Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Historical Developments that led to the eclipsing of the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone


James Swan had linked to this book on Purgatory and I recently received it in the mail and it is really interesting and helpful in getting a handle on how this unbiblical doctrine developed in church history.
(see under point 5)

The biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone was eventually neglected, over-shadowed, and eclipsed by the slow development of other unbiblical doctrines and doctrines.

It (Justification by grace through faith alone) appears at times in the writings of early Christians and early church fathers; but because some of these others things (listed below) were also developing at the same time, and sometimes some early church writers were inconsistent in seeming to affirm the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and also some of the other things listed below; this is one of the great reasons for why it is so hard and complicated to figure out what the early church believed about the doctrine after the Biblical era, and until Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther questioned these things.

1.  The Mono-Episcopate:  Biblical elders of a plurality of leaders was changed into taking one of the gifted elders out of the college and making him the sole bishop over the other elders in a church; then, later, in an entire area/city.  We can see that elders and bishops were interchangeable in the NT and in the earliest extra-canonical writing 1 Clement (96 AD), the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas.  Then, later we see a change in Ignatius (107-117 AD) and then Cyprian (around 250 AD) takes it further, and beyond in history.  see here for an Evangelical Introduction to church history part 1; and then, Part 2 here, that fleshes it all out.   But even Ignatius knows he does not have authority like an apostle.  (see his epistle to the Magnesians, epistle to the Trallians paragraph 3, verse 3, Ignatius to the Romans, paragraph 4, verse 3, and Ignatius to the Ephesians, paragraph 3, verse 1.  See also here, John Bugay has many excellent articles on this issue here and at Triablogue.   Even Cyprian, though he championed the ideas of the mono-episcopate of a local area, and that "the bishop is the church"; even he, did not agree that the bishop in Rome was the bishop of bishops.  He and 86 other bishops from all over the Christian world at the time, clearly stood against Stephen, the bishop of Rome at the time, in 258 AD.   Much later, the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome seems to have taken off some by Leo 1 in 440 AD, and then even more from Gregory the Great in 601 AD onward.  After Gregory the Great the power of the bishop of Rome kept developing, reaching a high mark of arrogance and false doctrine in Boniface VIII's statement in 1302 in the document, Unam Sanctum, ("It is necessary for every human creature to be in submission to the Roman Pontiff for salvation."); to the arrogance of Pius IX with "I am the tradition"; thus eventually developed into the Papal doctrines and dogma of infallibility in 1870.

2.  Baptismal Regeneration:  NT baptism as an outward evidence and sign/symbol of repentance and faith, an inward reality of regeneration/being born again/union with Christ by faith and repentance was changed into having power to actually cause one to be born again and regenerated. (baptismal regeneration)  The debate and discussion on that issue is still going strong in the com boxes here. 

3.  Penance:  Internal Repentance in the NT was changed into an outward penance, the work of satisfaction that one was assigned to do by a priest after confession.  William Webster has an excellent article on this the combines a lot of the other points also.    This was the first point of protest by Martin Luther in his 95 theses.  Later penance was developed along with private confession to a priest along with purgatory and then, with the treasury of merit of the saints into indulgences which really "took off" during the Crusades and was the spark that started Martin Luther questioning the Roman Catholic Church in 1517.

Addendum:  (January 3, 2014) - John Bugay made an excellent addition in the com box (on Aug. 15, 2012) to this issue on how the Latin mis-translation of the Greek word for repentance affected subsequent theology and church history. 

4.  Private Confession of sins to the priest for forgiveness:  Biblical confession of sin (1 John 1:9; James 5:16), and public confession of serious sin, developed into private confession of sins to a priest.  See also William Webster's article under point # 3.  Later, ex opere operato powers were given to the priests after the Donatist controversy.

5.  Purgatory - The idea of some kind of after death purging and cleansing was developed into Purgatory, starting with Clement of Alexandria and Origen and developing more after Augustine, especially by Gregory the bishop of Rome in 601 AD. See -
The Birth of Purgatory, by Jacques Le Goff. 

