Friday, July 04, 2008

Faith is Optional?

Below is a clip of Jimmy Akin on Catholic Answers Live back in April stating that atheists can be saved. The full-length MP3 can be found here. I have transcribed his words below:

“It’s also possible for a person to die in God’s friendship even if the person didn’t consciously know God during life. Someone could, through no fault of their own, be unaware of God or not have ever been given sufficient evidence that they concluded God is true, through no fault of their own, and if they otherwise cooperated with his grace, then God won’t hold their ignorance of him against them. So, it’s possible for an atheist to be saved, it’s still through Jesus Christ and through God’s grace, but they can still die not knowing God and still be on their way to heaven as long as they otherwise cooperated with his grace.”

This is justification by works alone, without faith, and contrary to Scripture.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:16-18

Jimmy would also do well to read through Romans 1 before stating "Someone could, through no fault of their own, be unaware of God or not have ever been given sufficient evidence that they concluded God is true, through no fault of their own".

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20

(I also left in his commentary on Purgatory for future reference. Modern day views of Purgatory are quite mild compared to the greater of Catholic history.)




38 comments:

Lvka said...

Carrie, tell me, what is Your opinion on Luke 4:24-27 and on the Parable of the Good Samaritan? And what is Your opinion about those redeemed by faith in Hebrews 11, all of whom lived before God's revelation in Jesus Christ?

Lane Chaplin said...

If this isn't blatant open heresy, I'm not sure what is. A person can be saved WITHOUT faith whatsoever? Come on, Jimmy. It just goes to show that when the fallen mind starts down the road of allowing works to be meritorious to salvation, it wants to take it all the way through to its logical conclusion of no faith at all.

James Swan said...

Carrie goes Imeem....look out world!

Ben Douglass said...

A person can be saved WITHOUT faith whatsoever?

No, that's not the idea. The idea is that Atheists can somehow have "implicit faith" in the God they deny. I agree that this idea is absurd, but even absurd ideas should be accurately represented.

Ken Temple said...

Great post, Carrie!
Mr. Akin has with his own words, defeated the modern Roman Catholic Church, because it so un-biblical.

Ben,
Is this one of the issues that separates Traditional Roman Catholics
vs. Vatican II Roman Catholics?

on this issue, the Traditional ones seem closer to the truth; that Muslims and atheists and other non-Christians cannot be saved.

So, does this not also make the whole Infallibility dogma fall down (since the modern popes are all wrong, therefore 1870 is wrong; therefore, the whole thing is wrong) in one clean ax chop to that tree, thus also demolishing the whole claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church?

Ken Silva said...

"Traditional Roman Catholics
vs. Vatican II Roman Catholics?"

While they may think they such, as a former Roman Catholic I can tell you it doesn't matter what individual Roman Catholics believe as far as the Roman Church itself is concerned.

What Akin says has always been the Roman Catholic position and the truth is that Vatican II did not change any Roman Catholic dogma touching on justification and salvation.

In other words, Roman Catholic soteriology (teaching on salvation) remains exactly the same as when their Council of Trent placed its anathema on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And if a Roman Catholic doesn't believe what the Roman Church teaches then they are anathema according to the Roman Church.

Kepha said...

I thought that Judaism and nascent Christianity taught that God was the initiator of one's salvation? If this is the case, then how can anyone fail to know God through no fault of their own? Doesn't this mean that it's God's fault then, since He is the initiator? So when an atheist enters the Eternal Kingdom, God will have said to him/her, "I'm sorry. It's all my fault. I just didn't take the intiative in your case?"

It's stuff like this that makes me uncomfortable being Catholic.

James Swan said...

Ken Silva said...

Hi Ken, thanks for stopping by. Ken was recently on Iron Sharpens Iron: KEN SILVA: "MYSTICISM'S INFILTRATION INTO MODERN EVANGELICALISM" . It was a very interesting interview, and those of you reading this blog should check it out. Ken is Director of Apprising Ministries , General Editor of the Christian Research Network and pastor of Connecticut River Baptist Church in Claremont, NH, a congregation in the Southern Baptist Convention.

What Akin says has always been the Roman Catholic position and the truth is that Vatican II did not change any Roman Catholic dogma touching on justification and salvation.

What I've seen through my studies is a development in the scope of salvation as put forth by the Roman sect- a quick overview from Dr. White addressing this can be found here:

You Tell Us: Does Rome Provide Infallible Certainty About the Gospel?

I don't find it all surprising that even those of atheist persuasion are now able to be saved according to a Roman paradigm, as Rome develops into... well, who knows what Rome is developing into...

