Sunday, June 10, 2012

Roman Catholic Assurance



Without special Divine Revelation no one can know with the certainty of faith, if he be in the state of grace (De fide.)

Against the teaching of the Reformers, that the justified possess certainty of faith which excludes all doubts about their justification, the Council of Trent declared: "If one considers his own weakness and his defective disposition, he may well be fearful and anxious as to his state of grace, as nobody knows with the certainty of faith, which permits of no error, that he has achieved the grace of God"

The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for the achieving of justification. The impossiblity of the certainty of faith, however, by no means excludes a high moral certainty by the testimony of conscience.

The degree of justifying grace is not identical in all the just. (De fide.) Grace can be increased by good works (De Fide.)

As the Reformers wrongly regarded justification as a merely external imputation of Christ's justice, they were obliged also to hold that justification is identical in all men. The Council of Trent, however, declared that the measure of the grace of justification received varies in the individual person who is justified, according to the measure of God's free distribution, and to the disposition and co-operation of the recipient himself.

In regard to the increase of the state of grace, the Council of Trent declared against the Reformers, who asserted that good works are only a fruit of achieved justification, that the justice already in the soul is increased by good work. The various good works are rewarded by different grades of grace.

-Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pgs 261-262

25 comments:

Ken said...

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/greatest-all-protestant-heresies/

Indeed. According to this article by Sinclair Ferguson, Cardinal Bellermine said that "assurance is the greatest of all Protestant heresies".

Brigitte said...

I went to the Lord's supper, today, and thanked the Lord that this was his word to me, in it and by it, that I am redeemed.

Andrew said...

Brigitte,
Same here.

Dozie said...

"Against the teaching of the Reformers, that the justified possess certainty of faith which excludes all doubts about their justification".

Does this also apply to Protestants who convert to Catholicism?

natamllc said...

Dozie,

True Believers don't convert to false religions. Those in bondage to false religions or whatever weakness holding them are converted by the Power of God and kept!

Joh 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Joh 5:25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
..............................

1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Rhology said...

Bellarmine calls me a heretic, the CCC calls me a "separated brother".

What's a Babdist to do?

Dozie said...

"True Believers don't convert to false religions. Those in bondage to false religions or whatever weakness holding them are converted by the Power of God and kept!"

Are you denying that many of the Protestants who convert to Catholicism were once as sure of their salvation just as you and many others still remaining in Protestantism are sure of their eternal salvation today?

Rhology said...

Assurance is not the same issue as whether the Lord preserves His people.

steelikat said...

"A high moral certainty by the testimony of conscience" sounds like something Werner Erhard will be eager to sell you.

natamllc said...

Dozie:

"Are you denying that many of the Protestants who convert to Catholicism were once as sure of their salvation just as you and many others still remaining in Protestantism are sure of their eternal salvation today?"

Yes because no one saves them self from their sins.

Eternal Redemption is the work of God as the writer of the book of Hebrews writes about it, here:

Heb 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
Heb 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
Heb 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
Heb 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Nick said...

I'm trying to figure out what this post is trying to prove for Protestantism...that Protestants can have infallible assurance?

Infallible Assurance is a myth, and once you stop and ask yourself how you know you are elect rather than simply thinking you're elect, you'll have no concrete basis to answer the question.

So the Catholic position is right to say nobody has infallible Assurance.

James Swan said...

Once again Nick, as mentioned to you elsewhere, Roman Catholics should be among the last to criticize any other theological system on assurance, as Ott shows. In fact, are you sure you're among the elect and eternally saved?

My assurance is infallible in the sense that God is infallible, and proclaims:

John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

And also: 1 John 5:10-13 says:

1John 5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son.

1John 5:11 And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

1John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.

1John 5:13 These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.

John tells us he wrote that “you may know you have eternal life.”

Nick, why would John say "that ye may know that ye have eternal life"? Maybe if he had the benefit of reading your blog, he wouldn't have made such an outrageous claim.

John Lollard said...

I actually have a question along the lines of what Nick said.

I've been considering the Reformed doctrines of grace for a few years, and at first glance they seem great and astoundingly Biblical (the verses we used to skip over made sense now!), but when I started considering what Nick and Dozie have said, it did become frightening. In an Arminian system I can know that I'm saved - so long as I keep believing, but that conditional doesn't bother me very much. I can't imagine deciding to stop loving God. I never doubted my assurance until I started considering the doctrines of grace. Then there was the possibility, not that I might stop believing, but that right now even I do not really love or trust in God and never have and never will, though I may be deluded to thinking that I do.

