Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seeking a Name For Ourselves

I recently listened to a twenty minute lecture by Carl Trueman titled "What Was Luther Doing on Reformation Sunday?" The lecture is a deeply practical and critically introspective application of 1 Timothy 1:1-11 to the motivations of the heart--to the reasons we seek to study theology. Trueman utilizes the passage from 1 Timothy as a sort of lens to interpret the motivations of Tetzel for selling indulgences, applying it as well to modern televangelists, bloggers and, last of all, seminarians. Why do we study theology? Is it to advance the Kingdom of God in humility? Or is it to increase our power and influence? If it is merely to increase our power and influence, then we might very well find ourselves defending whatever arguments are most convenient to this end.

While not explicitly mentioned in the lecture, Trueman's analysis supplies a possible answer to a question regularly enough posed in the combox of this blog--why do some Protestants, with degrees, grounding in Reformed theology, etc., decide to convert to Catholicism? Some, it seems, desire power and influence more than they desire to serve the truth. A sensational conversion to Catholicism provides a kind of celebrity, authority and prominence unavailable to those who quietly and obscurely serve the Lord in a Protestant church. And certainly this temptation is both apparent and increased given the celebration of "conversion stories" in modern Catholic apologetics.

Such an application of Trueman's analysis cannot be granted in the case of each and every convert, for the circumstances vary, often greatly, from individual to individual. But it certainly explains why at least some turn from the truth of the Gospel.

The talk is available for free through iTunes U. If it is not obvious already, I highly recommend it.

48 comments:

John Bugay said...

Matthew, I listened to the whole series. It seems to be some sort of introduction to WTS. The whole series is excellent.

The 27th Comrade said...

As someone who is convinced that the converts to Roman Catholicism are wrong, I nevertheless think that they are all sincere, and not doing it for vainglorious reasons. I believe that they all mean to stand better with God, and that they are doing with zeal and piety at the front, and not the praises of men.

However, despite their earnest piety they are wrong.
Let us not see their being wrong as implying that they have wrong motives.

In fact, for many Protestants, I retort with Philippians 1 where you use 1 Timothy 1. They (the Protestants) speak the Truth of God, but they do it often for selfish, fleshly reasons. They still preach the truth, but they are not of good heart often when they do it.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

The 27th Comrade said:

Let us not see their being wrong as implying that they have wrong motives.

I explicitly rejected this kind of generalization in my post. See the relevant qualifiers in the second and third paragraphs.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Shultz, I tried to post my comment before and it would not do so. Try two.

You talk here about possible bad motivations of Catholics who leave the Reformed fold and join the Catholic Church. When you wrote this article, you must have had someone in mind or you would not have taken the time to concoct this theory of yours. Would you care to name names or was it your intent to let the reader to fill in the blank space with any name of their choice as to which convert's motivations are suspect and are anything but faith-led, sincere or noble-minded?

You claim that your use of qualifiers exempts you from the charge of judging others hearts. Do you truly believe that such nuancing is any less virulent? Do you truly believe that if you do not name anyone in particular, it is ok to smear by innuendo converts in general?

I, for one would be interested in seeing which Reformed luminaries quit the school of Calvin, Turretin and Hodge to join Rome for vainglorious reasons. Name these prideful gavotteers who now dance to Rome's lyre in order to gain celebrity, power and prominence so we all can avoid their influence. Dare you tell us what kind of power, celebrity, and prominence one can find in a hierarchical Church that one can not find in a congregational-presbyterial format? Do you truly believe that people convert to Catholicism for power, lucre, women, a spot on the David Letterman show or similar twaddle?

And as for the celebration of conversion stories in modern Catholic apologetics, if you are actually interested in knowing why we celebrate them with great joy, I would suggest that you re-read Luke Chapter 15. If the all of the angelic choir and the whole heavenly host rejoice over the conversion of a single sinner, are we Catholics to do any less?

In the meantime, I will continue to pray for your conversion so that you may join us Catholics someday in the incomparable banquet of the Holy Eucharist.

God bless you and yours!

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Paul Hoffer said:

When you wrote this article, you must have had someone in mind or you would not have taken the time to concoct this theory of yours.

I gave my motivation for addressing the issue of Catholic conversions; it's a question regularly enough asked by our readers. I don't need to have a particular convert (or set of converts) in mind in order to explore one possible answer to the question. Thus we can dismiss your subsequent rhetorical distortions for what they are.

Dare you tell us what kind of power, celebrity, and prominence one can find in a hierarchical Church that one can not find in a congregational-presbyterial format?

That's a category mistake. The form of polity does not necessarily account for the particular situations in which individuals might find themselves. Recognition and glory are far more dependent on how the authority figures within such systems act and how the individuals are treated by their peers. An intellectual and social lightweight (regarded as such) in one social sphere could very well increase his standing in another sphere, irrespective of whether those spheres reside in formally identical ecclesiastical structures. Personal, social and cultural factors play an enormous role in such scenarios.

Do you truly believe that people convert to Catholicism for power, lucre, women, a spot on the David Letterman show or similar twaddle?

There are obviously other, less crass forms of influence and power far more socially acceptable and outwardly conformable to religious piety. Consider, for example, someone who deeply desires to write well-received books or to become a renowned lecturer or theologian. Your caricature is rejected for what it is.

At this stage, I need to ask whether you listened to the lecture Trueman gave.

If the all of the angelic choir and the whole heavenly host rejoice over the conversion of a single sinner, are we Catholics to do any less?

That assumes what you seek to prove.

Constantine said...

Matthew,

Thanks for the very meaningful post. I have listened to Trueman's short lecture and one of his longer ones, too.

Humbling, really...and cause to reevaluate.

Thanks, again.

Peace.

Kristi said...

"Some, it seems, desire power and influence more than they desire to serve the truth. A sensational conversion to Catholicism provides a kind of celebrity, authority and prominence unavailable to those who quietly and obscurely serve the Lord in a Protestant church."

Wow what leaps you have made to come to that conclusion. As a lifelong Protestant joining the Catholic Church this Easter, I can say that a lot of Protestants sure are comfortable conforming to the doctrine that they can live and act however they want and they'll still get a "get into heaven free" card...it makes me sick actually. How do generalizations like this help, though?

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Kristi said:

I can say that a lot of Protestants sure are comfortable conforming to the doctrine that they can live and act however they want and they'll still get a "get into heaven free" card...it makes me sick actually. How do generalizations like this help, though?

If your "generalization" happened to be analogous to what I wrote, then you might have a point.

I will say that generalizations do have a use if there does seem to be a rampant kind of sin within a religious body or movement. Broad problems exist and can be critiqued as such. There's nothing inherently wrong about such an approach.