 James Swan has earlier linked to an excellent book called The Birth of Purgatory by Jacques Le Goff.   (Scroll down in this "Resources on Roman Catholicism" blog article)

6.  A NT office of priests.  This was wrong, as there is no NT office of "priest" in the local church.  None.  Jesus is our high priest.  For the NT church, there are
a. elders/overseers (same as bishops)/pastors and b.  deacons.  Every believer/saint is a priest to God.  (1 Peter 2:5-10; Revelation 1:6; 5:9-10.)   The word "priest" seems to be first applied to elders and ministers after they started applying OT language of sacrifice in worship to the thanksgiving and worship in the church and at the celebration of the eucharist.  (see # 13)

7.  Categories of mortal sins and venial sins and distinguishing between them. That seems to have started with Tertullian.

8.  Ideas of merit for good works, which is a contradiction to the Biblical teachings on grace.

9.  Gaining merit through Pilgrimages to graves and holy sites.  Simple remembering of martyrs' day of death as a "birthday" (going to heaven) and then venerating their bones (Would Polycarp have approved of such a practice?) , then to pilgrimages and visiting graves of dead saints and praying to them at their graves.

10.  Prayers to dead saints.  Whether at their graves or later, in front of pictures, later the icons, or statues.

11.  Prayers to Mary and the over-exalting of Mary as the greatest mediator, and then later other false dogmas such as Mary's Perpetual Virginity, her sinlessness, her Immaculate Conception(1854), and the Bodily Assumption (1950).  She is called, "co-mediatrix" - a clear contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:5.

12.  Almsgiving as a way of satisfaction for sins, often part of the penance assigned by a priest.

13.  Sacrificial language of the mass.  From using NT language of the sacrifices at the temple (Matthew 5:23-26), combining it with the need to reconcile with brothers before worship (Matthew 18:15-20) and taking the sacrificial language of the prophesy of Malachi 1:11 and applying all of that to the eucharist/Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 11/Luke 22/Matthew 26. The sacrificial language of the OT (Malachi) and NT (Matthew 5:23-26) was not meant to say that the eucharist would be a sacrifice, but rather an application of OT language to worship/thanksgiving/memorial of Christ's death/celebration in the NT church.

14.   Transubstantiation:  From memorial/spiritual presence of Christ in communion/ eucharist (Biblical) to actual physical presence (Justin Martyr to Radbertus in the 800s) to transubstantiation (developed from the 800s into 1215 AD)

Sometimes the doctrine of justification by faith alone can be discerned in the early church, in the writings of Clement, The Epistle to Diognetes, and Ambrosiaster seem to be really clear references.  Also, later, in the writings of John Chrysostom seems clear, and in others, but they sometimes had some elements of the above practices and doctrines also.  So they were inconsistent.  These 14 practices/doctrines together (and probably with other issues not named here, too) combined to eclipse / hide the doctrine of justification by faith alone, like the moon hiding the sun in an eclipse.   All of these things combined together to over-shadow the doctrine of justification by faith alone over the centuries until Wycliff and Hus and Luther started questioning these things.

11 comments:

Lvka said...

Good deeds are not a debt or bribe paid to God in exchange for Him forgiving our sins as a result of us doing them.

a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works: by faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins (Ambrosiaster) -- from the article you linked at.

One cannot, for instance, beat his wife, then "expect" to be forgiven by be(hav)ing (as) a good husband from then on. Likewise, we cannot earn God's forgiveness, it is freely given by Him through love. God is Love. This is especially clear when one understands that all good deeds we do are the fruit of God's grace working in us: how can someone be paid back with His own `money`? As "we" say weekly in the Holy Liturgy: "Your own from Your own: to You we bring all, and for all".

The book that I'd recommend you is one written by Mark the Ascetic, and entitled: "To those who think that they are saved by their own works".

Lvka said...

One sob, one tear, one 'Lord have mercy' from the depths of the soul, and God forgives all. (Source)

Luke 18:13  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying: God be merciful to me a sinner. 14  I tell you: this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

John Bugay said...

Ken, thanks for pulling this together. Don't forget that the sacrament of penance was supported for centuries by a mistranslation of the word “metanoiea”.