James Swan said...

I agree that this idea is absurd, but even absurd ideas should be accurately represented.

What's so troubling and adding to the absurdity are earlier statements like these:

The Council of Florence, the 17th Ecumenical (and hence “infallible”) Council of the Roman Catholic Church, said the following:

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger 714).

James Swan said...

Ken Temple said...

Ken, glad to have you here in a safe environment, if you know what I mean.

Timothy said...

Hmmm.. a lot of hysteria and ad hominum attacks, but a clear lack of intelligent theological discourse. While Jimmy Akin can hold his own and doesn't need me to fight his battles, a few things stand out:

>"This is justification by works alone, without faith, and contrary to Scripture."

No. There is no justification by works. That is an assumption on your part. Works aren't mentioned at all in the example. The example is a hypothetical case of salvation by grace alone and is 100% in accordance with scripture.

Where in scripture does it ever say that Jesus Christ, Almighty God Himself, may not in His infinite wisdom, justice, love, and mercy save anyone at anytime by grace alone?

Why limit God?

This post seems exactly what Jesus was preaching about in the parable of the vineyard and the workers (Matthew 20:1-16). Some of you have been working in the vineyards all day, some have converted and have been working in the vineyards since lunch. In the hypothetical example Jesus hires someone at the eleventh hour and you are upset that the last hired will receive the same wage as yourself. What words did Jesus have for those workers that complained?

"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?

So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Does Jesus not have the right to do what He wants with His own grace? Or are you envious that He is generous?

+Timothy

Ken Silva said...

Thank you. *whispering* Don't tell anyone but I have a critic or two. ;-)

Carrie said...

Works aren't mentioned at all in the example. The example is a hypothetical case of salvation by grace alone and is 100% in accordance with scripture.

Read it again: "but they can still die not knowing God and still be on their way to heaven as long as they otherwise cooperated with his grace."

Cooperation = works

Where in scripture does it ever say that Jesus Christ, Almighty God Himself, may not in His infinite wisdom, justice, love, and mercy save anyone at anytime by grace alone?

Assuming you mean "by grace alone without faith"...where in scripture does it ever say that God the Father isn't a giant pickle? If we want to argue from silence, we can come up with all sorts of stuff.

Of course, all are saved by grace alone, but that is through faith.

In the hypothetical example Jesus hires someone at the eleventh hour and you are upset that the last hired will receive the same wage as yourself.

This is a misapplication, Timothy.

James said...

lane- is faith a work?

Mike Burgess said...

Echoing others' distatse for the "feel" of the Akin quote, I nevertheless think that Carrie illustrated yet again that she misunderstands things by explicitly equating "cooperation" and "works." Akin didn't say works, and his actual words ("cooperated with his grace") leave open the interpretation that cooperation means assent of the will, albeit tacit. It is a misconstrual to necessitate the equivalence that Carrie did.

Still, I think Akin has his work cut out for himself to explain how anyone could be ignorant of God or unconvinced of the existence of the Creator. My guess is Akin would need to try to make a case starting with an extended discussion of the noetic effects of the fall and precise definitions of the nature of the fall and original sin. I don't know how he would proceed.

Another point which resounded in the preceding discussion, though, is the universal Protestant insistence on a profession of faith that happens publicly and is credible, comprehensive, and salvific. The sticking point seems to me to be, in a larger context, what is comprehensive enough for you? And who decides the aspects which comprise the comprehensiveness?

Mike Burgess said...

And does such a profession amount to a "work"?

Carrie said...

Akin didn't say works, and his actual words ("cooperated with his grace") leave open the interpretation that cooperation means assent of the will, albeit tacit. It is a misconstrual to necessitate the equivalence that Carrie did.

Assent to what? They are unaware of God, by Akin's definition. Usual definition of an atheist is someone who denies the existence of God. So their "cooperation" is in some tangible way other than faith - what is that if not works?

But this is really neither here nor there since the point is that Akin is preaching salvation without faith. You can put whatever name you want on "cooperation", but it is a faithless salvation and that is unbiblical.

Carrie said...

BTW Mike,

I interpreted Akin's cooperation as works in line with the Catholic Catechism which states:

"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."

And with Lumen Gentium which states:

"Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life."

Actions & Deeds are works.

In reality, Akin's support for Atheists seems like a stretch even under these documents since he would be hard-pressed to make a case for atheists "seeking God". I already knew these statements from your church to be unbiblical, but Akin's assertion has kicked it up a few notches.

Ben Douglass said...

Is this one of the issues that separates Traditional Roman Catholics vs. Vatican II Roman Catholics?