Of course, I didn't say a lot (the term used in your counter-example) or many or all Catholics convert out of Reformed Protestantism for glory-seeking reasons. I provided it as one possible explanation. I have no idea how many convert with such a motive, even if I think the explanation is valid in some number of cases.

Paul Hoffer said...

You wrote: “I gave my motivation for addressing the issue of Catholic conversions; it's a question regularly enough asked by our readers. I don't need to have a particular convert (or set of converts) in mind in order to EXPLORE one possible answer to the question. Thus we can dismiss your subsequent rhetorical distortions for what they are.” (Emphasis added)

I write: Exploration is an act of searching for the purpose of discovery or to gather information. Your article does not contain anything of a search in it. On the other Hand, From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic by Scot McKnight found here:
http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/45/45-3/45-3-PP451-472_JETS.pdf constitutes true inquiry into the problem. BTW, dismissing my questions as rhetorical distortions is funny since your labeling of your post as exploration is a rhetorical distortion.
I wrote: Dare you tell us what kind of power, celebrity, and prominence one can find in a hierarchical Church that one can not find in a congregational-presbyterial format?

You responded: That's a category mistake. Etc...

I reply: Your answer is an epistle of straw-alot of words strung together that really don't mean anything. My query is not a category mistake at all. It is a fair question. You claim that some Reformed Christians changed their religion to Catholic out of a desire to obtain power, You could have just as easily written about former Catholics who convert to Calvinism and questioned their motivations. You did not do so. You distinguished Catholicism from Reformed Christians in this regard, so your selection established the categories. Therefore, your objection is overruled. Answer the question counsel.

You wrote: There are obviously other, less crass forms of influence and power far more socially acceptable and outwardly conformable to religious piety. Consider, for example, someone who deeply desires to write well-received books or to become a renowned lecturer or theologian. Your caricature is rejected for what it is.

I reply: I caricatured to make a point. Using your examples, do you really believe that a Christian would leave their Reformed denomination and join the Catholic Church in order to sell a book or so they could get recognized as a lecturer or theologian? Out of the large crop of Reformed Christians who are now Catholic, a representative few here: Scott Hahn, Jimmy Akins, Peter Kreeft, Steve Ray, Marcus Grodi, Robert Sungenis, all of whom have written well-received books, have lectured extensively, and may even be regarded as theologians by some, do you believe that any of these folks exhibit the sort of faith you claim that Reformed converts to Catholicism might have? If so, who?

You wrote: At this stage, I need to ask whether you listened to the lecture Trueman gave.

I respond: Nope. If your article is truly suggestive what one can expect to get out of it, then I would rather not waste my time. If your article does not, then you have done the man a disservice.

I wrote: If the all of the angelic choir and the whole heavenly host rejoice over the conversion of a single sinner, are we Catholics to do any less?

You responded: That assumes what you seek to prove.

I reply: I have given the reason for my hope, sir, and that is all I can do. I have provided to you the scriptural reason why Catholics celebrate conversion stories. And frankly, my answer makes a lot more sense than the one you sought to foist here. Frankly, I know of no Christian convert, Protestant or Catholic, including my future daughter, who have done so for the crass, vain reasons you seek to advance here.

I am sorry I can’t stay and play with you, but duty calls-my Holy Hour Eucharistic Adoration later this evening.

God bless!

John Bugay said...

As a lifelong Protestant joining the Catholic Church this Easter ...

What kind of Protestant were you?

Paul Hoffer said...

BTW Kristi, Congratulations and may God continue to bless you and yours! I will keep you in my prayers as I watch my future daughter-in-law make her profession of faith this Easter vigil as well!

David Waltz said...

>>I gave my motivation for addressing the issue of Catholic conversions; it's a question regularly enough asked by our readers. I don't need to have a particular convert (or set of converts) in mind in order to explore one possible answer to the question. Thus we can dismiss your subsequent rhetorical distortions for what they are.>>

Me: Hmmm...the recent Reformed converts into the RCC that have been mentioned at the Called To Communion website do not seem to fit into the, "desire power and influence more than they desire to serve the truth", motif that you suggested in your opening post. Sure seems to me that "power and influence" (i.e. money) dominants the Evangelical landscape to a much greater degree when addressing the real influence and popularity of converts.


Grace and peace,

David

John Bugay said...

David Waltz: See my more recent post on Bryan Cross, Ecclesial Deism, Monocausalism, Ecclesial Consumerism, and the academy.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Paul Hoffer said:

Exploration is an act of searching for the purpose of discovery or to gather information. Your article does not contain anything of a search in it.

How would you know? Trueman's lecture is the critical piece. Yet you have admittedly not listened to it. You pass judgment without evaluating all available evidence.

Your answer is an epistle of straw-alot of words strung together that really don't mean anything. My query is not a category mistake at all. It is a fair question. You claim that some Reformed Christians changed their religion to Catholic out of a desire to obtain power, You could have just as easily written about former Catholics who convert to Calvinism and questioned their motivations. You did not do so. You distinguished Catholicism from Reformed Christians in this regard, so your selection established the categories. Therefore, your objection is overruled. Answer the question counsel.

The category mistake refers to your appeal to the similarity in the available opportunities for glory-seeking in both Protestant and Catholic forms of church polity. But the relevant factors are of a different nature.

I didn't write about a potential motive of Catholics converting to Calvinism because that would have been superfluous. The entire purpose of Trueman's lecture is to question the heart motivations for studying theology. The context is to seminarians at Westminster. The critique is from a Reformed Protestant to Reformed Protestants and includes examples of various categories of Protestants who have failed to properly analyze their motives and succumbed to poor behavior.

But you would know this if you had bothered to listen to the lecture. Aren't you a laywer? Perhaps you should evaluate all the available evidence before rendering judgment.

I caricatured to make a point.

There's quite a difference between seeking to teach theology for selfish reasons and seeking "power, lucre, women, a spot on the David Letterman show or similar twaddle." The critical concern Trueman raised is not our motives for seeking obviously bad and sinful excesses, but why we seek to engage in generally respectable Christian behavior. I hope you can see why your caricature is rather unhelpful in bolstering whatever objection you are trying to make.

do you believe that any of these folks exhibit the sort of faith you claim that Reformed converts to Catholicism might have? If so, who?

Again you press for particular examples when the evaluation on my part does not require any.

(Continued.)

Matthew D. Schultz said...

If your article is truly suggestive what one can expect to get out of it, then I would rather not waste my time.

That's rather revealing, as the lecture had nothing to do with that which you so strenuously reject, but with evaluating the heart-motives we bring to the study of theology. It's hard to see how you could disagree with the principle Trueman puts forth, even if you disagree with my application of the principle to a particular, related question.

Frankly, I know of no Christian convert, Protestant or Catholic, including my future daughter, who have done so for the crass, vain reasons you seek to advance here.

Neither do I. I'm not aware of many converts who have been featured on Letterman.