I understand the purpose of the belief in perseverance of the saints is to affirm God's total sovereignty over my salvation, that I contribute nothing to it, not even my own belief. However, from another angle it could be an affirmation in God's total sovereignty over my damnation. All my prayers and pious noises amount to nothing, as they do not come from the Spirit, as I am not part of the elect but only playing at Christianity.

I'm thinking along the lines of William Cowper here. How do I know that I am not reprobate? As James White (whose podcasts have been immensely helpful to me) is fond of asking, how can I have peace with God if I might wake up tomorrow and learn that I have *never* been a true believer?

I'm really not trying to be flippant or make an argument or anything like that. This is actually a problem for me. I am truly looking for an explanation.

In Christ,
JL

Nick said...

James,

I'm not criticizing in any sense of applying a double standard. All I'm saying is that there is no such thing as Infallible Assurance, not for Catholics nor Protestants. The logic is plain, for there is no way to distinguish a truly elect from a self-deluded individual who thinks they're saved but never truly were.

John Calvin said: "though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them."

This is PRECISELY how and why Calvinists go around saying this or that ex-Calvinist (e.g. Hahn, Beckwith, Stellman) was "probably never saved in the first place". In other words, despite going through all the motions and believing all the Calvinist stuff, these guys (and others) might never have been saved in the first place. Thus, Infallible Assurance is phony.

Those verses you quoted can, at most, be speaking of a conditional assurance, meaning that so long as you're following Christ you can be assured you're on the right path, but that obviously doesn't apply when a Protestant leaves Protestantism.

And it seems John Lollard has confirmed everything I just said, and he clearly sees it's impossible to be Reformed because of it.

James Swan said...

John Lollard:

I'm on the run this morning, but briefly, I'd like you to consider something. If the argument boils down to "Only those who believe in unlimited atonement can have assurance" I'd like to point out two things.

1. Romanists believe in unlimited atonement and do not believe one can have assurance.

2. For Arminian types, the question then becomes, "How do I really know if I've accepted Christ?" That is, the problem of assurance has not been solved by unlimited atonement. This is why many folks keep going forward at church with altar calls. In other words, the extent of the atonement argument is a red herring.

Over the next few days I'm hoping to get a few minutes to go through some Reformed sources on this topic, particularly:

The Heidelberg Catechism

Berkhoff

and... the real Turretin (as opposed to TurretinFan). Turretin has an extensive section on this topic, but I don't have time for it now.

James Swan said...

Nick said:

"All I'm saying is that there is no such thing as Infallible Assurance, not for Catholics nor Protestants."

I would posit Romanists don't even have fallible assurance.

Nick said...

James,

How can Catholics not even have fallible assurance? That just doesn't make sense. If someone is living an upright Christian life to the best of their ability, that's got to count for fallible assurance. Otherwise, there couldn't be assurance in any sense of the term.

As for your comments to John, I agree that the extent of the atonement is a red herring. But I'd also point out Catholics don't believe in "unlimited atonement" as you're using the term, since we deny Penal Substitution. For example, we believe Christ died to make forgiveness possible for all, upon anyone who would repent. Calvinists believe Jesus forgave sin by the very fact of His death, so no need to wait for repentance even. Eric Svendsen got into a huge debate with White on this very issue, with Svendsen effectively denying Limited Atonement and Psub. In Catholicism, since nobody has to worry about whether Christ died for them, since He died for all, then anyone can have confidence that believing in Him they receive forgiveness through His blood.

Anyway, I'm eager to see what you can dig up from consulting those other sources, because in my research the answers are all basically the same, pure assumption/subjective.

Rhology said...

Could you please identify where in the Bible you see anything about "living an upright Christian life to the best of their ability"?

Nick said...

Just do a word search for "conscience" and you'll see what I mean.

Acts 24:16 "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man."

Romans 2:15
They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

1 Corinthians 4:4
My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

2 Corinthians 1:12
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.

1 Timothy 1:19
holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 3:9
They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

These and other texts confirm that Christians should strive for a clean conscience, which in turn grants them a level of assurance. If your conscience is clean, then that means you're doing you best to live a Godly life.

Rhology said...

If your conscience is clean, then that means you're doing you best to live a Godly life.

How do you know that?

natamllc said...