I imagine that large numbers of "Vatican II" Roman Catholics deny that atheists can be saved and hence would object to Akin's statement. Nevertheless, strict views on the salvation of non-Christians is one of the defining features of the traditionalist movement.

So, does this not also make the whole Infallibility dogma fall down (since the modern popes are all wrong, therefore 1870 is wrong

Where has the Pope ever taught that Atheists can be saved?

Ben Douglass said...

What Akin says has always been the Roman Catholic position and the truth is that Vatican II did not change any Roman Catholic dogma touching on justification and salvation.

The first assertion in this sentence is historically laughable. It has always been the Roman Catholic position that Atheists can be saved? Care to document that? This idea was introduced in the mid 20th century by theologians like Karl Rahner.

On the other hand, you are quite right that Vatican II did not change any Catholic dogma on salvation.

Ben Douglass said...

What's so troubling and adding to the absurdity are earlier statements like these

Yes, I'm sure that Akin assents to the definition of the Council of Florence, but he must have a very difficult time holding it together with his present statement about the possibility of salvation for Atheists. In order to be saved one must be born again, have supernatural faith, hope, and love of God, and be a member of the Catholic Church. So, Akin has to explain how it is possible for an Atheist to be born again, to have supernatural faith, hope, and love of God, and to be a member of the Catholic Church. At least when theologians try to explain how this is possible for monotheists like Jews and Muslims their answers have a prima facie plausibility. But to do so for Atheists is an exercise in futility. Cardinal Dulles made the supremely unconvincing argument in First Things that Atheists might worship God under another name.

L P Cruz said...

Hmmm,

cooperated with his grace

If a person is ignorant of God, not given evidence of his existence etc -- then how does one know he is cooperating with God's grace?

What does this mean, does this mean by accident the pagan was cooperating with God's grace and therefore saved?

This is one point I think the difference with Rome and the Reformers (Lutheran in my case), for the latter salvation is tied to the Means of Grace - i.e. Word and Sacrament.

Can God reveal to someone his Son without the means of grace? Yes, Jesus revealed himself directly to Paul that would be an example but eventually he was led to the means of grace - he got baptized.

In Roman theology, one can get saved with out the means of Grace.

LPC

L P Cruz said...

But then again, I should not be surprized because ex opere operato works like that - the mere action does it and faith is optional.

Mike Burgess said...

Carrie,
Again, I have no desire to carry Akin's water, because I think he is almost assuredly wrong. Hebrews 11:6 makes it clear to me that "Nobody reaches God's presence until he has learned to believe that God exists, and that He rewards those who try to find Him." Still, I think perhaps (and I acknowledge that you intrepreted Akin's "cooperation" in accordance with the CCC) you made a leap in that single instance that was not warranted. Hear me out, please: it seems to me that Akin was equating cooperation with God's grace (in this case, the gracious provision of the natural law by which men are convicted of the duty to abide by fixed rules of logic, conduct, etc.) with the assent of the will to these precepts: specifically, that he functions according to natural laws, and must therefore abide by a set of ethical standards as well. Such an assent would, following Romans and elsewhere, indicate an imperfect incipient faith in a creator (regardless of what name such a hypothetical person would or would not apply to said creator), so I can't see where Akin would go with his argument, and, I must admit, you may have been quite right in your assessment of his use of "cooperation." I don't think it's necessary so to do, obviously.
I haven't listened to the whole mp3 of the show, and likely won't. Seems like a real stretch of a hypothetical, to me. The good news is that Akin is, like many another Protestant or Catholic apologist, fallible and prone to correction. Have you asked him for clarification or explanation prior to posting this?

I'm also curious about your reaction to my other point about the comprehensiveness, and public nature of, a confession of faith, and whether or not that is a work.

Carrie said...

I'm also curious about your reaction to my other point about the comprehensiveness, and public nature of, a confession of faith, and whether or not that is a work.


I ignored that part b/c it's off-topic and I think that conversation has occurred many times (to some extent) here and elsewhere.

I hope you would admit that an atheist is nowhere close to any sort of "confession of faith", so this really has nothing to do with the comprehensive you suggest we Prots require.

Mike Burgess said...

I deny that there are or ever have been atheists. There are only those who hate God. Therefore, in my opinion, the issue I raised does come into play, because it is implicit in your criticism. But you are at leisure to ignore it at will. Any URLs to which you wish to direct me about the topic you say has been discussed at length here are welcome.

Carrie said...

Any URLs to which you wish to direct me about the topic you say has been discussed at length here are welcome.