Your appeal to personal experience is beside the point. A category can be valid if Scripture informs us it exists, whether or not we have personally experienced people who fall into it. Do people seek to glorify themselves, to increase their influence and power? Yes, Scripture tells us they do. Do some use theology to this end? Yes, as Scripture tells us. Do some distort theology, intentionally or not, as a result of caring more about their own glory than the glory of God's kingdom? Yes, again, as Scripture informs us. All this is discussed in the talk Trueman gave.

It's not difficult to move from this to the possibility of some converting in order to increase their influence and power.

Brigitte said...

I am not really comfortable with this thread, but I just want to respond to Kristi's comment which is really quite a jibe.

I can say that a lot of Protestants sure are comfortable conforming to the doctrine that they can live and act however they want and they'll still get a "get into heaven free" card...

First of all we have to ask how it is that Kristi is hoping to get into heaven if not for "free".

Secondly, what makes me "sick", to use Kristi's words, (rather my feeling is "how can someone be so self-righteous") is how some people simply because they join a faith that presupposes works for salvation makes them think that they have have them and therefore they are allowed to compare and say that other people are worse than they are. This is not the continuously repentant attitude, and humbly walking with our God that the Lord is seeking in the ones whom he has forgiven.

Salvation, justification, getting into heaven--is about the fact that our Father in heaven loves us, his prodigal children. He is the one seeking to reconcile the world to himself. The dividing wall of hostility has been removed. He is good.

Paul Hoffer said...

Brigitte, I would hate to join a church that presupposes works for salvation, too. Thank God, I belong to the Catholic Church which doesn't believe that either despite what some Protestants erroneously say.

Mr. Schultz, I will offer a sur-sur-reply to your sur-reply later this evening. I need to get ready for services this evening.

God bless!

John Lollard said...

Wait, Mr Hoffer, so I understand, you're saying that I can become a Catholic and then never go to confession ever in my life and I'll be "good"? I won't ever have to, say, undergo temporal suffering to make up for the venial sins that I have not yet confessed for?

What if I skip mass one week to go shopping and never go to confession and thus die in a state of mortal sin? What then?

Are you saying that sitting in front of a priest to ask for his forgiveness is irrelevant to whether or not the saving grace purchased by Christ's sacrifice will apply to me when I stand in judgement?

Is this what all the bishops and cardinals at the council of Trent were really trying to say all along, and everyone (including they themselves) has misunderstood the declarations of Trent on justification? Gosh, what a very silly mistake to make! And how silly to pronounce anathema on it!


"CANON XXVI.-If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema."

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi John, I can give you a very short answer right now as I am getting ready for Mass (Feast of the Annunciation).

Catholics do not believe that we receive grace because we merit; rather we merit because we first received grace and continue to receive grace. Our works,as St. Augustine says are graces themselves. "Dona Ipsius sunt merita tua."

I wrote on this more expansively in an article captioned Augustine vs.Geneva (found here: http://capriciousness.blogspot.com/2009/10/augustine-vs-geneva-reply-to-article.html ).

Your problem is that you are selecting portions from the Canons of Trent rather than looking them as a whole. I referenced Trent, the CCC and applicable sections from Augustine's writings to show that Catholicism is neither Pelagianist nor Semi-Pelagianist.

I will to be more specific later after church.

God bless!

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer,

It's important to recognize that Augustine isn't an official source of Roman dogma. He's a doctor of the church, nothing more than that.

-TurretinFan

eulogos said...

I know a Protestant who will be received into the Catholic Church this Easter who has had to give up a good job at which he was prospering and to sell his house at a significant loss in order to become a Catholic. He was doing quite well for himself in the Protestant world, and there are no offers of fame or publicity being made to him. He is clearly following what he now believes to be the truth at a significant cost.

Why can't you accept that there are Christians with different beliefs concerning some issues which arose in the Church about 500 years ago, and that people on each side of the dispute are sincere in their beliefs and adhere to them because they believe they are the truth, and what God has revealed?

In the past people on both sides of this divide have died bravely for their beliefs in quite horrible ways. That is pretty good evidence that sincerity can be found on either side.

Susan Peterson

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Mr. Fan: You wrote: “It's important to recognize that Augustine isn't an official source of Roman dogma. He's a doctor of the church, nothing more than that.”

My response:

Pope St. Hormisdas in his epistle “Sicut rationi” wrote: “Yet what the Roman, that is the Catholic, Church follows and preserves concerning free will and grace of God can be abundantly recognized ... in the various books of the Blessed Augustine[.]

That seems to me to indicate that we Catholics accept Augustine’s writings as something more than that of a Doctor of the Church.

And how about the Council of Orange, Canons on Grace 19 as confirmed by Pope Boniface II that echo St. Augustine’s words: "[G]race is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed, but grace, which is not due, precedes [good works], that they may be done."

And the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2006-2011 pertaining to merit quotes St. Augustine extensively as well.

To you Mr. Fan, St. Augustine may be nothing more than a Doctor of a church; however, for Catholics he is our “Doctor of Grace”and for me personally, a patron saint. No matter how you wish to downplay it, St. Augustine is a Roman Catholic saint for good reason.

God bless!

John Lollard said...

Mr. Hoffer,

Thank you for your "short" answer. One thing I am noticing about it is that it is very long. I don't mean to sound rude and I have every intention of reading it, but it seems to not be addressing the point. Your article seems to be arguing that our good works are received from grace. Great. You also directly quote Augustine explicitly stating that our entrance to eternal life is based on these good works right in the beginning.

Really, it seems like the case is closed. You do believe - as the canon from Trent says - that good works merit eternal life, even if we only receive these good works from unmerited grace. Am I wrong in this, or is the theme of your article going to suddenly change midway through? Against the canon of Trent pronouncing anathema on the one who says that the one who continues in doing good has not merited eternal life, let me quote a rather controversial Christian leader:

"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" - Luke 17:7-10

Love in Christ,
JL

Paul Hoffer said...

Mr. Schultz: here is my reply to your latest comments:

I wrote: “Exploration is an act of searching for the purpose of discovery or to gather information. Your article does not contain anything of a search in it.”

You responded: “How would you know? Trueman's lecture is the critical piece. Yet you have admittedly not listened to it. You pass judgment without evaluating all available evidence.”

I reply: “When presenting a defense, one picks and chooses what points one wishes to focus on. I chose to critique your assertion that it was possible that some Reformed Christians converted to Catholicism for power, celebrity and prominence. I pointed out the flaw in your speculations.

You wrote: “The category mistake refers to your appeal to the similarity in the available opportunities for glory-seeking in both Protestant and Catholic forms of church polity. But the relevant factors are of a different nature.

I respond: The relevant factors are not of a different nature based on what you wrote.

