

Recognizing these aspects obviously does not equal salvation. Common grace is not about salvation.

Right. Which is why I think talking about common grace is confusing the situation. The quotes from the catechism are talking about attaining salvation w/out explicit faith in Christ. Unless you think common grace affects that situation somehow, it doesn't change anything.