Actually, I didn't say it has been discussed at length here but said "that conversation has occurred many times (to some extent) here and elsewhere". Where exactly those discussions are, I cannot say as they usually occur off-topic in the comments section. Sorry.

Mike Burgess said...

Fair enough. Got a summary or a link offsite dealing with it? I've read several. I am still curious about your position on the matter. Is it really that big a deal or so far off topic? I think I've pointed out why it's relevant.

Paul Hoffer said...

In all of this discussion, has anyone thought about how aborted children, infants or young children who die early in life, or those with severe mental disabilities are saved? If you posit that a person can not be saved without faith (which I happen to agree with BTW) can there not be some hidden means by which God provides them salvific grace that we are not aware of. After all, Protestants and Catholics both believe that such people are not automatically damned, do we not? Why would not a similar mechanism work for those to whom the Gospel was never preached? Perhaps God provides some who have rejected Him one last opportunity to hear His Word and accept it that He has not chosen to reveal to us? Are we not putting God in a box by imposing limitations on how He may choose to save some? If God is truly sovereign as is claimed, does He not have the final say as to who goes to heaven and who does not?

As far as Mr. Akin's remarks go, this is nothing but an example of Christian inclusivism which many Protestant sects and some Catholics both believe in. Not knowing what background Mr. Akin came from before he converted to Catholicism, it is possible that this is a carryover from his Protestant days. Thus, you might not want to caluminate against the Catholic Church so readily here.

One last note: May I ask sll who post here, should you end up in heaven, would you be upset to find out that God had chosen to save some non-Christians through some other means that He had decided to use? Would you be like the workers in Mt. 20:1-16 or like the father in the parable of the prodigal son?

God bless!

[Please note that this post is not necessarily an expression of what I believe, but some things that I have pondering about lately]

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Tim, I am sorry, I rehashed what you already said so eloquently. One of the points I want to emphasize, however, is that this discussion is not one of Catholic vs. Protestant. It is a discussion between those who have an Exclusivist viewpoint vs. Inclusivist viewpoint. Both of these views are shared by both Protestants and Catholics. Thus, to single out Mr. Akin for abuse is unseemly when there are Protestant theologians such as John Sanders, John Stott, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Clark Pinnock who hold to similar views as those expressed by Mr. Akin.

The inclusivist view is also historical. It can be found in the Book of Enoch referenced in the Epistle of Jude (105:25), in the works of St. Justin Martyr (First Apology, XLVI; Second Apology VIII, X), St. Irenaeus (Against Heresies II.6:1), St. Clement of Alexandria (Stromata VI, VII), St. Clement of Rome (First Epistle to the Corinthians VII); St. Thomas Aquinas (De Veritate q XIV a XI) and even among the reformers. Ulrich Zwingli (Exposition of the Faith).

Rather than throwing brick-a-bats at Mr. Akin and caluminating against the evil Catholics once again, you should have the courtesy of holding these other gentlemen up for excoriation, too. Frankly, it would be a far more productive use of your time to discuss why exclusivism is more biblical and correct than inclusivism as there are verses in Scripture that support both views(since your fellow blogger decried Rome's failure to make best use of its time in another article here)than singling out a Catholic apologist as the object of your derision and scorn.

God bless!

Carrie said...

Thus, to single out Mr. Akin for abuse is unseemly when there are Protestant theologians such as John Sanders, John Stott, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Clark Pinnock who hold to similar views as those expressed by Mr. Akin.

I am really not that familiar with these men, so that fact that they may be "Protestants" doesn't mean much. But regardless, do you actually have quotes to back up your assertion that these men also believe that atheists can be saved?

One last note: May I ask sll who post here, should you end up in heaven, would you be upset to find out that God had chosen to save some non-Christians through some other means that He had decided to use?

No offense, Paul, but either you really don't comprehend the issues here or you are just trying to poison the well with some misapplied appeal to emotions. I thought you were fairly intelligent, so this type of a statement really is beneath you.

Carrie said...

Is it really that big a deal or so far off topic? I think I've pointed out why it's relevant.

Sorry, I'm in summer mode and not interested in extended combox discussions.

Assuming I am understanding your question correctly, Gene's post is the only one I can think of off the top of my head that I would agree with:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/who-speaks-for-romanist.html

Paul Hoffer said...

Carrie, I do apologize if the last remarks I made seemed to be "over the top." I meant no offense by them to you nor did I mean to imply that anyone here would be upset if it were the case if God did choose by whatever means to grant a non-believer a way to assent to the message of the Gospel. I made them to encourage all to think about the implications if it were true. Surely, noone could ever deny that our God is a just and merciful God if such were the case nor could one dare to argue before the Great Judge that they were not deserving of damnation were they to reject the Gospel even then. I should have couched my question in a less suggestive or rhetorical manner which would have made the point much better than the way I actually did phrase it.