You wrote: “I didn't write about a potential motive of Catholics converting to Calvinism because that would have been superfluous.”

I query: If it was superfluous, why bring Catholics up at all then?


You wrote: “The entire purpose of Trueman's lecture is to question the heart motivations for studying theology. The context is to seminarians at Westminster. The critique is from a Reformed Protestant to Reformed Protestants and includes examples of various categories of Protestants who have failed to properly analyze their motives and succumbed to poor behavior.”

I reiterate: Why bring Catholics up at all then?

You wrote: “But you would know this if you had bothered to listen to the lecture. Aren't you a laywer? Perhaps you should evaluate all the available evidence before rendering judgment.”

I respond: Perhaps you need to review my comments. The theme of my commentary was your polemic, not what Trueman spoke about. What Trueman said was not relevant nor material for me to address your remarks

You wrote: There's quite a difference between seeking to teach theology for selfish reasons and seeking "power, lucre, women, a spot on the David Letterman show or similar twaddle." The critical concern Trueman raised is not our motives for seeking obviously bad and sinful excesses, but why we seek to engage in generally respectable Christian behavior. I hope you can see why your caricature is rather unhelpful in bolstering whatever objection you are trying to make.

I respond: It was helpful enough to get you to provide the above explanation.

Cont.

Paul Hoffer said...

cont.

I wrote: “If your article is truly suggestive what one can expect to get out of it, then I would rather not waste my time.”

You responded: “That's rather revealing, as the lecture had nothing to do with that which you so strenuously reject, but with evaluating the heart-motives we bring to the study of theology. It's hard to see how you could disagree with the principle Trueman puts forth, even if you disagree with my application of the principle to a particular, related question.”

I reply: The most basic, foundational definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” Since that is something that has always been a part of my Catholic world view, I could not imagine anyone seeking to study theology for any other reason nor have I ever met anyone who held a different view. Even atheists study theology to deepen their “faith” in godlessness.

That said, I do acknowledge that as we gain understanding, Satan will use pride, envy, greed, and suspicion to deter or hinder us from that “seeking”. Hence, that is why I pray prior to conducting research or writing as well as for all who post.

You wrote: “It's not difficult to move from this to the possibility of some converting in order to increase their influence and power.”

I respond: If you knew what it takes for someone to convert to Catholicism, the possibility that someone would do so to increase their influence and power is a bit more remote than your article intimated. Frankly, many people who convert to Catholicism end up making great sacrifices to do so and suffer ridicule and disapproval of friends and family.

Anyways, I do appreciate your comments here as I found them to be more edifying than your original article. And I will attempt to listen to Trueman’s lecture given what you wrote about it in this round of discussion.

God bless you and yours!

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Lollard:

I thought I would spend some time interacting with your comments in detail.

You wrote:

[1] “Wait, Mr Hoffer, so I understand, you're saying that I can become a Catholic and then never go to confession ever in my life and I'll be "good"?

[2] “I won't ever have to, say, undergo temporal suffering to make up for the venial sins that I have not yet confessed for?”

[3] “What if I skip mass one week to go shopping and never go to confession and thus die in a state of mortal sin? What then?

[4] “Are you saying that sitting in front of a priest to ask for his forgiveness is irrelevant to whether or not the saving grace purchased by Christ's sacrifice will apply to me when I stand in judgment?

Before I address your four set of queries with specifics, I will reiterate this as plainly as I can. The Catholic Church does not teach that human good works are meritorious and can save. The Church holds that faith working through love does as taught in the Scriptures:

Mt. 10:42: “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple--amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

Mt. 16:27: “For the Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father's glory, and then He will repay everyone according to his conduct.”

Mt. 25:31-40: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited me.'

TBC...

Paul Hoffer said...

cont.

Then the righteous will answer Him and say, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You ill or in prison, and visit You?'

And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'

Gal. 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

1 Cor. 3:8-9: “The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God's co-workers; you are God's field, God's building.”

1 Cor. 7:19: “Circumcision means nothing, and uncircumcision means nothing; what matters is keeping God's commandments.”

Heb. 6:10: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for His name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.”

2 Pt. 10-11: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”

That said, let me address some individual points in your queries:

[1] “Wait, Mr Hoffer, so I understand, you're saying that I can become a Catholic and then never go to confession ever in my life and I'll be "good"?

I respond: I did not say that. 1 John 1:6-10: If we say, "We have fellowship with [God]," while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, "We are without sin," we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, "We have not sinned," we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Confession is a sacrament where God forgives our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing through His grace. Since Christ guaranteed that sins forgiven through the Church are forgiven in heaven (Mt. 18:18; Jn 20:21-23), why would one not avail himself of that wondrous sacrament?

[2] “I won't ever have to, say, undergo temporal suffering to make up for the venial sins that I have not yet confessed for?”

Venial sins are forgiven through the reception of any sacrament, not just confession but if one’s soul is stained only with venial sin when they die, they still are in a state of grace and by virtue of Christ’s death on the cross, they merit heaven.

[3] “What if I skip mass one week to go shopping and never go to confession and thus die in a state of mortal sin? What then?

Paul Hoffer said...

cont.

You have a lot of variables that make this one difficult to answer. The crux is your intention. Why were you shopping? If you skipped Mass to pick up necessary medicine for a loved one, that would certainly mitigate your responsibility. Here is an article that might be helpful to you in that regard: “http://www.cuf.org/FileDownloads/missingmassmortalsin.pdf .

[4] “Are you saying that sitting in front of a priest to ask for his forgiveness is irrelevant to whether or not the saving grace purchased by Christ's sacrifice will apply to me when I stand in judgment?

I respond: Again, confession is a sacrament wherein the grace of Christ’s sacrifice is applied to the sinner. Moreover, when a penitent seeks forgivenness of sins in the sacrament of confession, it God forgiving the sins, not a priest. The priest merely is there as God’ agent.

You wrote: “Is this what all the bishops and cardinals at the council of Trent were really trying to say all along, and everyone (including they themselves) has misunderstood the declarations of Trent on justification? Gosh, what a very silly mistake to make! And how silly to pronounce anathema on it!”

I respond: The operative words of the canon are “done in God”. Your statement shows that you do not understand the teachings of the Council of Trent.

Strictly speaking, God does not owe us anything. All works are wrought by grace, so if God crowns us for doing “good works”, it is only because He is choosing to crown his own gifts. You are leaving out the “done in God” part. Hence, that is why doing one’s duty at Lk. 17:7-10 is still rewarded at Mt. 25:31-40. Moreover, compare your viewpoint with Our Lord and Savior said at Jn 13:12-17.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my faith with you.

Mr. Lollard, echoing the words of the great saint whose name I unworthily share, “May the God of peace Himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:23)

God bless!

The 27th Comrade said...