Nick

"I'm trying to figure out what this post is trying to prove for Protestantism...that Protestants can have infallible assurance? "

Those words of yours seem to me uncovers what your problem is and what you lack, Nick.

You are trying to figure out something you cannot nor can anyone of us for that matter. The "just" or the acquitted by God, though guilty of offending God by our sinful nature and sins committed, live by His Faith and by no merit of their own.

The natural does not inherit the spiritual. We begin in the natural. To enter the Kingdom one must die to self and live in the spiritual by the Spirit putting to death the things of the flesh, that that we deem meritorious in our view that we want God to receive as righteousness.

For you to figure it out would implies you could and should merit some result for figuring it out which contradicts True Living Abiding Faith, that Faith we make apologies for defending, that is, defending the Faith once delivered to the Saints in the world that requires some good work from us to be acceptable to both God and man.

Our understanding of "saints" and yours are basis entirely different terms. In your communion, you must attain to some meritorious life lived living to attain to sainthood.

This is not so in our communion.

I live by His infallible assurance that has been given to me through His Faith given to me to live by. Why can I confidently say that? Because God has put in me His "living" Hope. I have been born again.

Jesus said it. For us to have and live by this infallible assurance, this "living Hope", we must be born again to it.

natamllc said...

Continuing:::>

Here is how John shows it in the Gospel of John:

Joh 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Joh 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
Joh 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
Joh 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Joh 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.



That reality was not lost on the Apostles after Christ's Resurrection as we learn from Peter, here:

1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.


What Peter wrote there "that way" Paul the Apostle wrote here "this way":

Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Rom 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Rom 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
Rom 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.


Nick, I would ask you to pause and ponder this about the "free" gift of "Eternal Life" from these two points of view.

One point of view:
Joh 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
Joh 17:2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
Joh 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.......................Joh 17:25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
Joh 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."



Another point of view:
Rom 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


To what then do these verses point?

Continuing::::>

natamllc said...

Nick,

Now having been born again one truth that comes alive within those who live by His Faith not their own is now of great worth to them when realizing it is this restored communion with both the Father and the Son spiritually knowing Them in this life:

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Rom 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
Rom 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Rom 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Rom 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Rom 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.


Now we have restored to us what Adam lost by his disobedience in the Garden!

I say it like this:

"If you do not die and go to Heaven before you die, you do not go to Heaven when you die!"

I therefore come back to this:

Joh 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
Joh 3:2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."
Joh 3:3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Joh 3:4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Joh 3:7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
Joh 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."


To have this infallible assurance alive and active within one's soul one must be born again!

Ken said...

James wrote:
"My assurance is infallible in the sense that God is infallible, and proclaims:"

(then he lists several passages from Scripture, as did natamllc)

That's a good statement, James. Only God is infallible, and God does not require us to have to introspect whether our assurance is infallible or not infallible. The Bible never says we as humans have "infallible assurance", it just says "assurance" or "certainty", etc. - and the Holy Spirit gives us that assurance, as we read the Scriptures and examine our souls - and see fruit in our life - but God does not expect any of our decisions / beliefs / convictions to have the quality of "infallible" since only God and His Word are infallible. Since God and His word are infallible, we have the kind of assurance that James wrote about, "in the sense that God is infallible".

The Roman Catholic demand for infallibility in human decisions and councils and Popes in order for a human to supposedly arrive at assurance is the way to madness of the brain and despair of the heart; and then they hope one will surrender their brains to submission to the Pope.

Ken said...

To John Lollard,
John - sorry I did not see your very serious question earlier -

The Scriptures never approach the issue in the way you are doing now.

God does not require you to make an infallible decision or to wonder about whether in the future you will be reprobate - where in Scripture does the Holy Spirit speak of such things?

The balance of the issue is to meditate on those verses that James Swan and Natmallc quoted, and others; and so if you are trusting and loving Christ now, you can have assurance and don't have to go down that road of "what if?" and "how do I know?"

That kind of introspection leads to madness - Cowper struggled with that, yes.

Find some good hymns and sing them and find the words on line and listen to them; and meditate on those great passages of Scripture and the Psalms and Isaiah chapters 40-66.

The book of 1 John and 2 Peter ( 1:10 - make your calling and election sure) points to we know we are saved and elect by a changed life, hatred of sin, growth, repentance, obedience, fruit, character; but it never says we will be perfect.

1 John 2:1-2 -
Christ's atonement and intercession at the right hand of the Father gives me assurance when I sin, hate my sin, and confess it to Him.

I hope that is helpful.