To be clear, I do not believe that an unrepentant atheist can gain heaven no matter how "sincere" his efforts are to seek the truth. However, I do tend to lean towards the notion that God does have a mechanism for those who did not receive the opportunity to give their assent to the grace that God graciously showers upon each of us from what little I have studied of the matter. Peter talks of Christ preaching to the "spirits in prison" at 1 Pt. 3:19 and preaching the Gospel to the dead at 1 Pt. 4:6. He also talks about judgment for those who fail to obey the Gospel of God. (1 Pt.
4:17) If one has never heard the Gospel, how could one fail to obey it? Without having fully studied the import of these verses or how others in the Church have interpreted them in the past, they would seem to suggest that God has a way of preaching the Gospel to those who could not otherwise hear or understand it. It would also explain how an aborted child, deceased infant, mentally handicapped individual, or even atheist might be still saved by faith through God's grace.

You asked, "Do you actually have quotes to back up your assertion that these men also believe that atheists can be saved?" Unfortunately, I do not have the book that made such references presently in my possession. However, as I have made the statement, I will endeavor to obtain it again and provide the basis for the statement. As far as the historical references, that is another story and I will provide those much more quickly.

Ken Temple said...

Thanks James - I enjoy your site; I enjoy debate too much also; and keep going back for punishment other sites.
Ken
________________
Paul wrote:
Thus, to single out Mr. Akin for abuse is unseemly when there are Protestant theologians such as John Sanders, John Stott, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Clark Pinnock who hold to similar views as those expressed by Mr. Akin.

John Stott does not believe like Akin; -- Sanders, Pinnock, Pannenberg, yes; but Stott, no.

Stott only tentatively entertained annhilationism ; and that only after a time of suffering torment for unbelievers, (John Piper talks about this in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, pp. 120-128, 1993 edition); but he never affirmed that atheists and unbelievers can be saved; what these others taught; and it is a different issue.

Ken Temple said...

Article that confirms JRW Stott's tentatively holding to annihilationism; and that after a time period of conscious suffering.

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?648

As far as I know, he does not and has never held the same position that Akin and Pinnock and Sanders hold.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rev. Temple, I appreciate the correction. I was going from recollection of what I had read a while ago (Obviously, I need to take more Gingko Balboa). The book I read (actually an essay in a book format) gave a list of people who espoused the Inclusivist viewpoint which encompassed theologians who believed that anyone who believed in the Nicene Creed could be saved, Catholics are Christians too, to the extreme even-atheists-might-be-saved. I do recall that Stott was listed as an Inclusivist. Do you know why he is considered an Inclusivist or if that designation was even accurate?

Carrie said...

. However, as I have made the statement, I will endeavor to obtain it again and provide the basis for the statement.

Don't worry about it, it really doesn't change anything. If others believe as Akin, they too are wrong and unbiblical. The fact that they may claim to be Protestant doesn't make Akin's heresy any more reasonable.

And I wasn't offended by what you said, Paul, but just tired of those types of arguments from Catholics. The fact is, I didn't "deride and scorn" Akin, I pointed out what he said and gave two scriptures that contradict him.

And while it is good that some of the Catholics here seem to disagree with him on this one, his viewpoint really isn't that far off from the catechism and LG quotes I gave. The whole "implicit faith" teachings of Catholicism are wrong and counter-scriptural. Akin just took the official teachings to the next level and for all we know, perhaps he is foreshadowing the next "development" in that doctrine.

Ken Temple said...

Hi Paul Hoffer,
I think that the controversy Stott started by his "tentative openness to annihilation- ism" got garbled and confused into putting him in the "inclusivist" camp; because Sanders and Pinnock want to get other intellectually sharp Christians, conservatives on their side; it makes them look good. I have read, as I said about Stott's annihilationism in Piper's book also.

C. S. Lewis had some kind of an inclusivist view in his Science fiction trilogy also.

It is easy for conservative Evangelicals to mix these views up and garble them; as they both sound heretical and they dismiss them quickly without thinking about the differences between the two issues.

Beyond that, I have not seen a clear statement of Stott's that would put him in the inclusivist camp; even when Pinnock and Sanders try to quote him as such.

Carrie,
Well said! Akin's view seemed really close to the Catechism and LG; and also fits with John Paul 2 praying with Buddhists and kissing the Koran.