Matthew says:
"I explicitly rejected this kind of generalization in my post."

It is not the generalisation I am against. Any insinuation that anybody converted for vainglorious reasons I am against. The "some" of whom you speak as doing it for being-seen reasons I consider to be earnest (even though ernestly-wrong). They may want to boast before God, being justified by works and all that, but they do not know that, and so I cannot charge it against any of them.

Kristi says:
"I can say that a lot of Protestants sure are comfortable conforming to the doctrine that they can live and act however they want and they'll still get a "get into heaven free" card...it makes me sick actually."

Good luck in Rome; you will need it. Go where what makes you feel sick is the indicator of what is wrong, and then tell me. There is a reason the gospel means "Good News". When I tell you "Whoever lives according to what is written in the book of Law shall live; whoever departs from it will die." I am not giving you news, and that is also not a good thing, because you will depart from the Law. Go to Rome, where your works determine your standing with God, and I can tell you now: you will be found wanting.

And if you do not have a get-in-Heave-free card, as you do not in Rome, given paragraph 2010 of the Catechism, then you are not of the fold of Jesus Christ: God's free gift is eternal life, says the Lord of Hosts.

Indeed, I can see that you converted for vainglorious reasons: so that your justification may rest on your own works, and you avoid the situation where Paul says "That none may boast." So go where you can boast; but you will be found wanting.

Paul Hoffer says:
"I would hate to join a church that presupposes works for salvation, too. Thank God, I belong to the Catholic Church which doesn't believe that either despite what some Protestants erroneously say."

You have already been condemned by Exsurge Domine, and you are standing in opposition to paragraph 2010 of your Catechism. Anyway, Rome contradicts itself, so you are right even though you are not.
Besides, the eternal life that Jesus gives is not like that of the Roman Catholic church. For you, it calls you to start working. For Christ, He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World." He says "Believe, and you will be saved." Do you believe that?
Also, if Augusting departs from John 3:16, he is wrong; whoever and whatever does is.

Mr. Paul Hoffer, I see you cite calls to works in the Bible, but allow me to ask: have you read the last verse of Romans 5?

The 27th Comrade said...

Wait. I mean the end of Romans 3; but the end of Romans 5 works, as well.

Point being, the Bible does not take away the requirement for perfection in works. It is why Christ's having died and risen remains pertinent to the end. Because either you be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect, or death comes. For all who believe in Christ, it is death that came. Not ours, but Christ's. For the Roman Catholics, the decision is still out in the future, so that they works in order that death may not come. Good luck! Your citing the numerous calls to works is your condemnation, because now that you know them, prepare to be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect. You will fail (because God is "Holy, Holy, Holy!" not just a good Catholic), and (as you say the Roman Catholic Church concedes) those who do not live up to it will die. That is true.

We are dead with Christ, and risen with Him. And you? Do you believe?

John Lollard said...

Mr Hoffer,

Thank you for your patience in writing out three posts worth of a reply to me. Let me also say, I appreciate your chispa in challenging a protestant to a Sword fight. Most RCs haven't even read it, and would instead just launch in to a defense of their authority to state stuff independent of it.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to be rude again and point out that you aren't actually denying my previous statement. In fact, if anything this reply and your post on Augustine (which I read last night) seem to be justifying the Roman doctrine that our good works merit eternal life.

Correct me if I am wrong, but near as I can tell, the RCC position is that God enables us to do good works out of grace and that by doing these good works we store up merit for ourselves against the day of Judgment, when that merit will purchase for us eternal life. I don't hear you saying anything different; what I hear you doing is waving your hands a lot and asking us to please not look at the end of the sentence and focus on its beginning in the grace of God.

You quoted Jesus on the master who serves the servants upon finding them faithful. I don't disagree. Christ obviously rewards us. He does not need to. As is made clear in the passage you refer, a master returning home to find his servants doing their job is under no obligation to them. That's what they're supposed to do and they deserve no reward for doing it. When we have succeeded in not earning a punishment (which I haven't) we oughtn't then say that we have merited eternal life. That Jesus gives us eternal life is not because the servants have merited being waited upon by their master, but because Jesus is gracious.

This is what Our Lord says:
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Do you think that God's grace to enable us to do work has enabled us to live lives more righteous than the Pharisees? Do you think God's grace to do good work has enabled us to stand the judgement when the command set by Christ is
"Be perfect, therefore, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

Are you perfect, even as the Holy Father (the rightful title of God) is perfect? Then it cannot be as Canons XXVI and XXXII of Trent say. Eternal life must be a gift that we do not and cannot deserve, no matter our works, else we would never attain to it.

Love in Christ,
JL

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Mr. Comrade.

I wrote: Paul Hoffer says:
"I would hate to join a church that presupposes works for salvation, too. Thank God, I belong to the Catholic Church which doesn't believe that either despite what some Protestants erroneously say."

You responded: You have already been condemned by Exsurge Domine, and you are standing in opposition to paragraph 2010 of your Catechism. Anyway, Rome contradicts itself, so you are right even though you are not.

I reply: Pretend I am from Missouri and “show me” how what I personally have been condemned by Leo X’s Exsurge Domine or stand in opposition to paragraph 2010 of the CCC. Where I might be faulted is for forgetting that your (depending on whatever flavor of Protestantism you might adhere to) definition of merit might be different than my definition of merit. Where you are at fault sir is for cherry picking as if a statement of the Catholic faith can be read in isolation from other sections.

Since this is a comm. box, I will use the “In Brief” section of the Catechism to illustrate your fruit collecting (BTW would you call that a work?):

2017 The grace of the Holy Spirit confers upon us the righteousness of God. Uniting us by faith and Baptism to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the Spirit makes us sharers in his life.

(Nothing about man’s works here)

2018 Like conversion, justification has two aspects. Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2019 Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2020 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God's mercy.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2021 Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)
2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2023 Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2024 Sanctifying grace makes us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.

(Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2025 We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God.

(Here God is the originator of merit. Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)

2026 The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God.

(Here the Holy Spirit confers the merit that originated with God on man. Nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here)


TBC

Paul Hoffer said...

cont.

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.

(Here, it is specifically denied that we can purchase grace. After gratuitously receiving that grace, we can merit-but as said before there is nothing about man’s works purchasing us salvation here. This is in accord completely with what Our Lord expressly taught at Mt. 25:14-30; 31-42)

You wrote: “Besides, the eternal life that Jesus gives is not like that of the Roman Catholic church. For you, it calls you to start working. For Christ, He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World." He says "Believe, and you will be saved." Do you believe that?

I respond, Yes I do. However, expression of that belief is not an event, it is a response demonstrated by one’s life. “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.” (Mt. 10:38. See also” Mt. 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23 14:27) Do you, Mr. Comrade, also agree that one is not saved unless they first take up the cross and follow Christ?