Ken said...

Thanks John !
You are right; and the effect Latin had from the 400s to Erasmus' fresh text of the Greek NT was another factor; and the Latin word, iustificare, and its emphasis on working, producing, making - which McGrath also mentions.

I love the chart in your article and the other information. I may have to add an addendum when I get the time.

Does anyone know who and when the NT was translated into the old Latin, that Latin speakers used before Jerome?

something to seek to look into later . . .

Tertullian is called "the Father of Latin theology", so apparently some kind of Latin translation was available to him before his writings, around 180-220 AD, right?

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

An interesting post; the following is from summary/ending:

==Sometimes the doctrine of justification by faith alone can be discerned in the early church, in the writings of Clement, The Epistle to Diognetes, and Ambrosiaster seem to be really clear references. Also, later, in the writings of John Chrysostom seems clear, and in others, but they sometimes had some elements of the above practices and doctrines also. So they were inconsistent. These 14 practices/doctrines together (and probably with other issues not named here, too) combined to eclipse / hide the doctrine of justification by faith alone, like the moon hiding the sun in an eclipse. All of these things combined together to over-shadow the doctrine of justification by faith alone over the centuries until Wycliff and Hus and Luther started questioning these things.==

A few points: first, the citations from the CFs at the site you linked to are being read anachronistically through the lenses of post-16th century developments; trained patristic scholars (Protestant) do not come to the same conclusions as you (i.e. those early CFs were not teaching "the doctrine of justification by faith alone", AS YOU UNDERSTAND IT.)

Second, I think James 2:24, the judgment by works passages in the NT, and the 'union with Christ' (i.e. deification) passages in the NT, probably had more of an impact on the development of soteriology in the early CFs than the "14 practices/doctrines" you listed.

And finally, I own the book you referenced, and would like to know if you read what the author had to say about Augustine's significant contribution/s to the doctrine purgatory?


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

Hi David,
Glad you find the post interesting.

I appreciate you adding to the issues that are involved.

1. Regarding anachronistic reading of those passages - If the other things eclipsed the Biblical doctrine from being fully seen and caused a neglect of deeper study of it in the Scriptures and the dominance of Latin from 400 - 1516 (Erasmus' fresh Greek Text published); then the point still stands.

2. the "union with Christ" is sanctification leading to glorification - the east gets that all wrong with "deification" (weird emphasis) - and wrong interpretation of James 2:24 and the wrong interpretation of the judgment by works passages, etc. - also caused justification passages to be eclipsed.

Maybe those 3 points should be added as to reasons why Galatians, Romans, John, Acts, Philippians, Ephesians 2:8-9 were "eclipsed".

I confess that you know a lot more about the deification stuff in the ECFs than I do; but what I do know, and what I read over the years at your blog, seems really weird that they took off with the "deification" emphasis, rather than: seeing the passages (like 2 Peter 1:4) as communicable moral attributes of holiness growing in sanctification and glorification. So, I would say that for the east, that contributed in a big way for the EO to neglect justification by faith alone. (along with rejection of imputation of original sin/guilt to all humans and Augustine's insight into Romans 5:12)

3. About Goff's book on Purgatory - Yes, I have read some of the beginning where he starts talking about Augustine's contribution to the development of the doctrine of Purgatory. I have not read it all, though, so I want to read more and understand it more before I make any comments.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

Thanks much for responding; you posted:

== 1. Regarding anachronistic reading of those passages - If the other things eclipsed the Biblical doctrine from being fully seen and caused a neglect of deeper study of it in the Scriptures and the dominance of Latin from 400 - 1516 (Erasmus' fresh Greek Text published); then the point still stands.==

Me: True; but IMHO, such a view of history raises some very important questions concerning continuity, development of doctrine and preservation.

==2. the "union with Christ" is sanctification leading to glorification - the east gets that all wrong with "deification" (weird emphasis) - and wrong interpretation of James 2:24 and the wrong interpretation of the judgment by works passages, etc. - also caused justification passages to be eclipsed.==

Me: In THIS THREAD, I link to the most recent issue of The Westminster Theological Journal (Volume 74.1 - Spring 2012) which contains an article by William R. Edwards that speaks to an important divide among conservative Reformed folk over what "union with Christ" actually means. Sincerely hope that you will take the time to read his informative essay.