You wrote: “Also, if Augusting departs from John 3:16, he is wrong; whoever and whatever does is.”

I respond: Again, belief is not merely a voice acclamation. Where we apparently disagree, is that you refuse to accept what I claim that the work of man's salvation is ultimately the work of God through His grace and that you would deny that the reality of grace necessarily involves our corresponding affirmation which is a free cooperation in God’s work. Our cooperation is not passive but an active engagement in our new life as Christians. Our activity is affirmed not only here on earth, but in its effects before God Himself.

What the Council of Trent holds in regards to merit is that it comes as a crown to our cooperation with God’s grace. Merit then is not the price of admission to heaven or a heavenly “gold star” place by God on our page in the Book of Life. It merely expresses the qualities inherent in the good works impelled by God’s grace. This is what Augustine said; this is what the Council of Orange said; this is what the Council of Trent said; and what I am saying now. MOST importantly, it is what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said at Mt. 25 and elsewhere.

You wrote: “Paul Hoffer, I see you cite calls to works in the Bible, but allow me to ask: have you read the last verse of Romans 5?”

I respond: Here are the last two verses of Romans 5, “The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

If one accepts the definition of grace as I have given it, I see no problem for Catholic tehology whatsoever.

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to share my faith with you.

God bless!

Paul Hoffer said...

Mr. Comrade wrote: "Wait. I mean the end of Romans 3; but the end of Romans 5 works, as well."

Me: I am sorry I did not see your newer remarks until after posting to your earlier comment. it would have saved me time in responding. Well, I read what you wrote. I guess you have an antimonian perspective. Good luck with that. Even devils believe in Jesus Christ and they still are in hell.

John Bugay said...

Paul Hoffer, all that happy stuff about grace goes away when you are baptized. After that, sure, grace helps you, but you're on the sacramental treadmill, and if you get off, there's a nasty anathema.

That's why the emperor Constantine (not our commenter Constantine) was able to wait until just before his death to be baptized.

[Who were his advisors in Rome, by the way, who allowed him to get away with that?]

The 27th Comrade said...

Mr Hoffer;

In light of your responses, I will ask you if you think that John 3:16 should be qualified. Do you think that John 3:16 should be qualified?

Now, onto other things:
You say: "However, expression of that belief is not an event, it is a response demonstrated by one’s life."

Of course. Faith is not an event.
You quote "he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven", and condemn yourself by still not realising that "y faith we uphold the Law". I did refer you to the end of Romans 3. Yes, only those who do what God demands of us will enter Heaven. You are not one of them, and neither is any Pope. You are not good enough before God. By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.
I am, in sync with Jesus, saying that nobody will enter Heaven.

Except by simple, unilateral Grace, through Faith. And if by Grace, then no by works; otherwise Grace is no longer grace.

You say: "Where we apparently disagree, is that you refuse to accept what I claim that the work of man's salvation is ultimately the work of God through His grace ..."

No, our disagreement is deeper. I am saying that you will never do anything that can pass muster as holy before the Holy One of Israel. Where do you get this stuff about "graces that enable us to merit for ourselves eternal life"? It is what I disagree with.

You say (of me): "... you would deny that the reality of grace necessarily involves our corresponding affirmation which is a free cooperation in God’s work."

If affirmation is believing, yes. If affirmation is doing, no. We do not do anything to earn our way into Heaven; well, I should say that we fail to attain to that target, no matter what we do.
You see, I agree with Catholics that we work for Heaven; I disagree with them when they say that we can achieve it. So, me, I use the Way that God has revealed for us, while they, thinking that they will manage to impress God, do not take the other way. You stop in the middle of Romans 3 and resolve to keep the Law (which will forever hold); me, I continue on to "Now we know that whatever the Law says it says to those who are under the Law, that every mouth be held shut, blah, blah, blah. For we have already said that the Catholics are wrong, since nobody will please God by works, blah, blah, blah, and that both Pope and serial murderer are finished, blah, blah, blah. But now a righteousness has been revealed! This one comes from God and is given to those who believe, blah, blah, blah."

The 27th Comrade said...

Continuing, Mr Hoffer, if you do not mind, you said: "What the Council of Trent holds in regards to merit is that it comes as a crown to our cooperation with God’s grace."

Well, Council of Trent is wrong.

You say: "It merely expresses the qualities inherent in the good works impelled by God’s grace. This is what Augustine said; this is what the Council of Orange said; this is what the Council of Trent said; and what I am saying now. MOST importantly, it is what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said at Mt. 25 and elsewhere. "

No, it is not what Jesus said. When Jesus speaks of the reward earned from works, He speaks of what will be given to those of whom God can say "This is my Son, in whom I am well-pleased." You are not one of those; you will never be one of those by your works, and neither are any Catholics. Only Jesus ... and those who are hidden in Jesus. All God ever asked for was a sacrifice of atonement, not accompanying self-flagellation. Jesus meant it when He said "It is finished," and I do not care if groups of men in Councils agree. I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day. So I want to be found not having a righteousness of my own, and I consider the very idea to be dung, so that I may be found with a righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, and thereby attain to eternal life.

You say: "Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to share my faith with you."

Thanks for participating; but I am sorry I do not put faith in my works. That faith, you can keep for yourself.
Thank you, also, for letting me share my faith with you.

You say: "I guess you have an antimonian perspective. Good luck with that. Even devils believe in Jesus Christ and they still are in hell."

So you believe that the last verse of Romans 3 should be qualified?

Yes, the devils believe that He is God. But that is not what justifies; otherwise the Roman Catholic doctrine would lead to justification. What the devils do not do, and which Roman Catholic doctrine does not teach, is that it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, but of God, that none may boast. The devils cannot believe that, because Jesus did not die for them. Even if they knew the Good News, it is not meant for them. As for you, you have known the Good News, but you did not believe it. Who has believed our message? To whom has the sheer might of the Lord been shown? It is weird when you believe in the Lord who calls Himself "mighty to save"; you only ever have strange stories to tell when you talk of salvation. So strange that only the simple will believe them. Who has believed our message? To whom has the hand of the Lord been demonstrated? "He bore the sins of many; he pleaded case for the evil!" Sucks to be Isaiah.

PS: I am not a Protestant. I am not even a Christian, properly-speaking. Pardon the craziness of it, but people like me exist, and every time I have to say my position to those who expect a simple response, I am left looking extremely stupid: one of the few moments where the real me shines through.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer,

I'm not sure your comments reflect a complete understanding of the difference between an official source of Roman dogma and a doctor of the church. However, since it does not appear that you are insisting that something is Roman dogma simply because Augustine says it, I guess you concede my point, even if you take issue with how I express it.

-TurretinFan

Paul Hoffer said...

Mr. Lollard:

You wrote: “Thank you for your patience in writing out three posts worth of a reply to me . . .”

I respond: Thank you for having the patience to suffer through reading my poor writing.

You wrote: “Correct me if I am wrong, but near as I can tell, the RCC position is that God enables us to do good works out of grace and that by doing these good works we store up merit for ourselves against the day of Judgment, when that merit will purchase for us eternal life.”

I respond: I hope that my response to Mr. Comrade helps clear up any misapprehension my words may have given you. We do not store up merits against the Day of Judgment nor will our merits purchase us eternal life. Merit, in the Catholic sense, is not an employment or accounting term.

You wrote: “You quoted Jesus on the master who serves the servants upon finding them faithful. I don't disagree. Christ obviously rewards us. He does not need to. As is made clear in the passage you refer, a master returning home to find his servants doing their job is under no obligation to them. That's what they're supposed to do and they deserve no reward for doing it. When we have succeeded in not earning a punishment (which I haven't) we oughtn't then say that we have merited eternal life. That Jesus gives us eternal life is not because the servants have merited being waited upon by their master, but because Jesus is gracious.”

I respond: I agree with you entirely. But as Matthew 25:14-30 shows, our works can increase what is given to us and we will be rewarded for it because Our Master Who we both love and serve is infinitely gracious.

You wrote: “This is what Our Lord says: "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Do you think that God's grace to enable us to do work has enabled us to live lives more righteous than the Pharisees? Do you think God's grace to do good work has enabled us to stand the judgement when the command set by Christ is "Be perfect, therefore, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect."?

Are you perfect, even as the Holy Father (the rightful title of God) is perfect? Then it cannot be as Canons XXVI and XXXII of Trent say. Eternal life must be a gift that we do not and cannot deserve, no matter our works, else we would never attain to it.

I respond: CANON XXVI (On Justification)-If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done IN GOD, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, THROUGH HIS MERCY AND THE MERIT OF JESUS CHRIST, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.

Read the Canon carefully: It is not our good works that purchase an eternal recompense but rather such is the result of the mercy of God and the merit of His Son, Jesus Christ. As CANON I of that same decree states: “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.”

Here is CANON XXXII (On Justification)-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Again, there is nothing in the above CANON that suggests that Catholics must do good works to merit salvation or eternal life, as if they were like workers must work to earn their wages. However, Catholic dogma does state that we can merit eternal life and an increase of grace. How can this be?

TBC

Paul Hoffer said...

Cont.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2006 to # 2011 shows the way. The CCC defines merit (# 2006), in general, as recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it. Under this general definition a worker merits his wages. It would be an injustice if the employer refuses to pay an employee what he has earned. Since the employee has performed work for the employer which the employer needed to have performed, the employee’s wages are not gifts from the employer but something they deserve for providing something the employer needed.

So does God need our works like an employer needs employees? No. Does the Catholic Church teach God hired us to work for him so that He must pay us for the work we do like a worker merits his wages? No. CCC # 2007 clearly states that with regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Why? Between God and humanity there is an immeasurable inequality, for everything we have-our talents, our material possessions, our very lives-we received from Him, our Creator. Accordingly, we cannot apply the general understanding of merit, to our merits in relation to our salvation. Unlike an employer, God does not need our works because He can do everything by Himself.

Yet the Scriptures state that God rewards us for our good works. “He who respects the commandment will be rewarded” (Proverbs 13:13). “The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He recompensed me” (Psalms 18:20). “Look to yourselves that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward.” (2 John 8). “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:23). “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29). “For He will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:6-7). Again, see, Matthew Chapter 25 passim.

While we have earned nor deserve any reward from God for doing good works, according to Scripture, He nevertheless still rewards us and His reward even includes eternal life. As stated in CCC# 2008: The merit of man before God arises from the fact that God has gratuitously and freely chosen to associate humankind with the work of his grace.

Even more than that, the Catholic Church states unequivocally that the initiative to do works always comes from God . The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting by his collaboration with God. The merit of good works is then to be attributed in the first place to the grace bestowed on us by God, then to man. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for all our good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit. To be able to do good works, we must connect ourselves to the true vine, Christ, who said apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:1-5).

TBC

Paul Hoffer said...

cont.

CCC # 2009 then explains that our filial adoption [as children of God] can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and worthy of obtaining the promised inheritance of eternal life. Thus, the merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. Our merits are God’s gifts. Thus in Catholicism the merits of our good works are not something we deserve (like our wages) but they are gifts from God. As Saint Augustine, the Catholic Doctor of Grace writes, “You [God] are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.”

CCC # 2010 provides: Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

We neither have to do good works nor must become good persons to make God take the initiative to move our hearts to have faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is gift from God, irrespective of our actions. This is what Ephesians 2:8 means. Works before our conversion to Christ can not save.

Since our merits are God’s gifts and are not something we deserve, then they may come in the form of increase of grace and even eternal life. John 1:16 says that through Christ we receive grace upon grace. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merits before God and before men.

(Acknowledgement to Vivator of Viva Catholic for giving me insight on responding here)

I realize you may disagree with this, but you need to read the Scriptures in pari materia, not in isolation of each other. Moreover, the CCC most accurately reflects what the Church has always taught and held.

Again, I apologize if I was unclear in any way. I stand by my remark to Brigitte that in the teaching of the Catholic Church, works do not presuppose salvation.

God bless!

Paul Hoffer said...

Mr. Comrade, I note your disagreement on the Catholic view of merit. However, you would get further if your disagreement is over what the Church actually teaches as opposed to a mistaken view of what it teaches. merit. Your view of what my Church teaches is in error.

Mr. Bugay, if you do not like the sacramental system of the Church, take it up with God, it is His system for distributing graces.

God bless!

John Lollard said...

Mr. Hoffer,

Thank you for your very sincere attempts. Again, I'm afraid I must again be very rude and ask you to please stop waving your arms to direct us to the "grace" statements when the "merit eternal life" statements are just as much part of these infallible canons.

Here is the Canon 32:
"If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.."

Here is Paul Hoffer:
"It is not our good works that purchase an eternal recompense but rather such is the result of the mercy of God and the merit of His Son, Jesus Christ."

Anathema.

Please take a look at your definition of "merit" in the Catechism, look at how this word "merit" is used in relation to our works and eternal life in Trent. This is the exact language used in Romans 4:1-8 by Paul to argue that salvation must be by grace, for if by works then not by grace (Romans 11:6).

I'm afraid you are being very unclear because your church's teachings are contradictory, inconsistent, and not rooted in Scripture. I don't know of any other way that you can be if you want to defend the Biblical doctrine of Grace simultaneously with the Tridentine doctrines of justification by meritorious works, which seems to be what you want to do.

Insisting over and over that the good works come from the Grace of God is not negating the very clear and definitional statements that the good works also merit eternal life. According to Trent they do. They do or anathema.