==3. About Goff's book on Purgatory - Yes, I have read some of the beginning where he starts talking about Augustine's contribution to the development of the doctrine of Purgatory. I have not read it all, though, so I want to read more and understand it more before I make any comments.==

Me: Looking forward to your comments after you have read more.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

David Waltz wrote:
Me: In THIS THREAD, I link to the most recent issue of The Westminster Theological Journal (Volume 74.1 - Spring 2012) which contains an article by William R. Edwards that speaks to an important divide among conservative Reformed folk over what "union with Christ" actually means. Sincerely hope that you will take the time to read his informative essay.

I read your two articles, the “Reformed Civil War” (Parts 1 and 2) [But not all the links; no time for all that right now] – and what sticks out to me is when Evans starts discussing Norman Shepherd, who was tried for heresy, right? And fired from Westminster Philadelphia, right?

As a Baptist, I don’t struggle with this issue like these Presbyterians do. Union with Christ begins with regeneration, but justification occurs at the point of true repentance and faith, not baptism in water. Baptism in water in the name of the Triune God, is an external picture and symbol of the internal work of the Holy Spirit – the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification has an initial punctilliar aspect, and an ongoing process aspect; whereas justification has only a punctilliar (a once for all point in time) aspect.

Ken said...

David -
You wrote in the first older article, quoting Evans and Norman Shepherd:

"Evans then quotes the following from Shepherd’s, The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism:

But instead of looking at covenant from the perspective of regeneration, we ought to look at regeneration from the perspective of covenant. When that happens, baptism, the sign and seal of the covenant, marks the point of conversion. Baptism is the moment when we see the transition from death to life and a person is saved. (Page 143 – p. 94 in The Call of Grace - bold emphasis mine)"

This is where it looks like the heresy comes in; in giving too much efficacious power to the ceremony of baptism in water. This is why many Presbyterians (and other Calvinistic Christians like Baptists) see the Federal Vision as a heresy, if it is true that the article suggests that Norman Shepherd is who the Federal Vision theology is based on. Baptists just don’t struggle with that stuff very much, obviously, because the ceremony of water baptism is an outward symbol of the inward reality of the internal, unseen, baptism of the Holy Spirit, which happens so close to the point of regeneration and conversion (repentance and faith), so close that it is not worth fighting over. The whole issue of the ordo salutis and what is chronological in time vs. theological logical is interesting, but it is not worth trying to be too obsessed over. The point of the baptism of the Spirit and repentance and faith and point of regeneration should be seen as one event, even though regeneration occurs a nano-second before repentance and faith can occur.

When God opens the heart and gives the ability for someone to respond in faith, that faith justifies. Continued growth in sanctification is based on justification and only occurs because there was true justification. However, justification (forgiveness and acceptance by God; that is eternal life and heaven if one dies suddenly) does not depend on works and fruit in continued growth in holiness, as that would be justification by faith plus works; but continued growth in holiness proves and gives evidence that true justification (repentance and faith) took place. But if there is no fruit or good works or change and continued hatred of sin and deeper levels of growth, there was no justification in the first place. Jesus said, “I never knew you” in Matthew 7:23 to those who said “Lord, Lord” and claimed to be believers and did ministry and miracles.

Ken said...

== 1. Regarding anachronistic reading of those passages - If the other things eclipsed the Biblical doctrine from being fully seen and caused a neglect of deeper study of it in the Scriptures and the dominance of Latin from 400 - 1516 (Erasmus' fresh Greek Text published); then the point still stands.==

Me: True;

I am very glad you see that.

but IMHO, such a view of history raises some very important questions concerning continuity, development of doctrine and preservation.

That is why it is called "the Reformation", ahem. (smile)

there was some continuity and development of good doctrine; but it was a mixture of good and bad; until the Reformation; and Trent condemned the RC as a false church.

Ken said...

That last phrase should have been :

Trent condemned Sola Fide, thus condemning itself, making itself a false church.