Hopefully the anathema on the Gospel you are even insisting on will wake you up to the spiritual blindness of the guides you follow.

In Christ,
JL

The 27th Comrade said...

Mr Hoffer says: "Mr. Comrade, I note your disagreement on the Catholic view of merit. However, you would get further if your disagreement is over what the Church actually teaches as opposed to a mistaken view of what it teaches."

As I suspected, you seem to imply that the Catholic view of merit is not what the Catholic Church teaches. A very Roman Catholic sentence.

You say: "Your view of what my Church teaches is in error."

No; your view of what your Church teaches is in error. Private interpretation, eh? Get Pope Benedict here and then I will take this ducking to be legitimate representation of Roman Catholic teaching.

You expressly said, in accordance with Roman Catholicism, that works play a part in attaining to eternal life. I, pace you and the Roman Catholics, say that they do not. This is a correct representation of Roman Catholic doctrine; do not try to duck. Mine is a correct representation of the Good News, and I do not try to duck, either. There is a reason it is called the Good News: because it is not like Rome tells it.

Who has believed our Good News? And to whom has the might of the Lord been shown?

The 27th Comrade said...

Also, Mr. Hoffer, it is always good if the questions I demarcate as requiring an answer are in fact given an answer when I am responded to:

Do you think that John 3:16 should be qualified?
So you believe that the last verse of Romans 3 should be qualified?

And, also, stop using the Jamesian "even the devils believe that He is God, and tremble!" on people who believe unto justification. That is about believing that He is God, not believing in John 3:16. The devils do not believe in Christ unto justification. Sadly, neither do the Roman Catholics.

Constantine said...

It's nice to see our effusive friend, Mr. Hoffer back! Greetings to you Paul.

However, we must stand against his propagation of such serious theological error.

To wit, when he writes,

Confession is a sacrament where God forgives our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing through His grace. Since Christ guaranteed that sins forgiven through the Church are forgiven in heaven (Mt. 18:18 ; Jn 20:21-23 ), why would one not avail himself of that wondrous sacrament?

The answer to his question is that the reason one would not – and should not – avail ones' self of “that wondrous sacrament” is that to do so is an act of supreme bad faith.

Let's start with a little background.

1. The Roman Catholic Church has formally and systematically denied its members the ability to study the Scriptures. (I hope not to have to trot out the well worn historical sources, but will if that is not clear.) Therefore, the only exposure that RC's have had to the Scriptures has been the highly edited and censored versions they hear at the mass. The official document expounding same for them is the Missale Romanum which has two versions – the one pre-1970 and the one post.


2. According to the Roman Catholic scholar, Fr. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D., the pre-1970 version excluded 99.2% of the Old Testament, with the exception of the Psalms which were read responsively between the readings. (For our Protestant brothers and sisters, the Catholic Mass has three Scripture readings: a first reading, a second reading and the reading of the Gospel. In between the first and second are recited some selection of the psalms.) The post 1970 version is only marginally better with the Lectionary for Sundays and Weekdays excluding 86.5%% of the OT and that for Sundays and Major Feasts excluding 96.3%! The point is, in combination with the ban on Bible study, the average Roman Catholic would not have heard any of the OT up until 1970 and thereafter only a sliver.


3. So when Mr. Hoffer offers only NT support for his supposed “wondrous sacrament” he operates within the confines of his sect and commits the error that Marcion was condemned for – that of ignoring the entire OT testimony.


4. So what does the OT say about “that wondrous sacrament”? God the Father, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah declared the creation of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus yet centuries into the future. And as part of God the Father's plan in creating this New Covenant and its people, He promised that “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:34; for context read Jer. 31:31-34). Of course, the New Covenant is that sealed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the teaching of forgiveness of sins known to the Apostles and to Christ, Incarnate – only God can forgive sins and for His New Covenant this was done in advance!


5. This teaching is so important to the history of Christianity that it is repeated, verbatim, the New Testament letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 8:8-12) and partially in Heb. 10:15-18.

So the irony of Mr. Hoffer's error is that his “sacrament” is useless for those God created to be in His New Covenant – because the Creator has already done the work Mr. Hoffer reserves to His creation. Secondly, it raises false hope in the lost. What a rude awakening for those who faithfully partook of the “wondrous sacrament” and put their hopes in its ephemeral effects when they stand before God only to hear those awful, awful words, “I never knew you.”

Perhaps most importantly, this “wondrous sacrament” denies the very purpose of the Christian life which is to give glory to God. If I can live like hell all week and go to confession on Saturday, then the focus of my life has shifted from glorifying God to protecting myself.

And that is another Gospel entirely.

A New Testament refutation to Mr. Hoffer's thesis in just a moment.

Peace.

Constantine said...

Further to Mr. Hoffer's exposition of that “wondrous sacrament” whereby one man forgives another's sins, we have already seen that the OT knew nothing of the sort. And, since the Tanakh was the only Scripture known to the Apostles and to the Incarnate Christ we may proceed to see whether the NT affirms or denies Mr. Hoffer's thesis.

First of all, the Apostle Paul teaches that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Eph. 1:4). Paul continues, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Eph. 1:7) In the Romish scheme, one cannot talk of the redemption “we have” because we may never have it! If Paul Hoffer happens to not die in a “state of grace” having been absolved, at that moment, of all of his past sins, well, then, he can never have been said to have the redemption which Paul says Christian believers have.

Paul is speaking in the past tense to remind us of the finished work of Christ. In fact, our forgiveness of sins comes only from the blood of Christ which is in accordance with God's grace. In Romans 11:27 Paul reinforces this idea of God's forgiving the sins of believers He creates into His New Covenant. So Paul affirms Isaiah and Jeremiah in contradiction to Mr. Hoffer and his sect. To assume that a priest needs to do some further forgiving departs from the Apostolic message entirely.

But what did Jesus teach?

In Mark 2 we have the story of Jesus declaring a man's sins to be forgiven. His point was to declare to the Pharisees who were watching Him, that He is God. But, ironically, as Jesus made His proclamation, they answered, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The point of the story is that Jesus, by forgiving the sin of the paralyzed man, proclaimed His divinity. The Pharisees were offended because, they assumed Jesus to be merely human. That is why they quoted the Scripture, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew that only God can forgive sins – and that is why He did it!

In sum, the Apostle Paul knew nothing of auricular confession to another individual and would have dismissed it as “another gospel”. Jesus himself used the ability to forgive sins which is reserved to God alone, to proclaim His true nature. To require a sacrament, no matter how “wondrous”, to forgive sin is simply to miss Jesus' teaching entirely, to blaspheme God and to blur the Creator/creature distinction ordained by God.

Peace.

John Bugay said...

Thanks, Constantine, for that nice summary.